Interview: David Vodicka, Rubber Records
Sometimes you need to celebrate an achievement.
In the case of Rubber Records, an indie label grown out of a bedroom in Melbourne in 1989, it was decided that this silver anniversary should take form in a months worth of specially curated shows featuring rare performances by some of the acts that the label has played host to over its life span.
Releasing over 250 titles in its 25 year history, Rubber Records has been home to artists including Even, JET, Cordrazine, Underground Lovers, Crooked Fingers, Icecream Hands, Liquor Giants, 1200 Techniques, Ricaine, The Affected, The Grapes, The Casanovas, bZARK and The Genes (to name just a few).
Says label founder David Vodicka, “I’ve always preferred being in the background and just releasing records by artists that I love working with. This series of shows is just as much a celebration of being around a long time and sticking with those artists, as it is an excuse to try and get some of them to play again!”
With the series of one-off shows by a range of artists from the label due to start at the Northcoate Social Club in December, Makers of Melbourne thought that now was the perfect time to sit down for a chat with label founder David Vodicka, whose own personal history is steeped in the Melbourne music industry; from hosting breakfast on Triple R, founding the label and establishing one of the country's most respected entertainment legal firms as well as sitting on the AIR board.
Hi David, thanks for the chat - Could you please take us back to the beginnings of Rubber Records, what drove you to start your own record label?
Arguably a combination of stupidity and naiveté, but in truth a love of music, and the desire to work with artists whose work I loved.
Did you have a background in the music industry, how did you know what to do to get the label off the ground?
I learned on the job, and generally just did what needed to be done. At the start I was in 3RRR and a student, so blew the savings on putting out records. Luckily we made enough to keep going, though never quite enough for me to stop being a lawyer.
Was there a “tipping point” for the label, how did it grow in popularity over the years?
Tipping point was signing Even and then Cordrazine – we moved from indie distribution to a major, and major label funding. But that was also an education on the politics of big business. Arguably labels don’t grow in popularity, their acts do, and as such you live and die on the success of your artists. When our artists were more popular, so were we.
How do you choose the acts that you work with?
I have to like the music, the artist and the work ethic. No rules as to genre or style, just has to be interesting art.
How has the Melbourne music scene changed since Rubber’s inception?
Better infrastructure to play live, perhaps more of a community (the advent of Music Victoria, government funding programs certainly assist), but its still essentially a great city that breeds great music and talent.
Has the music industry changed in general?
Arguably not much insofar as its still about talent connecting with people. What’s changed are the means of distributing that music and the methods of communicating with media and fans.
There are a series of Rubber Records concerts taking place over December to celebrate the anniversary, how did you choose the performers for the gigs?
They’re all great acts that I’m proud to have released, even if they aren’t all equally well known. It was partly availability and willingness – I would have loved to have had Icecream Hands, The Exploders, Ricaine, TSOMM, the Liquor Giants, etc play but with limited time, availability, and everyone’s commitments, I still think we put together a great program.
25-years in, what does the future hold for Rubber Records?
Continuing to release records we love, and keeping the flame alive for those artists we’ve released in the past.
Is it hard to sustain a record label in the age of digital downloads and music piracy?
Of course, any business that doesn’t fit squarely in the mainstream is going to be tested by diminishing revenue streams from physical, digital, streaming. But at the same time, it is possible to create a community around your artists, and label, and provided you keep releasing material that keeps people interested, then it will remain possible.
Has hitting the 25-year mark made you feel sentimental towards the ‘good old days’?
I tend to be about looking forward and am not a fan of nostalgia, and whilst there are certainly what in retrospect seems like a stack of great adventures had with many of our acts, I couldn’t do them justice. I’d prefer to share the present and future, and that for me will be the shows we do in December - Hope to see you there!
The three-week Rubber Records residency starts at the Northcote Social Club on Wednesday 3rd December - Tickets on sale now.