Check Mumblr's SXSW photo journey! I even saw a couple sly shots of Nick sporting the Jam Local Midnight Tee—made my heart melt.
Last week, my buddy and I got to meet up with Randall of Graveyard Orbit [GO], to rap about tapes, music, and mainly nonsense. I’d been following GO for a bit, but after receiving a couple tapes from him, I knew I had to meet this guy. We kicked a few emails back and forth, but I decided I wanted to do a more in depth feature—to get a behind the scenes look at the label, but also to catch a glimpse into the life of the man behind Graveyard Orbit. We met up at ABGB, an awesome indoor/outdoor brewery/restaurant in Austin, TX—perfectly suggested by Randall. It was a super chill place. Inside, there was a stage for live music, a row of local beer taps, long wooden picnic style tables and a sit down bar area. We grabbed a pitcher of Big Mama Red and sat down to chat with Randall about his label.
We cussed like sailors and drank some kick ass beer. What started out as a simple Tape[Talk] interview, ended up being a just laid back hang with a creative entrepreneur. It made for some hilarious conversations and an overall great time—
What was your inspiration for starting Graveyard Orbit?
I’ve always liked tapes. I experimented a lot with tapes—I listened and grew up with them. Then, did a lot of experimenting with tapes in college, did a lot of demos with bands. Did some circuit bending and noise experiments for a little bit. Always had tapes and tape players lying around, never really thought about it. And I always liked really small record labels when I was growing up. I would order like an 11 x 17 poster and pin pack cause I was like oooh, I love whatever Drive-Thru Records band at that time. I was always thinking I wanted to start a record label someday. So—I recorded an electronic project called Geodesics, and I was looking to put that out on vinyl, but vinyl is really fucking expensive. Then I saw a lot of people putting stuff out on tapes, through bandcamp and stuff—so I decided to look into it, and through Reddit I found my friend Chris [Ritual Tapes]. I was like ‘do you wanna put out my stuff on your cassette label’, and he was like “Yeah sure!” And then we got to talking and he was telling me all about it. I thought to myself ‘Wow that’s really cool I should start one myself’—- so I did. And so we made that release like, a joint release and that was the first Graveyard Orbit release. I was like this is pretty cool, let’s keep going.
You were like ‘I fucking dig it, I’m just gonna keep rolling with it’—
Yeah, because I made a lot of packaging and recordings for previous bands throughout the years and I always liked doing things like designing it, printing it, packaging it—so I thought ‘Hey I’m pretty good at this and I love doing it’ so—
Yeah you guys’ stuff always looks killer. Like, I’ve gotten tapes in that just straight up look like someone just wrote it with a Sharpie and I’m like what the fuck is this. Like I dig the DIY aspect, it’s half of what make them so great. But I’m also like what the hell, I paid 6 dollars for this shit.
Yeah there’s definitely a certain aesthetic to those people who really like that vibe haha. I try to make everything look like what I would wanna receive ya know? Like it has some extra things and some stuff that aren’t announced as part of the packaging. It’s in the details.
Totally, it really is.
** I know I was really excited when I opened it up and stuff started falling out like whoa. Awesome.
Right! It’s like fuckin’ Tape Christmas. When I got his package in I was siked. Cause I get tapes in ALL the time and every now then I’ll get some really cool ones with extra stuff like stickers and pins which are always awesome to get. But a lot of the time I’ll get a tape in and I’ll be like, ‘Fuck. It’s cracked.’ Even with bubble mailers sometimes. It bums me out.
Yeah that totally sucks.
Your casing was awesome and you could tell you took the time to really think about how it would be received. Even the attention to j-card layout is impressive.
Yeah I started doing double sided printing like—the first few I didn’t have a lot of stuff in there then I was like ‘No, I don’t even want the inside to be white anymore.’ I’ll spend the extra to double side print these so that when you open it it’s like—
Yeah! No wasted space!
That’s valuable real estate!
Yeah man when I did that feature on your packaging, people were asking me about you guys.
I know when I saw that I lost my shit like ‘Whoa somebody gets me!” haha.
Dude when I saw your stuff, it resonated with me especially I think cause I’m always wishing I could do more with our packaging. And I was just super blown away by the attention to detail and branding of it all. From the wrapping to the extras, it was literally like Christmas. I’m opening stuff and more stuff is coming out of it like holy damn.
Haha you were like ‘Whoa! The gift that keeps on giving!’ Haha
Totally! I’d never done a Tape[Talk] Delivery feature before; your label definitely inspired it.
Nice, Awesome! That shit was thorough—like, you’re thinking about shit that I don’t even think about. I appreciate that! I was getting a lot of tapes in the manila envelopes and I liked them, but I wanted to give more. So I started printing out custom wrapping paper and hand wrapping each tape like it’s a birthday present for people.
Like, I can’t wait. It’s like ‘Joseph from San Diego, you’re gonna get a nice ass tape coming your way”
I put like, a little note and stuff haha. I genuinely enjoy it.
So tell me a bit about the SXSW Sampler, I dig the layout and casing.
Cool. So I’m glad you mentioned the soft plastic casing—
**I just really like the way it feels if that makes sense haha.
Yeah during SX I was like ‘Well I’m gonna hand these out to people’—and I was literally just handing them out to whoever. At first I thought it would feel cheap but I like it. It’s easier to give to people especially in that setting. Like, if they were partying they wouldn’t crack the case if they put it in their back pocket. Solves a part of the problem like, A. It’s a tape what do I do with this? but B. The case won’t crack at least—hahaha.
Yeah! I had to ask almost every person if they listened to tapes and most people would be like “Um, no?” and look at me like I was insane.
**What was crazy is we were AT a Cassette Label Showcase, and people were still confused.
I know! We had an entire area of tapes. Like STACKS. I had samplers to hand out but I had to ask cause I didn’t want them to just trash it. Like, these are more valuable than a plastic download card. Even CD’s, like, at Warped Tour or something, people are handing them out like candy. And I’m like uhhhhh…I don’t want this. And I end up just leaving it somewhere. CD’s are obsolete it seems. To me at least. I’d much rather get a tape. They take time, little works of art.
Right! Yeah. I made these pretty cheap, just for SX. I made 50, and I gave like 40 of them out talking to people like ‘Hey man I run this label check it out’ and they looked at them like ‘A tape? That’s weird.’ and I’m like ‘It comes with a download code just check it out.’
And I’ve always loved that, you have to option to get the album digital but you also like, have this awesome little brick of nostalgia. It’s more of a mission to find somewhere to listen to it. Like, ‘I have to find somewhere to play this.’ Well for most people haha. I feel like your stuff is great cause it’s all super personal, it has that ‘just for you’ presence.
Thank you! I try to keep it personal. I say ‘we’ a lot when I talk about Graveyard Orbit, it’s me, haha. Like, it’s me in my dining room folding stuff. But I try to keep it personal too. Like unveil the curtain and ‘Hey! It’s just me.’ The fans that I’ve found who are the early adopters like, “Oh man I love your shit!’ I try to hook those people up.
Like these dudes who keep ordering. There are a few dudes who order every single thing and it doesn’t even matter what it is. And I’m like wow! That’s commitment ya know?
Yeah dude! That means they dig the LABEL which is awesome.
That’s why I’m like ‘Here man here’s some more free shit!’ haha
That’s trust. Customer loyalty for sure.
**Yeah I see why they keep coming back; great product and you treat them well, that would keep me hooked.
You can never go wrong with free shit.
Those dudes who’ve ordered everything I’m like oh man, haha I already gave you the pins, the stickers, I’m like running out of new and interesting things to give you, oh damn.
I’m gonna start handing out like, baseball cards with me on them.
Hahaha, like ‘About Me: Randall’, it’s like you with one of those hokey baseball poses from little league—your Batting average and shit. Hahaha.
Hahaha yeah. It’s great though, that I have those people who literally have everything I’ve put out, including the extras.
So I’ve always wanted to ask you how you came up with the name Graveyard Orbit.
So I’m really into space-
I’m terrified of space.
**Me too! Like—TERRIFIED. I’m scared of floating into nothingness forever. Haha.
Haha I really love space. I was always really interested—I grew up liking early 1960’s Space Exploration-I don’t know I find it interesting. Almost every type or project I’ve had, had some type of space theme to it. So I kept going with that. When I was trying to form this label I was like ‘Well I need a good name’ of course. So I started wiki-ing space terms and stuff—and I came across graveyard orbit, and I don’t know it just kinda had a ring to it. The definition of graveyard orbit is like, so all the space junk—like satellites and stuff that we have—once they get antiquated we push them out into a further orbit. So it’s just this graveyard of stuff. Just this mass of antiquated shit that no one wants anymore that they just push out into this orbit.
And I just thought that it was fitting for cassettes. I’m gonna make cassettes and I’m gonna be part of this orbit that no one gives a shit about, like VHS Tapes, Audio Cassettes—
Like analog death—
Yeah analog dead things that no one uses anymore and I’m like hm, it’s kind of fitting.
That’s kickass. Another example of a secret marketing genius, this guy.
Hahaha, thank you.
Epic branding. Is that why you did the Space Junk Compilation?
Yeah! It’s all related.
Insane! This guy! That’s great, I was always really into your logo and stuff and was curious and—oh! like, completely off topic, but that custom logo tape design—
Oh yeah! That guy. It’s so awesome.
I was like WHAT! Cause your logo is really intricate, and he nailed it. Literally haha.
Haha it’s so cool. I found that dude on Reddit too, and I was just like ‘Hey man, I would love to get a custom piece’, he wrote me and said I really dig your label, maybe we can do a trade and you can pay for shipping, cause he lives in like, London haha.
Oh ok nice, international collabs.
Yeah I told him ‘yeah I’d love my logo, and I’d love it to be made from one of my tapes.’ And he was like ‘yeah I can do that’—so he did it and I paid for the shipping then I sent him like a BUNCH of tapes.
And he did it out of the Space Junk Compilation?
OH MY GOD-awesome.
And I got it and it is just the most beautiful thing.
I would have cried. I’ve always wanted to own one of those Tape Art creations.
Yeah I was just like ‘Oh my god!’, it was insane. But yeah you should hit him up; he’s a really cool guy. It’s just all these little nails, and he’s like winding the tape around them.
I don’t even understand it haha. I checked his stuff out—it’s almost like someone just took a picture, they are so detailed and intricate.
So the design process—do you do a lot of the artwork? Or—
I do, I would say I do most of it. I have a few artists that I work with that like to do the stuff themselves.
So the Secret Peaks guy—
Yeah the Secret Peaks guy, that’s my friend Pat, and he does a lot of illustration for me—and we work together like, he helped me with the Space Junk art and then the Secret Peaks…But like Meth Dad, that guy Tyler, he does a lot layout work so I basically let him go, and we talk about the design and basically just create something awesome. I really like his stuff like, he did the whole South By layout [Graveyard Orbit South Fry South Friendy’s Compilation]—I like his style, and with everyone I work with, it’s all kind of cohesive. We’re all on the same page about how we want it to look.
That’s awesome. Super easy to talk ideas I bet.
Everything you guys have put out art wise is great. The j-card is probably my favorite part of the cassette packaging. I really appreciate a unique design when it comes to the j-card artwork and layout.
Yeah I get that, I tend to be pretty anal about it haha. I spend a lot of time focusing on it.
I have to say I was blown away by the Secret Peaks Comp—like, with the cohesive branding—with the poster and the pins, the artwork and the label stickers— everything.
Yeah that was like a super big effort between Pat and I. It’s funny cause we would meet here like once a week—at, probably this table a couple times and talk about it. He was drawing it, drinking beer—
It was cool; from there I scaled it down and played with the layout of it. And then I told him to pick 3 spots that he wanted to make pins out of.
They turned out great! I have your pins all over my backpack and stickers all over our merch gear. Between you guys and Fleeting Youth Records I’m legit a fangirl when it comes to tape label swag.
Haha that’s awesome! Yeah I’m trying to do new designs of stickers and pins as I go so that people keep getting new stuff—and working with different artists—I have a new sticker coming out from this guy online who’s a big fan—
Is that the Octopus one?
Yeah! I’m still waiting for them to come in—
I gotta get it, yeah. That shit’s cooool.
**I love that your stuff is hand numbered.
One of a kind, bitch!
Yeah people love limited edition. I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal but people love it. It’s like, people ask me about re-releases all the time but I don’t know, I don’t really want to re-release it because it takes away from it—like, I said it was limited edition I can’t just go back on it. Maybe in a year or two when people forget about it do like another 50 copies—
Like a special edition re-release in a different color tape or something-
Right, exactly. I’d do a couple special edition re-releases for the Cassette Fest like I told you about.
I’m reallyyy excited about that! Totally pumped.
I think a lot of people would be pumped. Well you know, you’re talking to people online and you’re slowly meeting people like—why can’t we have an event that brings everyone together. Ya know, cause then you’re not the weirdo making tapes or liking tapes—you’re surrounded by a bunch of weirdos who dig the same thing. Everyone’s going to each table like ‘Oh man I love your stuff let’s trade!’, and maybe no one will make any money but we’ll all just hang out.
Just meeting people who love what you love, in that cassette community. Tape culture and shit.
Genius, can’t wait. So do you find a lot of the artists you work with or do they find you?
You know, I actually had to start turning down submissions, cause I was getting a lot, and I just couldn’t juggle it all. Between making the tapes and promoting. Well you know, when you have everything like running social media, printing, packaging, shipping—
I totally get it. It becomes overwhelming.
Yeah it’s a lot to do, so I was like okay, I can’t take any more submissions. But for the most part now, I have a pretty full line-up—still. So now I just go and find them. Lately I’ve been meeting more bands personally. It’s been fun to just go up and be like ‘Hey I really like what you’re doing, I wanna do something cool with you, let me know..’ it’s cool to just skip the whole email back and forth part of it. Like, ‘I saw your band live, I loved it, I wanna do a release, shoot me a message.’
Totally, so much better than the back and forth constant. This and that. It’s awesome cause you’re picking these bands, it’s your label, so you want everything to be sort of what you would wanna jam, before anyone else. Thing’s you’re inspired by—
So some more off topic questions, if you had to rescue one tape from your collection, say the rest were up in flames, which tape would be yours to save?
You know what I love? And it’s only for nostalgic purposes. I have a cassette single from 6th grade, of Spice Girls “Say You’ll Be There”—
Oh. My. God. YES!
And I’ve kept that, for so long—and I feel like, it’s not something I listen to all the time. I mean I love that song, but I don’t wanna part from it. It’s one of the few I still have left from my childhood. That, and I have a black, metal tape that I used to tape all the songs off the radio from like 5th grade or some shit—and it’s all alternative rock. It’s got like, Smashing Pumpkins and just a bunch of 90’s alternative on it. I listened to it recently, and it sounds like shit now. It’s all wobbly and has that in and out, left and right, kind of panning, weird sounding, waviness. But that tape—it’s one of the first tapes I made and I kept. So even if I can’t listen to it and enjoy it—even if I’m like ‘oh my god this pisses me off’, it’s still mine, I made it. It reminds me—to come from there and I’m stillmaking tapes?? It just blows my mind like whoaaaa.
Crazy! Like you were just meant to do this. If you think about it, it’s like, you’re still making mixtapes even now, for other people to enjoy. Just way more advanced versions haha.
I know! It’s like whoa! Fifteen years and you’re at the same point of making tapes? Haha
It’s kickass! Haha I’m like super amped—like I’m on Family Feud or some shit like, ‘Good Answer!’
Hahaha—so yeah those two, the nostalgic and sentimental value just mean a ton. Like, they’re not worth shit…hahaha…but I just love them.
Okay so favorite 80’s group or artist…
Uhh I’m a big fan of Huey Lewis and the News—
Huey! Good answer.
Yeah! I love Huey.
I scored a ton of their stuff through a guy on Craigslist, just like Greatest Hits, Sports, some doubles of the self-title, which I started giving away in tee orders (to people who I knew would appreciate it) but yeah! He had a great collection of Huey Newis and the Lews, HU-ey New-is——-HOLY SHIT! Too many beers! Huey Newis!
Hahahaha be sure to put that in—‘Huey Newis and the Lews!’
Okay so last one! Which, I think you’ll have some great stuff to say but, what advice do you have for aspiring labels out there who are trying to get started—
I would say—so—I just responded to a post on Reddit the other day. Some guy was like ‘How do I start a label?’ and I’m like there’s no how, it’s kind of like, ‘how do you raise a baby?’—no one’s gonna tell you the answers to everything or how to do it. There’s no instruction manual, there’s too many variables, so many different styles. Your personal style and aesthetic is gonna be way different than anyone elses. And you should define yourself by that. There’s no rule book of what you should do, with a checklist of this, this, this. I mean, there are certain things you should do to make things easier—
But it’s not super black and white.
Right. Like you said, you’re getting tapes where some dude is Sharpie-ing titles on the tape, and you get some who make professionally manufactured, sealed in cellophane type shit. To each their own. You cannot cookie cutter that into a how to. You should do whatever you want. You should figure it out; figure out your own style, the music you wanna put out and don’t be afraid to fuck up because you’re gonna fuck up. You’re gonna make a bunch of mistakes. You’re gonna lose money and you’re gonna be like ‘this looks like shit.’—
Yeah man! The mistakes are the best part.
Yeah that’s okay you learn from it. I just think that the best advice I could give is to just jump in and do it. Like, you don’t start a band and say ‘we’re gonna be the best band ever’—you’re gonna suck for a while but you figure it out. You learn and you find your own voice and you just have fun. I think it’s the same with a label—figure out your style, figure out your voice, figure out your sound—and just keep going.
That’s the best advice you could give honestly. Do what you want.
Do what you want! Look at other labels you like and ask yourself what you like about them. Do you like the packaging, the genre of music? Do something similar but don’t copy it, do what works for you.
Right! Take inspiration from others and create your own.
Yeah, I think too many people get caught up in the whole, ‘I wanna be just like so and so’, and that’s cool. But I think you should want to be your own version of whatever it is. Bands say they wanna sound like other bands, but I think it’s better to sound like something completely new and unique, to stand out. It’s cool to be inspired by others but don’t conform or copy, no one need that. Especially now.
Agreed! Especially in the tape label game, cause they are sprouting up everywhere, out of nowhere. Different countries, different cities, different states, just all over.
A lot of these kids are starting these labels because they think it’s cool, which it is, and it’s pretty accessible to start one cause of the overhead. But it’s a business, you run a business. You make shirts, I make tapes, there’s lot that goes into it! You work with people, you have to communicate, you have to sell and promote your shit, there’s a ton that goes into it and it’s not as easy as a lot of these kids are making it out to be. Anyone can make a tape, but where’s your dedication? Is it cause you wanna say you have a label, or is it because you love it, you care, and you’re putting all your effort in it. People can tell the difference.
They can! You can tell that you put everything you have and more into it, and I think that’s more than half of your success. Regardless of what bands you’re putting out. Your passion for it reigns true.
Thank you! Yeah, I don’t think it’s for everyone, if you’re doing it to make money—then go into finance, go be an engineer if you wanna make money. You’re not going to make the kind of money you think you will, if any. You do it cause you love it, and if you’re lucky, people will see that, and success will follow.
Right on! Perfect response. It’s ‘do what you want because you truly want to do it.’ It’s passion, it’s dedication.
Yes! Just jump in, and don’t be afraid to fail, as cliche as it sounds, people forget that. It’ll totally be worth the bumps along the way.
After spending a couple hours drinking and chatting with Randall, I’ve gotta say Graveyard Orbit is in great hands—a down to earth guy with passion for music and tapes, but more importantly a passion for his brand; giving his fans something truly unique and worthwhile. I had a blast drunk rambling and talking analog with a fellow tapehead. If you haven’t checked Graveyard Orbit out yet get on it. They are kicking ass right out of the gate, and they are just getting started. Wanna check out their roster and jam? Grab a tape and stay posted with GO news and events:
Mike Fell Tape Art:
Pat Davis Illustration