Happy 20th Birthday InsideOut Music
Since its birth 20 years ago, InsideOut Music has become one of the world’s leading sources for progressive music and most dedicated platforms for artists pursuing the left hand path. Label founder and recipient of the Guiding Light accolade at this year’s Prog Awards, Thomas Waber, looks back on two decades of prog perfection…
“InsideOut came about because we wanted to help some friends who had problems selling their albums at the time due to lack of infrastructure,” says Thomas. “There was never a mission statement as such – those friends just happened to be in prog bands! So one thing just seemed to lead to another over the years!”
The first official release came in 1993 in the form of the Blueprint Of The World debut by US neo-prog outfit Enchant, and it didn’t take long for the relatively unknown German label to generate massive interest from progressive music fans around the world.
Today finds the label in very good health indeed, giving its incredibly diverse roster a place to call home. The true nature of progressive music is evident from its signings: a broad church ranging from more traditional, Marillion-influenced artists to modern purveyors of the post-progressive and even tech-metal. So what is the common thread that all these bands share?
“I think in order to answer that question you have to look at what progressive music is,” admits Thomas. “I’ve never subscribed to the term ‘prog’ to be honest, as it doesn’t define what the music is. Prog hasn’t been forward-looking since i was born! To me, it is defined by creative artists making music that’s leftfield of the norm and, in some way, all of our artists fulfil that criteria. That’s the common ground between people like Devin Townsend and someone like Neal Morse.”
With its mix of prog rock royalty such as Genesis legend Steve Hackett and Dream Theater frontman James LaBrie, and fresh blood from the likes of Leprous and The Safety Fire, InsideOut have managed to pool together some of the most exciting names within the progressive world. But it hasn’t always been easy…
“I think we managed to keep our heads above the water in difficult times for the industry,” explains Thomas. “It’s always hard to please everybody you are working with, but i think we managed to do that in most cases, so it’s quite an accomplishment I think. After all, the label was always artist-based and never driven by how much money we can pocket ourselves. Obviously we need to make a living out of it, but I don’t need a Porsche outside my front door!”
And as for the future, Thomas is very keen to continue paving the path for all things progressive and is quick to point out it is a lot more than the work of one man. “We are just going to continue doing what we do,” he tells us. “The label has a great team of people behind it on all fronts, so that is how we are going to keep growing. You can’t force these things anyway, but I think we are in a very good position right now. We still have a lot of ambitions though!”
Of course asking a record label boss what his favourite releases have been over the years is a bit like asking a parent to pick their favourite child. But we had to ask the question anyway!
“I think for various reasons, my favourite releases would be: V by Spock’s Beard, The Human Equation by Ayreon, Smpte by Transatlantic, To Watch The Storms by the great Steve Hackett and Devin Townsend’s Epicloud. This list really needs to be longer, but you only asked for five!”
On Tuesday September 3rd this year, Thomas Waber stood onstage at the second ever Progressive Music Awards, applauded by hundreds of peers, contemporaries and prog rock royalty. It was a moment he truly cherishes…
“It felt like the whole label finally got the recognition it rightly deserves,” he beams. “We were instrumental in putting together a new and bigger infrastructure for these bands to sell and promote albums in the 90s and made it easier for a lot of people to jump on that train. And it was great to accept the award on behalf of all the bands and all the members of the team past and present!”
And it wasn’t just winning the award that made it so special, but also the context of the award and the great sense of feeling surrounded by those with similar artistic visions or the burning desire to share their passion with the rest of the world. Thomas recalls a time when the prog community lacked the camaraderie and solidarity it so clearly carries in the modern age.
“I think Prog magazine is a great platform for the music we work with and I think it’s brought a lot of people together,” he explains. “The scene was a lot more fractured and separated before. But now everyone shares the same room, people that wouldn’t have talked with each other previously. That’s amazing and can’t be stressed enough!”
For more information on InsideOut Music, visit http://www.insideoutmusic.com/
Words: Amit Sharma