Label Talk With Zico of First Class Collective

This article was originally printed in Visual Signals: Issue Zero. Find on Amazon

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Here on MTHU, we’ve talked about First Class Collective so many times without bringing the co-owner, Zico, into the conversation. It’s about time we brought him in and learned more about how he got into the scene and started one of the best labels in the scene.

How did you get into Vaporwave?

The start of it seemed rather bizzare, but I encountered Macintosh Plus’ “Lisa Frank 420” when it became a meme back in the summer of 2016. Despite a chuckle and a pass on, I decided to look into it, and discovered more than just that; Saint Pepsi’s “Enjoy Yourself”, Macross 82-99’s “Fun Tonight”, and Yung Bae’s “Bae City Rollaz”. But my obsession didn’t grow much until summer of 2018 in which I found myself into the realms of Artzie Music, their latest uploads, and even watching the top anime that they feature (Urusei Yatsura).

How did you connect with Ethan (middleclasscomfort) to start FCC?

This took place when Ethan and I were friends on Twitter and Discord. This was after I have sold off one of my homedubs and sparked the idea. All the while, Ethan also wanted to start a label, mainly for digital releases. On Late May, Ethan suggested that we would join forces than become competitors. I was down for that, and the rest is history.

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Before you started FCC, were you already dubbing home-made cassettes?

Short answer: Yes. Long answer: I started my cassette obsession back in January 2018 when I bought a cheap shoebox cassette recorder and blank tapes; All I ever did is record meme songs onto tape and make watered down mixtapes. I even took to photoshop to make the j-card. Then, it came to a rise when a classmate offered me blank tapes, and I bought a mid-range Sanyo cassette deck. And so, I’ve been making my homedubs throughout the summer of 2018, and looking up auctions for New Old Stock tapes. Early 2019 is when my obsession truly kicked off; I started collecting vaporwave/future funk cassettes and copped and repaired a Sony cassette deck from Goodwill; It was a really great tape deck to use, and that was the deck being used for First Class Collective, though it will eventually be upgraded to a much better one with many high end features. All the while, I have used that deck to make homebrew tapes that even I was very proud of. Since I didn’t have any sticky labels, I thought of putting them inside the housing by cutting a hole with an X-ACTO Knife. I was even a buff for using chrome cassettes, and flipping on Dolby noise reduction. TL;DR (Too long; didn’t read): Made a lot of homebrew and homedubs with my cassette decks, and experimented using different kinds of tapes and noise reductions even before I kicked off the label.(edited)

What kind of technology do you use to home dub for your label?

At first, I just found whatever I can find around the house; a computer, a generic HP Printer, photo paper, and a cassette deck that I can use, along with tapes I can dub. Overtime, I have upgraded those when it started to kick off along with seeking advice from other labels, from making my printing and cutting jobs better, to full on replacing things and making them better. I have recently upgraded to a new EPSON printer in which it does a better job than before, and I am also investing in a high end cassette deck, especially when I want the cassette to give some definition like it came fresh from the factory, all with DIY’s glory. All the while, I have been using an old iPhone playing a single wav file of Side A and B, but after seeking advice, I would rather veer to a Digital to Analog Converter, which would bring out the analog sound to digital files.

For someone starting their own in-house cassette label, what advice do you have for them?

It is best to start off just-for-kicks or for keeps. That way, you will see how the hobby goes. And if you are truly dedicated to that, it is best to take everything that is wrong about it (in the customer’s shoes) and get rid of it. Once that is done, it is best to take everything that was good about it and make it better. I highly recommend taking some advice as well; other labels in this scene in my eyes aren’t really competitors, and so they might be willing to help out on how a label should be run. Also, I recommend that customer satisfaction should be taken seriously; if the customer feels satisfied with the product, keep on doing what you do. If the customer isn’t however, it is best to find ways to make it better, especially when one is truly dedicated to the label. My obsession with tapes started off as a hobby and making tapes; I did not really care much about the quality until I showed off a few homebrew tapes a while back, in which I upgraded to better technology, and better ways to record a tape.

What’s your big dream for First Class Collective?

My big dream for First Class Collective is to live up to the big artists in the game; release some iconic albums, and still keep in touch and give a leg up with the small ones. We are already starting to have releases to go by leaps and bounds, heck we have a vinyl release coming soon!

Any last words?

I would like to finish off with some advice. If you want to do something that you desire, find a time that it would be best to do it. If it is deemed as too hard, learn how to make it easy, rather than giving up full stop. If it still doesn’t work out, maybe it is meant to be this way. There are many different avenues that one can take to benefit their own goodwill and for all, let alone the vaporwave community. It is only growing, so it is best to get started in what you desire. Just make time for yourself, and know that you can.

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