Bringing back the floppy disk: Ontario record label promotes vaporwave music
‘I wanted to do something just kind of completely ridiculous,’ says label owner Sterling Campbell
Sterling Campbell is already the co-founder of a cassette label and VHS tape label in Ottawa. But when he wanted to embark on a new creative venture, he knew just what he needed to do.
"I wanted to do something just kind of completely ridiculous," he said, in an interview with As It Happens guest host Rosemary Barton.
"So, I take music and mash it down to 8-bit and I put it on floppy disks and sell it all over the world."
The music Campbell is talking about is vaporwave.
Vaporwave is a microgenre of electronic music, part of an Internet meme that became popular in the early 2010s. It's known for repurposing songs into lo-fi remixes of everything from 80's smooth jazz, R&B, shampoo commercials and elevator music.
Campbell even recruited his friends Josh Starkey, also known as Hex-A-Decimal, and Randy Kamrad, a Detroit-based DJ known as 3D Blast, to create a vaporwave version of the As It Happens theme song.
"There's no real rules as to what vaporwave is. Just as long as it gives you a sense of nostalgia," Campbell said.
"Anything you could slow down, throw some reverb on it, and it sounds kind of cool and sounds different."
Campbell, who first heard vaporwave music sometime between 2014 and 2015, was working at an AV company in Ottawa at the time.
He said he and his friend stumbled across the music while surfing online. Campbell said, he "got into the nostalgia aspect of it right away."
In March, Campbell started Strudelsoft, a record label that releases vaporwave music, exclusively on 3.5-inch floppy disks. So far, he says there's been a real appetite for the records he puts out
"I sell out every release and it's kind of astonishing," he said.
Each floppy disk can fit about 11 minutes and 30 seconds of music. And while most modern computers don't have floppy disk drives on them anymore, Campbell says there's still a way for people to access the music.
"A lot of people just buy the A drive to USB converter that you can buy on the Internet for 20 bucks," he said.
"But some people still have the A drives in their computers. A lot of people that are into this type of music, they're into nostalgia and collecting."
Campbell believes people are so interested in purchasing his floppy disk records because it makes them think back to older times.
"Growing up with this tech, that's the kind of stuff that I kind of miss," he said.
"And there's a lot of younger people into the genre that didn't grow up with that, right? And they find it fascinating."
As of now, Campbell is keeping busy promoting vaporwave music and selling it on floppy disks. But he doesn't rule out other creative ventures in music.
"I was thinking about starting up a 1-800 number and that will just be my album. You know, people call in," he said.
"Or who knows, maybe [I'll] put some music on an SD card and sew it inside of a Beanie Baby or something."
Written by Samantha Lui. Produced by John McGill.