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Have A Cigar: Sel Belamir on launching a label with a difference

A shot of Sel Belamir

Making good art against all odds is a sentiment that Sel Belamir agrees with 100 per cent, and it’s the ethos behind his new record label.

As the frontman of Amplifier, Belamir has both been signed to major indie labels and released material independently. But it was shortly after 2014’s Mystoria, which came out via Superball, that he began thinking about a new DIY approach that would benefit other bands as well.

“[Our touring buddies] Awooga wanted to make a sort of community-based record label and asked me if I’d like to get involved,” reveals Belamir. “We spent a bit of time setting it up, but then with all the austerity cut-backs, the funding disappeared. Around the same time, Sony acquired Superball, so it just made sense to carry on with the idea. I knew I could put a record out because I’d already done it with The Octopus and having a label meant I could put Amplifier out, as well as bands like Awooga.”

Belamir defines Rockosmos as “eclectic rock music for travellers” – the first physical release was the trippy vinyl edition of Awooga’s Alpha – and he’s keen to push the multi-disciplinary approach of his new collective. “I don’t really want the label to work in a conventional sense,” he explains. “There will be a small roster, 10 acts at most, and I want it to function as an artist’s studio. In the music industry, there’s a clear and sharp distinction between creativity and commercial activity, but it doesn’t have to be like that. I’m going to try to bridge that chasm.”

Although the label is a one-man enterprise, Belamir has the support of sales and distribution company Red Essential, who are also involved with the day-to-day running. “It would be impossible for me to hire staff,
I couldn’t afford it,” he says, “but if there’s ever any problem, it can be resolved within 48 hours, which makes a big difference to my stress levels. Now I can just get stressed about putting stamps on things.”

It’s early days for Rockosmos, but the future is looking very bright. Amplifier’s Trippin’ With Dr Faustus and the new Thumpermonkey album are both due out this year. “I’m super-excited,” Belamir says of his plans. And so are we!

Visit www.rockosmos.com

Natasha Scharf
Natasha Scharf

Contributing to Prog since the very first issue, writer and broadcaster Natasha Scharf was the magazine’s News Editor before she took up her current role of Deputy Editor, and has interviewed some of the best-known acts in the progressive music world from ELP, Yes and Marillion to Nightwish, Dream Theater and TesseracT. Starting young, she set up her first music fanzine in the late 80s and became a regular contributor to local newspapers and magazines over the next decade. The 00s would see her running the dark music magazine, Meltdown, as well as contributing to Metal Hammer, Classic Rock, Terrorizer and Artrocker. Author of music subculture books The Art Of Gothic and Worldwide Gothic, she’s since written album sleeve notes for Cherry Red, and also co-wrote Tarja Turunen’s memoirs, Singing In My Blood. Beyond the written word, Natasha has spent several decades as a club DJ, spinning tunes at aftershow parties for Metallica, Motörhead and Nine Inch Nails. She’s currently the only member of the Prog team to have appeared on the magazine’s cover.