About a year ago at a record label not so far away, Lawrence, Kansas to be exact, Craig Boliver of I Am Shark started pursuing the idea of pressing The Phantom Menace on vinyl. Many months and a lot of stress later, the albums are up for pre-order with a shipdate anticipated in the coming days. We spoke with Boliver about the work that went into making this release a reality, fans' reaction to the release and what his favorite film from the Star Wars franchise is.
About a year ago at a record label not so far away, Lawrence, Kansas to be exact, Craig Boliver of I Am Shark started pursuing the idea of pressing The Phantom Menace on vinyl. Many months and a lot of stress later, the albums are up for pre-order with a shipdate anticipated in the coming days. We spoke with Boliver about the work that went into making this release a reality, fans’ reaction to the release and what his favorite film from the Star Wars franchise is.
Let’s start at the beginning, when exactly did you start the whole process of licensing the Episode I soundtrack and making this vinyl release a reality? What’s it been like?
I guess it was almost about a year ago that I thought about it and then tried to go about contacting people for this. I didn’t really know who to contact. I tried to get into [contact with] Lucasfilm Ltd. and I think I was just hitting up the wrong departments, and they were not responding at all. So I kind of just went online and searched up the soundtracks and I figured Sony didn’t have the rights to say whether they could license it or not, but they ended up, like, they were really interested in the project, and I never really got a “no” which was really great. I guess from, until I reached out to them, from maybe like April of last year, until November or October of last year too, I never really got a “yes,” it was just that I didn’t get a “no,” so that was awesome. So that happened, and we’ve been launching pre-orders as of the new year. We’re still waiting on test pressings for the artwork just to make sure that all the artwork looks good in that big of a print. We took some photos that had not been used before on the CD packaging so we just wanted to make sure that it looked good in a 12” x 12” print.
Aside from that time where you didn’t have a “no” but you didn’t have a “yes,” were there any obstacles you found with dealing with everyone or getting this whole project put together?
That was it mostly. They just wanted to have a really solid plan together. I’m sure it was difficult for them to say, “Who is this guy? Why does he want to do this and why should we give it to him?” I think that was the main thing that was just we were (waiting) with Sony and Lucasfilm in making sure that we were doing things that they thought represented their companies correctly. I guess they knew about the Disney merger and they did not let me know at all, and so I think they were definitely going into that thinking “This needs to be family friendly too, and this person has to have a solid marketing plan about how these records are going to go about.” And I think we did that. We’re doing the colored vinyl correlating with characters in the movie, and I think that’s definitely a relatable subject for now Disney being on board, for Lucasfilm and just those movies in general because they have such a character-oriented storyline and merchandise.
I had read that part of the reason you wanted to do the Episode I vinyl was because it had only been pressed once before in a limited run. Were there any other reasons that drew you to wanting to do this release?
The big thing was, well I had known about that pressing but it was so small. I still have people coming up to me like, “You didn’t do it for the first time, someone else did.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I know.” I’m not only doing this to do the prequel, but I wanted to do all the prequel soundtracks as a set because I thought that was the proper way to release these soundtracks was to just do it as a whole. I thought if we left out Episode I it was just missing something. That was the main reason of starting with Episode I and I just want to do it in a natural, chronological order.
So you will definitely be doing the other two prequels then?
Yes, I am already signed on to do those. Other than that, I know a lot of people have been asking about redoing the originals. That might happen; I know we’ve briefly talked about it. It would definitely be a smaller, limited run just because those records are always out. Every record store I go to I still see one or two in the back. We’d do like a smaller, 200 or 500 pressing run with all the colors and characters as well, but definitely nothing on as large of a scale as what we’re doing now.
You’ve got some really cool different colorways for this first release, were there any other ones you considered but didn’t get used because of cost or anything like that?
It was kind of difficult narrowing them down to what I thought would be a variety of colors within each movie. I think a lot of the colors that I wanted to do and didn’t get to on the first one are definitely going to show up in II and III. There are some cool splatter options that we’re doing, which I know a lot of people don’t know what that means, but it’s just like a big mess of colors and it looks really great. It’s probably one of my favorite things to see on a record.
I feel really good. Sales have definitely been going steady, which is great. I mean they didn’t sell out in the first day which is definitely, I don’t know, I think it’s a good thing because it’s definitely a reality check and it makes me work harder. I’m definitely building a lot of connections with a lot of the fans that have bought these records or potentially might buy them, and then I get to connect with them again when II and III comes out. That’s definitely good, and I’m happy about that because I want to work with the fans and give them what they want. You know, this is them, and this is me too and this is something that I really love so I definitely want to meet everybody in the middle.
As far as the online response, it’s either a love or hate. I know people don’t like The Phantom Menace as much as the originals, so there’s definitely a lot of people that are talking down on it. But then there’s also people that didn’t necessarily enjoy the films as much as Empire Strikes Back or A New Hope but they definitely understand that they love the story and the music is even better so that’s sort of that middle ground that I can reach for everybody.
I’m happy. I know there’s always going to be people talking down, I mean it’s the Internet. I go on forums and say “Hey, I’m releasing this,” and then there’ll be 10 negative comments, one guy that says “This is really great!” and I’ll normally connect with that guy.
Was that ever a concern when you started looking at doing the prequels, that they tend to be a point of contention among Star Wars fans?
I didn’t really think about it until we actually launched pre-orders and I went on all those forums and I posted on the threads. Then when all the people were like, “You’re an idiot, blah blah blah…” and just like super random things, that’s when it really hit me and I was like “Oh no, we’ve got to find something else to do.” But no, it’s been really great, like the first two or three days was like kind of depressing to see all these people just randomly find something to hate about it, but it’s great now.
Empire Strikes Back. It was the first one I ever saw. I think it was a TV-taped copy that my parents had. I believe I was around four or five, I don’t remember exactly what year it was. Since then I’ve just been captivated, and I feel like it’s gotten progressively worse as I get older. I just have more and more things, and all of my friends, for like my birthday and Christmas and whatnot, they always just get me Star Wars things. And I feel like, my roommate and I were talking about this, we kind of have to stop because people are going to come into our house and be like “Wow, you’re a child.” (laughs) It’s like “No, no, I’m a collector, I like these things.”
Yeah, it’s totally alright if you’re a collector.
Yeah, so we just have to keep them in cases. That’s where it shows if you’re a child or a collector, if you keep all the things you have in a case.
Are you stoked for the new movies then? How are you feeling about those?
When I first heard about it, the first 10 minutes after I was like, “Oh no, no, Disney’s going to do these.” Then 10 minutes later I got over it and I was like, “No, this is going to be alright.” I think they made their mistakes early with bringing back [the franchise in] I, II and III and I think they’ll kind of work through that as they kind of get a reminder from those films and really push forward.
CGI definitely wasn’t what it [is now] at that time, in 1999 and early 2000, so now I think they have a lot more options as far as making things look really, really good. And Harrison Ford’s in it now, so I’m happy about that. They’re going to have to use a lot of the computer work to make him look young though. (laughs)What other plans do you have for yourself and the label in the future? Besides the other prequels, are you hoping to release any other film soundtracks?
Yeah, I’ve been talking with a bunch of labels since the release, actually kind of a little bit before, but I just wanted to get my head down and make sure we’re looking forward to the future. There were a few releases that just didn’t end up working out. I can’t actually say what I’m going to be doing next, but yeah, we’re looking into some series and some films, not just reissues, but some new films too. I think now there’s a lot of collaborations with the music in today’s films, there’s like a great composerand then they’ll have an artist come in and do the music kind of like Tron: Legacy or have a composer and then they’ll have Daft Punk come in and actually relate that music and that’s really, really cool to see. I’m hoping to be a part of something like that as well as like some of my favorite movies that have been in the past, I kind of want to see those be brought to life again.
We’re doing those. I’ve done management with a lot of bands, and we’re still kind of going to do some releases with them as well and not just throw them off and leaving them on their own. It’ll be kind of a mix of everything.
Very cool, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Not really, just for people to pick the record up now. They’ll get it shipped the immediate date of its release and then we can get started on Episodes II and III immediately.
Order the special edition Phantom Menace discs now at I AM SHARK. Sets are scheduled to ship starting March 4th.
Images courtesy Craig Boliver and I AM SHARK.