“I feel compelled to champion the underdog,” says Melbourne radio host, record curator, and label founder Michael Kucyk. “Whether that be people who consciously made music in the shadows to an audience of none, or circumstantially had no means to navigate the industry. Some of this music was just too ahead of its time to be understood and appreciated.”
Kucyk’s intrigue with rare records and their untold stories led to the creation of his reissue label Efficient Space, which launched in 2015 with a 90s house 12 inch titled On the Moon by Braden Schlager. Since then, the imprint has continued to release obscure, undiscovered music from Australia, covering everything from post-punk to avant-pop.
Prior to establishing the label, Kucyk rose to prominence in 2005 via the independent Melbourne radio station 3RRR FM, where he debuted Noise In My Head, a show focused on exploring a wide array of music from all the corners of the globe. It amassed a dedicated following in Australia and in 2013, its new home of NTS Radio, before evolving into what is now Efficient Space. “The label has the same sharing philosophy [as Noise In My Head], but I guess it produces something more honed and permanent,” says Kucyk.
Kucyk brings the same spirit of eclecticism and collaboration to this month’s show, with a mix that reflects Efficient Space’s diverse catalog. From The Superwomen’s ethereal vocal harmonies to Andy Rantzen’s cosmic dub rhythms, the tracklist includes the label’s early influential releases, album closers, and other overlooked yet indelible tracks. Accompanying the mix is an interview with Kucyk, who reveals the story behind the label’s name, the importance of amplifying Melbourne’s musical and cultural history, and why you should never ask for guestlist.
Can you tell us about your background and how you got into music?
Michael Kucyk: I’ve never really entertained the thought of being a musician, always feeling satisfied as a facilitator, whether that’s working for record labels and publishers, booking shows, or broadcasting on radio. But discovering community station 3RRR FM was a pivotal moment for me. Through their non-playlisted specialist programming, I discovered this whole other universe of independent music. I also grew up close to what was then Australia’s only pressing plant – a suburban oasis.
What inspired you to launch Efficient Space in 2015?
Michael Kucyk: I was fixated with Braden Schlager’s "On the Moon", a backroom house 12” from Melbourne circa 1990. Braden appeared on Soundcloud and I was able to quiz him about the record’s genesis and his short stint in the embryonic local club scene. Sharing the story further via a reissue was the logical next step.
Did your radio show Noise In My Head (on 3RRR FM and NTS Radio) have any influence on the creation of Efficient Space?
Michael Kucyk: Noise In My Head was really energizing for me. It was a time of absorbing amazing music at a psychotic rate, and dialing into a network of local and international specialists that were incredibly generous in sharing their knowledge. Riding that rush that comes with finally finding your tribe, many of which went on to become pillars of Efficient Space: Steele Bonus, Andras, and Instant Peterson, Mikey Young, Julien Dechery, and DJ Sundae. The label has the same sharing philosophy, but I guess it produces something more honed and permanent.
How important is Melbourne to Efficient Space? Could you operate from any other place in the world?
Michael Kucyk: Naarm (Melbourne) runs in our blood. We’ve made best efforts to document some important chapters in the city and wider state’s history – the post-punk, rave, and indie-pop scenes, the art-performance Mecca Clifton Hill Community Music Centre, and Christmas Hills artists' colony Montsalvat. But there’s still much work to be done.
How did you come up with the label’s name?
Michael Kucyk: Under duress with the first record ready for press! It blurted out of my friend Jon Watt’s mouth when describing Lucy Cliché’s live set up and I figured it would do. It’s meaningless. Neutral.
What process do you follow for sourcing titles to reissue?
Michael Kucyk: They arrive from all angles. Unreleased archives from cold calling and interviewing artists, tips from friends in our orbit and the compilation selectors, a few faithful online stores, Dave at Licorice Pie, and the radio. Australian music is our nucleus but we’ve worked with a lot of overseas artists too: Spanish shoegaze instrumentalists Bélver Yin, English guitarist/fashion photographer Steve Hiett, and French modern classical identity Sebastian Gandera.
What do you find most challenging about the work you do?
Michael Kucyk: Remembering everything that needs to be done. It’s largely a one-person show. I’m the researcher, legal department, artist liaison, production manager, royalty accountant, copywriter, publicist, Australian distributor, magazine editor, event producer, and half-baked social media manager. There’s no one to rescue me if I forget to do something.
Does the market influence your judgment on what to reissue?
Michael Kucyk: Absolutely not. It’s more important that I’m into it. No decisions are made in haste. All of the label releases have probably survived at least 50 listens before I’ve committed to them.
What about the quantity of copies you release? Are you doing re-presses, or watching a platform like Discogs to see what the demand is?
Michael Kucyk: I’m a bit of a gambler. Quantities are all based on an intangible instinct and I’m often far from correct. We generally try to keep all of our albums and compilations in print. I couldn’t think of anything more insufferable than monitoring Discogs, nor am I interested in making limited edition pieces for the wealthy to display as wall relics.
When remastering old music, do you work with a go-to person or do you choose the mastering based on the record being released?
Michael Kucyk: Mikey Young is a big part of the team, probably mastering 85% of the releases so far. He’s a great sounding board and I deeply value his opinions. He has also selected our first compilation of 2024, a track of which is previewed in this mix. Also shouts out to Colin Young in the UK who restored Sky Girl and Ghost Riders with his mad scientist skills.
How important are the non-musical components of your releases, like the packaging and album art?
Michael Kucyk: Of equal importance. I’m fortunate to have Steele Bonus oversee the art direction. He has built a strong identity, tying together all of our tangents with consistency across album covers, flyers, and our annual publication Enthusiasms. While I mentioned earlier that Efficient Space is largely a DIY exercise, I can always count on Steele for support.
What distinguishes Efficient Space from other reissue labels?
Michael Kucyk: You’d be better placed in answering that. I’m just doing my own thing, though I have a lot of respect for my peers at Stroom, Séance Centre, A Colourful Storm, Chapter Music, RVNG, Freedom To Spend, Left Ear, Isle of Jura, and Music From Memory.
What do you want to accomplish with the music you reissue?
Michael Kucyk: To faithfully serve the artist and their story, to not present a revisionist history, and to restore the music at the highest standard.
You will be releasing a compilation with NTS residents Time Is Away, titled Searchlight Moonbeam. Can you tell us how this project came to be?
Michael Kucyk: I don’t have much free headspace to listen to radio and mixes as I’d like, but I’ll never miss an episode of Time Is Away on NTS, a new Peace Pipe cassette, or Jack Rollo’s The Early Bird Show. Their devotion to early music, pastoral folk, jazz minimalism, spoken word, downtempo, dub and many outliers that defy categorization has really opened my horizons. An endless trail of cookie crumbs. I reached out to Jack and Elaine to see if they wanted to do something together but unbeknownst to me, they were already in the middle of compiling Ballads for a Colourful Storm. It was worth the wait.
"I couldn’t think of anything more insufferable than monitoring Discogs, nor am I interested in making limited edition pieces for the wealthy to display as wall relics."
Do you have a wishlist of records you'd like to see on Efficient Space?
Michael Kucyk: There’s always a prospective list growing on the whiteboard, some more realistic than others. I’d love to release a 12” of INXS dubs for instance, if only the major label system were easier for a small fish like me to penetrate. I was working on a retrospective for trailblazing Australian dance label Volition before its mastermind Andrew Penhallow tragically passed away. I hope to revive that when the time is right.
Are there any records that you would prefer to keep to yourself and not release?
Michael Kucyk: No. Music is for everyone.
What is your view on the value of music today? In what way does the abundance of music change the way we listen to it?
Michael Kucyk: Do the right thing. Hit your local independent record store, buy from Bandcamp, proudly sport artist and label merch, and don’t ask for guestlist.
What are three albums that you will never get tired of listening to?
Michael Kucyk: I’m guessing Velvet Underground – Another View doesn’t qualify? Off the top of my dome…
Young Marble Giants – Colossal Youth
Papa M – Live From A Shark Cage
Ranking Ann – A Slice of English Toast
What is the most obscure record you have in your collection?
Michael Kucyk: Again, I’m less preoccupied with the concept of something being obscure but one record that comes to mind is Song Myoung Kwan’s Alone. It’s a South Korean experimental guitar album from 1988. Expressive playing that channels inner and outer space in tandem, boasting the apt tagline “Solo Mind Guitar.” If only I could read the hangul liner notes
Who are some contemporary artists that you listen to?
Michael Kucyk: At the moment? Headache’s The Head Hurts but the Heart Knows the Truth, Lemon Quartet’s ArtFest, generally everything from John T. Gast, plus all the compelling music that's coming out of France – Gyeongsu, Megabasse, Delphine Dora, Omertà, and (via Brussels) Charlène Darling. I’m always pining for new material from label affiliated artists YL Hooi, Wilson Tanner, e fishpool, and CS + Kreme.
Are there other forms of art that influence you in the same way that music does?
Michael Kucyk: Film probably gets the most of my focus after music. My Letterboxd handle is ‘leavingdelnorte’. Star 80, Nam June Paik: Moon Is the Oldest TV, Girlfriends, and Human Highway all did numbers on me recently.
And how do you spend your time outside of work, without the music?
Michael Kucyk: Music soundtracks the majority of my waking life, but I went on a family vacation to Korea earlier this year and didn’t have headphones or a stereo within reach. It was a silent retreat, aside from Seoul’s wonderful ambience. The cicadas buzz morning, day, and night there.
Efficient Space discography