Chain D.L.K.: Hydrophonic Records was born at the end of the 90s. Did you have a manifesto? What were your intentions and did you stick to those during these fifteen years?
Hydrophonic Records: The first official release labeled Hydrophonic records was released in 2002, when only the distribution of electronic music from the european independent techno movement was active. That was the end of the 90es and this activity created the backdrop for Hydrophonic’s genesis.
There was no official manifesto when Hydrophonic began, but the concept came from the “hydrophone”, a device used by submarines in world war one and two. A hydrophone is like a microphone used in deep sea for underwater recordings and communication, it was used for submarines’ strategic communication during the war. It’s like a way to capture the sounds coming from a deep and submerged world. I decided to use this name because the label started in the world of free-parties and it was really an underground movement at that time. Within this movement I always tried to collaborate with original musicians and people with a very personal style of making music, thinking and living it, so it was like a challenge for me to go deeper and deeper to capture new sounds and music styles.
Chain D.L.K.: What were/are your labels of reference and why?
Hydrophonic Records: I think that for the work I do with Hydrophonic I’m influenced both by some labels as well as the incredible quantity of live music that I’ve heard through years of free-parties. In fact one of the most interesting things of these free-parties, musically speaking, is that a lot of people play live music that will never be released on a record! It’s like an eternal improvisation, you can listen to it only if you are there. This is very exciting if you like electronic music because events often last for 2-3 days and maybe you can listen to 10 or more different live acts that you will never hear again. Also DJ sets sometimes are very original and for sure a part of the influences of Hydrophonic came from the many DJs of the early techno movement. I think that when you release an electronic record it’s also important to think about what a DJ can do with it and some DJs can really create complex sound structures mixing 2 or 3 records together, so Hydrophonic releases are also designed as DJ tools, not only as a simple collection of tracks.
As for labels of reference, at the beginning I was more into industrial music, breakcore and harsh beats. I really like the work of labels like Praxis, Zhark, New Skin and Hymen. I think they made some of the most interesting records in this scene. Hydrophonic releases are actually softer and I’m more into the new school of music that some techno tribes developed in the last years mixing elements coming from techno, electro, breakbeat and acid. Of course I’m aging and Hydrophonic is aging too!
Chain D.L.K.: I read that your label was born out of a free-party movement. Can you explain what was going on at those events?
Hydrophonic Records: The movement of free-parties started in Europe at the beginning of ’90s, so it came after the growing up of the techno movement of Detroit and Chicago in the ’80s. At the beginning it was a musical consequence of that movement, but the contexts where people started to play this music was very different. In the UK, in fact, early techno crews like Spiral Tribe started to play techno music with big sound systems at free festivals, playing non-stop for 7-10 days, then going to another festival and playing more, living on trucks always on the road, always ready to take out the sound system from the trucks and start a party in a factory, in the woods, or in the middle of nowhere. After the UK, the movement exploded in France, Italy, Czech Republic and the rest of Europe. I think that in some aspects the explosion of the free-party movement in Europe in the middle of ’90s was similar to the impact that punk culture had in 1977. It created an anarchic and tribal way of life and many people started to follow the wave of free-parties and techno-festivals. Many people speak about free-parties like Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZ), quoting the famous book written by Hakim Bey. A TAZ is a zone where you can bypass the normal social control structures, to create a temporary space for freedom of expression. In many countries now there are laws against free-parties, it’s going to get harder to get on with this kind of events because media often talk about them in a very bad way due to drugs and criminal actions that just sometimes are related to them.
Generally now a free-party is an event that lasts one or more days, it’s organized by the people of the sound systems and takes place in a secret place so you can discover it just when it’s going to begin and you can listen to a lot of electronic music and check out all the things that you will find in the party like sculptures, performances, fire and light shows that create a lysergic environment connected with the music. This is the simplest way I can tell you about free-parties, but I could speak about them for many days for sure!
Chain D.L.K.: During these years you collaborated with labels such as Bar La Muerte or Trackerz and you have a distribution catalogue of breakcore, jungle, breakbeat music. Do you feel like being part of a scene or would you rather collaborate with people that you feel are connected with your music?
Hydrophonic Records: I think that both things are important for me and my label. I still feel a part of the free-party and techno movement, even if in the last years it changed a lot, but for me it’s still the spark where Hydrophonic started and it’s the world where during many years I made music, events, I travelled, I have met hundreds of people and I’m still connected with all of that. At the same time it has always been important to me to have a good vibe with the people I work with for Hydrophonic releases. Sometimes I think that my label is more an “attitude” label rather than just a music label. It’s not just a matter of music, it’s more related to a way of thinking and living. I like people with different cultural and musical backgrounds, I like people who make music for true love and not for business, I like people that always try to do something new and different in music and life, I like people that travel and get inspired by different cultures and arts of the world. For me it’s really important to have a good feeling with the people involved in Hydrophonic projects, this is the reason why generally I’m not interested in demo tracks sent by email or things like that. I need to know the people first, more so than the music they make. Music is a consequence of personality.
Chain D.L.K.: Releases like Synthe.Labo, Phonoxoid or your first as Skeeme, contain tracks based on hard beats and alternation of small melodies and ambient drones. I feel that tracks like those have a multi cultural background which goes beyond music. Can you tell us something about the ones you perform as Skeeme?
Hydrophonic Records: Yes, as I told you the cultural background goes far beyond music. I’m always interested in the social context where new styles of music are born, sometimes it’s a very political thing.
Personally I do different activities connected with music. When I play as DJ at parties I prefer to create dance performances, so I’m actually into breakbeat, electro and slow techno. During the years I went through very different music styles: at the beginning I was more into hard-techno, later I started to play breakcore, jungle, drum’n’bass and then slowly I came back to techno. My DJ sets are generally different from the tracks I produce in my studio, where I’m more eclectic and I feel free to be more experimental. Even if I’m not a real studio junkie, I produce just 2 or 3 tracks every year…
Chain D.L.K.: After seventeen releases I think you might have something to say about what you achieved with your label. Can you share it with us?
Hydrophonic Records: On of the most important things for me is that Hydrophonic releases are distributed all around the world. It’s not easy for me to create a constant distribution network because Hydrophonic records have very different styles and I use to press records in limited quantities, so it’s hard to work with big distribution partners because I’m often out of the mainstream music categories that they are used to work with, but in these years I’ve had good partnerships with distributors and shops in all Europe, in the USA, in South America, in Japan, Russia and even in small countries like Malaysia and Latvia, directly with underground shops. For me it’s a very big pleasure to think that people can find a Hydrophonic record in Tokyo, Singapore or Sao Paulo!
Chain D.L.K.: As far as I understand, the free party movement has a kind of oblique approach to other people’s music, because it could also be reprocessed and re-worked to create something new. What’s your opinion about copyright, digital download and piracy?
Hydrophonic Records: Right! I think that copyright is one of the most important topics of the digital age. Digital technology today allows you to easily duplicate music and movies, furthermore on the Internet you can quickly find, download, sample and reprocess any digital stuff, so if you are a musician, DJ or video maker you have infinite chances to work on anyone else’s stuff. This is something DJs and VJs usually do in free-parties, like musical or visual remixes, but the ease of downloading digital stuff is also changing our way of life and the very meaning of copyright. I think that, on the one side, this is a great thing for free circulation of arts and culture. Today you can find a movie or a music album on the Internet without having to pay and you can listen to all the music you want and also see movies, read books and other things. I think that piracy is a sign of our times, you can’t stop it! The problem is that this can damage big music companies but also small labels. But while big music companies can reorganize their budgets and find new strategies to survive, small labels could die, and this is the sad side of the story.
I’ve found very interesting new copyright licenses, like Creative Commons. I think it’s a more relevant way to deal with copyright concepts in the digital age. This is an important conceptual evolution and I’m sure that in the future something relevant will happen also in matters of digital distribution and download, radically changing our way to consume.
Chain D.L.K.: When you talked about Temporary Autonomous Zones, it reminded me of Burroughs’ theories of decontrol. One of his famous quotes is: “The first and most important thing an individual can do is to become an individual again, decontrol himself, train himself as to what is going on and win back as much independent ground for himself as possible”. Do you anything to say about this issue?
Hydrophonic Records: I love William Burroughs! He was really paranoid but this issue is an important look at our society. We are compelled to grow with a society, Aristotele said that “man is a social animal”, you can’t live your life by yourself, you need to stay with other people in a social structure. The problem is that the structure can control you when media, governments and armies work to preserve the same structure. For example we know that in some countries of the world Internet information is filtered by governments. I’ve got a friend in China now, she told me that if you go on Google in China and you type “Tienanmen” you will not find any information about the Tienanmen square massacre of 1989, where hundreds of people were killed. Governments control you by filtering information, so you have to decontrol yourself to get out of this system, but it can be dangerous and sometimes you have to hide because when you are visible you can be controlled, as Foucault said. When you become less visible you can win back your ground, as Burroughs said, and be less controlled. Temporary Autonomous Zones work like this, first you become invisible, then you find your way to create an alternative temporary society. It’s not necessary to be isolated forever, once you win back your independent ground you can try to create an alternative society.
Chain D.L.K.: What are your future plans and releases you’re working on?
Hydrophonic Records: At the moment I’m working at a new site and new productions. In these years all Hydrophonic releases have been vinyl only, now I think the time has come to also work with digital, so I will launch a new site for digital releases soon and also with more information about the label’s activities and events. At the same time I’m still playing music and collaborating with people like Trackerz, particularly for summer open-air events where we can find our very personal dimension to bring together music, visuals, fire, arts and performances in a party environment!
You just read the interview with Alessandro of Hydrophonic records and now I’ll try to write something about their latest four label’s releases.
The fist one I’ll talk about it’s their fifteenth and it’s a co-production with Trackerz, crew coming from South France. With these four tracks the crew is trying to re-create on vinyl the vibes of their parties. Techno and breakbeat are the key elements of this release which has Droperz and Frost on side A, while Vader1, on side B, pump up the volume with raw sounds, synth sweeps and syncopated rhythms. Sometimes the tracks gave me the feeling to be mixed live and I think that this is what they just wanted to aim at, something that sounded like a live show recorded on vinyl.
The sixteenth release is a 12″ by Mik Izif. Behind this moniker there’s Michael Leveque, co-founder and label management of Physical Records along with Midwooder. Coming from Lyon, France, Mik Izif bring on side A “Factory Mutation”, a cool upbeat electro techno tune while, on side B, “The Real Faty”, a dark techno pounding track which alternates exploding moments to tense atmospheric ones. The second track on side B is a Mentalo remix of “The Real Faty”. This version, in my opinion, is more club oriented and is less dark. It’s still powerful, but less tense.
Co-produced by Hydrophonic Records and the Roman crew System Kernel Panik, this release contains four tracks/bands. Maskk, Fridak, Michaelpeeto and Rikkboy mix techno, break and electro. Maskk with “Face To Face”, mix electro and techno using raw synth sounds, upbeat 80s drum machine beats and acid melodies. Fridak, with “Stop Talking”, bring in 4/4 hard beats, funky guitar samples and distorted bass sounds. Michaelpeeto’s “Detouch”, is a in levare tune with acid atmospheres with a bit of retro touch where melodies melt into a fast hypnotic way. Rikkboy is here with “Mrml Confidential”, a powerful electro/techno tune which is perfect for a wild dance.
The last label’s release is another collaboration with the French crew Trackerz. On this 12″ we have Vader1′s breakbeat approach and on “Noisy Child” he’s mixing wobbling bass lines with catchy melodies and powerful beats. Skeeme with “Hell Nation Army”, is in with a track in balance from 80s melodies and raw 90s sounds. Frost with “No More Closed Mind”, created a sequence of minimal techno pattens which will make your sound system blast. Droperz close the release with “Synthetik Evolution”, an hypnotic tune based on distorted bass loops, 4/4 bouncing drum sounds and minimal synth noise effects.
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