Chain D.L.K.: Ten years is quite a long time for a record label, but instead of slowing down your release schedule it looks like you’re putting out an incredible amount of releases recently, and many more are planned….
Afe Records / Andrea Marutti: Yes, I agree: ten years is quite a long time…. In the meantime one more year has passed and Afe has turned eleven, which is a somewhat longer time, about one third of my life. As a label, I had fifteen releases out all together last spring and many of them are going to be sold out soon. There will be at least another fifteen discs released in 2007; these will include some of Afe’s best musical collections ever. During 2005, as I was setting up the tenth-year “celebrative” .mp3 compilation (still online at: www.aferecords.com/afe080mp3/afe080mp3.htm ), I had the chance to get in touch with so many interesting musicians. A lot of new collaborations were born out of such occasions and some of them are going to be unveiled very soon. I clearly see that in the last few years there has been more and more interest worldwide about my small label, so I can’t see any reason why I should slow down its output. I feel very motivated and truly hope I’ll always be.
Chain D.L.K.: It looks like you somehow slowed down your activity as a musician (Amon/Never Known/Andrea Marutti/etc.) to work harder on your label. Is that just an impression?
Afe Records / Andrea Marutti: I’ve never been a very prolific musician, but I can’t deny that since the beginning of the new millennium — simultaneously with the rising of Afe — my musical activities have slowed down quite a lot. This is due to different factors and Afe is just one of them. Obviously running a label the way I do is a very time-consuming activity and often I’m left with no spare time, but this is not the only reason: I could have easily created more Amon/Never Known music in the past, I had many requests for it but I didn’t want to repeat myself over and over in a sterile way. My interests have changed with time and for long I couldn’t find new inspiration based on the old Amon/Never Known themes, so I preferred to dedicate myself to something else and only created a few tracks for compilations or remixed other people’s music. In 2005 I started to play live on a more regular basis and this gave me suggestions about further possible paths to follow. New instruments and technologies also helped. During summer I met with Giuseppe Verticchio/Nimh to record a few tracks together, we got inspired by each other and ended up recording two albums worth of material with the help of Giulio Biaggi/Nefelheim and Daniela Gherardi. Both of them are going to be released in early 2007 by Eibon Records and Silentes in Italy. I have also been working on two Andrea Marutti projects; the first one is based on using the recordings of several of my concerts as a sound source to create new music, the second explores the randomness of feeding simple audio signals trough several mixers, effects and processors at the same time to create multilayered compositions of feedback/noise. I feel like making new music and this is what I’ll do.
Chain D.L.K.: While in some ways there’s a sort of common thread joining many of your releases — I have the impression Afe has become more and more heterogeneous. What kind of characteristics should an artist or a project have to make it on Afe?
Afe Records / Andrea Marutti: Afe releases have always been heterogeneous. I am a fan of all styles of electronic music and I always release music according to my personal taste. I am very open-minded and this is reflected in the choices I’ve made for the label since the early days. The “slogan” I created for Afe a long time ago is “Breaking Down the Barriers in Electronic Music”; the barriers I’m talking about are those dividing ambient, industrial, electroacoustic, etc. from techno, glitch, drill ‘n’ bass, etc. According to my experience in music, it is uncommon to find labels that are interested in all these genres at the same time. I perceive electronic music as a whole and I will never get tired of saying that my efforts are addressed to all the fearless listeners who are able to stand this. For example, the next bunch of releases will include Sam & Valley’s fifth album, which is a mixture of Japanese-techno-electro-pop, and Logoplasm’s brand new work which is a strong mixture of field recordings and electroacoustic elements. I really can’t imagine anything farther apart than these two titles, but I love both of them just the same for different reasons and will do my best to promote and distribute them. I guess I am filled with too much enthusiasm now…. Well, getting back to your question: if it’s well-produced and it sounds good, usually there is a chance that I’m interested into it. Obviously I can’t release all the good music that reaches my ears, so I give priority to those musicians that I feel closer to as persons, people who are easy and friendly. After all that’s what the name of the label means: Another Friendly Edition. Recently there was more guitar-based music released on Afe (Two Dead Bodies, Sidra, The Impossible Flower), it could be an (…unconscious?) sign of what I’m interested at the moment; maybe…. For sure this has brought a little bit more heterogeneity into the Afe catalogue, therefore your initial impression is not wrong at all.
Chain D.L.K.: Despite the fact the label’s notoriety has increased incredibly, how do you think your work has been perceived by the media in your country? And why just limited releases? I’m sure many more would sell (for example I know Aidan Baker is already out of print, right?)
Afe Records / Andrea Marutti: Yes, “Dog Fox Gone To Ground” has sold out in a blink…. I think that most of the “official” media are not quite interested in Afe. Until today no music magazine in Italy has ever included in their pages a real feature about the label: in late 2002 a half-page sort of “special” was published in Blow Up in their “Homemade” section. An interview with Raffaele Serra (the main “resident” Afe artist, at that time) also appeared in the same magazine a few months later, but nothing else happened, with the exception of some reviews being published every now and then. This is probably due to the nature of Afe itself: I think that CD-R editions are still perceived as sort of low-quality productions by most of the people, and music journalists are no exception. The fact that most of Afe releases are made in 100-150 copies is also probably seen as a “minus” — after all, why should top-selling music magazines take notice of a small entity like Afe? Things went differently on the web: in recent years features, interviews and reviews about Afe and its releases regularly appeared on many webzines. Anyway, you can’t push for recognition, it has to come by itself, if deserved. I can’t and won’t complain about that because I’ve never tried to change the nature of the label: Afe is “underground”, so let it stay that way. I want to be able to take care of each and every aspect of production: nice artwork/packaging, good experimental electronic music and limited editions, that’s the way I like it.
Chain D.L.K.: Is or was there a particular thing/happening/event/artist/whatever that drives home to you the fact you devote so much time to the label? And on the other hand is there anything related to owning a label that makes you think it is time to quit?
Afe Records / Andrea Marutti: I think that the party I organized in November 2005 to celebrate the label’s tenth anniversary has given an enormous sense to all the efforts and strength I put into Afe since the very first day. Fifteen different acts went on stage during that night and the place was crowded with hundreds of people. It was a memorable event and I really could not ask for more. On the other hand I must admit that I didn’t have any one particularly bad experience, just a few small delusions but nothing really serious. I never thought I should quit the label, I simply can’t imagine myself without it; it’s probably the only thing that I can call “mine”, it’s my baby.
Chain D.L.K.: Usually many people start a label having been influenced by the “do it yourself” mentality or by the idea that “everybody can build his own reality,” but you, what’s your background? And is there any particular event you remember that influenced you in making music or in starting a label promoting mainly unconventional music?
Afe Records / Andrea Marutti: In early 1992 I bought a portable cassette recorder; my intention was to record a concert of my most favorite band, The Durutti Column, who were going to play in Milan in a few days. During the same period, I had the chance to discover Industrial music thanks to a compilation published by Amen, a wonderful Italian underground fanzine. The compilation included tracks by …tant Donnés, La Fura Dels Baus, Officine Schwartz, F.A.R., Das Synthetische Mischgewebe, Cranioclast, Tasaday, MGZ, S.Core, The Tapes and many more. I never listened to anything like that before, it was a highly illuminating experience. I tried to gather more information about the Industrial scene and I was pointed to the CD reissues of The Grey Area of Mute Records: Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, Non, SPK, etc. My main influence in making experimental music was simply the discovery that such music existed. Soon I started experimenting with several cassette decks and evolved from that during the years. Setting up a label was a consequence of making music, even though I think I never consciously decided to start it. It almost happened by chance. In 1995 I self-released a few tapes of my own music for the purpose of gifting some friends with them. Then some of my friends started making their own music and I helped them with mastering, graphics and so on. I duplicated tapes, gave them catalogue numbers and artwork. At some point, people started asking for them, that’s when I realized I was running a label. It was already there, and to stay.
Chain D.L.K.: Slowly you gained a modest stature as an ambient musician, as Amon and Never Know, but you know you have a quite varied and ever-increasing discography. Do you consider yourself an “artist”? A Maecenas? …Or what?
Afe Records / Andrea Marutti: I am a person who always had a great interest in music. Once I was a just a listener, then I found a way to make my own music without having any specific musical knowledge or any other particular skills. I was just lucky enough to meet someone who liked my music and decided to release it on CD. With Afe I incidentally became a sort of “low-scale producer”, but in the end, if I should try to describe myself with one single word I would simply say that I am a music enthusiast.
Chain D.L.K.: I know you had a good offer to become exclusively distributed by a distributor but you’ve declined it so far. Can you tell us more about it and above all what could make you change you opinion about it, I mean I know you have a genuine passion toward release trading and “d. i. y.” mentality?
Afe Records / Andrea Marutti: Yes, some time ago I was contacted by a member of the staff of a well known American distributor which I won’t mention here. I almost couldn’t believe that they were interested in including Afe releases in their big catalogue. I was flattered as I was reading their e-mail, but I couldn’t accept their offer because I thought that there was no point in giving them an exclusive deal. I still think the same today: the more sources available to buy Afe releases, the better. I prefer to have a large number of small local distributors instead of having a sort of “centralized” big distribution. Having said that, I must admit that probably I was also afraid that by having a big distributor the label could evolve into something different than what it is now. I am not ambitious, as I said before, I think about Afe as something “underground”; this has successfully worked for the last eleven years and I guess it can keep on working until the day I eventually change my mind. Truthfully, I don’t know which reasons could bring such a change; for the time being I still believe in the old proverbs: “Eat according to the limits of your provisions and walk according to the length of your step”…. And by the way, “If it ain’t broken don’t fix it,” never. (8-)
Chain D.L.K.: Are you afraid of popularity? Or afraid of the way in which it could influence your way of working?
Afe Records / Andrea Marutti: I’m not afraid of either of the two. I’m only scared that somehow something bad could happen, something that I would not be able to control, something that would force me to cease the label activities. What can be seen as a “change for good” could easily turn into destruction and I don’t want to take the risk. I simply don’t think it’s worth taking it. Sad as it may seem, I don’t have many other satisfactions in my life. I am happy about Afe the way it is: it’s a very small happiness but it is still a lot better than no happiness at all.
Chain D.L.K.: But it would be easier to earn a living with it, wouldn’t it be? I mean at the moment I assume the label and the related activities of sound engineer are your main occupations, right?
Afe Records / Andrea Marutti: I invest a lot of time, effort and money into Afe but I never thought about it as a job and I absolutely wouldn’t want to turn it into something like that. As you say, it would probably be easier to earn a living with it, but I should make different choices and take different actions. No, thanks. Of course it is important for me to have some sort of “best sellers” in the Afe catalogue every now and then, because they obviously help to pay the bills for other releases that don’t sell enough to recover their manufacturing cost. On the contrary, I would gladly see my activities of audio mastering and pins manufacturing as a more proper job because they are more “impersonal” and I feel a lot less involved in them. I mean to say that I can create nice pins even if I don’t like their design and that I can fix a master for better even if the music’s not my cup of tea. The label is something I essentially do for myself, because it makes me feel good. I truly hope that you can understand my point of view and that the difference between the label and the other activities is clear.
Chain D.L.K.: Any final comment or anything you’d like to add to the interview?
Afe Records / Andrea Marutti: A new bunch of Afe releases is on its way; as usual there will be plenty of interesting stuff including new and unreleased full-length works by The Impossible Flower, Ninth Desert, Non Ethos, a034, Edward Ruchalski, Cordell Klier, Cría Cuervos, Steve Brand, Horchata, Mathieu Ruhlmann, Pholde, Logoplasm, Mark Hamn and probably also some “last minute” surprises…. A Bestia Centauri CD will also be released in collaboration with our good friends at Eibon Records. The Afe website is updated every week, I invite everyone with an interest in experimental electronic music to have a look around the site and discover more details, audio previews, artworks, etc. More detailed news and official release dates for the aforementioned discs will be announced soon. I’d like to thank you for your patience in collecting my answers for this interview. We both know it took an awful lot of time….
Visit Afe Records / Andrea Marutti on the web at:
[interviewed by Andrea Ferraris] [proofreading by Benjamin Pike]