Chain D.L.K.: Many labels have come and gone, but Sub Rosa is still alive and kicking: is it just a matter of passion?
Sub Rosa: Guy Mark: More a question of good accounts, I think [laughs]. No, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just because we are not linked to just one musical approach — in fact we try to think music and sound in a global view.
Chain D.L.K.: What do you see as the major changes that have occurred in the music business since you’ve started?
Sub Rosa: Guy Mark: We’ve worked seriously since the 90’s and then the over-production was not as important as it is today. So it will be possible to see some perspectives. Now the music business works more as if everybody has his own pigeonholes — each community has its own music and ignores the other forms. It’s very significant.
Chain D.L.K.: What you’ve just said is really interesting. It’s true that many people are entrenched in their own small community but at the same time there are many musicians who couldn’t care less about it (I’m thinking of Dalek, Jim Plotkins -Atmosmasher/Old/Kanathe-, David Shea, etc.). Do you think this age of confusion may help those enlightened musicians?
Sub Rosa: Guy Mark: No. I think the easiest way is to find or to create your own community. Of course it’s not the only reality — it’s one of the many aspects of the reality that we live. But I believe too in a new understanding of the music — a new way of listening to the sound. And this alternative actually pierces “the pigeonholes”.
Chain D.L.K.: I remember I read an interview where Ian Mackaye was telling some years ago he thought about calling it quits with Dischord (but he didn’t do it): have you ever had the same feeling?
Sub Rosa: Guy Mark: No, we are too involved in projects — generally we are working on 20 different projects at the same time. I’m involved in films too (a series of documentaries about pioneers of electronic and musique concrète), I try to write about music too, so I am surrounded by music. It would be difficult to quit.
Chain D.L.K.: You’re a sort of cult label, not just for the musicians/artists you put out but also for the ideas behind many releases. Have you ever had problems of any kind with one of your releases/artists?
Sub Rosa: Guy Mark: Well, with the years passing by, I suppose that’s normal to have some troubles with one or two musicians. But, really, it’s not a big business. From the beginning our idea was to publish interesting objects — objects that you can listen to, read, see. I appreciate this possibility when I buy a record. I have a passion for the exegesis.
Chain D.L.K.: I’ve noticed that passion and I’ve also read some of the musical essays you put on your website. Don’t you think many (listeners/musicians/critics) tend to intellectualize on things that have no real intellectual origin, while lot of it has more to do with “memory” and “reverie” (I’m thinking of Bergson. Am I intellectualizing or what!? Ha, ha, ha…)?
Sub Rosa: Guy Marc : On the contrary I feel that we don’t reflect enough on what we are involved in. If it’s just a varnish of intellectualism, of course, it’s quite ridiculous. But perception has something to do with the brain, hasn’t it? — so reflection is the process itself.
Chain D.L.K.: You put out many different series, from “music” as most people intend it (whatever it means) to “aural documents” which are much closer to the spoken word/audio books tradition. Even if I’m sure many of your customers must be really open minded, at the same time I imagine different series appeal to different kinds of listeners, am I wrong? What can you tell us about that?
Sub Rosa: Guy Mark: I have no idea. I work for an ideal listener — probably for myself or the brother that I don’t have. Anyway, no serious work can be produced if you intend to reach somebody specifically. It’s more an advertising principle.
Chain D.L.K.: Ok, but I remember some essays (in particular one of Gadamer’s) where the author was speaking about specification/specialization of our culture as a result of the [Ancient] Greek roots of our society. Don’t you think it’s almost impossible to avoid “reaching somebody specifically”?
Sub Rosa: Guy Marc : I mean when we work it’s not for a specific group of people. But of course when you create a label, for example, there are a lot of people who contact you, who say what they think, what they feel, it gives propositions. They don’t agree with an aspect or another. It all finally creates a kind of unexpected, but vague and changing community.
Chain D.L.K.: Somehow you’ve gotten the status of an intellectual label, do you feel comfortable with that?
Sub Rosa: Guy Mark: I don’t think about that. I just try to produce interesting music or documents — something that makes sense — with a minimum of reflection on what we do. I myself reflect very much on a knowledge that could die on its transmission. We think that producing a certain kind of archives is, actually, an act of resistance.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you have any academic studies/background, or have you done it all by yourself in the best alternative/punk tradition?
Sub Rosa: Guy Mark: Nothing in relation with the music studies, not at all. Here we have learned cinema and philosophy, so….
Chain D.L.K.: From the notes, subjects and “artists” included inside many CDs you’ve put out, I got the impression that the beatniks and visionaries in general had an incredible impact on your cultural growth, can you tell us more about that?
Sub Rosa: Guy Mark: For sure, I have met Burroughs when I was very young. Bowles, too, later, in Morrocco. I very much like writers that have a vision. Not only writers in fact, any artist or creator.
Chain D.L.K.: Everyone can’t help but be affected by the hard times we’re crossing, but how do you think they can influence “educated/experimental” music in general? I mean many of your releases are deeply immersed in contemporary culture and I think it’s normal to be influenced by what’s happening around us.
Sub Rosa: Guy Mark: Difficult question, indeed. I feel more like a return to a bad, old form (that means a form without danger for anybody) — with a very strong money reality. I repeat that in these times we must act in an underground way — but never stop any activity — continue to push, to reflect and to act.
Visit Sub Rosa on the web at:
[interviewed by Andrea Ferraris] [proofreading by Benjamin Pike]