Chain D.L.K.: How long have you been doing the label? Honestly, when you started did you really think you’d put out that many releases?
Wallace Records: Wallace records started in 1999 since I wanted to create a compilation and see how it was to put out a record. I immediately understood how difficult it was to sell records when compared to selling merchandise at shows, especially because the media doesn’t give a damn about indie labels which don’t have any commercial relationship with them — I mean like buying ads, etc. (there are some exceptions, of course). Obviously when I started I couldn’t imagine I’d have put out seventy records, and I couldn’t predict what kind of music I was going to be involved with…. But, I can say that everything I do today is not so far from the music included in that 1st sampler back in ’99: “Between Rock and Avant-garde” that basically [sums up] my listenings. Someone may say that’s immobility, someone else may call it coherence.
Chain D.L.K.: Good, you put lot of emphasis on coherence: why? (It looks like you’ve been disappointed by something or someone in the past.)
Wallace Records: No, I haven’t had any great disappointment. My idea of coherence is not related to the music genres or to the records I want to realize but it has to do with the way in which someone promotes his releases and the way in which music can be “found” and “listened to”. It’s a political position that has to do with the fact that I’ve been involved in the punk culture. I think art necessarily has to know its social and political power. Everyone who is involved in it (bands, labels and so on) should confront that knowledge and everybody has to act following his own personal values. Since those values are often “against” something (mainly the Western global-capitalist-antisocial culture), that’s the way I think I must behave. After that, I want to say that I don’t like music with political lyrics (such as “combat rock” commercial bands) and I often search for “the pure pleasure of listening”, but obviously if I run a label I think I have to do my best to create something different from the official business related to the music market.
Chain D.L.K.: Some of the bands you put out during the last few years, while being experimental, have a clear Seventies cut (from industrial heroes Tasaday to Bron y Aur, from Uncode Duello to Rosolina Mar). Did it happen by chance, or are you an irredentist freak nostalgically missing the Seventies?
Wallace Records: No way! Honestly I’ve never noticed that common thread that links the bands you listed…. Perhaps those more immersed in the Seventies and the most freakish of all is Bron y Aur. It’s also true that in that period the last inventible “genres” had been invented, later on it all has become a matter of restyling…. Influences are inescapable and it’s obvious there’s always something that recalls that period. Or maybe it’s just that I’m an elitist snob and I simply try to distance myself from the actual trend of the Eighties revival….
Chain D.L.K.: You put out artists that went on to a major label like Bugo, but also bands such as Zu, Dalek, Lukas Lieti, Gebbia, One Dimensional Man and Martuscello, just to list the most popular names of your catalogue. Notwithstanding, the fame of Wallace records is relatively marginal over here — your label is still considered “off” and above all related to the “weird” bands. What do you think about it?
Wallace Records: I’m not so glad Wallace is considered a label focused on “off” music, also ’cause that’s not true. I think it’s due to lazy listening and to an inexact categorization. If you examine my catalogue deeply it’s more experimental/rock ‘n’ roll oriented. This wide spectrum of genres completely reflects my personal taste; I also think heterogeneity is the dominant characteristic of Wallace records. It’s obvious if Marlene Kuntz and Radiohead are the two extremes of the listeners’ viewpoint, even Bugo might sound “off”. I must confess that when I listen and appreciate a record or a band (and consequentially, if I’m considering releasing it) and it’s different from the other releases of my back catalogue, I’m always excited like a kid! Just to satisfy my personal taste I’d like to put out a metal band and/or somebody playing minimal techno.
Chain D.L.K.: In putting out a new artist/release, it seems like you don’t care whether it’s completely unknown, or even whether you’ve never seen them live, as long as you like it. Is it true? I mean, how many bands have you chosen completely out of the blue after listening to a demo, and even if you didn’t know them?
Wallace Records: If my memory doesn’t fail me, I’ve never realized a record with just a demo…the point is, I already knew the band or I’d heard good rumours about them…. Perhaps I’ve put out Bz Bz Ueu just knowing them through the phone. Musically I knew the band pretty well and I was definitely a fan. Anyhow the real point is that I don’t care about demos, it’s just that I care so much that the bands are aware of the “troubled water” they’re gonna sail when coming out on Wallace. I don’t think I could put out something or somebody I don’t appreciate and with which I don’t feel comfortable. It looks like I haven’t made that many mistakes since all of the bands I put out have kept on putting out records for me (OK, all of them except Bugo). After seventy records I think that’s a great result. Maybe it’s all up to the good wine or to the oversized meals we’ve had together….
Chain D.L.K.: Which are you best-selling releases and which of the records you put out should have sold better according to your opinion?
Wallace Records: Bugo’s “Sentimento Westernato” obviously is my bestseller (the musician is on a major label now); it’s been repressed but just by Bar la Muerte (the label belonging to Bruno from Ovo/Ronin fame). I don’t even know how many copies it has been selling. Another surprisingly good seller has been Rosolina Mar’s debut CD and the second record is selling pretty well, too. Also the second CD of A Short Apnea, Runi’s second release, Madrigali Magri and their reincarnation Bachi da Pietra (the band has gone on the front cover of a well known Italian alternative magazine). We’re talking about small numbers anyhow, I mean one thousand or one thousand five hundred copies. Honestly I think that most of the releases could have been selling much more — those sales that depended mostly from the live act of that band, excluding the few times the press gave the adequate attention to the CD by reviewing it in a positive way. In most cases they were not so interested in interviewing the band. Unfortunately that has also to do with the fact I’m not one of those who “pushes” to get reviews or (even worse) interviews, and you know, when the work of a journalist becomes “routine”, it’s easier to answer to the requests of a promotion agency than to go “deeper”. Believe me, that’s not an accusation to the press, it’s just the way it is. A bad surprise has been the “just arrived” release, but I know it’s not such an easy CD and it combines two big “monsters” like A Short Apnea and Gorge Trio. Another worse seller unfortunately is Andrea Caccia’s movie, but the problem with it was the fact that it came out in VHS format, a month before the DVD format took over the market. It’s sad for those who missed it, it’s top notch for real!
Chain D.L.K.: Even if I don’t like all of your releases, I think you kept a high profile and at the same time you accomplished giving a clear direction to the label, even though many of the musicians of your roster are really different. Apart from some great releases from foreign bands, 90% of your catalogue is “Made in Italy”. Wouldn’t it be easier to produce more and more foreign bands to sell a bit more records?
Wallace Records: I’m not sure it would be necessarily better economically. It’s true, some foreign bands sold kinda well and above all overseas they got better distribution, but not always. Anyhow, nationality is not something I care about that much. To me working with Rollerball or with Arrington (Old Time Relijun) has been like working with any other Italian band. The basic conditions to put out a record can be summed up thus: a mutual respect with the musicians and the obvious fact I should like the music he/they play and his/their attitude. I’m glad you think Wallace is a heterogeneous label, but with a definite idea/characteristic underneath. It’s the idea of the label I’ve always wanted to give.
Chain D.L.K.: Is there anything you’d like to put out that’s not a record, or a CD? I mean a different format since you already put out an art CD, a VHS video, and a comic.
Wallace Records: Putting out material different from the CD/LP format has always been stimulating: video, films, comics, photographs, books are the arts I like the most (though I’m not a real expert) and those I feel closer to musically for their aesthetic contents, and for their socio-cultural way of communicating. The things I’ve realized till now, as I’ve said, I did with artists I happened to know, and I don’t foresee that many different objects other than CDs or LPs in my catalogue, but if I should come into something that’s suitable for Wallace: you can bet I’d start collaborating!
Chain D.L.K.: Which labels inspired you to start a label and which do you like now? And which bands would you like to put out now?
Wallace Records: The labels that got my ass moving and that today are not as inspiring as they used to be are: Touch & Go (from Don Caballero to CocoRosie), Dischord during the “punk to the bone” era and Skin Graft (of the mighty US Maple). But, those are sort of my personal milestones. Today I’m into Load records, Ipecac, Gsl…. I trade with many labels around the globe and here and there I’ve found some very interesting releases. I feel like an old fart in saying this, but: the music I still love is that which is related to a particular springful moment of my life and… the bond that links me to it is definitely a personal one. Every day I put a new CD in my stereo, I wish it would make me yell: “Fuck!!!” and I wish it would amaze me like it happened with Rodan, or Flying Luttenbachers back in the days. I’d like to put out one of those records — bands that came from Chicago between 1995 and 2000. Wallace gave me so much and I’d like to give a tribute to those who inspired the label.
Chain D.L.K.: It sounds like there’s a lot of nostalgia inside that answer. D’Annunzio once said: “To march and not rot!” otherwise everything would become “routine” like for many journalists, as you were complaining before.
Wallace Records: What you say is true, “To march and not to rot!” is above all a personal motto and I think that’s the way it should be. I keep my eyes open to avoid it all turning into routine. Probably for whoever’s judging Wallace from the outside, it looks like it’s always the same shit. Some time I happened to read, “This record is the average Wallace release” and I hardly agreed with that… Since I keep on putting out records with the same spirit of the first release, it’s OK with me. Damn, probably I do sound a bit nostalgic!?
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[interviewed by Andrea Ferraris] [proofreading by Benjamin Pike]