Most of the releases on Balkan Vinyl have been limited edition vinyl runs. Why do you choose vinyl as the primary format for your label?
Simple. Vinyl is gorgeous. It’s a tangible way to hold and own music.
When you listen for the first time to an album on vinyl, you’re 100% actively invested. You had to make the effort to buy it, you have to put the needle on the record, turn the vinyl over. You have sleeve art and cover notes to read while listening. It’s total absorption – ears, eyes, and physical – not like putting an MP3 album on your computer while checking an email and eating a sandwich. You make it a personal experience – you own it, you can collect it, and properly pass it on to new people. Digital media is disposable, but vinyl retains value.
The music on my label’s all available digitally as well – I DJ digitally and that’s my primary format for buying music – but the vinyl is just as important as the music on it.
Are the limited production runs simply a practical choice for you or is there more to it? I see that you’re re-pressing the first Rave Wars EP but only another 100 copies…
A combination. Vinyl’s expensive to produce, ship, and store. You don’t want to manufacture too much and be left with boxes of unsold records. At the same time, you want the people who buy the records to feel respected; they’ve paid good money and gone to the effort of buying your music from you, so by keeping them collectible, unique, and putting effort into the artwork and packaging they’re getting their money’s worth and know they’re involved in something special.
How do you feel about limited runs in general? It seems like some labels have been deliberately pressing fewer copies than they know they can sell, presumably to feed the hype machine and fan the flames of the Discogs reselling madness. Is that sustainable?
No one makes much money from small runs of vinyl unless they sell at rip-off prices or keep copies back to sell on Discogs, which is really cynical. I’ve never done it, but I know labels that do… So, the motivation is probably more to do with hype, and safety-first, for a lot of labels.
With Rave Wars, there’s more to it. The figures are difficult and expensive to collect, it takes a long time to put them on the records with the blisters, and also I don’t want to be too visible on the radar and get LucasArts and Disney lawyers knocking at my door! Originally there was going to be no represses – but I’ve had emails every week for nearly two years now asking for copies… so a last small run before Rave Wars III and then I’m calling it quits!
No one makes much money from small runs of vinyl unless they sell at rip-off prices or keep copies back to sell on Discogs, which is really cynical.
I want to go back to what you mentioned earlier about people making old-school-inspired music but with modern production and new ideas. That idea of progression and looking forward is really interesting, because techno was really founded on that philosophy. Future Shock and sci-fi were obviously quite important to a lot of early Detroit producers. How does that reconcile with the state of techno now? Is the idea of retro techno or a techno reissue a bit of an oxymoron? Do you think the ideological aspect of techno has been lost?
Techno is now a wide enough scene to carry all aspects of musical ideologies. Sci-fi, soul, darkness, energy, sex, anger, love, sadness – all these things can equally be the drive behind the music. Some artists don’t care about stuff like this – they just write tunes that they like the sound of, or want something to fucking smash it on the dancefloor. Some have something to say, using music to exorcise demons, some are focused on the future, looking to push boundaries. Others are fusing old ideas with new, or just discovering techno for the first time.
I think the latter is where the most interesting stuff is happening. If someone’s grown up on grime, hip hop, juke, dubstep or whatever and is now just hearing techno, and its rich heritage, all at once, then everything about it’s new and futuristic, and how you infuse that into wherever you come from is fresh, even if only to your own ears.
That goes for the listeners as well – I’m almost jealous of people just starting to get into techno. They have so much to discover, it’s so exciting. Do you remember seeing Star Wars for the first time?
Techno is now a wide enough scene to carry all aspects of musical ideologies. Sci-fi, soul, darkness, energy, sex, anger, love, sadness…
I’d rather have that feeling again than be the nerd who can quote every line verbatim.
There’s no shame in being new to a scene rather than an old head. And, in that way, techno will always be about the future, to someone.