This week, we broaden the scope of the ‘7 Questions’ a little, going beyond the musicians. Giacomo Bruzzo is co-founder (alongside Eraldo Bernocchi) of RareNoise Records, putting out discs by artists such as Joe Morris, Steve Swallow, Mary Halvorson, Kjetil Møster, Mats Gustafsson, Merzbow, Ivo Perelman, Nils Petter Molvær, among many others. The London-based label deliberately eschews boundaries and genre classifications, resulting in fresh and diversely fascinating recordings that have one thing in common, the tendency to unrelentingly grip the listener.
1. The RareNoise website describes you as an, “all-round music nut” – name an experience that contributed to your obsession with music?
As a child, music was completely absent from our household. Though my mother was a trained pianist, my father had a rather more protestant outlook on the matter. It took a number of years, until my early teens that is, for me to truly discover and start consuming music voraciously. I remember my very first acquisitions: a cassette of Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’, a CD of Mahavishnu Orchestra’s ‘Between Nothingness And Eternity’ and a CD of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto played by Rudolf Serkin with the Cleveland Symphonic Orchestra directed by Seiji Ozawa. As I was a bit of a curious nerd, I quickly devoted energies to ‘mine’ multiple more or less obscure music genres in depth, progressive rock and RIO, electronic music, medieval, renaissance and baroque music and composers, jazz, reading biographies and histories simultaneously to provide context and understanding. A second wave of all-consuming curiosity and study came about in the mid-90s via the discovery of Laswell’s work on Axiom, James Lavelle’s MoWax and all the hybridisations of that time. So while I cannot identify an “experience” which may have helped shape my outlook, I can say that the mare magnum of music provided me with endless opportunities to satisfy my curiosity all the while injecting my soul with a permanent ‘high’.
2. What was the first, and most recent music you bought?
Sorry, should have read this question first 🙂 The most recent music I bought is ‘The Epic’ by Kamasi Washington, ‘When You Cut Into The Present’ by Møster!, ‘Silver Mountain’ by Elephant9, ‘So Far So Close’ by Dwiki Dharmawan, ‘Turning Towards The Light’ by Adam Rudolph with the Go:Organic Guitar Orchestra, ‘Black Light’ by Sonar, ‘All In’ by the Beats&Pieces Big Band, Ep1/Ep2/Ep3 by Nerve, ‘Groove Travels’ by Gerard Presencer, “Musikain’ by Jan Peter Schwalm, and others.
3. What’s the starting point for a recording? (the artist? a concept? a deadline?…)
Several starting points are possible. Collaborations with new artists usually start with us receiving the recording in near-finished form. These collaborations then evolve into successive releases which usually are more guided by concept or morph into a new collaboration between artists internal to the label, also based on a concept. An organic mixture of opportunity, planning, and delirium tremens.
4. Who is the most inspiring person you’ve collaborated with, and why?
This is a very tough question to answer, as we only collaborate with people who inspire us, each one in their own unique and all-consuming way. Uniqueness of vision, a mind-blowingly unique sound, the desire to take insane artistic risks, high levels of energy, sincerity and integrity of soul: all of these (and more) are characteristics we seek and find in the people we work with.
To get an idea of RareNoise’s non-generic approach (i.e. simply focused on quality rather than labels or branding), contrast these two examples: the electronica-tinged piano trio Chat Noir and the rock-jazz prog-isms of Jü & Kjetil Møster…
5. Some ‘big names’ are attracted to RareNoise – such as Mats Gustafsson, Steve Swallow, Thurston Moore, Bob Belden, Jamie Saft, Wadada Leo Smith, the list could go on… – how was it working with such ‘heavyweights’ and what did RareNoise bring to the party?
Everyone whose work has graced RareNoise is Big to me. In general, the network is built organically, and musicians arrive, often by word of mouth, many times brought in by other musicians, hopefully because they feel a commonality to their intentions, because they see in RareNoise a place where their artistic visions are cherished and encouraged.
If the stomach of the beast is healthy, then the skin of the beast will look good.
6. Where do you stand on the streaming/downloading/file-sharing/musicians-not-getting-paid-for-their-music debate?
These are several debates all unfortunately lumped together under a banner of perceived common injustice, they should be separated and looked at one by one. They also assume artists to be uniformly subjected to the same issues, which is not the case – an independent experimental musician has a very different profile to a worldwide celebrity.
The infrastructure of the contemporary networked world is built around the very notion of sharing of information; policing/moderation of such activities is difficult and expensive, also because a number of large ‘operators’ (e.g. Google and others) make money as a function of flow of information, that is they have little incentive to discriminate between specific types of information (‘legal’ vs ‘illegal’). These very same operators actively encouraged consumers to develop a moral profile sympathetic to what is fundamentally intellectual property appropriation: “Information Wants To Be Free”.
But someone must pay, at some stage, and these monies must navigate upriver until a part of them reaches the original content creators.
As a first approximation, therefore, I initially saw the emergence of streaming services as potentially a good thing for the music industry, the idea being, they would bring users back to the ‘legal’ fold. Alas some of these new operators, in a bid to establish a presence on the market (e.g. Spotify) decided to both embrace Freemium above and beyond its merits and enter into unfair agreements with some of the content providers, agreements which ultimately harmed content creators themselves, who did not get paid for these transactions on financial accounting grounds.
Matters seem to be improving slightly now (promises of windowing by Spotify, etc.)
The problem is, these new operators are losing money by the bucketload, and investors like them because they see in them “disruptive” technologies (?) – the idea is, once they have crowded everyone else out, they will be left to pick up the spoils. Nope, they will go down first. What then? I do not know, to be honest.
As far as “artists not getting paid”, I made a comment above I would also add, that collection societies worldwide are in dire need of worldwide integration and technological reform. They are inefficient, antiquated and lose the artists tons of money. Venues should pay their PRS equivalent, always. All public places should. Licensing should be compulsory. Flat rates, across the board, which kind of happens, but only kind of.
In the past, I would have said that it was up to the ISPs to pay and police, now, as many of the networks the information travels on are ‘private’ clouds (by Google, Facebook Apple, Microsoft…) the matter becomes more complicated. ISPs though, should still police (see the recent Cox Communications case in the USA) It is a matter of balance, one not achieved yet.
7. If money and time were no object, what would your next project be?
A ground-breaking record with David Bowie (though it seems ‘Blackstar’ is going in the right direction).
To listen to a track or two from pretty much anything and everything on RareNoise, click on the Jukebox ‘PLAY’ button…