The website of Forced Nostalgia (FN) label explicitly states the following “no bending to public taste, no concession to entertainment, no cultivation of “contacts”. A strong statement indeed, explicitly expressing the aspects so dominant in the music industry. By adhering to this truthful and honest approach, FN does not limit the variety and diversity of its catalogue. Label’s roster ranges from rhythmic power electronics/noise of Imminent Starvation to elegant ethereal/minimal/wave of Vazz or weirdly poetical acoustic landscapes of Andrew Cox or even hi-fi/futuristic synth experiments of Lassigue Bendthaus (aka Uwe Schmidt). Thus, the sound here is the main priority over packaging, presentation and promo.
In the interview below the label owner Fré De Vos elaborates on the idea of the label even further and talks about the current situation in the scene, relations with artists, reaching the audience and other issues.
What is the meaning behind the label title? We face the increasing revivalism of hauntology aesthetics? Is it related to that? The "forced" part is especially interesting?
It’s sarcasm/humour/parody. In recent years, people with the slightest interest in mainstream electronic (dance-)music were suddenly supposed to have affinity with 80s noise and industrial music. Shrewd marketeers forcing nostalgia upon often-ignorant consumers in order to fill the increasing gaps in their sales.
I used the term “forced nostalgia” in an email to Andrew Hulme [OYC] in 2009 while chatting about tape-blogs. I liked the name and thought it could be useful later. There is no relation to hauntology.
Many artist from your roster are from the 80's experimental/noise/synth background? How do you see the increasing revivalism of the scene nowadays? Do you find the new artists interesting?
I wouldn’t call it “revival of the scene”. What has happened is that influential instances with commercial interests only have picked up this stuff and pushed it onto a market that had never listened to (or heard of) this music as recent as 4-5 years ago.
Many industrial labels active for the last 20-30 years have never really ceased to exist. Look at Staalplaat, Touch or Tesco to name just a few. Countless new labels have started since the early nineties and are still doing their thing, below the radar, far from any hype or press attention. Numerous pioneering artists are still active, below the radar too. All acts on FN - except for Pump and Cicciolina Holocaust – have released (unnoticed) new music in recent years. 1000’s of reissues came out in the last 2 decades only, way before the Forced Nostalgia’s of this world were established. In other words, it has always been there but was simply/totally and deliberately ignored by the sales people and popular online music magazines, that are now telling us - for their own sake/agenda - that this is “essential music”.
As for new artists, I’m not really up to date. For the last 4 years I have been living pretty solitary in SE-Asia keeping up with non-musical interests. Recently, I have briefly checked a couple of names who seem recurrently “omnipresent” but I don’t assign much value to their music. The marketing circus and manipulation behind it is in fact way more noteworthy. I do enjoy streaming random/unknown music on Bandcamp. That site is ingenious and the best thing ever for independent music/artists/labels. FN owes Bandcamp big time.
Having in mind that you discover very interesting and obscure acts, do you find it easy to find bands and contact then? Maybe you have some interesting stories to tell related to that? We imagine it is a pretty interesting job.
I don’t really “discover” these acts nor do I consider running the label a “job” if you mean by that “work”. All releases so far on FN are by friends, people I have met in real life or have been in contact with for a long time. People who trust me and vice-versa. Or it concerns reissues of material that has been in my “archive” for many years. Recordings I consider interesting and overlooked (cumulatively fulfilled). It’s all very subjective and emotional as we’re talking music/nostalgia here and not life support. I don’t surf the internet in order to find rare, sought-after music that is guaranteed to sell. It would drive me crazy since there is too much out there, and others are much better in doing it anyway.
What are your main driving inspirations behind the label? And what biggest challenges nowadays exist in this activity?
Passion for music combined with plenty of time to kill combined with a “punk” attitude. I release what I want to release without considering the commercial potential or worrying about the bills. The same applies to Plague Recordings by the way. I know in advance that some releases might not break-even and I don’t consider that a shame or a failure. Majority of this music is not made-for-profit unless it gets marketed in a pervert consumerist way which is not my style. As long as I get back the money ‘one way or another’ it’s OK. If it means selling 15 Broken Flag cassettes (that costed me 2 euro each) to some obsessive collector, who’s unwittingly financing the production of 3 Forced Nostalgia CD’s (which he considers “worthless” and “inferior”) then so be it. I don’t care about owning “objects” any longer so it’s win-win for me. Theoretically I can continue to release quasi-unsellable music for the rest of my life through aforementioned selling-rarities-scheme. If there is profit it goes to ‘the cause’ which can be a next release or charity (the latter is a private matter).
The biggest challenge is reaching folks who are truly interested in the music. People who will listen to it in a mindful way. I don’t even care if they pay for it or not. I prefer giving away a download to a devoted, but out of money, listener than selling to some airhead who jumped on the bandwagon. I am confident that a substantial number of (paid for) FN releases have been “spinned” only once and then shelved next to the rest of those other weekly “essential records”. A sign of these times: fast, shallow, futile/volatile.
As there are many labels specializing in lost treasures of experimental/synth/noise how do you manage to stay unique and preserve unique concept and image? Do you think that increasing competition in the scene is for better or for worse?
My methods and philosophy might be atypical, the musical context of FN is far from unique nowadays. The internet is full with youtube channels specialising in industrial music. Same for topics like De Sade, Burroughs, Crowley, Bataille and the likes often linked to “industrial culture”. One can become an instant “authority” on Facebook without ever having read their works. Just click “I like”, add to “interests”, upload a bunch of pictures found online, and there you go. I wish there was more scepticism, critical thinking and “depth” but as stated above, it’s all part of the sign of the times.
The “competition” thing is an interesting question for the music moguls who are making a living with it. For me, the more labels the more (unsold) music = the more to chose from at cheap prices. Look at discogs. That place is heaven for bargain hunters.
A totally ridiculous evolution of recent years is that titles must instantly sell out in order to be taken seriously. Selling out instantly means only 1 thing: an insufficient number of copies was manufactured. Nothing more, nothing less. A popular release is not a good release perse.
How much influence do you have on artists as a curator? How much freedom do you leave? What do you think are the most important features for a label owner and what relation with artists he/she should maintain?
My influence on the artist is very limited. I do take credit for the selection of the music. I sometimes omit/reject tracks or edit recordings. But since all this music has been recorded long-time ago I have no participation in the actual “making”. I’m not a producer who goes into the studio with the band.
The artists have full freedom as long as I can afford it. If they want a CD in some multi-foldout embossed digipak with a 50 page booklet then I’ll probably have to disappoint them. But as I’m dealing with down to earth, intelligent, realistic people everything so far has been completely hassle-free. A forthcoming release by 8m² Stereo will be ‘download-only’ because the artist considers physical copies ecologically irresponsible. I respect that.
My features as a label owner are: “No bending to public taste. No concession to entertainment. No cultivation of contacts”. My relationship with the artists is based on a large mutual dose of “self- relativism” and mental maturity.
Thanks for your interest.
Good luck with your Secret 13 endeavors.
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"A totally ridiculous evolution of recent years is that titles must instantly sell out in order to be taken seriously. Selling out instantly means only 1 thing: an insufficient number of copies was manufactured. Nothing more, nothing less."