[En] Interview : Bvdub (Quietus Recordings / Styrax Records)

Brock Van Wey alias Bvdub has launched in december 2007 a very intimate label about ambiant and deep mind elevations. Based in San Francisco, Quietus only delivers 100 hand-made cd-r copies for each releases, including artists like Brock himself, Quantec and Remote_. A very talented crew who has already signed amazing stuff for the highly respected Styrax label. Here, Brock talks about his music, the story of Quietus and its releases, the mp3 vs the cd-r distribution, why it’s so important for him to produce hand-made cd-r’s, and the unexpected reactions of the listeners of Quietus. Far away from the techno (or the “minimal”) star-system, all the things you are going to read tends to suggest this guy is just a true music-lover.

What is Quietus ?

Much of what Quietus is lies in the name itself… one of the primary meanings of the word is a finishing stroke; anything that effectually ends or settles. It also means discharge or release from life, a.k.a. death, which, though possibly seemingly grim to some (though not me), also plays a part.

In creating the label, I wanted to give rise to a forum for both myself and other artists to express the absolute essence of who they are… the end-all… the final word… the music that if they disappeared off the face of the Earth tomorrow, they would want to be remembered by (which is where the whole “death” thing comes in)… the music that represents the deepest realms of who they are both as a musician as a person. Basically this is a slightly fancy way of saying I wanted to create a place where artists could release the music they themselves loved the most, that which was the most personal to them, and that which was closest to their hearts… not necessarily that which was most “marketable” to the masses (though admittedly, the two are not always mutually-exclusive), or that which they thought others would want to hear.

A major impetus in getting me to take the final step in getting the label off the ground was actually a conversation with my friend Remote_, in which he was explaining how a magazine review of one of his tracks had called it “too self-indulgent” or something of the like. Though I will freely admit it doesn’t take much to infuriate me, that did it in a heartbeat. How can a track be “self-indulgent?” It’s the manifestation of (at least a portion of) someone’s entire being, and their innermost thoughts. Besides, what on earth is more self-indulgent than music? It’s supposed to be. That’s why it’s personal. At least it should be. So I decided then and there that there needed to be a label, no matter how small, that was a place this kind of music could find a home, where artists could put out the music that meant the most to them, and which would serve as the final word on who exactly they are, if they were to put the essence of those words to music.

Introduction :

Bvdub – Daydreams of exile
(dec. 07)
|| quietus 001 ||

Well since the label was my baby, it seemed only logical to put out the first release myself. Not because I’m an egomaniac (well I can be, but that wasn’t the reason this time), but because if the concept fell flat on its face and failed, I didn’t want another artist to have wasted contributing their tracks, or their time. I figured this way, if the whole thing went down in flames, it would only hurt myself. Plus, I thought with the concept of every step being so personal at the forefront, it made sense to make the first such statement myself. I honestly thought people would laugh in my face. As I said before, it’s meant the world and more to find that the opposite was true.

In sticking to the original ideal, I put two tracks that to me were deeply personal, and which I held dear to my heart, but which had generally been overlooked, and always called “too ambient” by other labels (“Dreams of Reykjavik” and “Somewhere Far Away”), and then I made the other two tracks specially for the release (“Winter 1974” and “Nothing You Can Say”). I think it’s important for the first release to really make a statement in regards to what the label is about, and hopefully that one succeeded in doing so.

Quantec – Thousand of thoughts
(Feb. 08)
|| quietus 002 ||

As many likely know by now, Sven Schienhammer, a.k.a. Quantec, has become a close personal friend, and a real brother in the struggle. He’s provided an invaluable level of support for all things I’ve done since we met, and I hope he feels I’ve done the same. So it only made sense to have him be the next voice in the Quietus story, as I know his music means as much to him as mine does to me, and I feel our paths have become so irrevocably intertwined. And that aside, I’m simply a massive fan of his music.

Though I love his “dub” techno as much or more than anyone else, I have known for some time that he also makes much more ambient, dare I say gentler, more delicate works, and I wanted more than anything to be able to show that side to others. His release was indispensable not only for these reasons, but because the title track. “Thousands of Thoughts,” was actually rejected by another label for (surprise) being “too ambient,” “too deep,” or something of the like, and was one of the main catalysts for me starting the label in the first place. Much like when Remote_ told me of that review, I was incensed. It’s a phenomenal track, one of the best he’s ever made in my opinion, and I wanted it to be heard, not stuck in a dark closet somewhere in punishment for being true to his original, deep vision. Along with the Remote_ conversation, that specific track was the final straw that got me to get moving and make the label happen… so it was of course the first track I asked Sven for after he so kindly agreed to contribute a release. I think and hope others will agree he also did an amazing job creating companion tracks that resulted in an unforgettable experience, and what I feel is a real milestone in his progression and style. I’m grateful he agreed to contribute such great tracks to a release, and a label that quite frankly neither of us was sure was even going to make it past 001. That says a lot about him, both as an artist, and a person.

(Apr. 08)
|| quietus 003 ||

I am also fortunate enough to call Mike Oliver, a.k.a. Remote_, a personal friend as well in recent times, but even before I got to know him I was a huge fan of his music. In a strange way, I would say his music is almost like an alter-ego to myself… not because it actually sounds similar, which it doesn’t, but because I feel such a connection to his music, as it feels like that which I would make myself in an alternate world. I think that though we have two distinct styles, there is much in the essence of where our music comes from that is in fact the same. To put it quite simply, his tracks are basically what I spent nearly a decade trying to hunt down all the time in countless hours every week in record stores, but was never able to find: the epitome of smooth, deep emotion, with that touch of a groove that quite frankly I think I am unable to achieve in my own tracks. Plus, as far as I’m concerned, he is the master of the deepest basslines on the planet, over which I will forever be jealous.

On top of that, there is such a gentle, unassuming, personal feeling to his tracks. You know from second one that what you’re hearing is his own internal dialogue… not just something he thinks others will relate to or want to hear. So without going on too much more like a schoolgirl in love, I will just say that Remote_’s music is, in my opinion, the epitome of what made me fall in love with deep techno in the first place. What more can I say?

And so it was obvious that he would lend the next voice in the story… and, along with Quantec, I hope it won’t be the last time. It certainly won’t be if I have any say in it.

Why do you choose to release only cd-r’s and not vinyl (or mp3’s) ? This is not common in the dub-techno world…

First off, what happened to deep and ambient techno? Am I the only one who wonders where it went? Forgive my brief foray into semantics, but Quietus is actually not a dub-techno label (though don’t get me wrong, I understand where you’re coming from). It is a deep techno, ambient techno, and ambient label. I know this is an issue that could be argued until we’re all blue in the face, but to me, “dub” techno is music influenced from dub and its roots. While most assuredly, dub techno can be deep, I fail to understand how in recent years, all deep techno must therefore be “dub.” Maybe I’m just old, but I remember when deep music was simply deep, and things like “deep techno” still existed. Personally, I don’t make “dub-techno,” though many have decided to call my music that (which I’ve grown accustomed to), and I think people will find that even artists previously well-known as making “dub-techno,” such as Quantec, will enter much less constricting, and less classifiable territory through Quietus. That being said, in the end, as long as you feel where it’s coming from, and it truly means something to you, it doesn’t matter what you call it… which I guess begs the question, “Why did you just go on a rant about it then?” I don’t know.

But I digress… back to the CD-R question.

First off, Quietus is all about every single step of the process, from the making of the music, to the way it’s put together, being personal. I can’t think of anything more personal than me hand-copying, labeling, and numbering each CD-R, one at a time.

Secondly, it’s because I’m a self-professed control freak and perfectionist. I want to make sure I have personal control over every step of the process, and it’s only through CD-Rs that such control is possible. It takes a lot of time, but when I myself make each one, I know exactly what’s going on with it. Besides, I know it sounds a bit crazy, but each copy is kind of like an extension of myself, and I feel that a real part of me goes with it in every one I send out. To just send the tracks off to some mass-production factory and have someone run off copies who doesn’t even care about it simply wouldn’t feel the same.

Another large part of the reason is that from the beginning, my vision was to have a wholly hand-made, personal, and one-of-a-kind item that ends up in someone’s hands, including the artwork / cover, which is simply not possible in any other medium. This same philosophy rules out vinyl (though I personally love vinyl)… and when it comes to mp3s, I’m just really not into them. Don’t get me wrong… I have many releases through other labels on mp3, and I’m not knocking it. And I know it’s a great way to get your music to a massive audience with the most ease. But it is unfortunately the coldest, most emotionless, and dare I say least romantic method of distributing music… and music is the most personal mode of expression on the planet! I think that while mp3s have allowed limitless artists, including myself, to get their music out there, it has also drastically diluted electronic music into a quantity-over-quality mess. It has its place, and I respect it, but I want to return to the most personal roots of the music I remember. Back in the day, that meant hand-copying tapes. Now it means doing the same with CD-Rs.

When I send out a CD-R, I personally put the address on each package… so I know exactly where it’s going. And I’m sending a part of me, and any Quietus artist, with it. Another good friend of mine, Havantepe, once said that having people simply download mp3s of your tracks was like someone “kidnapping your children, and doing who knows what with them.” Though it’s funny, it’s kind of true.

Each ep is limited to 100 hand-numbered copies. The Quantec record was sold out in one week (or less). For the forthcoming releases, do you think to increase the number of copies ?

I was overjoyed to see Quantec’s release received so warmly, and sell out so fast… not only because he is a dear friend of mine and his music is amazing, but because it was also a resounding statement that people were getting behind the label (probably 85% of the people who bought it were also those who bought the first one), which means the world to me.

But the whole idea in the beginning was to hopefully create a small but tight-knit family of people who support the label, and it’s out of respect to those who support the label, as well as my original vision, that I would never increase the number of copies for forthcoming releases. I’d be lying if the thought had never crossed my mind when they sell so fast, after which I get numerous disappointed emails from those who found out a bit too late and missed out. And many of my friends say I’m stupid for not expanding the number of copies, especially since the last one sold out so fast. But the original vision was an extremely limited edition of 100 hand-numbered copies for each release. That’s what I said, and that’s how it’s going to be. I won’t betray that. It’s not a matter of trying to make it so rare a bunch of people can’t get it. It’s just a matter of sticking to my vision, and my word.

What are the reactions of the listeners about Quietus ? Did you expect that before you launch it ?

Quite honestly, the reaction has been far beyond what I could have dreamed. I figured I would put forth this idea, and people would think, “Why the hell would I want to buy some CD-R from this guy?” I thought I would be lucky to sell 20 of each release… tops. As you pointed out, this is the age of the mp3 (and a resurge in vinyl), and I thought most would simply feel my idea was outdated and unimportant. It’s amazing to see that there are still people out there scattered throughout the world (over 20 countries so far) who still value something individual, one-of-a-kind, and hand-made… something wholly personal… something made with love, from the heart. It’s lifted my spirits and instilled me with a new sense of hope that I simply can’t put into words… and for that I offer my deepest and most heartfelt thanks to all who support the label, and my romantically antiquated ideals.

A word about the artwork?

As I mentioned, my idea for creating Quietus, while of course focused around the music, was to create a whole sort of mini-experience, between the music and the art. I wanted someone to not only get a CD that they would hopefully love as much as I did, but also a photo that would be its companion… a glimpse into a visual world into which they could escape along with what they were listening to. It was a component that was extremely important to me. I simply wasn’t willing to do one without the other.

An integral part of that idea was that each photo would be taken individually and specifically for that release. My plan was to put the release in my headphones, and travel out for however long it took, with the songs in a continuous loop, until I discovered the exact photo that represented the ideas and ideals of the release. And that’s exactly what I do. They are not simply photos I have lying around… they are taken only for that release, and that’s it. A companion picture is also taken at the same time for the CD label, which is a sort of continuation of the cover picture, which some may have noticed.

I want each individual copy someone receives to be a postcard, in a sense, from the artist and label to the person who gets it… a snapshot in time, both figuratively and literally. In this way, the person who gets it can not only hear what’s in my head or the artist responsible for the music of the release, but also see what I see. Just like with everything else, I can’t think of it getting more personal than that.

I will also add that you can’t get photos developed in a size that fits in a CD case, so I do in fact hand-trim each and every one to fit in there (they are actual developed photos, not printed CD art, etc). I will freely admit, as I’m trimming them one-by-one, the whole “personal” concept starts to become less appealing. Just kidding.

A last thing to say ?

I think I’ve gone on enough for now. I think all I can add is a thanks to you for the opportunity to express a bit about what the label and its vision is about. I greatly appreciate it. And endless thanks to the artists and friends who have so kindly contributed their hearts and souls to past and upcoming releases. Without them, Quietus wouldn’t exist. And last but not least, my most sincere thanks to all who have supported the label thus far. Without them, I would just be wishing about what could have been…

More about him ? Check out his other interview on the Gridface’s quality website :

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