Alessandro Adriani: “I recommend everybody to share some studio days with friends and record stuff together, not necessarily to release it but just to learn some tricks and tips from each other”
The idiom ‘Actions speak better than words’ fits very well to the CV of Alessandro Adriani, an Roman expat in Berlin. His label Mannequin Records has been spreading cold waves since 2008, as the description in Discogs says. The name of the label comes from a real mannequin head that was found at a shop Alessandro’s mother used to work in but that’s probably the only fun fact one needs when describing it.
I discovered both Alessandro and Mannequin Records thanks to Ernestas Sadau, the co-founder of Digital Tsunami. DT then published Alessandro’s podcast (Secret Thirteen, too!) and now the Italian is on his way to Kaunas where he’ll perform together with both Ernestas and Roman Sputnik, joined by Mario Moretti who’s as Italian as Bordello A Parigi are. I hope I can ask many more questions when the night gets darker. But here’s something to start with.
I personally think Mannequin Records is a fascinating label for many reasons; One of them is the perfect balance of old and new. How did you come up with this concept of doing reissues and signing new artists?
Thanks a lot for pointing this out. Most of the previous persons who conducted interviews with me were always referring to Mannequin as a reissue label. Nothing can be more wrong than that. Since the very beginning my main goal was to set up a double and parallel soul, unearthing hidden or unpublished gems, running along a road that starts with the period of reference for this kind of music (late 70's – mid 80's) and comes to nowadays.
Let’s take for example Bourbonese Qualk, a band I had no idea existed before Mannequin reissued them - and it was the best album I bought last year. Who decided it would be Ancient Methods who will remix them, how was the exact track chosen?
Indeed it's one of my favorite reissues on Mannequin, every track is just outstanding, I am really proud of having one of their founders Simon Crab working with us. In the near future we are going to reissue all the 80's Bourbonese Qualk albums, starting with 'Laughing Afternoon' and 'Hope' in late 2016, and 'The Spike', 'Preparing for Power' and 'Bourbonese Qualk' in 2017.
About the Ancient Methods rework, it happened very casually. I was attending one of his DJ sets in Berlin and at a certain point he played a very extended version of 'Lies'. At the end of his set I went to ask which version it was because I had never heard it before. Surprise of the surprises, Michael is a big fan of Bourbonese Qualk and it was his own edit. I asked him if he wanted to release it because we were about to reissue their catalog, and he was so kind that he added the remixed version. Simon from BQ was really enthusiastic about it, I put them in contact, and maybe more material will see the light of the day. Maybe not.
Is it a legally tough job to do reissues? Do you have to cancel or put on hold a lot of projects?
Indeed it's a lot of work. Most of the time you don't know who is the copyright holder anymore and you have to trust the person you find. It can happen that the one who claims to be copyright holder is lying to you. I always suggest to ask for old contracts or for original master tapes source, just to be 100% sure that the person is saying the truth. Fortunately in about 100 releases for us this happened only a couple of times.
Most of the people from the underground minimal synth and industrial scene are not into music anymore, so it can be sometimes very difficult to track them down. At least 10 years ago when we started it was way more difficult. Right now with the social networks and all the interest in that kind of music, everything is getting way easier.
What have been the most interesting stories of tracking down musicians from the 80s?
There have been many but my favorite is about Musumeci. I was trying to track them down for ages but without any luck. I asked every single person from the scene in Turin, as we released many bands from there like Carmody, Monuments, Chromagain, Tommy De Chirico… But it was like they were ghosts or never existed. Nobody had even heard about them. Their 'Harry Batasuna' track was such a killer that I decided to include it in our 'Danza Meccanica' volume 2 compilation. Funnily enough, 1 month after the release date I received an email from their founding member Mauro Massaglia, who is a super sweet heart and passionate guy, and he was super happy about our project. I immediately asked him if he happened to have more material and I found out that they had a full tape label called 'Der Zeltweg' with many released and tons of unreleased industrial/synth music. We made at least 5 releases out of that. The rest is history.
Your musical focus is quite clear decade-wise and most probably has to do with your affection for synths; have you also tried to go further back in time and what are your other favorite musical époques?
True but also not. Synthesizer-based music is not my daily thing. At home I listen a lot of guitar stuff. I’m also divided into two souls here. Among my favorite bands you will find for sure Spacemen 3, Slowdive, Ride and Godspeed You! Black Emperor!. Not to forget Stooges, Scott Walker, Piero Umiliani and Calexico. I listen a lot of Italian soundtracks too. And you probably won't believe but I’m a big fan of Black Sabbath!
Vinyl, cassette, YouTube, Spotify, Soundcoud – Mannequin is as equally busy on analog formats as it is on digital platforms. What is your philosophy about that - is the most important thing the ability to hear the music; or to charge for it? Which digital platform btw has been the most successful in your label’s case?
Part of my professional career in the music business was to work for some important digital distributions like The Orchard and Believe Digital, so clearly I have always been interested in this new (but I would prefer to say old) format. We are conscious about that not all our fanbase is able to afford vinyl records and for that reason we want to keep the music available for them. There's not much money to take out from this pie. Digital sales are still very (s)low. We could open the annoying question about the streaming services like Spotify. But right now there are no real alternatives to that, so one has to work with what is available in terms of technology at the moment. I hope new and better-paid streaming services will be developed soon.
Which artists of 2015/2016 will you think be worth reissuing in 2036?
That's a very interesting question and very hard to answer. I was thinking many times what the market would look like and if people will still buy records. I think we are living in a sort of bubble right now and I’m not sure for how many years it will go on. Some of my favorite artists at the moment that I would like to see still around in 2036 are Beau Wanzer, NGLY, Maoupa Mazzocchetti, Phantom Love, Shawn O'Sullivan, An-i.
Before starting to release as Alessandro Adriani you have used many aliases. Why so – didn’t you feel secure enough or professional enough to use your own name in such great projects as Newclear Waves?
Probably. I have never considered myself a DJ or a musician. I just do what I do spontaneously, if somebody is appreciating it this makes me happy, but if not, it will not make a big difference in my daily life approach, I will continue to do and to produce what i feel at the moment.
Your own sound shifted to something more danceable through years, if you can say it like that. How did the transition happen in your head?
Well, to be honest, a dance component was present also inside Newclear Waves, i think I’m just growing up (I can see the 40's not far. Uuuuuh…) and getting more mature and conscious about what I do and who I am, and where I want to go. You never stop learning, I recommend everybody to share some studio days with friends and record stuff together, not necessarily to release it but just to learn some tricks and tips from each other.
As a DJ, what kind of journey do you like to go through during the night? What are some of the DJs you admire for their technique and selection?
I rarely prepare my sets before. It has probably never happened. I have an idea of tension I like to keep going all the time with some heavy basslines and ebm tunes, releasing it sometimes with happier synth wave tracks, before going back into some industrial madness and ritualistic tunes.
I could tell you the classic names that we already know as Mick Wills or Traxx or Intergalactic Gary, but I won't. The reality is that there are a lot of new talented and young DJs emerging all over and I would like to speak about them more.
First of all, you should check JASSS, a Mannequin Records resident DJ and artist from Spain, who already did a podcast for Digital Tsunami; Jules Peter from Unknown Precept; Antonio Barbetta aka Raw Ambassador, an Italian guy living in Frankfurt who is also running a tape label and producing music; Kilian Krings from Leipzig, who just started his own label Sign Bit Zero; the crew of Highrise in Glasgow: Kal, Marcus and Che; Alexander Aelov from Bordeaux, who is running the Forteresse party over there.
D.D. 2004 - 2016
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