The music of bvdub is like a rain of emotions pouring down on my skin. A stream of sound surrounding me and creating a presence that is incredibly powerful and magical. We recently got in touch verbally after knowing each others music for a long time.
J: I’ve seen you’re preparing a new label called Silent Reign. What is the idea behind it? Will be it a platform for your music only or are you planning to invite others? What’s the difference between your older label Quietus?
B: Indeed I am, and SR001 will be coming up middle of this year. Most of the work is done, both on the music and physical end, but there’s still a little ways to go, each copy is extremely labor intensive (as you will see), but apparently I wouldn’t have it any other way. The idea behind it is multifaceted, I suppose, in that it’s as much about taking back control of my own music and destiny to some extent as it is hopefully offering the same opportunity to others as well who walk the right path – and by that I mean not just the music they make, but why they make it. For me, one doesn’t exist without the other, and each day that goes on, the latter rivals if not eclipses the former.
So it’s not meant to be a label just for me. But it’s also not meant to not be. If you follow me (haha). The reasons behind it aren’t just to release my own work, but to hopefully provide a catalyst for a community, and a collective of like-minded artists and people. As music becomes easier to release, easier to find, easier to everything, that brings plenty of positives… but in turn, year after year, artists become more withdrawn, people and communities more insular, and whatever semblance of a “scene” remains exponentially more fragmented. I miss the days when your community, your crew, your family, it all meant something. It meant everything. You rose and fell together, and those ups and downs were told in the music, and rippled through the scene itself. Life was the scene, and the scene was life. Now it feels the two couldn’t be further apart…
So basically it’s as much a way to do what I want when I want (like any label is, including Affin I’m sure haha) as it is to hopefully serve as a center for a new sense of community. I don’t want it to just be a label. Anyone can release music. I want it to have meaning far beyond the music itself, to the heart of what it means to be a part of something. I just really miss what that all meant, and how much it meant to me. I want to create our own kingdom again. A kingdom maybe only we know, but a kingdom nonetheless. Hence the name. Win or lose, all you can do is try. And one way or another, I’m never gonna stop. After going on thirty years now, I don’t know any different. Or maybe any better.
Quietus was born from the frustration of labels telling me my work was “too” this or “too” that, opinions I had already been dealing with for well over a decade as a DJ, so you’d think I would have been used to it. Silent Reign is, like so many things, born from frustration as well… but where Quietus sought to subvert, Silent Reign seeks to unite.
Quietus also had a very strict ethos that required me to do every single thing myself, down to taking the photo for each release, and even developing each one. Silent Reign is a very different animal… and just as it aims to create a community around it through music, it is also a collective effort in many other senses of the word, with each release’s completely one-of-a-kind art being a cooperative effort with artists of all walks of life, melding multiple worlds into one. It’s a way I’ve never done it before, and the end result is like nothing anyone has ever done. Of course now that I built it up like that, the end result can only be anticlimactic… hopefully not.
So the idea is for it to not just be me… but it could be. Wouldn’t be the first time I was a one-man army.
J: I realized that you used your own photos as artwork for publication on your label, something I’ve also been doing for a few years. How important is it to you to make a visual reference to the releases and how important is the visual component in general to you in the musical context? In other words, does music (also from other artists) keep creating images in your head that you could name specifically or is it more of a space of visual possibilities?
B: This is an interesting question in that my stance has changed over the years, not by any conscious effort on my own part. I think now I go back and forth on the importance of visual representation for music, whereas for years it was pretty much as important as the music itself. With my old label, yes, I took all the photos myself, at one point completely losing my mind and flying to a remote destination in China just for one picture of a the place in which the story for the album took place. Over time, I’d say it’s more situational at this point, sometimes I think the visual component is super integral to a piece of work (whether it be mine or someone else’s), and sometimes I feel that while it’s important, it can be so in a much more abstract way than it used to be, and sometimes whatever a listener comes up with in their head could be as apt, or better. No matter what artwork you yourself connect with your music, use as your album cover, etc, a listener will always have their own imagery anyway. Just as the story you’re trying to tell with the music itself, and the one they hear, might be completely different. Or they could be one in the same. It’s usually probably somewhere in the middle (haha). But as always, that’s the beauty of it all. So I think what extends to the audio also extends to the visual.
But yeah there are some projects where the music and art are simply inseparable. I come from the days when you had to dig through bins for records, and art, and even just text on the labels, was not only what guided you, but the thing you always connected to the music itself. There’s not a single piece of music you could play me today that I owned even 30+ years ago when I started buying records that I couldn’t tell you exactly what the label or cover art looked like. In fact it’s impossible to hear it without seeing it. That being said, that image in my mind is a kind of association… an identifier. It doesn’t mean I don’t also have my own catalog of images and impressions in my head associated with the music… images from my own life, and my own experience. So while the imagery of the album itself is important, it’s only a part of the experience, rather than anything near the sum.
J: A few years ago you moved to China from the USA. Does your current place of residence influence your music in a different way than was the case in the US, or is the geographic location completely meaningless for your music?
B: Well it was nineteen years ago, but that could technically be a “few” (haha). China is, as you know (as you’ve been here a few times now), a complex, dynamic, ever-changing place that literally evolves and fluctuates on a daily basis. I’ll save you the whole explanation of the ancient Confucianism meets modern pragmatism struggle that creates all that, but suffice it to say, it is never a dull moment. Even after nineteen years, it never ceases to surprise, and if you think that would mean it never ceases to inspire, you’d be right in thinking so – but unfortunately, you’d be wrong (haha).
Besides the fact that art, music, and pursuits of the like have all but disappeared in China (obviously not literally disappeared, but you know what I mean) in favor of material pursuits – a shift that I don’t subscribe to myself, but I totally understand – I honestly produce music pretty much in a vacuum. Rarely does my environment dictate my music, outside of the fact that it could be the backdrop, if you will, for something that happened. Everything I make comes from my own fucked up head, and fucked up, horrible, terrifying, amazing, sad, beautiful, love-filled, hate-filled, joyous, heartbreak-ridden life. Yeah I guess you can’t completely separate life from surroundings in a philosophic sense, and it could be there subconsciously, but environment doesn’t overtly enter into the equation. So basically I could be anywhere and still be the manic depressed roller coaster of a barrel of monkeys I am, and still have the same amount to say.
If anything I make music in spite of living in China, instead of the other way around. If it does inspire, it does so through through my life here of constant “other” and isolation, as an eternal outsider even after nearly twenty years – a role I have, admittedly, come to accept and even embrace at times, but one that can still get to even the most seasoned veteran at their best. That being said, I feel that way anywhere I live, and don’t feel any more “at home” in the US. Or anywhere. Some people are just destined to never know home.
You’ve been around the world, you know. Life is life no matter where you live it, and the good and the bad happens to everyone… just in a different language, or with better or crappier food (and beer). It’s all the human experience – the joy and pain and of it all. It’s universal, which is what makes music what it is – someone who doesn’t speak your language, has never lived your life, shaken your hand, or even seen you in the flesh, can still understand every word you say – through every note you play. Your story is their story. Because they lived it too. In a completely different time and place.
I’ve always said I could live anywhere, as long as I have a studio, a bar near my house, and… well I can’t think of anything else. So in that sense yeah I could live anywhere and make music anywhere. But then again I bailed from Poland after only six months, so maybe not. I guess the bar was too far from the house.
J: According to your statements, you feel the communication of two people through music as more personal than they would communicate through words. I also have the feeling that I find this depth in music that goes beyond words. Would you say that real understanding takes place more non-verbally through the emotions conveyed in the music than in verbal conversation?
B: I think any of us who make music feel this way… or if not, you should probably take a day off and question why you’re making it in the first place. Although it might not seem like it by the way I ramble on in writing, or the fact that many who have met me would not hesitate to call me a loudmouth or worse (and they’d probably be right), the fact is I’m actually extremely introverted and not prone to open up or express myself to other people – in part because words don’t really cover what you’re trying to say, I guess. You can’t describe the abstract with the concrete. Or, I guess technically, art with science. Which is why music will always be the only way I can say everything I’m trying to say. I’ve had people ask me to explain the meaning behind albums before, and I basically look at them like they just asked me to recite Shakespeare in Greek. I literally have no idea how to do that. Well because I don’t like Shakespeare and I can’t speak Greek. But you know what I mean.
There has never been a greater means of communication than the wholly abstract collection of sounds that makes up music… and there never will. If you can somehow put into words what you put into your music, you’re doing it wrong.
J: I have the impression that you do not like to talk about which machines / tools you use to make your music. The machines should not be inflated, what matters is the track that stands for itself. As a result, you see the tools used as more of a secondary issue, more important is the person who selects and uses them. Is that correct?
B: Your impression is correct. I can’t think of any other art form where people are so obsessed with exactly how something is made. No one asks painters what kind of paint they used, sculptors what brand of chisel, or authors what color pen. So why are the tools someone uses to make music so weirdly important, eclipsing the work itself? I’ll never be able to answer that question, but it’s a whole line of reasoning I don’t agree with and take no part in. Not only is it completely irrelevant in the sense that if ten people all used the same equipment they would produce ten entirely different tracks, rendering the whole “question” moot, but also because the whole journey of music is that we all find our own way in our own time, on our own terms. I’m not worried about what you or anyone else uses to make what they make. I never have been in my life. I like something or I don’t. I feel something or I don’t. I don’t see what else there is to know.
Just as I never peered at other DJ’s records back in the day, and spent every living moment digging through the crates myself instead. Sure maybe in the end I found the same record after eight hours that I could have in eight seconds by simply trainspotting another DJ. But that eight hours of work to find it meant I treasured it more than I ever could have otherwise – a love that showed whenever it got played. But the reality is, instead of finding the same record after eight hours. I found records no one else did.
All this equipment fetishism is just the trainspotting of the production world. People need to stop spending their time worrying about what everyone else is doing and worry about themselves. Hell, if you really need to obsess about others, worry about why they’re doing what they’re doing. Not how. It’s an infinitely more important question. And one that grows exponentially more important by the day.
J: Digitization in the music sector has advanced in the past 10 years. How did this process change the existence of the labels and artists in your opinion?
B: Like anyone who grew up with vinyl, cassettes, even the brief appearance of the 8-track (yes I’m old), CD’s, and all that other good stuff, I’m torn when it comes to the digital age. On one hand it’s obviously a huge positive as it’s allowed for so much incredible exchange in music, and allowed people’s music to be heard in literally every corner of the world. Without it, who knows how long my own music would have taken to be heard, how I would have met so many amazing people along the way, or how we’d be talking right now. So the positives are nearly infinite.
But so are the negatives. With everything available at the touch of a button, music has become, for too many, a completely temporary, disposable thing. Push a button, have whatever music you want in two seconds, push another button, and it’s gone. Never mind that the person who made it didn’t do so in the two seconds it took you to get it. They spent months. Years. Relationships. Marriages. Families. In some cases literally everything. It used to be you bought a CD, record, cassette, whatever, and you’d play that thing till it broke. It was the soundtrack of your life for months. Years. Now it’s an afternoon. And albums of the year have become albums of the week.
In some ways, who knows, maybe that’s a good thing to some people, as they can listen to more music than ever, and in a way I get how that’s good. But music has become so devalued and diluted that in too many ways it’s lost all meaning. Conversely, however, in that environment, for those to whom it means something, it means even more. It was easy to loyally follow a label or artist 25 years ago when there weren’t all that many to choose from. Now you’re bombarded with a hundred releases a week… and if you still stay loyal to who and what you love in the face of all that, that’s a much greater feat than it once was. So in a way, that’s an even more beautiful thing. Every cloud has its silver lining and all that…
Like with any form of art or communication, digitization brings propagation at the price of perfection, with checks and balances getting thrown out the window. Just as “digitized” newspapers and media have devolved into glorified tabloids based on whims, devoid of proper grammar and spelling, much less actual objective information, so too has music, in many ways, succumbed to the plague of quantity over quality. Artists and labels can release whatever they want whenever they want. And just like the listener who can have it all at the push of a button, so too can a label or artist make it available with the same amount of ease. In some ways that’s great… but in others it’s only causing the world to be flooded with mediocre music that would, quite frankly, never exist if the label, or even the artist, had to spend a lot of hard-earned money to put it out. Just like half the “articles” you see online would never exist if they had to go through an editor who knew how to read.
When a label has to spend thousands of dollars to produce a release, they’re gonna be damn sure it’s something they’re 100% behind. And if an artist is going to jump through the hoops involved to get to that point, mix their shit down a thousand times to meet the specifications of a brooding mastering engineer, make sure their artwork and aesthetic vision is actually even able to go to print, and the thousand other things involved in an actual physical release, they’re gonna start making sure that what they put out is gonna be the best it can be. They’re gonna make much more careful choices about what they really want to represent them out in the world. When something’s as easy as the touch of a button, what do you have to keep yourself in check? Put it up, if you change your mind later, take it down. There’s no accountability. No permanence. Nothing to lose. And when you have nothing to lose, you’re not fighting to win.
All that being said, I think the digital medium in and of itself is a positive. I myself buy most my music in digital form. Yes I’m an old dinosaur who loves the physical as well, but that doesn’t mean I have to prove a point about it. I’ve done all that. Now I buy music however I want. Sometimes I want the record. Sometimes I want the CD. And sometimes I want the digital. I think anyone should be able to choose what they want, and people need to stop demonizing digital as being less valuable than its physical counterparts. If it’s become devalued, it’s human folly – as always – that’s made it so. Just like you don’t blame a chocolate cake because you can’t lose weight. The chocolate cake is fine. The chocolate cake is awesome. And the chocolate cake never told you to eat the whole thing in one sitting. It’s not any inanimate object’s fault that your shit isn’t going how you want it to. It’s you. And there’s no issue existing anywhere in the world of music – or anywhere in the world – that doesn’t start with you simply looking at yourself in the mirror. But that’s about the only place people don’t like to look anymore. Funny that.
More infos about bvdub