Some time ago I became aware of the American label “Past Inside The Present” and was amazed by their diverse and comprehensive back catalogue. The other day I had a chat about it with Zakè, the label founder.
J: If you look at PITP’s label catalog, you will find an enormous number of releases, all of which have been released in the last 3 years. How is it that you have achieved this incredible output in such a short time?
Z: In short, a response to our dedicated and passionate fanbase! PITP has been very strategic by staying in front of our fans and curious listeners consistently since day one; giving them a healthy diet of focused ambient and drone works. We have been able to accomplish this feat by keeping our physical runs low and our quality of releases high. Our effort admittedly snowballed very quickly and our first year yielded the most releases in our short tenure. We intend not to release that much moving forward as it damn near killed us! Reflecting back, it certainly had its advantages, but also came along with disadvantages. Namely, reflecting on the fact that we possibly could not give the attention to each release it deserved, and PR folks couldn’t keep up with blog posts and reviews!
J: Furthermore, there is a reference to some of PITP’s sub labels on Discogs. Can you please tell us how the sub labels differ conceptually and musically from the parent label?
Z: We have two digital-only sister labels that focus on two different styles under the ambient umbrella. Healing Sound Propagandist in late 2019. Candidly, PITP was flooded with demos and albums we absolutely loved, but there was no possible way to release them on PITP’s already stacked schedule. We also focused on longer pieces and slow burners for HSP’s output. HSP further explores the sounds and textures that PITP has become known for, expanding both upon their dreamier meditative output as well as texture-focused arrangements by ambient artists from around the world.
Our other sister label Fallen Moon Recordings is primarily run by PITP employee Nick Turner, who has always been very passionate about more abstract and noise-driven ambient. Again, we found ourselves receiving lovely demos that didn’t quite fit the PITP or HSP brands but were delightful in their creativity and sound production. FMR explores experimental forms of music and sound creation are we are proud to represent these incredible artists.
J: Many of your releases are available in different formats like limited vinyl editions or cd. Is there a clear focus from a demand point of view, or is it relatively balanced, also in relation to the download bundles?
Z: Our first year, we released regularly on all three formats. Vinyl is our bread and butter and is our best-selling product. Digital purchases are our second most popular format following cassette and CD. In 2020, we ran a good number of cassettes, when we started feeling the bottleneck and delays of vinyl production due to COVID. This year, we re-introduced the cd format in our branded “digistak” cases. In the coming months of 2021, we will be doing two cassette bundles to end the year. One bundle dropping in Autumn and one in December. 2022 will be the year of vinyl, where 90% of our output will be vinyl/digital only.
J: Are there any efforts at PITP to place the published music in the field of film music or for television productions, possibly working with agencies to realize this?
Z: This has been an on-going topic of conversation for quite some time now. We are definitely open to any avenue that will help our artists gain better visibility and incredible opportunities. For now, a lot of research and development are underway.
J: Besides running your labels you work in a mastering studio: how do you access the sound material, do you prefer analog, digital mastering tools or a mixture of both worlds? Do you primarily work on ambient releases or is there stylistically other material, for example bands, that you finalize?
Z: I have been known to master a few project from time to time on all three labels we represent. I use digital mastering tools, but I will always consider myself an artist before an engineer. The small amount of ambient works I have mastered were a great opportunity to gain greater knowledge of process and sound composition. A good mastering project always begins with great mixdowns, which I have been lucky to receive on each mastering job I’ve worked on. For a list of artists/albums I’ve mastered, you can visit: zakedrone.com/mastering
J: To what extent does the experience you gain in mastering complement your own music productions?
Z: Engineering experience is certainly paramount for my works. More so executing an excellent mixdown for engineers to do a lovely mastering job. A mix, more often than not, will determine how good a master is. I have relied on three main engineers to master my works, as I feel it is almost necessary to have a new set of ears and to be very honest, these three individuals’ engineering expertise are on a whole other level. Depending on the type of output, I regularly send my mixes to Stephan Mathieu with Schwebung Mastering (DE), Rafael Anton Irisarri at Black Knoll Studio (NY/US) and Drew Sullivan (WA/US).