While I certainly do not claim to be any sort of authority on European punk and hardcore, I do know enough to realize that Adagio 830 is among the best and longest-running labels on the continent. While primarily releasing screamo bands, they have a wide range of releases, including crusty hardcore, indie rock, post-rock, etc. Their stuff tends to be visually stunning, and overall just really, really good.
My only “real-life” encounter with Robert in person was a few summers ago when his band Zann came over to the U.S. on tour with Black Kites and played Grand Rapids. Great Rev got asked to play as well and I was suuuuper stoked. Zann brought it and then some…delivering a rousing set of their patented brand of crushing, noisy, 90’s-inspired hardcore.
Robert is my only international contribution to the series, and I feel honored he took some time to share his perspective.
Talk about how you stumbled into the punk and hardcore community. When did you know it was probably going to become a permanent fixture in your life?
That would have been in 8th grade. The brother of a guy I went to school with had a punk & hardcore record store and we were hanging out in his garage playing basketball and he played all those records and I was blown away. Another friend and I started a "Deutsch punk" fanzine shortly after as well as a band that never left the garage. Anyway - the brother that had the store took us to all those shows in the early 90’s like Born Against, Agnostic Front, Sick of it All, SFA, Soul Side, Integrity etc … and then we were running his merch table at shows, etc. So we got more and more involved, we started also setting up shows and so on. That’s when I felt home with like minded people and we all had something in common with the music and the ideas of punk life. Also, I began to meet more and more pen pals via fanzine trading which gave me a better impression on how big this whole thing is and how the strong the community is so the circle got bigger and bigger. I was amazed and I still am. I mean in almost every city you have people you can crash with on their couches. That’s awesome and so more things started, then the label also started in 1997 w/ the mail-order... and here I am. No regrets…
What could have possibly prompted you to think it would be a good idea to start a money pit (record label)?
I don’t know - I never thought about money etc. when I started the label. I mean it was just mind blowing to release records and have them in your hands. Being a part of it was just exciting and it still is … I still love every record I release and get still excited when they pop up at the door. Of course money is a part and you have to try to at least make your money back. But I never thought about in the first place.
When you consider signing/working with bands, how do you balance your own personal feelings towards the band and their music with what you see as the potential for the thing to actually sell a few copies and for you to recoup your money? Which generally takes precedence?
I mean first of all we never sign bands. It’s all handshake deals and usually 80% of the bands we release are friends or become friends later on. That’s why we have so much different music on the label. I mean I like lots of different stuff and I wanna release what I love. I mean of course there are times where I say NO - cause some stuff is just too hard to move because the band maybe never plays or whatever … But most important is still that I love the people and their music and then we can go from there. So far we are pretty lucky w/ the releases we put out. Most of the records sold pretty stellar - some of course less. But I believe in every record that I release and every record gets my full attention. So far I haven´t regretted any releases. So bottom-line, I have to like the people and their music … and if they sell well, then it’s perfect.
What gets you more stoked…..getting YOUR copies of a record in from the plant, or hearing the BANDS reaction to getting THEIR records from the plant?
That’s hard to say. I think the best moment is when the records get delivered and you unpack them and they turned out like you wanted them to…and then when the bands get them and are as happy with the result as I am. But yeah, the best moment is to see the truck pull up and get the records.
In your experiences, what are the best places to press vinyl/get your jackets and inserts printed, and what are the worst places? Why?
Over the years I have tried a bunch of places - but Handle with Care/Optimal here close to Berlin are my favorite and we have used them now for a couple years. I think they are the best plant we’ve ever used so far. We use them for jackets and vinyl…if there are special needs we get covers printed somewhere else w/ friends etc. and inlays at a normal print shop.
About shitty places. I don´t know - I don´t wanna bad mouth any place. There have been some that just haven’t worked for us service wise and quality wise - especially since colored splatter vinyl is not our main priority.
Your fairy god mother grants your wish and you get to put out a split with any two bands on the planet. Who shares the wax and why?
Mmmmm– that’s hard to say. There is so much awesome stuff, I can´t think of anything particular at the moment.
Talk about the most frustrating and the most rewarding things about running a label.
The most frustrating stuff is if the graphic designer doesn´t read the templates correctly and we have to do the artwork millions of times again till it fits … 2nd thing is when you distribute your records and you love your release so much and believe in it - but don´t get the feedback as you wished, cause maybe the band is not hyped somewhere, etc. Or when you trade and some people that you are trading w/ consider their releases "better" than yours.
For people who are considering jumping in and starting a label, what’s the one essential piece of advice you would give them?
Well - if you wanna start a label make sure that you are aware of all the extra work that a lot of people do not think about. I mean there is more than sending a master to the pressing plant and receiving the records. A lot of peeps seem to forget that they have to send out all those records, sending review material, etc. There is a lot of extra work and lots of time and you might never see your money back.
Also, the calculation you might have learned in business school does not work for records…the profit on records is SMALL. So do your calculation on expenses wisely in the beginning and check what you really need and what your market is. I mean pressing has gotten really expensive. But sometimes it amazes me to see some labels that press at the same plant, use their cheapest stuff, thinnest vinyl etc and charge 12 Euros wholesale or so…and yes not even paying the recording.
And also - keep in mind trading as an option to get your records distributed. Set up a small distro … it definitely is the easiest, best and fastest way to get your records around if you don´t release a super hyped band in a limited quantity.
Obviously you love every record you put out or you wouldn’t spend thousands of dollars on them, but let’s be real here; what’s the one record from your catalog that you listen to the most/that has the most value for you and why?
I mean from the older stuff I still play the City Of Caterpillar LP, the Haram LPs, Pygmy Lush and Stirling Says. At the moment I cannot stop listening to the Static Me LP, the Naked Lights LP and the Holy and Ruined Families LP’s. I don´t really have one record I can focus on 100% - since it also depends on my mood. I guess I love them all.
You fronted the band Zann for well over a decade, and in that time you guys put out tons of records, toured the world, etc. What were the highlights during your time in Zann, and what ultimately lead to the band's break-up?
Well, there are a couple things that blew my mind. I mean when we started we didn´t spend any thought on what we can do or what is possible as a d.i.y. band. When we released our first 7" that was the first highlight. I mean having a record w/ your own music on it is an awesome feeling and then having people buying and even liking it; that was great. And then going on tour and playing all those countries…we got to do the US a couple times, Japan twice, Russia twice and Europe multiple times. We saw so much stuff through a network of friends and having this band, it’s amazing. Having that band going for so long and doing so much awesome stuff is definitely a big part of my life and I have no regrets on anything.
Breaking up just came over time. We all lived in different cities, other things came into life, life changed, we changed, priorities became different, etc. and so we decided after a certain point that we all wanna do different things. The point was we really wanted to break up w/ no hard feelings and still liking each other instead of any bad blood. We were sort of on a one way street and felt like we couldn’t take it any further. We were kinda stuck and we already did so much stuff … it got more difficult. So that was a wise decision. A band is like a relationship - just w/ like having 3 or 4 girlfriends or boyfriends.
Having been in that band for so long, now that it's over do you find yourself enjoying what I imagine is a lot more free time, or do miss playing, writing, etc.? Are you itching to get something going again or do you think you may be done playing in a band?
In the beginning I enjoyed the extra free time, since I´m pretty busy w/ the store, the label etc. and it was good to have time on the weekends again for other things. But somehow of course I also missed it as well. I actually started a new band w/ some good friends and so far it’s going great. We have a couple songs, wanna record soon, play our first show this Fall and tour, so I´m stoked.
I always hear people talk about how compared to the U.S., hardcore in Europe is way more organized, people take better care of the bands in terms of food, lodging, etc. As somebody who has first-hand experience in both places, how would you say things compare?
Yeah I know. I mean over the years from my perspective touring the US got much better than it used to be like a couple years ago. Maybe we also just got more lucky, went through better channels every time. But every tour we had in the US got better and better each time. I mean payments, food, places to stay etc. are def much better in Europe and there are more things you can count on. But in the last couple years there are just too many bands coming over and people get fed up. It seems like a lot of bands have never even toured the States before they come to Europe and expect to get treated like kings if you know what I mean. So people shouldn´t think that touring Europe is always easy and you can always make your money back, etc. It can be hard as well and if there is no one that wants to see your band you sometimes don´t get paid well etc…you know what I mean? I don´t know - both sides of the pond are different and both sides have their up and downs. I think like show-wise and energy-wise we def had better shows in the US. There is just so much more energy at like house shows and people get more into a band. (I miss house shows). In Europe people are sometimes much more reserved, but also older … I mean if you go to shows there are way more people that stick w/ the scene their whole life. I like that - since it’s not just a short trend or a period in their "wild years". I mean in the UK you have so many guys in their forties and fifties and I love that. Bottom line - both sides are good one way or another.
On the theme “Baker’s Dozen”, what do you have cooking for the rest of 2013 and into early 2014? Give us a virtual taste of what we can expect from you.
There are a couple things coming up. The next one will be the Lord Snow LP and a Bad Vision LP. Maybe a new record w/ Kids Of zoo, then the Trembling Hands LP, a Pills 5", hopefully something w/ Mean Man’s Dream…and some other goodies.
For all things Adagio: http://www.adagio830.de/
For your listening pleasure: https://soundcloud.com/adagio830