If you've been reading reviews on our site very long, you've noticed that RareNoise Records has a consistent history of producing music that challenges boundaries and is all over the map, both geographically and stylistically. From noise-jazz to electronic dub to acoustic free jazz, you never know what you're going to get with RareNoise, but you can be assured it'll be good. Label CEO Giacomo Bruzzo was kind enough to answer some of our questions via email.
by Jon Davis, Published 2016-09-21
GB: Dear Mr Davis, thank you for your patience and for giving us the opportunity of talking about the roots of our enterprise, its successive path, its present and its possible futures. I thank you also for the continual support you have given us in recent years.
You're so welcome. Please tell me a little about yourself, your background before founding RareNoise.
The birth of RareNoise was the culmination of a personal path I undertook in a complicated part of my life. After spending the 90s studying economics and mathematics in the UK, I began a career in finance. This choice proved to be financially but not culturally fulfilling, and thus embarked on a path in 2005 to what I hoped would translate into a career in mathematics in academia and enrolled in a Ph.D programme in London.
Maybe because I underestimated the pressure involved in pursuing this career, maybe because I set my aims too high by choosing a particularly hard topic of research, I experienced a breakdown two years into my research. After several months of complete wipe-out, I tried unsuccessfully to restart my studies: Suddenly, I was sitting at the bottom of a well, unable to climb out, let alone see the horizon.
What prompted you to start RareNoise?
The period I described above proved essential in allowing me to refocus life priorities more in keeping with my passions and inclinations. I then started doing research on musicians I had long held a deep respect for (Bill Laswell, Otomo Yoshihide, and Eraldo Bernocchi) with a view to writing and directing a documentary about their work, in order to shed light on crucial (but maybe not popularly known) actors on the stage of contemporary music of the last thirty years. In order to achieve this aim, I approached Eraldo Bernocchi on MySpace of all places, bluntly asking for the opportunity to interview him, fully expecting for him to decline to do so. Surprisingly enough, Eraldo consented. I then proceeded to visit him a number of times in Italy, during which time we had ample opportunity to confront our views about the state of music across a whole spectrum of dimensions. These conversations lead to two live collaborations, a multimedia performance in Genoa featuring Eraldo, Nils Petter Molvær, and visual artist Petulia Mattioli (Liquid Light), followed by a live [performance] by Zu, Eraldo Bernocchi, and Petulia Mattioli in Rome (Black Engine). Eventually, in 2008 we decided that we should create a platform to fulfil our vision – thus RareNoise was born, with a view to detect and amplify the beauty and trends in contemporary progressive music, highlighting their relation to the history of the art-form, all the while not being bound and or clouded by preconceptions of genre.
Would you say RareNoise has a core style, or are the releases based on something else?
What I can tell you about is how our catalogue came to be organically, though informed by the premises I mentioned above.
We started by releasing six quite unrelated works – an electronic dub recording called Meditronica, a dark ambient noise recording by Buckethead, Bill Laswell and DJ Submerged (Death Cube K – Torn from Black Space), an ambient baritone guitar duo (Parched, with Eraldo Bernocchi), a live audio-visual dub/jazz-rock excursion by Method of Defiance (Laswell, Bernie Worrell, Toshinori Kondo, Dr Israel, Guy Licata), a world-fusion excursion by Eraldo and Petulia’s line-up S.O.M.M.A. (Sacred Order of Music Magic and Art, an ever changing ambient and jazz-rock collective centered around Tibetan chanting) and an EP by a now disbanded Italian post-rock band called The Mantra above the Spotless Melt Moon.
These initial choices were down to opportunity and fitted our desire to surprise – our very first release was in fact a sampler. No one knew about us, so we had to create waves, create question marks, possibly a sense of curiosity. We were lucky, because the crisis of 2009 actually bought us a lot of time to experiment – distributors were shutting down, labels had frozen, and we had a year in which to try things out with little consequence.
Successive releases were driven by the desire to explore possible directions and re-combining trees for the platform as a whole – dub techno by Kazakh wiz Martin Schulte, the undefinable and comedic jazz (rock?) of Mexican-American trio Brainkiller, the neo-folk excursions of Owls, the drum’n bass-infused jazz-rock of Bob Belden’s Animation, the first RareNoise release of Lorenzo Feliciati’s jazz-rock outfit Naked Truth (originally with Cuong Vu, Roy Powell and King Crimson stalwart Pat Mastelotto) and Winter Garden, an ambient trio of Harold Budd, Robin Guthrie and Eraldo Bernocchi and an organ trio of Roy Powell, Jacob Young, and Jarle Vespestad.
By then, as new directions were being added our palette (extreme noise rock with Merzbow, Balázs Pándi, and Mats Gustafsson, free music with Jamie Saft and Joe Morris), the possibilities inherent in encouraging a growing roster of musicians to collaborate on internally ‘grown’ recordings started becoming apparent; this lead to collaborations such as Berserk! (Feliciati and Fornasari), Twinscapes (Feliciati and Colin Edwin), Mumpbeak (Powell, Laswell and Mastelotto) to cite a few. This approach, also reflected in our desire to produce striking, sometimes controversial artwork, always allowing artists free hand on the creative front, also endowed the platform with growing credibility, all the while making it a credible option for an ever larger family of artists, who felt RareNoise was a home that would respect their work.
Retrospectively, we can observe broad ‘trends’ having developed in the RareNoise catalogue: a free rock/free jazz trend, a trend relating to organic electronica, a trend dealing with analog sound, one dealing with noise, one dealing with abstract metal – you may see a dimension I do not, of course. Ex-ante, though, we were not specifically aiming for this outcome; rather we wanted to encourage the emergence of a strong plant by seeding the ground with values that musicians / composers would intuitively and naturally both share and feel comfortable with and let the flowers blossom.
If you really want a ‘motto’ I would say that
RareNoise was born with a view to detect and amplify the beauty and trends in contemporary progressive music by highlighting their relation to the history of the art-form, while not being bound and or clouded by pre-conceptions of genre.
All RareNoise releases are incredibly important to us, the thin red line uniting them all being the emotional impact we believe they will achieve on the listener – deep, raw, surprising, impact, we hope. To adapt a quote by Timothy Leary we hope our releases will give listeners “A mind-blowing God Experience.”
What do you see as the role of an independent label in today’s music world? How does a company like RareNoise survive?
An independent label today is an essential curator of taste. It provides a strong and independent point of view, A channel, a conduit, a Virgil for Dante’s meanderings in an ever-expanding universe of remarkable sounds.
To survive one must build the house on rock, not sand. Choose the bricks carefully; always look towards the horizon, whilst being careful of placing one’s feet in the right place. One must view the world as one’s market, always listening and observing, using all distributions channels available, and all formats possible, all the while investing in communication (PRs) all over the world to spread the message. The numbers are there, if you look at the world as your market.
Above all, at every level of the enterprise focus on quality, quality, quality. Nothing less will do.
What exciting things can we expect from RareNoise in the future?
Visit www.rarenoiserecords.com/jukebox for the history up to now.
Filed under: Interviews
Related artist(s): Bill Frisell, Bobby Previte, Bernie Worrell, Brian Patrick Carroll (Buckethead / Death Cube K), Jack DeJohnette, David Fiuczynski, Bill Laswell, Pat Mastelotto, Cuong Vu, Merzbow (Masami Akita), Led Bib, Harold Budd, Free Nelson Mandoomjazz, Lorenzo Feliciati, Michael Garrison, Bob Belden / Animation, Colin Edwin, Jamie Saft, Balázs Pándi, Gaudi (Daniele Gaudi Cenacchi), Toshinori Kondo, Eraldo Bernocchi, Obake, Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari
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