ALKU RECORDS: In The Beginning There Was Alku
Interview by Erkki Rautio / pHinnWeb
28 February 2003 -- Alku is a label from Barcelona, Spain, the atmospheric seaside town with a long-time artistic tradition harking back, for example, to Gaudi's surreal architecture; hosting also the acclaimed international electronic music festival Sónar, and being the current home of Finnish ex-pats Pan sonic and Jimi Tenor. Alku was started 1997 by a guinea pig of the same name, together with individuals called Anna Ramos and Roc Jimenéz.
Alku has released several experimental electronic CDRs (many of them in neat 3" format) by artists such as Evol/Opopop (the own project of Anna and Roc), Wobbly, Arg, Beige, Yasunao Tone, Team Doyobi and Hecker, plus a couple of compilation CDRs featuring respected world-wide talents like Oval/Frank Metzger, Yasunao Tone, Terre Thaemlitz, cd_slopper, Chicks on Speed (on the now-deleted El Formato Is The Challenge compilation), Russell Haswell, V/VM, Port Radium and many others. Alku works as a non-profit enterprise, who only sell a small amount of CDs at Mdos distribution, which is closely connected to Austria's influential Mego label. pHinnWeb exchanged some words via e-mail with Alku's Anna Ramos and a chinchilla called Perkele.
- So what's now happening in the life of Alku, any news?
We've been too busy. Had to release three CDs in a row and still have two waiting. For a tiny home label like ours, that's quite a nightmare. We are really happy with our latest releases, though, and there are so many challenging projects to come!
- How did Alku get started?
Back in 1996 Roc came with this crazy idea of starting a label. I treated him like he was insane: we could not afford it at all, it made no sense. Then in 1997, we started to hear about CDR burners getting to a reasonable price, though the very first we got was absolutely expensive and useless (don't you ever dare to buy a Philips Audio CD Recorder). Also the CDRs were literally 10 times more expensive than now, so we only pressed up to 30-50 copies. As technology developed and got cheaper, our catalogue kept growing.
- What is your musical agenda in brief?
The blind dates compilation x+y=xy (featuring 20 different artists), Team Doyobi and Powerbooks For Peace. These are the 3 latest releases. Pita, Charlie Ferrari and Jliat are nearly ready to go now.
- Are there any role models or influential artists for you?
In the begining it was Mego. Pita is a hooligan character who we had the luck to know: due to his double speed thinking he's enlightened us in many aspects. Also, in the latest years we've met people like Stephen Sharp or Joe Gilmore, who nowadays are great friends of us and really supporting people. Apart from the personal level, we found out that they came to similar conclusions as ours with their way of experiencing music and life.
- And any current acts which would particularly impress you, or feel are on the same wavelength with you?
Music that impresses us: anything by Ween, The Neptunes, old Ol' Dirty Bastard stuff, Snoop Dogg, Missy Elliot, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Natte Dogg, D12, Ludacris, They Might Be Giants, Errorsmith, Nelly, St. Lunatics, DMX, Aaliyah (we miss U, baby), Notorious BIG, Lil Kim, Fat Joe, JLO, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Ja Rule, Jay-Z, Redman, Eve, Xzibit, Kelly's.
The same wavelength:
Powerbooks For Peace, Team Doyobi and Joel Ongthorne.
- Which takes us to: how do get all those contacts with all those artists that you publish, since they're all around the world?
E-mail makes things easy.
- You are obviously well contacted with Barcelona's electronic music festival Sónar too?
We work there for a living.
- What about your live performances, and any interesting anecdotes about them? What have been the best and worst places to play, for example?
The favourite ones always in Leeds (curated by the Vector guys). I don't know why but the UK has always been really friendly with us. The Lovebytes guys and the Diskono crew have helped us really much.
Funny gigs: there are two incidents which were kind of funny for us. There was this gig in Barcelona, where the gas horn we were using broke down in the middle of the concert and started spilling frozen gas which nearly killed us. The other funny story took place in Leeds; we were playing absolutely concentrated and when we finished and looked at the audience, nobody was paying any attention, but we did not feel it was that bad, then we realised everybody was looking through the window: there had been a brutal accident with a bus running over a young girl. She was lying on the road, not moving at all, like she was dead.
- Erm, your definition of "funny" is quite interesting (well, our sense of humour at pHinnWeb is quite morbid, too), but let's go on nevertheless... How is it to run a small non-profit label that publishes CDRs only? How do you make it all worthwhile, e.g. financially and distribution-wise?
We usually work with CDRs, but we're planning to put out some vinyl in the near future. Lots of time and some money, that's all you need.
- I really like your Website design: nothing unnecessary there! Especially today when you see all sorts of fancy, glitzy Flash/Java/Shockwave/animation things with a million pop-up windows there...
We like plain HTML, big fonts and basic hardcore colours. Too much Flash-Java-stoopid useless/tasteless design around the Net.
- How do you see the current situation of laptop/glitch music in general, and what about its future? It seems really many people are creating music with laptops now, so one might think that would create a sort of artistic inflation too...
Laptops don't really make a difference. Only makes things lighter, so you can have your backline in a small backpack. As in life, the important thing is what's behind them. There seems to be too much hassle about laptops, which is quite stupid. We are really into computers. We spend most of our day in front of them, either working or making music. So we prefer to think/talk in terms of computer music. As for the glitch thing, I hope it dies soon. Itıs really too much. We're certainly NOT associated with that genre.
- Alku is "beginning" in Finnish and you said you've got a pet called Perkele ("devil" in Finnish; also a popular swearword here, like "caramba" is in Spanish). Are you big fans of Finland, or what?
Perkele is a chinchilla. He runs the label. We have never been to Finland, but love how it sounds.
- Your collective Top Ten for the moment/all-time?
(In no particular order)
Any song by Ween
'Shit Can Happen', D12
Any production by The Neptunes
'Jenny From The Block', Jlopez
'Il Canto de Malavita', Various
'Work It', Missy Elliot
'Nigga Please', Ol' Dirty Bastard
Anything by They Might Be Giants
Anything by Errorsmith
Anything by Ligeti
- Your own future plans now?
Finish our flat, Ratchet & Clank and Grand Theft Auto Vice City. Watching mafia movies. Winning all the chess games against Stephen Sharp. Eating lots of Joe Gilmore's incredible dishes. Visiting Christian's castle in Augsburg. Saving money for Roc's big gold chain. Saving money for Perkele's big gold chain. And keep all the plants in our flat alive.
- Your favourite question they never ask in interviews?
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