Serbien war lange Zeit ein blinder Fleck auf der Landkarte für elektronische Musik, die erste kartografierte Insel war Svetlana Industries. Mit Veröffentlichungen von Teebs & Jackhigh, Filtercutter, BNJMN, Nightwave, Brey und 1000names, die allesamt irgendwo zwischen Frickel-Hip-Hop, verspultem House und UK Bass einzuordnen sind, eroberte sich Svetlana schnell einen Platz im Herzen aller, die sowieso schon eine Schwäche für skurrile, abstrakte und vor allem neuartige Klänge hatten. Dazu beigetragen hat auch das Drumherum, denn neben stimmigem Artwork überzeugten auch die kontrastreiche Lo-Fi-Homepage in schwarz-weiß und die Musikvideos im Stile David Lynchs (nagut, vielleicht ist das etwas übertrieben … sehr gut sind sie aber allemal). Hinter diesem Label vermutete man sofort ein Geheimnis – oder zumindest Menschen, die mit Leidenschaft, Humor und Eigensinn agieren. Und die Vermutungen bestätigte Labelinitiator Toby im Interview für Ashore: Es wird Zeit für einen kleinen Einblick in die Welt von Svetlana.
Hi Toby, who is Svetlana? A woman? Your mother? Or girlfriend? And please briefly introduce your label. The way you started and so on …
We started in Serbia about three years ago, I guess. Our first record came out in Feb 2010 but there was quite a long haul getting there, and we did some gigs and events before then. Svetlana herself is a little enigmatic. She’s kind of a legendary nightlife figure, to us at least. She’s old and we don’t know much about her, but she’s very inspiring. We like the fact she is beyond the scene, beyond any scene, and she definitely plays an active part in the A&Ring at least. I mean, we can bring her stuff and she will yay or nay it. She doesn’t pretend to know anything about the music and doesn’t care, but she’s got good ears.
Svetlana Industries seems to run on a special spirit. It´s not just the music, it’s the look & feel your homepage and everything else. Some kind of philosophy?
That homepage is super old and will soon be changed, but we did/do try to be cohesive. Um, yes, we do have a philosophy, and you have to remind yourself what it is. We’re all swimming in the dark, really, so you just choose your stroke and your direction. The internet can give you feedback but it can also make it worse. „oh shit, everyone’s doing that, we should probably be doing that“ etc. I think humour is a big part of it. We like to not take ourselves too seriously. The very act of marketing is kind of cringe-making to us, so it’s easier to do if you don’t take yourself seriously. We take our product seriously and work hard to make it good, then we present it lightly. Another element is the idea of chiaroscuro, and of creating contrasts, perhaps between visual and audio, or words and sound.
You have your focus on producers from Eastern Europe as well as on international acts like BNJMN or Teebs. How do you connect to the artists worldwide? Facebook? Soundcloud? Mail? Or in real life, via friends?
Now we get a lot of demos. In the beginning we were in Serbia so we connected with Serbian acts, and we knew 1000names through a mutual Bulgarian friend who was also a talented producer (Auditory Ossicles – they use crazy time signatures and did a great remix of Teebs & Jackhigh for us (free download here). That was our initial focus but we were always international. The first designers we worked with were German, the main guy now is French when we don’t do it ourselves.
Was it necessary to connect to international acts to get more attention on your label?
It probably helped, but when we put out Teebs & Jackhigh, firstly that was our second record, secondly it was basically the debut release for both artists so it wasn’t like we signed a well-known artist to get profile after failing to do so with Serbian artists. We’ve definitely always tried to do our own thing and push new talent that we find. I hate it when people announce a new label and instantly just sign a load of records by well established UK bass names who have already been built up over 5 years because that’s just easy and lazy, and furthermore they probably make money which obviously upsets us. They’re not really contributing anything new to the world as a whole and it’s pretty boring. I’m joking of course. We’d love.
Is there something like a master release plan?
We don’t have a big long list of upcoming releases in a safe somewhere, but we have some kind of vision or strategy.
Your homepage says “Send demos via minidisc”. How many minidiscs reached you so far?
I reckon the postman steals them. We’ve got quite a few blank ones here, if people want us to send them out. And we can rent you a recorder as well. Should we do some releases on Minidisc? What do you think?
Definitely, yes! Svetlana is the first (and only) label I know from Serbia. How is the electronic underground in Beograd?
Well, there is another one now, a cool little techno label called Syndetic run by a guy called Noiz, who released some banging dubstep on Rottun and some techno on Yellow Machines. There’s his friend Molez, who also releases super hard dubstep. They’re both from a small town in the far North that is mainly Hungarian population and that area of Serbia is very ethnically diverse and quite interesting. There’s a lot of electro pop about and a lot of D’n’B and crusty breakbeat. Quite a lot of it’s pretty old fashioned, if we’re honest. Filtercutter and Piece of Shh are both Serbian. We actually got quite a good demo from Serbia recently, we should respond to the guy, there’s never time.
In Croatia there is a growing festival culture with strong connections to the UK. But it´s mainly House/Techno/Bass. What about Serbia? Any interesting events you can recommend?
That festival scene in Croatia is UK linked because it’s run by British people. UB40’s ex-manager bought a bar in Zadar and I think that was the start of it, and Outlook, Soundwaves etc. are all UK festivals with British management and programming. It’s more that Croatia’s a convenient location which is quite cheap, has budget flights and a nice coastline. That’s not a dis by the way, we’ve to Outlook and Soundwaves and loved them both. I’m sure there were a few Croatians at Outlook when we went and there’s probably more now. Serbia has a festival called EXIT which is massive but it’s more of a general music festival, although they have a lot of electronic music. It is Serbian run, which is nice, and now attracts lots of Brits as well. Our friend Relja ran a great little festival called Dis-patch but he got pissed off after a decade or so and gave up.
Ok, last question: What to expect in the future?
Another Kelpe record and two records by debut artists, and hopefully some licensing. I don’t want to tell you because we’ll end up falling behind and then we’ll read it a year later and we still haven’t done it.
We will look out for Svetlana! Thanks for your time.