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QRD #45 - Record Label Owner Interview Series
about this issue
Label Owner Interviews with:
Badman Recording Co.
Boring Machines
Champion Version
Dark Meadow Recordings
End of huM
Exotic Fever
Fluttery Records
Fourth Dimension/Lumberton Trading Company
Greyday Records
Lagunamuch Records
Morc Records
Moving Furniture
North Pole Records
Radical Matters Editions/Label
Second Motion Entertainment
Silber Records
Trace Recordings
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Label Owner Interview with Sandro Gronchi of Radical Matters Editions/Label
November 2010
Name: Sandro Gronchi
Label: Radical Matters - Editions / Label (also know as RMEDL)
Websites: radicalmatters.com

QRD – When & why did you start your label?

Sandro – I started RMEDL in September 2004, as a sort of answer about my necessity of making independent art. After a short period of exhibitions of visual, audio & multimedia installations, & performative actions in art gallery & institutions, researching into the roots of conceptual art & visual poetry, I picked the elements to establish this idea: run an independent publishing house/record label, focused only on fine art, handmade, collectable, limited editions & artists’ multiples.

QRD – Where did you get the money to finance your first few releases?

Sandro – From my pockets!

QRD – How many releases have you put out?

Sandro – Until 2010 I have realised around 50 physical editions & around 80 Web Editions for free download.

QRD – How many releases would you like to do a year?

Sandro – At the moment it is impossible for me know “how many” items will be released every year, because every album physically manufactured it is completely handmade by myself & nothing can be released until everything will become like I have previously designed.

QRD – How many hours a week do you work on the label & how many would you like to?

Sandro – More than 40 hours per week!!!

QRD – What are the fun &/or rewarding parts about running a label?

Sandro – The possibility of listening in advance to some unknown promos, or important unedits from authors whom I appreciate, it’s the big honour from me related to RMEDL.  This is the greatest pleasure about running a label.

QRD – What do you feel is the biggest waste of your time running the label?

Sandro – I think it depends on the point of view.  For any ideas released, I need to invest a whole lot of time to create prototypes, etc; so for me this time is like another form of investment.

QRD – What are some labels you admire or feel a kinship to?

Sandro – In these few years of activities I have collaborated with some interesting labels/distributors: Die Schachtel (Italy), Cold Spring (UK) & Soleilmoon (USA) Tochnit-Aleph (Germany) are the most interesting, but I need to quote also Old Europa Cafe, a historical Italian label which have many “influenced” me in the first years of RMEDL.  But also Tesco Org. (Germany), Generator Sound Art (USA), Minimamedia (Germany), Aufabwegen.com (Germany), Slaughter Production (Italy - R.I.P.), & many others which probably I have forgotten.…

QRD – What other work experiences prepared you to have a label?

Sandro – I’m a teacher of applied arts, with a special interest on epistemology, mind theory, & operative methodology.  I’m focused on teaching the art of painting & visual & graphic design, related to the study of perception. This approach, combined with my passion for the “paper” & its qualities & a strong interest related to the reproduction process in art (from xilography, etching, to phonography) like “multiples” & “monotypes,” have prepared me to experiment the editions as a form of art.

QRD – What makes you label special & unique?

Sandro – I have conceived RMEDL to produce a very special kind of release, based on fine art craftsmanship, to create really precious limited editions or artist’s multiples; but at the same time, I have also invested a lot of time to produce important Web Editions for free download, shared in two parts: the EP series & the Soundsources series (a collection of author’s loop for the joy of your listening, or they can be also played, for example with a sequencer, to realise new compositions). But be sure: many new kind of experimental editions will be realised soon... like the forthcoming artist’s multiples editions based on One of a Kind Vinyls, where every copy of the vinyl will be professionally recorded one by one!!! So every copy will be unique with very special artworks related to each album!!!

QRD – How has your physical location effected your label?

Sandro – There is a word in the utopic vision of the contemporary “ knowledge society”, the word is “glocal” (global + local): this is the place of RMEDL.

QRD – Do you enjoy music as much now as you used to & how has running a label effected how you listen to/hear music?

Sandro – I’m not a musicologist, so when I listen to the music, I like to immerse myself completely. For a lot of days I can listen to only one track, or the same side of an album in a continuous repeat. This sort of paraoind, it will never change!

QRD – What’s your demos policy?

Sandro – You ask me, I answer you!

QRD – How do you find out about new artists for your label?

Sandro – Through emails I try to contact & propose my editions, to the author’s that their art makes me feel the desire to repeat their sound on endlessly.

QRD – How do most fans find out about your label?

Sandro – radicalmatters.com But I suggest also to take a look all around you, it is possible there is a little RMEDL cadeau which is waiting for you!! It’s possible that you could find a floppy disk, a flyer or an ephemera CD contained a secret URL, hidden on a train, in museum, in a record shop, in a sexy shop, or during events....

QRD – What’s been your biggest selling release & why do you think it was?

Sandro – At the moment the most requested items are (not in order): Web Edition: The Loop Orchestra, Sudden Infant, Nordvargr, Zero Kama, L’Acephale.  Physical Limited Edition: the concept album Black Industrial Grimoire sold out in 15 days!!!  Eden 13 by Rudolf Eb.Er, Demonolatry, Re-worked materials by Kinetix, Music From The Ionosphere by Pietro Riparbelli K11, & the conceptual album Chthonian Music. But sincerely all the items have risen a great interest for many peoples.

QRD – What release that you’ve done was the most important & special to you personally?

Sandro – There are really a lot of the conceptual albums which I think are very important: from the collaborative conceptual album Black Industrial Grimoire, a necromantical phono-medianic-set with a speaker & a black scrying mirror; the collaborative concept album “Radiodrama” with a special packaging including connectable speakers, like Demonolatry the first RMEDL edition with a playable speaker included in the packaging, where you could listen to the related recordings in a new spectral dimension, or Music From Hi-Fi Session with two anti-records included & playables with turntables; Ur Gerausch in the artist’s multiple edition which contain a small jewel & a pierced CD with hidden spoken words. Another example is the more “complex” conceptual album & its related multi channel hypogeic sound-spatialisation site-specific installation, called “CHTHONIAN MUSIC”, which I have conceived & designed in 2009, based on the Etruscan Mysteries cult & rites, animated by an acoustic collaborative work between the sound director & composer Pietro Riparbelli & a selected chain of authors like: Francisco López, Christina Kubisch, Massimo Bartolini, Seth Cluett, Y.E.R.M.O., Seven Guitars, Philippe Petit, Gianluca Becuzzi, Andrea Marutti, Luciano Maggiore, Deadwood, Burial Hex, Aderlating, Utarm, Nordvargr, L’Acephale. A last example are the albums of the acousmatic black metal ensemble Tele.S.therion, where every conceptual albums are conceived & designed as acousmatic devices, for expanding the ordinary possibilities of the private listening.

QRD – What are some things that make you want to work with a band?

Sandro – I need to hear some original research with a powerful concept. Focused on a “responsible” point of view in the art of noise!

QRD – What are some things that would make you stop working with a band?

Sandro – Every artist involved in RMEDL is free to work with other labels; I work only for special, unique, editorial projects.

QRD – What is the thing all releases on your label have in common?

Sandro – A conceptual & transgressive approach of standard discographic & editorial packagings/formats design. They are completely handmade, one by one.

QRD – How involved are you with a band for acting as a producer as far as hearing demo ideas or selecting tracks to be on a release or mixing & mastering?

Sandro – Generally I don’t do mastering for my authors, some releases are mastered by Pietro Riparbelli, others by the authors & their related collaborators, & others aren’t mastered, simply they sound as they are recorded.  It depends on the kind of release.

QRD – How involved do you like to be in the artwork design for a release?

Sandro – Completely! Often, the editorial projects, so the conceptual albums (as I like to define it) are born by my desire to see an album, or an author, designed or re-designed by me. I can ask for some visual material by the authors involved, but the concept design is mine.

QRD – How long is it from when an artist delivers an album to you until release date & why?

Sandro – As I have say before, it is possible for an original design idea to find some difficulty to be realised differently from what I have foreseen, so in these cases I need to re-design the entire concept to adjust the content with the physical limits of the design. The question of the time, can also be related to the type of the edition: for example in albums like the 7 inch of Corpus Principium, there is a very deep work of research related to the text (spell & conjurations from the ancient Italian witchcraft culture), but also a real experimental manufacture, composed by a real ancient invocation, handmade silk-printed, with a special colour recipe based on real blood. The difficulty was related to the possibility of create a blood based color (without other kind of pigments) & stable in time! Well, remembering my old study in painting techniques (I have studied from Egyptian to baroque recipes) like the realisation of encaust, oil & eggs based colors, etc.… I have created the right recipe (included in the artwork)! Another example could be the forthcoming deluxe edition of Tele.S.therion with Lunurumh [Astral Lueur] which will contain a black ritual stone, realised with another personal recipe of clay based on rituals bones. So at the same time conceptual albums like Ur Gerausch by Massimo Bartolini, in the artist’s multiple edition, are really complex work. Or again the deluxe edition with a slice of agata, handmade digipack, & black reptilian skin slipcase by Blind Cave Salamander / K11. So the time is a basic component to create a RMEDL conceptual album!

QRD – If a band breaks up between the recording of a release & the release date, how does that effect what you do?

Sandro – Simply we can talk about! I do releases based on just one track.

QRD – What do you wish bands on your label would do?

Sandro – Be satisfied!

QRD – What’s a record you’d like to put out that you’ll never be able to?

Sandro – Sorry I have a bunch of records to be listed!  For the “content” the most controversial experimental, avant-garde artist: Paul Chain Violet Theatre: “Violet Art of Improvvisation”, “Opera Decima”, “In the Darkness”, “Alkhaest”, “Highway To Hell”.  For the “concept” I need to list: “The Haters” by The Haters a 7” record with silent grooves & instructions to complete this record by scratching it! “Broken Music” by Milan Knížák a carton box including a partially melted, hand-painted & signed 7” record. “Pagan Muzak” by Boyd Rice, “Zodiac” a series of Music Box carillons by Karlheinz Stockhausen. But also the first human voice transmitted via radio, between Poldhu e Sidney, by Guglielmo Marconi... the esoteric sound design of the ancient hypogeum of Hal Saflieni in Malta.... Yes I like to imagine that place as a kind of endless anti-record composed by a sort of “live” fixed sound, like an “architectonic” anti-record, in continuous playing!

QRD – If you really like a band, but aren’t sure you could sell many copies of their record; what do you do?

Sandro – Sales are not a problem. If I have an idea & it moves enthusiasm, I will proceed!!!!  Fortunately the recordings manufactured don’t have an expiration date!

QRD – How is financing of a release split between artists & the label?

Sandro – No, I produce any releases by myself.

QRD – How do you split profits from a release between artists & your label?

Sandro – The authors are paid with a part of the edition.

QRD – Do you have written contracts with your bands or handshake deals?

Sandro – Both, it depends by the occasions.

QRD – Do you take a cut of a band’s publishing?

Sandro – This is the RMEDL skill.

QRD – How important is it to you to have touring acts on your roster & what do you do to encourage it?

Sandro – I’m not strictly interested into promoting live acts, or tour of the authors involved in RMEDL.  I organise & design conceptual events (for example the previous mentioned “Chthonian Music”, or the forthcoming live streaming broadcast channel) with a specialised freelance spin-off of RMEDL, called Metasound - meta curatorial practices platform. RMEDL | Metasound is a freelancer based startup organisation conceived as a meta-curatorial platform that deals in design of independent ways of practicing curating; based on the development of conceptual sound art researches, environmental music, audio-visual installations & extra-acoustic experiences, close to visual & performing arts, joined to unconventional & “extended” techniques of production for multidisciplinary projects, conceived as special programmatic events & collectable art editions, to promote cultural acknowledgements for artistic practices.

QRD – Do you handle promotions in house or hire out & why?

Sandro – Completely by myself!

QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?

Sandro – Radicalmatters.com

QRD – Do you have intern & street team programs & if so, how do they operate?

Sandro – Absolutely not.

QRD – How big of a staff do you have & how big of one do you need?

Sandro – I’m the owner, director, designer, webmaster, publisher, graphic designer, printer, binder, executive producer, curator, & everything that is related to RMEDL. Anyway I can also trust in some friends & collaborators, like the long time friend Pietro Riparbelli who is the in-house curator & co-producer for the RMEDL | Metasound editions series. For the every day problems I can trust in Stefano Trabucco as external counselor for web development; Lorenzo Lessi & Vinicio Lessi as external printing counselors & typographic masters, Denio Barani as external printing counselor, & Andrea Sozzi as external counselor for the camera obscura.

QRD – What do you do to build relationships with record stores?

Sandro – Often I do special items for the record stores, like “one of a kind” display for the RMEDL albums &/or flyers (the most precious ever realised is now property of the bookshop of a museum of contemporary art in Siena, realised by me with cement, printed metacrylate & aluminum!!!)

QRD – What do you do to build relationships with radio stations?

Sandro – Often I do special items for the radio show, like a secret URL announced by the speaker, available to download, for free, unedited projects or special items... For the promotion I work in these two directions: “limited in time” or “limited in space.”  Limited in time, are promotional issues available just for a limited period of time on the RM-ED/L catalogue.  Limited in space, are promotional issues available through the discovering of a secret URL or a secret place!

QRD – What do you do to build relationships with magazines & websites?

Sandro – I prefer to maintain contacts just to sincere & passionate journalists, which at the same time are critics & collectors!

QRD – What do you do to build relationships with bloggers?

Sandro – Again, I prefer maintain contacts just to sincere & passionate bloggers, which at the same time are critics & collectors!

QRD – Do you view advertisements as a way to generate interest & revenue or more as a way to financially support magazines & websites you like?

Sandro – I think that the advertisement can be expressed as a form of art, this is what I prefer!

QRD – What is the job of your distributors?

Sandro – Simply to let more people know RMEDL editions!

QRD – How do you decide how big the initial pressing of a release should be?

Sandro – It depends on the project & how many & precious are the materials involved.

QRD – What percentage of a pressing do you use for promotions?

Sandro – A minimal part: often I do brand new special items as promotional stuff, because often the real edition are much too precious, to be given free!

QRD – Do you sell merchandise other than the music (t-shirts, etc.)?

Sandro – Well, I like to experiment in many formats, so I have realised some “prepared pins,” a few handmade silkscreen printed t-shirts, etc, but in any cases this cannot be defined strictly as merchandise, but are part of projects or events, something like an “extension” of the packaging.

QRD – Do you sell music that is not on your label?

Sandro – No.

QRD – How has running a label effected your own artistic career?

Sandro – The opportunity to collaborate with a very high range of authors is a great source of knowledge.

QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material?

Sandro – Yes & I do it!

QRD – What do you do to try to build a sense of community within your roster?

Sandro – Simply we are practicers of the beauty & silence!

QRD – What’s your most common conversation with bands as far as balancing artistic integrity & financial viability?

Sandro – Aren’t my problems!

QRD – How often do you look at your “return on investment” & adjust your business model?

Sandro – Every day! It’s a hard process to distillate the quality!

QRD – Do you worry about search engine optimization & website traffic?

Sandro – Yes personally!

QRD – What have you done to cut costs over the years?

Sandro – The cost are a variable impossible to be planned in advance. I need to plan release by release.

QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?

Sandro – I think: if God is dead the discographic album is dead. Both are concepts. Units of knowledge. But can a unit of knowledge cease to exist? The concept of a discographic album was born in 1909. The concept of “LP” in 1947. How did we classify the acoustic phenomenas before 1909? So what really is a discographic album?

QRD – Do you think the return of vinyl & cassettes is a fad?

Sandro – It depends, I think these objects are pleasant to be manipulated, they satisfy & guide a sensorial journey in the matters of the related sounds. & many people like to play strange objects in their hands; especially if they can, simply, make sounds or visions!

QRD – Is it important to have physical releases over digital ones or does it not matter?

Sandro – A recent kind of discographic format it is the web, the entire net, in itself. Simply it is, like a concept.  The entire telematic platform & its entire data activity, it is in itself a new kind of format; you can imagine it like an extended multidimensional anti-record! You could “record” your “sketches” on it & play it ad infinitum. In this sense I realise the free downloadable RM Web Editions.

QRD – What do you think of ultra-limited runs of releases (less than 100 discs)?

Sandro – I publish often just 50 or 100 copies, because they are completely handmade!  I have also created items of just 3 or 5 copies, but I have realised 300 copies of the Black Industrial Grimoire (even completely handmade, one by one), or 500 copies for Ur Gerausch by M. Bartolini, or 500 for Francisco Lopez. In any case, the artist’s multiples are “limited” for definition!

QRD – What do you think of “print on demand” discs?

Sandro – A revolution! Some of my editions are “ready on demand”; especially the “collector editions” & the forthcoming “One Of A Kind Vinyls series” made by 2 millimeters of black heavy vinyls professionally recorded one by one!!!! This series will be inaugurated at the end of 2010 by a brand new obscure & suphurean album of the Italian cult band LIMBO (Gianluca Becuzzi), shared in two hermetic volumes. The concept is based on the alchemic manipulation of the esoteric trilogy of Limbo’s discography. This unedited concept album, will be included in a special artwork, which includes a frame with printed glass, ready to be attached to the wall!!!

QRD – How much content do you feel should be available free to fans?

Sandro – All the Web Editions are & will be completely free! & here you could find great & acclaimed authors together with selected brand new artists of noise!

QRD – What do you do about people distributing your music without financial compensation (piracy & file trading)?

Sandro – I think it’s simply “natural” & nature is feral!

QRD – What’s something you see other labels do that you think of as borderline unethical?

Sandro – I think everything is related to the ethics; it is strictly related to responsibility.

QRD – What changes in things would cause you to stop your label?

Sandro – Who can ever know?

QRD – What would you suggest to someone starting a label today?

Sandro – Be original, unique, & invent a new business for this new era!

QRD – Where do you think money is currently most available to labels/musicians & where in the future?

Sandro – Actually I do discographic manufactures & some people ask me this. So, for my actual experience, the “money” is & maybe will be “where” you could do an investment for a pleasure.

QRD – Why do you think labels are still important to artists?

Sandro – In the past, the science behind the industry to be able to fix sounds on materials was more complex than today (if we exclude the pentagram!), so until 30 or 40 years ago a specialised record label could help authors to fix their ideas on “standard” formats.  Today the “standard” formats to fix ideas (on materials) are available to everyone. Simply, today the concept of record label is more extendible! My point of view is that the actual ideal concept of “label” seems inclined to include in it a more organic “mind prospective” the concept of “extended” music in itself.

QRD – Music has had different hotspots on the internet over the years (newsgroups, MP3.com, MySpace, LastFM), but with MySpace’s decline, what do you see as the place where “normal” people go to find out about & get excited by new music?

Sandro – This is a great question, maybe will be a sort of glocal “phonography of knowledge”?

QRD – In 20 years what do you think/hope your label will be known/remembered for?

Sandro – For the experience of playing a RMEDL edition!

Follow-Up Interview