Boring Machines is a record label established in 2006 by Onga. There isn't a particular genre Boring Machines is interested in, but a feeling: a general taste for discomfort and anger, long meditations and psychedelic state is what Boring Machines cares for. Boring Machines loves paper and ink and takes great care of the artwork and packaging of its records. Every release is housed in recycled/recyclable thick paper and is lovingly hand assembled at Boring Machines HQ.
Boring Machines has been going since 2006. How can one running a label single-handedly and as a part-time activity avoid the risk of running out of steam? Do you ever ask yourself “why am I doing this?” Are you not afraid of feeling the 7-year itch?
I guess it’s a bad joke to quote Mr Fornaciari, but “I got the devil in me!” I just recently answered a similar question in an interview at a festival where they asked me why I do what I do. My answer was “because I hate so much what I do the rest of the time”, which is my day job. I’m lucky enough to have a pretty well paid job, which gives me the freedom to decide to waste my time and money on some non-remunerating activities, like releasing records. The energy you get every time you meet new people, when you see interesting shows or when you travel to meet distant likeminded friends still wins over any possible downside of being an aged pauper.
One of the things that people tend to remark about your label is how “versatile” it is. Would you agree, or would you say that discomfort and anger are two solid enough traits around which Boring Machines was able to construct its own sound identity?
If versatility was to be applied in the same way to Constellation Records, for instance, I have to agree with that. I never wanted to stick to one particular sound but rather to a range of sounds that I love, in the constant attempt to find, one day, the perfect synthesis. Discomfort and anger are present pretty much in every Boring Machines release, and even when these feelings are not on the surface, I would’ve still have felt them when listening to the albums in question for the first time. Another theme for Boring Machines is “escape from reality”, be that through the deep space (Be Maledetto Now!, Andrea Marutti & Fausto Balbo) or through ancestral rites (Mamuthones, Squadra Omega, La Piramide di Sangue). I always followed the desire to get-away from daily reality.
You have stated that you are not interested in releasing b-side material from established artists just to raise the profile of your label. Wouldn’t that be an acceptable compromise if it meant that some of the less known musicians on your roster would benefit from greater exposure?
Oh well, on the one side I don’t think it would work anyway: one would just remain in the shade of someone else, unless there was a real collaboration between the two units. It always makes me grin when I read on a press release (including some of mine, for that matter) that such and such (low profile) artist played “with” such and such (high profile) artist. They didn’t play “with” them, they were only on the same bill, which doesn’t mean much.
On the other side, I tend to prefer people who make their way through the perils of the music world by standing on their own two feet. I had the pleasure in the past seven years of collaborating with Father Murphy, a unique band who took some tough decisions, like quitting their day jobs in order to dedicate themselves to their music. They’re special people, really committed to what they do. It took them almost ten years from the time they first put together their band to gain some kind of recognition, but they deserve every single nice word people say about them. Even in the so-called “underground” there’s too much careerism, the same practice of the major world, just with less money.
Apart from this, collaborations are welcome if they are honest, if they bring new anger, new discomfort.
What is the aspect of running a label that you could most definitely do without?
Having to deal with bureaucracy. I try to stay away from all of that and concentrate only on the music; sometimes you have to deal with that anyway just to get into some circuits only to discover it just wasn’t worth it.
Has the smoke ban single-handedly killed off the music industry?
You have co-released albums like Claudio Rocchetti’s The Carpenter with other labels such as Presto!? Is it just a question of splitting the costs or is it about creating a network?
The Carpenter was released on CD and LP with Presto!?, Holidays Records, Wallace Records and Boring Machines. Lollo, Blits and Mirko are good friends and there’s mutual respect for what we do. Claudio is friends with all of us so it just seemed natural to do things together. Co-producing is for sure a method of sharing costs, but it also means sharing knowledge, energy, and contacts. So it makes the network grow, which is what we need, after all.
I tend to work mostly on my own just because it’s easier in every aspect, from decision making to planning, but every now and then I co-release an album with other labels run by friends. My latest releases are both co-productions with likeminded people, Eternal Zio is co-produced with Black Sweat Records, run by Dome of the great band Al Doum & The Faryds, while How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck if a Woodchuck Could Chuck Wood? is co-released with Avant! Records, which again, has a solid discography I recommend checking out.
You are based in Treviso, an area that benefits from a rather active scene taking into account Ennio Mazzon’s Ripples Recordings, as well as Silentes, Codalunga and Von from nearby Vittorio Veneto and Enrico Coniglio with Galaverna in Venice. Are you like an extended family, or geographical proximity is not relevant nowadays? In other words, does Berlin, for instance, feel closer to home than Padova?
Geography is kind of a weird concept to me, as I am used to driving a lot throughout Italy. Just in the past fifteen days I’ve been to a festival in Macerata, then home for Christmas, then off to Itri (which is not too far from Naples) for the eight edition of the incredible festival Mu.Vi.Ment.S. Next stop was Torino, on the opposite side of Italy to where I live. I don’t think one can talk of a community in the northeast, but for sure there are some nice things going on and great people that I like and support. Ennio Mazzon, for instance, is one of the most promising artists within the digital field and ever since his first outputs on Ripples he showed good taste. Codalunga has been the main port of call if one wanted to listen to non-aligned music for the past few years, God bless them!
That said, as I decided years ago to concentrate only on Italian artists, no matter where they lived, I didn’t restrict myself to the area where I live. We have internet and low cost flights, so I encourage everyone to travel, meet people, join forces away from home, while still never forgetting where one is from.
What would you say were the particular strengths and weaknesses of the Italian electro-acoustic and experimental music scene? And why is it, in your opinion, that in spite of the number or great homegrown labels there still aren’t any internationally recognized ones such as Touch, Editions Mego, 12k, etc?
About the strengths of the experimental music scene in Italy, I would only say that we had a glorious tradition (sadly forgotten by most), that artist from all over the world came to experience, study and share. I won’t name names, people should know or get on the frigging internet and do a bit of research. We have it in our DNA and those who practised seriously the art of experimental music in Italy really left remarkable traces. Again, I won’t name names, there are so many good artists who are worth checking out, both active in the past and/or still making music today. ?Our weaknesses come from way back, I believe. For the past thirty years, culture (in all its different meanings) has been slowly destroyed and that has left a heavy mark on the image Italy now has abroad. It happened to me as well, I was asked about being Italian, as if Italy was an exotic place where people don’t make things worth taking seriously.
The labels you mentioned are really well established and have been around for a long time now. Also, some of them are run by artists of considerable underground fame, which makes everything easier. I don’t think that anything comparable to what some of those big labels have achieved will be possible in the future, not on that scale at last. Selling a 300 copies run of a record now is almost a miracle for some artists. Things have indeed changed, still that doesn’t necessarily mean they have changed for the worse. What I try to do, and I think everyone committed to the music they release, should do, is to maintain the quality of their products at the highest possible level they can. And like seven years ago, never bank on any financial return.
You seem to establish a close relationship with some of your artists, such as Be Invisible Now, Rella the Woodcutter, Father Murphy, Satan is My Brother, and Luciano Maggiore and Francesco Fuzz Brasini. What is your input on any new album you might release with them?
Close relationships are the main thing of what I do. As it should be quite clear to all concerned, nobody is in it for the money, which means that the human factor becomes more important. I want to share thoughts with the musicians I work with, I want to see them in person every now and then, have a drink with them and spend some quality time together whenever possible, because there’s no meaning to me in anonymous relationships, there has to be some face to face interaction. Other than that, there’s no input from me on the artistic activity of the artists I release. We discuss what’s best and share thoughts about the music, the artwork and all that, but I always want the artists to have their final say on everything that is related to particular release. I want them to feel completely represented.
About the artwork, how do you go about creating the cover and the design of any specific release and how important is that in establishing both the identity of a specific album and in contributing to the overall identity of Boring Machines?
As I have just mentioned, the artwork is part of the artistic product of the musicians I work with, and I always leave space for their own choices when it comes to deciding how a record should look like. For sure I have suggestions, mostly technical, as I am a huge fan of paper since the first time I organized an event twenty years ago, and I have my own taste too, but there’s no overall identity in terms of the label when it comes to the design apart from my logo appearing on the sleeve. If someone recognises a common thread, it’s something that just happened.
You have talked about Kranky and Constellation as being huge inspirations for you. How would you say both labels have stood the test of time and what would you say was the biggest lesson that Boring Machines has learned from them?
Both labels are still a source of inspiration to me, together with a thousand more. Constellation probably stood better the test of time. While everyone is screaming “halleluiah” for the latest GY!BE record (which is indeed good) one of my favourite records of 2012 is Pacha, contained in their box “Musique Fragile vol.2”, which demonstrates once again that they don’t just rely on their big names but keep on releasing unique records. Kranky has been less constant but the quality is always above the average.
The biggest lesson I learned has been from Constellation: you never make a good enough packaging until you make the next one. I wish one day I will be able to afford to make beautiful records like they do. Even if I were a Bieber fan, I would want those objects anyway.
Do Saudi engineers ever buy your products?
Haha, right. That happened a couple of times. Having the website domain with the same name of the label puts me on top of a Google search, and some companies wrote to me to get a quote for a Boring Machine, one of those giant worms which make tunnels. Once I replied with the link to my shop, but they haven’t wrote back yet. They are probably still undecided between Heroin in Tahiti or Eternal Zio.
What have you got in store for 2013?
2013 will be pretty intense. I have planned so many releases I don’t think I will be able to be on time with everything, at least if they don’t go sold out very quickly so that I get mo’ money to reinvest.
First three releases for 2013 are:
My Dear Killer, this is a great comeback. He was the first artist I released and after six years spent in three different countries researching relations between light and plant behaviour he’s back with a brand new album where discomfort really rules.
BeMyDelay is back with a new set of songs, this time definitely more minimal than the previous album. It’s another take on psychedelia, more folky and relaxed, more Texan if this means something to anyone.
Du Champ it’s a new entry, another lady becoming part of the Boring Machines family and her debut album is amazing. You’ll hear it soon.