Emmanuel talks with us about the roots and ideas behind his label A R T S and all the challenges they have faced in the recent years, just a few days before their showcase with HEX during Off Week.
He is barely over 30 years old, but Emmanuel is already an institution on the European and, therefore, global techno scene. He was born in 1987 in Pireo (Greece), where he soon began to approach the ethno-folk sounds of the area. At the age of 16, he began researching electronic devices, it was then when he began to forge an artistic career that, in the end, and much sooner than expected, ended in the founding of A R T S, one of the most important techno labels of recent years. And yes, still run and owned by a young but consolidated Emmanuel.
Some people could ask themselves how a young artist can start a label in such an early stage of his career. What would you answer to them?
Starting a label is like giving birth to your own baby. It might sound drastic, but, after some years and some experience, I can say that is almost like that. I wouldn’t do it if I were too young. But I can say something more… First of all, the first question is: do I really want to do it? Is this what I want to do in my life, and do I have the skills and the passion to start this mission?
Am I good with people? Am I organised? The answers to those questions are enough to think already to the next step, which is Planning. One of the crucial elements on running a label is Planning. Everything must be right, and all must come together like baking a professional cake. If one thing goes wrong, you might fail.
The question also points out “as a young artist”, so I would say: if you are young and you still need experience, just don’t do it that fast. Learn, watch around you, and take everything you can from the successful people around you and from the failures of others. The world is already full of labels that are not needed, so you need to make a mark.
Most of the time is not about listening to advice, but more about feeling yourself what you are going to do in the label, how the label evolves, and what perception of the label people have. Those are all crucial things for the success. For me, personally, it is so much work, but it is all well automated as is my first love. Even though someone would not think that for a label you need to spend almost 24/7 of the time on it, I must say it is like that.
Bottom line, if you are young and you want to make a label just for the sake of it, don’t do it. But if that’s your dream, learn, learn and learn as much as you can. And then, start with a very strong plan, and learn how to solve any problem on the fly, or technical, human, musical or strategical.
A R T S has become one of the biggest labels in the techno scene, and one of the main reasons is its strong artist roster. Can you explain the criteria followed to sign them?
Thank you. This means a lot. For us, it’s very important to represent and deliver the best out there. We aim purely to make history and inspire others. We are part of one of those labels that always worked for the culture, the ethics and the hard work. Our society is too much flooded by unnecessary gimmicks to get fame or sell records since Techno became a pure business for the most.
We are here to change this and keep the feet on the ground to everyone that think that they are bigger than the music they produce. We put the quality in front of anything else, and we never, ever compromise. The label worked always based on the music. We developed the theory that if the music is very good and is well presented, the rest will be entirely done and accomplished by the record alone. This theory worked more and more until the label become an institution. I think we also broke some “rules” on how to become popular, and we became also very uncomfortable for some that always did a poor musical work and a big promotional work.
We are something more than a label, more than a place where you can take references. I personally chose the artists looking at their skills, their personality, and their desires and goals. Each artist is different, and this is one of the most important things when it comes to signings. The music is 99% what we aim for, but the person, the character, and the passion behind the music is crucial for what we do. This is why, before taking some new artists (and we have a lot), I always have a certain procedure: I spend time with them personally (if I can), and I listen to at least 10 more tracks they have done by the time we have the release out. The way you develop your sound and where you want to be in the scene is very important. Some people aim for money, others aim for history; those things for us are very important. In this infected society based on ego, and money making, our job is to deliver quality music.
What would you recommend to an artist who wants to end up releasing music in A R T S?
It’s simple and direct: be very good at what you do, and don’t configure with the rest of the Techno business. Have your own identity, and always have your head up to see what’s going on, but the heads down when it comes to ego.
There is not much to say about this question. If you are very, very good, you will have a call from us. And if I don’t, someone will tell you to write to me. Nowadays, I am the one contacting the artists I want in the rooster. I have this privilege, as I don’t accept demos anymore.
Together with you, SHDW & Obscure Shape will be the headliners in the A R T S x HEX Showcase during OFF Week. What’s the reason why you chose them for this?
This is little premature, but they are friends I know since a while now. The first time I met Marco was in Berghain. When I played for the first time there, he was already supporting me, and he always loved what I have done. It was only a matter of time before we were going to work together.
The reason is that they signed a single with us, and they also did a stunning remix for Introversion’s next record on ARTSCORE. Excited? I am. The single will be out somewhere in the winter, and the Introversion record will be out before that.
And what about your music? What key characteristics do you think represent your sound?
It’s always hard to talk about music, even more when it’s about my own music. I am now doing music for 13 years, and I think that I am always trying to evolve myself, musically and technically. I think I moved on the colour palette almost everywhere in these 13 years, but I never focused on one single thing.
I consider myself something like water, an artist that knows how to behave in various scenarios and never feel the pressure of one scenario or the other. I describe my music as an adventure: sometimes it’s very soft and lovely, and other it’s hard and destructive and apocalyptic. Other times, I blend the two in the same scenario.
As I said before, describing music is very hard, but is understandable. If you listen to a track of mine from 10 years ago, and then to the last LP I have done, Rave Culture, you will realise that in all of those works there is always me inside. You just feel it.
What’s your pace in producing music? Do you work in your studio every day, or just when some inspiration arrives?
I consider myself a workaholic. I work a lot, and I work for long hours. Music wise I produce a lot of music, but not everything is something I want to release. Most of the music I make is for me to personally listen and get re-inspired by myself. It sounds egocentric, but that helps a lot to become better and focus on certain things you want to get better.
I also take some breaks, but those breaks are musical breaks. I am literally probably working again on another topic of the label. The best time for me to make music is when the night comes. That is the time when I am more inspired for some reason. Everybody is sleeping, and my cat is close to me while I make music. That is also important!
What’s the message behind your music, and behind the A R T S collective?
I think the message is something that comes in the mind of the user. The label evokes a certain Aurea, but every person will have different perceptions. If you ask me, I think I would answer with what my friends always tell me, and with what the people that love what we do tell us.
The message behind the label for most of the people I know is based on the music. We are creative people, we are just souls trapped in humans, and all what we do is to push our boundaries against the society, and to create a work of art that for us becomes precious, so precious that we are scared to put it out there in front of everyone.
The label message focuses on how we can present music, art, and passion in the same place when we talk about rave culture, clubs, and electronic music history. This is a movement, one of the strongest movements in the world when it comes to longevity. Techno was born to last and evolve, while becoming stronger. Our label represents genuinely a bunch of souls that love so much what they do and want to show to the world a little bit of beauty every now and then, all representing an institution, almost a Musical Art Institution.
A R T S x HEX Off Week Showcase is on tonight, Thursday July 18th at Moog, Barcelona.