Interview with Abstrakce Records co-founders Joni Kosmos and Guillermo Cerdá
Words by Miguel Ferreira. Photo credits: Abstrakce Records
Abstrakce Records is a new experimental/ambient/Kosmische Spanish record label based in Valencia. Abstrakce was founded only in 2016, but this fantastic Spanish label has already built a small but super interesting catalog marked by diversity, from Kosmische, ambient, experimental, to synthwave and synth-pop. In the following exclusive interview, I discuss with co-founders Joni Kosmos and Guillermo Cerdá about the label’s philosophies, music influences and challenges of running a vinyl label.
1.Hi Joni. Tell us about the story behind Abstrakce Records - how did the label get started, what really sparked you into getting the label going?
Joni: I have been running BFE records for 8 years aprox. It’s more focused on new wave, post punk, minimal wave, industrial stuff, but I also like a lot experimental/ambient/Kosmische music so I started Abstrakce to focus on this kind of music, and also on the design and packaging of the records. The first release was the Legendary Pink dots album. After that, I discovered an Orlando/Tomaga tape and really loved it so I told them to release it on vinyl. During these days my friend Guillermo told me about a gig he saw in Brussels that blew him away, and that was a Tomaga show! We have been friends for years and he runs Obsolete letterpress, a nice printing workshop, so after this happy Tomaga coincidence we decided to start the label together. Since that moment we have been working a lot on the label. The Jonas Reinhardt / Jürgen Müller LP just came out and we have many many future plans with artists like Dsr lines, Bitchin bajas, Colin Potter, Tolousse Low Trax, Maoupa Mazzochetti… Our friend Israel Pinilla (aka Ove) who's a great designer, has also been helping us a lot.
2. What are the main principles and ideals of the label?
First of all, we release music that we both love, of course. But also getting the artwork right... the aesthetics of the label is very important to us. We want to honour the XX century avant-garde art with our editions (Futurism, dadaism, constructivism, Bauhaus…) and release special objects that really give an extra and complementary value to the music. We have also plans to release art stuff like prints, small publications… we even talked about making an Abstrakce Ketchup hahaha!
3. Can you name some of the artists/albums that made you want to dig even deeper and inspired you to do what you do at Abstrakce Records?
Joni: Brian Eno is one of my favorite artists. But I’m not sure if he influenced me to start Abstrakce records. I suppose I’m more inspired by other record labels, labels like Rvng Int, they do an amazing work.
Guillermo: To release an Eno album could be Abstrakce's main dream, yes hahaha… there’s a lot of people making incredible music and it’s amazing to discover and be surprised by new stuff everyday. There are lots of nice labels that inspire us, and also the spirit of the XX century avant-garde as we said before, artists like Rodchenko, Moholy-Nagy, Depero, Tzara…
4. How Much Influence Does Valencia Have On Abstrakce’s Sound?
The Valencia experimental music scene is still "young", there are great things (some labels, musicians and some venues) but not many shows for this music, not many venues interested in booking this kind of stuff and not much interest in general.
That’s why we also host the “Abstract trips” in Valencia, a series of concerts focused on the kind of music we like. We hosted four so far, with Tolouse Low Trax, Marie Davidson, Die Wilde Jagd and Champagne Mirrors. The idea is to try to generate or cohere a small scene in our city around this kind of music. It’s risky to organize this kind of stuff, you never know how many people will come to the shows, but by now we reached our objective in all of them: not to lose money.
5. How Would You Describe The Ambient / Experimental Spanish Scene Right Now? And Where Does Abstrakce Fit Into The Scene?
Joni: You can check www.bferecords.com, go to the Cintas Chromo section and you can find there a collection I did of spanish Experimental music. There you can listen only a few records, there are a lot of interesting bands/musicians here!
Guillermo: a lot of people are doing interesting stuff, but there's a lack of a consolidated circuit for this kind of music. In Spain this music has never been valued enough, and that’s why it’s almost always the foreign labels who have to come to rescue hidden Spanish gems like Suso Saiz, Mecánica Popular, Iury Lech, Finis Africae… music that has not been appreciated as it should in our country. Now we are going to rescue some of this stuff too, we tried with Pep Llopis but Rvng was already in the works with it. We have some amazing Spanish hidden gems coming out on Abstrakce, we can’t still say what it is, but you will discover more soon!
6. What kind of music did you listen to when you were a kid?
Joni: When I was a very young kid I listened to “Bakalao”, Valencian techno which was very popular in the eighties, something like Emb electro and sometimes a “kitsch” sound. I listened that because my older brother did, I was not very interested in music, but now years later I see it like a great thing. Later, I started getting into heavy metal. Every Young kid should listen to heavy metal as his first inspiration 😉 . I was more interested in experimental music years before, but now I listen to everything. I can wake up one morning listening to Neil Young, another morning to Burzum, or Thomas Leer…
Guillermo: my first music memory is listening to Alan Parsons Project in my parents' car… I loved that stuff. There was also a Lou Reed’s cassette I loved… then as an adolescent more indie and punk stuff. Experimental music came much later.
7. Did you have a breakthrough record or artist that opened the door to experimental/electronic music for you?
Joni: Brian Eno I think… And Kraftwerk. After that...opened a wonderful new world for me. 😉
Guillermo: Terry Riley blew up my mind the first time I listened to it. And I also remember being really amazed the first time I listened to Donato Dozzy.
8. What has been the most challenging aspect of running a vinyl record label?
One of the most difficult parts is distribution and promotion. It’s really difficult to get your releases covered by the media if you don’t pay them for it. Fortunately there’s a network of freaks like us who discover our stuff and spread the word.
9. What Attracted You To Vinyl As A Record Label Owner?
In our opinion, vinyl is the best option if you want to have a physical release and allows you to do something special with packaging, and include a nice insert or booklet, etc.. We also like tapes, but the format is smaller…
10. What’s a typical day like as a record label owner?
Joni: Well, we are not living from the record label so I have a day job, also a small kid, and much things to do every day … so when I have some free time I spend it running my labels. These are hobbies but I spend a lot of time working on them. Now I’m trying to spend more time and trying to make BFE records and Abstrakce bigger.
Guillermo: I run my printing workshop and have a lot of work with it, but I have Abstrakce in mind all day. I’m a music junkie, so I’m working at the workshop listening to music all the time. When I take small breaks at work I use them to do Abstrakce stuff. I run the workshop alone so I’m pretty busy but I just hired someone else to help me with it, so I will have more free time to focus on Abstrakce and try to make it grow.
11. What type of legacy do you hope to leave with Abstrakce Records?
We would like to create a whole concept for the label, musically and aesthetically. We also think that “The Encyclopedia of Civilizations” series would be a cult collection someday.