During the countless hours I`ve spent scrolling through various modular related tags on Instagram and searching through similar tags of Bandcamp I one day stumbled upon ERRORGRID RECORDS. A record label wholly dedicated to highlighting the darker side of electronic music which just so happens to feature a vast array of modular synth based artists.
While looking through their profile and listening to the artist currently on their roster I instantly fell in love with them and they are now one of my absoloute favourite and most trusted labels which I feel is something not so common these days. It`s not that long ago that people relied on very specific labels to provide them with great music and often subscribed to them in some shape or form where in return they would receice each release that label put out. Of course, with the digital era taking over this became a bit of a lost art although I do want to point out that it does still exist out there and ERRORGRID is absoloutely a label I would subscribe to as such.
I was presented with the opportunity to talk to Olivier who runs the label together with his wife and of course jumped at it immediatly. What follow is my conversation with ERRORGRID regarding their mission statement, upcoming releases and more!
Olivier was kind enough to offer a free download of any ERRORGRID album to the first 10 people who send an email about what ERRORGRID is to them so definetly take advantage of this opportunity, find their email at the end of the interview.
Start off by introducing yourself and give us a short explanation of what you do.
My name is Olivier. I am a Swiss living in Southern California. I run an electronic music project called “Nundale” and have recently founded a label called Errorgrid Records together with my wife Vira.
The idea of starting a record label in this digital age might seem absurd to some. What inspired you to go this route?
Why absurd? But then again, I love absurd things, so maybe yeah, this is absurd for some, which doesn’t bug me too much. If you go by the traditional definition of what a label is then it probably sounds like starting a pizzeria: there are too many of them and it sounds like you are too late to the game if you start one today.
But Errorgrid Records is more of a community platform than what is commonly understood as a label. I don’t believe in institutions in the traditional sense. I believe in building communities that produce value. In that respect I think that Errorgrid can bring a fresh perspective into an old game. We are essentially looking to build our own market that stands apart from the label world
.The inspiration is as mentioned above: to create a platform where amazing artists that obsess over quality and intention in their art can express themselves without restrictions and fear. Maybe it is a little punk of me to say this, but having experienced the restrictions that come with genre-focused labels, I wanted to create something that is extremely free while being extremely niche. There is too much confusion of genre out there, the music industry has gotten too stuck up because they believe their listeners are stuck up. But they are not. We are here to give the people what they need, not what they want.-
You seem to focus on the darker aspects of electronic music and appear to have a penchant for signing modular based artists. What is it about modular synthesis that you find so intriguing?
That is a false impression that many have of us and I am happy to set the record straight: I am a opponent of gear fetishism, even though I love gear. But to celebrate gear over the artist’s intention and the impact of the output is plain wrong. No one cares about the brush Picasso used or the sticks Dave Grohl plays drums with. If we focus on what music is and can do, we fade out the instrument and the process and we focus on the raw nature of emotionality. This is how I choose my artists. I would never go out and look specifically for musicians who use modular synths. But however there is a strong connection between the freedom that a modular system can give you and the kind of freedom I seek to find for the music I release. So it is not surprising that many of them happen to use this instrument for what they do. But Sleep Clinic who is an incredible musician with an ear for finesse and balance, mainly resorts to table top boxes while Tom Hall is a wizard inside the box with MaxMSP. I am ready to sign someone who uses nothing but crappy 80s Casio keyboards if I feel his heart and intentions are in the right place.
One of my favourite artists on your label has to be TL3SS, I know there`s something coming out on ERRORGRID soon , why don`t you tell us a little about that?
Crushing Me, his first release with us, just dropped last week. It includes the original edit as well as gorgeous remixes by the likes of Sleep Clinic, Synth Witch, Michael Idehall and Depressive. An incredibly deep and dark sonic painting. So proud of this.
How did the name come about, what exactly is “ErrorGrid” ?
There is belief that lives inside of what I do with music. And it is that we humans tend to put a grid over everything around us. I call this quantization of reality. We take something that is natural and turn it into an electronic representation of itself so we can save, store, recall and study it. It makes it easier for us to navigate our lives. But when we do this, we introduce errors into the data. The representation of nature is never as perfect as nature itself. I firmly believe that electronic music can represent this the best, by celebrating this technical distance and creating a new reality. In that respect it is both an ode and a cautionary tale to our ways and what technology can do.
It may just be due to being part of the very nichè community you appeal to, that being darkly inclined electronic musician, but it seems like you`re growing exponentially and have done so in a short amout of time. What do you attribute this to?
You are right, being highly focused and aligned with the mission you are about makes you more relevant to the group of people you intend on serving. I learnt the hard way that being unfocused and not standing for something that is very clear and simple makes it nearly impossible to move forward efficiently. The first thing I send to an artist I am interested in signing is my mission statement. It explains very clearly what my intentions are and why I am doing this. If there is a disconnection at this stage, we are not moving forward. I think this is the key to growth.
As we mentioned earlier, we live in the digital era, the era of daw`s and soft synths where the need to spend absurd amounts of money to build a modular wall with a web of patch cables seems ridiculous, and yet there`s definetly a revival of this form of creating. Would you say this is simply a form of rebellion against the more modern day methods of composing or do you feel there might be something about working in such a physical manner with an instrument that just can not be captured by their digital versions?
Oh man, the old conversation about hardware and software, in the box, out of the box, or apple and microsoft, atari and amiga. I don’t believe in the supremacy of any technology. There is no best tool, only the right tool for the job. And if you find the right tool it becomes an extension of yourself in bringing out what needs to be said. However I am observing a worrying amount of gear craziness that has nothing to do with musical expression. And these people often engage in absurd conversations over esoteric buttons and functions and whatnot in forums. It creates a weird non-music subculture. It’s probably indicative of our times, I don’t know. It’s dangerous that so much is available right now. And if you have an addictive mind and the money then you go down the rabbit hole. But by all means, if it is in your heart to make music and you have the opportunity, search until you have found what works for you.
There is a secret collab project scheduled for November, any chance you might let some information about this slip out?
I can’t comment on that because I don’t know anything concrete.
Are you involved in music beyond running the label and if so, where might we find it?
As a long time director for advertising I have been involved in creating music and scores for all kinds of visual work, also I have my project Nundale which is where I am focusing my musical energy to. You can find some stuff on the usual platforms, but there has been a strong shift lately which has caused me to wipe a lot of my older work.
As someone who`s always done things the DIY way, sometimes by choice, sometimes by necessecity, I know very well how difficult any artistic endevours can be these days. What keeps you from giving up? What do you tell yourself or think of in moments where you feel like it`s all too much to handle?
I think it is mostly in the semantics here: It is not about “not giving up”, it’s about “keeping pushing.” It is not easy to manage 10 artists within a label and bootstrap everything from the ground up, especially when you are running two other businesses. But what really keeps me going is the incredible bond we have formed within the Errorgrid family, the support and human values we are fostering. I love seeing how this is much more than an organization, it is a community of like minded individuals brought together by the same love. And this is payment and confirmation enough. I go back to this whenever I feel overwhelmed. I used to be signed to other labels, and there was always this invisible wall between the participants which kept us all at a distance. Our culture is different. We nurture it like a group of real friends.
Do you enjoy any forms of music which isn`t electronic?
It is hard to draw the line because for a while a lot of music has been crossing into the electronic realm. I am very fond of older French hiphop because of my french roots and the raw power in it. There is a level of honesty in the production of mid 90s hiphop that is rare nowadays. Also I have a soft spot for death metal. I have been playing the drums for over 3 decades and was fortunate enough to play in several really bad but extremely fun death metal combos. It’s just rawness of expression. I grew up listening to the usual suspects like Bolt Thrower, Cathedral, Carcass and Morbid Angel. And I still like to go to concerts every once in a while. Last year I saw Meshuggah here in LA, and it was the most exhilarating and amazing live experience in forever. Pure polyrhythmic math with drums, guitars and vocals. Simply stunning what the human mind and body is capable to do. If they were down to do a collab I would jump at the occasion.
In your mission statement it is said you seek to foster an inspiring dialogue with the audience, what exactly do you want such a dialogue to inspire?
I don’t like one way communication. The very definition of valuable communication is a two way dialogue. There should not be a wall between listener and creator. It should be fluid. I am saddened that because of the current situation we can’t have live events, because that would be the best way to celebrate audience integration. I don’t like to keep listeners in the dark. I don’t like to be secretive and hold back. I love it when people reach out to me and ask things or have inputs. Also when someone sends their demo, I usually respond within 24 hours. Sure, we are small and new, so we can do that, but it’s a question of respect: This person loves what we do so much that they are willing to give us the responsibility to spread their art. How fucking cool and humbling is that? Such a dialogue will make Errorgrid more a project built by EVERYONE who’s with us. I want everyone to have a stake in it. I want everyone to feel like they are an Errorgridian because they contribute. And even if it’s just with a line of text or a simple download or an emoji on Instagram.
Besides the TL3SS release we already mentioned what will come from ErrorGrid in the near “present future” as it were ?
We have Johno Wells’ “Adjust Index” IDM release which is just around the corner. Followed by Sleep Clinic. All I can say right now is that we will pump out releases for the remaining of the year. And there might be one or two surprises along the way. We will see.
Your roster is currently full but where might artists who feel they would fit into the world of ErrorGrid submit their art and when would you say is a good time for such?
By now you might have a good sense that I am running this pretty much myself with the occasional support of my amazing but also very busy wife. Handling 10 artists is really all we can do right now. Because I have an obsessive focus on quality, which also means quality of communication, I don’t want to stretch myself thin. However I love hearing submission from people who are interested in joining us in the future. I keep tabs on everyone who does so. And I really hope that I can expand sometime soon.
What do you look for when you`re searching for an artist to sign? What are your criteria for finding someone or something interesting enough to bestow them with the blessings of being an ErrorGrid artist?
This is a tricky questions because it tends to distort what people submit or keep good people from submitting. All I am looking for is dedication and intention. I have a bullshit radar that is pretty refined by now, or so I think. When someone is trying to sound like someone else than who they are, I immediately tune out. I seek originality and boldness. I seek honesty in expression. If you have pain and a story to tell, if you can’t help but write music to calm that voice inside of you, if you too have a mission you follow with your music, then I am down to listen. I don’t care if it’s 400 or 4bpm. Just don’t send me any 4 to the floor and dubstep stuff. That’s where I lose my openness, yeah I am biased. Hah.
The space below if yours, feel free to promote anything you have coming up, leave a message, shout outs, reccomend some music or anything else you want to say!
I think I speak for everyone trying to make a difference in today’s music industry, no matter what genre they are in, if I encourage everyone actively looking to support musicians, artists and the organizations that help them put their art out, to listen and buy their music on Bandcamp. Try to avoid the industrial farming in music as much as you can. I know, it might be an extra step for some, but it strengthens the value chain for everyone so much. With Bandcamp we see support and appreciation right when it happens. And it keeps us going. With other platforms it takes months and cuts deep into the returns. This is a reality for everyone making music. Lastly I want to express my deepest gratitude to the people who have been with us and who joined us. Your support means more than I can say and because of you we will keep doing what we do and we will do it even better as we continue. Check out our current catalogue and go on a journey of inspiring darkness with us.
ERRORGRID RECORDS can be found via the following links: