UNMASKED THEORIA 1: FLEISCH RECORDS
UNMASKED THEORIA 1: FLEISCH RECORDS
Unmasked launches Theoria, a new interview series focusing on vinyl labels. As first guest, we are pleased to present you Fleisch Records.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Alison Lewis, who is running the Berlin-based label since 2017, after having founded it in 2016 with Jesse Box (LGHTWGHT).
In the past seven years, Fleisch has become synonymous with raw body music, since its
infamous debut with the release of Schwefelgelb's Wie Die Finger Durch Den Nebel. From then on, they have released the likes of Forces, Fractions, Kontravoid, RENDERED and many more. We chatted with Alison about the current lockdown times, trying to imagine the future of parties and music-making after the pandemic. As a collective, Fleisch originated in 2014 as “a group of friends just landed in Berlin and looking to dance to EBM in a grimy basement”. This spirit has somehow remained throughout the years and is reflected in Fleisch’s very own identity, as well as in the process for selecting artists when it comes to releases.
Discover this and a lot more in this interview!
Q: Hi Alison, thanks a lot for taking the time out for this interview. First of all, how are you doing?
Maybe more than any other industry, music has been deeply affected by this prolonged break. How have you been living these lockdown times?
A: I’m surviving. I just shifted my focus from gigs to production, which I actually enjoy a lot more. I sort of wish this could have been my priority a lot sooner, because it’s meant I can finally make the music I want to make. I don’t miss parties much, or people, and I’ve been happy to be able to spend so much time with my dog exploring the forests outside Berlin. I realised how much constant travel used to drain me. My dream now is to make most of my living from selling my music rather than touring (which I still love of course, but musicians shouldn’t be expected to depend on it), which is looking more and more possible through the expansion of Bandcamp and the rise of blockchain technology.
Q: As artists, do you think that something new and fresh will come from this crisis or will we just go back to living the same life (and listening to the same music)?
A: If my own experience as an artist is anything to go by, things will definitely be changing. The lack of any IRL scene activity has given me a chance to explore genres far outside of what I used to enjoy. My entire identity as a music fan and artist has been irretrievably altered and the music I make from now on will be reflecting this. I’m sick of this ‘underground’ vs ‘mainstream’ divide, and I’m sick of people turning away from certain music just because it’s popular while worshipping obscurity for the sake of being ‘cool’ or whatever. I just want music to be fucking good and authentic. I hope this experience has allowed other artists to also unlock realisations about themselves and what they want, and that they’ve used this time to learn new things and evolve their craft.
Q: Before being a record label, Fleisch is a collective of artists. Can you tell us a bit more about your early days, your identity as a collective when you started and today?
A: The collective formed in 2014. We were just a group of friends who’d all recently landed in Berlin and were looking to dance to EBM in a grimy basement. August Skipper (Agency, OPERANT) came up with the name ‘Fleisch’ and the earliest parties were mainly organised by LGHTWGHT and Phase Fatale. We DJed off laptops with ‘sync’ on and formed a lot of very happy and extremely blurry memories over the years. Then some of our friends were making music that was really sick, but for some reason other labels weren’t biting to release them so we decided to give it a go ourselves. Our first release was Schwefelgelb but the artist who’s work actually spawned the idea was Forces.
Q: Fleisch is also known for its parties. What’s the key to your success and how do you
see the future of parties, when it will be safe to return to the dance-floor?
A: The key to success for any event is just perseverance, even after nights that don’t go so well. By the end of the pre-corona era, we’d built up enough of a loyal audience that we didn’t need to worry about numbers so much, but it certainly wasn’t always the case. It takes time and commitment. I also think what set us apart from other Berlin events was our core of residents, who we proudly kept in solid rotation in all our lineups. I think it’s a bit sad when events get caught up in constantly booking outside talent rather than nurturing what’s already in the room.
An obsession with novelty isn’t sustainable, and tends to sideline artists who aren’t being incessantly hyped. Watching our team evolve and grow over the years has been really rewarding. Since the pandemic, I joined a new collective with other Berlin labels (Liber Null, Instruments of Discipline, BITE and Pi) called ‘Club Simulator’. We threw an outdoor festival last September with assistance from the Berlin Club Commission, headlined by Ancient Methods and Tommy Four Seven. It adhered to strict hygiene guidelines and gave us a glimpse of what’s possible even in the midst of a pandemic. I can imagine that post-corona we’ll all be channelling our event energy into the new collective rather than our individual parties, since things will certainly
be a little more difficult for quite some time to come. Joining forces will be the only way to continue.
Q: How do you go about deciding on what to release on Fleisch? What’s the advice that
you would give to artists interested in releasing on your label?
A: This was always meant to be a platform for friends, so our selection process has always been extremely nepotistic and mostly defined by who we’ve met over the years. The main curatorial criteria is whether or not we can imagine playing the tracks at a Fleisch party. The reason Forces inspired us to start a label was because their sound was clearly influenced by a lot of what we were playing at our parties, but still sounded undefinably unique, new and beautiful. If an artist isn’t already in my natural network of people, then I’m afraid there’s not much chance of releasing on Fleisch unless what they send me is truly magnificent and unlike anything I’ve heard before. It would have to be emotive, melodic and genre-defying, while still being highly effective dance music.
Q: Can you please walk us through the process and method you use for your releases?
How much in advance do you plan? How do you work and communicate with artists?
How much the artwork is important to Fleisch identity?
A: Every release is different. Some come out within about 6 months (minimum time to produce a vinyl release is 3 months, but human delays ensure that never happens), while others take over a year. I don’t see the point in deadlines because time is just a construct and rushing things usually leads to regret. Fleisch is a service to the artists, not the other way around, so I always try to keep things flexible and free for them to express what’s important to them. Artwork is entirely an artists’ decision unless they’d prefer not to deal with it. I think it’s a bit egotistical for labels to try and control that side of things too much. Ultimately the creators of the music are the core of a label’s identity.
Q: Apart from Berlin, is there a scene you’d love to experience or a party on your mind,
A: The only thing on my mind after a year away from the ocean is a party involving me, my surfboard and my favourite beach in Australia. But I think the first stop I’d really like to make club-wise is Tbilisi to play at Khidi again! I’m also very keen to check out Dark Mofo in Tasmania.
Q: What’s next for Fleisch in 2021? Some projects for the year ahead that you want to share with us?
A: There are four releases lined up this year, mostly LPs including one by me and another from Pablo Bozzi and Kendal’s new project Infravision, which I feel people are very much looking forward to! The others will be announced in due time.
Interview By / Stefania Trinchero.
Published / 23.03.2021