burkhard kerlin  [retinascan]

www.retinascan.de   bkerlin@uos.de

- first intro (about you)

my name is burkhard kerlin and i'm meanwhile 34 years old. from the time i went to school it was one of my big dreams to drive a record shop and share my musical likes with other people. when i came to realise this dream in 1992, i had to find out that music is for most of the folks around nothing but a business if you don't play the game of hypes and disses, you're lost in there. i gave this stuff up 4 years later and from this time on stayed disappointed with the music industry.... and became a nurse by the way... not that interesting in connection with the topic of this interview, but i thought some of you might want to know what silly net activists like me do for a living.. well, i care for people with HIV/Aids in a small outpatient center in Osnabrueck. And yeah.. i also studied a bit of cognitive sciences...from that time I learned the lesson that a creative process is not only based on the artist. i guess this is a very european sight on the role of the individual and its powers. constructivism has strongly influenced my sights on music and generally arts.

- when and why did u start running a label

actually, i started retinascan with a friend of mine after i found an html-tutorial on the website of our local provider, the university of osnabruck and learned a bit of coding in August 2000. I was wondering what to do with it and then i remembered all the recordings each one of us has made and was still making and thought maybe the internet could be a way of giving this stuff an audience.
on the other hand my wife and me was rather busy that time in thinking about domain names we could register and sell.. haha.. the new media hype was in full effect and the NASDAQ an its all time high and we thought, well maybe we can earn some money with just developing some cool words. retinascan was one of the domains i registered long before, as i presumed that - in the days of big brother to come - individual recognition tools would be the next big thing... guess i didn't fail on that one, but nonetheless nobody wanted to have the domain (and none of the others we ever invented, like bioprosthetics or digitalperception... all this neuromancer shit)...
so there was a name and an idea, and we started it right away with some webspace we bought... retinascan grew a lot bigger from that point of time, and some people who know the site from the very first days may still smile about the really awful design that we sported the first months before we improved our skills in coding. that all was a learning by doing process, quite the same way we started to make music.

- what's the sound of retinascan and what's the concept behind if there is any

it's difficukt to describe the sound of. in fact i'm not even interested in something like this because that would mean to differentiate music into several drawers or at least into music i like and music i don't like. the concept behind retinascan is different: i want it to be a platform of styles, a playground for skillful as well as dilettant people that i met in real life or on the net or that found me somewhere the other way round. the main aspect of how i decide to put up music on the page is how i like the people behind the recordings... hmm, seems that's really it, now you force me to think about it.
However, most of the acts presented are bedroom producers - bad word, let's better say: one person acts - from the electronic music scene. that may be a result of how i met most of them. there are several terrific meeting points for musicmakers in the net, like micromusic.net and the open mailing list of microsound.org, to name just two. these "hangouts" were where i got the first acts from that i didn't know personally. i think my role in the relationship with several of the artists was to encourage them to go public with their sound. In my opinion, that's one of the best ways to grow musically and develop your own mature sound. It's my belief that every sound ever made sooner or later finds its enthusiastic audience. During my time as a record salesman I sold so much real subterranean shit to people that I sometimes couldn't believe what just happened. most music in the charts is bullshit, fantastically well produced, but nonetheless bullshit. so, why not try and find the three or four likeminded people that want to hear exactly the music YOU are making? I'm not sure if this really can be called a concept, but i do in this case.
the way I can afford to go out and try this is: keeping the risk low. i produce the CD-Rs on demand. everyone who orders at retinascan gets his/her very own copy. I sometimes try to play with the implications of that. in the release of unassisted's "prototypes", for example, the number of the copy you hold in your hands is a dominating part of the artwork. several CD-Rs have special packaging that is just possible to produce because the product is no mass product.
i guess i could take some days off work if ever a reasonable number of orders would drop into my mailbox, hahaha.

- you are also making music what are projects you are working with and what's the sound

i have two own projects on retinascan, one of them was in the very beginning the project of Brendan Cook, the friend i started the label with, but when he went off to go and get a career, i "hijacked" his project store and made it my own additionally to my moniker forceps. The borders between the projects are quite clear. forceps tracks are created by non-sequential improvisation, meanwhile mainly realised on the freewares of sineqube and ixi (links to both pages are available at retinascan, I'm too lazy to look after them now...). Basic samples for the forceps work can generally also be samples of store tracks. store on the other hand is the minimal ambient / idm outfit. that's in fact not really only my own decision. i just tried to keep up continuity between the tracks made by brendan and the one i made myself first. brendan is a huge fan of snd, the birmingham band released on mille plateaux. he worked on a paraphrase of their sound for quite a long time and then realized that something very own resulted from this quest. i guess, careful listeners will make up the turning point from him to me though. lately, I was working with rock music samples which gave the project another twist, influenced by some jams i had with tracks of king kerosene, who is also featured on the label. you will be able to listen to the first outcomes of this on the next ep at http://www.tonatom.net, a german mp3-label. and yeah, what i forgot to say. store is a project that is strongly downloadable. most stuff is available for free. i guess that is because i really still feel that store as a project is only alive because of the good reviews and feedback it received.


- what are your influences… music and non music

i always have to laugh about this typical "music journalist" question. and i'm sorry I really can only give the usual blabla-answer, that everything around me is an influence and shit.
but wait, maybe I should go a bit historical. in my teenage years I was a big fan of the brian eno's solo works, especially his ambient works series that also included works by laraaji and harold budd. before that turned into the new new age i left this bandwagon and hopped on the bus of german new wave, which does not mean the "neue deutsche welle" with nena and her "99 red ballons" or stuff, but bands like "einstuerzende neubauten", "sprung aus den wolken", "abwarts", which all had personal connections to the 80ies berlin scene which was described by neubauten-head bargeld as "genious dilettants". from there i got to know many projects of the 80ies industrial scene, listened to much of the works of throbbing gristle, spk, nurse with wound, whitehouse and merzbow. attracted by the techniques of sampling i then found my way to hip hop and still keep much respect to the classical works of the early native tongues school , especially a tribe called quest. at that time i also followed the development of warp and electronic dance music apart from the mainstream, all the stuff that very soon was called idm, a drawer that collapsed with the appearance of the almighty Richard D. James. Many brances lead from there to the music I listen to today, lots of the clicks and cuts projects, electronic independent, new postrock like godspeed you black emperor ( i have no idea where the exclamation mark has to be put right now) etc... You can consider all of the mentioned bands and project influential. Lately, the bands on my own label joined this community...
aside from musical influences, i think that still the utopy of a working anarchism - a world where all people can exist free and be what they wanna be and are conscious of the role they play in the society as a whole - and - as mentioned above - the theory of constructivism play a strong role in my thinking and in the way i act in connection with other people. that may seem chaotic to some, but i always hope that i can keep this in connection to the friendly rules of taoism... i have no strong sympathies for revolutionary gestures, so to say... kim cascone lately lead me to theories of parasitism, which i found fascinating and very coherent with other ideas i had in mind. people may contact me for any book tips :)

- retinascan is cdr label. why did u choose this cdr concept and are u planning to develop that concept into real cd label

i explained above, that the practice of home burning CD-Rs is a way of risk management. in the beginning i wasn't all sure if the orders would ever blast my capacities, but after three years that i do this now i can say it doesn't and i've put the idea of turning the label into a real business with all the rights management that would be implied ad acta. i meanwhile really wonder why i should do this. what i still have in mind is to also concentrate of other media. personally, i don't buy anything else than vinyl when it comes to "official" releases. especially now that many major labels go for copy protection and disable their customers to listen to the music they paid for, i really cannot understand why i should pay so much money for a unreliable medium like the regular CD anymore.
i think a lot of people in the net think the same way. vinyl seems such a more personal, quasi intimate medium to present your music on, that this is still a dream i want to realise. however, that would then be a second leg to stand on, as it doesn't really comply with the "anything goes"-concept of the CD-R based retinascan branch. The risk taken again leads back into pecuniar peculiarities.

- what is your attitude about mp3 format and mp3 labels which number is growing rapidly this period

friends and like-mindeds. i personally see that mp3-labels are in a way enhancing a fast-food mentality according to music on the net. i don't remember too many of the tracks i ever downloaded on the net, unless i burned them on CD-R, have put a nice cover around it and in this way support my memory of the music related to this process. the release presented will not stay by the music itself. it will be in need of a materialised character.. i really appreciate labels that purvey a pdf-cover printout with each release. maybe it's a generation conflict of music listeners, maybe i'm too used to the old medium, but i just can't deal with all the stuff available, i have to sort out by chance and concentrate on some few projects. nonetheless these mp3-labels are following the same policies as retinascan: a voice for everyone, unlimited tolerance, resistance to commercial systems. there must be a reason why we all meet up at scene.org...

- what is criterion for choosing projects for signing on retinascan. is it just if you like them or there is some other principle

of course there was in the beginning an idea of. "hey now that i have a label i could really ask other people to join and put something on it". then it was brendan, who came up with the meanwhile very successful andrey kiritchenko. i have no idea how important the release at retinascan was for him, at least i know that brendan convinced him of the fact that it's quite cool to release under his real name, hahaha, and he later did that more regular. i think he met him somewhere and was a bit puzzled why he never before heard of someone that talented and felt a strong urge to give him a platform. retinascan may have turned out to be a bit too small for a musical heavyweight like andrey, but i think we're still good companions and i also release some of the stuff he has put out on his own label nexsound.org (that by the way existed long before retinascan ever showed up on the net). the other acts like herschel and king kerosene were all friends from the local music scene, and i guess that's nothing special to tell them, well, you got that release, ever thought about presenting it on the net; so we did and it worked, at least for the extent of the catalogue. for round about two years now i also receive a quite constant amount of promo-cds, people who ask for release. some of the music is really difficult to comprehend, but i always try to get in contact to ask the people what they are trying to tell with their music. i assume some would really tell you that i asked some uncomfortable questions, and some really turned out to be silly baldheads who never took their music serious. others, as Albert "omnid" Casais were really friendly and thinkful and personally convincing, and though i'm no big freak to their music, i learned to respect what they are doing and took back personal affections to bring forward the communicational aspects retinascan has found its sense in. I listen closely to the CDs people send me and still go round in several communities to take a look who's present and who may need a small shove to show more of what he's doing in his closet to the audience.. and I'm really proud of working with phoenelai, who is as enthusiasmic about the great synergies a community platform may unfold as myself, and makunouchi bento, who will hopefully present their new album soon. maybe retinascan will turn out to be just a short stop for both of them, but maybe on the other hand retinascan will grow with them and we can realise some "real" releases on vinyl together, open up the other branch that I talked about earlier. notype.com just showed that being an mp3-label and releasing vinyl doesn't have to be a contradiction.

- there are much things happening in germany. retinascan is taking part in some of those and you are organizing label live parties

no, we don't. where did you get this information from?

- how often do u organize such happenings and is there any particular reason for making them (like releasing a album…) or just when u think is good… how do they look like

there would of course be good reasons to get social and beginning to organise label parties and in fact i'm starting to realise that for 2004. the main problem is the structure of retinascan, as you know, i'm based in a small town with little or no interest for electronic music, and this was actually the reason to go on the net. so we will have to use the infrastructure of bigger towns to organise label parties in hamburg, berlin or cologne to get an audience. but that's all in the making. it's fine to see the network spreading however. a good testrun was the microparty i organised in osnabrueck during the european media art festival in april. i got an impression of how expensive it would be to let people come to germany from sweden or belgium and let them play here. all in all it was rather encouraging. you will definitely read on the page what will happen in the next months.

- what can you say about german experimental and music scene at all. i think that berlin is centre of contemporary music scene today and that the centre moved from usa or uk where was in the 90's to europe in last couple of years. can you agree with this statement and what can u say about this process

i'm not sure if it is a contemporary statement at all to say that something is the center of something. what i can see is that centers are collapsing everywhere. five years ago it was very trendy to mention cologne as the centre of electronic music, because of kompakt, a-musik, mouse on mars and their sonig label etcetera, hamburg as the centre of alternative rock and berlin as the centre for jungle. since then the classifications have multiplied. of course the big cities are still culmination points for live happenings, because that subject depends on a diversified and still big enough audience. but the production of experimental music is triggered from the borders. a lot of stuff on sonig, one of the most prolific german experimental labels in my opinion, comes from people that live in the ruhr area, a centerless accumulation of towns north of cologne, or from outside germany. The centre of experimental music production in general is virtual to me, only centers of commercial exhaustion can be made up, because the market system still underlies processes of accumulation. and if germany and the germans are especially good in anything, it may be consumption, we are world leaders in spending money on vacations per head, vice world leaders in spending money on entertainment media, after uk. so a lot of contemporary alternative music is presented on german labels, but not german at all. i find it really astounding that good experimental music is produced all over the globe: scandinavia, the former eastern block, canada.. traum recently presented brazilian electronic music... i welcome this development. centers always tend to become anti-tolerant, they tend to develop quasi-official points of view.