PHOTO: Patrick O'Neill & Daniel Miller of Liberation Technologies – Erika Wall
After Mute became independent from EMI once again in late 2010, it was only a matter of time until Daniel Miller would add another branch to the label family. After all, in its over thirty years of existence Mute not only released the visionary music of D.A.F., Depeche Mode, Erasure, Nick Cave, Einstürzende Neubauten or Kraftwerk but also operated a few interesting sub-labels. Now, in the upcoming spring of 2012, the newest creation is ready to appear on the screen: Liberation Technologies, lead by Miller and Patrick O'Neill, a former A&R of Honest Jon's, Domino and Columbia, wants to shine through especially elaborate and selected records. Following Mute's long tradition, it will focus on electronic dance music with the first release coming from a young and versed artist - Laurel Halo. Talking to spex.de Miller and O'Neill explain the new project.
Daniel, for our second last interview (Spex #308) Martin Hossbach visited your old office at Harrow Road right in the middle of your moving preparations. Back then, you praised the symbiotic relationship between the label and its building. Where are located you now?
DANIEL MILLER: We're in Hammersmith, just off King Street. It's called Albion Place. When Martin came to the old office, we've been there for 20 years already and we've been only here for a year. But we're getting this kind of vibe together, yes. And we got a studio across the road, which is great.
(You can hear people in the background, it's apparently an open office.)
And now you are heading off to new things with another label. What's your motive to start a new one?
DM: Mute has been with electronic dance music pretty much since day one. In the mid 80s we also got involved with our offshoot Rhythm King (A/N: A Mute sub-label until 1991.), in the early 90s we then started NovaMute (A/N: Another Mute sub founded in 1992). So we always had an outlet for electronic dance music. Since NovaMute came to a natural end a few years ago (A/N: In 2008.) I really wanted to have the opportunity to work in that musical area again, in a broader way. The expectations are different now, because it's a quite wide genre and Mute is kind of a multi-genre label. We just felt, that it would be easier to focus people's attention on the releases themselves in the world they come from, if we had a separate name and label. Also there's a different releasing policy. We aim to just put out one release by a new or an even well-know artist under a different name as an EP and if an album project will follow, we might move it to Mute or whatever. We want to be a platform for people's experiments.
Businesswise, will Liberation Technologies be an official sublabel of Mute?
DM: It's part of the Mute Group, but the distribution, promotion and the artists will be different. It's technically separated and going to be very different from Mute.
But the label's actual name comes from the Mute history. Mute Liberation Technologies used to be the superordinate for Mute's internet activities and websites, which were already launched in 1994.
DM: Yes, it is. When the digital age hit the music business and the internet started to become more widespread, digital formats for videos – DVD and CDV – appeared, the latter was a rather weird one by the way. At that time we thought we need an umbrella name for our digital activities. Later with the digital diversion it became apparent, that it didn't really make sense to still have such name, it just carried on on the website. But that was Mute Liberation Technologies and this is Liberation Technologies now.
Liberation technologies such as social media and smartphone networks are seen as a key aspect of the recent revolts in the Arab world. Universities like Stanford offer educational programs on this. What's your concept behind the term?
PO'N: It's left to interpretation. It's just a name, which when I heard it first, specifically made perfect sense here. I like that it's quite open-end for both, artists or people buying the releases and any other context. Everyone interprets it differently.
DM: It's a freedom expression partly through technology. The records or the technologies used to make them can be seen as liberating technologies.
Doesn't your reductive release policy contradict this idea?
DM: No. There will be a release every month and a half and it will be put out digitally and on vinyl, not vinyl-only.
PHOTO: First LT artist King Felix – do you recognise her?
The first EP is by King Felix, an alias of a New York-based female producer. How did you come together?
PO'N: I approached her. She's someone we really like and we'd been in talks for a quite a while. She sent me these tracks and they just made sense. They are different to her original output so we, or better: she, decided to put it out under this names so things will be more defined in terms of sound. It's like with everyone else on the label: we're really excited about her work.
With how many artists have you already planned a release together?
PO'N: There a several I've been in discussions with, so there a few good releases like that coming up apart from King Felix already.
With your reputation it must be quite easy to get people involved.
PO'N: I'm very concious that we don't overdo that. The label is a new entity, a different thing. Its strength has to speak for itself. And a lot of artists I spoke to appreciate what we're trying to do here. The name of Mute does have a good deal to with that, but ultimately it comes out on Liberation Technologies.
DM: It has stand for itself.
Recent musical development was mainly shaped by small independent labels with one or two front figures curating a wide selection of different styles and genres within their roster. Instances are Tri Angle, Mexican Summer or Barron Machat and Travis Woolsey's Hippos In Tanks, on which your first artist previously released on. Will Liberation Technologies go for a same level of diversity?
PO'N: Within electronic music there are so many different options and sub-genres. As the labels you mentioned we're just looking for progressive music of all kind, it just has to be electronic.
The idea of letting already well-known artists release under a new alias reminds me of your former Mute project Silicon Teens, Daniel.
DM: Haha, yes, if Silicon Teens would have been my project… No, it has nothing to do with me. It's just about giving the artists the freedom to experiment. I know some people who do really great things under different names and that's where the idea came from.
What's the Liberation Technologies artwork concept?
PO'N: It's taken care of by Ben Drury, who we're very keen to have on board and have a lot of respect for. He has put together a really strong and forward identity for the label, drawing and graphic based pieces There will be a unique sticker for every artist. The design to present this music is very important for us. (A/N: Drury designed cover artworks for the likes of Dizzee Rascal and UNKLE before and worked with Karl Lagerfeld.)
Will there be a corporate design?
DM: There's a strong logo. Apart from that we have no limits or restrictions. It's very important to have that strong identity with the logo. And the unique sticker will either be designed by the artists themselves or agreed on by them.
We spoke about Silicon Teens earlier. Will you be coming back as a musician under a new alias, too, Daniel?
DM: If I would have been Silicon Teens, I would. No, just kidding. It's a secret, you know.
Then under a different name.
DM: Who knows.
That's neither a yes and nor a no.
Shall Liberation Technologies also function as a communicative tool between the different people on it?
PO'N: For the people we want to work with it will be a different form, they are all specific. One has put out records for more than ten years, another one will be brand new. So it will definitely form a communication between them, but I think, the most interesting thing the label will offer is a new context.
King Felix Spring EP will be released as 12" and digitally on March 19 via Liberation Technologies, followed by a second release in late April. Live events are planned for later in 2012.