Andy Votel Interview by Bob Baker Fish


Andy Votel press

Andy Votel is a UK producer, DJ and label curator responsible for incredible reissue label Finders Keepers, which releases obscure sounds of what he calls misplaced pop, uncovering obscure amazing artists from yesteryear from far flung corners of the world. Whether it’s vintage macabre film music, Czechoslovakian Vampire soundtracks, Welsh rare beats, Bollywood horror soundtracks or all manner of genres in between, Finders Keepers specialise in lost, undiscovered and at times even unreleased music, tracking down and developing ongoing relationships with long forgotten artists and in doing so discovering some truly amazing music. They’ve released everything from Thai psych rock to obscure soundtracks from behind the iron curtain, from Iranian folk to Turkish psychedelia from the 60’s, in particular rediscovering and championing the unreleased work of Polish film and television composer Andrzej Korzynski. Their motto is ‘break boundaries before breaking even,’ which may explain Cacophonic, their new experimental/jazz/avant-garde imprint, hardly what you’d call a definite money spinner. But that’s just their ethos, occasionally they offer names like Vangelis, Bruno Nicolai or the Gaslamp Killer, but in the main we’re talking bizarre sounds from artists you’ve never heard of before, meaning that you need to place yourself in the safe hands of the label and their remarkably resourceful and well traveled crate diggers. Votel himself represents this ethos via his frequent mixes, his increasingly conceptual DJ sets, and his production work. He recently sat down to answer some email questions for Cyclic Defrost ahead of his Australian tour.

Bob: Do you remember what initially enticed you about rare psychedelic music etc from exotic foreign lands?

Andy: I think it was basically an exercise in getting out of my comfort zone and desperately wanting to own different records than anyone else. I was surrounded by record collectors and DJ types from my early teens and developed an instant aversion to herd-purchasing or collecting trends. I really hate the idea of ‘fashionable music’ so the idea of playing classic anthems to the crowd was never part of my M.O. To be honest I’ve never viewed my buying habits as exotic, I’ve just never been afraid of the language barriers. 20 years ago people would happily listen to vocal music from France or Brazil but when it came to Belgian, Turkish or Yugoslavian singer, for example, it all got a bit Eurovison for most. That’s changed a lot now but I was kinda open minded to foreign pop music and was generally too focussed on the drums and synths to even care what the singer was doing… I’m certainly no vocal talent expert, but its amazing how many critical ears miss out on good music because the vocals make them blush. The handy by-products have been a gathered knowledge of some global, truly independent music industries that operate outside of the major music industries by todays standards, which tick all my punk-penchants and I don’t grow tired by corny pop lyrics…. because I don’t know what they are saying. Keeping an open mind to foreign pop has kept my ears young, maybe.

Bob: I kind’ve view you as a vinyl detective and the records are missing persons. So I’m picturing the whole exercise as a film noir directed by Jacques Tourneur. The good news is you get to be Robert Mitchum. Can it be as exciting as it is in my head?

Andy: It is absolutely exciting. Who wouldn’t want to be a detective? You just need a valid reason. Before the days of Ebay and the like I used to get very excited about finding records that were on my want list for years. This magic has slowly died because nowadays anyone with a few quid in the bank can go on line and pay-high for the instant fix from a boutique record dealer, and they see it as an investment. I come from a background and era where vinyl was trash, but very individual, but now its like stamp collecting. For me the logical progression is meeting the original artist and finding the true story, the original master tapes and trying to re-create the moment in a climate that is finally ready for a unique artists forward-thinking creations. Thats what keeps it exciting. The social interaction, the wider family and the music that never came out.

Bob: With the advent of ebay, new reissue labels every second week and DJ’ out scouring the globe pursuing lost and unusual music, is it now make it harder than ever to track down killer old sounds?

Andy: I think the re-issue label trend has got a bit out of control really. I think that when you approach an artist who has clearly been wounded by the shortcomings of the music industry you need to genuinely believe that you are giving them their best shot. It shouldn’t be a learning curve at the expense of the artist, no artists want to feel failure twice. There are so many new vanity labels who are more concerned about their own imprint than the needs of the original artist, its inappropriate. I also think that the record-nerd community need to work more closely which can be very difficult for the vast majority who are driven by competitive vitriol. I manage to collaborate with all the labels that I trust and truly believe are making a difference because it reflects well against this culture as a whole. As a parent of two kids i know how close we are to becoming the old-fart demographic. Amazing lost and unknown music from the 60’s 70′ 80s will never dry-up just think of every band you’ve ever met who recorded and unreleased demo, then view it one a global scale… 99.9999 percent of “ahead of its time” music remains unreleased and unheard by it own definition. The source material wont dry-up, its actually saturation and wet ideas that will be the problem. The latest trend is making expensive re-issues albums that are already easy to find on original pressings, but gentrifying them in designer artwork, that have got more to do with fashion than music which only adds to the retro-kitsch death knell.

Bob: I’m constantly amazed by the bizarre fusions of music that keep being uncovered, strange distended mashes of genres that the person creating it thinks is normal, but to us in the West it’s like the music just dropped straight from space. Is this the holy grail? Has this happened for you?

Andy: Yes, with every record we release in one way or another. The common problem is actualy “the west”, we have been so righteous in thinking that everyone wanted to sound like The Beatles, when the truth is that no-one really gave a shit about that band beyond Hamburg (or there abouts). Do you think people in India were impressed by George Harrison’s sitar playing? In Turkey they preferred the Shadows, cause they didn’t care about, or couldnt translate the pretentious lyrics, but made it sound a thousand times better by putting a Saz or Oud through a fuzz pedal instead of a guitar. Take all the Eastern European ex-communist countries, they weren’t even allowed to hear Western Music , but had more skill, bigger imaginations, no ego-problems and a supposedly transparent financial infrastructure. The West is the same self assured plastic-pop smokescreen industry we’ll ever know which is why these archeological times are so exciting. We were the ones behind a wall believe me.

Bob: I’ve listened to quite a few of your mixes, and I’m reassured by the weirdness, by uncomfortable and challenging moments alongside some more cohesive musical moments. Do you have a philosophy about the way you DJ?

Andy: I’m kinda respectful to the adage that every DJ should have their own absolutely unique bag of records, so I simply don’t play what other people are playing. If you want to hear music that you’ve never heard before in 20 different languages thats what I try to do at all costs. The same goes for all my favourite DJs and all the DJs involved in Finders Keepers and B-Music. I will however drop a few Finders Keepers reissues for the team though so that means that you’ll hear a Thai version of Black Sabbath dug-up by Chris Menist or a Hungarian Version of Herbie Hancock Rocket picked by Gabor in Budapest. At the end of the day I DJ odd-pop records with loud drums and electronic mistakes from the last 40 years which sounds like they was made in the future… and much, much less.

Bob: Has this philosophy informed the projects you are bringing to Australia?

Andy: Well, i’m not just DJing when i come out there. It seems that everything i’m doing has its own concept so i’ll also do a new-age yoga-cult cinema set with very little rhythmic qualities and a lot of euphoric electronics and i’ll also be doing a 2 hour set of biker records. After 20 years of pushing and pulling turntable platters you kinda need to keep it thematic and challenge yourself.

Bob: How did you discover the music of Andrzej Korzynski? What appealed to you at the time? What makes it worthy of you dedicating your Kleksploitation project to his music?

Andy: Korzynski was a Polish composer who after a short time working in the same European studios as Morricone and JC Vannier was banned from traveling, had his passport confiscated and forced to work for Polish TV. By the 1980s he had all the right sounds, the best ideas and the access to all the greatest synths and music machines in the world but due to his inconstant job he ended up having to balance bizarre TV pantomime music for wacky kids TV shows with stark horror soundtracks and soap operas. When i first started looking through his vaults I was left with the dilemma of editing the best bits of his music… at which point we decided to collaborate. I actually attempt to repair some of his weird communist TV music and pick out all the killer electronics and rhythms by sampling straight from the TV film reels of a 1980’s trilogy called Pan Kleks (Mr Blot) … but I also remix the TV programme itself with the help of F.K. film editor Andy Rushton. Its actually a very intense and dark experience which in some way brings out the darker subjects of censorship and propaganda that bubbled under the original state transmitted series… and uses Acid house synths before real-people could afford to buy them.

Bob: Can you tell me a little bit about the Neotantrik project? I understand that it is an audiovisual project about recontextualisation of some sort? In particular I am interested in this from your description “multi-purpose activity which shares and recreates unknown music without the whimsical restraints that have come to typify todays standardised DJ performances.” What are the ‘whimsical restraints’ you talk of?

Andy: Neotantrik is essentially myself and Sean Canty from Demdike Stare taking everything we know about dark ambient drone music and applying it to private issue new age (PiNa) records from the 1980s and ambient or industrial records to make a more positive euphoric soundscape. We use small snippets of ambient records and layer them up into dense sounded and try to create some quasi-meditational music then play a number of small instruments using feed back, vocalisations and reverb to create a huge swell. It basically taking the DJ format but cueing and mixing instruments, records and very intense visuals… ie. you don’t have to dance or marvel at our pathetic DJ skills its an all-improvised noise installation in which we attempt to make relaxation music… at a loud volume…. It sometimes works.

Bob: I’ve noted that you regularly collaborate with other labels. Can you tell us about the new label with James Pianta (Votary/Roundtable/ Dual Planet)? How did it come about? What is the focus? Are you sure you need another label? Don’ you have enough already?

Andy: Basically Finders Keepers has been lucky to survive for ten years now but that is mainly due to the fact that we are self sufficient as compilers, designers, writers, DJs and producers… we could never afford to pay for any of those skills individually externally. So sometimes its difficult to financially collaborate as much as we’d like to while keeping the original artists interests at heart. As one of our absolute favourite collectors / detectives we have wanted to work with James almost too many times now, whether it be about Italian Library music or Aussie Prog, but literally couldn’t find time and schedule space for all the ideas to flourish… so we’ve built a small dedicated laboratory on an island called Monster Skies (Named after a favourite Aussie synth LP by members of Cybotron) where we can pool our resources and do something a little bit more esoteric. To be honest it’s a considered experiment which is motivated by our absolute favourite music from the key artists within Finders Keepers and Dual Planet camps. The poetic truth behind the project is that we have both spent our musical lives looking as far away from home as possible to find obscure and unheard music…. geographically neither of us could have travelled much further than the opposite sides of the globe.

Andy Votel Australian tour 2014
19 Jan – Sydney Festival @ Sydney Town Hall

22nd jan – the toff in town
andy votel presents neotantrik w nun dj james pianta

24th jan – howler
andy votel presents kleksploitation
w the night rs angel eyes dj james pianta psychedelic coven djs


About Author

Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.