Andy Votel is an English musician, DJ, record producer, graphic designer and co-founder of Finders Keepers Records. If you don’t know Finders Keepers you’re in for a treat, its catalogue boasts a rich array of strange, beautiful and long lost sounds from across the globe, everything from psychedelic Japanese freejazz to Pakistani film music, to long lost Eastern European private press vanity projects. If it’s odd and obscure they’re more than interested. They’ve really championed the work of Polish composer Andrzej Korzyński, highlighting his diverse and remarkable oeuvre over a series of previously unreleased soundtracks which feature everything from Polish cosmic disco to the terrifyingly bleak and hysterical score to Possession. Votel is currently visiting Australia, where amongst other things he will be presenting Repossession, and audio visual collage featuring Polish director Andrzej Żuławski’s incredible imagery set to re-contextualised Korzyński music as well as other Polish music of the 1970s using exclusively Polish vinyl records. Whilst on the plane from the UK with his Finders Keepers cohort Doug Shipton, he took the time to answer some questions via email from Cyclic.
Cyclic Defrost: What appeals to you about the work of Andrzej Żuławski? I’ve only ever seen Possession and it was just so hysterical, off its head, totally mind blowing, like nothing else really.
Andy Votel: Hysterical is a great word to describe all of Zulawski’s films. Fans of Possession will find virtually all of the ingredients of this film in his previous features but in historic and political contexts that are less familiar. You know you’re dealing with a true eccentric when the octopus-sex film feels like the most familiar if his oeuvre. Where Zulawski lacks as a linear story teller, he masks in chaos leaving the viewer to decipher their own plot. A bit like free jazz, you have to find your own rhythm in order to enjoy it, then you win the keys to the castle. There really is no other director quite like him, even amongst his contemporaries in the Polish new wave. There’s something very unlikely in his films that is almost hallucinogenic and jarring, and the fact that he used heavy psychedelic music in most of his historical allegories is very telling that there are other facets of subversion and paradox at play. His collaboration with Korzyński is no fluke accident, it’s deeply symbolic, and theatrical almost like an alibi. It has also futureproofed his films for a future audience, myself included..
Cyclic Defrost: Finders Keepers, and you in particular have really championed the work of the Polish composer Andrzej Korzyński – his score for Possession in particular is so iconic, and he worked so regularly with Żuławski, however you’ve demonstrated there’s so much more to his work. How did you get involved in reissuing his work? And how much more is there?
Andy Votel: As a fan of Polish culture, poster-art, film and obviously pop-music I had been familiar with Korzyński’s name for many years, but mainly his synthesiser music. But It wasn’t until my taste in film progressed from the likes of Polanski and Skolimowski to Żuławski and Wajda that I realised what a huge wealth of deeply psychedelic symphonic music he had composed. As a workaholic he has more in common with Italian and French composers like Morricone and François De Roubaix (both of whom he potentially crossed paths with) so naturally his back catalogue is vast and varied, but as an artist he was never pretentious or precious, which is actually the true secret to a truly experimental composer, all of this made him a joy to work with. It must be said that my work with film historian Daniel Bird played a huge part in our relationship ship.
Cyclic Defrost: Can you tell me a little bit about Repossession – your audio visual collage? I understand that you will be working with some of Korzyński’s scores, though also some other 70’s Polish music. I get the sense that a project like this is about really sinking into this world, almost like a time capsule? What are you thinking about putting something like this together? You seem to enjoy having a conceptual frame around your DJ work. Why is this important for you? Or how does this help you?
Andy Votel: Yes, virtually every project I undertake is heavily concept based, I treat things like a puzzle and the challenge breathes new life into the process… and also justifies my life as a hoarder or obsessive. The idea of making a film collage with my friend Andy Rushton was always going to be fun, because it was interesting to see how Andy as a very artistic film editor would identify the patterns in his films, the afore mentioned ingredients. My love-hate relationship with the “re-score” idiom, especially while holding Korzyński’s work in high esteem, was the challenge. So I decided to use strictly vinyl-only Polish records from exactly the same era without exception. Trying to sequence 50 pieces of music into the collage is no mean feat, but I’ve been buying these records since I was in my late teens, so the familiarity made it quite natural for a narrative to reveal itself. I hope viewers will agree.
Cyclic Defrost: Not to be rude, but I’ve seen pictures of some of your records after they’ve been in your possession for a while. Um, how do they get like that? It all seems a little brutal. Where is the love?
Andy Votel: This is a myth, which some people seem to get a cheap kick out of. My interest in vinyl started when the format was utterly disposable, and my first hoards if records were bought from outdoor car boot sakes in the rainy U.K. It was much later when vinyl became a collectors commodity. I’ve never been a trophy collector, but I have never purposely damaged a record that could potentially put shoes on my kids feet, that’s absurd. Yes I’ve also bought damaged records to DJ with, but my baptism of fire was in an era where buying two copies to double-up and scratch with was de riguer. I’m surprised people can’t remember that era… Where is the punk? That’s the real question.
Cyclic Defrost: In 2014 you told me that you felt the reissue label trend was getting out of control. It feels to me like this issue has magnified about 3000% since then with reissue labels all competing to find lost grails and hunting long lost tapes. How do you stand out/separate yourself from this frenzy? Or is Finders Keepers niche enough to be immune to the chaos? What does it mean to run the label in 2023?
Andy Votel: Yes, I feel it’s niche enough, but also in danger of becoming too specialist. The reissue market works in noticeable cycles. In reality your average human either grows out of buying vinyl, or more commonly the record collection grows too big for storage so they stop. At this precise time I think a trend in various artists compilation is back en vouge, there’s a new wave of young selectors who are used to amassing quick information, which is not easy with vinyl. The latest generation have literally given up on original pressings too, which is fair because the prices have become prohibitive and inappropriate. If my calculations are correct, half of these people will be honing in on artist based releases soon, but currently custom-curated comps seem to be the popular choice.
The fact that Finders Keepers are almost 20 years old also means that certain titles in our own catalogue are considered as “original pressings”. Some of our crown-jewel genuine discoveries from 15 years ago have since been re-issued by other labels or even bootlegged, which does shine a light on a potential new context. I do think some labels are clearly business orientated though, and I do have personal politics with some labels pushing lost recordings on major labels back into the clutches of the likes of Universal. Working with major labels was never part of FKs plan, but against this frenzy of hobbyists and funded upstarts this is just personal politics that I need to swallow. Our aim was always to track down our heroes, meet them, and share their stories, not suits and signatures. There’s only a handful of new reissue labels who seem to share this outlook, and naturally they are my favourite labels out there.
Cyclic Defrost: How do you locate the albums you release on Finders Keepers? I imagine its not necessarily one set way, but can you give us an idea about how it often works? Do you have a team of obscure record detectives strategically placed around the world?
Andy Votel: No we don’t. It’s still just myself and Doug. You have to understand that the discovery and the hint is the fun bit. Packaging and clearing the rights for someone else’s idea doesn’t really make sense, and we don’t have the time, resources or good business sense to do this. Our golden-era B-Music compilations were an exception to this. They were based on a club event that has been going on for years and gave props to pit favourite collectors and DJs, I’m excited that they will return despite the multi-licensing issues. People like Chris Menist, Dom Thomas, James Pianta, Mahssa and Keith D’arcy were also very important within the first few years when nobody had even heard of FK..
Cyclic Defrost: I wanted to ask you about Don Cherry’s Music, Wisdom, Love, which you released on Finders Keepers in 2017. Can you talk a little about what this work is, as it’s pretty strange? How did it fall into your hands?
Andy Votel: The blood-line comes from Jean Rollin’s universe, and two important publishers and film-makers called the Dellamarre brothers. I’m gonna say I’ll let you do the homework because I think the info you’ll find in the sleeve notes is a perfect example of unlikely universes colliding which I feel, and hope, is one if the most attractive components of FK and what separates us from labels which mindlessly release rare library records with literally no liner notes or noticeable context..
Cyclic Defrost: What’s the weirdest music that Finders Keepers has released?
Andy Votel: In my opinion it has to be Geoff Krozier from Melbourne no less. It’s almost a dream record because it couples truly experimental early modular synth music (without compromising melodic pop qualities) with a front-man who is like a mix between Daevid Allen, Jodorowsky and Aleister Crowley, and not without a very approachable Aussie sense of humour… it’s like five ideal Finders Keepers releases in one record. Try and imagine all this before the lyrics even start… that’s when it gets weird, almost unbelievable. I hope one day we can release more from this unlikely canon, naturally there’s a very limited market (which I’m secretly happy about).
Cyclic Defrost: What music is inspiring you at the moment?
Andy Votel: Personally, I’ve just done a mixtape of obscure classical music for Demdike Stares label in the U.K. DJ wise I’m finding the most funk in playing Greek records from virtually any era, with less focus on my characteristic synth and fuzz elements. French dialect labels of Breton and Occitan music have been a bolt hold for me for the last decade but it seems that even some of the most unlikely releases from this area are cropping up on other reissue labels which goes to show how the competition has multiplied. As long as it’s done properly I’ve stopped losing sleep about it, we’ve made a lot of friends in the last 19 years. The name is Finders Keepers but in reality there’s still plenty to SHARE!
Thursday 19th of October Catalog Music DJ Set
Friday 20th OCTOBER. @qagoma REPOSSESSION: An audio-visual tribute to the films of Andrezj Zulawski. Plus a full screening of the controversial 1972 film DIABEL (aka The Devil). Tickets here.
Saturday 21st of October (2 sessions) REPOSSESSION: An audio-visual tribute to the films of Andrezj Zulawski. Plus a double screening of DIABEL (aka THE DEVIL). Tickets here. Then on Sunday 22nd of October a screening and presentation of Jodorowsky’s THE HOLY MOUNTAIN followed by POSSESSION.Tickets here.
Wednesday 25th of October High Note DJ set.
Thursday 26th of October.REPOSSESSION: An audio-visual tribute to the films of Andrezj Zulawski. Plus David Thrussell (Australia) reimagines the score for the 1973 French dark satire Themroc (4K restoration). Tickets here.
Saturday 28th of October @ Thornbury Picture House – FINDERS KEEPERS VJ SET (FREE). Find info here.
10am-5pm Saturday 28th & Sunday 29th October – Independent Music Exchange @ The 86 Festival. Info here.