So tell me the story about how Gymnastic/Chrom Records started!
A former friend, Cornel H illmann, who lived abroad, asked me to promote his Vinyl. He was into industrial/darkwave long before it became big here. His production (Uprotor) did not work (we were too far ahead of times: it would have worked out well just a year later).
Did you play in bands yourself before you started Gymnastic?
No, never. I think it is better for the bands if the label-people are not musicians themselves who know everything better. ;-)
We see ourself in the role of a gallerist. We promote other people’s art. In fact, we try to share our passion to our kind of music with as many people as possible…
How did it come that you choose to release this kind of more *alternativemusic?
Before the label started, I was more into Chicago House Music (which was more underground at that time, than wave). Soon I liked the feelings and impact that comes along with wave, it was also easier to combine with my other passion classical music, and I liked the wave party crowd, so it all happened very natural.
How big is the importance of Deine Lakaien if we talk about the building of Gymnastic records?
VERY IMPORTANT. It was one of my first signings, and the most successful signing of Chrom Records. Through the domination of this unique sound the way the label was seen from the outside changed dramatically.
Is this group your biggest one?
Yes definitely. But followed by Qntal, Estampie and Distain!
Have any major labels tried to take Deine Lakaien from you?
Yes, since the release of „Forest Enter Exit“ and its Media Control Charts Entry, five years ago.
How was it when their vocalist Veljanov wanted to make a solo album? How did it come that Motor Music released him instead? How do you like it?
Of course Veljanov asked me first. But Motor had a cool offer, they really seemed to love the sound. And the music Veljanov is doing with his solo career is different from Deine Lakaien and from the Chrom Label. It’s kind of the “other side” of Veljanov. If it would have been released on the Lakaien-Label the people (and the media!) would not have realized the difference and probably would not have discovered the uniqueness of Veljanov’s sound. As a good friend, I supported Veljanov to go take step with Motor. And I think Motor did a good job, didn’t they?
What do you think about this interesting development in Germany that majors are signing alternative band in the wave and synth scene (And One, De/Vision and so on)?
On one side I must say that it’s not easy now to have this heavy competition from majors with pockets full of money. But on the other side I prefer them supporting sounds that I like than the mainstream which in many cases they feed the radios with. Maybe this helps to increase the musial taste of the masses. And *that* would help us all too.
Will this development bring these genres to the top lists?
Probably not as big as other genres. But I shouldn’t mind. To be honest, I strongly believe that they can’t do the job without the basis, the indie-scene. So there will be always enough work for us.
You have a very nice mix on your label with great band in different genres but it seems that you want to have a focus on alternative wave music. Is Distain! the only pure synthpop band? Do you wish to have any more of that kind? What about more guitar orientated bands?
Well, personally I am very much into electronic music. Maybe Distain! is the only “pure” (synth?) pop band on Chrom Records, but there’s also Silence (a duo from Ljubljana, Slovenia), who use synthesizers, but their music is very different from Distain!s. Like Elvis Presley meets Nine Inch Nails :-) I think Distain! and Silence belong to the best synthpop or whatever bands around. We get loads of demo tapes from synth bands, but none of them so far was as amazing as these two. So why should I want to sign more synth pop bands? And don’t forget Estampie, who do “classic” Medieval Music with original old instruments. That comes to my love for classical music. There is also, indeed, a more guitar oriented band on Chrom, Niowt (also from Ljubljana). But their music is very complex and strange, no typical guitar-music, and they have a great female singer and guitarist. I would de-fi-ni-te-ly!!!! never have “pig rock” on Chrom Records!!!
What about heavier music, is that something we will see on Chrom Records in the future?
Metal is not my kind of thing. - The “heaviest” sound on the label next to Stendal Blast are definitely INSIDE with singer Darrin Huss (wasn’t there a review in prospective? - He’s also doing Psyche) with their new album. They mix their former electropop sound with heavy guitars now. Kind of sexy s/m glam-wave. - Absolutely fabulous!!!! And Niowt have some pretty heavy songs. But their singer and songwriter Mojca Krevel is a seldom combination of good looks and brains, and when she plays a metal riff, she only does it to destroy Metal.
The label Chrom Records is not very known in the Nordic countries and your artists isn’t either, what are your comments to that?
Really? - It seems that Nordic distributors have not really discovered the strengh of our music yet. This will most definitely change in the future (hint! hint!).
Outside *Germany? Which markets would then be most interesting?
Definitely, Spain, France,Greece and the USA.
Do you know any music from the Nordic countries? How do you like it? How can you ask this?
Everyone knows Aqua!!!! And ABBA… No, seriously: Grieg. - Phantastic!!!!
Please tell us something about the weekly work of Chrom and who does what!
First thing in the morning is to open a big bottle of 10 years old champagne. Then we call all our bands to see whether they are all up and working hard :-))))
There is Rudi, who does the DJ promotion. He has been a DJ himself for many years, so he can be really tough if necessary. Then there is a girl who used to do print promotion (Gerlinde, she talked to you on the phone), album covers, T-Shirts etc since 1996. Lately she isn’t full-time at Chrom anymore, cause she is also involved in graphics and modern art, and will be now doing more internal work instead of the promotion. There are some new promoters in talk, but you will get to meet him/her in time. About myself, even though I’m the boss, it’s not that I can only do the nice part of the job - like taking musicians out for dinner -, I also do all the legal stuff like royalties, licenses and that. Which often takes plenty of my time. But doing a magazine, you probably know that. And then there are lots of people who work as freelancers, like journalists who write press infos for us, someone who does the archives, and not to forget another girl, Conny, who does the Deine Lakaien fanclub Manastir Baroue. You see, we’re very different people here, so naturally everyone has a different taste and a different approach.
So now when ten years have passed in Chrom’s history, what conclusions and thought would you like to express about its history?
When I compiled a label sampler recently I got to listen to all the CDs that I did in the past. And I rediscovered things that we released many years ago, like Fairies Fortune. I must say that I am very proud of our program.
Have you or will you celebrate the ten years anniversary in any special way? Any limited releases for instance or label compilations?
Jubilees are for old people! No, I don’t like this kind of nostalgic events. I am more aimed to the future than to the past. But to be true, there was a Manastir Baroue party in Munich last year, with a Deine Lakaien secret gig, Distain! and Silence. Some 850 guests came from all over Germany and also Europe, and the whole party was a great success. So for us label people, it was a bit like a “secret anniversary party” organized by the Fanclub. Thank you Conny!
So what can we expect from Chrom in the nearest future? Any new signings and releases for instance?
We got Love is colder than Death as a new signing to the label. I think they are doing a wonderful music, and I am very proud they chose Chrom Records as their future label. Other releases next year will include new albums from Deine Lakaien, Qntal, Estampie. The new Silence album (their 2nd) is ready for release, and there will be a maxi single from Distain! with amazing remixes, and other promising things. Well, you have wait and see!
Interview for Henric Nilsson / Prospective Magazine Sweden
(for Issue #Jan.99)