Luca Maini :: Why did you start Hymen back in 1997? Was it because there was stuff you wanted to release that didn’t fit on Ant-Zen?
Stefan Alt :: I would define Hymen Records as a sister-label of Ant-Zen. The idea for this label was born 9 years ago, at a time when a part of the “techno” movement became more experimental and industrial-noise more technoid, which was a logical movement in my point of view, as both genres have a common hypnotizing effect. There was quite a lot of feedback from DJ’s and radio-stations that played Ant-Zen artists’ songs with material from labels like Sahkö, Rephlex, Warp (respect to all of them) and there was the point where it was necessary to split up some concepts. We had collected quite some material for the premier-release on Hymen Records and it took some months to work on the entire concept.
For the vinyl releases I designed a general packaging concept with the basic 12″ cover and stamps for each release, which became a trademark during those years. Some people can’t remember our label name, but they know these records with the stamps. In summer 1997 we had the perfect release to start the label: the Human Relocation LP by Imminent Starvation. This record included everything we had in mind for our concept and we did break the hymen with this release. At the release date, Imminent Starvation performed at the Music In Elektrisch festival in Aachen (by the way –these festivals in Aachen are now named Maschinenfest for some years) with an incredible success. And I still can remember that we were sticking the stamps on the covers during our way to the location.
Our personal tastes in music is even much more wider than the releases on Ant-Zen and Hymen Records. There’s a lot of artists / music we really like, but even when we would have the opportunities, we would never release them because of the concepts of our labels. You can compare the labels like brother and sister. Both grow up in the same family with similar conditions, similar interests and impressions, but there is the time when the younger sister is breaking her hymen and her life is taking her to another direction / to other places than her older brother.
LM :: I think that since the first releases, Hymen sound changed and evolved. Did your taste and choices change or is it electronic music that has changed?
SA :: So far we’ve released the music we want to get released –music and impressions we’ll never forget. We’re working together with different artists all over this planet and in the meantime we have met most of them in person. We found friends we really don’t want to miss, and working together in a creative process expands everyone’s own small universe, which is a very satisfying side effect. That’s probably the basic thing about everything. Of course my personal taste did change during the years and also the artists do different music like 9-10 years ago –on top of that, the profile of the label grew much wider as well. All facts together are the reason for an evolution of the label that I like a lot. The concept itself pretty much remains the same since the beginning, it’s just the style of the music that evolved; much more than even expected. It’s absolutely great to have a platform to release electronica albums in its wide variety of styles.
LM :: Hymen’s very first compilation said “a rough technoid and ambient compilation.” Do you think this definition still fits the label’s output?
SA :: Yes and no.. for sure it does not fit in the original intention, but as I already said, it was another time and for our first compilation it worked out pretty well. I think it would be sad if talented musicians would do the exact same sound for years and years. Fortunately our artists love to explore new territories.
LM :: Many electronic labels nowadays sell releases in MP3 format. You don’t do it for a precise reason? Do you think file-sharing affects sales or does it help in spreading music to a wider audience?
SA :: We’ll have releases on MP3 format pretty soon. To be honest, it took a little bit of time until we found a platform and partner, which allows us to publish the releases with our creativity and the forms we want to have.
LM :: Are there any records published in recent years by other labels that you would have liked to release on Hymen?
SA :: Not really. There are a lot of releases on other labels I really love and nearly all of them are very well done. There are only a few releases where I think it’s sad that the label spent too less attention about the design and packaging.
LM :: You often take care of the artwork and the photos of your releases. I was wondering, do the artists choose their favorite photo sets or do you decide yourself depending on how the music inspires you?
SA :: For the working process –in general, it starts with the theme / title of a release from the artist. Especially with a new artist, the first discussions are always a question/answer game to find out more about the artist himself. Sometimes pictures and texts are sent from the artist or a (different) photographer as well. With the impression of the music I try to work out a concept for the release, which is sometimes not really easy but nevertheless highly interesting. For some themes I have to read some articles or books to understand the full theme of the artist. The designs are discussed with the artist until we have the final layout –it’s a very interesting way of working. Besides this, I’m able to realize quite a lot of my ideas for layout and packaging on my labels.
LM :: From what i know, you’re involved with Ant-Zen, Hymen, Mirex, Delikatessen and U-Cover. How do you manage working on so much material?
SA :: Ant-Zen and Hymen Records are my own releases and I take the labels very personally. With the other labels I’m involved more or less –I own a part or I’m just responsible for the graphic work. I love the work for the labels and I love to work with all people involved. Well… on the other hand I’m sometimes a bit more busy and can’t answer interviews like this in time. (End)
For more info about Hymen Records, visit their website here.
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