MICROVIEW :: Alejandra + Aeron (Lucky Kitchen)

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Igloo: I smell something cooking…could it be coming from the Lucky Kitchen? Thanks for taking some time to chat with me. I had the great opportunity to visit your lovely city last year, so regal and expansive, and some of the best food I have ever had! Maybe I understand your name. How are things in Barcelona, and what is in a name like Lucky Kitchen anyway?

Alejandra + Aeron / Lucky Kitchen: We began Lucky Kitchen in New York City in late 1996 with a third partner, Daniel Raffel. We all went to Chinatown to eat, shop, absorb very often. We especially loved how Chinese names translated into English often had this awkward auspicious quality. Joy Luck Dragon, Happy Prosperity Number 8, etc. For our project, we combined a couple restaurant names. We took the name to London when we moved there in 1999, but it didn’t make sense, no luck in a British kitchen! But it makes sense here in Barcelona.

Igloo: You have or are currently working with Lasse Marhaug, Joshua Abrams, Steven Vitiello and Tetsu Inoue with Andrew Deutsch and Stephan Mathieu – all quite respected composers in their own right. What is it like working with emerging artists who may have since exploded on to the electronic music scene? Do you feel as sound curators that you play a role in assisting the launch of some musician’s careers? You call your series Sparking Composers – can you expand on that?

A+A: We would like to believe we are assisting artists by placing a respectable frame around their work, and sending it out into the world. Overall, we can’t pay much attention to whether or not the work explodes into the scene, it is a tricky game, mostly economic driven even at this level. We would prefer to maintain ourselves at the edges. We release music by people we respect, friends, and sometimes, complete strangers, who come to be friends. We support the music-sound-art we love. We hope everyone does well, but that is secondary in a way. In the most recent case, Asuna from Tokyo, we made his very first CD release. And although the west has been resistant to try it, he is doing very well in Japan. He is getting show offers, release offers, interviews and really a lot of attention from the Japanese music fans. We are proud to have stood behind his work, and we are sure at some point the west will catch up with it. But these factors could not determine whether or not we would publish it.

Sparkling Composers is our recent full length CD series. We ask solo or small groups of composers whose work addresses narrative and offers a bridge between electronic and acoustic. Aside from Asuna already mentioned, we are making the second Joshua Abrams CD (Town and Country bassist), Lasse Marhaug electronic soundscapes from Norway, and two new “post-jazz” groups from Chicago. (Who Cares How Long You Sink, and Unclocked) The jazz CDs are exciting for us, since we have never worked before with this genre. But the music fits really well with the series; they are composed improvisation pieces, and really electronic sounding in a great way.

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Igloo: Hear, hear! Good for your ears and mine! You make music yourselves, which is not uncommon these days to be in a position of promoting the very genre you work in. I, myself, am a visual artist, curator and critic and sometimes have to coordinate my brain accordingly. How do you make sound as opposed to the selection process of producing what you see as quality electronic music?

A+A: We started the label to find a home for our own sound work, and to support work we thought was neglected in some way. So, that is what we are still doing. We try to treat each artist the way we would like to be treated (sometimes making mistakes…). Lately, we have been trying to select music-sounds, which are not close to how we sound, ie. Post-jazz. But overall, the selection and creation are not so different.

Igloo: Can you talk about your own sound work a bit? And how it relates to the work you represent….

A+A: Our work is happily always developing, but generally speaking we are interested in the following ideas…narrative, how sound can suggest, or outright tell, a story or description. Acoustic-digital, the point where they meet and exist, developing each other –Subjective documentary, or finding a balance between first person and critical distance, especially in dealing with geography. Filmic space, somewhere between music and film, our work doesn’t pretend to be anything but what it is.

Our work relates to the work we promote in that something has captured our imagination, and convinced us with its own version of reality. We are attracted to lush simplicity.

Igloo: What is the worst and/or best critical quote that has been written about one of the releases on your label? If you don’t care to share – how would you describe the mission of Lucky Kitchen?

A+A: The worst critical responses come regularly a few times a year. Whenever a writer (that is a generous term for some of the people writing about music) is condescending because we are not as large as other labels, or that our artists are not superstars, it is not only insulting, but it misses the point of the work (a gentle support of the subtle side of audio). We very rarely get outright bad reviews, it is usually the placement of the review which gives the true viewpoint of the magazine: the small column, the out column, weird space, etc.

We have had many very thoughtful and constructive reviews in the past. The one we remember now was in Stylus Magazine on our CD on Orthlorng Musork called Bousha Blue Blazes. More than anything, it was just a passionate response to the work reaching the kind of depth every artist needs every now and again. Oh, and we had a very rigorous article recently on Lucky Kitchen in general in the French art magazine, Musica Falsa.

Mission…(a gentle support of the subtle side of audio) also, our aesthetic is very specific…

Igloo: OK. Curators certainly do have a slant, I know this –and your comments about writers in general are very welcome (and true). I hear from so many people who actually read music journalism about composer-driven electronic music that sometimes the word is not heard. And often gets blurred, just plain lost in translation. When I write I hope to express a sense of physical aesthetics in the work, as it exists in space, based on the very basic principals of art making. What you do as a smaller, independent label is often looked at as very specialized and “high art”, at least to me, as opposed to what might be pumped out by Columbia, or some of the majors – of which only a few true artists ever slip through the cracks – its all one big production machine and I think most people in the business of promoting experimental work that takes risks, they know this, and in some way it becomes part of the motivation to do what they do. Given this view – outside of a “preaching to the converted” approach (college radio, ‘zines, other independent media) to having the work you represent reach an audience, how can labels who produce the quality work you do reach out to an international audience? Is the Internet our big hope for the future of communicating the message of sound? With major labels crying “foul” over music rights over intellectual property and such (and to support their annual residuals that help them to afford fat lifestyles) vs. the small independent labels making their sounds available for free MP3 downloads – where is the reasoning when it comes to simply making the art publicly available?

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A+A: Oh my! – a big question to answer…to simplify a little bit, we just say that we cannot be responsible for our audience after the CD leaves our house. We cannot compete with the big music industry, and we cannot really compete with the smaller, but equally vicious underground college scene, so we stopped trying. We just keep following our path, trying to stay upright. We get a wide base of support, in flux, but we never feel alone.

The Internet makes things even on many levels, but overall it is the same hierarchy. Although everyone with a connection can go to luckykitchen.com as easy as going to mtv.com. The big companies already have the exposure; people are attracted to the familiar. I myself read the NY Times online regularly, when I could be going to several smaller, better, or at least more interesting news sites. What can labels do to reach out? Keep doing what they do without worrying about the results. Try not to get too bitter. Support some smaller, interesting work, at least occasionally. Don’t make releases for the music magazines or concert promoters.

Igloo: Amen! I know if you did I probably would pass on writing about it myself. You can always hear the ring to copycats, blasé fads and other commercialist poo-poo. What artists are taking risks with sound/noise composition these days? Are there any new emerging artists to watch for? How does Spain fare in the greater international electronic sound community?

A+A: There are many people taking risks, but very few coming back to make a truly compelling piece of work. Steve Roden is always making great work. Of course we love the latest releases on LK. Minamo in Japan is great, great live too. There are some Basque artists lately working very hard. There has been some great organization of concerts and performances in the Basque Country lately (north central Spain, Bilbao, San Sebastian etc.) Barcelona has a lot of hype, but really we live here because of the quality of life, not because of any scene. There are good things and bad things about music in the city, but the worst part is the mimicry of styles already worn out in the international level, and all the horrible, horrible Eurotrash dance music.

Igloo:: Yea. Eurotrash (interesting term) – it all reminds me of the bloated part of the 80’s and is just plagaristically ripped from the pages that we have turned. I think I may have liked the sound of it for a New York minute – but my interest has quickly faded. So, let’s just move on shall we? Is music in the 21st Century bound to be strictly digital? How has the laptop revolutionized or threatened the evolution or extinction of stringed, keyed or even brass instruments in our time and into the future? How do you feel the MP3 will effect the next format of music? Should everyone just get an Ipod and ditch the disc?

A+A: NO. There are too few people in the world with access to computers etc. in comparison to number of musicians. Also, everyone still loves that string sound, it is part of us. If a computer is used to move it around, fine, but it is still acoustic on some levels. MP3 is killing CD sales, and changing the idea of a finished work of music, but these points are not earth shattering. Ipods are better now that they have larger storage space, but Minidiscs can record from the air, it is important for people to remain active instead of merely passive.

Igloo: I’m curious about the next phase in your kitchen – your new recipes? What releases do you have in store and will there be any real surprises? Beyond releasing the fixed music – how else do you get further involved with the sound community? Do you promote concerts or present arts related installations and the like? I had the great opportunity of visiting Cold Creation gallery when in Barcelona, where they incorporate multi-media with sound and interactivity. Do you guys have time to do any of this or do you work day jobs as bankers or sales clerks?

A+A: We plan softer, more acoustic, less electronic, more narrative works… but we will see! We used to promote concerts but it is not so fun. Our own work is sound installation using drawing, constructed form and audio to communicate narrative. We have been showing in museums and galleries around the world including ICC Tokyo, Ex Teresa Mexico, Changing Room Scotland, OK Center of Contemporary Art, Austria. This year we are doing solo shows at Archipel-Museum of Contemporary Art Geneva, Serralves Contemporary Art Center, Oporto Portugal, and Arteleku, Donostia, Spain. In fact, we have been making our living for several years making art! We try to get out to see shows, but we are busy making work ourselves, and reading the newspaper, eating in with friends, watching movies…

Igloo: Wow – that’s a full life! I need to find an earthly way to collaborate with you guys. I am working on my very first residency in Europe – for Cologne, in the Fall – and there are still so many, many loose ends. Can you give an emerging artist advice as to how to work with and locate organizations outside of your own region? What’s the magic to helping those non-profits and other arts agencies and institutions to educate them on the possibilities of this growing sound culture that incorporates multimedia?

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A+A: You can pour through the Internet and send proposals. Ask people about regional art foundations, culture groups etc., otherwise it is pretty much a question of chance and luck. We rarely get anything we apply for, we are usually approached by curators and promoters who have projects, concerts, open spaces etc. and want us to do something. This can be very nerve wracking when we haven’t been working in a while, and we just have to wait until the next museum contacts us. Again, same as with making a record label, you just have to keep going, keep making the work you want to make, be professional when necessary, make decent photo records, write good statements, etc. and hope everything comes together. Arts funding in Europe, as we know, is much stronger than in the USA. At the same time, they have their strings pulled pretty tight. Also, curators and arts institutions are very egotistic in that they don’t like to be approached. They prefer to select. They are usually open to learn new things, but only on their own terms. Maybe they are not so different than anyone else…

Igloo: What else can you say that you haven’t said before?

A+A: Here’s hoping Bush gets whipped at the next elections.

Igloo: Well, I am from Boston, home of John Kerry, a real born leader who seems to care about things like, the environment, international relations with ally nations and the general economy of the poor to middle class. Maybe things will change a bit…here’s hoping. Thanks for what you do and just keep on keeping on!

A+A: Hope Kerry kicks butt! (too bad about Kucinich, but his ideas are about
150 years too early.) All the best from under a fat moon in Barcelona.

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