Tuesday, July 19, 2011

INTERVIEWS: Jan Matthias (Yo-Yo Records)

Whenever I think of “DIY” one man comes to mind; Jan Matthias of Yo-Yo Records. For the last 11 years Jan has been putting out amazing records by the bands I love, booking tours for the bands I love, driving the bands I love and generally being the best dude in the world! A few months ago my friend asked me to contribute something for her zine, and I couldn't think of anyone else better to interview than Jan. This is what he had to say...

For those not in the know, what is Yo-Yo Records?
Yo-Yo Records is one person, living in a small and packed bedroom/storage room in Berlin and spending too much money and time on releasing records.

What motivated you to start your own record label?
I grew up in a sleepy village in south west Germany. It was incredibly boring there, nothing was going on at all. So I started doing shows with a few friends to get more people interested in the music we liked, which didn't work out. A little later I started the label because there were still not enough people there to form a band.

How would you describe a Yo-Yo records sound? What sort of band grabs your attention, and makes you want to release their music?
Personally I think I've put out a lot of different music, or at least i like to think that! I at least like a lot of different music, so it's not so much a sound. It's more an attitude I guess and it's all about who you know. Maybe that's also something I like to think.

In a day and age where bands are labels are opting to release their music digitally, what do you think is the future for record labels such as Yo-Yo? Will Yo-Yo ever release a digital only release?
Almost everything I ever put out is on vinyl. If there was an option I also released stuff on CD format in the past but vinyl was always the main priority. I think people will always like vinyl because it looks nice, smells nice, fucks up your back when you're moving house and is incredibly bad for the environment. So you can listen to poppy music and still claim to live a no-future punk lifestyle, I think I'll keep putting out actual physical records.

Where do you stand on illegally downloading music? Do you feel it has an impact on how your records sell?
I run a punk label! If you put out 300 seven inches you should definitely not care about sales. It's a quite expensive hobby anyways. If people like something and are willing to buy it they'll still do. It’s a very positive development in my opinion to have access to music so easily. You can find all these obscure hardcore singles online now. You can listen to Moss Icon, Judge, The Lookouts or Jawbreaker without spending ridiculous amounts on the original records. It helps smaller bands a lot because people actually get a chance to listen to them! It might also have a positive effect on how a punk or hardcore "scene" works. It gets easier for people to get in contact with this kind of music and hopefully also lowers to barriers of getting involved in shows etc.

The last few releases have been pretty unique in appearance (for example, the Iron Chic and RVIVR records being screenprinted on the one side etc). What influenced you to start adding an “arty” concept to the records you've been releasing?
You know, I live in Berlin. Everything here is very arty. We even say something "is very Berlin" here! But to be honest I have to disappoint you. The reason the Iron Chic is a one sided LP with a screenprint is just the fact that the music wouldn't have fit on a single. It's not a new concept it's just a necessity ...

Do you think that art is equally as important as the records content?
Yes actually I do. Now you would say "why have you release records with such an ugly art". Well you're right. Sometimes it doesn't work out and you'll do something you don't think is that perfect but in general I like a interesting artwork.

What are your favourite releases on the label? Are there any records in the Yo Yo catalogue you feel are overlooked?
I feel the I Farm album "Sincerely, Robots" is very overlooked. Maybe it’s because the artwork doesn't look that good... but the music is great! It’s probably one of my favourite records ever. Go get it! You'll find it online somewhere.
What should I say? Of course I love the records I've put out! But over the last 11 years while I've been running the label my musical taste has changed a bit so I might not be happy with all the records as I was at the point when they came out. Also, sometimes when a band disappoints you personally it might have an effect on how you feel about their music. Besides that, I always think the most recent record is the best! Which would be the last Deny Everything single in that case.

What is the most rewarding thing from running a label?
That's a good question. Label work is a lot of boring work. I like finding a record that I've put out in somebodies record collection. That's the best! It's even better when it's on another continent!

What's next for Yo Yo? Do you have any interesting releases/plans in the pipeline?
I also do some tour booking and with that I have a couple of things coming up. A tour with Worn In Red, Attack! Vipers! and OK Pilot, I’m also putting out a 3-way split for this tour. I’ve got a tour with Iron Chic in May and then the final tour of Thousandaires before they split up. Besides this we'll see what's coming up next year.

Last question, how would you sum up DIY in your own words?
DIY, it's a pretty fun way of self exploitation for a scene that's a zombie.

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