Messed!Up

15 years of solidarity and independence: The story of Audiolith Records

J.N. December 5, 2018

One day in May this year we met up with Audiolith label boss Lars Lewerenz in a park in Hamburg, just to have a chat about nothing in particular but enjoying a beer in the green grass and learn to know more about Audiolith.

Honestly, I didn’t know much about the label at the time but since I had an electropunk phase during the first decade of the 2000s I had stumbled upon bands as Egotronic and later 8bit electropunk act Bondage Fairies from Sweden, a band we interviewed earlier this year and got us in touch with Audiolith, but that was basically the only connection I had to label.

A beer later Lars asked us to join him for a Heinz Strunk Spotify premiere party and during those few minutes it took to get to the venue he told us the amazing story about how the legend of Audiolith started already in the 1990s with his connection to Steve Aoki, the founder of legendary Dim Mak Records. “We have to do a story about this” I told the photographer when we went home later that night.

Over the course of a few months we’ve met up with Lars, his colleague and head of Audiolith Booking Artur Schock, with a little interview assistance by fellow colleague Molly Mönch, and the whole Audiolith crew by hanging around their office and joining their meet-up at the Reeperbahn Festival. And it’s not a story about Lars and Artur, they’re merely the spokesmen if you ask them.

This is a story about the Audiolith family and their dedication to what they’ve done during their fifteen yearlong adventure together and still continue to do.

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The story of independent record labels in opposition to the majors isn’t necessarily the story of capitalism versus socialism. It is, instead, the story of capitalism versus intimacy, family, and the potential for iconicity, and the ability to inspire obsession and devotion in the collector and follower, that kind of skill that major labels can’t find by seeking-out answers in record sales.

Since its inception, the do-it-yourself spirit – or simply DIY – in music were often found on the punk scene and took its form in the record companies set up to promote the un-releasable and the uncommercial. It became the most important factor fueling the new subculture of the 1970s and quickly spread out.

Independent record labels, the DIY press, and the DIY venues are what have kept subcultures alive since the arrival of the punk work ethic of the late 1970s. The creation of subcultures has allowed individuals who seek an alternative lifestyle to thrive. DIY record labels, independent press and DIY venues create a social network that allow for music and ideologies to be distributed with low or no budgets. This type social networking allows labels and bands to exist and to travel from city to city playing at DIY venues thus fueling their overall subculture.

This minor lesson about the history of the punk scene and the rise of a DIY ethos, and its importance for the perseverance of subcultures, is essential when you read the story of Audiolith because of their roots in punk music.

Lars didn’t exactly have a master-plan when he founded Audiolith Records, but his background on the punk scene brought a DIY mindset into Audiolith already from the beginning. And with Artur rooted in the crust punk scene it’s not hard to understand the fundament of Audiolith. With the punk ethos as groundwork, Audiolith have built their reputation on music and people they believed in, not necessarily music that audiences ask for.

That’s also where this story sets off, when Lars crossed the Atlantic to San Francisco for a few months of holiday and a break from everyday life in Germany, which made him part of the Dim Mak family that ultimately led to the birth of Audiolith Records and later brought him together with Artur Schock when they crossed roads at Egotronic’s Russian mini-tour in 2005.

From Steve Aoki to the rise of the German electropunk scene

I know that you’ve played in lots of punk bands in the 1990s but how did that transpire into starting your own label? Did it all start off in you working for Steve Aoki on Dim Mak Records in San Francisco? And above all, how did you got in touch with Steve Aoki?
Lars: It certainly was but the last years it actually hasn’t had any impact on of what I’m doing now. What I actually brought with me from Dim Mak was great networking skills, to get connected to music and the people, just being social with people, especially getting connected to the hardcore and punk scenes and that kind of DIY ethos that permeates those scenes.

Before I left the small village where I grew up in 1997, I had a break for three months before I was going to move to Hamburg, and I went with a friend to California for holidays. We came to San Francisco just to go to a few shows and I wanted to see His Hero Is Gone that later changed name to Tragedy, a crust-punk band. We met up with people from the HeartattaCk magazine ran by Ebullition Records in Goleta, Santa Barbara, and met up with this band we organized a show with before we left for holidays in America, a Dutch hardcore band called Seein’ Red, and they invited us to couch-surf in Goleta.

We knew a bit about the local scene already, just some bands and people that invited us to hang around. There was this house, at the time called The Pickle Patch in Santa Barbara, where some people stayed like Steve Aoki, Mike Phyte of Good Clean Fun and the manager of The (International) Noise Conspiracy and a few more, and they were putting up shows in their basement. Every week they had shows in the basement; that’s how I met Steve Aoki.

Just at that point he was starting Dim Mak Records and the first band he released was Stickfigurecarousel, a hardcore band from San Diego, and I’d just bought their seven inch from a guy in Hamburg and I was like “Oh my god, you are the guys on that seven inch I just bought!” (laughs).

He basically started the label to make shows because he met a lot of bands, like Pretty Girls Make Graves and Landslide and a lot of bands nobody knows about today, and he just wanted them to have a place to play.

When I went back to Germany I took a bunch of records with me to distribute here, and that was the start of doing Dim Mak in Europe. When I went back two years later, because of a friend over there, I made this tattoo [showing tattoo], the Dim Mak logo at the time, like a family logo – Steve has the same tattoo. W just went to a tattoo studio in Santa Barbara and made the same one, like a gang sign (laughs).

I released some bands and pressed records for bands like Monochrome, a hardcore band from around Stuttgart, and I went on tour with From Monument To Masses, a math rock band from America. But I pressed all records here in Germany.

This period was somewhere between the end of 1997 and 2002, and within that time his label grew really big because of bands like Bloc Party and MSTKRFT and by then he had a worldwide distribution chain. That basically led to that I didn’t have that kind of connection to the bands as I used to have when I went over to America and met them and learned to know them, and it didn’t make sense to me to work with people I didn’t know.

Since I played in hardcore bands myself at the time I released a split single with my own band Linsay and Stickfigurecarousel, basically the last release I did for Dim Mak, and then I just started Audiolith. Most of my friends I grew up with were done with the hardcore band thing and just started to produce music on computers with trackers and software which wasn’t possible before new technology turned up, and that was basically the start of the electropunk wave.

How did you two meet up? How did you met Lars and ended up on the booking side of things at the label?
Artur: I lived in Bielefeld, a small city in West Germany, and was quite active putting up shows together with other people there, mostly crust punk and hardcore bands but we also did some small festivals. It was because of that we started to look around for something else; only having a festival with crust punk is a bit boring, and we spotted this new electronic punk scene with bands like Räuberhöhle and Egotronic around 2003.

It was punk attitude but the music was electronic and made with really cheap and crappy equipment but it was exciting, so we invited bands like that to play. That’s how we made contact with Audiolith since they were the first label in Germany to put out this kind of music.

By booking these concerts I got touch with Egotronic; the bass player was a good friend of mine and they were going on tour in Russia because some kids there had discovered Egotronic at Soulseek, the file-sharing platform, and they booked Egotronic for two shows in St Petersburg and Moscow.

I just told them “Hey, I’m from Russia and can join as a translator and I can also be your sound technician” but I’d never done that at all before, nothing with sound (laughs). I just thought my chances to get there would be much bigger if I told them I can do something more (laughs).

I went with them to Russia and Lars was there as well since they had released a seven inch on his label. We started in Moscow, to St Petersburg and then back to Moscow again and then we were off to Tjerepovets. Because we basically were travelling all the time, the night trains were really slow, we had quite much time together to talk and drink beers, that’s how we met.

I booked bands by then, and a lot of them were Audiolith bands, and Lars just asked me “You already book a lot of bands, why not do it together?”. He already had the label and sold his own merchandise and I think he has had the idea for a while of doing the booking part under the same brand. That’s how we came together and I started to work for Audiolith and changed the name of my agency to Audiolith Booking.

But we didn’t come from the same scene; he was much more into hardcore and straight edge punk which was a generation before mine, Lars is much older than me (laughs). But we have the same background in how we think, this DIY approach brought in from the punk and hardcore scene and how to build networks with friends; we basically have the same philosophy about how to run things.

Since both of you have a punk background, how did you end up on the electronic scene and those many electropunk releases on Audiolith, especially in the first years?
Lars: The first two or three records are electropunk just because people were done with the hardcore scene, especially done with packing all that gear into a van and get on the road, and we just transferred the same thing to computers. But the attitude was still punk just like Egotronic that come from a hardcore background, they just brought in electronic gear instead.

We released some singer-songwriters but in the beginning it basically was about bringing in a bunch of people from the punk and hardcore scene and do something else but with the same attitude.

Mediengruppe Telekommander was one of the bands at the time that really influenced us because they brought the guitar back to the club. I don’t say that we were the rising star of electropunk music, it was big back in the 1980s too, but there was a revival in the 2000s that we were part of, but it all peaked in 2010.

In 2010 these albums from Egotronic, Bratze and Frittenbrude came out and we were like “What are we going to do to promote the records” and we got this idea from Social Distortion who went on a twentyseven-date tour in an American school bus with another band – they made the documentary “Another State of Mind” about it – and I called Artur in the middle of the night and just screamed “I have this idea, we put those three bands in a fucking bus full of beer and drive to the tiniest places on the countryside” and then try to convince people from INTRO and other magazines to come with us to cover it all (laughs).

We made a plan for six shows but the press were not that interested; INTRO sent some trainee and I was like “What!? We have this thing going on, why don’t you guys come along?” (laughs).

But those records did very good and we sold a lot of them but after that it was like “People is kind of done with this type of music” and it opened up for us that we got into left-wing hip hop like Captain Gips, Neonschwarz and Johnny Mauser, bands that came up around that time.

But basically, everything of what we were releasing opened up; Feine Sahne Fischfilet tagged along, deep house and techno like Rampue and Kalipo, some drum and bass like Brazed. Before this everyone associated us as “Ah, Audiolith do their electropunk thing” but then it all opened up the label because we met a lot of interesting people taking us in new directions. 

Artur: The point is that Audiolith has changed a lot during these fifteen years. When it started it was with the revolution of electropunk and the thought that “Hey, you don’t need to be an electronic gear nerd who knows everything about Ableton’s plug-in’s to make electronic music”, it was enough that you had played in punk bands before.

And that was the thing with it, it was some kind of a second punk revolution where music can be done in the simplest way while you were having fun, especially live with an audience, and it didn’t have to be that arty and complicated, and you didn’t need to think you were the greatest artist ever just because had a fucking band (laughs).

After this first wave it changed and became more political, politics was brought back to music, but that’s also years ago. Now we’re much broader like many other labels. But what I really want to push for is that we’re still one hundred percent independent in an era where major labels again try to build up a hierarchy of sublabels that look like they’re independent but lives off money from the majors. That’s a unique selling point we have!

There’s actually not that many completely independent labels out there with such a broad set of artists on their roster. Many independent labels specialize, just like some labels only release singer-songwriters for instance, but they also have a narrow audience. We have a wide range of fans when you consider how our artist roster looks like.

You also had your own bands and played live with a few bands as ClickClickDecker for instance. When did you decide to make the transition from managing your own band and play with other bands to only be a record label person?
Lars: That thought turned up after I’ve been on tour with ClickClickDecker in 2009 and I realized “Ok, I need to work full-time with the label and spend all weekends at gigs and won’t make much money, just do it for fun”. And at the same time I organized parties at Hafenklang and did DJ sets myself,; in the end it was about priorities in life. It wasn’t fun anymore to work a full week, do a DJ set at Hafenklang on Friday night and go on tour the next two days, so I just stopped doing the Hafenklang parties and left touring life behind.

Around that time time I also got my first son, in 2010, and then it was easier for me to have priorities. I’m 42 years old and it would be stupid to try to be like a young guy, that’s just fooling yourself (laughs). You just have to accept it, and I think it’s good to get older.

I and Jule have stayed together for twenty years now and we’re happy together, and I’m happy with this kind of life. I’ve seen that shit many times with people that just continue where they started and don’t really evolve, they’re stuck in a way. I’m kind of proud to be able to work with music, have a good relationship and two kids. Of course it sill happens that you get a few beers too many but if your job destroys your private life it’s not worth it.

Creativity for me today is to work with bands and help them out, just being creative with ideas instead. There’s just so much music out there that I can’t keep up with it anymore.

How to start a label at the industry’s all time low

2002 is the year when the recording industry, the record labels, hit rock bottom. People didn’t buy music anymore because of the massive rise of peer-to-peer networks starting at the end of the 1990s and had a peak year in 2002. Napster, Kazaa, BearShare and Gnutella is just a few of those many opportunities you had to download music for free during the first years of this century. And legislation couldn’t cope with the rapid progress of technology, making every legal attempt to put “online robbery” to a halt completely useless. IFPI Germany even claims that 46 million albums were downloaded illegaly in 2005.

At this point in time when the overall industry experienced the worst financial situation since the rock and roll revolution in 1950s, Lars starts Audiolith. But rather than seeing Internet as a threat, there were lots of opportunities for sharing music when you start with a very low budget and just want your releases to reach an audience.

How did you come up with the idea to start a record label in the beginning of the 2000s when every label struggled hard to stay on the market after music became digitalized? That’s a very bold move.
Molly: The label started at the lowest point when literally nobody was buying music and when I was in my teenage and it was totally normal to not buy music and everybody was downloading it. One person would buy the CD and the rest of the class would make copies of it.

And because Audiolith started at the worst point possible it could only become better. But we didn’t had this thing that the labels starting in the 1990s had, remembering the golden days and trying to make millions, we never had that mindset.

Lars: The so-called music industry had to face a massive problem with illegal file-sharing especially in Napster and tried to sue everyone, but they just didn’t understand that it would never work out.

For us Internet was a blessing; while those old labels said “The Internet is the devil” we were like “Ok, with no money we can do everything through Internet”. If you consider that I was into the hardcore scene which was about meeting people all over the world and exchange stuff, this was like a magic stick to use to make connections with people easier.

We had an idea and a bunch of people willing to work, we had good music that reached out to people and it was just like doing it yourself as I did it before. There was never the idea to become a big label or something, it was all about reaching out to people with music that would touch them emotionally. Everybody can do it but if you don’t get people emotionally connected it’s just crap and you can throw out all your records.

I always compare having a label, working with artists and their brands, selling merchandise, publishing, booking concerts and releasing records, to a “gesellschaft” [no English translation can make this word justice] and the democracy we’re living in right now. How you can combine everything and still make it into a good everyday work life and not always live with pressures of being on top of things all the time, just like “What have I achieved so far and how can I build on it?”. Sometimes I just think less is more.

But you never felt it to be a huge financial risk in the beginning that you wouldn’t get any money back from the albums you invested in?
Lars: I’ve always collected seven inches of hardcore bands but I always bought a lot of CD’s just to be able to listen to music in the car but it’s not about the format, it’s about the vibe and how the music touches you in lyrics and stuff like that. I’ve always thought it’s about the essence of the lyrics and what people have to say and how it affects our everyday life.

If you press like five hundred of a thousand copies it’s just money you put in and it was never like “I put in this much money and have to get this amount back”, I just did it because I found it necessary to get this music out to people.

If you walk down the memory lane a bit and think of the development of the label in terms of how the label has grown bigger, when did you reach the point where you realized that this will actually work out? I guess you must have had an ordinary work in the beginning.
Lars: Yes! When I came back from California I moved from the countryside to Hamburg to do my civil service for thirteen months alongside playing in bands and doing Dim Mak, and after that I was doing some kind of education to become a social educator for three years, finishing in 2002. And I started to work with a guy in a wheelchair and did that between 2003 and 2007, but alongside that I built up Audiolith.

In 2007 I just thought I was done with that job and Audiolith had started to work out well enough and I thought I could live off it. The Agentur für Arbeit helped me out with a business plan and I got some financial support on yearly basis, and I could afford to quit my job, moved the Audiolith office out of my living room into an office at Karostar right across the plaza from Knust, the same building you’ll find Hanseplatte today. It wasn’t more than eighteen square-meters but enough space for my laptop and the records. From that point everything kind of evolved quickly.

And as Artur said, we met two years earlier on a tour with Egotronic and Plemo in Russia when he did the translation work. He was already then booking shows for bands as Egotronic and a lot of other bands I was working with and we just put the booking agency and the label together, and in 2008 I started Audiolith Publishing as well. From that point it started to grow and today we’re twelve full-employed in the staff.

We moved away from Karostar in 2011 to where we are today, at Holstenkamp, because we have a bit more space there.

But is this thing of doing it all by yourself the way to make it possible to get around financially as an independent label today?
Lars: I realized quite soon that physical and digital records didn’t work out, at least weren’t enough, as a way to get bands and their music out to people. Around the time the label started to take off it also became some kind of a brand in itself, we didn’t do a shit for it to happen. Someone just said “Hey guys, you have a brand” and I was like “Fuck the brand”, and then we made this t-shirt “Fuck Audiolith”.

We used all this together, and having everything in the same building – the label, booking agency and publishing – made it more complex but at the same time much better for everyone.

And I guess the Audiolith brand in itself is important for running the label as well.
Lars: That’s money that gives us the opportunity to work with bands that don’t sell 2 000 records and just not give up on them when their first album didn’t do well enough.

The brand is like a financial backup that allow us to work on stuff at long-term basis.

How different is it to run Audiolith today? The digital community has evolved a lot with social media opportunities. How different is it in terms of releasing records, promoting bands and to communicate with people?
Artur: I almost started when it already was a hundred percent digital because our best promo was on Soulseek where people were trying to download our music illegally.

But it has changed and is different, today it’s easier to earn money on digital music. For us it was really good and for some bands MySpace and Soulseek were great opportunities where people could discover their music, and many of our bands got quite big that way without huge budgets for promotion. And today, with Spotify, it’s even better and you don’t worry about illegal downloading anymore.

But in a way I’m not sure if that has changed much to me, it’s pretty much the same but with other platforms.

Lars: When it comets to promotion in the beginning I did it all by myself and at times I worked with promotion labels, but always became upset because I could pay 2 000€ and you just got a sheet that said “Nobody is interested in your music”. Then we decided to get Crissie in, our in-house promotion person, to do all that stuff in social media for instance. When it comes to bigger releases we use external promotion services but we really try to do as much on our own as possible. That’s our DIY ethos.

“Nobody wants to work with assholes”

Finding the perfect music to chime with the expectations and desires of a passionate audience is a careful balancing act between the familiar and the new, the artistic and the commercial – for most labels.

From being known as the label introducing Germany to electropunk, the sound of Audiolith has opened up and today you’ll find everything in between deep house to hip hop and electropunk.

But for Audiolith there’s more to it and just having a few good tunes isn’t good enough. You don’t have to be too concerned with imperfections in the playing, providing the feel for the people behind it is right; working with bands and artists is about working with people and just like everyone you always want to work with nice people and not those making work days much harder than they have to be.

Since the kind of music you release has opened up today and goes beyond the electropunk scene, what doesn’t fit into the Audiolith catalogue?
Lars: I’m definitely the type that listen to everything we release. We only had two bands that have split up, but that’s natural, and we have cut out two bands in fifteen years because we didn’t get along and we just decided “Ok, let’s go separate ways then”.

It always comes down to that I have to love the music, but the most important thing is that I have to like the people behind it. When I don’t like the people, it won’t be fun to work together just like in everyone’s everyday life; nobody wants to work with assholes (laughs).

People send us a lot of demos but we’re not looking for bands, we’re meeting people in the first place and when we share the same ideas and visions and like their music, then we start working together. I’m not like that kind of traditional A&R guy who goes to shows and is like “What a bloody good band!”. Just take Bratze for example with members from ClickClickDecker and Der Tante Renate that were about to release an album; I sent the album to the pressing plant without listening to it because I like the people and was so sure it would be a good album (laughs).

Compare it to this other band that complained about everything and only was a problem; the sound was bad, the light was bad and everything was bad, and I was like “You always blame everything and everyone else when you’re the problem, and that’s why I can’t work with you”. That’s why I usually say that if people and bands don’t have an idea of what they want to do from the start it won’t work out because I’m not that kind of A&R or manager type of person who will form a band and say “Ok, you need to look like this and dress like that”.

I’ve always liked people with ideas and visions who love to do what they do just because of the love of it and want to get it out to people, and I want to help them out with that. It doesn’t matter how many records they sell.

Take Rampue for instance, the house/techno producer who started in 8bit music, and we built his brand over the course of three to four years because he’s a great guy, and he grew into his productions and became internationally well-known, and now he has played at Burning Man three times.

We just keep doing what we believe in and don’t care about the money although it can be a luxury problem at times, but it’s worth much more to keep dreaming and work hard to make those dreams come true.

You mean you don’t get involved at all in what the bands do, for example by sharing some advice about festivals to play and that kind of things?
Lars: No, not at all. I guess we have talked about things at times but not much.

When I started I just worked with the layout, pressed the records and then brought it to the stores, but today it has got kind of complex in terms of planning everything. Of course you need to have an idea for the visual performance as well and we talk about it at times with the bands, how they want to represent themselves in videos, how they want to look on stage, if they’re going to do playback shows and how you represent yourself in interviews.

You can say I’m coaching them by asking a lot of questions because as an artist you don’t just do music, you have to have a story behind what you do and if they don’t have it I can help them out with that part. Sometimes it feels like I’m just talk about things compared to twelve years ago when I just brought the master to the pressing plant, and that was it (laughs).

Social media of course makes it easier today. It’s not so much about the money but you need to have time and a good idea about how to reach out to people, for example having a good story when you release a new album to boost the pre-sale. That’s the major part of being a label today, being creative and create those stories.

But even if social media makes it way much easier it also got so much out of hand that you can do everything or nothing. With some bands for instance we just release the albums and don’t do any promotion at all because the music itself and the network around it takes care of it; sometimes when you do press work nothing happens anyway. There’s no universal way to do it; every release, every album, is something new and you can’t use the same ideas as you did when you released an album five years ago.

I understand it that you have somewhat different positions at Audiolith but I guess both of you have a lot to say about everything at the label just like which bands you will put out.
Artur: Mostly we do. I trust Lars much since he’s been doing this for a hundred years (laughs) and has a really good taste in music. As Lars said, even if he’s not a traditional A&R guy who picks the bands and say “Yeah, I’m going to make you big, here’s the contract” he has a history of picking the right bands for Audiolith. There’s so many bands starting their careers at Audiolith, not the top chart artists but artists that got a hype and today live off their music because of what happened at Audiolith, and that’s not usual.

Maybe both of us have changed a bit. It’s not like a few years back when we were like “We have a new artist, let’s make an album and press 2 000 copies” and then never sell them (laughs); today we start a bit more carefully and maybe do one digital release or just one single or put a video to see the response before we do something bigger.

How much effort do you put in trying to reach out to an international market with Audiolith’s bands? Or is it even a goal?
Artur: Yes, especially when it comes to touring. At the booking label we have many electronic artists that play worldwide but Audiolith is recognized differently depending on where you are. In the US for instance they associate Audiolith with artists like Rampue and that kind of slow house thing which is completely different from Germany where we’re associated with hip hop and left-wing music. And that’s the thing with our roster; we have many electronic artists just doing DJ sets and don’t go on stage as live acts, others are live bands.

It would be really interesting to release our records in the US but we need to work up our English-singing acts a bit first since they’re not that well-known yet.

Audiolith in the 2020s: The love of music, the love of people and staying positive

In June Audiolith celebrated their 15th anniversary by setting up the mini-festival “Fuck the Pullis!” in a festival tent at Schanzenzelt in Hamburg. After fifteen years on the German music scene with no sign of slowing down at all, rather the contrary, and with a label brand known nation-wide there’s time to have a peek into the future and what possibly can be the next step for Audiolith. Above all, how do Lars and Artur want the legacy of Audiolith to be written.

If you look at the near future, what will happen at Audiolith the next five years up until your 20th anniversary party? You have been quite successful during your first fifteen years but what’s the plan for the next five years?
Lars: That’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot. This documentary by Christine Franz about the Sleaford Mods really touched me, the whole thing about how they do things with a friend taking care of their label and how they became signed by Rough Trade.

I sometimes say to Jule that I’ll never sell the brand to a major label. I’d rather smash it into the wall and make it fall into pieces and we’ll be back from where we started again, and I’ll return to my work as social educator for kids. That’s what I’ve been thinking about concerning Audiolith’s future; keeping the attitude, the spirit of the label and sticking up for your ideals, just like some people try to make the world a better place to live.

I don’t want to get stuck in that kind of thought like “More records, more bands, more people working at the label, more promotion”. Being creative and healthy is necessary and important, and to keep some common sense and not think of music in terms of genres or what people want to listen to.

Solidarity has always been important to me and will be in the future as well, especially how everything looks like today where solidarity seems to get lost in society. We never intended to build the label as a family but that’s how it grew and we want to keep it like that, a place where people talk to each other and share creative ideas with each other.

I hate the word success; for me it’s when you just talk in numbers and how many records you sell but you don’t have a social bond with people around you. The social network is the backbone of Audiolith, that’s our success, and you can’t put a price on that. That’s what we want to build on in the future as well.

We have been doing this for fifteen years, releasing records and selling merchandise, and learned a lot about promotion and how to boost our brand, but we still can’t predict what the future holds for us. Can we still be creative enough? Can we keep up with the speed everything is developing? Can we connect to those young people growing up with being online all the time? I sometimes think that that’s the main disease of them all, being stuck online all the time, but we need to adapt to that.

And we want to make an impact as well and bring people’s political views into to the label’s attitude. Just like the money we got from the bingo event at Fuck the Pullis! that went straight to charity and a political cause we believe in. You have to have something to say, otherwise you will just be yet another techno label taking drugs and partying all night (laughs). If you have the power to make a difference, then you should use it.

What would you like to be the label’s legacy?
Molly: One of the first things Lars said was that he doesn’t want to work with assholes, that’s one of his foundations. You can do your thing and don’t have to succumb to do it the way everyone does it, just seek-out people who you like and trust and do your thing independent from what the market says.

Lars: I met this guy at the Millerntor Gallery, the label boss of Bear Family Records and I was like “You’re the guy from Bear Family Records!” and Jule just said “Who’s that guy?”, and I went “Don’t you know Bear Family Records?”. He’s like seventy years old and I just wanted to have a selfie with him (laughs).

I never bought any of those boxes he released but the ideas he had about working with creative output, the way he documented bands, deserves a lot of respect. It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t my type of music but it’s so inspiring for me, especially when I try to explain what Audiolith is about. When people say “What is Audiolith about by the way?” and I try to explain it like we want to make a historical imprint and put things out with a timestamp, just like releasing any album in 2010 that represents a part of the music history which hopefully inspires people to document music in similar ways.

Ultimately they get influenced and also do what they believe in and don’t care about the money, just make the world a better place whatever they document. That’s what I hope I can do, inspire people to stay positive and do the same thing in the future.

In that small village where I grew up people were kind of pessimistic and just whined about things. We, the young people, were into skateboarding so we built a ramp and went around Germany and met a lot of people and built networks. That’s the point, to stay open-minded, talk to people and stay positive. At times you even have to rethink what you are yourself just to stay open-minded about things.

So, if people would say all these good things about me and Audiolith, then I know we’ve done something right and have something good to be remembered for.

Artur: My thought is that we hopefully can bring political and social issues back onto the music scene and to protect what we came from; the DIY scene and those values that belong to that scene. It’s about to disappear in society in general because of the pressures that comes with neo-liberalism, forcing you to work long days to lousy pay and put you in a position where you need to have more than one job.

That kind of culture is important to keep and protect.

That said, it’s not too ambitious to see Audiolith reach its 30th anniversary as well?
Lars: No! It will probably go back and forth depending on the music market but we will be there. You need to understand that the people working at Audiolith don’t do it because they get huge salaries. Sure, you need to pay people for their work but everyone could work at other jobs and get much more than on Audiolith and just switch off their work day when they go home, but they’re still at Audiolith because they’re die hard music fans and really love to do what they do.

That’s how Audiolith always have been, without any specific plan of how things should be. Bands and people working at Audiolith just ended up there organically, it just happened!

It’s not always fun to run a label; when it comes to taxes and that stuff you need to take care to not get fucked by the state; you can’t go like “Don’t worry about the money” because when they turn up at the door it will be over. You need to take care of those things.

But it’s luxury problems; we have lots of support by people who are really interested in our music and they grow up with us and they’re still around and can say something like “Ten years ago I grew up with Egotronic and I still listen to them”, and that’s amazing! I grew up with Take That and I don’t listen to them today (laughs). But that’s the fundament of Audiolith, we are growing with the people and something really bad has to happen to destroy what we’ve built because the groundwork is fixed – the love of music, the love of people and staying positive.


Photographer: ©Julia Schwendner
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About The Author

Music researcher with an unhealthy passion for music and music festivals. Former studio owner, semi-functional drummer and with a fairly good collection of old analogue synthesizers from the 70's. Indie rock, post rock, electronic/industrial and drum & bass (kind of a mix, yeah?) are usual stuff in my playlists but everything that sounds good will fit in.

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