One of the tricks growing up in a Presbyterian Sunday School was that for every phenomenon needing an explanation, "Jesus" would serve as the correct answer in class. And interestingly enough, the same trick works in 2012 - although the correct metaphysical solution is now the "Internet" - and can be used to explain, besides nearly everything, the recent exponential proliferation of music labels. And as any cut-rate university microeconomics course will tell you, as the supply continues to increase (in numbers and bandwidth), the price point continues to slide towards zero. Which is exactly why it's always fascinating talking to the brave souls who risk time and expense releasing music, and pick their brain as to what it means to release music in the 21st century.
Enter Brian Simon, aka Anenon. Beginning with an intense love affair with the saxophone, an internship at the seminal Alpha Pup label, and a journey through music theory and history at UCLA, Anenon landed himself at the foot of his own burgeoning label inspired by the electronic sounds of his friends in the LA area. His Non Projects imprint has racked up six physical releases so far, with a handful to see the light of day soon, including his forthcoming Acquiescence EP (containing music all recorded at the Red Bull Music Academy in Madrid, by the way). We caught up with him somewhere in between Ethiopian food with Daedelus and an unpleasant trip to the ominously titled Los Angeles Office of Finance. Read our interview below.
How are you feeling?
Good. I played a show in one of the scuzziest spaces I've ever seen the other night. One of my best sets though, I think. There must be a correlation between the level of scuzz and artistic achievement.
You've got an EP coming out. What's the story?
Indeed. Acquiescence is the name and it's a companion piece to my upcoming LP which is titled Inner Hue. The entirety of the EP stems from recordings that I made in Madrid at the Academy - mostly grand piano and saxophone playing - and is really inspired by the surroundings and amazing people that I shared my time with there. The EP really came out of nowhere though - I came back from a month in Europe (two weeks at the Academy, two weeks touring) jet-lagged out of my mind, and then straight into a break-up upon return home. Dealing with all of the personal turmoil basically turned into me making this EP in about a week's time, so that was the light at the end of the tunnel. It's still been the hardest one-sheet I've had to write for Non Projects thus far. How do I describe my own music in a thoughtful and poignant manner without being too biased? A little bias isn't so bad, right?
Now, can you talk a bit about your label, Non Projects? You started it in 2009.
I see Non Projects as a haven for artists like myself that don't feel comfortable being labelled as this sound or that sound. I seek out musicians and producers who are truly doing their own thing and who don't worry about trends or current hype, but are more into finding and continually developing their own voice. Music that transcends our current environment and that re-affirms us that it's nice to be alive.
What does running a label in a digital environment mean for you?
It means ruining my vision by staring at the computer screen for hours on end, mostly. But seriously, it's a crazy, crazy world in our little laptops, and we're all trying to find our way. It's nice to be able to get information out there quickly, but the state of increased clutter is making it even more apparent how important it is to bring the music and the vibes to fans and listeners in real life situations.
On your website, you mention ECM as an influence on the label. What about that label speaks to you? What is your favorite ECM release?
I've always loved labels that are able to pull off a unified feel with each release even if the music is always different. ECM is the epitome of that. And there is always such a level of quality in their presentation from both high fidelity sound to artwork. Also, the way Manfred Eicher as a producer is able to coax the musicians into making some of their most personal music speaks to me very highly. ECM's output from the 70s and 80s is some of my favorite stuff ever.
And what else is an influence on your music personally?
The people that I spend my time with are becoming a huge influence on my music. The subconscious effects of navigating the city of LA on a daily basis, as well. Cinema, books, visual art are also very important. I try not to be too influenced by other music on anything more than a technical or inspirational level. I don't think that the ability to make your own personal music comes entirely from listening to other people's music - it's only a small piece of the puzzle.
Your label is dedicated to releasing records from LA artists. Can you describe what the merits of LA-centricsm are? What exactly is the LA sound?
To be completely honest, this mission statement is becoming a bit dated now. As much as I love LA, and especially after experiencing the Academy, I think I'm kind of stuck on the idea of building a global village. Bringing in artists with different world views, ideals, sounds and vibes is becoming increasingly important to me and one of our newer artists, whom I can't really announce yet, aren't from LA. With that being said, LA is incredibly diverse in sound and there are plenty of groups of people who are doing beautiful things with sound. Beats, experimental, ambient, it's all happening here, and I think the lines between these genres or sounds are becoming blurred. We just want beautiful noise.
What are you excited about for the year ahead?
Well, obviously to release my debut EP and LP, alongside other amazing projects for the label. To hopefully travel as much, if not more than I did last year, exciting and inspiring times with friends, eating amazing food everywhere I go, savoring the little things really - they come and go so quickly.
Lastly, out of curiousity, can you give a prophetic prediction of the year 2050? Are we in cultural decline? Is everything in the ether? War? Famine? Utopia?
I don't think that it will really be all that different. We'll have faster computers and faster internet access, better technology, etc. But life continues, people searching for what really matters to them and other people droning away. Maybe those hovercrafts will finally be readily available, but the line at the Department of Motor Vehicles will be way too long to even bother.
Anenon's 'Acquiescence' EP is scheduled to drop March 27, with the full-length 'Inner Hue' scheduled for May 1 on Non Projects. Stream a track from the album below.