Barreuh! Records’ devil-may-care noisevaganza – Luifabriek prod Mike Dobber: “I’ll always say we’re not an underground label, we’re a refractory one.”

February 20, 2015
by Jasper Willems

Looking at the complete scope of his exploits, you’d correctly assume Mike Dobber has difficulty saying no. First and foremost, he overseers music events at Tilburg venue/youth bastion Hall Of Fame. Second, he ran production and booking agency DRTMSTR, harboring the likes of Eindhoven rock icons The Sugarettes, Austrian phenoms Sex Jams, simmering dream pop outfit capcap…cap and his own quirky pet project A Million Squeeks Will Do You No Harm.

Third, he’s a founding member of Ongemotiveerd Kunstenaars Collectief (translation: unmotivated arts collective), a group of artists, musicians and creative entrepreneurs reveling in often wacky, out-of-the-box endeavors. “It started in 2004 as a counterpunch to what’s generally considered ‘artistic’. A lot of our fellow artists were mired in indulgence, with nothing substantial to show for it. Our mentality was to see how much we could achieve with as little effort and resources as possible.”, Dobber half-jokingly tells Luifabriek at his Hall Of Fame office space.

OKC became a full-fledged subsidized operation in fittingly droll, impromptu fashion. “Incubate gave us a shot to spoof them in 2010 with a three-day festival of our own called Intrubate”, Dobber recalls. As most of us remember, Incubate started out as ZXZW, which could be considered an amusing ribbing of SXSW – at least until the popular Austin-based festival cried foul. To materialize Intrubate, Incubate didn’t just make a cheeky statement regarding their own principles, they were happy to offer OKC a platform to bring theirs to fruition as well. “They gave us a leg up. Everything just happened in the flow of things. OKC has kind of taken a life of its own ever since.”

Dobber’s a big noise head, always eager to tap into his habitually brimming wellspring of wacky ideas, and OKC gives him the means to materialize them. He became an enamored figure in Tilburg and Eindhoven’s leftfield noise scenes, avidly booking shows, managing bands and performing music himself. To a guy who doesn’t like to say no, such a hefty impetus inevitably comes to a screeching halt. “At some point I enjoyed saying yes so much, I became stressed and exhausted this past year”, he reveals. “This meant I had to make a list, weigh in my own wants and needs and discard all the excess baggage in the process.” Dobber had to relinquish his activities with DRTMSTR to focus on Barreuh! Records, a brand new noise/indie label he founded with fellow OKC-cohorts Lars Leeuw and Lilia Scheerder.

Dobber: “After doing some live shows under the A Million Squeeks-moniker, people kept asking me if I had a record for sale. It struck me: there was actually a demand for this type of stuff. Initially I wanted to release my music on 7″, but that’s a bit too expensive. So I zoned in on using cassettes. I quickly found a retailer in England, so the decision to release my record independently was easy. Lilia and Lars had similar ambitions, so I called them up to start a label. And that was it, basically.”

Some consider the cassette feasible, others a fad. So what’s Barreuh!’s play? We point at the cassette-shaped tattoo on Dobber’s right forearm, which he had done before the whole cassette craze, spearheaded by San Fran label Burger Records, broke loose. “I have it purely for sentimental reasons. As a seven year old kid, I used to make all these mix tapes, just by listening to the radio. I must have made hundreds of ’em…I still have them. I hate throwing stuff out, it’s just not in my nature. So as a result, my place is pretty jammed now, I suppose…”, Dobber playfully scoffs.

In time, Dobber would like to make the transition to different formats. “We’re not eschewing the more radical things. For instance, Vincent Koreman (Incubate-founder and mastermind behind Drvg Cvltvre) approached me with this great idea to do a CD-R Day, as a playful riposte to Record Store Day.”

But for now, copying and distributing tapes happens to be a very malleable – not to mention economical – way for Barreuh! to engage fans, friends and artists alike. At Eurosonic 2014, Dobber, Leeuw and Scheerder spurred Barreuh!’s coming out party by handing out loads of empty tapes with return address and phone number inside. The message is clear: Barreuh! isn’t a label exclusively meant for established artists like Joep Van Son, Woody & Paul or Mannheim. Absolutely no one should be excluded: the floodgates are open.

Dobber: “Musicians have been submitting stuff quite frequently lately, some are plainly weird. But I’ll always say we’re not an underground label, we’re a refractory one. ‘Underground’ suggests our releases only appeal to a niche audience.” One of Dobber’s more recent finds is A Basement In Bloom, a fantastic Vienna-based group whose emblazoned pop echoes early Midlake and Efterklang LPs. “They’re really cool and impressive. We’re planning to do an international release with them somewhere in spring. They have garnered a steady fan base and played quite a few festivals already.”

Whilst unpacking some of the empty cassettes, he gloats at Barreuh!’s grand MacGuffin: the freshly acquired tape duplicator stationed on the window sill behind him. “We bought it online for 200 euros off a reformed church, which meant each of us has to pay 66 euro’s and 66 cents.”, he jeers. “The first few releases we had to do everything manually. At some point, it drove me crazy listening to some of the records for the umpteenth time. Thanks to this thing, we can enforce the rule to do multiple releases at each recurring label night. I would rather unveil ten records simultaneously than one by one.”

To achieve that feat, Barreuh! is willing to go beyond just releasing music. Dobber: “At last year’s Incubate Festival, we didn’t have any records lined-up. I myself really enjoy cooking food… I recently made this really pungent chocolate. So I figured, why not sell that at the shows? So I put a catalog number on a piece of chocolate instead. You know, I’m a huge fan of what Factory used to do, things like applying a catalog number to a coffin of all things. That’s brilliant, isn’t it?”

After a year of gleefully fumbling about, Barreuh! embraces the luxury to become as nonconformist and DIY as possible – albeit deliberately tying one hand behind the back. Dobber: “The goal is to operate as much as possible outside of OKC’s purview. At the moment, we’re still just three ZZP’ers who own this foundation part-time. On the other hand, it would be nice if Barreuh! could expand to a more professional level eventually. But for the time being, its kind of fun to express our passion for music using as many different angles as possible.”

Notable Barreuh! releases:

 
A Million Squeeks Will Do You No Harm – The Blue LP 
*Since Dobber’s peculiar noise/drone/techno project A Million Squeeks Will Do You No Harm is basically Barreuh!’s deus ex machina, we’re had to bother asking: How did A Million Squeeks Will Do You No Harm came to be?

Dobber: “I’ve always considered myself very much part of the noise scene. Two years ago, I gradually started experimenting more frequently with techno and ambient music, a lot of synth-based stuff. At one point, I had like a week off to really dig into it. Luckily, the week after that a friend of mine asked me to play at an event he curated. I did a very experimental piece that started out heavy and noisy, but slowly subsides into a more tranquil, ambient state. Basically I wanted to capture the paradigm of good techno music, and apply that to a noise track. As A Million Squeeks Will Do You No Harm, I don’t need to adhere to anything, because it’s not collaborative. There is a lot of emotion poured into it. In the past I would just mash on a bunch of effect-pedals, which isn’t…well, to some extent it IS emotional.”

“But this is the first time people actually told me they’ve been affected by my music on an emotional level. That felt so reaffirming to me. It’s nice to make music for a change that isn’t as palpable. There are elements of noise, pop music, drones, techno and field recordings scrambled together deliberately. I actually write a lot of the stuff as separate tracks, even though performance-wise, it feels like  this big narrative soundscape. Maybe it’s ’cause I do a lot of techno and noise sets… You have to tie things together naturally. I like the idea that A Million Squeeks is compatible to a lot of different settings: I’ve opened for this shoegaze band called Nothing one time, but kicked off a techno rave just as effectively. I tend to mix it up and improvise, keeping the performance fresh for both myself and my audience.”

Recommended track: A Bottomless Pit Of Despair

 

[V] – Waste No Fun

Joep van Son has this highly enviable, Pavlovian penchant for writing golden tunes on a whim, whether it’s with The Sugarettes, Nikoo or The Very Sexuals. The man simply  can’t bring himself to write bad song; no wonder he has like a gazillion different projects to try and harvest his immense creative output. [V]’s latest cassette-comp Waste No Fun finds Joep bustin’ out track after track with co-conspirators Ronald van der Bragt (bass), Daan van den Vorst (skins) and longtime producer Rob Bours, channeling his inner Jeff Mangum (Bodies), J. Mascis (Charlie D.)… Heck, even a boisterous post-hardcore-meets-Feelies rendition of Apneu’s Walkie Stalkie. The most remarkable thing, considering the lo-fi means Bours and Van Son have been practicing a good decade now: they still manage to produce full-blown pop gems like Waste No Fun or Shane. If Joep really sets his mind to it, he could become a prolific ghostwriter for pop starlets around the globe. But why waste any fun on that, eh?

Recommended track: Waste No Fun


VISITORS 

Initially, Bertin van Vliet’s electronic project VISITORS recalls Kraftwerk’s quaint rudimentary blueprint and Laurie Anderson’s oblique post-modern masterpiece Big Science. Well, to put it more accurately: Van Vliet utilizes a similar scope of sounds (including ye tacky old skool vocoder) but takes it someplace completely different. As of yet, we don’t know any  scientists mad enough to turn cars or jacuzzis into time travel devices, but VISITORS offers a glimpse of what could happen if electronic music at its genesis had to adapt to the world we know today. Compelling, thought provoking stuff.

Recommended track: Rocket Science


Bert Scholten – Figuratieve Popmuziek

If Bert Scholten was a Masters of the Universe character, he’d be Man-E-Faces. At 24, this guy’s the current genius behind Vera’s iconic silk-screen prints, one half of pop satirists Earth Control and designer of countless of crafty animations and funky merchandise. His solo work comprises a similarly playful-yet-sardonic foible as Rotterdam-based counterpart Niek Hilkmann. If you love Hilkmann’s fragmented take on Dutch pop, you’ll be sure to appreciate Scholten’s wonderfully wry cut-and-paste aesthetic as well. Barreuh! will release Scholten’s new tape Figuratieve Popmuziek (translation: figurative pop music) March 20th.

Recommended track: Het Kwaad Van De Banaliteit (translation: the evil of banality)

 

LL Presents – The Age Of Smoke

Like Dobber, Barreuh! co-founder/savant Lars Leeuw has his own crackpot musical vehicle to tend to. The Age Of Smoke embodies Leeuw’s catharsis after going cold turkey on nicotine. This record convulses to spectral soundscapes and grainy minimalism, with Leeuw taking on a different MO with each of the three tracks. Headfirst Into The Fire is especially eerie, a faint clamor of industrial noise chipping away at Leeuw’s mediative vocal outcries. The second track  Heart On Fire/The Age Smoke almost sounds like a fractured, punch drunk cut from Bowie’s Space Oddity. Impressive stuff.

Recommended track: Headfirst Into The Fire

Upcoming Barreuh! events:

27/02 – Fair Label Night, Extrapool

20/03 – Barreuh! Label Night #4