No Basement Is Deep Enough by now is a very well known, amazing cassette label, reaching way deep into the depths of the most obscure, abstract music one wishes to hear – that comes along with beautiful, authentic packaging that is reaching way beyond the depths’ extreme. It’s a two-men operation – Ignace De Bruyn, who curates and Milja Radovanović, who designs, giving NBIDE’s cassette releases a weird life of its own. I was first caught attention when seeing the packaging for Magma Trakt’s s/t masterpiece. Why is it that everyone (but absolutely everyone) in their own right, falls for an object of beauty? To me, accepting this radical principle of design is the essence of visual affinities and most of all – visual culture. The medium in itself, if not given character is plain dead and boring – when you find a vinyl record in a dull factory (no not THAT factory) cover, not to mention nameless CDs forever doomed to their plastic jewel box concept, and then there is the cassette, the third in a row among these most popular audio exponents – which can also suffer when lacking a proper visual accompaniment. Even when you spot the most lush de-luxe edition of your favourite album in a standard record shop, be aware that it might not be as convincing and seductive. It’s all in perception – why is it that hand-made product knows no rival? to be honest, I was never entirely happy with cassettes. Ever since I was a child, cassettes were the only thing that I could afford – the tape cartridge was certainly more practical to handle but most cassettes I was frustrated with due tape damage, which captured some favourite music further into loss. LPs and CDs were always more of a favourite, ever since I could have afforded to buy them – but in the end, the CD which at one point seriously endangered both, the cassette and the LP, as a successful hybrid carrier for the new digital age, now degraded in even worse conditions. The reason – analogue things never go out of style and maybe the reason why cassettes happened to be back is not necessarily for hip reasons as for pure intention of radical art sake. However, cassettes, just like vinyl records, are turned mostly (and sadly) into expensive (read: over-priced), exclusive collectible items nowadays – depending on the production costs and the exclusivity factor attached to it, the customers are ready to pay a small (or large) fortune to get a copy of something that might degrade and then all is lost (once again).
While No Basement Is Deep Enough is not an exception or better, isolated case in the history of radical packaging, it is certainly as unique, honest and economical – providing common sense for the most senseless noise that accompanies the label’s scupture-like handmade shells. It is inevitable to compare NBIDE to one true cult group of experimentalists, that linked music with physical form – Newcastle’s Zoviet:France. As they were putting out their records and cassettes wrapped in tin foil, asphalt, tissue paper, jute, thick cardboard or ceramic, it became the ultimate relic situation – one object that would never live a life without the other. And listening to these pieces of primitive, abstract beauty, it is inevitable to rely on the sound and the package, a couple in (im)perfect audio-visual matrimony. Also inevitable to mention in this context is London’s Touch, a label which helped pushing cassette culture to a more sophisticated aesthetic level earlier in the 80s, featuring the luxury of printing special graphics gracing the tiny plastic cartridge with desired visual content. Sadly, Touch neither produces nor re-releases any cassettes, but remembers it dearly and continues to push boundaries, maintaining its own obscure legend behind the post-punk’s multimedia genius.
With NBIDE, it’s an identical situation, but not in terms of the copycat syndrome. It is this label, alongside Zoviet:France and Touch’s fascinating oeuvre, that singlehandedly requited my love (or better, respect) of cassettes – not that I still miss doubts about them, it’s just they deserve enjoying real life (and death). And this is it. The basement, endless, in all amazing discovery.
SD: How deep is no basement after all? And then, how spontaneous are the releases?
MR : Well, after every release I think that we have reached the bottom of the basement but we always seem to find a gateway to yet another hidden complex of fallout shelters. It’s as much a surprise to us as to anybody else. If we are digging, somebody else must be digging too. It is only a matter of finding the right underground passages.
IDb : Basically she’s talking about non-ventilated marihuana millionaire shafts, decorated with excavated vaginae dentatae on the left and origami Obamas on the far right. Luckily they’re all ratfucker-free because today’s underground soil is getting more and more marinated in Wittgenstein’s purge fluid, suavely dissolving the rotten noses of the historical avant-garde, which still sniffed the ashes of yodeling yokels like Nietzsche. The smell remains the same though.
MR : Also, I would be lying if I were to say that the outcomes are completely spontaneous because that would imply that we are as egocentric as an overbearing mother pushing her child towards greater achievements. There is always a reference, as absurd as it is sometimes, to the content of the cassette and the artists themselves – we want to amplify and accentuate their work, not to put all attention on us. Besides this fluctuating form of unity, these semi-automatic associations on the content are sometimes not so clear, because we want to avoid any sort of CATEGORIZATION. So this would be a referential outcome of a specific and very personal working process with aspirations towards the unlabeled.
SD: Your cassettes are relics in the truest sense of the word. Radical in the same way Zoviet:France for example… how do you choose which material to work with and would you consider going in even more radical direction, in terms of production – like picking the strangest of materials, like Zoviet:France did with some of their early releases?
MR : At the beginning of every ‘production’ process, we always end up toning down the our ideas, but mainly because something like “live” materials would raise some shipping and duration questions. Limitations of practicality exist but I hope that it is obvious that we try to minimize them as much of possible. Inspiration for materials lies in the music as well : when a master sounds ‘metallic’ then screws come into mind etc., hence the tape we did for Gerard Herman. In terms of radicalness our first release – a Preggy Peggy and the Lazy Babymakers/Kommissar Hjuler und Frau split tape called “Schwangere Polizei” that needs to be shoved in and out of a cloth pussy – depicts pregnancy, birth or reincarnation very naïvely but consequently, and implies interaction. All other releases got pushed into equally strange waters and reek of outdated symbolism. We don’t try to dig through our subconscious for associations – they are au contraire very direct and tautological, so very childlike too. We all know that inspiration comes from the outside but once you have to drink a lot of gassy juice in order to save the bottles for future plastic cover parts, some of it pours inside as well.
SD: Among the music’s popular medium devices, which one do you find your personal fetish, and which one is the most radical in terms of production, so far?
MR : Cassettes are unbreakable! I’m talking about the physical sense of the word. They can endure all the raping that I put them through. Delicate Sister Vinyl would crumble 20 times over. Tapes can also be put against your cheek and be kissed, if you are a fellow fetishist. Listeners, watch out for the germs, I was sick last winter!
IDb : I’m stuck in a green-brown anti-audiophile puddle so I’m not aware of all codes to crack but Emil Beaulieau showed that the anti-record is more beautiful and useful to wipe off your pig sweat than any piece of cloth resembling a flag. So, yeah, when you look for instance at that “Slechts Voor Seuventig % Afspeelbaar” vinyl box that Peter Fengler and Dennis Tyfus pulled out of their well-oiled bums recently, or the limited bondage puppet series that Kommissar Hjuler generously made as a bonus to Mama Baer’s “The Island” elpee we released on NBIDE’s strictly femhell offshoot Male Bonding, you know that our future could be even more radical (komma dude).
SD: Are some of your amazing packages also discussed with the artists, or do you produce them mostly on your own and then surprise these artists, shock them…? Was there ever a negative reaction to some of the packages as unacceptable?
MR : Until now every packaging was plus/minus a surprise for the artists, and we never got a complaint, on the contrary.
IDb : Limpe Fuchs did nag about an insert dealing with the laughing windows of 19th century occultism but that was mainly because the hypnotist-in-service was such a slick rick (Limpe is a great woman who loves her men hairy) and because I didn’t explain her that the woman on her knees in front of him was actually an inverted crux, everything that the always amazing Gena Rowlands would hate.
MR : But concerning all the non-Bavarians : whether they are choked mute or think we are a bunch of sociopaths which are not to mess with… I don’t know, but then they are not aware that hail and praise from their side feeds us and makes us come up with even crazier stuff. Blame it on them, it’s their fault! Shock is never the intention, we actually find our babies to be mostly cute. And whenever somebody insists on making their own covers, they are more than welcome, then we don’t even try to interfere. Collaboration delivers amazing results.
IDb : I anyway believe that everybody who joined our flatulent caravan of noise- fanfares has a similar view on this topic as for instance Allon Kaye of the Entr’acte label, who states that he, back then living in London among the so-called creative people, really got fed up with this designer culture of fetishizing every possible object, and that that is the reason why he started vacuum packing a lot of his releases in military grade pvc.
MR : That is a perfect example. We are doing the same thing as Allon, only from a different perspective. I couldn’t agree more with Allon when he is talking about saturation of content, especially in this digital era. What makes our position different is that we actually are fetishists. Every collector tends to have as much obscurities as the other and more. If we were to condemn this kind of behavior, we would be neglecting some primal and bestial instincts. The need to collect doesn’t come intrinsically from this consumerist society. Therefore, it is not our intent to over-decorate but rather to do something for nothing. Every aspect of our covers is totally useless. Instead of binding ourselves to pure functionality, because of its rationality, pure lunacy sounds more logical. We want to produce a reaction, because this IS made for people, not for ourselves, and we want to remind them of the times when they used to enjoy the process of creating.
SD: Which one is your favorite artwork from the lot? How much time does it take to materialize one such idea – and then multiply it?
MR : The favorites are always the ones which are yet to come. Every new tape gets the full attention and care, so in those terms everyone got and will get an equal amount of luv. Qua time, I’ll put it like this : when the Belgian part of NBIDE starts strictly and very well organized to molest and bully the lazy Serbian part, then with a lot of gipsy curses, Diesel-lingo and spitting on the ground, the job gets done last minute. The diverse materials are plucked straight out of our basements, attics and an occasional crafts shop, which makes it clear that all of them are handmade, so it takes a long time to multiply. The labor is surprisingly enjoyable though. Pleasure is the paycheck. When I think about it, there wasn’t much profit either – the tad bit of money that is left when we covered all expenses, goes directly into the producing the new batch. I think we’re just basically having sex with the tapes!
IDb : Keeping the Dutroux Rap in mind, that having-sex-with-our-babies line should have been mine.
SD: Your label’s repertoire refers predominantly to the abstract, absurd and noisy. How do you choose which artist to release and is there a chance that NBIDE puts out a more “standard” music (of course in the context of music that you’re aspired to)?
IDb : Although the basement floor is covered in non-genre grit, we are off course attracted to the ‘weirdo’, ‘outsider’, ‘misfit’, since they are semantic prisoners of the false prophets of the cultural hegemony. Les extrêmes se touchent, so using the archaic lingo of a far-right fossil : better lone wolf in the forest than fat dog, chain around its neck. But every thirsty mosquito leaving the nest on a quest for the real people deal will notice that there is a community of restless, jolly good entrepreneurs operating in the borderless province of the mind. I never liked the concept of “the scene” but this particular version is able to unhinge its undogmatic jaws : situated on a unique location at the corner of past and future, opened day and night, free entrance for everybody who can find the door. Something else that makes our poppers pop is the luscious curves of a phenomena of which I often have the impression it’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown in our contemporary Western society : humor. In other words : recordings that don’t paint a smile on our blubbery faces will not get released. Even the more ‘serious’ inner gumbo we’ve put out like the Club Moral 10” breeds a couple of giggles among the gargles. I don’t know if AMVK and DDV will agree – which doesn’t even matter since Barthes and Foucault announced the birth of the reader – but a piece about a leading Belgian socialist theoretician ending up in the Nazi-collaboration has a tragi-comical appeal to me. And I don’t think Erik Vloeberghs was not in a prankster mode when he hooked up with Club Moral to record the infamous “Auschwitz War Wunderbar!” cassette. Just as in our label announcements, which are sometimes deliberate anti-promo, a ton of self-relativation feeds the youthful ardour of all these wonderful witches we worked with. I think that that is a healthy stroll away from autovampirism and socio-economical hypochondria. Do mind, we hate irony-pour-l’-irony and leave that up to the above mentioned cultural cripples who feel the need to polish every fart. Our task is to ponder over polyester’s place in a smoothie bar society.
By the way, thanks to the elaborate efforts of A Hogon’s Industrial Guide and NAUK.rs to expose us to the raunchiest rhizomes of ex-Jugo 90s skronk, we also try to squeeze material from this region and time period into our release roster, especially because it’s fascinating to me, originally a bloody Belgian, how these artists burped out such a succulent drug-drawl without getting entangled in all too nationalistic nonsense or gazing too much into the crystal ball of the West. So, sure, if I ever stumble upon a flea market find in the form of, let’ say, an Orthodox version of the Concrete Rubber Band or The New Creation, a more ‘standard’ elpee reissue would be in the pipeline.
SD: Cassette Gods blogspot declared you “Label of the year”. What is cassette to you and do you consider it the ultimate DIY artefact that will never die (despite one of the bands that you released – Cave Bears – stated “DIY spells DIE”)?
MR : You said it! DIY actually doesn’t spell DIE. That’s how we understood it anyway.