Ad Noiseam: an interview with Nicolas Chevreux

Founded by Nicolas Chevreux as a spin-off of the successful webzine Recycle Your Ears, Ad Noiseam is an essential reference in the field of underground experimental electronics. With quite a varied roster along its 6-year existence – a roster which includes artists such as Tarmvred, Cdatakill, Mothboy, Larvae, AZ-Rotator, Bong-Ra and Andrei Kiritchenko – Ad Noiseam is a dynamic label that does not show any signs of being stuck into a single music genre.

Nicolas Chevreux1 – How and why did you come about starting Ad Noiseam?

Ad Noiseam emerged from a webzine called Recycle Your Ears and a previous radio show. After several years of promoting music and bands, I thought it would be a nice thing to release a compilation of the bands I had befriended or which I thought deserved to be exposed more than they were. I didn’t had the plan to start a label back then, but the success of this compilation (the “Krach Test” triple pack) lead one thing to the other, and it all grew to a full fledge label.

2 – When you started Ad Noiseam, were there any labels that you could say were a reference/inspiration for your efforts?

I didn’t try to follow a model or another, but I had always liked how such labels as 4AD and Mute seemed to be working. While active in a rather different music direction, I thought that I would like Ad Noiseam to be perceived as such a music and artist oriented structure, and not as yet another niche label.

3 – Almost mandatory question, how did the name “Ad Noiseam” come about?

I’m really bad at finding names, and this must be the millionth name I thought of. It didn’t have much of a meaning, and is really just a name. In retrospect, I guess I am glad that it ranks the label so high alphabetically.

4 – Since the inception of Ad Noiseam, are there any events in the history of the label that you’d consider as particularly relevant, from difficulties and setbacks to successes?

I was particularly happy to be able to set up a relatively long American tour for a band on the label (Tarmvred) not even a year after the creation of the label, and to repeat this every year till 2004. Ever since, touring in North America has grown a lot more difficult, which is a disappointment, as being on the road there has always been quite an experience.

Besides, I have had the luck to work with some artists whom I had been a fan of for a long time. Getting to know these people, and working on promoting their art has been a big reward.

5 – So far what would you consider as special highlights (or successful) releases and artists in the history of Ad Noiseam?

I don’t kiss and tell, but it won’t come as a surprise if I say that the fifth birthday compilation (the double CD and DVD “Ad Noiseam 2001-2006”) was a very important project, both for the label, its artists, and the people who care about them.

6 – Are there any releases in particular that you would recommend as good ‘introductory material’ to the Ad Noiseam label?

Past the compilation mentioned in my previous answer, this is a difficult question, as the spectrum of the label is rather wide. I’d recommend people to check all the extremes, from Andrey Kiritchenko’s calm drones to Bong-Ra’s breakcore fury. Ad Noiseam has a bit of everything in between.

7 – Looking back, do you have any regrets with the label? If you could go back and change something, what would it be?

I would like to have started earlier. It’s not secret that sales of (and interest in) music have gone down for every label and every kind of music in the previous years. It has become excessively difficult to promote a young project. If Ad Noiseam had already existed a few years earlier, it would have given more chances to some of the first artists on the label to get a wider exposure.

Besides this, there are a few demos which I had to turn down for financial reasons, as they came to me when I could not finance them. I wish it had not been the case, and I could have helped the artists in question to present their music.

8 – An obvious question, but what is Ad Noiseam’s ‘relationship’ with the Internet? From promotion tool and digital sales to file sharing and piracy, how has it affected you?

The internet was already there when Ad Noiseam started, and I could never have worked on the label the way I did without it. It has completely changed the way artists, labels, distributors and fans interact with each other, and I couldn’t imagine working as people used to do in the early nineties.

On the other hand, of course, the internet has spread both the possibility of widespread copying and its demagogic justification. There’s nothing much to do against it, just like there isn’t really a point denying its negative influence.

9 – Slightly related to the previous question, how do you see the concept of ‘netlabels’ and, as a labelhead, what is your perspective as to the future and evolution of physical media (CDs, vinyl, etc)?

Netlabels are nice and fine, but just like labels who do not promote on-line, they are aimed towards one very specific audience, and close themselves to a lot of people. The digital format is something which has grown into acceptance and wide use, but, just like CD didn’t “kill” records, MP3 is just another format, where more and more people will release their music on. Independently on whether or not MP3 should be free or not, copy-protected or not, it’s something that people use, and which will find its place.

10 – Perspectives for the future, what lies in the horizon for Ad Noiseam? Can you share some long-term goals and where would you like to see the label heading to?

I’ve never hidden that my eventual goal was to have Ad Noiseam buy Sony, and relaunch the robotic Sony dogs. Getting an Ad Noiseam Moon base is also on the menu.

11 – What other labels/artists would you recommend at the moment and why?

I’ve been listening a lot to releases from Hydra Head and Neurot recently, with such acts as Red Sparowes, Pelican or MGR on the one hand, and harder material such as the Swiss act Knut. These bands manage to take what used to be nice in the whole post-rock sound, before a myriad of Godspeed You Black Emperor clones turned the genre into a tasteless mixture of pop and hip-ness, and still had to it a blend of metal that doesn’t require teenage-years naivety to enjoy.

David Dando-Moore of Detritus also recently pointed me to UK’s Type Records, who are also releasing some nice material, relatively comparable to what N5md (a label I guess the Connexion Bizarre readers might be familiar with) is doing.

Finally, you can’t take a step in Berlin without meeting somebody raving about dubstep, and some of it has found my way to my turntable as well. There’s a lot of refuse in it, but such an album as “The World Is Gone” by Various Prod prove that there are pearls in this styles.

12 – Thank you for your time, do you have any final comments?

Probably nothing very witty. Thank you for this interview and your interest in Ad Noiseam.

Relevant links

Ad Noiseam

— interview by Kate Turgoose & Miguel de Sousa (May 2007)