Mille Plateaux—5:
Interview with Achim Szepanski

Achim Szepanski

#music, #subculture, #marxism, #biopolitics, #non, #milleplateaux, #rave, #philosophy, #afrofuturism

So back in 1993, Mille Plateaux was founded as a sub label of Force Inc - who was running Force Inc at the time? Was it you? Or you came in specifically for Mille Plateaux?

I founded Force Inc. in 1991 after I left a dance recordstore called Boy Records. Before I owned a label called Blackout, where I released one of the first acid records from the UK A2L „Trip Man“, and the hiphouse act Deskee, which was a huge success in the U.S.
           Mille Plateaux was founded in 1994, as I recognised that Force Inc. as a label for all kinds for innovative techno, from Acid to Breakbeat, was a too closed frame for electronic music.

This composite nature of MP can make it difficult to see where each part intersects, and makes a lot of the work look as though it is of a wide unspecific spectrum emerging out of a wide, unspecific platform. Was this intended to be this way, or did it evolve this way subconsciously due to being driven by deconstructionists?

It was intended and it was driven at the same time by what you call deconstrucionists. Everybody knows that it was Deleuze/Guattaris book „Thousand Plateaus“, which gave the inspiration for the label and which was in my sight not a deconstructionist book. Terms like ritornello, deterritorialization or nomadic gave ideas, how new electronic music should sound.
           For Deleuze/Guattari, one of the important questions in music is whether the unformed, when it traced chaos, can be heard within the structure of the audible or the music. And then one quickly comes to another question, namely whether a passage (of deterritorialization) between music and noise that is close to the unformed exists and can be actualized by musical events (sound, not music). Music, on the other hand, is always an discrete step away from chaos. It can only be heard if it makes itself audible as form, being formed within dynamic models and relations. The Deleuzian deterritorialization brings with it a destructuring of the ever articulated music and leads to a state that is still audible, but no longer as classically organized music, but as a sound event that, for Deleuze, still requires the consistency of a composition; this kind of music touches the mimicry of chaos and requires no representation.
           But there is also always a reterritorialization and exactly that happened with techno music and the rave-events already in 1994, when the commodification, the order of spaces and control factors started to dominate the techno scene.
           And yes, what you call an unspecific platform corresponds to the idea of Deleuze/Guattari, that there are thousand plateaus, which resonate to each other and through this process intensify the music and the theory, which have a complex relation to each other.

After more than 30 years of rhizomic evolution and change, what started as your little project is now its own massive sentient Being that seems to run itself, or have a will of its own. What is the current direction of the label? What goes on behind the scenes? Where do the artists and concepts come from? Who is steering the ship?

As you might have recognised there is from the conceptual side a slightly move from the conceptualisation oft he non-genre Clicks & Cuts to a non-concept what we call „Ultrablack of Music“. This is in no way a break, but a move beyond certain limits of the clicks & cuts concept.
           There is a transversal disjunction, which is articulated in the track intern and in relation to other tracks, and this achievs the transition of „Clicks and Cuts“. Transversality is originally a topological concept meaning an extending over, lying across, intersecting without a resulting coincidence, while transversal music caulks the „cut“ between actual and virtual on the rise of the performance itself, by mutating from a device designed to connect the past with the present into a newly future-orientated one.
           For us is glitch a part of Clicks & Cuts: Dark glitch is the non-signal, which is not used to capitalize the click as a signal for the quasi-derivative of the surplus of successful targeting, but as a non-successful swimming in the noise of non-music.
           Here we have to find a hotspot to non-music in a Laruelian sense. Laruelle claims a dispersive a priori of theory, which is not primarly related to music, but related to the foreclosed and indifferent Real in-the-last-instance, posing the question: how can a generic and real but nevertheless transcendental and a priori term of difference be constructed, an a priori of difference that is a matter of an immediate given condition? If we relate the apriori or the axiom to music, we will find an answer: The relation between the different speed of waves and the maxima of intensity (or the timeless degree of different waves) involves a dispersion. This is a oraxiom of Rhythmight, which means that the philosophical distinction between theoretical and practical aspects of thought has lost its power. For example, the theoretical practice of music, which invent new oraxioms, uses as ist material sample politics, which is oscillating between an actual pool of samples and the capacity to create new samples.
           Ultraback is not the opposite of the black radical tradition but its outside. Like Afro-pessimism we follow the alternate route of darkness. What is Ultraback sound if not a project of political-aesthetic profanation? We use darkness/blackness to signify the outside. The outside has many names: the glitch, contingent, the void, silence, the unexpected, the accidental, the crack-up, the catastrophe. But we also have protective barriers made up of habits that help us navigate an uncertain world – that is the purpose of Guattari’s ritornello, that short whistle just to remind us of the familiar even when we travel to strange lands. It’s the non-riternollo, which leads us to the Outside.
           From the musical side there is still the most important artist Thomas Köner, who was from the beginning with Mille Plateaux. He is still developing his strong concept of Dark Ambient, as you might call it, in several new ways. We release his old and his new albums. Also an album of Cristian Vogel will be released next year. We have a lot of new acts too. Simona Zamboli got major resonance these days. Lain from Graz and Laiki Kostis are doing great work on the conceptual and organisation side.

It’s coming up to 100 years now since Benjamin gave his thesis that positioned art as a battleground against fascism, where the politicisation of aesthetics was to be an important form of resistance against oppressive technologies of power. Where are we on this trajectory? Do you still see music, record labels, and the arts as a form of resistance against ever expanding neoliberal hegemony [or has it been deterritorialised now?]

Political music is music without words (in a double sense). It is not oriented towards the world (it has no object in the world that captures it), nor is it a question of perception. Political music indicates a non-world of pure auto-impression. It is radically black. Radical music is like a kind of black box; it is a music box of and for blackness, and the theorist and consumer of music take a place in the black box themselves and don’t approach it from the Outside. There is a non-musical triangularity to report: The (multiple) producer who makes the transversality of the black sound; the black jukebox as an infinite sound of the ungraspable/black; the consumer who hears parts from the infinity of the black jukebox.
           The immensity of this triangularity is in turn part of the limitlessness of music. In this sense, the black of the music is the basis for the Ultrablack. Producer and listener share the imperfection that only Black can authenticate. Neither can the producer assume that his activity will ever end, nor can the listener assume that he will ever stop tearing fragments out of the music. Ultrablackness then points to continuing, never giving up the search beyond the black and seeking the Ultrablack of the black. Today, however, all possibilities of Exodus seem to be closed. The escape seems at least to be desolate. In all moments of opacity, insufficiency and collapse, darkness is the greatest threat to the relationships that bind us to this world today. The zones of imperceptibility and opacity are less features of reality that can be applied in any situation, but are instruments that are there to fight against this world. It is precisely in this situation that we find ourselves empowered to confront ourselves with the daily rhythms of capital, some of which are also those of its music, and the apparatuses of the state.
           We cannot only simulate the uprising, only enjoy the cyberactive war-machines of Underground Resistance or Public Enemy, while the logistic cyberinfrastructure of capital and its interruption is not an issue. Although communication is interrupted or derealized when sonic forms attack power or even deprogram programmers, isn’t it the mutual feeding of sound and sonic-fiction that leads to label fictions that have either vanished in the meantime or are today wallowing in the gambling hell of the entertainment industry?Black music could be understood as the search for traces of the rhythmicity of rhythm as dance in rhythm, as an event of condensation.
           Tic-Toc- fuck the clock! is the principle. The power of rhythm can be found, for example, in irregular Click Music. Black music then works with the click, which is to be understood as inherent stress when it falls on certain metrics. When black musicians listen to the clock, they don’t hear the uniform tic tic, tic tic, but they hear „tic – toc – fuck the clock.“ Similar effects can also be achieved by what Kodwo Eshun calls „alien artifact updating“. The stress effects here are produced by machine rhythms that transform the weightlessness of space into a „zero trauma.

Do you have any favourite releases in your catalogue?

I like of course all our releases, but Thomas Köners „ Motus “ and Simona Zamboli’s „Ethernity“ are kind of favourites.