INTERVIEW: GET YOUR GENKI
This time I want to do something different from the usual article/review... I'll talk you about a very interesting project that caught my attention: an european label (german, to be precise) that released a compilation of only japanese indie music!!!
I really liked this remarkable initiative, and I've thought that there is no better way to understand the whole thing than talking directly with who had the idea and realized it. So, present yourself.
Hello everybody! Thank you very much for your time making this interview. I am very happy about this!
My name is Christian, I am from Germany and I am the "CEO" of the Get Your Genki label.
Well, the first question is kinda obligated: what is it "Get Your Genki"??? Why you started something like that???
Get Your Genki is a small independent label from Germany. We only release independent music from small bands from Japan in all it´s varieties. Everything is possible: from Rock and Pop to Punk, Funk, Psych, etc.
I had this ideas in my mind for a very long time. You see, I am a huge fan of japanese music and I often wondered why there aren't so many J-Rock samplers available (and the few you could order, were often very expensive). So I often said to myself: "There are so many awesome bands outside and there isn't one decent compilation... man, do I have to do everything on my own ?" :-). And then, last year I really got a foot in the indie scene and noticed that being a musician in Japan and NOT playing the usual J-Pop is very very hard work. I thought that it must be possible somehow to give them some sort of a platform, so people will notice them... and not even 4 weeks later GYG was born.
Out of curiosity, anger and lots of "fanboyism"... if you would like to call it like this.
Very interesting story. I can definitely tell that I understand you, I've started writing about J-Music exactly for the same reason: to talk about what I love to people that doesn't know or doesn't understand how amazing is this world, trying to expand this movement as much as possible.
So, before analyzing the successful business manager (XD) and the reception/results of GYG works, I would like to talk about you as a fan of japanese music. When and how you started listening J-Music??? You started with "anisongs" like 95% of the world (me included)??? Who are your favourite artists???
Yes indeed, I also started with the songs from the animes. Sometimes, if you were lucky, at the end of the anime there were some MVs from the bands that played the title song and already back then I was fascinated by the coolness of the songs, and that it didn't matter at all that it was sung in japanese... you could just sung "la-la-la" along :-)
When I really dived into the more independent scene was when there were more magazines about anime available. In the 90's, a magazine called ANIMANIA started and they had a music section with lots of the usual stuff, but someday they had this wonderful pop-rock band: PENPALS! So I ordered their CDs and when I received it after about 8 weeks later, I was hooked! And even though the import was expensive and it took such a long time for the CDs to arrive, I somehow couldn't stop. Too much good music needed to be explored :-)
So you hidden this project inside you for 20/25 years XD, and now you started this innovative project.
Let's talk about how GYG is born in details. First of all, you have to be very self-confident on your knowledge about japanese indie scene and all that goes around that world... otherwise GYG could look kinda poor or only a "simple mix of songs" that anyone can do.
How do you learned about a world huge like that and constantly in evolution/renovation??? Did you simply listened a lot of music??? Maybe do you travelled a lot in Japan and been part of numerous live events???
I started listening to independent music from Japan a long time ago and ordered CD samplers through mailorder catalogues. It was very hard to establish some kind of a network and it got much more easier when I started to chat with the bands on Twitter.
I've been to Japan numerous times but I have to admit I visited no so many concerts. I watched lots of street concerts, bought their CDs, took their flyers, contacted them when I got back to Germany, wrote to other bands that were mentioned on their flyers, asked for demo CDs: sometimes I received some for free, most of the times I paid for it or sent something (mostly beer) in return. So I think I established some sort of bond with the indie-scene and maybe they see me as a trustworthy person or even member. I receive lost of recommendations from bands for other bands, it's some sort of give and take.
It is impossible I think to have an insight of the complete scene, it is much too vast and huge... in Osaka alone there are so many bands, It would be impossible to listen to them all. But I think I have a small insight and that's enough for me, for the stuff I am doing... at the moment.
About choosing the songs: it would be very easy just to take about 10-15 songs and put them on a compilation. I have chosen a different way for my compilations.
1) I have to like the songs. I would love to have a huge range of different styles on the tapes and I am very open minded, but if I don't like the song, it won't be on any of my tapes.
2) I have to talk to the bands and ask them for their permission. It would be very easy to just “steal” the songs and maybe no one would ever notice it when they appear on a small label in Germany, but I prefer the “legal” way. I also prefer it because just because of this I can talk with the bands about their music, their background and can talk about their wishes, what they expect from me as a label owner... this isn't just only interesting, but it also helps me understanding their motivation and helps me establishing contact with them and new bands.
So it's more like a virtual network, but I think I have found a way to work very closely with the bands.
From how you talk, looks like that you are more a friend of this bands than a ruthless label owner... you bring even the beers XD.
OK, now let's pass on talking about the production. For me, one of the most surprising things about your project is that you release even something physical. Anyone can put a couple of files on the web... but you have a very talented artist that realized the cover of the compilations and, most of all, you released a limited edition audio cassette!!! How you made possible to do that??? Why you have chosen an audio cassette... it wouldn't been more popular to sell, and maybe more cheaper to produce, a physical release of a CD???
Hahah, yes, maybe I am more a fanboy than a label owner. But I want the bands to feel comfortable and appreciated and I think it´s very good way. Work, fun and fandom all mixes together and I think we all have a very good atmosphere in these projects.
I am very very glad and happy that I have Ash (@AshtonLamont on Twitter) on my side. He is also indie J-Pop/J-Rock crazy and it seems that we simply HAD to find each other to work on this. His work just fits to the compilations and sometimes it´s almost like telepathy: he knows exactly what I want! But mostly he comes up with an idea and I love it immediately. There are very very few adjustments we have to make. I think that without him, this project might never have seen the day of light: he truly is the other half of GYG and a great human being! Thank you so much, mate :-)
So, why cassette... there are exactly 4 reasons to this:
1 ) Vinyl is too expensive. Though I would have loved to make a vinyl, I just cannot afford it. You have to make lots of vinyl for a high price and I am paying everything upfront and I simply cannot afford a vinyl. The idea is still present and you never know what might happen, but it´s just too expensive.
Did I tell you that every contributing band receives a free tape delivered to their door in Japan? This I also have to calculate and shipping a cassette to Japan is much more cheaper than a vinyl :-)
2 ) When I think of cassettes I also have to think of mix-tapes. In my younger days we used to make mix-tapes for friends, just to show them new music or the music that we liked. So once you received a mix-tape you put it into your walk-man or into your car stereo and gave it a listen. And as there was no skipping mode and FF cost lots of battery power, you were forced to listen to the whole of the songs... not like today when you skip a song after 10 seconds because the intro is too long. You have to listen it completely and that´s when you started to like the song better, you heard how the song developed etc. You take your time for the music.
3) When I was about to start this project I asked lots of friends and people on Twitter what a physical media they would prefer for a compilation. The results were: first vinyl, second tape, then CD, last digital. So it was decided :-) CD is much much more cheaper to produce, but I never liked the idea a lot. Maybe I will make another survey and if people would prefer CD, I might switch... maybe :-)
4) It´s easy to ship. Yes, CD are also easy to ship, but... I cannot explain it... cassettes are more "fitted" for being shipped :-) Stupid, I know :-)
I think that the concept you expressed on the 2nd point is wonderful. Other than that, I think that merging this type of music, so new and innovative, with an "old school" device like an audio cassette is a genial idea: this item becomes really unique in no time (so, don't switch to CD... please XD).
In the end, let's talk about the endorsement of the project from the public and (if you want) the sales results. Do you have any official data about it??? How many sales do you have to realize for feeling satisfied??? The price of your works are very attractive: the starting fares are only 2 euros for the digital download and 8 euros for the limited edition audio cassette (but you can donate any amount you want, don't be stingy XD).
Thank you very much for your kind words. I am very happy that I have chosen this media and people seem to like it. To tell you the truth, I wasn't even aware that "mixing" new music with an old style device could be such a success. It just was a mixture between "can I afford it" and "what would people like" :-)
I was very excited when I put the first volume on-line. I made 60 tapes (16 for the bands and the rest just in case some could arrive damaged or couldn´t arrived at all). So I had 40 to sell and I was thinking that it would take half a year to sell them all. I absolutely thought that more people would buy the digital instead of the physical release. But to my great surprise they were all gone after 4 weeks! So I was more than happy, I was completely over the moon, because know I KNEW that what I was doing was the right thing. And that gave me a huge comfort. Lots of people I talked about this project told me that it would be something cool and unique, but it is always something different when you really can see it. And I got lots of
compliments for both: the music and the way it was presented (medium and art), so I think I am on the right track.
Bandcamp has a feature that shows you exactly all the sales, from where the buyers are, etc. So as only volume 1 has been sold out already (but there are only 5 left from Volume 2), I have data from this. I don´t want to bore you with details but I did some miscalculating with the PayPal and Bandcamp fares so I paid more than I earned, but not too much, so I will try to keep prices stable. I was very surprised that most buyers are from the UK, then Germany, then Australia and Japan... maybe they are more into this physical thing? Most downloads were from Germany.
Naturally I want to sell my tapes, but I am slso very satsified and happy when someone tells me that he/she has been listening to the compilation all day long and finds it highly enjoyable. So I still know that my work can´t be a complete failure :-)
Well, after this interview, I want to know if the italian data improved XD
Future projects: what's in your mind??? I've seen on your website that volume 3 is already in development. How many compilation are you planning to release??? With this quickness, do you want to arrive at least in "double digit" (10 or more)??? Probably is an unrealistic question, but do you think that your project can move enough interest to make some organization/themed event invite one of these band here in Europe??
I have lots of ideas in my mind, but first I want to release volume 3 and then I will take it slow and think things over.
I have been to the Nippon Connection (world´s biggest film festival for japanese films, with lots of japan-related stalles, etc) last week and I had the opportunity to show some people what I am doing, I’ve bringed some flyers with me, etc. I was very nice that I could hand some tapes to some people from Japan… let´s see if they will talk about it on internet, so it might give the label another boost.
I’m planning to go there again next year, maybe renting a stall for 2 days and presenting my label… so I would love to have released at least 5 volumes, to have some representative material.
But, as I said, I want to take it slow now: I want to improve the variety of the songs (I would love to have Jazz and Hip-Hop in this) and think about a better strategy to promote the label.
Funny that you are asking about an event, maybe a GYG festival: some bands were already asking me that if I would be interested in organizing somehting like this, they would play for free and pay the hotel themselves… I would "just" have to pay the flight:-)))))))
There is this small label, Z-Tapes (from Slovenia), and Filip, the head of this label, did some festivals with his bands… but they´re mostly from Europe themselves, so this isn´t as expensive as doing it with bands from Japan.
A singer from a band I know organizes concerts in Japan, small ones, in the backroom of a bar. She told me that she might be interested in organizing some sort of GYG festival there: just 6-7 bands, GYG posters, german food, etc... I really like this idea and you never know what might come my way, but I’m realistic and I think this will never happen.
I do what I can and I don´t want to sell more tapes (yes, this is a very nice side effect), but I am doing this more for my own sake:-) If it might get bigger and bigger I´d be the last to stop it.
It was quite surprising how fast this project was growing... I think it's a very smart move to slow down a bit, before everything goes out of your control and becomes unmanageable.
From how you talk, looks that you already have a clear path on your mind for this project and every move you'll make will be precise and thoughtful... I'm sure that GYG will have a very bright future.
It's was a real pleasure talking with you, I've enjoyed every single moment of this interview. Thanks a lot for the time (very long time XD) you dedicated to me.
I have to thank you for having me here! I am very grateful that you gave me the possibility to talk about my label and my visions, I really appreciate it and I had lots of fun too! I already had some interviewes, but I have to say that you are one of the rare interviewers that had some fresh and new questions! Thank you for this!
Let´s see where this all will lead me, but unless it´s fun and enjoyable for the listeners, it´s fun and enjoyable for me! Best wishes from Germany.
CLICK HERE to buy Get you Genki on BandCamp
CLICK HERE to visit Official Web Site of label