Aleksandar Vučenović talks about AMEN‘s early period and why the label is only the starting point of his vision. Plus, PW-Magazine presents his exclusive mix with unreleased tracks.
Two years ago, the first EP appeared on AMEN followed by a compilation and eleven more releases. However, the online label of Vienna-based Aleksandar Vučenović does not merely distribute music. It is a collection haven for the interests of the native Serb as well as a community for like-minded artists.
The actual birth of AMEN goes back to his early teens. When he got his first phone with bluetooth connection, the older kids from school were sending him everything from hard-trance to grindcore. Aleksandar became a music geek, exploring every genre he could come across on YouTube and LimeWire.
Since his first contact with subcultures, he was trying to follow and mimic them and especially connected to the cybergrind scene on MySpace and the local Viennese hardstyle dance groups.
He started his own dance group when he was about 14 years old. AMEN started back then, as he began to design his own logo, crew name and aesthetic.
As he grew older, subcultures like Slimepunk and Vaporwave emerged, that’s where the synonym AMEN is from. He started to get in touch with musicians and did artworks and videos for them. As Aleksandar’s circle grew, AMEN became a mix platform and two years later the label was born. Phil Koch spoke to the man behind AMEN.
Nowadays every musician can be a producer and distributor. Still, many musicians work in networks and with labels. Where do you see the advantages of these collaborations?
To work with a label, platform or collective is a very natural process for every musician. Humans like to belong somewhere where their visions, ideas and views can be shared with others.
Every artist is trying to reach as many people as possible. By releasing with different labels the chance of getting a bigger reach is in most cases given.
How does your working process as a »one man company« looks like?
It’s pretty chaotic. I don’t always find the motivation to do everything on my own in a certain time range, so I often find myself jumping back and forth between the press text, artwork, etc.
I like to design music releases. When I was bored as a kid, I sometimes began to draw and design album covers for imaginary bands, thought about the track titles and themes, which kind of music the band would play.
I always evaluate albums as a whole package, it’s just something that is very important to me. In most cases I would just design the album cover and write the press texts for AMEN releases though, but with Asfast I worked on the track titles as well.
The whole process of polishing a release to bring out the most of it is thrilling. It is my biggest motivation for running a record label.
Aesthetics play a key role in AMEN. Videos and art works connect a certain dark mood, your logo symbolizes chained-up wings trying to free themselves. How important is visual identity to you?
The visual identity of a label is often the first impression you get. You already evaluate and categorize a label as soon as you enter the website, before listening to any of the music.
Naturally a label’s goal is therefore to be visually appealing, as well as to draw interest. Although I haven’t released any of my own music, my roots as a visual artist introduced me to artists and vice versa.
With this unusual approach, it was easy to find people that shared the same vision. My idea was to represent a wide range of genres and styles, focussing on the approach and authenticity: without a common thread, which is established through visuals, the label would seem disjointed and chaotic as the music varies a lot. AMEN as a whole makes most sense if you listen with your eyes, and envision while listening.
AMEN’s international portfolio is now complemented by local musicians such as Battle-ax, Asfast and Idklang. How would you describe and where would you locate the Viennese scene?
In Vienna, there’s a hole when it comes to contemporary musicians. This has many reasons, from nightlife infrastructure to fundings. Most of the big events and festivals in Vienna aren’t evolving at all. You just have to look at the line-up of festivals such as Frequency over the past years and see what’s going on.
Luckily, Vienna is changing. There is a growing underground movement trying its best to transform the climate. Hyperreality, Unsafe+Sounds Festival, Ashida Park and Common Contact are only some examples. I hope that with our effort we will spark people’s interest.
Even though Vienna might not be rich in quantity regarding musicians, it sure is in quality. This »Viennese vacuum« has its advantages too. I believe Viennese musicians get less influenced by trends and evolve in their own way. I’m trying to support the local scene as much as possible, and a label can be a good starting point. Vienna has found its voices, it just needs to push them.
Recently, you celebrated the 2nd anniversary of AMEN. What developments have you made since the label launch?
I think one important development was to incorporate Viennese musicians, which I prioritized this year. In the beginning, I was connected with a lot of international artists, so it was natural for me to start there. With the years, I came to realize how important my initial idea was: authenticity was and is the most important part of AMEN. For me, the best music is honest and intimate, just like a prayer.
What are your upcoming plans?
We have a short movie and accompanying soundtrack Torque by Tokyo-based performer Mira coming out in December. There will also be a bigger release by one of my favourite artists Iku coming up next. I’m also working on my own release and live set at the moment, and plan to debut it in the beginning of 2019. Moreover, we plan a tour through Eastern Europe with the local scene.