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Ad Noiseam at 5

img  Tobias

As “Ad Noiseam” celebrates its fifth birthday this year, it has every right to be proud of itself. Today, the label is a true success story of the electronic music scene, a place of refuge for music fans on the outlook for great music away from secluded niches and hasty trends. This is a story of love for music and of the mechanisms of the industry, of the Internet and the real world, of journalism and art and of an idea and a coincidence turning into a company. Above all, it is a personal story of a Frenchman in Germany with a keen interest in noise and experimental music.

It’s the 1990s and Nicolas Chevreux is running a radio show by the name of “Totentanz”. These are fascinating times, as the supposed underground is bubbling up into the eyes and ears of a broad audience. Metal, Hardcore, HipHop, Drum n Bass and Electronica are making their way into the charts and suddenly, the air is filled with a sense of excitment and the smell of revolution. Industrial music is also experiencing a surge in interest, especially when crossing over to other genres and infecting Rock to turn into a filthy, but extremely catchy (and commercially potent) hybrid. The internet holds a major part in this development. Thanks to the web, small local scenes can connect and form new communities, stronger than they ever thought they could be. Totentanz turns into “Recycle your ears”, one of many WebZines on expemental electronic culture and quickly makes a name for itself by the diversity of artists it features and the deep knowledge displayed by its main reviewer – Nicolas himself.

The site turns into one of the hubs of the scene. With reviews on a daily basis and a news section, which highlights album releases of both renowned and obscure acts, it is in a way what fans had been waiting for and perfectly displayed the openness and unbiased nature of the internet. It is not about writing articles worthy of the Pullitzer Prize, but rather of finally presenting albums, which were in need of a forum. Already at this stage, Chevreux is happy to use his personal taste as the main compass for what to include and what not, something which he will remain true to as he takes things a step further: “The idea of putting out a compilation
gatherings people who, in my opinion, deserved exposure, came to me in a moment of boredom in late 2000. This project, which eventually became the “Krach Test” compilation, was then thought as a one-time ofshoot of the magazine, and not as the beginning of a label.” He sets up a huge list of artists (30 or 40 in total) he would like to include, hoping to get enough to fill a CD. In the end, with only one exception, everyone agrees. “Krach Test” is released a three-disc set and quickly sells a considerable amount of copies. Surprised and fascinated, Nicolas pursues the path which is now opening up before him.


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“I had absolutely no idea about how to run a label or release music when I started out.” He admits. “The first release, as well as almost everything released in the first year was on burned CDR, and sold directly to customers through the Ad Noiseam website.” Of course, the duality of the Recycle your ears mag and the nascent label, which he dubs “Ad Noiseam”, is of great help, as are his many contacts with the musicians. It seems as though he has struck a chord with a true need. “Interest picked up quite quickly”, he says “and Ad Noiseam was able to reach more people, through shows, tours (the first one in the USA taking place not even a year after the first release) and better distribution.” An invaluable part of the plan is the mail order. For a scene, which has always had the most dire problems getting its releases heard and displayed in shops, a professionally built catalogue of releases one could trust almost blindly was of vital importance. Many people still like to go shopping at “Ad Noiseam”, simply because they know they are going to get quality, regardless of what kind of style they may be interested in. As with his label’s releases, Nicolas likes to mash it up, with a strong focus on Noise in the early days moving into more Ambient-related works passing into a very rhytmical and breakbeat-orientated program. For many small labels, this is an ideal place to sell their stuff.

Still, the mail order is not necessarily Nicolas’ favourite occupation: “The best part is working on a release, its structure, its sound, its promotion, and its packaging. I am not a musician myself, and working with the artist to be able to present the best possible album to the audience is the part of this job which I enjoy the most. It's exciting to see the progress on a project, between getting drafts of tracks on a CDR and seeing the final, pressed and packaged object, or hearing the tracks being played live.”Within two years, 24 releases see the light of day, with everything from brutally rhytmic material to dense sound textures and some pieces from the budding glitch scene. While artists like tamvred stand for the more aggressive and yet accesible side of “Ad Noiseam”, ghostly masterpieces such as Cordell Klier’s “Apparitions” represent a more introspect face, full of subtle allusions and mystery. How does Chevreux decide on what to ipick up? “I'd be hard pressed to say why I decide to release something or not.”, he says. “The bottom thing is that I have to be really enthusiastic about it. I tend to have relatively varied (and varying) tastes, so I couldn't pinpoint precisely what I like or not (maybe with the exception of heavy, slow bass, which is something I eat like hot cakes). I do receive several hundred demos a year, and try to listen to them all. A lot of them never make it past the third track. Some are nice, but don't sound to me like something I could work well on (I have for example received very good rock demos, from bands I have since then pointed to other labels). And some get repeat rotation, which might lead to a release.” As his company becomes a household name, he suddenly receives demos from artists he admires: “A band I am a total fan of sent me a demo of a side project and I refused it. It broke my heart because I love that band. I never thought I would say no to this person, but he sent me something that I just didn't really enjoy.” All the while, it has becomes clear that “Ad Noiseam” has become a power house.


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Alas, it also becomes clear that it will be impossible to run both a WebZine and a label. With a smile and a tear, Nicolas first thinks about recruting an editorial team for “Recycle Your Ears”, then closes it down entirely. All of his attention is now funneled into the label. Digital breakbeat is his new love – a music with an incredile amount of raw energy, a punk-attitude, drum-heavy and yet with an open ear for almost every style of music (the genre’s figure head Venetian Snares even goes as far as to combine classical music, traditional hungarian folklore and brutal breakbeats). He signs one of the scene’s leading acts, Bong Ra and joins his artists on many tours of the USA, which wins him a new audience. His personal involvment is one if the things which make “Ad Noiseam” stand apart: “I am in constant contact with most musician, and we often communicate about other things than music and their releases. Some artists have less time than others, and some write or speak more than other, but it's rare than I am in contact with an artist only on the topic of her or his release.”

It would be easy over-exagerating the success Chevreux has had. Making a living from “Ad Noiseam” still remains a task second to none and Nicolas jokingly sighs when asked how vital he believes he is to the public with regards to discovering new music: “Not vital enough, or everything would be a lot smoother, I guess.” Still, the professionalism of the label defies comparison. He has learned a lot, too, thanks to the five years of hard work. One lesson was that the internet certainly is no panacea: “Coming from an online magazine, with which I got to contact artists and labels by email, and at first a label dealing with customers exclusively through the internet, Ad Noiseam owes a lot to the web. This medium is still very important, may it be to communicate with artists or distributors, or to make all the side-jobs easiers (from promoting shows to exchanging data with pressing plants), but it is not as exclusive as it used to be. It's important for me to have CD available at regular record stores, and to enable “offline” fans to get this music.” And he also refuses to place himself into a particular box or a too-narrowly defined musical niche: “One of the most important thing is to remember who one is releasing music for. It's easy to start thinking in terms of niche and scenes, and believe that one can put out records just for a small number of very well defined people. It is never that easy, in part because it's impossible to reach a scene in its entirety, however small it is and in part because CD and record always end up sold or presented to other people. Therefore, one should always think of writing and promotion music to a very general audience, to people who have no preconception whatsoever about genres. As a label, I try to release not only CD which I would buy myself, but also CD that anybody might enjoy, even people with a different musical culture as myself.”

He is still succeeding admirably. “Ad Noiseam” remains a place you can go to when you feel like listening to great music and allow someone to make a suggestion. There are works of utter beauty, such as Mago’s “Definitions of raw moments from a different perspective” (featuring softly rocking guitars), bizarre ambient excursion like “Radio 1940” by Wilt and the more recent, hyperventilating releases. Its impact on the entire scene has been tremendous: Not only because CDs are not limited and will remain available and not merely because his sympathetic professionalism was a step forward. But also, because the combination of a WebZine, a radio station, a label and a mailorder has been inspiration to many. To the writer of this article and to this very WebZine you’re reading now, for example. Happy Birthday “Ad Noiseam” and thank you for the music!

A great way to start your journey into the world of "Ad Noiseam" is the celebratory release "Ad Noiseam 2001-2006" featuring two CDs of exclusive tracks and a DVD with Video Clips. Order it here.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Ad Noiseam
Homepage: Nicolas Chevreux of Ad Noiseam Interview at Igloo Mag
Homepage: Nicolas Chevreux of Ad Noiseam Interview at Ear Pollution

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