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+3dB: Label Profile

img  Tobias Fischer

About founding the label
Two things motivated Jørgen Knudsen and myself as we were starting up. First, we both felt that the niche element were dominating too much in many labels, that the artistic agenda of smaller labels were getting more specific and also more narrow year by year. We wanted to move between electronic, composed, improvised as we saw fit, using the label as a tool to tell stories about the connections that we saw in different forms of experimental music.
Secondly, we wanted to engage the small but vital Bergen music scene and connect this to national and international artists. For us, having a strong connection to the network of artists we are working with is crucial. It also made perfect sense, as Jørgen was running a CD production house at that time, and I was busy touring in Norway and Europe, meeting musicians and audiences that I saw as strong connecting point for what was happening in Bergen at the time. So we shared the idea for a label with a local perspective and had different experiences and networks to make this happen.

About the story behind the label's name
This emanated from an old, stupid joke of mine when I played in a noise band: "decibels = quality!". +3db is by some regarded as the smallest volume change recognisable by most. The idea here would then be that +3db records would be 3 decibels louder and 3 decibels better then everything else out there. All totally silly, of course...

About +3db's definition of quality
I think the main message is that we don't follow a singular aesthetic. We subjectively make this definition as we discuss and evaluate the projects that we get involved with. Rather than saying "this is the music of +3DB - make music like this and we will release it", we negotiate between artistic positions in order to make connections and contrasts that we find interesting.

About the label's philosophy

I think the main philosophy is most clearly seen and heard as you compare and connect the different albums. To me its really about what happens when you put a noise album like Golden Serenades next to Ruben Gjertsens chamber music and then follow this up with f.ex the last Lemur release.

About getting started
(Laughs) It seems very hectic looking back - we first made a pre-release of the lemur album "IIIIIII", then we put out the first real three titles in one batch: Office-R(6), Lemur and Rehab. It was a very intense time, lots of work was spent on developing the graphic profile of the label, production issues like negotiating with the CD-plant, mastering all the albums and so forth. Although we didn't manage to do all the things we aimed for in that first run, I still think its a clear statement that sets the direction of the label in a good way.

About interacting with the artists

For me, this is half the fun! I am almost always involved in the recording, either as producer, doing mixing or mastering. I think I have been present in the mastering of nearly all the productions. If I am involved in the music-making part of it, I more often step out of the other parts, relying on some of the other people connected to us, like John Hegre or Jørgen Træen. If you are into reading the stuff in small print on the back of the CDs, you will see that a lot of names are recurring: Most recording sessions are done either with Davide Bertolini in Bergen or with Thomas Hukkelberg in Oslo, mastering is done by John, Jørgen, Thomas or me and so on.  With regards to the music on ONE, our solo series under development, I act as a curator/devil's advocate/producer, trying to create studio sessions that are challenging for the artists and of course interesting for our listeners.
The artwork is always developed from discussions between the artist, myself and Jørgen Knudsen. Its all very loose, just to set some guidelines for a mood, concept or something similar. Then we communicate this to Petri Henriksson, our designer, and he will generally make a couple of versions as a starting point. The two of us usually bounce back and forth till we are happy. At this point, the artist is normally also happy ... The process of finding the right printing techniques, the right paper, the right way to communicate our ideas to the print house has been a long journey, taking Petri and Jørgen far out into the Czeck countryside for bi-lingual design meetings.

About the importance of physical releases
We discussed this a lot, what kind of attitude we should have to the obvious decline in the CD market. Today, I am very happy that we settled on making a solid physical product. It makes us feel differently about the whole process, I think. Of course we have and will continue to have a strong digital presence through iTunes, Spotify etc. I am sure that there will be many developments in this area and that we will have to adjust to these as they happen.

About the different subdivisions of +3db

This happened gradually, as we started to verbalise what we wanted to do with the label. Rather than having everything ready from the start, we learned and developed the concept as we made records and connected to people. MAIN, will be the focal point of our "story telling" , this is where the main line of thinking can be followed. LUX and SUB are the diversions, the comments or subchapters of the +3db epic.

About SUB, dedicated to promoting local artists from Bergen

The Norwegian scene probably seems very compact from the outside, as we are a tiny nation with many active musicians. But I don't think there is a common denominator or a shared aesthetic, a common sound or anything like that. I think most Norwegian musicians smile when someone talks about "the Nordic sound" or "the arctic presence". This is the same for the Bergen scene - if there is anything we share, it might be the act of looking out of the city for impulses, a kind of stubborn west coast denial of our place in the geographic periphery.

About the massive 3CD Baktrupen set
This is a project that Jørgen Knudsen masterminded. I know that the process behind the selections, all the editing, and research/archive-work was painstakingly long and heavy. Also the booklet work involved a lot of the Baktruppen crew plus off course Petri and Jørgen. Jørgen, as both label partner and long time Baktruppen-member was the obvious key person here.

About working with friends
I think describing +3db as a community is quite an accurate description. No one here is in it for the money, especially since there is less and less of it nowadays. Sharing relations and experiences is the new economy, and making sure that our projects are high quality is the currency. I hope that we can see a chain of releases over the next 10 years, all based on this.

About the difficulties of distribution

Distribution is our definite weak link. Its getting increasingly hard to move titles around through the distribution chain. We are dealing with low quantities and high qualities, a formula that seems to be a retrograde of the current music industry. More and more interest from the UK, from continental EU and also Japan are popping up in our inboxes and we are working hard to find ways to make all our titles available for people. This will be our main focus in the forthcoming time, and we are continuously evaluating how to set this up the best way for us, the artists and our audience.

About highlights from two years of +3db
To sum this up seems an impossible task ... I think my personal highlights were our contribution to bringing Ruben Gjertsen forward on the Norwegian contemporary music scene - he is an absolutely brilliant composer that has been somewhat overlooked in Norway. The other highlight must be playing the release concert of our latest three albums in the Trondheim Cathedral - Lemur, Michael Duch solo, Tilbury/Duch/Davies and the all six of us playing a Howard Skempton piece as the grand finale.  A perfect +3dB night.

Homepage: +3db Records

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