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Sub Jam / Kwanyin: Label Profile

img  Tobias

About kissing Rock n Roll goodbye and founding a label
In 1998, I published a small booklet for a concert I was organizing. The concert was canceled but the booklet was spread everywhere. Its title was Sub Jam. In 2000, I decided to use this name to found a label since I wanted to help friends to promote their music. At that time, everybody was waiting to be signed by a company. I said let's DIY. We released the first CD as a compilation of Chinese underground music. In 2004, I began making my own music/sound. I thought it was time to say bye-bye to rock and indie-electronica because I do experimental music myself. So I founded Kwanyin Records with some friends.

The compilation was initiated by chance when an editor asked me to publish my music review collection. We decided to have a CD with the book. I selected some tracks of underground rock, experimental, noise and other strange things. There was no experimental scene and some people were just trying to create a new sound. We didn't know what music we were doing actually. I paid the musicians out of my own pockets and the book+CD was published in a run of 8000 copies. This was a collaborative release.

About aesthetics and artist relations

When we started out, I just asked artists to contribute the design - either by themselves or by their friends. Then, I had some designer to help in different phases of the process. That's why we have different styles in our catalogue. Curently, Ruan Qianrui ( designs most poster and CD covers. He is a young designer and developed his own style from these works. Both of us believe that we are „live“ in China. That means we are mixed, we are always changing, we are related to all of the environment. We don't want to fix anything. This is experimental music after all and it is designed for an experimental life.

About the label's philosophy
Sometimes artists show me their work and I'll say: Yes let's release it. But I prefer to be involved more these days. For example, 3 years ago, Zhang Jian handed me his radio recording from Bengal Bay. Several month ago, I listened to them again and thought maybe now it's time to release it. At home, I had a new idea that we could use the same box of the Buddha Machine as a fake radio box. Then we progressed developing ideas together ... I want to have more than just one reason to release an album. Who are the artists and what's the relationship between them and me and the designer? etc. Why do we choose this work and how is it related to our life?

Sub Jam is no longer a CD label but our mother-ship, a creative basement. Kwanyin is the label but we use both logos on CD covers. We also release books under Sub Jam. And all events are organized are under the banner of Sub Jam.

In the past we did so many things under Sub Jam's name. almost every aspect of underground/independent culture. Sub Jam is about life: Contemporary, deep reality, guerrilla, rhizome, anarchy, experiment, non-professional ...

One of the recent releases, Li Zenghui's „Live at Waterland Kwanyin“, is maybe our ideal release but not the only one. We have so many faces. His Saxophone and screaming are extreme and self-invented. It's rough and wild but we don't care about quality. We create different standards of quality.

About current music from China
I think Li Zenghui and Xiao He are very much representative of China. They look so „out“. So obscure. They have a strong desire to break all rules. Maybe you know Shanzhai. Many people don't like Shanzhai, but I love it. Many people want to show an international and professional China but I think that's absurd. Of course, I do like another side of Chinese qualities: I'm a poet and a writer and I'm not from the bottom of society. I like traditional elegant art as well. But today we have so many fake ancient people. i think we have to keep the live-spirit in contemporary life. I think Wu Na, Li Jianhong and some other musicians are trying to achieve just this.

About the Future

So many plans. As a CD label, we are so small and I am not intending to get bigger. Next is how to infect and how to make everything we are doing as a whole thing. We will do more collaborative events. 2-4 releases a year (now working on Taiwan no-input artist DINO). Trying to distribute abroad (so hard). etc.

Yes, following the stream is next.

By Tobias Fischer & Will Long. Will Long is one half of Drone-duo Celer and runs the "Floor Sugar"-Mailorder for Asian Sound Art.

Homepage: Sub Jam / Kwanyin

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