Jazzanova and Mixed Tape:
The Ultimate Creative Collective.
Our anniversary compilation gets the Jazzanova remix treatment: celebrating ten years of Mixed Tape with the headliners of our tenth edition.
catapult start in 1997.
In 1997, radio legend Gilles Peterson catapulted Jazzanova to international acclaim with their first stab at recording, "Fedime's Flight". Thanks to plenty of passion, perseverance and a keen perception of music business machinations:
The Berlin DJ and production collective around Alexander Barck, Jürgen von Knoblauch and Claas Brieler has evolved into a complex spectrum that oscillates between radio and club, studio and stage.
Like a ray of light in the
Taking stock, Jazzanova have treated fans to three albums, almost 30 singles and EPs, plus countless DJ mixes, remixes and compilation tracks, while the associated Sonar Kollektiv (label, publisher, distributor and one of Germany’s first independents on iTunes and SoundCloud) continues to spread the joy with nu jazz, soul, house and folk releases. A little closer to home, the likes of Lenny Kravitz, Lorde, Nightmares On Wax, RZA, Udo Lindenberg, Dwele and former Mixed Tape artists such as Fat Freddy’s Drop, 4hero, Micatone, [re:jazz] or Stee Downes enjoy the airy lounge feel of the Jazzanova Recording Studios run by Axel Reinemer, Stefan Leisering and Oliver Glage who complete the Berlin-based collective.
Grab your free copy of the Jazzanova Mixed Tape #57 Mix here.
A relaxed vibe.
The resulting mix of their eclectic skills is a clever, contemporary blend that chimes with our own approach. After ten years of Mixed Tape, we invited the headliners of our tenth edition to join forces with us once more and transform our compilation into a subtle-smooth mix that lets each artist shine but also underscores the shared spirit. But how has this smart and savvy collective managed to stay in business for almost twenty years without losing their minds, sense of fun or inspiration? Alex Barck and Oliver Glage reveal how to survive in the music business without selling your own soul(s).
Thanks a lot for inviting us to your studio – it’s a beautiful location.
Alex: Axel designed, built and supervised the whole thing.
It took him a good year to get it right. And while we still use the space for our own productions, we also rent the studio out to other artists. That’s why it exudes such a friendly and relaxed vibe, something most other Berlin studios lack. The sun greets you on arrival.
The universe of Jazzanova.
Producers, musicians, DJs, radio presenters – the Jazzanova collective covers the entire spectrum of the music business. Was this set-up part of your original masterplan?
Alex: Back then, everyone was working hard at becoming more and more individual. We wanted to reap the benefits of working as a collective. We even went so far to share our profits.
We're establishing a kind of micro social safety net within Jazzanova, seeing as we’d realised early on that surviving on production and DJing alone would be tough. The label, distribution and radio work gave us the freedom to take our time with things and only release records we were one hundred percent happy with.
Time flies: Jazzanova, or its DJing precursor, has been around for almost 20 years and Mixed Tape is celebrating its tenth anniversary. Can you remember what prompted you to supply the headlining track to our tenth compilation?
Alex: I have to admit that compilations weren’t really my thing back then. Most of them simply threw together random acts under an umbrella theme. Working with Mixed Tape, however, we immediately realised that it’s compiled by people who know what they’re doing – after all, you guys don’t just go for the big industry names.
How did you manage to meld all these different artists and genres together in one coherent mix?
Alex: The current iPod generation is a lot less genre-focused than we used to be.
Their tastes tend to be a lot more eclectic, as evinced by the latest Mixed Tape. To be honest, the compilation works really well on its own, even without the mix. It was really interesting to see how these different songs fuse together.
The energy of dramaturgy.
How did you approach the actual mix?
Alex: I usually only mix songs I’ve selected myself and then orchestrate a certain choreography that includes an intro, dramatic peak and a comedown phase. Mixed Tape songs tend to be rockier and poppier, so I used more of a radio approach.
All of the songs feel very whole and don’t deserve to be shredded. The tracks kind of dictated the order and I only had to string them together, really. I’m always looking for a certain energy flow that carries listeners along with it.
small gifts for friends and fans.
Mixed Tape and free downloads go together like a horse and carriage: To date, our tracks have been downloaded over 50 million times, and many fans have stuck with us since the first compilation. But this approach might not work for everyone – as musicians, what’s your take on free downloads?
Alex: Small gifts are great for keeping fans on board – something major labels were slow to realise. In a way, free downloads are a promotional tool.
Oliver: It doesn’t matter if you’re an established artist or just starting out; just think of De La Soul who recently gave away their entire back catalogue in exchange for the fan’s email address – they then used the addresses to promote their new album. Unknown artists can upload their tracks to SoundCloud or publish them for free on a blog.
Alex: Some really well-known people started out digital and for free – and later made the switch to pro when they had 50,000 followers under their belt. The key thing is to be the first to offer your songs online; that’s much easier if the tracks are free.
Looking back ten years: Is there anything you know now that would have been helpful back then?
Alex: Being entirely self-taught, we’ve naturally made mistakes along the way, but as Edith Piaf says: we “regret nothing” (laugh). At the same time, backing by a big sponsor would have allowed us to push certain artists even more. Just like Mixed Tape, we’re known for discovering acts very early on and that requires a long-term strategy and support. But those ups and downs are part of the game. People who struggle a bit in life tend to make better music.
We couldn’t agree more – and are awaiting Jazzanova’s upcoming fourth album – due for release in spring 2015 – impatiently. To bridge the gap, catch one of their live performances (as solo acts or with a full band set-up) at festivals between Aruba, Barcelona and Shanghai.