Quartier23 was founded back in 1990. What was the original spark that made you found the label, and what kind of aims did you have for it back then? Was it more of an ideologic or a purely art-reliant decision?
Marco > Q23 was a name for an idea, which came to life in 1990 and knew different names during the years. In fact the label was founded to present dark music. Back in the 90ies of the last century it wasn't important to have a category or something like that. Nobody was talking about something like Dark Ambient or other terms. Maybe only the term „Industrial“ was around, but it seems that it has a different meaning now.
Originally, we started as a tape label – still with a different name – and released some endued tapes. Most notably the compilation series NEW AEON SYMBOLS included some well known names from this era. Some vinyls and also CD productions followed. Some of the media started to call us „satanic“ so we made fun of it and printed „satanic culture“ on some of the tape labels and also used the Baphomet Seal as label logo. Maybe because of this we also got some attention in the metal scene, especially in France but maybe it was also the start of the connection between metal and dark ambient as we know it from today – who knows?! So, to come back to your question, it was always a connection between art and philosophy, weltanschauung and magick.
You had two different names before settling for Quartier23 in 2008. Why was it changed, and what does the new name stand for?
Marco > I started a label back in 1990 and chose the typical way of releasing in those days: tapes! It created a lot of great contacts with good people from all over Europe, some tape releases and vinyls as well. It is a time I like to remember because it was a completely different way of working than today. Tape-trades, xeroxed fanzines and a lot of stamps on envelopes ;-) But more and more the so-called scene became stranger and stranger. So I stopped this label and moved forward under a new name and with a new „concept“: in the next years only the close friends and supporters got the releases. What followed was a little break and I started again in 2008 with Quartier23. This time with the big help of three of the closest friends, by name Franco from Spain, Veronica from Ireland and Mark from England. Also if Quartier23 is de facto a German label it was always more european than everything else.
We chose the term Quartier23 for various reasons. It is based on the french term for „quarter“ in the sense of neighborhood and accommodation. The number 23 also has various meanings, especially in a magical context. We would need some time and space to explain that in detail, but it was always an important number in our lifes.
What has changed on the way? The label is of course more well known and you've released more albums during the time passed, but do you still operate the label with the same basic principles as earlier? Is the music you release still focused around the same area of expression as it was in the beginning? What is it that has kept you in action for so long, if you can name those things?
Marco > Due to the fact that the internet became an important part for all of us it was easier to get attention from the public. Also it has made communication easier. The principles never changed since 1990, but maybe the way. Also if it is now easier to be public it is harder to have the attention you need as a label. People changed too. Nobody is really interested to accredite the work of an artist and a label; everything has to be for free... We live in a time of a „label dying“. A lot of labels disappeared and will disappear. That is also the way Quartier23 is going now. And will be replaced by net-labels which suddenly appear in every corner of the internet.
That made it harder to operate as a label and to draw the attention the artists deserve. So it is also one reason for the closure: we don't want to harm our artists with a maybe no longer contemporary way of working. The kind of music never really changed, it is dark, melancholic, magickal and beautiful as it always was, but it is much harder today to find good artists because it seems that everybody today uses the term „artist“ for his work – even if the machines are the true artist ;-)
How do you choose a band to get their work published on your label; do you more often contact the bands, or do they contact you? Is there some specific factors a band must possess (or to not have) to be able to score a release on your label; are there perhaps some ideological preferences or limitations?
Marco > It was just a question of time that we decided not to get demos on request anymore. In fact, people send stuff... wow, absolutely unbelieveble. So we often found „our“ artists, instead of being found! Recommendation by friends was also an important thing. It was always advantageous if the artist and the album was related to occult and magical themes. But, if we liked the music, the compositions it wasn't a „must have“. Also if we have a special weltanschauung, it wasn't necessary that every artists have to comply with.
How involved are you in deciding the artwork, release format preferences and all these mundane issues? The sad truth from the label's perspective is that albums have to sell in order for the label to stay active, so I wouldn't be too amazed if these factors have caused a lot of headache during the years.
Marco > We gave the artists the absolute freedom to select and create the artwort. The only limitations were technique and – unfortunately – costs. It is different to get all the printed matter from a copy shop or a printing plant. We always wanted to have the releases as beauty and professional as possible.
So I formed the framework of possibilities and the artist was able to do what he wanted to do :-)
Furthermore, do you have any activities regarding visual works, paintings perhaps?
Marco > Yes, but that isn't for the public. For me it is important to have also things what are for me only. What I mean is, some people publish everything they do – what I often call the „I ate an egg“-Twitter-posts mentality – but I think it is important to have things for yourself only, not to become a totally public person...
To my understanding, you're also involved in arranging live-performances and publishing written works. As I'm not really familiar with these sides of your label, could you shed some light onto those actions as well?
Marco > We tried to be involved in arranging live-performances but honestly, we failed with this attempt. It was always a question of time and money to arrange this and unfortunately, we hadn't enough of either. Also the interest in our kind of music became less after the zenith in the 1990s.
To publish written works is nearly the same like to publish music with the exception of the complexity and the way of distribution. It is quite hard to sell printed books and magazines. There are some printed releases like our annual „Liber Fastorum“, a kind of occult almanac.
Can you name your personal highlight moments with the label, or perhaps the releases you're the most proud of? Furthermore, have there been any definite low points in misassuming how much an album will sell or how it'll be received, an album you would leave unreleased now in retrospect, or other negative happenings that might still cause you to grind your teeth in frustration?
Marco > It was always a highlight moment if I noticed that we made a good decision with an artist. What I mean is, I was always more than satisfied if I noticed that an artist is exactly the kind of person you want to be friends with. It was never the thought of ‚how many copies an artist could sell‘ – we wanted to have a good relationship with our artists. Not only to talk about music and the next release, but to talk about everyday occurrences and stuff too. Like people you want to arrange to meet with in the evening for a beer or something like that. I hope people still can remember these things they did in the real life :-)
So it is more than clear that the low points were always the fact to notice: wow, that wasn't a good idea. Fortunately that happened only two times and the releases were never done for the public.
To my knowledge, most of Q23-releases have been in CD-format. You also had a download-label named Notariqon that existed for some time, but later vanished. How did you come to found and later dismiss this sub-label?
Marco > Notariqon was originally founded to support the physical releases of Quartier23. But in fact, thousands of downloads had no effect on the sale of the CDs. Never being a big fan of downloads we decided to stop that project again.
Reading all the above, it's clear that you've put a lot of work into what you've done. In general, what kind of reception have you met during the years? Do people appreciate your work, and have you had the luck of finding like-minded individuals to help you with making the label's actions stronger?
Marco > Indeed, I had the luck to find a lot of like-minded people during the years. There were so many various characters I met which became an important part not only for the label but also for me personally. I saw the changes of our world, our mentality and our way of living and had to react to these and adjust the circumstances again and again. And I am happy to see that there are still enough paths outside Facebook, MySpace and the Web in general to make your works stronger and more efficient.
Your most recent releases include names such as Hoyland, Sagenhaft and Akoustik Timbre Frekuency, and the soon to be released names are Melankolia, Viginti Tres Saecula and Immundus. If you want to briefly tell us something about these new releases or their characteristics that made you release them, this is the time.
Marco > Because Quartier23 already released albums from these artists it was in general no question whether to release it or not. We agreed immediately and we are happy about that decision, because these releases reflect exactly what I prefer of an artist: a development without losing the roots. The Melankolia and Immundus albums are such great works that I am sure that both projects will get a lot more attention than they have already received. You will notice the perfection and the brilliant heads behind the projects. It is always difficult to say something about the releases on your own label, because people surely think „hey, he has to say that“, but I am sure: give these albums a try and you will not regret it.
All good things come to an end, as such is the effect of time. I've understood that the future will bring many changes to your operations, and at least some of them have reached their end. Care to tell us what will change, and what led to these decisions?
Marco > Yes, there will be changes. Quartier23 will stop being a label, that is maybe the biggest change. But the name will not disappear completely. We will concentrate our forces to distribute the works of friends – musicians as labels too. So, the already established shops will remain as they are.
The reason for that decision is simple and understandable – I hope at least. It isn't possible to continue with this way full of commercial pressure. We never wanted this, but it crept in – slowly but more and more. My privacy and also my other works have taken a back seat. Quartier23 was never intended as a commercial label, but at the same time it ate most of my time. That can't work for a longer time. But that isn't the final solution regarding the work as a label...
You recently founded a new entity called IreyMascun, which you've described as "a label for occult-ritual releases in exclusive packages." Would you tell us more what you have planned for this label and what is it about? I understood that this one will still continue after Q23 does not, correct? How about AgenturThiel?
Marco > And here it is :-) Exactly, IreyMascun will be the next step, more back to the roots, without the pressure of sales volume and so on. It was founded by Franco already some time ago, originally to print the vinyl boxes we did for the performances with our own musical project Viginti Tres Saecula in 2009 – 2011. After this, IreyMascun also released some ritual works of friends of a magical brotherhood. We decided to walk along this path now. Pure magic and ritual works. The complete concept behind IreyMascun can be found on the new website of the label.
The current release of Viginti Tres Saecula is already a co-production of Quartier23 and IreyMascun and marks the end of the one and the new beginning of the other.
AgenturThiel is an agency I founded some time ago and it is the project which I fully concentrate on now. Here we offer web-programmings, print productions and other services, as well as music productions. And we cooperate with a lot of other people and companies to make it easy for the client to get everything at one place. I am sure that names like Sombre Soniks Studios from England or Wave-Line Audio Mastering from Norway are already quite popular - not only in the dark ambient area – and I am happy to cooperate with such professional and brilliant entities.
Are you personally a part of any musical projects? If yes, want to share a word about them?
Marco > Besides Viginti Tres Saecula, which all four of us are a part of, I had some musical projects in the 90s. It is maybe better to tell no names :-) But one of them was Natural Faith Project.
Viginti Tres Saecula is a project which was created to transform some of the Fraternitas rituals in sounds and moods. - perhaps comparable to soundtracks for rituals. You know already our release „Ritual In Red And White“, which you reviewed in DBL. In general we are not very interested to be in the public eye with VTS, because it is only a reflection of our own magickal works and acting. That may set us apart from other musiscians or artists certainly. We do what we will – regardless of the sales of our albums. But we also like if our work finds some individuals who know what to do with it.
Anything you'd like to add?
Marco > We would like to thank all the people who guided us on our path. Thank you all for using the chance to discover new and brilliant artists. We hope you've enjoyed every single song. And finally: this is not the end!
Thank you for your time.
Marco > We have to thank you to give us the possibility to have a voice in your webzine. Live, Love, Work and Enjoy!