Label Love #45: Hivern Discs


Hivern have quietly become a force to be reckoned with. Rather than jumping on bandwagons, relying on gimmickry or putting out countless big name remixes, John Talabot's label have gone for a refreshingly traditional approach. Over the last seven years they've supported quality underground sounds from Barcelona (and increasingly further afield), housed releases in good looking sleeves and constantly picked winning tunes. This is probably why sections of their back catalogue are going for crazy money on Discogs (something the label aren't too keen on).

Broadly electronic in approach, as the label throws itself more into album formats, we've no doubt their sound will expand further and further – it's no surprise when they list classic UK labels's such as XL and Warp as inspirations. Here, we talk to Hivern about the relevence of vinyl, the ones that got away, Discogs scalpers and where they want to take the label in the future…  

The first Hivern release was (as far as we know!) a couple of MP3s made for something called Natural 2 – can you tell us what that was about?

The label started as digital because we wanted to release stuff from people from Barcelona but didn't have money for a vinyl launch. We tried to get distribution from several distributors but no-one wanted to give a deal to a label made up of artists from Barcelona. It was that critical moment when it looked like vinyl was going to disappear. We thought that releasing some stuff in digital would be a good start to get a bit of cash for a very first vinyl release.

What made you want to make the step up to producing vinyl- particularly because when you started pressing 12”s, a lot of people were predicting the death of the record?

Everybody predicted the death of records and it's been on the table for 25 years, but I knew that it wouldn't happen as I wanted to keep buying records. Vinyl collectors, DJs, format lovers. Vinyl is not just the music, it's a way of appreciating the format further than music. It's a way of discovering music and playing it out. It's not so easy to kill as it affects the lives of some people directly and the way to approach club culture as well. 

Had you always planned to start a label or was it something that occurred without much forethought?

Starting a label was an idea I always had. I wanted to release stuff from friends and musicians I knew could do something great and trust in their skills. There were several labels in Barcelona but at some point I felt I was disconnected to their way of doing things so I decided to do my own and try to make the label something more open and not just for people into house or techno. That was the main purpose.

There seems to be a very strong aesthetic presence on the label; the artwork is often a great accompaniment to the music. Does this come about by sitting the artists down and clearly discussing what you'd like to see, or do they have more freedom?

The idea of the label and the artwork are pretty similar. The main goal was trying to make a bit of crossover and trying to make a bit of a difference from the techno or housey labels which had a strong aesthetic based on repeating a pattern, a colour, etc. We decided to treat each record differently and define their artwork relating it to the artist more than to the label aesthetics. Of course, all releases have something in common and that's nice because at the end you can get an idea of our taste and graphic boundaries but without it being repetitive or predictable. We really like this because it means a bit more risk, more fun and being able to work with a lot of graphic designers, artists and people we really admire for their work. And it makes artists have a more clear concept of their stuff as we asked them about a lot of preferences, ideas and inspirations

How/ why do you decide to release one of your own tracks through Hivern rather than someone else?

We tend to release stuff that we like, no boundaries, or first questions, just guided by our ears and taste. The main idea is to release what we find interesting. We don't want to put out the same record several times. We release what we expect from labels: a perfect mix of surprise and risk, things that make us feel proud of releasing them. We like to work with new artists but also have the chance to work with people we admire and can prepare special stuff from us.

How important has Barcelona been to the development of the label?

It always happens to me that I never know how to answer to this question. I'm not sure if Barcelona defined anything from the label. For me, Barcelona is a really important part of my life, my town, every time I go out around the city I feel so good with it. But how it affects the music is something I don't know, maybe we need a bit more perspective to answer this question.  

How and where do you find most of the music for the label? Do they submit their work to you or do you actively seek new names?

We receive lots of demos and we try to release the ones we like. Sometimes it's just one track of the package or two tracks and then we try to help and develop an EP with the artist. We're just two people so for us it takes a lot of time to hear everything and decide what to put out. A lot of music also comes from good friends and people that we like and want to do something with us.

In the age of the 3 second attention span, do you still listen to albums?

Yes and I like to do it. Actually, the label is focusing on the album format too. Its a different experience and you need to give them a chance. I don't think any album released today receives your direct attention. It needs a work by your side, your attention, your care and understanding. Releasing an album is a hard job for an artist and it should be rewarded with a bit more attention.

Which record labels have been the most influential in your own musical journey?

I like what UK labels did in the past: like Warp did, defining UK club culture plus releasing super interesting indie stuff, XL too, Young Turks now. I don't feel these kind of labels exist in anywhere other than the UK. Also, I love some classic techno labels and some '80s and '90s indie labels and the essence of labels like Warp or XL were really interesting. RVNG Intl is another label that has this interesting crossover that I really enjoy. 

What are your most and least favourite things about running your own label?

Actually at this point is something that we enjoy. Everyone in the label has their own defined role now and it works. All of us decide and try to do our best and that's the reason that in the last years the label has released a bit more but has tried to keep the quality. We could also focus on bigger projects like albums which is something that we really wanted to try.

If you could sign one artist from throughout recorded musical history to the label, who would it be and why?

Not sure about this, history in music is so big and wide and yet a bit unknown. Feeling more realistic and keeping it in a lower profile rather than naming people like Prince, I would have love to released Broadcast albums, some Dilla, some BoC stuff . 

What's been relentlessly gracing your ear drums so far this year?

Lots of reissues, also lots of interesting old Spanish stuff that my friends from Discos Paradiso showed and recommended me. 

What are your thoughts on the current state of independent records? Do you believe that there are enough opportunities available for people to be successful?

Yes there are of course, its not easy, but its quite democratic too. People listen to what they like, promo is easier through the internet. Although nowadays majors and powerful labels adopt the small labels techniques there is yet space for good music. In terms of business I really don't know because Hivern didn't start as a company for profit. It started out of the idea of releasing interesting music and artists we like. 

What's your stance on digital vs vinyl? 

Both are important formats for the music industry. Vinyl is actually an object, something that you own, collect and take care of and allows labels to develop a high quality product: nice artworks, uncompressed music sounding at its best, etc, whereas digital music reaches much more people and can become a financial balance for independent labels.

How do you fund your label? Are label parties important to keeping the whole thing afloat or do you do it purely through sales?

We’ve always been heavily dependant on vinyl sales and with limited pressings it's always tricky to make a label sustainable. Label showcases are now provide the label with a bit of extra funding and we are also looking into additional funding sources such as new merchandising, monetising our social media channels, we recently uploaded our full back catalogue to all Digital Retailers and with our forthcoming album we expect to reach wider audiences.

How do you feel about old Hivern 12”s (such as Pional's A Moot Point) changing hands for nearly £100 on Discogs?

Well this is unfortunately what certain sectors of our society end up doing with all consumer goods, right? Speculation. We find the prices on Discogs totally outrageous but if certain people pay them then this will still happen. On top of that there’s people that don’t really care about the music and do this as a full time job; we now have copies in stock from a new label from Barcelona and people are already asking for 30€ and 40€ on Discogs and you can still buy the record in our online store and specific retailers for 12€? What’s the point of this? We don’t respect this of course.

What have been your favourite releases on the label?

We are very happy with all our catalogue, can’t really pick a handful of them at the moment to be honest.

And is there anything you wish you'd signed that you turned down?

Of course there’s always music that you see released on other labels that was offered to you first and you think “damn, I should have released this” but at the end of the day we receive so much music and if you can’t release something at one point because you don’t see it then fair enough. It’s also good to make “mistakes", you learn from them, and if your release schedule is too busy then artists need to find a home for their music as soon as they can because this whole thing moves really fast and even their output evolves constantly and sometimes they can’t sit on a specific set of tunes for too long. It just doesn’t make sense for them. And we support this fact as well.

What is Hivern?

Hivern means “Winter” in Catalan.

Keep up to date with Hivern Discs here and hear their latest releases here.