After five years and 100 releases, the story of Eilean Records is just coming to an end already set from the start. Founder Mathias Van Eecloo talks about the label’s experience, one of the most interesting and peculiar in the fields of electro-acoustic and experimental music.
Even if you’ve been already used to collaborations with many other artists in your activity as Monolyth & Cobalt, how did you first get the idea of turning it in a peculiar label as Eilean?
Due to all the music artists that I’ve meet through Monolyth & Cobalt, I had already some wonderful artists to propose to be released, and due to all the music in my music library, it was obviously a new step for me. add some physical records from my own land. make my own sound territory, but this time to put in light some artists that I love. I was not comfortable with my works, or simply to put me in the light. so, to be in the background, was for me, more easy. but I miss to experiment in sounds. a lot.
The plan of the label has been very challenging since its very start: now that it’s reaching the planned 100 releases, can you tell the meaning of the “map” you’ve been building through its monthly releases? And where does that map has led you now?
The idea of the map was to create a personal world. an imaginary landscape but with a reality in our world. at the start 100 points have been choose randomly and then, I’ve added the number, randomly too. I’ve always loved the hazard process in life and creativity. so it was the same for the map.
From this 100 points, with my design friend we had the idea to cut the complete map in 100 squares. in each physical copies you have 1 square (10 cm x 10 cm) with the map point of the release connected. at the end if you put all the square together, you have a map with a size of 1 m x 1m. again, it give something real in the process of something « unreal ». an object. a cartography of the label. it was the same with the soil of the music artists collected at home and printed in the backside of the map point. to have an imprint from where they live and have recorded their sounds.
A last detail about the map. eilean rec. were connected to the 4 seasons. I’ve choose the colors connected to each of them (Winter:white / Spring:green / Summer:blue / Autumn:orange-brown-yellow). the artists scheduled was invited due to their dates to choose a number connected to the season. they have the choice between some specific numbers. since the start, the map should be colored at the end like a « real » map. with the colors of the pack ice (white), the mountains (orange-brown-yellow), the plains (green), the desert (yellow), the water (blue),. I will try to finally make it for the last release!
How did you choose the music you released?
Just by feelings. from what I loved and love. and sure, from the music artists that I trust. some were well known, some were emerging artists. about that it was not easy, as I had a lot of submissions. but my choices were already made upstream. I’ve only accepted around 8 or 9 demos on the 100 releases.
Do you think that the focus on ambient, experimental and electro-acoustic music helped characterizing the label’s profile? And, for your experience, do you think that this is good artistic field for keeping releasing physical records?
Yes it help to characterize the label profile. and on my side, the boundaries are not so close. and you could have a lot of atmospheres in a word classify as « electronic » or « ambient ». but it’s a niche too. I’ve just made that choice because, between a lot of music stamps in my music library the most part are classified in electronic/ambient/experimental.
About to keep physical records, I think it is. certainly due to the experience of listenings. you can listen loud or softly, and a lot of the releases in this area have some difference colors and variations in that sense. even, you can slow down a release or accelerate it and you have still something coherent for the most part of them. that’s why, with the time, I still discover some details in some records that I’ve listened since a while. I can not get enough. I really enjoy the experience of listenings. instead of some other genres of music. which are great but are more focus on the idea to be integrated very easily in the sonority. one of an other music genre that I love a lot is the traditional music. from all over the world. including the blues. same, I can not get enough about a lot of these records. even if there are a lot of loops, the repetition is a part of the process who can bring you in some particular emotions and physical states.
Most of Eilean releases sold out very quickly, so do you think that its experience can be a prove that, even now that everyone listens to music from the web, there is still some space for the cd-object?
Sure it is. I do the same !! but I think there are not so much new generations who make that. and this will be probably not easy in the future.. and the number of copies is very limited. between 120 and 200 copies. that’s not a lot in comparison of all people in this world ! on my side, I love to collect old objects, and to have a physical release in my hand is a part of that too. music is connected o some specific moments in my life. and to have the physical object can help too to remember this moments. nowadays, it’s too fast, too easy to have all. just in once click. and I think at a point we are all submerged by all the sounds, movies, infos, etc. it’s important to come back at something essential : the physical object. like humans. it’s not the same deal to meet humans in real than behind our computer.
Even, if I have to admit that the physical object are not totally safe for the ecological problems that we have actually. but finally, it’s the same with the digitals. a recent study has proved that digital industry pollute more than a physical object. due to the data centers and the huge amounts of datas stocked on it.
In the other way, all the digitals productions actually, in music, as helped a lot of emerging artists. which is a great thing. and more than all to make all from start to the end alone. in our rooms. no intermediaries. and that’s a great point.
How much important packaging and artworks can be for keeping the physical records alive?
It gives the unique touch of a label. and again, something real. and simple too. at home. a label is a home finally. but sure, it’s not and easy deal too. as it took a lot of time. and in the other way, a lot of pleasure to make them one by one and think about people who open them through over the world. behind each copy, there is a human.
Generally speaking, what do you think of the state of today’s independent music market?
I’ve replied already previously about that. but to be clear, it’s not an easy answer. it’s great and bad at the same time. too much. a lot of good stuffs and a lot of bad ones. and it’s very difficult now to stay alone in a room and try to be not influenced by what each music stamp do. in this sense it will become vey difficult in all the music genres to make something new. without influences. but it can help too to break the boundaries with all the possibilities and sounds that we’ve listened all over the world each day ! inspiring as far as limiting.
Which other labels do you appreciate the most?
In the ambient/electronic/experimental scene, there are a lot. too much. I can’t just say just 2 or 3 labels. and for the other genres of music, like I previously said, I listen a lot of genres of music, so I can’t just give some few names, it will affect the other great labels less known…it should be an other interview about that and I could develop ;)
In parallel to Eilean, you already started IIKKI Books, which is focused on a joint audio-visual proposal. What are your plans beyond Eilean?
Beyond eilean rec. a new label will follow. it will be not an opus II, but some similar points about the relationship between the releases and the artists. the visual will take an important place too. finally it could be the junction point between eilean rec. and IIKKI. the first release will be for mid January and the scheduled is already full until mid-2021.
Which suggestion or advice would you give to somebody who would like to start a label nowadays?
Wow. not easy ! but, to make it simply : to be in love and to be passionate until to forget to make his own sounds. it’s very addictive and very time-consuming. if you start a project like that you can’t do it just 1 hour or 2 hours each day. it’s a 7 days a week. so, that’s not restful and you will be not rich, but the most important you will learn a lot. from people, connections, and creativity. from the researches on what’s coming in music, find some new artists, listen a lot of sounds. read about that. it’s a passionate work. but stressful too. a lot of the work is focus too on find the financial balance and the administrative part.
Feel free to add any other personal consideration outside the questions above, that might represent a sum of your experience with the label.
That’s a strange feeling to arrive at the end of eilean rec. and ambivalent feeling. glad and at the same time almost worried or sad. but it was scheduled like that since the start. and I’m glad to move forward and start a new project. to breathe a little too (there were around 17 releases each year, which is a lot !!) but it was like my second child for me. I’ve started the label almost when my son was born. and now. it will be the end.
(full English version of the interview published on the November 2019 issue of Rockerilla magazine)