Interview with Fabio Perletta of 901 Editions

Fabio Perletta 2018

We are talking with Italian sound/installation artist Fabio Perletta today. Aside from his own work he is also an active curator and label runner for the now defunct Farmacia901 and the upcoming launch, now on Kickstarter (18 Days Left), of 901 Editions. It’s an exciting prospect, to launch a completely new imprint, and Perletta does it with a keen eye on diverse international makers. We talked about the launch, his work and more.

Toneshift/TJ Norris: Hello Fabio, how are things where you are right now? Speaking of which, where is that, Berlin? And where are you originally from?

Fabio Perletta: Hello TJ, everything goes quite well, I’ve just relocated into a new apartment but I am still in the process of moving things. I no longer live in Berlin since 2016, and I am now based in Roseto, my small hometown by the sea in the Abruzzo region, central Italy, east coast. The multidisciplinary studio Mote that I co-founded alongside Davide Luciani still exists in Berlin and I keep working for it remotely. The experience in Berlin was great, but I have realized I prefer living in the countryside and travel more.

4 releases #2

TJN: You’ve collaborated with several several folks that I have as well. It’s exciting to hear that you are launching a new label series of editions, 901 Editions, launching a Kickstarter that’s live as we speak. Can you tell me more about the impetus for this project, the artists involved – and what to expect?

FP: I am excited too! Well, I’ve been working on this campaign for more than a year. Between 2016 and 2017 I found myself trying to re-imagine the future of the label, after a year of hesitation regarding the direction. I really wanted to push 901 Editions further, and create a framework which summarized my current interest in sound. Akio Suzuki, Yann Novak, Nicolas Bernier, Ken Ikeda, Rie Nakajima and Makoto Oshiro play such a role.

Akio Suzuki @ Smoo Cave [Photo by Keiko Yoshida]
Akio Suzuki @ Smoo Cave [Photo by Keiko Yoshida]

Akio Suzuki is one of my most huge inspirations in terms of purity – even beyond art – probably one the very last artists doing art without any other purpose than doing that for the sake of it, this is very evident in what he does. That’s really important and I consider his timeless approach fundamental nowadays. Most of the time what I can see is narcissism, and I can even understand that… Being or becoming an artist is getting more and more difficult, but I am still convinced that art is a gift, not a self- fulfillment. Anyway, I’ve been dreaming to release his work for a long time and I couldn’t be happier to present a very special work for the campaign: Resonant Spaces was a tour with UK saxophonist John Butcher arranged in 2006 by the Arika organisation with the support of the Scottish Arts Council.

Yann Novak – Stillness [Photo by Christopher Wormald]
Yann Novak – Stillness [Photo by Christopher Wormald]

Resonant Spaces allowed people to experience sound in some of the remotest regions of Scotland for a series of site-specific performances in natural, prehistoric, manmade and industrial locations. Yann Novak is a 901 Editions veteran, and he is that artist who is simply a pleasure to work with in terms of musical proposal and professionalism, other than being a good friend and advisor. This Kickstarter would have never been launched without his precious tips. The work presented here is a catalog documenting his audiovisual work Stillness, exhibited in various museums including The Broad in Los Angeles, in a large scale diptych spread over 5 projectors with a 4ch sound element per side. The book will include a CD of the audio from the installations mastered by Lawrence English and texts by Ed Patuto and Suzy Halajian. This is another work I’ve been wanting to release for years! I find the influence of climate has on sound transmission really fascinating.

Nicolas Bernier – frequencies
Nicolas Bernier – frequencies

Then we have Nicolas Bernier, I’ve known his music for years, even before he was awarded Golden Nica at Prix Ars Electronica in 2015. I’ve co-released with Mote Studio one of the works I am most proud of, frequencies (sound quanta), which consists in 100 tracks (some of them last less than a second!), a software which allows to play them in random mode, and 100 unique laser-cut transparent acrylic panels with 100 different vector drawings, replicating in a smaller scale the 100 panels of the physical installation frequencies (light quanta), a sound and light installation commissioned by LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial, Gijón, Spain (August – October 2014). We are presenting now the very last project of the frequencies series, called frequencies (a_archive), which comes in the form of a CD + 29 tuning forks used for the project and taken from his collection, housed in a laser cut acrylic base with the tuning fork frequency engraved.

Ikeda + Nakajima [Photo by Greg Pope] + Oshiro
Ikeda + Nakajima + Oshiro [Photo by Greg Pope]

Last but not least, I am proud to have one of my favorite musicians Ken Ikeda, who released impressive minimalistic albums on notable labels such as Touch and Spekk, and collaborated with David Lynch, David Toop, Hiroshi Sugimoto among others. In Floating Weeds, he appears three times with a solo piece, and in two tracks in collaboration with renowned sound artists Rie Nakajima and Makoto Oshiro. Japanese artists always have a completely different approach, coming from a totally different culture. This is really fascinating, because – speaking of Rie and Makoto for instance – their works are apparently crude with their “erratic whirring” to quote Dan Barrow (The Wire, #414) who refers to Rie’s work, but they hide many layers of perception which they don’t want to make visible right away, at least I guess. It’s such a joy for me to have three of my favorite contemporary artists united in a single record!

TJN: In doing a crowdfunder, how important do you see the international music community-at-large to its success? What can you say about community, in and of itself, in 2018 (anything different than 2008 when you started your last label)?

FP: The music community’s role is crucial. I am amazed to see how many people shared, re-tweeted, re-posted the news, adding enthusiastic words on this campaign. I think the word of mouth really makes the difference in this specific case. Luckily or unfortunately – it really much depends on the perspective you look at – this community is not huge, I would consider it as a huge family scattered around the world. That means most of them know me or already met me, and are aware of the effort I put on. I am deeply grateful to everyone, regardless of the result of the campaign.

TJN: What do you look for in an artist that ends up on your roster — a signature sound, style of some sort?

FP: I look for honesty, deep and conceptual approach to sound. I like the intersection between music and art. I like the sound to be the expression of itself, yet to be a vehicle that creates new meanings, a new way of thinking. That might appear as a contradiction, but that’s where my interest in sound takes place. I particularly love Akio Suzuki because one can experience his sound without knowing his background nor his intentions, but if you really dive into it, your brain is bombarded with questions and curiosities about his practice. There is a subtle line between the banal and simple. I think the latter is the achievement of a self-awareness which takes the form of a perfect synthesis of the artist’s thinking. Being physical and ephemeral at the same time, sound has the incredible ability to open interesting perspectives. The intersection between the two really fascinates me. I am not looking for a particular effect, a trend. I look for a signature sound, of course, not intended as a brand, rather than as an authentic approach.

TJN: You founded the minimal label Farmacia901 and with it released some personal favorites like Fahl by Asmus Tietchens and Vir-Uz (Bianchi/Andrea Ferraris). Is the label defunct now, making way for this new project or will they co-exist? In that same breath, how do you feel they intersect, or differ?

FP: I am happy to read you like those two records. I love them too. I think Fahl is one of Asmus’ best records so far. Farmacia901 is now defunct, I was really tired of that name, even though people kept telling me it was ok. I am hard headed though, and I needed a change. I wanted a more neutral name, but I kept the 901 to make the transition smoother, Anyway, it’s always me behind every single aspect of running a label, from managing orders, working on the communication, choosing new artists, designing album covers and so on. That being said, my close friends Luigi Turra and Lorenzo Balloni (who lives in Tokyo and he’s in charge of the distribution in Japan) constantly work with me as advisors. We confront each other almost every day. And Mote Studio creates everything regarding visual communication and design.

I have put myself in the position to absorb more of my studio partner Davide’s influence, which is great. He always has new ideas, perspectives, while I am slower when it comes to doing things differently. How do I feel the two labels intersect, or differ? I just want to explore more with 901 Editions, release stuff I couldn’t imagine publishing before. For example, The Swarm by Shoeg is really new for the label, revolving around various (ethical or political) themes like the idea of social media’s data appropriation, and Internet as a chaotic and uncontrollable organism. The music really reflects these contents. Nonetheless, there’s something about it that falls in the aesthetic of the label, for example the theories of the infinite music by Adam Harper. Anyway, I still want to release works based on the “use” of silence, and there’s where the two labels intersect.


TJN: Let’s take a moment to discuss the value of physical releases. Do people take these objects for granted, or have they been cast aside in our digital age? In other words, do you see yourself as a curator making tangible things for a certain base of collectors?

FP: This is such a complicated question, but I am very happy you are asking me this. I certainly make tangible things for a certain base of collectors. I strongly believe that the value of physical releases lies in its process: choosing a particular format or another, spending much money to produce an album, buy it, waiting for it to arrive, playing it in a CD player / turntables / cassette deck, are all things that deal with reality. What does that mean? There are people behind this. And there’s a certain beauty in not receiving your order immediately. Nobody wants to wait anymore. This way we are simply missing beautiful things. I really don’t like contemporary speed. People are getting more and more nervous, compulsive. Isn’t it “life” that thing that you spend an entire “life” to understand what it is and then you discover you didn’t go anywhere? You just occupied an almost insignificant space in the universe. This, instead, make me laugh a lot!

Contemporary thinking creates the illusion that everything has to be quick, super easy and problem free. I rather think that this is just bad for our brain. Obviously, music shouldn’t be tied to a specific format, music is good or bad, but physical releases are beautifully superfluous! I agree with Taylor Deupree when he says in a recent interview “there is simply no soul in a download”. I like to trade physical stuff with artists I love, and when I pick up a record from my collection, most of the time I have memories from musicians I met during my travels associated with that record. And I do love this. Anyway, I am not against digital downloads at all, and I still release my and other’s music digitally. For instance, LINE and Dragon’s Eye Recordings are some of my favorite labels of all time, and they are now only digital labels. I still love them. Digital streams made things a little bit more democratic, in the sense that you can listen to an album before buying it. I like that, but just after that my first thought is “I have to buy it and support the artist because I really like it!”. I rarely buy digital downloads though, and I prefer to go physically.


TJN: Do you feel that making music available as limited editions (perhaps with a digital version available to a wider audience) is the best way to go these days, and if so why?

FP: Yes, I do. There are simply people who still like to collect physical records. Manufacturers now allow us to produce a smaller amount of copies for very good prices, and that’s great. Also, in a world which prefers free streaming, objects become more valuable, aren’t they?

TJN: Yes, I agree. Let’s talk about your own work. I know I had reviewed your collaboration with Mr. Tietchens back in the Summer, but you are also an installation artist. How do you navigate between sound work that stands alone, with that in an a/v context?

FP: Oh, thanks once again for reviewing it, it was such an interesting read. I am particularly proud of that work for obvious reasons… Asmus is a master and I owe him a lot. His way to sound is always inspiring. Well, both my recorded compositions and installation works come from the same research, and share the same approach: duality, impermanence, contemplation, focus on listening, creating new meanings or unveiling buried ones within listeners’ mind/body. Most of the time my recordings find their physical counterpart in my installations. The shift from a context to another creates an ongoing influence between the two practices, which are indissoluble. While in my recorded composition I seek to create (inner) spaces, in my installations I try to make my ideas more tangible.


My research still goes towards the invisible, small things, natural phenomena. Forms and shapes keep changing though. I want my works not to have a specific start or end, they just… are. I like to think that listeners come across them as they encounter a cat along the way, so to speak. There is much more before and after. For example, my installation work Inverso (the Italian word for inverse) questions the paradox of beginning and end of sound in a natural context. This could be of course extended to other environments such as traffic for example, where humans don’t have direct control over it. Also, since I can never consider my works finished, moving from my studio to an installation space, makes me approach my recorded compositions from a different angle. Most of the time curators ask me what I want in terms of space, and I always respond I do prefer them to send me a proposal so that I can tailor my sound research to that space.

TJN: To this same extent, as one freelance curator to another. Your Lux series that involves contemporary music and visual art in a museum context — how do you approach these events, and can you speak about some of what might be coming in the future?

FP: My role inside Lux is rather different. Marco Marzuoli and Rossano Polidoro are the founders of the project, and they come up with ideas. There’s a constant brainstorming around artists to invite between the four of us though. We are all good friends and we like to share thoughts and imagine new things to do. Lux is a very stimulating project because I always have something to learn, as my background is not in visual arts. Lux was established as a side project of Museolaboratorio directed by artist Enzo De Leonibus, who trusted us from the very beginning and helped us in many ways, being Museolaboratorio a museum with a 20-year history. Also, Marco and Carla Capodimonti use to write texts for the catalogs and the exhibitions we do. With the exception of the France Jobin’s residency and solo exhibition Inter/sperse at Museolaboratorio in May 2017 which was curated by myself, I tend to work more in the communication design, and technical side. We don’t have anything scheduled for the future, just desires…!


TJN: Oh, I noticed that you have a much larger discography than I was actually aware, I count twenty-two releases since 2012, a half dozen years (!). I need to play catch-up. With running a label and the other creative projects you are involved in how do you find the time?

FP: I simply work full time from Monday to Sunday 9am— 11pm 🙂 I deeply love what I do, and I would never stop…

TJN: Hats off! Can you say something about the importance of silence in your work?

FP: This is a very important question. First of all, silence for me is an inner condition. My partner is a psychologist and she often plays around the fact that I have some autistic traits because I cannot do more than a couple of things at a time. That’s true, my brain simply goes crazy if I have too many stimuli. Is that why I probably like quiet minimalistic music? That stuff does not overstimulate me and leaves room for reflection. Imagine having a very minimalistic ikebana standing over a shelf with a monochrome background, in an almost empty room. I can stare at it for hours and hours. This is my idea of music: having the essential and let listeners add the rest. Silence as an undefined yet many-sided space, and sound as a trigger, not as an acting and ever-present entity. Sound like everything in life: impermanent. I like long pauses, breaks and let sounds rest and breathe, thus allowing the listener to have an active role in the process of listening. And this is not very different from graphic design or architecture: it’s the empty space which really communicates.

TJN: I think you are doing important work within the realm of the ephemeral and contemplative. How does this format engage (or not) listeners, new audiences?

FP: It’s not easy to answer this question. People who like my sounds would explain this definitely better than me! I can say more about the process, or my approach behind what I do. Zen has a huge influence on me and one of the greatest things I’ve learnt from it is to let things flow and avoid to hold them. I’ve experienced that the more I accept the ephemeral, the more life force I sense. That was an important turnaround in my life. Contemplation is the thing I do the most in my life. I am such an attentive observer, and the more things don’t move, the more I love them. I often base my thoughts on plants’ behaviour or science phenomena. Trees, flowers evolve but slowly. We don’t see science phenomena most of the time, but they are here. Neutrinos are passing through our body now, but nobody is aware of that! And even though I am not sure whether this affects us or not, it’s unquestionably happening. I like fleeting things, transitions, things in between. This is what my research as a sound artist is about. I strongly believe we should stop for a while, looking back, do less, and appreciate small things.


TJN: Aside from the new label launch, what can we expect to experience from you next?

FP: I have two collaborations to be released: the first one with Italian sound artist and close friend Luigi Turra, inspired by the fundamentals of Tadao Ando’s architecture, and another one with Ken Ikeda, recorded at Iklectik in London last May as part of my label’s ‘9 + 1 = 0’ relaunch party. I have started working on my next solo work, which is inspired on a kakejiku (the Japanese work for hung scroll) I saw at my dear friend Makiko’s mother’s tea room in her house in the outskirts of Tokyo, when Lorenzo and I were invited to attend the tea ceremony known as cha no yu. It was written in Japanese of course, but as soon as she explained me the meaning I remember I immediately thought that would have been a great direction to focus on for a possible new work. That was one of the most significant moments of my latest trip to Japan last November, and I still have vivid memories and beautiful feelings reverberating in my mind. This will more likely see me involved for a long time. Last but not least, I really feel it’s now time to sort out all the notes and writings I’ve collected over the years for a new installation work.


TJN: I will watch for developments, of course. Thanks for the chat.

FP: Oh, thank YOU too for your interest in my work, TJ! I appreciate it a lot.

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