Do you even archive? Knekelhuis

Mark Knekelhuis, DJ, 1/2 of Volition Immanent with Parrish Smith and label boss for Knekelhuis Records is one of dance music’s freshest voices in the past 5 years despite being at music for most of his life. He started in hardcore punk bands, playing in Cathode and How the Gods Kill. From there, he began to discover electronic music, especially in The Hague and the Bunker scene.

In-depth interview with Mark and RE:VIVE’s Gregory Markus

His label, Knekelhuis is simultaneously propelling up and coming artists and DJs forward (Parrish Smith, De Ambassade, Job Sifre, Zaliva-D, Patrica Kokett, EYE) and is a powerhouse re-issue label for Dutch and Belgian wave, punk, and experimental music.

Mark’s been at it for ages. He spent years putting on Knekelhuis Disco parties with Ron van de Kerkhof and since then he’s carved out a space for himself and the expanded Knekelhuis universe in clubs around the world. It’s esoteric, it’s dark, it’s contemplative, it’s serious. Anyone that’s met Mark will attest to his seriousness and pure admiration for music. His presence as the front-man for Volition Immanent is intimidating. But he’s chill as fresh snow, open minded and curious. With passion and love combined with affability, Mark’s been able to grow Knekeluis naturally and credibly. But with such a back catalogue of musical knowledge and a constant quest to discover more, we had to ask him; do you even archive?

1. How do you manage your record collection? How is it cataloged on the shelves and what steps do you take to take care of your vinyl (temp, water, humidity etc.)?

The times of my Ikea Expedit shelves are over. In a period of 20 years I’ve collected a lot of records, but I also sold more than half of them, to eventually buy new ones again. So it’s always fluctuating and forming into something that represents the essential ones that shaped my past into my current, more sophisticated taste. I’m not so attached to owning everything. The less special ones are in the attic. The best ones are in my living room, separated in shelves here and there. In my old wooden bookshelf, on the ground and in potato cascades. I clean them with a record cleaner before I  listen to them or digitize them. My ‘listening’ records are close to the record player. There is no logical order, but I know exactly where to find them, mostly 🙂

2. For DJing, how do you manage your digital files? Do you use rekordbox or itunes or another tool? Do you keep backups? 

Tracks for DJ-ing are all saved on my SSD. As well as full albums, that I listen to completely. They are organized alphabetically. I use Rekordbox to organize my DJ sets, Audacity to convert and adjust track details like oversteering and project frequency. And I do keep a backup on my external SSD.

3. For the label, do you take steps to ensuring you have the masters and backups? 

All label related stuff is on an external SSD. I use this because it’s much safer than the Hard Disk Drive. This one should work for a lifetime.I save the artwork, mixed versions, mastered versions (digital and vinyl), the digital distribution metadata, press pack and the finance details, in different folders. 

4. Do you tag your material / give it enriching metadata like “EBM banger” “3am pick up” “morning set sunrise ambient”, bpms, genre, label etc.?  What’s the thought process behind these tags? are they evolving or you try to be strict?

I don’t tag my tracks in Recordbox. I order them by BPM. Folders like 80-90 / 90-100 etc. Then I categorize them as “sensitive” or “energy”  within those folders. Sometimes they overlap, and end up in both. I play a lot of tracks at double speed like 60/120 – 70/140. When I’m DJ-ing I play with these folders at the same time. Now that I’ve been using Recordbox for a while and I started to explore other options like queue points and key matching. I realized that using this DJ-ing on Key can create  beautiful transitions in ‘moods’ so I combine them with contrasting Key matching. For instance going from Bb to F at the right moment. I prefer not to think in genres. 

5. Have you ever lost any material that was never backed up? What and how? 

In the past, I saved all my digital files on my external Hard Disk Drives (HDD). These crashed 3 times, because they are very sensitive to shock or whatever.  I lost my music 3 times, and also had 3 times the intention to now finally make a double double backup. I learned that the hard way. After the shock of losing all that music, came the excitement of creating something new, remembering the best ones from my previous source, and redesigning and perfecting the organization of my files. 

One time it crashed while I was on a bus near Mexico City, just before my South American tour started. That was pretty stressful and it took 2 days of heavy downloading and close friends sending me music. I made it in the end 🙂

The lesson I learned: buy an SSD instead of an HDD. 

6. How do you go about sourcing material for reissues? Is it discogs digging, YouTube, record shops, personal contacts, a mix of everything? What’s the hardest master tape you’ve had to track down? 

I guess it’s a mix of everything. The cassette reissues I did, basically started 10-15 years ago when people began creating Blogspot sites, and digitized their cassette collections of obscure tapes, and offered them for free download. I downloaded like crazy and discovered so much music. I’m not a big record store digger, a bit too OCD for that. When I start crate digging I get the feeling I have to check out everything so I don’t miss something, and I end up with the urge to buy too much, also money wise. So, nowadays, I prefer to be more selective and dig in my own tempo online at sources like Discogs, YouTube and Soundcloud. Sharing music with friends has always been an important source too. Music is for sharing, and surprising  each other is a nice thing. 

As for the hardest master tape; there was this label from Amsterdam that operated between 81-82 and released one of the greatest music in Amsterdam in those days. Bands like Richenel, Necronomicon, Rite De Passage and Electric Party. Music From Memory did a few releases with his best material (sadly enough Richenel passed away last week). I found the artists Rite De Passage and Necronomicon and released two of their best tracks on a compilation in 2017. But the hardest one was Electric Party. I turned every stone upside down to find them in the last 5 years. I tried everything but it only led to nowhere. It was a rough time in the early 80’s, so many people couldn’t remember all the details clearly. Then with the help from Marco (Diggin Demo’s), he’d be a perfect private detective, and suddenly Rene from Electric Party rang the bell. So with Marco’s help we finally are in touch now and stuff might happen in the future.

7. Has there been anything you wanted to reissue but got stonewalled due to rights or corrupt files or bad master tapes? 

Yeah plenty 🙂 In the world of reissuing you have the responsibility to do it clean. The royalties need to go to the rightful artist (so the artist needs to be alive, or a close relative that owns the rights now). So yeah, there were bands that I’d love to release but couldn’t find the people or I did find them but source tapes lost quality. There were several masters for tracks that I wanted to release so badly, but decided not to  in the end, because the end result was not good enough. I would’ve loved to release stuff from Beaumont Hannant, Zo/Zo and The Threshold HouseBoys Choir and I’m still in the middle of several projects that I don’t know will ever happen. 

8. You are doing reviving of your own. Why do you think it’s important for this material to see the light of day in a new context? 

There are two things, the material side and the historical side. Especially cassette tapes, which have an expiration date. The material starts to rot away after a certain number of years, let’s say in 30-40 years, but sometimes earlier, depending on how they are stored and taken care of. I do believe that the archiving of music (preferably, tasteful music), the history of every country or culture, is an important thing. It’s part of where we are now. A lot of experimental music paved the path for later music that people started to give genre designation. Those experimental tapes were made in very small quantities to spread to a few people. But they were an important source to flourish from. And we should not let them vanish into oblivion. In case we speak about cassette reissues from the 80’s and now also the 90’s, and given their 30-40 year lifespan, means we have to act now. 

Music moves in circles and trends, and younger generations should be able to learn about the history and where all that interesting music came from. For that the liner notes are an important part in shaping the context. 

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Photo by: Paula Scintilla