A talk with Distrozione, DIY label since 2005
Today’s interview is going to feature a high dose of music, punk, DIY and politics. This is because we are presenting you our online chat with the anarchic comrades from Distrozione, a self-managed project that handles a distro, an indie label and concert booking. Distrozione is very active in terms of benefit gigs and bottom-up solidarity.
RADIO PUNK: Hi folx, welcome! Tell us a bit about how Distrozione was born. What is its main aim? Is it a label that “produces” albums or does it have more to do with distributing, and organising concerts and festivals?
DISTROZIONE: Hi there, first of all thanks for all your hard work in spreading news on music and politics. Distrozione was born in 2005 from a group of young punx. We started talking about this project with a couple of people through the SLSK chat. I was a very young punk at the time with a lot of will and eager to do. As soon as we started talking about opening a label, I decided to move to Rome to start this project. Something that was a lot easier to do also because I had no idea of what to do with my life ahah. At the time there were no smartphones and social media were not prevalent. A part of the “scene” at the time met through SLSK. We found myspace band and label pages but thankfully people still had their own blogs and websites as well as had plenty of interest in going to gigs, meet friends and escape from their dull reality. It was a very emotionally powerful time as well as a time for much personal growth. Distrozione has definitely influenced my decisions from then onwards. Politics especially. The aim of the distro was first of all to increasingly connect the punx scene and our political interests which at the time were quite confused. We wanted to give concerts a political spin as well as expressing meaningful ideas when it came to ethics and attitude. For the first two years we did not produce anything ourselves. We mainly showcased fanzines, illustrations and records by friends. We were also careful to include touring and benefit gigs in the mix. As time went on, we began to produce more and more records of a variety of different genres. So, to cut a long story short I think it can be said it was 50/50… We try to do all we can and all that we find worthy of attention.
RP: Your label was born in 2005, how have you engaged with other older historical labels from Turin? Do you think there is a sort of continuity? Can we still talk about a Turin “style”?
D: Actually, Distrozione became a “Turin” label only in 2011. Before that we were nomads. During the first years, the label was different people in different cities from the North to the South of Italy. These people cooperated and tried to connect with all that could be closely related to at the time. In terms of continuity, I am unable to answer. I would say that a lot of the enthusiasm and will to do has been lost over time. I am afraid that what has pushed us to create this project has waned in the generations that came after us. We see that people have trouble involving people in organising events and benefit although that might be something that relates to us ahah. We can definitely talk about Turin HC if we talk about a way of playing Hardcore music, but I have a hard time imagining it as a sort of network among individuals that are trying to build something alternative. We had, and still have, a lot of great bands coming from the city as well as a lot of people that are working hard luckily. I believe that in the future more and new bands will jump in the fray carrying that style that can only be found in the grey city.
RP: Going a bit into depth about your history, what you have made over the years, it is clear that you have diversified your musical interests. Talking about music, what is Distrozione looking for today?
D: First of all, I have to say that all that is rooted in an aesthetic profile so only music or attitude based is fair enough but overall is in my opinion bourgeois and useless. Distrozione has a long history of coproducing grind and crust records. However, if it had only focused on that, it would have lost a lot of its political potential for an aesthetic choice. We do not have any artistic needs in order to choose those we work with. Rather we focus on interpersonal and political connections. I am a great fan of post punk, industrial and trap music for example. I would not be able to, however, coproduce a record with a lot of people because there are no shared intents. We like to have collaborators rather than partners.
RP: For a band that does not want to join mainstream distribution channels such as Spotify and iTunes it is both very hard to emerge and have some visibility. How can realities like yours have a fundamental role in these dynamics?
D: Look, to be honest I do not think this is a problem for Distrozione. We are aware that many bands choose DIY because they do not find room in the market, but we intend it as a practice that goes against the market itself. Thinking of some past examples, indie labels like Rough Trade pushed a lot of incredible prog bands first and synth pop later that would have not otherwise found any room. While this is worthy indeed, what happened next was that a sort of anti-market was born; a situation that would not actually be detrimental to mainstream labels. All the labels tied to Carcass like Crass Records, Corpus Christi, Mortarhate, In Nomine Patri etc. instead thought of DIY like something against the world of commodities and they wanted to create a safe space for bands that were not very easy to sell and thus created a completely alternative world to the mainstream one. Ok so, going back to our present situation, as DIY labels it is important to (re)build this alternative world not just give more visibility to bands.
RP: What do you look for in a band to begin cooperating with them? I am both talking about their music and other aspects. What do you think you cannot do without?
D: What we cannot do without are, pardon my French, values like gender and animal liberation as well as anti-racism and overall being anti-capitalists. Other than that, we work with people that share our DIY ideas, not only nice words and/or noise but a way to attack the market and the world it represents.
RP: You have worked with a lot of Italian and non-Italian organisations that much like you support a musical culture that does not fit into mainstream media. In what way do you think you can resist to the music business logic and how does sustainability fit in it? What would you say to a new band that plays a certain kind of music and that is in a certain cultural and political context in order to create a project that can have a following?
D1: The only thing I might say is a quote from Desperate Bycles:
“No more time for spectating
Tune it, count it, let it blast, cut it, press it, distribute it”
Meaning put a stop to the delegating that is going on in a variety of alternative scenes.
D2: I think that today it is really hard to avoid falling into the logic of consumerism and capitalism. For an emerging band trying to carry on radical ideas both in practice and lyrics I guess it is a lot more complicated not to use mainstream and mass social media that are now an inherent part of the scene. We got lost in a miasma of “likes” and shares. There are fewer and fewer people at gigs. We witness an almost complete hollowing out of political content that is for us fundamental. Something that we think goes way beyond strumming a guitar and shouting on the stage (this might be completely untrue as we are not omnipresent! As far as personal perceptions go this is what I think. I might be wrong). We cannot give advice for an artistic (??) project in order to have a following as there is no recipe for it. There are, thankfully, different realities. Each of us is moved differently and specifically by them. I think it is important to be aware of what is around of us. It is important to be able to understand what is important to fight for. I would say the only thing that I could recommend is to be honest with yourselves and do as much work as possible to build a network around your projects.
RP: Regarding a very important experience for Turin and beyond; would you like to talk about “L’Asilo”? Has it played an important role in your history?
D: Talking about Asilo in its entirety is really hard and probably pretty boring also. When it comes to its role in the label it was important for us for a variety of reason. First of all, to challenge ourselves by connecting with the comrades with whom you are sharing a space, a life and many political battles. It is important to learn that you almost never have the definitive answer about all that life throws at you. Overall it might have put a dampen on things for Distrozione while I lived in Turin, but I learnt a lot, and still have a lot to learn, thanks to it. The years of Asilo were certainly intense. Political battles, joyful as well as painful moments and some scars will forever be with us. Asilo ended with its forced eviction and up until the nit managed to resist and continue its work after it. At the end of the day a reality is not made up of 4 walls only but much more than that. I have personally been mulling over the past few years and I am trying to treasure the mistakes that were made. I think it is important to analyse all that we have managed to do and how to better next time. I will take this opportunity for some self-criticism, as I should more often. Thanks to some experiences we are able to reinforce our ideas, but it is hard to really see how complex these things are. I think I understood, maybe too late and thus hurting people, that we need to take the time to think about ourselves and what position we have in the world. More than just thinking of a place I think we have to broaden our outlook on the causes that have maybe brought to its eviction. It is also worth considering what future we have ahead of us, these things are intrinsically connected one another. The neighbourhood in which Asilo has been eyed by speculators, landlords and people that gentrify. So much so that there have been various evictions and “ethnic sweepings” in the past few years. Asilo an historically reticent organization to all finding a compromise was a pain in the neck for these people. Through that repressive action, this pain was finally eliminated. We see today many occupied spaces under attack, and it would be worth thinking how to answer to such actions. For example, the initiatives that took place right after the eviction were very good to start with not only because we should not always defend but also to smash these cities, we live in.
RP: Repressive attitudes are prevalent in society. How could projects like yours play a fundamental role against this exploitative system? Which social, political and cultural initiatives do you think are fundamental for the Distrozione project?
D: Benefit gigs are fundamental, especially if they come after a radical critical discussion and or an update about the political initiatives of the comrades in prison. Taking back the streets as well as going back to dream that we can do anything. Going back to play in squats and in town squares. Supporting with sales and productions the people that fight against such system. Share the word of those that fight and what they are fighting for. We would like to organise larger and larger events also by eliminating the logics that divide staff and concertgoers. We would like to know that for each of those that come know what they are donating to and is coming to support such cause not just for the music. We would also like that more people in the future contribute to clean up after the gigs as none of us is a professional. We believe it is through aggregation at gigs and events that we can build complicity and trust which then translates into political battles in the streets.
RP: A question that might be interesting for those that are young. Why are politics so central to punk?
D: Punk is politics because punk is or should be a reaction to our daily struggles. It is irrelevant if we are talking about the nihilism of the first punk wave, the awareness of anarchic groups (our preferred one) or the Oi! sense of unity, all of these are screams against a world that wants to isolate you and make you a victim of those stronger than you. Punk has always been this; moving beyond the current in order to take back the world through revolutions and freedom. I think this union between intents and will to do between punk and anarchism is important because without it would only be a nice show void of contents. You might as well play pop music otherwise. It is important to keep on supporting small realities outside society which are fighting against it as well as sharing messages of revolt against this world and its rules. I know that somewhere in Europe and beyond this does sometimes happen such as concerts that end in riots, squatting and in a variety of protests. For us at least, punk is not just music but a movement that has the chance of being revolutionary. It is a vehicle to meet new accomplices that share our goals. It is something that goes beyond the event or the tour. These are moments where we can meet, share ideas, support ourselves and all that are in jail. I would like to say it is important because punk without politics would not be punk, but I am afraid that more and more bands use that name and have contracts with major labels. If punk is dead, at least let’s avenge it.
RP: Thanks for the time you gave us. We hug you and leave you some space to tell our readers whatever you want!
D: Thanks to all those that play in shitty squats, festivals and, with shitty people. Thanks to the labels that organise concerts and festivals before mentioned as well as those that manage to go everywhere, see gigs and say that the night was great even though a ton of shitty things happened. Also, thanks to those that might not notice but you do not say anything bad about it or even insult those that do. Thanks a lot! We will keep annoying you. We will continue telling you that we do not like it. We will continue to grow and improve because at the end of the day we all do not give a fuck. We want people, not goods.