In my opinion Best Kept Secret, run by Alessandro Crestani, is one of the best tape labels, not just now but ever. You can read more of my opinions on the label in the feature elsewhere in this issue, but I also wanted to find out more, so for the first time in ages (and probably the last time in ages too...) I decided to do an interview. Thanks to Alessandro for answering the questions.
Why did you decide to start a label?
I've been listening to music ever since the early Eighties and have a little bit of experience in music journalism. A few years ago I decided that I wanted to do something with music other than just listening or writing about it. At that point I had just started digging into the world of tape labels (which, until that moment, I had rather presumptuously ignored) and, since I just did not have the financial capabilities to start a proper label, I opted for a cassette label.
Why the tape format? Would you ever release stuff on another format?
Apart from the aforementioned financial reasons, the cassette format kind of makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, pretty much like the good old vinyl used to do (well, actually, still does).
Where do you find all the bands?
I do a lot of trading with people who run similar projects, I look around mp3.com. Plus, thanks to the website that my friend Chris has set up and currently manages on his IndiePages venture, lots of bands come to know about my label and get in touch with me.
Do you have to like everything you release, or do you just release anything you're sent?
I have my own tastes, of course, and all the consequent preferences. I only release the music that I like; not on a genre-based but rather on a song-by-song evaluation, though. Sometimes I happen to come across songs that kind of appeal to me although they're a genre that is not really up my alley and that I usually do not listen to. Therefore, when it comes to putting together compilations, I do not mind exploring different territories I am not that familiar with.
Do you have a particular favourite BKS tape?
Kind of hard for me to say. Every tape has a story of its own that makes it unique in its own way. For instance, the Suretoss tape is of a particular significance to me, being the cassette that started it all; Vinyl Bill's "Too lazy to rock" is the first tape by the first band I had never heard of before to get in touch with me; I am proud to have a Kitchen Cynics tape, because Alan Davidson is the first hometaping artist I have grown mad about after I began looking into the world of d.i.y. cassettes; "Broken bits of you and me" is the very first compilation (also with the best piece of artwork my friend Silvia has come up with so far - she always does a great job, but this one really gave me the chills when I saw it for the first time). And I could go on. I guess you can see what my point is here.
Would you say BKS has an overall 'label sound'?
No, I wouldn't. I try to prevent Best Kept Secret from having a label sound, because it would just make things boring. I mean, once you picked up the first, say, three releases, you would already know what the next fifty would sound like.
Are there any styles of music you definitely wouldn't release?
Metal, hardcore. That kind of stuff.
I get quite a few emails from musicians who don't understand the type of label I run and assume it's a traditional 'big business' label. Does this happen to you, or do most of your contacts come from an underground background?
Same thing happens to me, which is kind of weird because all of those people e-mail me after coming across my website, whose home page clearly says: "Best Kept Secret TAPE label"!
Has any band refused to be on one of your releases as it's a tape? Likewise, has any reviewer slagged off any of your releases just because they're tapes?
Both things have happened and they have kind of upset me. As to the reviews, I was bothered by the fact that I had submitted music for review and have ended up reading about a review of the format the music is on. Regarding the bands who refuse to put out their music on the cassette format, it makes me wonder whether or not those people are in it just for the music.
Do you think there's any less interest in tape labels than there was about 10 years ago?
I do think so, although I do not understand why that is. I mean, I do see that there is a reason, which is the appearance of cd-r's. What I don't understand is why people think less of tapes than cd-r's. And, going back to the previous question, it is just silly to hear bands that would rather have their music out on cd-r than on cassette. Yeah, right, like a cd-r is going to make them rockstars!
Tape label releases are not sold in the shops, you have to publicise them yourself. What have you found to be the most effective way of getting your tapes heard about?
Having them reviewed is probably the most effective way to promote/advertise cassette releases. As long as the reviews describe what the tapes sound like, some people are likely to check them out even if the review is not positive at all.
Furthermore, having a website these days really helps. People who bounce into the site usually take a look at the catalog page and every so often somebody picks up a tape or two eventually.
What do you have planned for future release on BKS?
There are several things in the works. Two more volumes of the "We are not alone" compilation, that were delayed several times but are now pretty much ready, plus a whole bunch of individual releases by ONQ, Sauvie Island Moon Rocket Factory, Cellophane Sky, Minmae, Celesteville, Chuzzlewit, The Linger Effect, Multisofa.
Contact Alessandro at email@example.com
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