Interviewed by Kai Slater
Lo-Fi Lo-Life is a tape label based mainly in Leipzig, Germany who put out really awesome and vibrant tapes. I talked with them about their experience as an independent dubbing duo.
1. What’s it like being based in Italy and Germany? How’s the scene in those places, and do you find yourself reaching more outwards to other countries for releases or more locally? R: Well, we are two guys, both from Italy. We started together there in 2011 and after a couple of years, I moved to Leipzig and Luca continues to live in Parma. This is not a problem today because we're living in the internet and social media era. On the other side being based in two different countries give us the opportunity to have more influences from both of the scenes, to meet more bands and people.
In Leipzig there's a young and interesting alternative scene that is becoming bigger and bigger. Really cool people are putting a lot of energy in it. Before the pandemic a lot of bands from all over the world were playing here nearly every day.
L: The scene in Parma is completely different from the one in Leipzig. First of all, Parma is a much smaller city, without a strong “punk history”. So, everything we’ve done in the last 10-12 years was just made by ourselves. We (me and other people/collectives in Parma) try not only to put up as many diy shows as we can, but also continue to create places and social spaces for the community (like Saletta Adorno – a diy practice space and concert room; or Solchi – a new diy spot where we host a stable distro focused on independent records/screenprintings/zines/workshops/etc.). The pandemic is still putting the scene in an obvious hiatus, but people here are just waiting to rise again with the same ideas and will left 2 years ago.
R&L: If we are reaching more outwards to other countries or more locally? We just do it for fun. There's no calculation behind our releases but I think that thanks to internet you can reach easily everyone in the world. That's good for the bands but it's also really important to act local in order to build a good and healthy relationship with the people around you...
2. You’ve got a really varied catalog, some of them are really powerful punk records and some of them are super chillout electronica. What is the music you have always loved and come back to? R&L: As we started with the label, we were both playing in a punk-hardcore band (called You Suck!). That was at first our un-official target. Then you know, you become older, things start changing, new influences...punk is still our favorite genre but if a friend is coming with a cool idea, why not?
3. Obviously, cassettes have a super relevant ongoing history in DIY culture, but that’s not often a dynamic seen outside of the counterculture; what has drawn you guys to tapes? R&L: Tapes are cheap, quick to record in a diy way and easy to mail out. We started without money and it's still not a job for us but the best way to help friends is to spread their music.
4. What’s your process of making DIY tapes and releasing them, and what’s your advice to people trying to do it themselves? L: well, I started to copy tapes on my own many years ago. It first started with a shitty Technics single deck which was given to me for free from my vintage Hi-Fi dealer (thanks Faustino, you’re still my favorite!). The official first time was for the “You Suck! – Euro Tour Tape 2011” we carried on our first 10 days European tour. The tape was also recorded by me live on the same 2-tracks single tape deck. The graphics and printing were made from Charlie, the bass player. The sound was pretty bad but still listenable, and this experience grew in me the idea that everything was possible just with my hands and lots of hours to lose. So, the next step was to buy a Sony double tape deck to become faster in dubbing tapes (of course it had the “fast” 2x dub speed), and then again with another one (a JVC deck, still working fine for my listening pleasure in my living room!). Two double tape decks on double speed dubbing were pretty good but still a little bit tricky for 100 or 150 copies dubbings. Then I found an old Telex tape copier, that was the deal. I master tape and 3 slaves, with an incredible dubbing speed (something like 1 minute to make 3x 20 minutes tapes, both sides in one shot!).
This is still how I make tapes, even if sometimes I do pay professional press plants…but just for the loss of free time in my shitty life! I’ve also noticed that the times for a tape release are getting really super long, it’s happening like what happened with the vinyl industry in the last few years. Who would’ve thought of a return to cassettes in the music market?! That’s truly amazing and unbelievable.
My advice to people willing to do tapes by their own: do it and have fun losing your time into this. The process of creating such obsolete perfect objects, from creating a master tape to fold up graphics on paper is some real good time to spend listening to good new or old music. Trust me.
5. Similarly, before making the tapes themselves, what’s your relationships with the bands that you release and how does that communication usually go? R&L: All the bands we’ve released are friends of us or people we know really well. A couple of them are our own projects. This means: we really know every person we deal with. We talked with them, we saw them and we shared ideas. We're really sorry for all the cool bands who wrote emails to us but our first aim is to support our local scenes.
6. Anything else you want to say? R&L: Thanks for having the will to talk with two dumb guys like us. Keep listening and buying tapes and remember to fuck the power with every weapon you can find. Cheers!