DANCE ON DEATH - A review of Sabotage Recordings

 

Alois Huber:
We’re driving with Robert Jelinek and Plak, the two heads and label directors of Sabotage, on snow-covered Highway 318, heading towards Vienna. We’re especially interested in the latest act of Sabotage which will happen on 7 May, 1999.

Robert Jelinek:
Well, the time has come. On the seventh of May, the label Sabotage Records will cease to exist, both nominally and materially. Nominally insofar that after May it will be called Subetage, and materially in the sense that the entire Sabotage back catalogue still left on the seventh will be liquidated. And on the same day, the entire dancefloor of the Viennese nightclub Flex will be paved with it. Sabotage is erecting a monument to itself. And at the entrance to Flex there will be a memorial plaque. In addition, it needs to be said that the area to be paved is about 100 m2.

Alois Huber:
Is the vinyl meltdown a contribution to the theme of material transience? You come from the primordial stew and return to the asphalt?

Robert Jelinek:
What we’re mainly doing is giving the label a classical burial at an appropriate location. Originally, I thought an appropriate location would be the main entrance of the Austro Mechana, an Austrian musicians' agency, but they don’t deserve it. In Flex there will be an official funeral on the same evening which will have sort of a ritual character. Only the memorial plaque and the sadness will remain.

Alois Huber:
Will the asphalt be applied by Sabotage people?

Plak:
No, Sabotage people won’t be applying the asphalt, because they don’t know how to. Someone with experience has to do that, which means that we’ll have to get some construction workers in from somewhere.

Alois Huber:
Does that mean there’s nobody at Sabotage -excuse me- Subetage with those kind of qualifications?

Plak:
Well, let’s just say that no one is licensed or trained for that. I doubt that any of us has a license to drive a construction vehicle. There are plenty of professionals in the field and that’s why the thing will be done by a professional paving company.

Alois Huber:
That means, no joke, they are going to properly pave the place?

Plak:
Right. We also don’t press the records ourselves and we’re not going to destroy them ourselves either.

Alois Huber:
Well I’m already looking forward, like all of Vienna, to finally be able to trample on Sabotage, openly and in a completely legal context. That’s finally being made possible for everyone; a psycho-hygienic measure. Plak, is the meltdown of the Sabotage stock a way of getting rid of old non-sellers in a striking manner?

Plak:
No, that actually doesn’t have much to do with it. You think to yourself, OK, now a phase has been completed, and sort of buried, and a new period is beginning. Everything that came before is actually unnecessary; although you don’t want it anymore, you’re still confronted with it all the time. In the whole short-lived music business, which moves way too fast, they dump a few million tons of vinyl into the market every week, and the next week no one is interested in it anymore. It’s usually the case that people’s interest is aroused only after a few months have passed. And just to counter this deplorable state of affairs, where people show up months later and want something that you’ve already sort of parted with, Sabotage has decided that things need to be done differently. And whoever didn’t buy it immediately is out of luck, and then everything just gets melted down and thrown away and end of story.

Alois Huber:
Sabotage/Subetage – tradition, cremation, fumigation, a new beginning?

Robert Jelinek:
Every kind of material disposal regenerates the brain cells. We’ll see how it develops; maybe it will establish a new tradition in the music industry. A bit of ballast-discharge, including brain cell treatment, wouldn’t hurt them a bit. If Sony, Warner, BMG, EMI, and MCA would part with their annual surplus of CDs, they could re-pave Route 66 -- and make it an eight-lane highway!

Alois Huber:
With Sabotage constantly changing its manifestations, consumer intelligence is encouraged, but it’s not exactly easier for the average buyer to find the product.

Robert Jelinek:
Well, the average buyer doesn’t even go to the record store anymore. First, he doesn’t know where the record stores are, or if they even still exist, because the record format had to yield to the belief in progress. For example, phone calls to the paving company Teerag-Asdag went like they thought we wanted to melt down shellac records. For these people, LP-records seem to have never existed. They seem to have gone directly from shellac to compact discs. Like Plak already mentioned, we too are doing our part to keep the vinyl market alive on the one hand, and on the other hand, the supply is totally overloaded and the people are over-saturated. Not long ago, we had some statistics done on our total record production of the last years. The result was about two tons of vinyl.

Alois Huber:
How will the new label sound?

Plak:
Well, in principle not much will change, because with Sabotage the basic idea was always simply that everything changes all the time, and that it simply can’t be predicted what will come next. One could say that we’re pushing the game a little bit further – under completely normal conditions, like the complete lack of orientation in the music market, especially in connection with the audience. Nowadays, in order to keep up with anything, you need to hire specialists. So a new sector of public servants will be bred in the new millennium. And already just because of that, we have to take some kind of counter-measures. And we’ll see where that leads.

Alois Huber:
What do you think about new media and technology? One could imagine Subetage leaving the music business and simply posting everything in the net for free, without records.

Robert Jelinek:
As to the utilization of new technologies, we’re dodging the norms and going back to older structures of communication. In the future, we’ll be trying to autonomously expand traditional communication networks as much as possible. To a large extent, we’ve already stopped using stationary and mobile networks like the telephone, internet, and also the conventional postage system. For two years we’ve been working together with three large associations which breed carrier pigeons. The pigeons are trained for certain destinations and routes. And then we can forget about the various excuses of the post office, like priority and non-priority. The only enemy that we have is the bird of prey. But we can put up with that. The use of smoke signals and semaphore seems to be impossible in urban areas, because all of the elevations are obstructed by buildings. In Vienna, only the Millennium Tower would be an option. Technology also passively changes nightclub behavior. We don’t give a damn about these stay-at-home notebook concerts, especially of electronic music. You should just open the window and really scream your head off; it's kind of like life-style propaganda.

Alois Huber:
So that means Sabotage always has something to do. There’s always something going on. Where nothing’s being produced, something’s being reduced. In any case, it seems to be space. Thank you for your solidarity with the shaken construction industry, especially during this winter; to simply create new jobs and provide people with something meaningful to do. We can sense the selfless motives behind this act of Sabotage.


Parts taken from "Subetage" book, 99