Insight Interview: Stefan Baranowski

We caught up with the founder of Insight Music and diehard music fan Stefan Baranowski. Check out what he had to say about his love for the scene and his ambition for promoting underground music…

Hey Stefan. Thanks so much for agreeing to an interview. Where are you currently based? Do you tend to travel a lot, or are you firmly rooted at home?

Hey Antony, I’m currently living in Bedfordshire, UK, about 50 miles north of London. I’ve been living here for the past 3 years but originally I was born and raised in the Steel City (Sheffield).

Can you recall your first real exposure to music? Was music a major part of growing up for you?

Growing up, music was always around me. My family really loved their music, my dad especially. He was an avid record collector and I used to be amazed by the sheer amount of vinyl he had tucked away in vintage suitcases. For me however, it was the connection I had with music independently which really got me.

I remember I had an old Sony cassette player and portable CD player growing up, which I admired dearly. One moment I remember as clear as daylight was when I was maybe 9 years old, laid on my sofa bed at home listening to ‘S.O.S’ by Abba on my cassette player. I started to understand music, the structure, the rhythm, the instrumentation, I started to analyse the music and really connect with what I was hearing.

Did you always know that you wanted to form a record label and / or promote electronic music?

Not at all, in fact growing up I felt kinda lost. I was pretty unsure with which direction I wanted to go in life, but I certainly felt drawn towards music. One thing I had growing up was local inspiration. The band While She Sleeps went to my school and were only two years above me. The guitarist Mat Welsh occasionally came in to school when I was taking GCSE Music to teach me a thing or two on the guitar which was incredibly inspiring to see. The band are now currently touring all over the globe and are still one of my brightest sources of inspiration.

Becoming a label / promoter never really came to mind until the month before starting university in 2011. I’d been in a band as a drummer playing shows, produced and DJ’d Dub-Step at shows, but it was hard getting any recognition. Insight began the day I heard ‘I’ll Remain Under Our Antique Sky‘ by Owsey, that was the moment everything changed. This style of music was pure, organic and heartfelt, it was my calling.

Tell us how Insight came about and the journey from its inception to the present day.

Insight started as a Soundcloud community where creators could showcase their sounds with us for our fans to see. A couple of weeks in and I was already blessed by the sounds of Owsey, Stumbleine and Essay, quickly realising just how much I started to feel connected to such an organic genre. Insight started out like every other promotional channel, tracking down artists, uploading content, sharing to fans and repeating the process. It was difficult to find a balance between university studies and Insight, but my love for the community is what kept me on track. Honestly, a lot has occurred over the past 6 years, but my passion for the scene is still growing.

Is Insight your main career, or do you see it more as a creative ‘hobby’?

I am happily working full time as a sales assistant for Cotswold Outdoor, but Insight will always be the dream. I’ve worked numerous jobs over the years but I believe I’ve found a great balance between my work life and Insight, something which has took me a few years to discover.

I enjoy the outdoors and have scaled the 3 peaks in the UK, Ben Nevis being our most recent triumph back in June. There’s something magical about standing on the highest peaks, spending hours ascending the tallest mountains around to be rewarded with serenity and the most spectacular of views. On the summit of Ben Nevis I sat there with my legs crossed looking out over the munros of the highlands, that truly was a surreal experience for me.

Tell us about the governing ethos behind Insight. Do you look for a particular quality or trait in the music you choose to promote?

There are certain qualities I look out for, sometimes I hear a song for 5-10 seconds and something just strikes me, a connection with music which feels slightly inhuman, something more powerful than enjoyment. The music Insight specialises in goes deeper than what we hear on the surface. I see myself as quite an independent person, so the one-on-one connection I have with my emotions and the artists creative work is incredibly powerful. I enjoy a variety of music, which stretches across many many genres, but if you allow your music to speak for you, you can guarantee it will speak to me.

Do you have a favourite Insight release? Or favourite moment in the history of Insight?

The support I find overwhelming. I honestly can’t believe what we’ve created and how far this community has come. I am an avid fan of all the music associated with Insight, it’s a passion and I emotionally connect with every release. One moment I will never forget is when I first heard ‘Up Ahead‘ by Soular Order. You may have seen me post the track several times on social media, but it had a big impact on me. There was a lot more than just music connecting with me, it was emotion and memory, feelings of love, pain, joy, it was all right there. The connection was so pure, it reached out to me in ways unimaginable. I’m a big fan of Jon’s music and continue to support him as much as I can.

Where do you see Insight going in future? Would you like to expand the project to branch out into new genres or fields, or would you like to keep to the same path?

I like where we are now, I still feel very connected with the scene and am very much enjoying how things are going. There are plans for the future, but at the moment I hope to establish more of a presence on our website, especially our blog. 

Any upcoming Insight releases or events you’d like to tell us about?

I don’t want to give to much away, but we have new music from Kant Sleep and Fading Language on the way shortly. We also have our next compilation album dropping very very soon.

Do you have any thoughts on the future of underground musical styles? Do you think the scene will evolve further?

I believe the scene will continue to grow and we’ll experience many new sub-genres over the coming years. The spirit of the underground won’t ever die out though, if anything it’s burning brighter than before. The attention our community is receiving is incredible. You have more independent shows being organised, the growth of vinyl and cassette, major licensing deals within atmospheric and ambient music, the power of digital streaming, but best of all, every artist now has the platform to take on the industry themselves.

Favourite artists of all time? Favourite tracks?

For someone who listens to a lot of music, that’s a tough one. I have a variety of music within iTunes, Spotify and Soundcloud that I listen too, some days it’s liquid DnB, others it’s Chillhop, Lo-fi, Metal, you name it. I do have a few favourite tracks however that I’d like to share with everyone…

Sigur Ros – BaBa
Max Avery Lichtenstein – Tarnation
Burial – In McDonalds
Matt Maltese – Even if It’s a Lie
While She Sleeps – Feel
Bon Iver – I Can’t Make You Love Me
Phoria – Saving us a Riot
Home – Resonance
Five Deez – Latitude (Nujabes Remix)
Mazzy Star – Fade Into You

…talk about variety, right?

Any non-Insight projects you’d like to tell us about?

I’m pretty hands on when it comes to mechanics. I drive a VW Golf Mk2 and have a lot of fun breaking it and learning how to fix it again. It’s used as a daily runner to get me to and from work, but it’s still very much a project car.

And finally – any artists who are relatively unknown who you’d like more people to know about?

Honestly, I could name a bunch of producers that are currently inspiring me at the moment, but there are way too many. If you’re after really chilled vapourwave, check out the album ‘Odyssey‘ by Home, by far the best album a dollar will buy you on Bandcamp.

Thanks so much Stefan!

Thank you!