Thursday 8th March // Tonight we have a very special guest for our Insight Interview, this time with the founder of ARCHIVES. Agustín Mena is the father of one of the most attractive and profound record labels dedicated to the ambient atmospheric scene. As well as a successful pioneer in label management, Agustín is a fantastic composer himself, writing and producing music under the Alias’ Warmth / SVLBRD. We have the pleasure of finding out a little more about the man behind the label and his journey so far.
Hey man, thanks for agreeing to do an interview with Insight. Where are you currently based? Do you travel a lot, or are you firmly rooted at home?
Thanks to you for the offer. I live in Valencia, at the Mediterranean coast of Spain, I was born in a village about 35 kilometers from here, but I came to live to the capital almost 15 years ago. I was traveling a lot for a few years, I also lived in different places of Spain for a while, but my whole life is now here.
When was your first real exposure to music?
Music has been present in my life always. When I was a child I was already studying music in a kindergarten, my brother played in an orchestra and I started Solfège. The first contact with electronic music, I suppose it would be during the adolescence, mainly through Aphex Twin, Brian Eno, Boards of Canada, later James Holden and Border Community. I was quite obsessed with that kind of cool weird stuff made by Nathan Fake, Ricardo Tobar, Dextro, Luke Abbott…
What’s been your proudest experience to date?
Well, it’s always exciting when a new work comes to light, you spend a lot of time working on it, when you’re preparing the release is like something just yours and it’s somehow liberating when you can finally share it properly.
It was nice when ‘Essay‘ came out. I had many doubts about the album, it was my first ambient work and the production was very intermittent. I decided to release the album on Archives, the label was active just for a short time by then and I really thought that I would be lucky if a few people listened to it, so I was surprised to receive so much attention.
The vinyl release of ‘Home‘ was also something special, although somehow truncated by the experience. I worked on the tracks during October/December of 2016, but it was released near August of 2017. It was certainly not the best time to release it, but the process ended up taking so much time that I was really exhausted and frustrated.
The imagery surrounding ARCHIVES is beautiful and incredibly fitting to the music released on the label. What inspired you to start a record label?
I had some rather unpleasant experiences with some labels, not with all obviously and for a while I had a very bittersweet feeling. Suddenly I received a lot of proposals for remixes, people asked me for compilations and other projects, so I kept looking for time to sit down and make music, stressed with dead lines and as time passed, I found that most of those proposals ended in nothing. Remixes and tracks that were not finally released or they did, but like eight months later, almost without my knowledge.
The intention was not really to release my own music, my first release on the label was more than a year after his birth. I often saw talented people doing incredible music that did not seem to have the opportunity to release their music in a minimally appropriate way, so I thought I could try.
At first, I thought it would not last a few months, you just started, nobody knows the label and it is difficult for anyone to get involved, when they can work with more known platforms. I received many negatives and there were people who agreed to work on something, to disappear later, but over time things changed and it became much easier to manage it.
What’s your favorite record right now? What album out there are you really enjoying?
How about your favorite record of all time?
That’s hard! I guess some of the ones I mentioned before… Boards of Canada, most of the stuff on Border Community. Also, because they have a nostalgic value added, in part.
Taking a look at the physical releases available on your Bandcamp store, it’s easy to recognize the art concept behind ARCHIVES. What’s your thought process behind the artwork?
Well, the idea from the beginning was that the visual must be related to nature, since it is the first thing that evokes to me the type of music that we have been releasing. Many of the covers are pictures by Alexander Kopatz , that are magnificent.
As well as a label owner, you also produce music under the alias’ Warmth / SVLBRD, tell us a little more about the inspiration behind your work.
Warmth is strictly focused on ambient music. After ‘Essay’, I thought about moving a bit towards other sounds, maybe something darker, but I thought that the type of sound of that album could still be explored. Still I wanted to do something different and that’s how SVLBRD was born, at first It was going to be much more focused on techno, but in the two works I’ve done with this alias, I have had my long struggles, since sometimes I thought I could end up sounding a bit generic.
I am very comfortable with the type of sound that I have developed in ‘Stratus‘, it is mostly ambient, but somehow darker than the Warmth material.
Are you currently working on any new material you can share with us? What lies ahead for you as a producer?
There is a new Warmth album finished. I am between excited and nervous with him, because it is something different from the previous ones. Pretends to be a tribute to the minimalist ambient of the nineties, saving distances and in my own way. The songs are made with just a few sounds recorded live.
When I finished Home, I left several projects with which I hoped to do something later, but when I recovered them a few months ago, I felt that I did not connect with them, the sounds were good, but I did not think it contributed anything to what I already had done before, so I started from scratch.
I was also thinking about doing something special with ‘Stratus’. At some point in the process I came to think that it should be an entirely ambient album and I have some versions that have not seen the light, so maybe I’ll spend time doing something with them, like an alternative version of the album, if I feel that it’s really worth it.
Last year I barely spent time producing, just some single songs and remixes, I didn’t feel inspired at all, but this year I am very motivated. So I hope I can work on something else, maybe an EP, for the end of the year.
How about as a label? What can expect to see from ARCHIVES this year?
The most immediate is a wonderful EP by Japanese artist Shuta Yasukochi and I guess my new album as Warmth will be released also soon. There’s also an album by Hotel Neon in Vinyl and CD, planned for maybe May, if everything is ready and Purl is also working on something extraordinary and there’s also a couple of things planned for Faint, the first album by Araceae, a beautiful mixture of ambient and dub-infused sounds and a double CD compilation.
What’s your musical goal for the next few years? Is there something you’d love to achieve in your career?
Maybe make some interesting collaborations. I’m not really ambitious in that sense, I’m happy working on my music, even if just a small audience listen to it. So I’m happy to continue doing this my way.
Any life goals?
Well, I guess the same. I am going to turn 38 in a few months and I feel that I am in a relaxed period of my life, in which I feel happy with everything. Also, I’m a bit like cats, I don’t like change at all.
Has there ever been a piece of music or an experience that shaped you to become the musician you are today?
I don’t know if it will be perceived in my music, but I consider that I am an empathetic and sensitive person. Not sure if it has always been like that, I can not say if there has been any particular experience or many or if it’s simply maturity, but I guess I would do another kind of music if it was not like that.