interview with Paul Nielsen

Today the focus of Vox Empirea is about one of the best and representative institutions into the alternative electronic music, the famous label Tympanik Audio headquartered in Chicago. We host its founder and manager Paul Nielsen: hello Paul, thank you for honoring us with your presence.

> My pleasure.

Paul, at first, with which specific intent did you create six years ago, in 2007, the platform Tympanik Audio? Did you activate immediately in building a discographic home of élite like the current one, or all this is happened gradually over time?

> Tympanik Audio was born out of a promotional idea I had to produce a CDr compilation for the weekly radio program I was hosting here in Chicago called "Hidden Forms". I contacted many of the artists I played regularly on the show like Flint Glass, Architect, Ginormous, Stendeck, Displacer, Hecq, Dryft, to see if they would be willing to contribute a song to the compilation to help promote my radio program. Most everyone that I contacted were very enthusiastic about participating and the compilation quickly began to take shape. With so many talented artists and strong material compiled, a friend suggested I use the opportunity to launch a record label with the compilation, which had now grown into enough material for a 2CD set. Starting a record label had always been a dream of mine so I decided to go forward with the plan. I borrowed some money from family to produce the CDs and began work building the label. In December 2007 Tympanik Audio was officially active with our first CD release, a 2-disc compilation titled "Emerging Organisms". The compilation was very successful and received much praise from listeners and the press. It seemed there was enough interest and encouragement from my peers to move forward with the development of the label. I began seeking out artists to release and it wasn't long before I had signed on quite a few talents such as Totakeke, Subheim, Flint Glass, Displacer, Ad.ver.sary, Disharmony, and Pneumatic Detach. Everything happened fairly quickly in the beginning and it wasn't long before Tympanik Audio took on a life of its own.

If you had to describe an ascending parable about the rising number of band recruited by your label from its beginnings to the present, to what measure it has grown?

> I recruited many artists in the first couple years. Being a huge fan of music for so long, there never seemed to be a shortage of artists I wanted to work with through Tympanik and artists who wanted to work with us. I was excited about releasing some of my favorite, already-established artists, but my real passion was seeking new artists and helping them introduce their music to a wider audience. I feel we have established a good balance between the established and the new, and as a result, have been able to offer our listeners a solid catalog of unique and diverse releases.

Can you explain us the reason for this result?

> The growth of our artist roster has always seemed to gain momentum, at least for the first few years. In the past two years, say, I've purposely slowed things down and have become much more selective when considering artist recruitment. I'd say this is due to the economic climate of physical media based labels coupled with the perpetual goal of strengthening the quality of our output.

Which are exactly the characteristics required by Tympanik Audio for the artists who want to become part of this special circuit?

> I generally listen for a careful balance between complexity and accessibility. I'll admit I tend to gravitate towards more beat-oriented material, but I'm open to just about any genre of music. If your music has a unique quality to it and can keep an accessible composition, I'm all ears.

In electronic music released by Tympanik Audio it highlights a matrix mainly ambient-industrial oriented that combine other various styles. which ones exactly?

> IDM and Electronica are two other genres we release within. Tympanik's output has mainly focused on a balance between post-industrial and rhythmic noise, more-so in the beginning, and down-tempo, beat-driven electronica and IDM. I have personally gravitated towards artists that can incorporate a multitude of styles into their music, so I tend to release a lot of multi-genre music. If you're into electronic music of any kind, I believe Tympanik has something interesting for anyone.

Each project that is part of your label possesses his own sensitivity in addition to his own compositional calligraphy. To maintain constant the quality trend of the Tympanik Audio, do you personally indicate the general guidelines, or you allow that each artist expresses his sound spontaneously?

> Each of our artists are free to create whatever they feel, I really have no part in their creation process, unless someone specifically asks me for feedback or ideas. I generally like to hear the final product; the finished album, then a decision can be made on whether to release or not. Many of our artists will send me unfinished versions of songs they are working on as they build their albums, so it's always interesting to get an inside look at their creation process and how these works develop.

From the beginning to today, how many official releases have published?

> 79 CD releases and 16 digital.

Although it is difficult to make a similar choice, which are the records by Tympanik you liked mostly?

> A difficult choice indeed. I truly love everything we have released. What's nice about Tympanik releases is I can go back to any one, regardless of when it was released or how many times I've listened to an album, and it will still sound fresh and new. If I were to offer a few suggestions to introduce someone to the Tympanik Audio sound, I might recommend these to start with: Integral "Rise", Subheim "Approach", Totakeke "eLekatota", Zentriert Ins Antlitz "No", Stendeck "Sonnambula", Disharmony "Evolution", SE "L36", Access To Arasaka "void();", Tapage & Meander "Etched In Salt", Erode "Horizon", r.roo "mgnovenie", "At The End Of It All", Comaduster "Hollow Worlds", and the "Emerging Organisms" compilations.

Who's currently the artist from Tympanik that you would define as "genius"?

> Well, I hate to dodge this one, but for me, “genius” is a powerful word that I rarely use when talking about music. Each of our artists are extremely good at what they do and their creations are unique and unparalleled in my opinion. I've seen this word used by various listeners to describe many of our artists. For me personally, the diversity of our artists and releases make it difficult to elevate any above the rest, even for sake of discussion.

Economically speaking, those experienced today internationally are rather difficult times. Are this for an independent label like yours a significant and continuous problem, or you have found a winning strategy to limit the profit losses? If "yes", which was your solution?

> It seems difficult financial times have taken a toll on everyone these days. Owning music has itself become almost a luxury in some ways. People can't afford to build their music collections they way they used to years ago, so I find that listeners are more selective about what they decide to purchase, myself included. This is why it is so important for us as a label to offer the very best music we can find to our audience. Over the years I have continually tried to raise the bar on the quality of our releases, not just with the music, but the overall package as well. This includes offering more visually appealing packages and more precise mastering of the audio. Tympanik Audio is a physical media based label, so offering visually appealing packaging and professionally engineered audio is more important than ever in this digital music age. I'll admit I resisted the digital format of music distribution in the first years of the label, with the idea that owning a physical copy of an album makes the music listening experience more complete and special. But, it soon became clear that I needed to meet the needs of our digital-only purchasing audience so I've tried to embrace that as much as possible by offering our listeners that option from a variety of outlets. Tympanik Audio is still a small independent label, and although we've grown significantly in our first five years, we still struggle financially from time to time. I may have resisted the digital format in the beginning, but ironically we probably would not be here without it.

And more, Tympanik Audio disconnects itself for prestige and for the advanced intelligence of its sounds: it is logical to deduce that your label is directed exclusively to a very selected audience. Does this detail represent a limitation at the commercial level, or the results obtained by this choice are for you so satisfying to doesn't make you regret not having pursued a probably more profitable mainstream way?

> A good question. I started out with the label mainly interested in releasing the type of sounds I enjoyed; in a basic sense a cross-breed of post-industrial and idm genres, knowing full-well that this would limit our audience, but not really expecting our music to have a wider appeal outside of that. My main goal was to help new and upcoming artists find a wider audience for their music; I wasn't really concerned about achieving mainstream appeal with our releases. As the label developed and certain artists came into the fold, I began to realize that some of our sounds had the potential to reach listeners who weren't necessarily familiar or emerged in the “scenes” we were marketing toward. I suppose I've purposely steered away from releasing more difficult and experimental albums over the past couple years because I am trying to capture the attention of a wider audience, while still remaining in line with our original mission. This certainly isn't the case with all of our releases over the past couple years, but I have been intentionally moving the label in this direction with more accessible, cross-genre releases, with the hopeful intent of giving some of our newer artists, as well as the label, a wider arena.

With such a vast number of names, have you ever thought about creating an unique and extemporaneous super-band consisting by several artists? A sort of experiment like Tympanik's "This Mortal Coil"...would not be great, Paul?

> Of course, it is a great idea. An unexpected result of the growth of the label is the enormous amount of collaborations that have occurred between many of our artists and that really is the beauty of this whole thing. So much music is being co-produced these days between a number of our artists and I'm happy that I've been able to help bring all these talented people together so they can work together and create more sounds. These are collaborations that might not have ever occurred had Tympanik Audio never been formed so it's certainly a nice bonus for the artists involved and the end-listeners. One instance of this is the ongoing split/collaboration project between Access To Arasaka, Erode, and Dirk Geiger for an upcoming EP titled 'Reports From The Abyss'. Watch for it.

Which ideas do you have in mind for the coming future of your label?

> We have a few more releases scheduled for this year: new albums by r.roo and Tineidae, the Access To Arasaka / Erode / Dirk Geiger EP, as well as volume 5 of our "Emerging Organisms" compilation series. I always have my ears open for new artists to bring into the Tympanik Audio family so musicians: send us your demos! As for the future, we will just have to see where it takes us.

Paul, all that you described in this interview is a vivid testimony of great passion and devotion aimed to the high-class avantgarde music. I am grateful to you for giving us your time, hoping I have contributed to the further fame that Tympanik always deserves. Do you want to conclude this conversation dedicating your own special thought to all the Vox Empirea's readers?

> Thanks for all the great questions, I enjoyed answering them. If your readers would like to hear what Tympanik Audio has to offer, please visit our website and Bandcamp page where you can stream all of our releases in full. We also have a ton of free music downloads, including label samplers and dj mixes, on our website. Thanks for your interest and keep electronic music moving forward. Peace and best wishes.

* (by Maxymox 2013)