Peter Rehberg (Editions Mego) “I’m happy I’m able to carry on doing this, instead of working somewhere, you know, normal.”

Peter Rehberg wishes there were more hours in the day. The Vienna-based head of Editions Mego — formerly Mego — has records to put out, shows to plan, his own music to work on. Mego (which was officially started in 1995, before the slight change in management and name in 2006 to Editions Mego) celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, and in proper celebratory style, the label is reissuing 1995’s Fridge Trax and Live and Final Fridge by General Magic (Mego founders Andreas Piper and Ramon Bauer) and Pita (Rehberg himself), in addition to putting together label showcases in Tokyo, Barcelona, Vienna, and London. This first round of showcases continues this week, and it features artists from every point in its history, from EVOL and Russell Haswell to Klara Lewis and Chra.

The way Rehberg squeezes the most hours out of his day is to spend few of them sleeping. He and I spoke at his requested time of 5 AM central European summer time, just before he had to start packing Fridge Trax mail-orders.


Do you always wake up this early?

Yes.

What do you do when you get up?

Start work! Label stuff, things to do. Make sure everyone gets their records.

Let’s get to it, then! Are you surprised at how popular vinyl is these days, in comparison to when Mego started?

It’s not that surprising really, but it is quite weird how it happened. I remember a time when CDs were coming out and everyone was told that vinyl was not going to survive. Most of the big companies that released records dismantled their pressing plants in the early 90s, and now they have to come to small, independent pressing plants to make their records. Lots of people buy vinyl, but do they actually listen to it? Because most of my customers, all they want is the download code! But, yeah, it’s interesting. If you told me 20 years ago that in 2015 we’d be falling over ourselves to get records made, I’d have thought you were a bit crazy.

Have you had any issues with vinyl production recently?

In Germany, they only have two pressing plants, really, that actually work. And they’re totally over capacity. I went to a pressing plant two years ago, and all they were making that day were bloody Daft Punk 12-inches. Plus, the technology to make these things is so old, so you get into a situation where there’s a massive demand for a certain product but no way of actually making them. So let’s see what happens.

It’s like, even though I do all this on my own, and it’s just me alone in an office, we are a big team. But we don’t actually sit in the same room all the time, which is good actually, because we’d probably all start killing each other if we did that.

I read an essay that you wrote where you said something like, “As soon as I wake up and think, ‘I wish it was 1993 again,’ then it’s time to stop. Is that because there’s been such a change in the musical landscape since then?

The difference is that, in the “old days,” like, the really old days, before even computers, people were much more tribal in terms of music. You had to be into one type of music and you couldn’t do anything else. And now it’s much more coexistent. You can be into rock, you can be into techno. There isn’t really a conflict of interest there like there was 20 years ago. So that’s nice. Good. Interesting. Possibly.

And that’s important to you, being able to diversify the type of music you’re putting out, right?

One of the things I always said when we started doing the label 20 years ago is that we weren’t going to be a generic label. It didn’t really work, of course, because everyone thinks we made laptop noise, but that’s besides the point. So that’s why there is quite a diverse range of music that we’ve put out.

A couple of days ago I played in Berlin, and there was some review in a German newspaper, and all they talked about was Mego and Editions Mego being harsh, extreme noise. That’s all the writer wrote about. There was also Bill [Kouligas] from PAN playing, but apparently all he does is put techno out. So journalists seem to have this idea, they get this bee in their bonnet, and it stays there forever. So this guy probably found out about Mego in 1995, he bought a Hecker CD or something, and that’s it – there’s no way this label could ever put anything else out, except that form of music.

If you look at a couple of Mego releases, the 180-odd artists that we’ve put out, I think only about 2 percent fall into that category of “laptop noise,” whatever that is. I don’t even really know what laptop noise is, so that’s always quite interesting that people still think about that all the time.

And, with Editions Mego, there’s the Bill Orcutts, the Kevin Drumms…

Yeah, Bill Orcutt, real laptop noise, be careful with him! Well, on Harry Pussy, Let’s Build a Pussy, that was Bill playing computer, and look what happened there [the band broke up before the album’s release].

So it’s the 20th anniversary of Mego, and sort of the 10th anniversary of Editions Mego. You’re doing all of these celebratory shows around the world &mdaash; how are those coming along? Did you curate all the lineups?

Generally, the lists are mine. I’m trying to make a mixture of things which have been on the label for a long time that still exist within the label, and some newer stuff, so it’s not just a bunch of old blokes. It’s a bit difficult, really, when you’ve only got about five or six slots for artists and there’s about 160 or 170 people who’ve played on the label, but so far it’s been going very well.

The first round starts in a couple of weeks in Tokyo, and then we go to Barcelona, and, of course, Vienna. Which is rare, because we never do anything in Vienna. And London. And then in the autumn, or “fall,” as you people say: more Tokyo, Hong Kong, Madeira maybe, and possibly Detroit! But that’s still being discussed.

One of the things I always said when we started doing the label 20 years ago is that we weren’t going to be a generic label. It didn’t really work, of course, because everyone thinks we made laptop noise, but that’s besides the point.

Are you attending all of the shows?

I’m supposed to be at most of them. I’m not sure I can make the Tokyo one, because it’s just before the one in Vienna, so I might let them get on with that on their own. But I should be there, really, to make sure it’s all being done properly! Can’t have people getting there and everyone’s doing something shit, that’s not acceptable! But most of them I’m actually involved with in some part, playing with Stephen or on my own or with Tina [Frank]. Fenn O’Berg will have to play in Tokyo, because Jim [O’Rourke] doesn’t really leave Japan.

Speaking of Jim O’Rourke, he’s got his own little sub-label on Editions Mego, Old News. Can you talk about all of the sub-labels?

It started off with people like John Elliott from Emeralds and Stephen O’Malley, who were often telling me to put these records out, giving me advice — any good label does have a little A&R advice now and again. John was sort of sitting in the middle of this U.S. synth-electronic movement, whatever you can call it, so I asked him to curate a label for me. And off we went. And that in and of itself got more diverse, it started off just being sort of various projects from John’s surrounding environs, but then he really got into it and started getting things like Franco Falsini and Robert Turman, breaking out of that little box and going after Donato Dozzy and Neel.

And this year, of course, there’s the David Borden reissue, which was very cool to do as well. And it’s the same with Stephen. Everyone thinks Stephen’s just into black metal, but of course he’s not. I mean, Akos Rozmann seven-CD box! It doesn’t get better than that, does it? And Mark Fell, of course, with Sensate Focus, and Jim O’Rourke said, “Oh, I’ve got lots of stuff I want to put out.” So it just sort of built up. And the cherry on the cake is the GRM stuff, which I was very happy to do.

It’s like, even though I do all this on my own, and it’s just me alone in an office, we are a big team. But we don’t actually sit in the same room all the time, which is good actually, because we’d probably all start killing each other if we did that. But that’s the thinking behind it, and I like the idea. It means we’re not laptop noise. It’s beyond that.

I want to make sure to ask you about this reissue of Fridge Trax that’s coming out.

Yeah, I should be packing the mail-orders today! But instead I’m talking to you.

That’s the good thing about doing a 20-year anniversary. It’s an excuse to do things like the first record again. This is actually the first 12’’, Fridge Trax, and then this other album we did called Live Fridge, which we did for a record label called Source, for David Moufang, or Move D, as he’s known. Those records have both been out of print since then, basically. And I thought, why not just put them out again? So we got people to do nice new artwork, and they actually sound pretty good! It doesn’t sound embarrassing.

If you told me 20 years ago that in 2015 we’d be falling over ourselves to get records made, I’d have thought you were a bit crazy.

And I’m sure there’s a whole new audience of people who will be interested in the music.

Yeah, and Andy [Piper] and Ramon [Bauer] are really happy about doing this. We’ll see how it goes. I’m not expecting it to do millions, and we’re not reforming to play live everywhere. That’s not what we’ll do. That’s one thing I’ve found a bit odd in recent musical developments, the reformation idea, reforming bands and stuff.

Not going to do a reunion tour?

No. Well, maybe 40 years later. Not now. But we still meet and have dinner together, so that’s a reformation, isn’t it? To be at the same table, hanging out.

Is it just a straight-up reissue? Is there any new material on there?

There’s no bonus tracks, but the album itself, the Source album, came out as a vinyl and on CD, and three tracks that were missing from the LP in those days are right on the LP now. And since it’s 2015, vinyl is the thing, so we have to mention that now – three tracks which weren’t on vinyl before are on vinyl now! Plus, no one could buy it for ages, and it’s got new artwork by Tina Frank, and it’s great.

Since so much of your time is devoted to running the label, how much time do you have to work on your own music? Are you still actively working on it?

Yes, I am, actually. I’ve started doing solo shows again, after a five-year period of not doing that. It’s kind of difficult, because the label is obviously lots of work, and making music might not look like a lot of work, but it actually is. I still do lots of things like working with Gisele Vienne, traveling with theater groups, and playing with Stephen O’Malley in KTL and now my solo stuff. So you just have to split your day into parts. So, say at 5 in the morning you’re interviewing with someone in Chicago, and then you start doing mail-order, and then maybe after breakfast you turn all your machines on and do that until lunchtime. So every day I work on a bit of music, usually meaning some synths are rattling on in the background while I’m doing something else. It’s a lot of work, but it’s good that I have the privilege of doing my hobby. I’ve been listening to music and interested in music since I was 11, so I’m more than happy to be able to carry on doing this, instead of working somewhere, you know, normal.

So what do think the next 20 years will look like for Editions Mego?

Well, I’ll be 67 in 20 years, so I’ll be older. How about I talk about what’s happening in the next year? All of our records up until the summer are announced now, and then we have a little break, to get everyone rested. And then we kick off again in the autumn. Lots of things on Spectrum Spools, which I shouldn’t tell you yet, and more things on Ideologic Organ, which I also shouldn’t tell you yet! Maybe another KTL record, maybe another Pita record, maybe not, maybe yes.

And you’d put those out yourself?

Yes. It’s not as busy as it has been in the last few years. The problem is, if you put too many records out, things disappear into this void. It’s a bit overwhelming. There’s so many releases, it’s hard to keep up. I try to keep up with what other labels do, but most of my time is dealing with all the stuff I’m putting out, make sure the test pressings are fine, getting these tracks done, getting the artwork. It’s a lot of work, but it’s all good fun. I wouldn’t change it for anything else.

[Photo: Magdalena Blasczcuk]

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