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About Kraak


KRAAK is a grass-roots organisation that offers presentation and development possibilities in left field music. We try to provide a quality platform, being a promotor for young artists who are working within uncommon genres as avant-rock, psych, experimental electronica, free jazz, new folk, improv, composer ... We organise small 'lab-evenings', bigger presentation moments and creation possibilities. We also did a free monthly magazine for eight years and still do on and off publications of and about new experimental artists. 


Our history

KRAAK was founded from the ashes of the Flemish underground tapelabel Toothpick. KRAAK wanted to be an eccentric international label and, because of that, founded friendships with alike-minded micro-organisations quite easily. Within a climate of sharing information and experience, KRAAK started doing distribution and and promotion for other labels in the Benelux. This double activity became financially too heavy and in the spring of 2002 KRAAK continued as a label and concert organisation only. With a minimal budget KRAAK gained an excellent reputation and popularity in our home country and abroad. The Flemish gouvernement noticed this and agreed to support the organisation. The support was more than welcome and led to a new boost. After ten years of experience KRAAK tries -more than ever- to be a trademark for an open, innovative music culture.


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KRAAK on 04/16/2013 at 02:00AM

Billy Bao: We can feel comfortable about being uncomfortable

I don't want to start this piece with a cliché, but Jimi Hendrix was right when he called his power trio The Experience. Because that's what music should be: an experience. There's nothing wrong with rock as entertainment, because that's what rock was invented for in the first place: when working class self expression (called blues) became middle class entertainment, that's when rock 'n roll started, remember? Basically: when men in suits found that there could be money made with music. Enough with the history lesson. 

Billy Bao, ladies and gentlemen, is an experience. The date is the 2nd of March 2013. The place: Aalst, the Detroit of Belgium: there's no middle class or upper class in Aalst. Either you're working class or you're jobless. Anyway.

What started out as a good post no wave punk set became an experience when, halfway through the concert, punk became Metal Machine Music: self-controlled guitar noise. All the lights in the room went on again and drummer Alberto L. Martin started disassembling his drum kit by putting the different pieces all over the place. Speakers were put between the audience and Mattin handed over his monitors to the audience, as if he was saying: "Take the music, it's yours now. It’s out of my hands." 

Guitar noise became laptop noise. Laptop noise became clicks and cuts. Mattin walked trough the audience, looking around him, wandering, as if he was thinking himself: "What is going on here?" And: "Where are all these strange noises coming from?" Eventually, he unplugged his laptop and put the amp off, and it went silent again. End of the experience. - Joeri Bruyninckx


QUESTION:The Billy Bao concert on Saturday started as a no wave punk set, which was good of course, but it became great when the lights went on again and it changed into a guitar/laptop noise performance. Should a concert be more than 'just a concert' for Billy Bao? 


REPLY:A concert can be a situation that exceeds the expectations of a concert to reflect back upon aspects of reality in a different, estranged way.For Cecil Taylor music was a matter of life and death. We agree with him.


QUESTION:During the concert in Aalst, when you handed the monitors and the speakers to people in the audience, that had a theatrical effect, to me. It was like you were saying: "The music is yours now, it's out of my hands". Is this what you were trying to say, or is this my interpretation? 


REPLY:During this concert we were trying to work around the concept of acceleration, as Reza Negarestani puts it: "against normativity acceleration should be followed as the catastrophic rearrangement of the limits of the system".  Reza thinks acceleration in epistemological terms in order to go from local myopia towards the global through synthetic conceptualization (acceleration functions as the epistemic navigation of the concept space introducing dialectical instability). So we started the concert from a very local place, very close together, acoustic, and then we started to distribute our sounds through amplification, later on the synthetic sound of the computer totally overcame us, while the elements that constituted the concert started to be dispersed as a form of catastrophic rearrangement. As Reza mentions:

"Concepts need to be released out into the open demanding the subject to improvise into contingency". 

So we also started to expand in every possible direction. By doing this with were trying to undermine our authority and that of the classic rock idea about power coming from the stage. In this concert the computer took over that power and then people working in the festival took down the erected phallic tower of PA speakers, which were projecting all the sound towards the audience. Once the speakers were down, they now distributed the sound in every possible direction. While after we left the stage we were with the audience pushing for contingency and instability.


QUESTION:At the end of the set, when the guitar noise went over into laptop noise, you could only hear some clicks and cuts. You were walking through the public at that point, looking around you like you were thinking "But where do these noises come from?” and “What are these noises anyway?" That was funny, almost Andy Kaufman like. Is electronic and experimental music being taken too seriously? Did you want to bring some abstract kind of humor into the performance? 


REPLY:Following the disintegration of authority and the distribution of catastrophe in every possible direction we were strangers to ourselves. So yes we looked like idiots but the audience did as well, all those faces kind of wondering: what is going on? these guys look lost in their own concert! But most of the audience looked lost too.


QUESTION:Your drummer was wearing a Stooges Funhouse T-shirt. What is the power of a power trio? Wasn’t Billy Bao a trio? When did you discover the power of rock music? Do you see Billy Bao as a rock band? On Buildings from Bilbao, often had to think about Sissy Spacek and Brainboms. Were these bands an influence on Billy Bao? 


REPLY:Our influences are more like Tunnel Canary, I Go Die, Galina Ustvolskaya and Al Karpenter.

For us the notion of acceleration is also interesting in musical terms: we could consider punk to be the acceleration of rock, and noise to be the acceleration of punk.  Basically you take the basic elements of one and push them in a new direction by making a catastrophe out their own conventions, but also by universalizing the potential of this catastrophe. With punk, anybody could play it if they got an instrument, learned a chord, beat a beat and formed a band. With noise you did not even need a band nor chords or beats. Really anybody could make noise without any musical knowledge or training at all.

Hijokaidan started to make noise because they read the reviews of how radical The Sex Pistols were.  But this was before hearing them, and once the heard them, they thought it was only rock'n' roll, so they did a version of what they thought the Sex Pistols really were. 

Now with Billy Bao we wonder: what could be the acceleration of noise?


QUESTION:Billy Bao just released Buildings from Bilbao. Is a record and a concert a different thing? Should a concert represent a record? Can a record represent a concert? Do you see the music of Billy Bao as songs? How much of the music is made while playing together and how much of it is done afterwards, in the editing? Stanley Kubrick said: “Filming is just filming. The real tension is creating while editing. That’s where film becomes cinema.” Can you say the same about music: “Playing live is just playing live. The real tension is created while editing? That’s where music becomes art?”    


REPLY:The editing can take various forms and it can also be done through live playing by breaking apart the flow of where things seems to be going. Perhaps this is the problem with noise and improvisation today: that we can anticipate where the flow of things is going in live situations. So with Billy Bao, by incorporating concepts in concerts we can break our own flow so it no longer feels natural or easy. 

People have mentioned how free jazz players were generating their own sense of time as opposed to performing the rigidity of the times explicit in a composition. But today through extreme flexibility everybody is kind of generating his or her own sense of time (through their own playlists, their own working times...). So again this flow of "self-managed" time is supposed to give us the appearance that we have certain sense of agency by deciding what we are doing. But this decision is like choosing something out of a very limited menu where at the end you have to pay a very expensive price: your life.

What is freedom in conditions of unfreedom? 

When either we play live or make records it is more important for us to express our unfreedom rather than fake freedom. Records are very specific things and we are interested in taking the word record literally. You drop out there without having any awareness of where it might end up.

A record is there for history. This is a very interesting thing because it implies that you are doing something at one point and then history might judge you in regards of how much you were a victim of your times or to what extent you where trying something against the complacency of our times, something truly antagonistic and anachronistic. 


QUESTION:I really liked the Billy Bao record on PAN. Do you see this as the best Billy Bao release too?  


REPLY:May 08 was a very compact, closed, toxic record, so after that we needed something equally disturbing  but open. Urban Disease is certainly a very experimental record and for us it was very liberating (thanks Brian & Taku!). If we could release Urban Disease we can now release anything.


QUESTION:Is provocation a part of the Billy Bao music? Or is provocation useless because you don’t reach the people that could be provoked anyway? 


REPLY:We certainly want to provoke ourselves.

Billy Bao does not like the world the way it is but we want to do something about it. We want to take ourselves into moments of maximal deception where we can feel comfortable about being uncomfortable.

On the way we hope to bring down some established modes of music making.

If by any chance somebody feels provoked by Billy Bao we recommend doing yoga for 20 minutes.


QUESTION:If art is about expression and communication, then what is the music of Billy Bao trying to express and what are you trying to tell? 


REPLY:My life is shit, probably yours too.



QUESTION:I would like to publish this interview on the Free Music Archive-blog, because I think the FMA-ideology is very close to the way you think about how music should be distributed. But tell me in your own words: why should music be available for free? 


REPLY:Everyone and everything should be free except the market that should finally properly collapse.




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tommykraaknet on 06/04/2012 at 07:17PM

well received, but unrewarded

KRAAK / (K-RAA-K)3 vzw is fifteen years old this year. So far that has equalled 81 releases, 80 RUIS magazine editions, 14 KRAAK festivals and hundreds of concerts and projects. But numbers were never of any interest. The DIY roots of KRAAK go back to a small cassette label in Bruges. A group of dedicated music lovers went on to develop it into a serious record label and a concert organization which supports an international scene of musicians below the radar. Still KRAAK is getting all its energy out of these headstrong musicians and composers with strong visions that do not necessarily break through to mainstream press or audience, but that are just the more valuable for a music landscape that is constantly injected with innovation frombelow. Rooted in an ideology in which there is no hierarchy between the artist, the promoter and the audience, but rather a constant interaction, KRAAK helps to build a blooming international underground and tries to promote the Flemish and Belgian part of this. This is not only important for a community as such, KRAAK often also functions as the first intermedium in the encounter of the Belgian audience with artists that only later gain a bigger reach, or with almost forgotten legends that influence new generations of experimental musicians. Animal Collective, Six Organs of Admittance, Kurt Vile, Wolf Eyes, Ducktails, Tony Conrad, Henry Flynt, Smegma, Sublime Frequencies… they all found their way to a Belgian stage before they raised interest with other promoters or media. KRAAK only exists because of these artists and their audiences. Their importance for an energetic music world that is not dominated by trends or mainstream press, but relies on an upright and authentic journey in search of artistic roots, should not be underestimated. Our record label mainly focuses on the Flemish share within this community and makes sure these artists can build an oeuvre, free from commercial strategies or marketing driven music business.  Artists such as Köhn, Tuk, Silvester Anfang, Ignatz, Kiss the Anus of a Black Cat, Dolphins Into The Future, Floris Vanhoof, Gerard Herman and many more have been able to realize their work like this in the past.
For this mission, KRAAK has received structural funding from the Flemish Government since 2007. For the new period 2013-2016, KRAAK handed in a new file to defend our aims. The file was well received by a commission which has to advise our Minister of Culture, Joke Schauvliege. This minister had previously asked this commission to make a ranking' through which the importance of each organization within its field was quantified. This system was of course contested, but was nevertheless carried out with alienating and questionable results. KRAAK is in the 60th position of this ranking and is one of the four organizations which will not receive any funding, despite of the positive advise that was given. The money was all distributed once they reached number 59. Today in the newspaper De Standaard, the chairman of the commission Luc Mishalle says that the advised grant for KRAAK was 130.000 euros. That means a decrease of 20.000 euros, but it would let KRAAK survive. From the looks of things right now, KRAAK is going to lose it all. This would imply that the current activities would disappear. No more concerts in Antwerp, Brussels, Ghent, Hasselt and Aalst, no more RUIS magazine, no more help with booking tours, no more concerts by foreign artists who are not commercially interesting, et cetera. KRAAK will not vanish as an organization, but it will be forced to become a small non-profit structure that entirely depends on volunteers and personal budget. With a subsidy budget of 87 million euros, we believe this to be a disproportionate impoverishment that leaves an important community of artists out in the cold. At the end of this month, we will know the official decision. KRAAK will do everything to defend what it stands for. Like our old motto used to say: Do Not Bend!
Johan, Dave, Tommy, Steve & Glen
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