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Interview with Riccardo Balli (Dj Balli) founder of the Italian label “Sonic Belligeranza” and of its two sublabels “+ Belligeranza” and “- Belligeranza” As a dj and producer he focusses on breakcore, experimental turntablism and extreme noise. I ask Balli about his visions of the future of vinyl, changes in the industry and how he sees the future for his own labels.

1 ) Is vinyl the no.1 format for you and if yes why is vinyl the superior format for you? If not why not?

For sure vinyl is the definitive format for me; its dynamics is much more creative than the 44100 Hz at 16 bit rate typical of cd, analog PLAYS, digital REPRODUCES! Then keeping aside sound factors, it is also superior as object of art, its variety of format and size allowing a multitude of creative usages, its fetishist power makes it the ultimate collectable item. On a more personal level, being myself a turntablist it is also an unreplaceble “music instrument” for scratch, yes if I have to say it:


2 ) “If you can hear whatever you like, whenever you want to hear it you don’t have to own or physically possess the music” This statement is from the future of music book, do you agree? Why or why not?

I can agree with this but only 99%! In fact, the collector’s instinct is an anthropological matter, part of human culture, as long as there’ll be that combination of chemistry-emotions-rationalization we Call men (and women) there’ll be some specimens of this race who will keep on filing pictures of different colors, drawing of different sizes in their own personal spaceship or wherever they will be. And what a better collector’s item than vinyl?

3 ) Do you think music will stay an accessory? (As it is now for a lot of people) or will new generations will get the feeling they’re missing something?

It’s possible that something very similar happening with the vintage culture in furniture, design, and clothing might happen with listening music on turntable. Actually I think this is already happening and this one of the part of that niche vinyl has statistically conquested Nowadays (check especially Nielsen SoundScan data for the year 2009.)

4 ) There’s a boost in vinyl sales at the moment, what do you think is the cause of this?

In addition to the general vintage culture growth just mentioned, a variety of , more specific, reasons, I just tell the ones that come in my mind: a) as an indirect effect of music turning immaterial, it’s no surprise that vinyl – its more “physical” format – has gained a new charm. Probably after having downloaded, what shall we say? 300 years of classic music, you start to be a little bit bored and crave for something different just as an escape, there is vinyl. b) vinyl has  always been THE format for different music culture or subculture, from the jazz enthusiast, to the punk-hardcore kid the lp is the bible (a more complex situation with the dance music niche where the introduction of new djing technologies like Serato, Final Scratch and, we shall now also consider, the premature enforced retirement of 1200’s from Technics is making the fight more intense, let’s see what will happen)

5 ) How would you describe the future of vinyl?

Hard to predict the future. As it emerged here and there in my previous answers, if there will be a future for vinyl it will be a niche one, as format for specialized categories (from audiophiles to funk dj). For sure a special eye to answer your question will have to be set on the 2102 Kyoto protocol expiration according to which the production of rubber, lubricants and bases, things like vinyl will have to be stopped because polluting. As I heard unofficially from some professionals of the vinyl sector, some way out will be probably thought of, nevertheless this environmental bidding has to be taken into consideration when talking about wax future.

6 ) Do you think giving a download link to the digital version free with the sale of the record will discourage downloading illegally and encourages buying a legal product?

I don’t think so!

7 ) According to the Dutch pressing plant the market for dance vinyl shrunk but is compensated by other styles did you notice this, did it have impact on your releases?

I agree with this and experienced it in my production activities. Lately in fact the more significant results in terms of selling were coming not from the main label Sonic Belligeranza dedicated to dance experimental music, but from the tools for scratch on -Belligeranza sublabel and noise on picture disc from +Belligeranza.

8 ) Will you ever release netreleases (mp3, wav)? Why/why not?

Mmmm as I see it now, I just can’t think of Sonic Belligeranza out of wax grooves, it’s started like that and it will die like that (if it has to die I mean), might I ever want to start some mp3 business which is very unlikely to tell the truth it will be a brand new imprint, maybe connected to my experience of vinyl producer but a different thing.

* Will you ever start selling mp3’s of your back catalogue? Why /why not?

I don’t think so! Sonic Belligeranza is a no profit organization, its margin of profit is bounded to the 500 copies of each release, and the rest should go for free.

9 ) Do you think the increase of sales of usb turntables is a good thing or a bad thing and explain why?

For sure a good thing, these new, “powered” turntables can multiply the chances of survival of vinyl. In fact I think that with their affordable cost they can encourage a music fruition based ofcourse mostly on I-pod, mobiles and so on but leaving the possibility of a more domestic, high-quality fruition. I think usb interfaced turntables go strictly along with indie music industry strategy of selling LPs with free download code, another significant pathway for vinyl existence in the years to come.

10 ) What’s your opinion on digital dj gear that simulates the manipulation of records?

I’m very open towards every new dj technologies, I think these can be new instruments, maybe interesting for their own specific reasons which I haven’t yet had the time to indicate, still 2 turntables and a mixer is a different instrument with its own complex turntablist techniques not to mention the analog sound that digital cannot reproduce.

11 ) There’s a big shift in dj culture at the moment technics stopped the production of the main dj instrument, lots of clubs don’t have turntables anymore. Since you are djing with vinyl yourself do you still see yourself djing with vinyl in a couple of years? do you think there will ever be a switch back to vinyl as the ultimate dj tool ?

As previously stated I consider myself a turntablist so my past-present-future is linked inoxidably to vinyl. Technics premature retirement is of course a very bad factor for dj culture, even though I heard this was linked to the running out of its patent after 40 years in 2009 thing that allowed free reproduction of the same technologies by different companies. I don’t how much of this is true, but for sure I see a lot of turntables (mostly the usb interfaced one mentioned at answer 11) for sale at very competitive price. Regarding your last question I tend to be pessimistic, I think more and more new tools will be introduced hopefully they will co-exist with their grand-fathers on the wheels of steel, we’ll see.

12 ) What do you think is the reason that so many distributors, shops, labels are quitting while the media is talking about the return of vinyl, and numbers show that vinyl sales are going up?

As music as turned into something to access to, music industry and the media that go along with it have been looking for the item/format with more potential of selling in this new technological situation, and vinyl as specified in 4) is probably the best so far! Probably a consequence of this hype, the increase of selling you’re mentioning.

13 ) In the survey I took someone answered: ” I don’t see the use of pressing vinyl if the music on the record is recorded digital and will be converted from digital to an analog format” what’s your opinion on this?


14 ) What are you doing as a label in order to survive and to keep releasing records?

Recently I’ve been releasing mostly picture-disc, my experience is that they can sell even to people who don’t own a turntable, but more generally I can say I’m concentrating on deluxe editions (180 grams, picturediscs as just said, etc.) Because they have that something more people now, “in the age of free music”, needs in order to justify to themselves a payment.

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