Désertion Records from Toulon, France, has been one of the most active, dedicated and prolific independent labels and DIY booking houses. Formed in 2004 by Clément and now co-managed with Marion, Désertion has released a bunch of records from dozens of inspiring bands including BOKANOVSKY, LAKME, THE THIRD MEMORY, SUGARTOWN CABARET, PASTEL, CONTWIG, EAGLEHASLANDED, GRAND DETOUR and WE HAD A DEAL. The label gives special attention to works by independent bands presenting all kinds of sonic niches, thankfully marginalized and excluded from the mainstream media. Clément has carved out an exciting path of DIY supporter and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about his background and experience, the history of the label, his view on DIY and the future. Not only did our discussion take stock of the label’s work, but it dug deeper into various different subjects that, I sincerely believe, has made it a lot more interesting. See the full interview below.
Hey there! Thanks so much for taking some time with IDIOTEQ! How are you? How’s France?
Clément: Hi karol, thanks to you! We’re fine, I worked this week-end, and I’m currently enjoying my day off on a Monday :) How’s France? Well, Paris attacks are not yet digest that we have to deal with the front national (French extreme right wing) scaring the hell out with being in a very good position in the first part of our regional elections. Tough time, but we are sure that dealing with hard times like that, in a way, is positive.
Oh yeah, no doubt. Please tell me, how do you experience this situation. In the wake of the recent Paris attacks, have there been more discussions within your family and friends about whether refugees pose a threat? What’s your view on what happened?
I live in South of France, pretty far from Paris so I guess things were different. But everyone where touch. At work I heard a lot of “cliché” racist thoughts. Towards my family, we lived during 8 years abroad in Asia, so they are open minded, and multi-cultures have always been something we were looking for. My views are completely weak, but I still feel that France completely fucked up our immigration plan. Since the end of Algeria war till now. Looks like we still make the same mistakes again and again. I also feel that the main problems are not far away, we should just listen to the kids more often. And understand that our main problems could be fixed if we had the courage to look back at our errors.
Photo by Michal Kencr.
What places in Asia have you visited? What are some of the main differences between everyday life in France and right there in the Far East?
I’ve lived in Pakistan from 5 to 14 years old. I had the chance during those 8/9 years to visit many countries like: India, Nepal, Malaysia, Singapour, Indonesia, Thailand, Lebanon, Syria, Sri lanka, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates… I had the chance to have my parents living in most of those countries, so I could have a different view than a basic tourist and I’m happy about that. But in another hand, I understand that due to my parents situation and money wize I was living a different life than most of the population.
So how did you end up living in France?
Everything is different. You know my dad brought us to Pakistan when I was 5 years old. It was for a little kid like me just amazing and also scary. I was suddenly in Pakistan in a total different world. But I think it was a chance, I’ve discovered different people, started to learn English, met a lot of international kids (Americans, Indians, Pakistanis, Greek, Egyptians etc.…), eat new food, new flavours, and had the chance to see unbelievable landscapes! I was few hours from the crazy Himalayas, not far from India, Nepal etc.… I also discovered suicide attacks, earthquakes… Scary when you’re a kid, but I think it also gives you strength and you know stuff like this can happen at any time at any moments. I ended up going back to France, when situation in Pakistan was getting harder for my mom and me. My parents were divorced since a couple of years and I was alone with my mom. Also I was growing up, and I think I was missing the « French » life. The way back to France was hard and tough, especially I had important health problems at that time. But like always it gives you strength and motivation to keep moving forward :)
Would you consider moving to another country if you felt you had some bad feelings about France? What would be that? What are some of the cons of living in France?
I don’t think so, you know I live in France, even if bad stuff happens, my life is here, friends, and most of the family. There’s a lot of good stuff. But I can believe that administrative papers are probably a big pain in the ass for everyone. Laws around work are here to protect us, but I understand it can also be a bit restrictive for someone from abroad who wants to work a lot. Other languages than French are rare and everyday life is expensive. And for touring bands, our Tolls are just a big enigma… (I don’t have the answer why they are so expensive and still active).
Alright, so let’s get back to the main subject of our conversation, the label and your involvement in independent music scene. Did you envisage that you’d still be doing this almost 10 years later when you started Désertion?
I would say YES and NO. YES because I was 18 when I started that project of DIY label. When you’re this age, you think that everything will last forever. We started the label at first with my friends: Pierre and Cédric (who also plays with me in BOKANOVSKY). But running a label with 3 people is kind of hard, so since I was dealing with most of the emails/and label stuff, I continued alone. It was more simple. NO, because I’ve had the feeling of ending up the label so many times. I’m happy I’ve always let some time to think and see how things would evolve. I’m happy that the label is turning 10 years old. Without the Label I think that most of my bands project, tours, records, friendship, life projects would have never see the light. Since a year, my partner Marion helps me with putting stuff in order: count the remaining copy’s, count how many euros I’ve lost, and how many euros I can afford putting in the project etc… Without to have to eat pasta the rest of the month. In conclusion she takes care of all the things I’ve never took care before haha.
What were your fondest memories of 2006? Considering your adventure with DIY music and hardcore punk scene, how experienced were you at that time?
2006 was unbelievable. In my memories it was a sunny year. BOKANOVSKY was practicing SO MUCH. When I think of all the time we spent in that practice room, I just can’t understand where we found that motivation? haha. My first live show as a band member ever. My first shows out of my town. We also booked a lot of shows in our town in 2006 (MIHAI EDRISCH, DAITRO, SUGARTOWN CABARET, REVOK etc…). A lot of time spent listening to music. A lot of pizza’s! First time we met and played with SUGARTOWN CABARET. Still in love and inspired by those fella’s 10 years after. Yeah, 2006 was just made of sunny days, beach, friendship, band projects, shows, pizza’s! Perfect days :)
At that time I was totally unexperienced ! Probably a bit of experience in booking shows, because I started booking shows in 2004. I also had a bit of experience in going to squats or underground venues, because of my older sister that always brought me into diy/punk shows since I was 14/15 years old. Everything else was new for me. I remember that people like Iacopo/Andrea from Sons of vesta records, DAITRO guys, Mélo/Sylvain from Grenoble, My sister and a lot of grown up friends gave me some tips, and precious advices.
What set you on the path to founding this label? How did you first come to punk and hardcore music?
I don’t really remember why at first I desired to found a label. I think I was interested in being a part of the « dirty work »: Mailing people, work with the pressing plant, find good deals, find financial help, make new friends, and the best thing is to release stuff from all over the world. I think it really started when Frank (Gaffer records / ex. SOCRATES / SHEIK ANORAK / KUBILAI KHAN) mailed me and told me something like « hey there’s that cool band looking for some help for their split CD, I can’t help them with my label, but I feel like you guys should help them ». Me, Pierre and Cédric, talked about it, and told ourselves « ok, let’s do it ». We all three added some money from our pockets, and few month later we receive a shit load of CD’s at home. The adventure could start.
I came to Hardcore music, due to my sister. She was really into it, and was always giving me CD’s to listen, and I was always listening to her show reviews. She gave me the first Demo of BELLE EPOQUE, and I was blown away by the emotion and the anger that the music was delivering. The first CONVERGE, even though I didn’t understand and liked at first the screaming vocals. I also stumbled at that time on the AMANDA WOODWARD « Ultra mort » CD I was blown away. She brought me to some shows, I didn’t understand at first why the musicians where moving so much, I was a bit confused and scared. But afterwards I felt that there where a special connection between the music, the crowd and the musicians. I still have that CATHARSIS shirt, that my sister brought me of a show she went to in Rouen, back in 2002 or 2001, it was with BURN HOLLYWOOD BURN if my memory is good enough.
What labels and their publications served as examples for you when you launched Désertion?
I think Alchimia from Lyon was a big inspiration, they released a lot of great records/bands: DAÏTRO, SED NON SATIATA, MIHAI EDRISCH etc… Christophe from Stonehenge Records: a massive and impressive list of amazing and cool bands, still active and Christophe gave me advices since the beginning, was kind enough to reply to my emails, and gave me a lot of help with releasing records: he silkscreened the first BOKANOVSKY S/T 12 » covers. Séb and his label PurePainSugar was always an inspiration, I’m still amazed that he always released pretty cool damn bands. A lot of them where not so known, and right after he released a record, the band was getting « bigger »: KIDCRASH, DANIEL STRIPED TIGER, ADORNO etc… And also have a lot of « classics » that I love: ENVY / ISCARIOTTE split (Probably my favorite record of ENVY), YAGE, AMANDA WOODWARD, RAËIN / DAITRO split, MIHAI EDRISCH etc… Plastik culture because it was a label I’ve discovered when I moved to south of France, I was a big fan of the band called ROMEO IS BLEEDING, and due to that label I’ve discovered JR EWING with the split shared with THIS MACHINES KILLS. Once I heard about JR EWING, I listened to all the discography and never stop listening to it. And to end this big list, he doesn’t know it but Vincent’s label called Emergence Records have always been a big inspiration. One of my first punk/hardcore local record was from his label: The elektrocution demo CD, Device CD, BUCKAROO BANZAI, AS WE BLEED / THE LAST DAY OF ICARUS, and later on: THE APOLLO PROGRAM / Short supply (later on, those bands gave birth to other really cool bands: AUSSITÔT MORT for THE APOLLO PROGRAM and HYACINTH for SHORT SUPPLY). I’ve always loved Emergence because Vincent is still here and active after all those years, and was always very humble and kind to me.
What’s the inspiration behind the name Désertion?
I was chatting with a longtime friend called Rémi trought the internet. And during our conversation he proposed me the name « Désertion ». I felt like it was a good name. I don’t really remember how he found it but there’s no specific story behind it, it’s just a name. :)
How do you characterize the personality of your label? How has its mission evolved since its inception back in 2006?
It’s simple, it’s small, and there’s no big deal behind it. Now that it’s 10 years old, I just feel like we don’t want to lose so much money like I used to before, you know? I’m not looking for money, but I don’t want to lose too much too. I feel like I already lost enough money with the bands I play with, and I don’t need to lose more with the label. We just want to help friends, new bands, new friends to release a record with a bunch of other label friends. Most of our participation are with a small amount of money, so we can participate in many releases in the year. With that combination we also have few copies. It’s pretty cool cause we force ourselves not having a big stock, and copies are not dying in our cellar. We still have so much copies of the first records, and it’s just useless, sad but nobody wants those oldies anymore haha.
Photo: Clement crowdsurfing at Fluff Fest.
Do you have a list of these pearls? So you mind sharing the names here?
Got a lot of copies of the first record DISGRAZIA LEGEND / THE DEADLY split CD, EDISON POST / EVA01 split CD (Eva01 was the band before MÖRSE from Lille, France), CHILD MEADOW « Crispy BBQ tofu burger » 12 », BRUME RETINA / HITO Split 10 »…
Ok, my man. Please be honest with me. Is the money issue the biggest problem in developing independent label and distro? What are the greatest challenges involved in putting out independent records these days?
I think money is one of the biggest problem of course. I mean, such a small DIY label doesn’t gain a lot, and it’s pretty hard to «sell » small bands. Most of the releases gets out of our apartment with the « trade » thing. Probably 80% is trade, and 20% are sold copies at gigs or on the internet. Also I didn’t manage that well the end of the CD. I’ve got tons of CD’s that are just useless now, but it’s still a lot of money I’ve added in the label that I will never see the face again.
The great challenges is that having a small or big label gives you so many new contacts. It can help your band, your friends, your show organization etc.… For me it was worth it at every level: humanly, also for the bands I play with.
Ok Clément, so what would you identify as some of the key moments and greatest successes of the label’s evolution over the years? Are there some particular releases or undertakings that made you exceptionally proud?
Every release was special, but I must admit that some records where and are still special for me. TESA « heartbeatfromthesky » still gives me goosebumps when I listen to it. It’s a masterpiece, and the people playing in this band are real’ good friends, and amazing musicians. THE THIRD MEMORY « S/T »: This band was not known enough, for me they are at the same level than bands like RAEIN, DAITRO etc.… They stopped the band too quickly. But their live performance where pretty rad and crazy. When you know that they are really quiet and shy in real life, it’s funny. LAKMÉ « S/T » for the human and friendship story I’ve built with those Czech brothers. And probably GRAND DÉTOUR « Tripalium ». Not just because I play in this band, it was tough and a rough process but at the end I’m really happy about the result.
What kind of advice would you give other emerging DIY labels out there?
Even if you don’t like it, or see no interest in doing this, count your money. It’s not because you’re DIY, that counting your money is bad. But if you want to keep helping friends, you’ll need to have a minimum of your money back, to be able to last forever.
Start with co-production, it’s the best way to know people, bands, and make friends and a network :) But it can sound silly after the money advice, but don’t think too much, do what you like and wish.
Photo: BOKANOVSKY live by Mattesh.com.
Finally, what is Désertion’s schedule for 2016? Tell me a bit about your future releases and plans for the future.
2016 will be a calm year. With Marion we need to save some money for some trips around the globe. For the moment only one release has been established and maybe the only one, it’s the co-production of « PAST » new record. PAST are a band from Bordeaux, with nice guys. Sounds like BIRDS IN ROW, AS WE DRAW. They did an amazing work in the studio, so they’re offering a really good piece of music :) We will probably put a bit more efforts in the « silkscreen » project, and we will probably do some homemade merch for the label, and explore new stuff related to art/silkscreening/micro edition etc… We’ll see.
Thanks a lot for your time! Feel free to add your final words and take care!
Thanks for this Karol, I think it was the first Désertion interview. Thanks for being the first one caring about the label, stories and plans. Take good care and see you soon on the road probably.