Imprints brings you regular profiles of the most exciting record labels the world over, with input from movers and shakers who contribute to their local electronic communities.
Name: Forbidden Planet
Vibe: 4AM at a top-secret bohemian rave in the Antarctic, as the Aurora Borealis explodes in the sky overhead.
Location: Founder Jurg Haller recently moved from Montreal to Brooklyn.
Claim to fame: Although the beloved Michigan stalwart D'Marc Cantu inaugurated the label, Forbidden Planet sparked more buzz with it's second release, Breakin', which came from a semi-anonymous producer under the moniker Breaker 1 2. The record largely flew under the radar, but many techno obsessives hailed it as one of the best records of 2013—Phonica Records even picked it in its year-end list for THUMP.
By the numbers: Forbidden Planet released two records last year, and its third offering dropped a few weeks ago.
What's the deal?
Jurg Haller first heard the soundtrack to the 1956 sci-fi flick Forbidden Planet during a late-night Youtube binge and Internet-scouring session when he was a student at McGill University in Montreal. The composition, which was the first electronic score in history, sparked a series of explorations for Haller, who soon started throwing loft parties in his own abode. D'Marc headlined the first event, which Haller later dubbed Forbidden Planet, and when he ventured to launch a label he tapped the same artist for an inaugural contribution. Since then, Haller has hosted events with the likes of Huerco S, Anthony Naples, and Ron Morelli, hosted a Forbidden Planet radio show, and started to build up a catalog of often melancholic techno tunes that have turned heads among the Discogs-trolling cognoscenti.
THUMP: What stuck out obviously to me about Forbidden Planet was the name, and how that was probably a reference to the movie of the same name. When was the first time you saw that movie?
Jurg Haller: I saw that movie the first year of university—but it wasn't even so much the movie. I had heard the soundtrack before, and that led me to listening to a lot of early electronic music in the 50s and 60s, and also a lot of Italian composers, like Piero Umiliani or Alessandro Alessandroni—all these people doing library music, really weird early experiments, and soundtracks. M. Zalla, which is an alias of Piero Umiliani, has one record called Problemi D'Oggi, and one of the tracks essentially sounds like the craziest Villalobos track you've ever heard, but 30 years before Villalobos touched a turntable. My interest in electronic music stemmed from that. I was stressing over what name to choose for the label, and eventually I just chose that.
Is it important that your artists are also pushing boundaries and experimenting with forms? Is that something you're listening out for?
It's not as if I'm explicitly thinking, "Does this push boundaries?" It's intuitive. A lot of the records I buy are experimental records, or avant-garde records, and that interests me a great deal, but I don't think I would say that's in the forefront of my mind when I'm looking for—I mean, it has to be different. It has to have an energy that I think is underappreciated in terms of what a lot of people are releasing, but the main criteria is if it's something I'd like to play at a Forbidden Planet party. For me, the label and the party are very much the same thing, and I haven't been to a party that plays the same kind of music that I'll hear at a Forbidden Planet party. It's a separate thing from what a lot of the other parties that I go to, it's a special energy. The label releases tracks that I think lend themselves to that vibe, that energy.
You're not looking out for weird stuff, but you are attracted to it, and it's something that interests you—when you DJ or talk about what you like, you often mention artists like Powell and Vereker. It seems like your tastes skew toward the experimental and more difficult styles of music.
I don't think it's difficult. I think if you present it in the right way, it's some of the most clearly understandable music, and it's just within certain contexts that it appears difficult. As a DJ, it's your responsibility to present it in a way where something clicks in peoples' minds. A Powell record, for example: If you present it the right way, that shit just clicks. Records like that unleash something primal. Some of the Powell stuff and the Vereker stuff, and old industrial and EBM or some Jah Wobble stuff, people shouldn't think of them as difficult; they're not difficult, you just need to play them in the right way. The best moments at a party are when you play these records, and it just clicks, because it makes total sense. What I think is difficult is listening to a monotonous kick drum and some pads for four hours. That is difficult, and that's crazy if you can do that.
People often think pop music is a commercially successful genre because it makes use of universally or inherently appareling sonic elements, but there's an easy counterargument to be made that that's socially determined. If you went to Africa or Asia, the "naturally appealing" or universal elements would be defined by completely different standards, so the elements you took for granted as being pleasing to everyone actually embedded in social DNA, not our physical genetic makeup.
Yeah. You have to look at a lot of the other stuff that exists around music, because music doesn't exist in a vacuum. Once you release a record, there's so many external elements that impact the way people listen to that record that you can't control. People will look at a record, look at the artwork, and go, "Oh, that's this kind of record," and when they listen to it, they have a filter through which they're perceiving it. They understand it differently than if it had been presented to them in a different context and in a different way.