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[Interview] Jazzanova: "There Have Never Been More Possibilities To Release Music As Today"

We chat with the German collective about their upcoming compilation, lessons learned over 20+ years in the business and more.


Earlier this week, we presented a new Magnetic Mix from German collective Jazzanova. The group is celebrating the 21-year anniversary of their label Sonar Kollektiv (albeit 2 years late). Formed in 1995, the group has carved out a very unique path, blending jazz, a little funk, chillout, ambient and disparate electronic influences. 25 years later, they are still as potent as ever, with plenty more on the way.

Alex Barck, Claas Brieler, Axel Reinemer, Jürgen von Knoblauch and Stefan Leisering have developed into a prolific remix team, radio programmers and presenters, label owners and curators. With the massive compilation on its way tomorrow, January 17, we decided to catch up with Jazzanova to learn more about what they have learned over the past 25 years, owning a label through the digital revolution and much more.

Read on for our chat with Juergen von Knoblauch answering. The compilation can be bought here and here.

What were the hardest things to adapt to as label owners for the past 21 years?

It feels like we started our label in the dinosaur era. Equipped with a landline and fax machine we organized our first releases. It’s obvious, running a record label changed a lot over the times. The need for adaption to new technical developments hasn’t been always easy, especially the handling and treatment of our physical output. But for us there have never been more creative possibilities to release music as today.

What are some things you used to have to do in the past, you are glad that aren’t part of the business anymore?

As a vinyl lover it took me some time to cope with the fact that releasing physical isn’t one of the main parts of a record label’s business anymore. I was used to spending a large batch of my time to plan vinyl releases and deal with stock and storage of our back catalogue and distribution. I’m quite happy that the main focus lies on the musical output nowadays and not so much on the physical output anymore. Its also an intriguing thought that digital releases can reach everyone more easily, be it rich or poor, or living remote or in a hotspot.

What are three of your favorite releases on Sonar Kollectiv that maybe didn’t get the love they deserved?

A very good question and a hard one to answer. I would go for:

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How did you put together this very large compilation?

Before Sonar Kollektiv 21 YEARS Feel & Vergnugen & we produced two earlier birthday compilations: 10 Years Who Cares and 15 Years Of Volxmusic. The actual compilations feature not only elements of our musical journey until now, but also gives a hint on what we are working on at the moment including a bird's eye view on future releases. For example: Sumo, Key Elements, Pete Josef, Lucifour M & Feiertag are all included. The birthday comp is a perfect moment for us to showcase our musical diversity at large.

How do you guys manage to keep all of the egos in check when working together?

We split our fields of work and assigned them among us. So every one of us has its special responsibilities.

How does having so many people in your collective help with writing new music?

Stefan Leisering and Axel Reinemer are wearing the pants when it comes to writing Jazzanova music. The others take part in giving ideas and comments.

Since there are so many of you, how much gear do you have to travel with and how difficult can travel be?

We mostly perform in small teams or on our own. Stefan Leisering and Axel Reinemer are traveling with the Jazzanova band. Most of the backline is in place at the venue where the band performs, but each musician travels with his personal instrument or gear. Alex Barck performs as a DJ and plays with the computer + records. Claas Brieler DJs with vinyls and myself, Juergen v. Knoblauch, I play with records and a flash drive.

What are you guys doing to make your touring greener and more sustainable?

Just a few months ago hardly anyone thought about this issue, thanks to FFF it’s in our heads now. Until now it's on us personally to act. For example to offset our personal CO2 emission to make our flight CO2 neutral, mostly every airliner has a program nowadays. In the future I can think of fans adding a certain amount to a concert ticket to help make concerts CO2 neutral. There should be an institutional process similar to a VAT tax so that everyone has to add to CO2 neutrality. 

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