Mr. International: An interview with International Feel founder Mark Barrott – Telekom Electronic Beats

Mr. International: An interview with International Feel founder Mark Barrott

Mark Barrott is founder of International Feel Recordings, a label that was, until recently, based in Punta Del Este. That Barrott should have set up shop on Uruguay’s Atlantic Coast rather than any of the more orthodox electronic music strongholds goes some lengths in articulating how unconventional the imprint was from the outset. This enforced isolation was used by Barrott as a means to divorce his label from external factors, to essentially opt out of an increasingly homogeneous music culture. Furthermore, it’s helped shape IF into one of the more interesting outposts in contemporary house and disco. Since its inauguration in 2009, IF has released records by the likes of Locussolus, Maxxi & Zeus, and Hungry Ghost (alternative guises for DJ Harvey, Matt Edwards and Gatto Fritto, to name a few), and, with its attention to detail, has ensured that many of their releases have become desirable artifacts in an age of disposable megabytes. This month all these sought after—and expensive if you’re in the Discogs or eBay market—tracks are collected together for the first time on the label’s first double CD compilation called, imaginatively, A Compilation. A move which also represents “a line in the sand” for Barrott. Fresh from clearing out his Uruguay offices and relocating to Ibiza, we got Barrott on the phone to talk about the label and what the new chapter has in store for this most boutique of boutique labels.

 

Mark, for the last couple of years you pitched your tent in Uruguay—quite an uncommon place for a label headquarters. Electronic music usually interacts with its social environment and the urban scenery in which it takes place. International Feel, however, seems to be independent of any backdrop.

Originally I left England twelve years ago for Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg. Then we moved to the middle of nowhere in Italy, then back to Berlin and from there to Uruguay. Only two weeks ago we ran ashore in Ibiza.

Who’s we?

It’s my wife and me. She’s a German from the Schwarzwald.

Why did you relocate so often with your label?

For economic reasons actually. In Berlin we had a really big house with a beautiful garden. But the owner would only do rentals in five-year periods, which meant that when we were edging closer to the end of the circle we began resisting a commitment for another five years. So we thought why not move somewhere exotic? We figured that all we needed was a really fast internet connection, so we started looking at interesting places. We had a list: Australia looked too expensive, Eastern Europe had too much corruption… Then we started looking more at South America until we finally picked Uruguay. We just bought a house, grabbed our cat and moved. There was no kind of major plan.

You lived there for three years.

It’s a long way away from everywhere. You get on a plane in Montevieo and it says, “Madrid: 10,000 kilometers”. Our parents are getting to point where it would be good for us to be close, you know?

Was it economic factors that drove the decision to move there too?

Uruguay people may find this really strange but the country became extremely expensive to live in. I don’t mean the countryside, but for us in Punte del Este—which is the most international place—it’s almost unaffordable. For example: The coldest month is August and our heating bill for last august was about 1,000 dollars!

Wow.

I feel like a rich man since I’ve been in Ibiza.

And compared to Uruguay, Ibiza is well-situated on the map of electronic music. It seems important for electronic music enterprises to have an appropriate social backdrop—record stores, art collectives and a vivid club scene for example.

Right, there’s no such scene in Uruguay at all. The clubs in the high summer season play ringtone house music, and David Guetta is coming in too. But this can also be an advantage, because the limitation of possibilities sharpens your sense for what’s really good. My idea of a scene is fragmentary. I find this important in a world that’s becoming ruled by hermetically sealed conditions—whether that’s a person’s civil liberties or the way electronic music is going as a general scene these days. Staying individualistic is key! Led Zeppelin‘s old manager, the famous Peter Grand, once said: “You create a world and invite people into that world”.

As a label manager you created a world that people from all over the world want to access. Much of International Feel’s vinyl releases became sought-after artifacts.

I hope it was worth the effort, because part of my job is being a factory manager. Partly I’m a bank manager because I give money to the label in order to hopefully get it back somewhen. And I’m a curator too, of course, which is the most pleasant part of the job. I’m trying to leave behind a legacy, a museum. And for me this is a lot easier to do when I’m isolated, because then I don’t get infected by what’s going on around me.

What’s the story behind A Compilation, International Feel’s first retrospective that dropped in early October?

This compilation is truly a line in the sand. We’ve existed as a record label for three years, we’ve done 36 releases in total. One vinyl release a month is pretty full-on! The compilation is the marking point of that period. We won’t have that frequency of releases in the future. I’ve come to the conclusion that less is more. As a label we’ve done very well and we’re not one of these supercool labels who do a hand-stamped white label of 150 copies and use that as a shop window to advertise my DJ gigs. We’ve pressed an appropriate amount of a thousand units of pretty much every release and sold them all. After all, artists should get their work executed to professional standards. The compilation marks that period, and it also works as an introduction to people who haven’t heard of IF so far. The completists, especially in Japan, love it since it assembles some quite rare tracks that went for few hundred euros on eBay in the past.

Moving forward, what’s next for International Feel?

I really don’t know. If it’s going to continue to function then I need to be more excited about making music than releasing music. Because the original reason behind starting the label was to release my own stuff. I need to that excitement again. It’s something I definitely don’t feel while staring at a computer screen. I need to make spontaneous, visceral, raw music again, and that’s exactly what I intend to do in Ibiza. ~

IFEEL024 – A Compilation was released 8 October, 2012.

Photo taken from Mark Barrott’s private archive