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

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10 x 4 – PBR Streetgang

10 x 4 - PBR Streetgang PBR Streetgang is the troublesome twosome of Bonar Bradberry and Tom Thorpe. DJs for a number of years with gigs across the globe and a residency at Space Ibiza under their belts, they are knee-deep in sleazy, funky house music. They have just released the killer 12″ ‘Downstroke’ on Hot Creations and there’s more in store with the likes of 20:20Vision and Futureboogie. Hot shit. Did I hear the call of a 10 x 4?

Favourite part of the day to create?
B – Just after the 2nd cup of tea has been made
T – Once the drugs kick in

Method or madness?
B – Depends what time of day it is.
T – A mix of both

Most influential person? to me .. ?
B – My Dad
T – David Attenborough

First musical love?
B – The Banana Splits Theme Tune
T – One of the first records I can remember owning was ‘a view to a kill’ by Duran Duran. So I guess that.

Last musical love?
B – Well I just heard heard Neil Diablos new edit of ‘For Your Love’ .. thats makes feel me in Love
T – The Chromatics, ‘Tick of the Clock’ from the movie ‘Drive’

One thing you cannot live with out?
B – Sad but true.. my mac laptop…
T – Yorkshire tea

One thing you would live without if you could?
B – My mac laptop!
T – Certainly not clothes, that could be really embarrassing.

Favourite instrument?
B – My Juno 106 Keyboard.
T – Bonar’s Juno 106.

Your biggest break so far?
B – I hurt my ankle real bad last year but I don’t think you could call it a break .. It wasn’t in plaster or anything.. no breaks so far so I’m pretty lucky!!
T – I can beat that. iIbroke my clavicle other wise know as your collar bone when I was at school. it hurt, but I took it like a man, a real man. I know you’re all impressed.

Eureka moment?
B – I get them daily I think .. and usually I forget them as quick as them came!
T – All the time, then quickly realise it may not be as good as originally thought.

Biggest surprise?
B – My surprise Birthday party my girlfriend threw me last year.. I really didn’t expect that .. amazing !
T – Knowing we’ve come so far at such a young age!

Biggest disappointment ?
B – When they re-made The Wicker Man. That bummed me out a bit..
T – Making yorkshire puddings for a friend recently. They really didn’t work out. I’m normally amazing at doing them.

Love of your life?
B – It’s an obvious answer… but its music ..
T – That + missus, dog, mates.

Secret tip?
B – Always wrestle a bear after he’s eaten… they’ll be more lethargic and less aggressive .. that.. and don’t take advice from me..
T – I’m so impressed with Bonar’s answer, I have no answer.

Favourite Tumblr?
B – What like a glass? I don’t think I understand the question.. I don’t really have any crystal tumblers but I have a favourite mug if that helps ?
T – In English please, I don’t speak Spanish. I don’t understand???

A place to create?
B – Anywhere that my train of thought wont be disturbed for more than 20 minutes.
T – Mentally I create ideas when i’m relaxed, which is often in strange places like the bath. That’s pretty weird, right!!

Last thing that inspired you?
B – Opening the curtains this morning and taking a look outside .. everything inspires me!
T – Bill Withers documentary I watched last night.

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10 x 4 – Megablast

10 x 4 - Megablast Following their acclaimed 2007 debut ‘Kunuaka’, Makossa & Megablast have finally released their second album Soy Como Soy, and in our opinion it’s a great way to prevent the kind of depression that’s crawling into your heart as soon as the world turns into a gray, cold bulk. “Coming Home”, with its slow intro and Hubert Tubbs’ great vocals for example, works much better than any pharmaceutical moodlifter. On the other hand there are a couple of dancefloor fillers on this album like the Ibiza hit and title track proves. Enough reasons to send this little questionnaire to Megablast!

Favorite part of the day to create?
Anytime I feel the need to create.

Method or madness?
Insanity.

First musical love?
Quincy Jones & Michael Jackson.

One thing you cannot live with out?
Music.

One thing you would live without if you could?
Money & rats.

Favourite instrument?
Drums.

Your biggest break so far?
I experienced love.

Biggest disappointment?
Human stupidity and blindness.

Love of your life?
Music & freedom.

Secret tip?
Be yourself, follow your path and don`t get tricked by “Monopoly”.

Last person that inspired you?
John Lennon & Yoko Ono.

Makossa & Megablast’s new album Soy Como Soy is out on November 11.

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