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Label Suisse: a showcase for Swiss music in all its diversity

The eighth edition of the Label Suisse Festival was held in Lausanne from 14 to 16 September. The biennial festival, dedicated to Swiss musicians and creators, offers the public a broad panorama of Switzerland’s current music landscape. Text and Interviews by Erika Weibel

Label Suisse: a showcase for Swiss music in all its diversity

The main stage of the Label Suisse Festival at the “Place Centrale” in Lausanne during the performance of Geneva hip-hop group Superwak Clique on Saturday 15 October 2018. (Photo: Anne Bichsel)

90,000 visitors attended the 8th edition of the Label Suisse Festival, enjoying over 60 concerts of multifarious music styles at 10 locations in the centre of Lausanne. The full range of Swiss music was showcased: from electronic music to pop-rock, from contemporary and classical music to jazz, and last but not least, new folk music. All in one festival!

Label Suisse’s programming team attaches great importance to booking both more experienced Swiss artists and promising newcomers. Admission to all concerts is free since the full cost of the festival is financed by the sponsors. SUISA has supported Label Suisse financially since 2006, and was again one of the festival’s main partners in 2018.

The members of the programming team are each in charge of a specific musical genre. After the festival, we asked them how they went about selecting their artists, what they think is particularly exciting about the festival, and about current trends in the various genres. We also asked Julien Gross, President of Label Suisse, what he considered the highlights of the 2018 edition.

Label Suisse: Julien Gross

Julien Gross (Photo: Anne Bichsel)

Julien Gross, President of the Label Suisse association

As President of the Label Suisse association, you have been working hard for several years to make the festival a success. In your opinion, what makes Label Suisse particularly attractive?
Julien Gross: Label Suisse is unique for the broad artistic spectrum of musical styles in its programming. As a result, the festival brings together all audiences across all generations for three days.
Artists from all four language regions perform for the delight of a curious, attentive, and faithful public. Radio plays an important role in broadcasting music from the festival nationwide for the three days.

The latest festival was the 8th edition of Label Suisse. The festival has been held every second year since its first edition in 2004. What changes has the festival undergone in these 14 years?
Actually, it’s mainly Swiss music that has evolved. Creative, innovative and original, Label Suisse tries to present a snapshot of all the Switzerland’s musical scenes.
We try to awaken the urge for discovery and the desire to embark upon a musical adventure. To reinforce the presence of certain styles, or propose original creations.

Groups from all over Switzerland representing a great variety of musical genres come to Lausanne to take part in the festival. Subjectively speaking, which shows did you find most exciting?
I truly love wandering around the festival grounds. I enjoy the challenge of discovering musical styles that are not usually part of my everyday life. That’s what I find most exciting.

Label Suisse: Laurence Vinclair

Laurence Vinclair (Photo: Mehdi Benkler)

Laurence Vinclair, modern music programming

What is the special interest in being responsible for the programming of a single genre for a music festival which combines so many different styles of music?
Laurence Vinclair: The interest lies in being able to showcase deserving artists for three days, artists whose development I follow all year round, sometimes over many years. And to enable a diverse public to discover styles that they might otherwise never listen to.

What criteria did you apply in selecting the artists and bands?
The criteria are quality, topicality, artistic motivation and potential.

What are the current trends in the musical genre you are responsible for programming? What effects do these trends have on the actors of the Swiss music world?
The clearest trend is hip-hop, or urban music; this style has taken the lead over all the others as you can tell by looking at the programming in clubs and festivals the last two years.

Label Suisse: Stefano Saccon

Stefano Saccon (Photo: Claude Berthelier)

Stefano Saccon, jazz programming

What is the special interest in being responsible for the programming of a single genre for a music festival which combines so many different styles of music?
Stefano Saccon: The intelligence and the strength of the festival is to employ competent people in each area in order to identify the most representative musicians. Being part of a committee of experts is a stimulating way to encourage relevant and complementary programming.

What criteria did you apply in selecting the artists and bands?
The diversity of supply in the jazz area forces you take a broad view and apply criteria which can be adapted in line with the artistic approach. In any event, the project must be original and add value to the rest of the programming; it must be in tune with the times while being clearly anchored in tradition; it must be mature and have potential for development.

What are the current trends in the musical genre you are resonsible for programming? What effects do these trends have on the actors of the Swiss music world?
There are three trends in my opinion:
a) the association of the acoustic and the electronic, the curiosity about the DJ world, and the sensitisation to new sound textures;
b) the minimalism which places the group rather than the solist at the centre of attention, in keeping with a more conventional approach;
c) the desire to develop writing on more complex rhythmic matrices.
Today, all jazz musicians possess great instrumental mastery, and a huge curiosity stimulating boundless creativity. Considering that they are faced with growing supply and increasing competition, I think musicians show tremendous humility and exemplary mutual respect.

Label Suisse: Johannes Rühl

Johannes Rühl (Photo: Roland Zemp)

Johannes Rühl, new folk music programming

What is the special interest in being responsible for the programming of a single genre for a music festival which combines so many different styles of music?
Johannes Rühl: Very few festivals offer the stylistic breadth that Label Suisse does. That in itself is a major feat. In terms of programming, it means that each musical genre has to co-exist with the others. Moreover, the concerts can be expected to attract a highly differentiated public. This kind of festival is truly one of a kind for the curious music lover; we draw the best public we could dream of.

What criteria did you apply in selecting the artists and ensembles?
New folk is a predominantly Swiss German musical phenomenon. To lure audiences from other language regions of the country you have to make this music attractive – especially since it takes a little getting used to. That’s why we try to book groups that have a certain stylistic openness. That’s what we focus on more particularly, in addition to quality of course.

What are the current trends in the musical genre you are responsible for programming? What effects do these trends have on the actors of the Swiss music world?
New Swiss folk music is essentially the popular heritage of the last century. In those days, music was protest; today, musicians have more affinity with tradition. They bring the material to life without blinkers, creating something completely new and previously unheard. The Hochschule Luzern Musik, the School of Music in Lucerne, has been vital to this genre in the last few years, and is a breeding ground for excellent talent. This trend is far from over, and I believe that it still holds much good in store.

Label Suisse: Claire Brawand

Claire Brawand (Photo: Nathalie Langlois)

Claire Brawand, classical and contemporary music programming

What is the special interest in being responsible for the programming of a single genre for a music festival which combines so many different styles of music?
Claire Brawand: the act of programming is always set in a particular context which has to be taken into account. In the case of Label Suisse (diversity of styles with a predominance of modern music, national dimension, different locations, free admission, broad public with lots of young people), the context is quite different to the normal context for classical music (from baroque to contemporary) and its aficionados. I see it as a highly fertile field for experimentation, which makes my programming mission even more stimulating; one of the main aims is to encourage festival-goers to discover the universe of classical music through one person, one energy or a special concert format. Label Suisse’s great freedom of movement, underscored by the mixture of styles in a single place, makes this possible.

What criteria did you apply in selecting the artists and ensembles?
In the classical programming, I favoured artists – performers and composers – who are powerful and unique, and whose approach is strongly resonant with the identity of the Festival, namely: contemporary, hence topical, and exploratory. This disposition on the part of the classical artist is essential for the special context of Label Suisse. As a result, we focused on the repertoires of the 20th and 21st centuries (including creations) and, with regard to the 21st century, on Swiss composers of all generations.

What are the current trends in the musical genre you are responsible for programming? What effects do these trends have on the actors of the Swiss music world?
Increasing trans-disciplinarity between the arts (visual, sound, composition) and esthetics. A strong capacity for renewal in the approach of the young generations of cutting-edge musicians in terms of their concert programming. Today, they consider the contribution of classical music freely, unconstrained by the barriers inherited from prior generations.

www.labelsuisse.ch

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The eighth edition of the Label Suisse Festival was held in Lausanne from 14 to 16 September. The biennial festival, dedicated to Swiss musicians and creators, offers the public a broad panorama of Switzerland’s current music landscape. Text and Interviews by Erika Weibel

Label Suisse: a showcase for Swiss music in all its diversity

The main stage of the Label Suisse Festival at the “Place Centrale” in Lausanne during the performance of Geneva hip-hop group Superwak Clique on Saturday 15 October 2018. (Photo: Anne Bichsel)

90,000 visitors attended the 8th edition of the Label Suisse Festival, enjoying over 60 concerts of multifarious music styles at 10 locations in the centre of Lausanne. The full range of Swiss music was showcased: from electronic music to pop-rock, from contemporary and classical music to jazz, and last but not least, new folk music. All in one festival!

Label...read more

“Nothing, nothing at all beats a well-written song”

The international success with Bonaparte is the current highlight of the long-term songwriter career of Tobias Jundt. He penned several hundred titles, spanning a wide stylistic variety, even for or together with other artists. Born in Berne, and now living in Berlin, the composer passes on his knowledge and experience as a guest lecturer at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (Zurich University of the Arts) in the subject “songwriting”. An interview with the SUISA member who has been nominated for the Grand Prix Musik in 2016 and performs with his new formation, Mule & Man, at the Festival Label Suisse in Lausanne.

“Nothing, nothing at all beats a well-written song”

With his new project, Mule & Man, Tobias Jundt (lying down) can be enjoyed together with Kid Simius (standing up) during their live concert at Les Docks during the Festival Label Suisse on Saturday, 17 September 2016. (Photo: Melissa Jundt)

What does the nomination for the music award of the Federal Office of Culture (BAK)?
Tobias Jundt: I am, of course, honoured that my art is recognised and appreciated as such. Especially when you create something that is usually neither here nor there and thus cannot be squeezed into a pigeon-hole, it takes quite some time until you will be recognised as an artist with your own language. With such a huge variety on offer, it is basically impossible to compare or rate the creations of some with the works of others. But after 30 years as a songwriter, I am rather flattered that I am given the opportunity to be a representative of the cultural language of my country as one of the possible musical parts.

The BAK presents the music award 2016 in the run-up to the Festival Label Suisse. The Festival in Lausanne attracts mainly Swiss music from various genres to the stages over a three-day period. Access to the concerts is free. Why does Swiss music need a music award from the BAK and a Festival like the Label Suisse?
I think we should consider ourselves grateful to live in a country where the government takes time to honour the arts and luckily has the necessary change in the pocket to temporarily and considerably simplify the creativity of the prize winners with this award. All of the nominees would continue to relentlessly do what they do anyway, in order to face the high seas of life, even without the award. We should thankfully accept the fact that the BAK supports us with this and provides a silver-lined breeze for our sails.
Festivals are places where you can discover things. The audience discovers music bands, artists meet other artists, collaborations are forged and, somewhere, a Schwyzeroergeli fan falls in love with a Stockhausen follower. Festivals, do, however, never replace an artist’s concert experience a whole evening provides, but they are very important as events where expression can be exchanged and even collide. It is always the right choice to campaign for a broad and liberal-minded culture.

“You need stamina, a tireless will to attack and a stoic persistence when it comes to realise your artistic drive.”

You once said in an NZZ interview that it was only possible to survive in Switzerland with mainstream pop music or in one of the heavily subsidised genres such as jazz or classical music. What has to change so that the diversity of Swiss music creations will attract more listeners, both at home and abroad?
It’s a problem that a musical niche related only to Switzerland is indeed rather small, so that it cannot really be exercised as a main profession but only ‘on the side’. You therefore either have to be active in a genre where you can generate a lot of turnover, or in a subsidised sector, or tackle a bigger territory. The latter requires a lot of stamina, a tireless will to attack and a stoic persistence when it comes to realise your artistic drive. Unless the motivation for this artistic insanity comes from deep within yourself, there is no real driver for the majority of Swiss people to risk their existing quality of life. You do actually have to be a little bit crazy to want to renounce on it at least temporarily in order to plough this rather tough musical field. During my travels, I repeatedly meet very active Swiss expats. It isn’t the talent that is lacking, it is the attitude.

You have been living in Berlin since 2006 and are now settled in there. How can you ‘be’ as a Swiss songwriter abroad and how is Swiss music, in your opinion, perceived abroad?
Most people of this solar system fall in love with Switzerland and what it represents. You often forget about that when you sit on the mountain too long. If I write music for other artists in Berlin or New York, nobody ever asks me where I grew up. The aim is always the same: to write the right work for a specific phase of an artist. That involves either aspects of commercial success or artistic reinvention. And when I perform my songs as a soloist appearing as Bonaparte from Beijing to Wellington, nobody asks me where I am from either – even though I do quite like to add that I am Swiss – especially as it distinguishes me from those out there and because it is an important part of my being. In order to prevail, you need to have an alert mind and soak in and apply the various parameters of the different cultures. Everyone can do that, irrespective of where they’re from.

“I claim that Switzerland has one of the best collective management organisations in the world. SUISA is where I belong as a composer.”

You live in Germany, but you are a member of the Swiss SUISA. Why?
I claim that Switzerland has one of the best collective management organisations in the world – and that’s an opinion shared by quite a few international authors. I say this with a clear conscience and out of my own free will. I was a member of BMI in the USA in the past, and I also run a publishing company which is a member of GEMA. All well and good but SUISA is the place where I belong as a composer. I really enjoyed the time under Poto Wegener and, due to his support, I began looking into copyright more intensively. The good relations to SUISA have stayed in place and I really appreciate the mutual exchange and respect.

You lecture the subject “songwriting” at the Zurich University of the Arts. Can you learn how to write a hit? Which tips do you give students for composing on their way?
I usually advise them to forget everything they think they know. I like to ask them to write songs as humans and not as musicians. Of course, analytical and theoretical knowledge and practical techniques help us to find a quicker way out of musical cul-de-sacs. But at the core of finding ideas, there isn’t much difference between us and Mrs Mountainvalley who whistles a little melody while having a shower in the morning. You can, of course, just like in every situation in life, learn a technique – whether it’s holding a club as a golfer or using Kamasutra positions as a lover – which allows you to write good songs at any old day of the week. But there are many and enough good songs already – you need to rather try to write songs with a certain je-ne-sais-quoi: songs which still have a raison d’etre even to be let loose onto mankind in their genre, even after the life work of a, Lennon-McCartney an Udo Jürgens, an Igor Strawinsky or Daft Punk. This doesn’t always work, but that’s what the songwriter has to get up for each morning – for the attempt to write a song which, in its own way, enriches the world.

“The most important thing that still exists, especially today, is the musical idea.”

A musician on a concert stage is not necessarily at the same time the songwriter, who is often forgotten in comparison with the star in the limelight. How can composers step out of the artists’ shadow when it comes to public perception?
The question is, do they have to. I only sing the songs that I cannot expect others to perform. The psychological pressure that a front man and artists have to sustain, can – in the long run – be rather exhausting. A songwriter, however, can act in the background, sit in front of their piano somewhere, unnoticed, and simply focus on the core of the music. And believe me, the most important thing that still exists, especially today, is the musical idea. Nothing, and nothing at all beats a really well-written song which cleverly combines craft and original ideas. There may be hope for all who thought that there had been too much speak of the devil. I am rather glad that I have a dozen pseudonyms at SUISA – these are songwriter roles into which I can morph depending on the style, genre or mood and that aren’t even known to my closest friends. I like it that professional songwriting sometimes simply remains a secret between the piece of paper and myself. If a musician does something odd on stage, everybody will talk about it the next day. If a composer creates a little string quartet, naked, while eating two spoons of peanut butter, nobody cares two hoots about it. I really like that. It’s important that we as composers exchange our views and that our rights are well represented through the change of the times.

Composing music for third parties or performing with Mule & Man on stage – what’s the thrill for you of these two activities?
I did have some elitist phases in my life, where I only considered this kind of free jazz or that type of soul to be worth listening to. But at the end of the day, I am suffering from musically inflicted polyamory, and love all kinds of music with a passion, but also have to co-invent. I get satisfaction from composing string or wind arrangements, protest songs, punk chansons, film score, electronic music, experimental fiddling about with noise or country music for the deaf. I like it that you can take from this bottomless cornucopia of combinations and possibilities between the composer and the listener.

Links
Bonaparte, official website
Mule & Man, official Facebook fan page
Label Suisse, website of the Festival
Schweizer Musikpreis (Swiss music award), website of the Swiss Federal Office for Culture (BAK)

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The international success with Bonaparte is the current highlight of the long-term songwriter career of Tobias Jundt. He penned several hundred titles, spanning a wide stylistic variety, even for or together with other artists. Born in Berne, and now living in Berlin, the composer passes on his knowledge and experience as a guest lecturer at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (Zurich University of the Arts) in the subject “songwriting”. An interview with the SUISA member who has been nominated for the Grand Prix Musik in 2016 and performs with his new formation, Mule & Man, at the Festival Label Suisse in Lausanne.

“Nothing, nothing at all beats a well-written song”

With his new project, Mule & Man, Tobias Jundt (lying down) can be enjoyed together with Kid Simius (standing up) during their live concert at Les Docks during the Festival...read more

Label Suisse 2016: 70 Künstler, 7 Bühnen und 100 000 Zuschauer

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Schweizer Musik als Erlebnisreise am Festival Label Suisse

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Triff die SUISA am Contact Corner am Festival Label Suisse

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Festival Label Suisse: Am Pulsschlag der Schweizer Musik im Herzen von Lausanne

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