A Paris based record shop & distribution company called Techno Import have ‘officially’ registered the name Teknival as their own using the cover name of Cyborg Productions. This shameless act of plagiarism follows a mysterious CD deal with Network 23 (another french based company formerly dealing with their own label and other small independents). The highly controversial CD has been heavily advertised on TV as Spiral Tribe – The Sound of Teknival. They initially also the registered the name Spiral Tribe but relinquished it after a short and intense battle
The implications of this cladestine business deal are far reaching & deeply damaging to European Teknival groups and Network 23, who, it is rumoured, in France brought the trouble upon themselves, & have since ceased trading.
Teknival was started by the Spirals in the summer of ‘93, the first being held on the 23rd of July at Beauvais in northern France. The idea behind it , as the name suggests, is an independent free festival of techno music & art. The out-door – no door-policy means an open invitation for all to participate. As you would expect such a party principle proves very popular & the concept has spread Europe-wide, escalating on all fronts. Now across the summer you can find (if you know where to look) large numbers of sound systems hidden in the wilds, from Holland to Portugal, Wales to Czech.
Now as in the future, with the EEC’s new monolithic burocracy poised to take control & the power drunk capitalist system holding the world to ransom, Teknival has become something of a haven and testing ground for new ideas. It is a source of originality & potential as well as much needed point of multi-racial contact. Hounded by right-wing governmental policies it has, so far, survived, conceiving & nurturing many creative directions, Teknival is one of the very few free spaces left.
I was recently in Paris & had the opportunity to confront one of the owners of Techno Import known only as ‘Mazen’. He denied all knowledge of the matter and refused to make any other comment before hurriedly disappearing. I did however manage to get brief comments from Network 23 who incidentally since then have packed up and moved out of Paris.
“Remember that people do get fucked in the system, that’s why it’s important to create your own scene. Don’t give away or sell your rights.” (Wise after the event.)
“Don’t buy the CD – Boycott the shop.” (A case perhaps of bolting the door after the horse has bolted, since 20-30’000 CD’s were manufactured & possibly already sold.)
Is it a sign of the times that money can buy you what is not yours to buy? What little free space is left on this planet. I for one intend to defend – & a pen will do for starters! And so for that reason I’d like to shed a little light on the situation, as I was once involved with the Network & believe that there’s a big difference between what Network 23 began as & what Network 23 became. From Ashes, to ashes.
I became disillusioned very early on with the whole set-up. The original concept was a very solid one, built on a strong ideology & 4 years frontline experience. The idea was to form an independent collective network that put the artist/musician directly in touch with the “end user” via a one-step distribution web that cut out the exploitative middle-men. This was especially useful to artists such as ourselves who were producing small quantities of vinyl with equally small budgets.
As I travelled Europe I realised that we were in a unique position to distribute direct, not just for ourselves but for other small labels. I felt that this was an important antidote to the main-stream stranglehold & a much needed outlet that would give artists opportunities & benefits that they otherwise may not have. It also at the other end delivered to the listening public new & stimulating ideas.
So we pooled our know-how & resources & began to put our grand plan into action. I remember we had been living in Berlin & although we had recently left, felt it would be a good place to return to set up HQ, because of its central position & explosive energy. The German authorities had just taken the decision to relocate the capital from Bonn to Berlin, so from one moment to the next the city sprang from a frozen, motionless position on the blocks, to a sudden sprint with massive overnight backing & rebuilding programs. The wall was long gone, but ideologies still clashed, crime was rife, & squatters rioted with police to defend the unclaimed streets.
We met up with other interested groups there & negotiated office and storage space. It seemed all set to happen, but that is really as far as the original idea got. Suddenly people wanted to go into very different directions. Two of the others involved decided to settle down in Paris, and so the Berlin strategy was abandonned. We decided to try and reorganise – they would run the european side and I would take care of Britain, others travelling further afield, taking in the easterly extremes.
But it wasn’t meant to be, from the outset it was plagued with problems, and sadly most of them were internal – unresolved differences of opinion meant of course that the ideology and art were the first to go. There was an attempted coup by some of the others to register themselves as company directors, funds that we had all worked for were no longer available for collective projects (although the “collective” guise was outwardly maintained). Manufacturing was moved to the Czech Republic to increase profits and the quality dropped to near silence. But of course the records still sold because it was “the Sound of the Underground” (muffled as it was) and people were duped into thinking that this was what Spiral Tribe was all about. People really believed in the tribe and its alternative culture, and Network 23 just exploited that reputation.
It wasn’t just the buying public that were fooled either, a lot of the artists with serious talent and creative drive were taken in by it – wanting to believe in the ideals that were no longer there – I was one of them. Even if anyone had wanted to change anything for the better, they couldn’t because there was no mechanism for change. The few had complete control and were going to keep it.
The final blow to the Network’s credibility came when they started to offload the bulk of their vinyl to commercial distributors (Techno Import for example) while still maintaining the “independent distributor” facade.
From that point on I had little or nothing to do with it as I could no longer champion a cause I no longer believed in, and I could not waste any more of my time working with a collective that did not exist. For me the great tragedy of it all was the terrible waste. Because even if it had nothing else going for it (and it had its moments!) Network 23 had a great opportunity to do what it set out to do. To build, develop and maintain a genuinely independent front-line network. Instead those who took control seemed more interested in being big fish in a small pool and ended up feeding themselves to the sharks at Techno Import.
There are of course many lessons to be learned from this incident, and I leave each reader to draw their own conclusions. But beyond these lessons there is still the urgent problem caused by a minority’s self interest and that is, that an important pirate signal has been corrupted – and unless those (who realise the implications) respond, we may well realise, only too late, that great movements and opportunities such as Teknival have been eroded – not just by governmental bogeymen, but also by the squanderings of a few and the apathy of the many.
It’s clear to me now in the light of these events, and my own experience that what is now firmly on the agenda is a finely tuned cellular strategy, based on personal responsibility, individual creative control, and a highly developed personal interface which enables maximum effectiveness when dealing with other individual systems. Once, even a relatively small number of projects (whatever they may be) are up and running in this way, a strongly diverse and autonomous structure will inevitably develop. Dead wood rots and new roots grow deep.