On the 5th of November a Swedish techno label and organization Substantiv is releasing their first, but by no means timid, compilation PRONOMINA. The compilation features 45 tracks from 50 well-known artists such as Ness, Refracted, Codex Empire, CTRLS, Lars Huismann, D. Carbone and Forest People, to name a few. Importantly, the compilation is supporting a great cause – fighting against heteronormativity. All the proceeds from this album will go to Amnesty International Sweden for their continued work against LGBTQIA-phobia.
The compilation, which is predominantly comprised of dark, fast and dissonant techno suits the concept behind the release very well. It captures frustration, which is inherent in the fight against LGBTQIA-phobia, but the release also communicates hope and determination.
Electronic music owes almost all it has to the LGBTQAI-community, which hosted the first events and fostered techno subculture, allowing it to develop into a prospering scene that it is today. PRONOMINA eloquently reminds us that it is time we give something back to the LGBTQAI-community.
Monument discussed the release with Peter Theodor Ramprasad, the founder of Substantiv and the human (to avoid the unnecessary/binary pronouns in the spirit of the compilation) who is behind the release. While reading the interview, please also enjoy a MNMT Premiere from the release, brought to you by Swedish Eric Axelsson.
Hi Peter, can you first tell us a little about the concept behind and the main activities of Substantiv? Has fighting against LGBTQAI-phobia been at the core of Substantiv from the start?
Yes! As I know many people of all colors and shapes, I wanted to create a party concept that was inclusive and that all my friends could attend. I am tired of the macho culture at regular clubs, it sometimes even sneaks into raves. Everyone should feel safe at a rave. Substantiv’s main activities revolve around rave culture in general – music, parties, activities like pride parades and a sense of community. We are also busy with our podcast series. Almost every month we have a few mixes from guest artists.
Who are team Substantiv, and how long have you been working together?
The team behind Substantiv is a team of ten people, some of them remain anonymous. Raves are not fully legal in Sweden and there are no ways to get permits. Our official start was in May 2016. From the start I decided that the team shouldn’t be centered around regionalism, so we have residents from Germany, Lithuania, Cuba and Sweden. In December we actually get to meet each other for the first time here in Lund, Sweden.
Can you tell us a little about the electronic/techno scene in Sweden and where does your organisation stand in the Swedish musical context?
The electronic scene is booming in southern Sweden, Stockholm and Gothenburg but it’s still illegal for very moralistic reasons and there are so many friends who’ve had their lives ruined because of the Swedish authorities, just for creating parties. But still there is a great scene. In southern Sweden we also have a little privilege – Denmark. Raves are legal in Denmark and it’s only one hour away by train. There’s a lot of exchange going on between these two scenes at the moment as well and they can even be seen on the album (CTRLS, Rune Bagge and Resonant Pole). Substantiv tends to focus on the faster side of techno compared to most of the scene in southern Sweden (with some exceptions though)… after all I’m a child of the 80’s.
LGBTQAI-people historically have always found shelter in the electronic music gatherings and the subcultures surrounding it. Do you feel this has changed – have the techno nights, for example, been drawing more macho crowds lately? Is Pronomina a reminder of where the roots of the scene lie, and an attempt to reclaim the safe and inclusive environment of electronic music?
Yes. The mainstream techno scene has become a lot more superficial in a sense and inspired by EDM, which has attracted some crowds we tend to like a lot less. Substantiv is probably a lot more left field-oriented and a lot more focused on faster techno and for our group it hasn’t been a big change, since we have an open-minded crowd. We’ve been in the local pride parades and even if people were sceptical at first it’s now no problem for us to combine that with our kind of music. I was very inspired by the Loveparades in Berlin at the early 2000’s and felt that techno needs to do a comeback in the pride parades in Sweden as well, but it’s basically a non-existent thing at the moment in Southern Sweden in the pride parades.
Pronomina may function as several things and it’s message is pretty diverse – rave, hedonism, love, acceptance and for sure it’s also just an album one can put in a playlist for a party at home. But to me this album isn’t just an album. It’s my stubborn way of showing both myself and the techno scene, that might have become a bit lazy at times, that this is what can be created with a budget of just 400 euros and just a lot of hard work. If I can do it anyone can. I simply want more of the DIY-spirit, more activity and less people waiting for labels and big corporations to do the hard work for the scene. To achieve freedom you simply have to fight. Waiting around for someone else to do the dirty work makes no sense to me.
Right, let’s talk about the release itself. What was the idea and inspiration behind the compilation? It is massive – how long did it take for you to put together?
The idea itself struck me around December 2017. I felt it would be nice to just release something. But how? I had no money and I was basically flat broke. I’d just gone through chemotherapy for cancer and I was not well at all. I had become addicted to opioids due to my chronic pain. This made me contemplate what kind of legacy I wanted to leave behind, because I didn’t expect to survive 2018. So then the idea of a goodwill album struck me, and I started asking my friends if they wanted to be part of this first and then the snowball effect began. During this time a lot did go wrong and after three overdoses in 2018 I finally got to quit the opioids this summer. So this album has been the one thing that actually kept me alive. It’s been a labour of love for almost a full year now.
A few artists who contributed seem to be the immediate family of Substantiv, but how did you manage to get such a vast number of international artists on board? Were they moved by the cause?
The cause was central in this, but I will not lie – I’m good at convincing people, and I tend to be very stubborn. This is how Substantiv started, I had to convince a lot of people of this crazy idea of creating parties in our city where there were none. Now it is completely different. I have also worked with goodwill causes, raves and similar stuff since 2001, so I know the basics. Some of the contacts were created during Substantiv’s raves, some were created already 17 years ago at parties and at Loveparades in Berlin, some through our podcast series, others being just interested in the cause. The general line up just grew and grew every week from December 2017 until June 2018.
Are all 45 tracks new releases? Were some of them produced specifically for the compilation? D. Carbone appears with a track titled Amnesty and Resonant Pole is even less vague with For the Cause.
Yes, they are. All of them were specifically produced for the album, original material or chosen among many great tracks for the album. I think we listened to around 1000 tracks before we chose these 45 final tracks.
What future plans you have for Substantiv? Can you foresee a shift in focus from podcasts to releases – or perhaps events?
We will continue our parties, activities and podcasts, but we will start releasing a lot more tracks too. And in 2019 we have planned to release some vinyls and digital releases as well. Less is not more, more is more, so we intend to create more stuff in general.
Thank you for such honest answers Peter. All the best with the release and the future of Substantiv!