Fitz talks about Sixtynine records, Noviot Pochetok and more
As I was really impressed by Fonija’s album Mojot Pekol I decided to contact Sixtynine records so I would have a physical copy of said record. A couple of e-mails later I ended up interviewing Sixtynine records main man and Noviot Pochetok’s singer Fitz.
Hi Fitz, what’s on your mind?
Hi there! First of all thanx a lot for this interview. 😀
It’s Sunday now, so probably there’s not much on my mind.. Actually, I’m getting some rest after yesterday’s festival called “Zemjotres” (Earthquake) that we as a record label, together with other labels organized in our hometown. It is an indie music festival, and it happened for the second time with much bigger success than the first one. This year we had around 1800 visitors, which is huge for a town like Skopje (+ around 500-700 that unfortunately waited at the door, because of the unpredictable fast selling of the tickets).
Around 500-700 that unfortunately waited at the door, because of the unpredictable fast selling of the tickets…
Wow, that sounds like success! Please introduce yourself? Who are you, what do you do?
My name is Filip and most people know me as Fitz. I guess, society recognizes me mostly as a musician-songwriter and a visual artist. I’ve been playing, singing and writing music in a punk rock band called Noviot Pochetok (The New Beginning) for the past 12 years. I had and still do have some other musical projects like Retro Cabaret (an evergreen punk rock band; something like Me First & the Gimme Gimmes), Astrolungs (an acoustic project) and I like to perform solo every now and then, also acoustically. As a visual artist, and generally to survive, I also have a small studio for design & video, which basically started with creating stuff for musicians (from CD covers and posters to whole campaigns for big festivals and music names). Well, that’s in short the most important things I guess.
Ah, a busy bee, huh? Let’s first talk about Sixtynine records first. When and why did you start this record label?
Sixtynine Records for me is a collective passion, idea and as I like to call it the most – collective of bands that help each other and work under one name. The labels first release was, of course, my bands (Noviot Pochetok) first LP – “Evolucijata Bi Trebalo Da Zapochne Sega…” (and I know it’s hard to read). We released it in October 2006 and in a short period of time we also released some other records from our other musical projects. After a while, local and not-so-local bands and friends also joined the label, just to do something together as friends and as a collective. So it all happened spontaneously really. So far we have around 17 releases (both full albums, EP’s and few singles). And for answering why: I guess it has got into our minds that we are a kind of factory for music, doing everything by ourselves; from the music, music production, design, booking, promotion, to the cooking and so on… 🙂 Plus, in that time there were actually not so much indie labels in Macedonia.
Well, the real thing is that I am really, really happy to help, support and promote bands for free in a way that only few supported me when I was starting a long time ago.
Just out of curiousity: what aspects of running a label did you learn the hard way? In other words: what mistake did you make that we’ll never make because we’ve learned from you?
Well… I don’t think we’ve made real mistakes so far. There had always been a fair relationship between us and the bands. I am even very happy for a band that used to be on our label, and now some members of that band are working with totally mainstream TV/radio musicians and shit-heads. Good for them if that is what they want. So far, I’m happy for most of things.
What do you hope to achieve with Sixtynine records?
Well, the real thing is that I am really, really happy to help, support and promote bands for free in a way that only few supported me when I was starting a long time ago. I guess the promotion is what they mostly get from us. I like to take them just a bit more out of anonymity and place them in front of an audience… The rest is up to them from there. I am helping them with everything, from talks – where to start, where to go, to promoting them on social media, our local indie radio Kanal 103, to help with printing, merchandise and of course contacts for booking shows. The real deal is that we invest just a little bit into these records. The bands still do the bigger part of the investment by themselves (so far it has been like that), but all of these other stuff they get just for putting the logo on their CD, and that’s it.
What’s your coverage outside Macedonia?
As a band we have toured Europe twice and we have met lots and lots of great and cool people. I always give stickers and promo CD’s to people when I meet them and I’m trying to keep in touch. Unfortunately, we as a country are handicapped when it comes to digital distribution… we don’t have PayPal as a country so we have to do the digital sales in some primitive ways. Oh well…
Yeah, Moneygramm… Never heard of it before buying something from Sixtynine Records. It’s a bit of work, but it works in the end. Hope it doesn’t burden you too much. But on with the label: what’s your policy when it comes to signing bands?
Well there’s not much of a policy. Again, mostly local bands show up “at the door” (well… they write) and if I see them in the Sixtynine picture, I help. Actually, I guess I helped 90% of the bands that wrote to me.
Please talk us through the whole process: Who selects a studio? Who decides on the artwork? Please talk us through from signing a band to sending out the records.
So if a band needs help with anything at all, we can give it. Somehow it happened that now we have something like 3 smaller studios to record, and these are all new and recent, made by friends from these Sixtynine bands. I, like I said am a designer myself, sometimes I design the cover if I’m asked by the band. I have made a lot of CD covers even outside of Sixtynine Records, ranging from totally unknown thrash core bands to mainstream musicians. Other bands get artwork elsewhere or create something themselves. In that case I only talk to printing houses and get discounts :-D. Anyway, of course, it’s up to the bands to decide where to record their music or what will be the artwork/who will create it.
The process, in short, goes something like this:
1. Bands come, we talk, we decide to help them.
2. They decide where to record (they record mostly in one of our friends’ studios) and they pay for it themselves.
3. The band creates the artwork (or me, or somebody else) and it’s up to me on the phone getting the cheapest printing offers possible. The artwork in many cases happened to be just “help” and support, so it was free from my side.
4. Getting a deal for pressing “original” cd’s is also my job. We, as Sixtynine have a discount for pressing cd’s and that we get from Sofia, Bulgaria. This is also payed by the band (yeah, wait).
5. When the records are done and the artwork is printed, we book a club or a local bar for a release party. Sometimes it’s a gig promotion, and sometimes it’s just a listening party, but in both cases you can get the album on a discount. So we create an event for the album release, and promote it in all possible ways that we can (social media, weekly newsletters, radio interviews, flyers on other gigs and so on). We also like to do this in 2 or 3 or 4 cities across Macedonia to get more coverage. Many bands don’t go on tour, so this is always a problem. When it comes to my band, with a new record, I would like to tour the whole planet to show our work to people.. Not many bands want to do this; all they want is to be local heroes, which is also not bad if that makes them happy.
6. All the money they get from the release is theirs, so they can get something back. We just help so far. Then, after the promo release party, we usually buy 20-30 records for the production costs and we sell them (or yeah, give them for free) on shows with our distro. We only put a very, very small margin on the original price and we sell so we can get money for stickers and promo cd’s and that’s mostly it. There are also some records which are available at local CD markets, but I’m thinking of distribution across Macedonia right now. We’ll see where that goes.
So as you can see, not much money or no money at all in the whole story, the bands get help and I’m happy as long as they are. Simple as that.
That’s pretty cool man! Art for art’s sake! Of the records you released with Sixtynine Records, which record are you most proud of?
Cool question. I never thought about this, hah. Well I guess every release has it’s own story. One of the coolest recent releases to do was Fonija’s “Mojot Pekol”. Fonija, in their 6 or 7 years of existence evolved very quickly and this is their piece of art album so far. Generiss’s record is very melodic and it reminds me of the 90’s punk rock sound. On the other hand, the guys from Gears have that modern metal core sound, and that’s also a nice record. I guess it’s safe to say that two out three releases of my own band are also not bad, seen from a record label’s perspective. After all, we kinda have more record sales than any other Sixtynine band, and honestly, I would like to see some kids to knock us off from that position. Seriously, that would make me feel even more happy (curious about the releases mentioned here? Check out the bandcamp-player at the bottom of the interview – Dennis).
You’re definitely not selfish there. But you’ve mentioned Noviot Pochetok a couple of times now. That last record rocked! Please introduce us to your band. Who are your partners in crime?
Noviot Pochetok has a long history. There had been a lot of line-up changes and, believe it or not, we’re again through some of those again at this moment… Denny from Fonija played drums for the past three and a half years and we recently decided to split up with him. He was the biggest fan of the band and we really had great experience with him as he’s a talented musician. But, back to the start. From the early beginnings (2002) it’s just me and later (in 2005) I was joined by Fat Cacko, who is one of my best friends and had also been a friend to the band. From this perspective now, I know that we will stay together in this band no matter what happens. We might take some time off, maybe play even harder, but it’s us two that keep the things going, I guess. My other best friend Borjan now plays bass in our band. He also was a big fan of the band before he joined in 2012.
When it comes to my band, with a new record, I would like to tour the whole planet to show our work to people.. Not many bands want to do this; all they want is to be local heroes, which is also not bad if that makes them happy.
What can we expect in the (near) future from Noviot Pochetok now that you’re without a drummer?
We had big plans for 2015, because at the end of this year we wanted to get in the studio to record some new stuff (we already have eight or nine new songs.) This is still the plan so to get started we are searching for a young guy that doesn’t want to be home for 70-100 days in the year 2015 :-). We currently have someone to replace Denny, but we haven’t talked and decided about this with him yet. We’ll see what happens, but anyway we never quit.
You’ve been around for a while. What’s the best experience so far?
There were really a lot ups and downs, but I guess you got to keep on truckin’. I really can’t choose one experience over another, because everything has it’s own story and beauty. I think touring across Europe in the recent years and meeting all those nice and warm people is probably the best thing that happens to us as a touring band. Just making friends.
And what’s the worst?
Losing the bass player when the show is about to start. It happened even twice though. 😀
That sucks, what happened? You managed to play those shows?
Yeah, of course. He showed up in the last moments before the show(s) went on. Somehow he got “lost”. I will not explain any further hahaha. 😀
Noviot Pochetok translates to New beginning. A name like that asks for an explanation: a new beginning from what?
Correct, Noviot Pochetok is actually “The New Beginning” in Macedonian. The thing is, when we changed the name of the band back in 2005, we weren’t thinking straight because it’s on Macedonian. We didn’t realise people might have a problem to read it. We never even thought we would be going out on tour abroad. Somehow, things changed a lot, and you can’t change what happened in the past, right? The name came from Gorilla Biscuits’s album „Lets start today“, so we changed the words – „Start today“, „starting today“, „make a change today“, „beginning“, and „the new beginning“ came out. The meaning I think it’s obvious, but anyways, now I look at it like it means more than just a new beginning. To me it means „the next society“ which will come after capitalism. With the technology and our brains ability, there soon can be abundance everywhere. Actually it’s already here but people don’t see it. And I believe that, when abundance is present, people will finally get the greed out of their souls. Then comes the next society, which is the new beginning.
Noviot Pochetok writes lyrics in Macedonian. I always ask a band what they sing about when I can’t understand what they’re singing: so, what subjects are dealt with in the lyrics?
I am also a graduate sociologist, and I studied the society just so I can eat a lot of shit about it. Mainly, and especially in the first two albums I have written lyrics that are mostly against all the wrong things in the society. The usual punk stuff. In the last album, apart from the “anti” stuff, there were a lot of lyrics consisting personal matters.
Btw, I have translated the lyrics on English and the readers can find them on our website.
Ah, that’s cool, as this is yet another band I’m singing along too without knowing what I’m singing. I don’t worry about it too much as I doubt anyone will understand what I’m singing as my Macedonian is pretty terrible, I guess… You’re also active with acoustic music, solo and in different bands. How did that come to be? Are you mellowing down?
I have always been a fan of acoustic music, probably because you can hide yourself behind the distortion and here it’s only you and clean strings. It’s just that that, as a musician, I try to do different stuff, and I like to take all these personal-matter-lyrics sometimes in a more mellow way maybe. 😀
Allright, let’s keep it at that. Go get you’re well deserved rest! Anything else you’d like to share? The floor is yours:
Please give a link to this compilation to your readers:
We’ll do that! Thanks a lot, Fitz!Back to interviews overview