At the end of 2018, German music label Get Your Genki, released a first compilation filled with diverse Japanese indie artists. The news about this new label went around like a fire and people around the world got interested in the release. In the meantime, Christian, owner of Get Your Genki, is busy with the second compilation. Reason enough to get to know more about Get Your Genki.
AVO Magazine: Where did your interest in Japanese music come from?
Christian: I think like most people that grew up in the 80s, it all comes from the animes on VHS. Sometimes, if you were lucky, at the end of the tape there was a video to the theme song and it was all so different and much cooler than the usual stuff you saw on TV or heard on the radio.
Then (that must have been in the middle 90s) I read a review in a German magazine called ANIMANIA. They had a small section with music from Japan, mostly Visual Kei and Idol music. But this was a bit different this time. It was the pop-Rock-Punk band PENPALS and the review was so appealing that I tried hard to get a CD from them. But unfortunately, the internet in the 90s wasn’t what it is now, so it was very difficult to get this CD. Once I had acquired the CD, I knew this was something different. This wasn’ t just normal Pop/Rock: somehow I could feel that this would be a change for me and I started to dig deeper and found bands and artists that made wonderful and awesome music and were really dedicated to it. It is very hard to describe, but somehow these bands always have higher standards, put a little bit more effort in their music, always sound a bit better than bands from other countries.
AVO Magazine: Which Japanese bands were your introduction to Japanese music?
Christian: Hahaha, that’ s easy: PENPALS, SUPERCAR, HUSKING BEE, THE BLUE HEARTS, ELLEGARDEN… Just to name a few.
AVO Magazine: Your idea to release and share Japanese music had been in your head for many years. When did you had the feeling that you should start a label directly and bring out the good old cassette tapes filled with indie music from Japan?
Christian: I had this idea in my mind for many years and I remember telling my wife one day: Why isn’t this band or that artist on a cool sampler? Why is it all Visual Kei or Idol stuff? And why are all the good compilations made in Japan and very expensive to get/order? Someone has to change it! I know so many bands on Twitter and they’re all making good music, I want to have them on one single compilation. And she just said: Well, seems like you have to do it yourself.
The next day I sat down I tried to figure out how to run a label, all about the costs, the bands etcetera. I asked some bands beforehand what medium they would prefer if they would be a customer/listener. And to my big surprise, the cassette tape was their second best choice. First was vinyl, then tape, then CD and then digital. And by the way, 2 songs on the first compilation of Get Your Genki aren’t available digitally, only on cassette! As I also like cassette tapes very much (and it’s not so expensive in its manufacturing), so I chose cassettes. The release date of the first compilation was pure coincidence.
AVO Magazine: The first compilation of Get Your Genki got released just before Christmas in 2018. How did this compilation come together? (How long did you work on it and how did you choose the artists?)
Christian: It all went very fast. Like I said I informed myself what I had to do, how much money I needed for pressing, fees etc. After all, it’s still a non-profit project. I contacted the bands I wanted in this project and 2 months after I started putting the Bandcamp page online.
This all might sound easy, but I still have a fulltime job, so I worked evening and nights. In Germany, we also have this institution called GEMA and before you can release a song you have to present it to them and they will check if you don’t violate any foreign rights.
In short, it went like this: I found a manufacturer and I gladly found a wonderful illustrator, whose style fits so well and with whom I love to work. His name is Ash Loydon (@ashtonlamont). I already had the bands in mind that I wanted to work with and with some of them I already had a long ‘twitter relationship’. The difficulty is the language barrier. I just can order a beer and ask for the toilet in Japanese and even though most Japanese people had English in school for about 6 years, they don’ t speak English or are afraid to do so. And Google Translate helps, but it isn’t reliable at all.
I am also very happy that I found some very kind people that helped me out with this. But it was very hard work and from some bands, I didn’t even receive an answer at all. God knows what the translation machine told them what I wanted! Then I had to send all the songs to GEMA. They checked the rights worldwide and once I had their approval, I could send everything to the manufacturer.
AVO Magazine: You do not stick to one genre of music, which makes the compilations very diverse. Do you use a specific theme or are you following your feelings to choose the right song for the release?
Christian: Definitely following my feelings. I wanted to release a compilation with all the different styles the music that Japan has to offer. Sadly all the hip-hop or rap artists I contacted never answered. I know that there is a huge scene in Japan, but somehow it didn’t work out until now. Some bands I wanted to have in this project but they turned me down, but I also had to say no to some bands, because I thought they wouldn’t fit. But it’s all my feelings that tell me yes or no.
AVO Magazine: The label sold the first compilation all over the world. Did you expect to get such a good response on this release?
Christian: Let’s put it like this: I hoped! Before I started I contacted other labels in order to ask for some help and told them what I wanted to do and they encouraged me a lot. It made me more confident as I was at the beginning of my plans. But I am very very happy that the tape sold worldwide and that people seem to like it. It would be a lie to say that I didn’t check ‘the market’ to be certain that there wasn’t another label in Germany doing exactly what I was planning to do. But there wasn’t any and so I went for it.
I am also very happy that the bands liked the result too. That’s something that was also very important to me: the bands and artists were completely involved in the process: the cover art, the colour of the cassette tape, who would be title number 5 and who would be title number 9. They gave me their music, so I feel like they’re equal partners in this project. I am very happy that it all worked out so well and still overwhelmed by the positive response this small label received.
AVO Magazine: You are already working on a second compilation. The release of this compilation is set for the Spring/Summer of 2019. What are the conditions for the bands to join such a compilation?
Christian: None. I should like what I hear, but as I am not focused on a certain style there aren’t any barriers.
AVO Magazine: In addition to releasing Get Your Genki on cassette and digitally, what are your other plans for your label?
Christian: Making this interview with you is already a huge step forward and I would love to make more PR. I am thinking of presenting the label at the German NIPPON CONNECTION, a huge film festival. But as this isn’t very cheap I probably will throw some flyers around. I am looking for some distribution outside of Germany, that would be very nice and I am already in contact with some people.
If all continues like it has, I am thinking of making some merch and maybe some sort of a ‘best of’ maybe on CD or even on vinyl. With lots of background information etc…Yes, maybe after Volume 5 a best of all of them on vinyl. I’d love to make the bands that are featured on my compilations more popular, after all, it’s thanks to them that this label exists.
A big thanks to Christian for his time to answer the questions for this interview. Please keep an eye out on the future announcements of Get Your Genki, you can follow Get Your Genki on Twitter and of course the official website. Want to buy some music? Then you should check out Get Your Genk on BandCamp.