Guy Tavares has been in the underground music business for 20 years, and has become something of a cult legend himself.
Based in The Hague in Holland, he’s released over 200 records via his labels Bunker and MotorWolf.
Guy has been privileged enough to have worked with several influential artists including :
Legowelt, The Exaltics, Alden Tyrell, Rude 66, I-F and many more.
He has some great words of wisdom about survival and success in music, he should know he’s still out there in the trenches right now, so his words aren’t just theories, they’re real world observations.
You are one of the few who has survived through good times & adversity for 20 years, other labels have folded, big distributors and record shops vanished.
What do you think you have done differently from the rest to still keep going and be relevant? Is there a Bunker recipe?
Stay small and prepare to live like a cockroach, don’t expect to make any more profit than the minimum required for a very basic subsistence economy. It helps being a squatter and not having to pay rent, which alas isn’t possible in every country. Have more than 1 source of income, not just the label, in my case playing dj-sets, doing live concerts, organising events, recording/mixing/mastering other bands.
Stay exclusive to stay cult, you could increase your sales through better promotion and distribution, but there is a financial price for that, so in the end your profit will hardly increase, plus any commercial success is always short-lasting and will usually end your musical career within a year.
The times of big icons like the rolling stones are over and nowadays only the cult market is
loyal. Anything else will be forgotten in 6 months…
So far , so good, i’ve never had a regular job in my life, hahaha
You’ve worked with and met some very influential artists from all over the world, and still
attract the best, The Exaltics, Legowelt, I-F, Alden Tyrell, Rude 66, Shemale.
Is there anything that really stands out for you with those that succeed?
Maybe something about the way they approach the marriage of business and art that you really admire?
One common feature amongst those that you’ve mentioned is again that not one of them is doing it to
gain success (i.e. social affirmation), make money and increase social status, no, they just make
music, as they cannot help it, which keeps it all ‘authentic’.
On the flip side of that question, although failure is learning and it can definitely define you and make you stronger, are there any things you’ve seen people do or experienced that you can see straight away was a big mistake?
Just don’t fall for the big dollars’ offers, as it’s only a false illusion, many end up with even
higher debts than before.
Getting good advice is really hard for most Electronic musicians, when you find some it really stands out. Perhaps you could build something like a Shaolin Temple on your desert plot in the US.
You make the pilgrimage, suffer, pain, learning and at the end emerge enlightened and skilled in the electronic fighting arts. What would you teach there?
I would just send you all away and out into the big, bad world to be as compulsive as possible and
make as any mistakes as possible, “your temple could be your house, your house must be your temple”, just do it, haha!
The whole music industry has taken a nosedive, and it’s had an impact on Electronic music too, marketing and social media have become things musicians have to learn, but it’s a minefield. What do you think about social media, and are there any modern marketing techniques you really think are impressive?
Social media has become a necessary evil, but I’d advise you to outsource that as much as possible to friends, family and fans, so you’ll have time to make art/music or read a good book for that matter.
And other than old-fashioned basic calculation skills I see no need for modern marketing techniques, they are an illusion, pots of gold at the end of the rainbow
Everyone is uncertain about the future of music as it’s getting devalued and pirated pretty
heavily. If everybody went out and toured or Dj’ed there wouldn’t be enough venues to hold them.
You’ve surged through a lot of change .What do you think about where things are going and how do you think people can adapt?
At this moment there’s just too much of everything and we’re reaching maximum entropy regarding
musical production and promotion, there’s just a certain amount of information that the individual can handle.
I could imagine that eventually people are fed up with too much of all this fake crap and
return to the archaic level of local small-scale physical production within small semi-autarchic
communities. actual physical flyers are coming back, as no one reads his FaceBook invitations anymore and a real personal invitation that has been handed out to you by a real person that you actually know, is much more intimate and will therefore be processed more efficiently by the human mind.
Vinyl, valves,paper books and tape are also returning as they are ‘real’, you can actually hold and touch them and easily understand how they work, even fix them much more easily than anything from the digital domain, even small stores could return, as personal direct advice is more valid than from any anonymous internet mail order giant, where you end up scrolling through meaningless menus.
Just like with music instruments and any other technology, it should be durable, easy to fix, easy to make and not be too complicated/over engineered, the real hi-tech is lo-tech! what idiocy to make very complex and expensive technology that is also very sensitive/vulnerable, so when it breaks down much too soon, you cannot fix it on the spot, so it does not work: dumb technology, not smart technology, only developed to impress others, a typical short-term strategy.
Why is the old AK47, despite being outdated by newer and much more precise and powerful weaponry still the most preferred weapon of choice for most fighters in the world?
It always works under any circumstances!
Do you think the days of being a full-time electronic musician are gone, and with that dream to reach for fading for many, what do you think will happen to the music itself?
No, nothing really basic really changes, it’s about music in the first place, not necessarily
‘electronic’ music: these electronic devices are just instruments, but for rendering one’s emotions
and visions into sounds, anything goes, as long as people have an able physical body, they can make
music, these little african boys that drum with their hands on the windows in the back of the trams in the Hague make beautiful music too…
Have you ever thought about having a more commercial side to help bring in funding, to allow you to indulge in more extreme projects, and if so, what would you do? Preferably (ahem) legal!
Yes, I did, thinking of soft cell’s commercial success supporting cult stuff like coil and current 93 and perhaps out of cynicism as in eulenspiegel’s adagium: humanity not only wants to be fooled,
humanity MUST be fooled! Perhaps I could make something like very powerful R&B stuff with insane
lyrics, subliminal stimulation, hahaha
One of the worst things that can happen to anyone is falling out of love with music and losing the
passion, the magic that brings any tune to life. It’s hard to keep that when the rewards are so hard to attain . Why do you think some artists fall out of love with it, quit or just go through the motions of making poor quality tunes? How do you keep your passion for it alive?
Uhm, if someone actually loses the passion, he or she won’t miss a thing. I’m truly convinced there’s just a certain amount of everything in this universe, including individual creativity.
If some artist only makes one beautiful song or any other piece of art in his/her whole existence, I reckon that’s still a wonderful contribution to the world and still much more than the majority of people will ever produce!
But eventually there comes an end to all creativity and the individual should be prepared for
that and acknowledge this in time, before any geriatric embarrassments will unfold!
Just stop and do something else when you are through with all your creative ideas.
There will be others anyway, if David Bowie had stopped by the mid-80’s, before “little china girl”, he would have been supercult by now, but he couldn’t contain himself and blew it.
We now remember Jimi Hendrix as the best guitar player in the world, but if he hadn’t died that young, we would have known him now from the horrible avant-garde jazz albums he intended to make, haha
Lastly, are there any artists you can think of that you think have a really strong blueprint that will see them succeed far into the future and why?
Other than the old icons that are already commonly known, I see no current artists that will outlast the old masters, all the tricks have been discovered so far for the last 15+ years, for that we’ll have to wait for the invention of completely new technology, i have no idea when and how, but that doesn’t matter anyway, they are only tricks, the human emotions will stay the same…
You can buy records for Bunker at Clone Records and at Boomkat.