Rockin' with their netlabel since 2004! Sven Swift and Sim Sullen

Interview with DIY-Netlabel 12rec // With their fabulous 50th release it’s time to visit the Do-It-Yourself Netlabel 12rec from Germany. Phlow met Sim Sullen and Sven Swift on the digital highway to have a chat about the strategies, attitude and why they enjoy exploiting themselves in the name of music! Together we unravel some old 12rec-screenshots, watch once more our most favorite netlabel-video-clip to date and listen to their new compilation.

12rec Netlabel is a two-headed squirrel. Most of you know already Sven Swift for his in-depth-reviews on and his headstrong compilations he contributes to the world-wide netlabel-phenomena. In comparison Sim Sullen seems more quiet, but the head behind travels a lot through germany, fotographing creative commons- and web 2.0-conferences. I celebrated already together with them at Netlabel Festival Zürich in 2006 - and guess, what can I tell you about this netlabel-duet? Amusing, freaky and truly dedicated…

Simon and Sven, how did you guys meet and how did you get the idea of coordinating a Netlabel together?

Sven: Sim and me know each other from school days. We both grew up in a small city at the outer brims of the Ruhr Area in Northern Germany. We had a band and spend a lot of time photoshopping, doing flyers and stuff. We were listening to 60’s Jazz and electronic music which none of our friends did - I think that forced us together… The first recordings of our band Majestik12 were published on tape, but for the second album we decided to go online. That was out first glimpse of what the web can do for us. The opportunity to share music via the net were pretty exciting for us these days… imagine that, kids!

One or two years later, a friend that just had started his studies at the KHM in Cologne came up with different demos fellow students had blessed him with. These were Sichtbeton, Yokölast and Jasmin. Simon already got in contact with the Netaudio scene, and listening to all this awesome left-field music we agreed to found a Netlabel as well.

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Click on the thumbnails to see, how the 12rec-website looked like in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007!

On the one hand, 12rec. seems to be a very serious project. On the other hand, I had the feeling that sometimes plain fun is your agenda. Is there a main concept behind 12rec., have you got a special intention or message while releasing free music or is it just a fun project?

Sven: Both is true, actually. It’s definitely important to us that people recognize the Creative Commons license we’re working with; that listeners are aware of the fact that our music is free, in a political sense, if you dare. And we’re glad to be a label rather than one of these faceless file hosters! Despite our stylistic versatility, people know that there is no bullshit up at 12rec. Maybe the label concept sounds dated in times of UGC but this bit of nostalgia is something I can definitely live with.

But neither Sim nor me are out for recruiting pees for the Netaudio fuzz. The main agenda is good music - good music, good artwork and a few well-written, humours words about the music. Are seriousity and humour contrary values? Don’t hope so!

On the next page you get a private peek on how the 12rec-boys produce their wonderful CDs and why they like to enjoy exploiting themselves!

Extraordinary: See how music gets wrapped into beautiful and handmade cover-artwork!

I can imagine quite a lot of people ask themselves: Why do these guys spend so much time to build a project like 12rec.? They earn nothing with it! Are these folks right? What would be your answer? What’s the benefit of running a Netlabel?

Sven: You have to be a true bred lover of music to keep things going - next to a demanding money job… We get to hear so much wonderful music, talented artists from around the world become your friends, listeners send thank-you emails, these kind of things.

Sim: The point that there is no profit involved also means some kind of freedom for us. Especially as a label far from mainstream it makes decisions so much easier not to have to think about revenue when planning new releases. We totally can let us lead by our taste and the appreciation for the artist and his work without worrying how many copies we will sell. To us it´s a very convenient situation not to care too much for broad popularity in our work as a Netlabel.

Sven: Discover new music, meet new people, DO something. I feel fine to be able to go to London, Tokyo, New York or Montreal and find a bed at someone I exchanged only emails with before. That’s it.

Simon, you travel a lot through Germany, visiting conferences where Creative Commons-projects and ideas about these licenses are discussed. Why do you think as a Netlabel-head, that the Creative Commons is so important? What are positive and negative effects of the Creative Commons? Are there any loopholes?

Sim: The Creative Commons licences are not that much of a revolution or an anti-copyright thing than many people think. To me it’s more of a logic and natural development of the way we deal with intellectual property in the digital age. In times where the distribution of creative works is no longer a privilege of a few elitist publishing companies, a copyright law that was basically created in times where publishing meant printing letters on paper with huge machines is no longer appropriate - especially for the legion of kids who create stuff just for the sake of being creative! Some people might disagree, but not every producer of intellectual property thinks in dimensions of ‘creative industries’.

For a Netlabel like 12rec., the CC licences are a very comfortable and easy way to let people know that they will not be sued for copying music but still have the security that the works will not be used in a way that is not okay for the artists. And the musicians get the chance to reach a way bigger audience than by selling some self produced CDs at concerts. As Sven said before, releasing under CC is also some kind of a political statement. Many people have never heard of CC and are not even aware of those Free Culture issues. When we can make some people think about such topics as a side effect of delivering great music, well, that sounds quite worthwhile to me.

On the last page of our interview we finally celebrate with 12rec their incredible 50th release, the “so much achieved. so much left to do.”-compilation. Get your hands on one of the rare CDs!

Sven, you write your own blog, submit reviews to and publish experimental mixes on the web. Do these activities reflect themselves in your work for your Netlabel?

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Dark future for 12rec? No, they're just beginning, read on!

Sven: Personally, I have a devastating hunger for new music and would ruin me (and my wife) if I would have to buy music every time I want to listen to something new. I purchase a lot of vinyl, but Netaudio is my methadone, haha! And you really can do something for the artists you discover - I mean, Ellen Alien won’t care if I write on my blog that her new album is awesome (which is), Gareth Dickson and Etienne Michelet do.

The music we’re releasing at 12rec. is much more “Pop” than the sound I’m listening to normally. All these experimental Ambient-things I happen to write about don’t have a place at our label, and that’s pretty OK. Others do better. 12rec. doesn’t want to be Serein, IOD, Nexsound or Resting Bell. Nevertheless, certain artists came to 12rec. after I wrote about them- Nicolas Bernier, Astrowind, to name only two.

If I am honest, I always had some troubles listening to the wide range of 12rec. music releases. This changed a lot with your anniversary compilation. I have the feeling that you guys worked on this release really hard. Your musical idea of putting Indiepop together with experimental sounds and Hip Hop music works extraordinary good on this record. Please tell us how you met all these musicians, how you coordinated the compilation and stuff…‘

Sven: Maybe we’re expecting a bit too much from our listeners… I find myself being a bit envious for these extremely homogenous Netlabels, take Zymogen for example. But as 12rec. is a direct projection of Simon’s and my taste in music, everything different would have been fake. So, in consequence, our beautiful sampler is pretty much of a roller coaster-ride, too. And yeah, it was a HELL lot of work.

<img class=”left” title=”compilation-front-200” src=””I was sending out emails to our housekeeping artists in January this year, asking them to deliver something extraordinary awesome for this sampler. Most of them did, and we had the dirty job to sort out the very good from the veryvery good. Plaistow, adcBicycle, The Sleeping Tree and Ian Hawgoodare absolutely new to our rooster and they will all publish at 12rec. later this year. The Great Mundane and Konntinent are “guests” who are related to us but won’t release something very soon. If you are familiar with 12rec. already, you will probably be happy to hear that we’ve got new tracks by Crepusculum, Daniel Maze, Sichtbeton, Heezen and many more. Stephane Obadia, another long time follower, did the photos for the artworks.

All in a whole, “So Much Achieved” represents our label in all it’s diversity. It’s the best we could give. We got 1000 copies of the digipak CD done and try to sell them as cheap as possible. Maybe you have some six bucks left on your Pay Pal-account and like to order. In case you don’t, take a look at our 50s-jubelee mini site. The compilation is online for free download as well. Of course

Many thanks, for the interview!