Glamorous crate-digger Veronica Vasicka is the “musical detective” behind the Minimal Wave record label. She discovers and then promotes/advocates for the work of criminally overlooked, mostly European, underground musicians of the DIY late 70s/80s bedroom experimental synthpop scene, and exposes it to a new generation.
The genre, dubbed by New York-based Vasicka herself, is an electronic twin of the indie-rock “low-fi” movement and dates back to a time when synthesizers and 4-track home recorders were coming down in price and in the hands of more and more people (“Warm Leatherette” by The Normal—recorded by future Mute Records head, Daniel Miller on a $150 Korg 700S synthesizer in his apartment using two tape decks—would be emblematic of this sound). The music was often never even pressed on records, instead circulating on cassette tapes.
Veronica Vasicka’s East Village Radio show (she’s one of the co-founders) provided the initial focus for her archival endeavors, but soon her proclivities for turning up the rarest, most obscure tracks, led to her passion becoming a business and a career. Vasicka’s latest compilation, Minimal Wave Tapes 2 was recently released in conjunction with LA-based Stones Throw Records, best known for being the home to Madlib and MF Doom’s Madvillainy team-up.
D&C: Do you regard yourself as an archivist or a musical detective?
Veronica Vasicka: A musical detective, for sure. A lot of the music was lost to particular places and locations. There’s a band called Aural Indifference from Melbourne in Australia on The Minimal Wave Tapes: Volume 2. He only made 30 copies of that tape, just 30 copies! I met his girlfriend by accident and it was such a surreal coincidence the way it happened. He went home and found a copy of the original master-tape in his parents’ basement and brought it to my show on East Village Radio. He was shocked anyone knew about it. In some ways it is such a small world as the people that have been collecting this stuff are connected, so in this underground way the connection already exists. Once people know what you are into, then they will make recommendations.
D&C: Are you surprised at how this sound has caught on?
Veronica Vasicka: Yeah, especially because it is kind of like outsider music, and with outsider music you never know how the public will respond. It’s important not to think too hard about it, to just go with my intuition for this kind of band or project, and that is what I have been doing since the beginning: going with what I think needs to be heard.
Not everyone, apparently, is all that happy about seeing their work from three decades ago come back to haunt them:
D&C: What do people think when you get in touch and say, ‘I want to put out a record you made 30 years ago’?
Veronica Vasicka: The general reaction is, ‘How the hell do you know about my music?’ or, ‘You really want to release that?! The music that I didn’t take seriously?’ Or, ‘Do what you want with it.’ Sometimes these artists don’t want to take it further and don’t want their music to be out there beyond the format that it’s in because it’s a reminder of a time that was maybe not the best in their lives. It just happens sometimes – they didn’t push it at the time so why would they want to push it now? It happens.
D&C: When this music first appeared there was massive unemployment and financial ruin around the world, and we are seeing the same again these days. Do you think bleak times foster the most radical musical creativity?
Veronica Vasicka: Yes, there is certainly a parallel between what was happening economically during that time, the late 70s and early 80s, and what came out of it in terms of music, what people created during that time of struggle. I also think that’s another reason why people are attracted to this music once again, because we are living in a similar economic climate. I think there is a connection there. Great music and creativity always emerge out of times of struggle.
D&C: Do you ever feel like you are living in the past?
Veronica Vasicka: No, I feel like I get obsessed with the past sometimes but in this case the music wasn’t given a platform in the past – yes, it was made in 1982, but how many people actually heard it? Not many. It just existed in a vacuum. I don’t feel like I’m living in the past, the music was just made there. The music was fully realised but its existence and purpose in this world was incomplete and so I am completing it.
Read more at Dazed Digital, plus they’ve got an exclusive Minimal Wave mix from Veronica Vasicka.
Hard Corps performing “Dirty” at The Fridge in Brixton in 1986, one of the tracks from Minimal Wave Tapes 2
Italy’s Ruins (with a lead singer who looks like Richard E. Grant) perfrom “Fire” in 1984.
Revel in New York interviews Veronica Vasicka: