When you get an itch for some Italo, there are a few places you’ll likely check ahead of anywhere else. One of them is Bordello A Parigi, the Amsterdam-based record label and (until recently online) record store run by Otto Kraanen. When Italo first came back into vogue, some citied its revival as a passing trend. To Kraanen and his contemporaries, however, it’s so much more than that and collectors with an appetite for the oft-misunderstood genre have been spoilt of late. Launched back in 2011, the label side of the project boasts a back catalogue brimming with variety: new releases by the likes of Skatebård slot in nicely alongside edits from cut-and-paste maestros like Flemming Dalum and Hysteric – like the much sought-after Hot Girls Of Italo Disco 12″ – and reissues of rare Italo cuts, including Mata Hari’s excellent eponymous EP (released in collaboration with Rotterdam’s Moustache Records). Now they’ve opened a physical shop and the jetliner that is Bordello A Parigi shows no signs of slowing down.
We caught up with Kraanen to talk reissues, the newly opened store, vintage European porn and, of course, Italo. He even brought Giallo Disco co-owner Antoni Maiovvi (who you can find propping up the counter in Amsterdam) on board to provide a ‘tribute mix’, blending the label’s recent releases with an medley of tracks that take us from the New York disco of Prelude Records to the electro alchemy of Rotterdam’s Intergalactic Gary (find the tracklist here).
What was the motive behind starting Bordello A Parigi in the first place?
It was born out of the love for music in general. Being a restless person at the same time it felt good to be busy with the music which gave me so much love. I wanted to give some love back and put creativity into an entity which make this music physical: vinyl. Since I was collecting vinyl, deejaying and throwing parties since my late teens, it was an exciting step to take it to another level. I had a vinyl label before with some friends, reissueing late ’80s hiphop, so the experience was already there. With the fascination for the Italian ’80s culture all the pieces of the puzzle came together.
Italo represents a huge cornerstone of what you do with both the store and the label. When were you first introduced to the genre?
I think it was in the early 2000s while listening to the online radio station ‘CBS’ (pre Intergalactic FM ran by I-F from The Hague). I also had some older friends that introduced me to Italo while spinning records at their places. The Hague is very close to my hometown, Delft. From there I went to small parties in The Hague and Rotterdam which got me hooked to the sound of Italo and all it’s related genres. It became the ultimate dance and going out music for me.
Have you always been fascinated with early ‘80s electronic music?
Looking back I don’t think I always had the fasciation for ’80s electronic music. Though examples of my mother playing Kraftwerk’s ‘The Man Machine’ when I was really young or digging for early rap records in my teenagers made me investigate into the ’80s electronics genres at a later age. I was always hungry to consume a lot of different kinds of music. I think when I really developed my musical taste in my twenties I decided to marry with Italo and its related genres.
You have a connection with Rotterdam-based club BAR. Has it had impact on what you do with Bodello A Parigi?
The BAR owners Jetti and Kris are really good friends of mine and they supported me a lot with letting me play at their parties and throwing parties myself. We were quite on the same line regarding our vision of nightlife and also shared a same taste of music. If you could speak of a revival and reborn night culture in Rotterdam; I think they were a very important part of it and at the same time a part of my success regarding organising Bordello parties. Much love to them.
You’ve previously spoken of your affinity to the aesthetics of vintage European porn, if not the actual porn itself. Do you always like a bit of sleaze when it comes to culture?
Yes, everybody needs a bit of sleaze once in a while, haha. In modern society we got taught that high brow culture is the ultimate art form. Low culture is considered trash because the culture values we have in this society. But why isn’t it possible to enjoy the same experience of looking to both? In the case of the vintage European porn movies or related trash genres I’m more fascinated by it’s memorabilia, cinematography and soundtracks. It has beautiful aesthetics which can be related to the art forms of making movies, graphic design and composing music. It’s not about the erotic aspect itself or the storyline for example. Too boring. Sleaze can also be seen as art if you put it in the right context I think. It’s too easy to always define it as bad taste, porn or any other label that has this negative connotation.
It’s almost six years since that first Model Man release. What’s been your proudest moment with the label to date?
Most definitely the opening of the physical shop with the same name!
That inaugural effort consisted entirely of new productions. Did you always plan to reissue older music as well?
I was planning to reissue older music as well when started the label. Most of the first releases were actually reissues. The second being the first one.
Do you have any particular methods or processes when it comes to sourcing old music for reissuing?
Not really in particular. But in this new world of internet everything you need to know can be find online most of the times. Which means an endless source of potential music, the possibility to track down composers, master rights holders and so on.
Some of these presumably retired artists must be hard to connect with in 2017. Does anyone help you at all with the networking side of things?
I don’t think it’s about networking for me; although a few people came with suggestions or leads in the past and really setup releases. All well connected Italo heads like Dennis v/d Berg, Hysteric, Flemming Dalum and so on. Some re-issues took me months of investigation to trace down the right artist or master owner, but all with the help of internet in the end.
Have you encountered many difficulties or stumbling blocks when licensing reissues?
Not that many to complain. Although it can be sometimes a shady business if it comes to who really own the rights of the master and labels hunting like wolves on the same prey. I lost interest a bit in the whole reissueing game with Bordello A Parigi because of this and try to focus more on new productions. Though we still keep them coming and have a few planned already yet, haha.
The Bordello A Parigi online store has been operating for a while now. What prompted you to open a physical shop?
I was actually looking for a new office for our label, web shop stock and our distribution. The vinyl and cardboard boxes were literally reaching the ceiling, my own house became storage again and we definitely couldn’t continue like this with the expected growth. So I was looking for a new spot and while looking around and comparing prices of rent and different cities to move to I thought it wasn’t that a bad idea to also open a physical shop in front of our future office. It was also something I always romanticise and now it was finally the time to do it properly. The opportunity to rent our current location in Amsterdam made me 100% convinced to rock that physical shop and partly move business from a digital shopping cart to a real counter.
What can first-time visitors expect when they visit the new shop?
A nice cup of coffee; although a proper coffee machine is still not there, haha. Beside that an up-to-date selection of cool records curated by our shop employees, three listening stations; a chill out corner to listen to the music that we play in the shop, exclusive Bordello A Parigi merch and for your visual pleasure a great collection of old Italian movie posters, photo books… and of course our handsome shop employees again.
Lobster Theremin recently opened a shop of their own in London. How important do you think it is for a business like yours to have a public-facing dimension?
I think it will always add some commercial value in general, but for me it’s most important I am able to offer a place where musically like minded people can gather listening to music, talk about music and just having a nice time: a meeting point.
Do you curate the stock yourself?
Unfortunately I don’t have the time anymore to do this all by myself, but I’m very happy with the huge help of my two current employees Jeroen and Colin who are doing a great job with this.
How much of an influence does your distribution service Diana Charité have on the store?
It influences the selection of records we have in stock of course. At the moment we have around 50 labels we’re distributing and all these labels are available at our shop. With the distribution you kind of make a pre-selection already and we only distribute labels that we think that should fit our shop as well. Also it saves a lot of extra steps before you have the records available in your shop. As we get them directly, we’re also the first that can offer these releases in our shop. So a very positive influence I would say.
A few of your records are going for quite a bit on Discogs. Do you get messaged regularly by people asking for represses?
We receive messages now and then, but most of the in demand records got repressed in the end. If not twice. And high prices on Discogs not always justify a repress. A repress means you have to sell at least another 200 copies of the same record if you don’t want to sit on them.
If so, are there any particular records that people ask after?
Check out Discogs and order items by price, haha.
With Discogs it’s getting harder to stay ahead of the masses when it comes to digging and sourcing obscure records. Is there anywhere in Europe or beyond that you have had much joy when it comes to buying Italo?
Not really unfortunately. Especially when it comes to Italo. Nevertheless I still enjoy the suggesting and trading of records between vinyl collectors and music friends over the world.
You’ve previously released music in collaboration with Australian label, Mothball Record. How helpful is it to have like-minded people pulling in the same direction around the globe?
It’s also mainly very fun. We’re all adding value to help growing the enthusiasm with people for the music you release and generate support to keep the labels alive. This is also seen in the related parties in different cities and countries that pop up. These parties are most often also hosted by local labels. It also gives opportunities to bundle forces which made me tour together with Mothball’s head honcho Hysteric across Europe several times and helping organise festivals with the people from Magic Waves and Slow Motion: great moments!
In another interview you mentioned that it’s the emotive qualities that you look for when listening to Italo. Can you pick a few examples that really give you the chills?
Really too many to mention! But I would recommend this mix by Flemming Dalum for Bordello A Parigi for the ultimate emotive trip with strictly feminine hotness.
Have any other labels caught your attention recently?
New labels catch my attention every week. If it’s from our own distribution or the stock selection for our shop. I think the front page of our webshop will be the best reference for now, before I’m gonna try to make an impossible list, haha. Also a lot of labels come and go in a cough so at the same time much respect for the labels that keeping catching our attention for all those years.
And finally, what’s next on the agenda for Bordello A Parigi?
Next on the agenda is return of Rude 66 on Bordello A Parigi with his forthcoming album From Reason To Ritual and the return to Wilden Renate in Berlin the 16th of April where we go all night all out again!
The Bordello A Parigi store is now open at Oudezijds Kolk 71, 1012 AL Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Photo credits: Mathilde Karrer