IDOL Insights: meet InFiné
For 15 years, through Rone, Gaspar Claus or Deena Abdelwahed, InFiné has been defending avant-garde electronic music. The founder talks about his career, his values, his taste for innovation, and his long-time partnership with IDOL. Alexandre Cazac also explains the concept of sustainable music that he defends at all levels.
How was InFiné born?
Alexandre Cazac: After several years in the music business, with experience in a major label, then with a big independent, I had the feeling that some projects were not well represented or defended. This feeling intensified, so I left PIAS. First I took on the management of an artist called Agoria. Then the British label Warp offered me to open and manage their Paris office. And when I attended a concert of Francesco Tristano, a pianist who matched everything I was looking for in an artist, I felt this yearning to start my own label. It turned out that Yannick Matray, who is still my partner, and Alexandre Jaillon, who has since become WeLoveArt, were easy to convince.
Coming from electronic music, we learned a lot by producing a pianist… Until today, we kept this taste for innovation, in the sense that we always seek to improve ourselves in regards to sound. It’s in our DNA.
How does it feel to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the label?
A lot of emotions! At the time, it was inconceivable to reach even 10 years. After the emotion, it’s a lot of pride. This anniversary allows us to see how far we’ve come. It’s a lot of work, but also a lot of stories. I don’t have many regrets, because we managed to preserve this dynamic of innovation and diversity… I am very proud, and also very proud of the people who work with me, because it is the result of a team effort.
Diversity has always been at the heart of our concerns. Diversity of musical genres, in the profiles: we cover almost every continent, and artists of all sexual orientation. More than a musical genre, the common thread along the year has been the artistic calling. I always put myself in our listeners’ shoes and even if I love electronic music, I like to listen to other styles. In a way, we continue to build our ideal record collection, and enrich it little by little with other colors, and different experiences. In my opinion, InFiné tells the story of a curious listener who simply wants to get off the beaten track.
What are the challenges of developing emerging artists on the international scene?
We started with the ambition to be good craftsmen, but international craftsmen. It also comes from my experiences, because I represented Warp, Ninja Tune, !K7, ANTI-… What I can say today is that it is very complicated to be a French producer: it is not an advantage on the international market. Nevertheless, it is a historical chance to have French actors like IDOL who are able to distribute music internationally. Previously, in the physical world, there were no players capable of ensuring this distribution.
This was one of the reasons, beyond the longing for diversity, why we signed non-French artists. Because they can represent us – like in Mexico, where InFiné benefits from some notoriety thanks to Mexican artists Murcof and Cubenx. It’s part of this wish to embrace the world, but in the end it’s difficult to have international ambitions when we don’t welcome the world ourselves.
What is your greatest (artistic) conquest?
It’s to have made more than 65 albums, and to have already 15 in the pipeline for the years to come. It’s being a platform that welcomes projects somewhat complicated, but varied.
Recently, we got together with the Maintenant festival, the CentQuatre, and the Ina GRM around KMRU. Two years ago, in the course of a discussion with the Maintenant festival, we discovered a common interest in this Kenyan artist. It was a bit complicated, but eventually we welcomed KMRU last summer: he spent two weeks working on the GRM machines. Then he went to Rennes to present his live show at the Maintenant festival, and he will be playing at the CentQuatre for our 15th anniversary. What I find interesting is that today InFiné has the legitimacy to carry out this type of project.
The label is committed to delivering sustainable music, can you tell us more?
We believe in sustainable music in every sense of the word. Sustainable in the stability of our teams, sustainable in our partnerships: we have been working with IDOL since… In fact, even before IDOL existed, Pascal Bittard and I already wanted to work together. Since then, we have worked to different degrees and are still working together. This is one of the most beautiful examples that comes to my mind.
As far as the teams are concerned, we keep in touch with our trainees, and sometimes they come back. Our press officer, our label manager, or our international marketing manager in Berlin, are all former interns. With the artists, we have this same bond of loyalty. Because for us, the feasibility of an album doesn’t solely depend on the commercial success of the previous one.
Last, sustainable in the sense that today you can listen to InFiné’s first album, and it will be just as audible, just as interesting as the day it was released. This is somewhat true for the entire catalog, to varying degrees of course. This durability is the result of our demanding nature towards ourselves, towards the artists, not giving in to easy options.
What are your main assets as an independent label?
Our main asset is to have an outstanding and international digital distributor! (laughs) More seriously, our main quality is our nimbleness as an independent label which allows us to react and adapt very quickly. Somehow, the proximity that we maintain within the team and with the artists can also be listed as one of our qualities: we remain strong together.
What has bound you to IDOL for all these years?
Before the professional link, it is an interpersonal relationship. Pascal Bittard and I both have a strong sense of loyalty. We grew up together, and I think I can even claim to have challenged IDOL on international issues. At the end of the day, what counts are these shared moments, and for me, that deserves a lot of respect.
When you’re producing artisanal music, developing totally unknown artists, the most important thing is this cumulative experience. I’m proud to be able to put that experience at the service of some very nice talents. I am not going to launch into a panegyric of IDOL, but I think that what differentiates our relationship is this humanity. And IDOL and Pascal know how to preserve that kind of relationship.
Do you think there is strength in independence?
I’m a strong believer in independence. I left my job at a major label because I saw projects – sometimes costing millions – thrown away because the track didn’t enter a radio playlist. I was surprised at first and then a little revolted. I have the pretension to believe that to move forward, innovation is essential. That’s why it is necessary to keep real independence: shareholders’ requirements would prevent me from innovating. In fact, independence is the assurance of our freedom – and above all artistic freedom.