Sometimes, what we are looking for does not exist, so we go ahead and create it. This is exactly how piano and coffee records label was born ; for over 5 years now, its founder, Sergio Díaz De Rojas, has been on the lookout for some fresh ambient and neoclassical music finds, a quest which has led him to discover many talents around the world, to work hand in hand in hand with them in order to offer them visibility, and to thus become over the years a renowned indie record label of neoclassical music throughout the world. We wanted to celebrate the release of the compilation “Realismo Magico” with them, so we have asked a few questions to the founder of the label in order to get to know his journey as label manager & as the artistic director of this compilation !
piano and coffee records : an independent record label that develops today’s neoclassical music scene
1. Hi Sergio ! Thanks for accepting to answer our questions today. Can you introduce yourself in a few words before we get to talk about the label itself ?
Hi, Cloé! Thank you for having me. And of course. My name is Sergio Díaz De Rojas and I am a Peruvian composer and performer trying to make a living off my music so I can move somewhere nice with my partner and raise a cat together.
2. piano and coffee records has now been active for 5 years, and has slowly become a powerful record label for the neoclassical scene. I know you are a composer yourself, but what pushed you into building PnC ? A lot of artists have done the same, but I’m always intrigued by this decision. It’s a powerful statement, in my opinion.
Back in 2015 when I was still living in Peru and in the process of recording and releasing my first album, I did not only struggle to find an at-least-acceptable way of producing it, but it was also basically impossible to find a single person or institution interested in supporting my work. Not even the teachers at the university I was currently attending as a music production and composition student cared about it (with a couple of exceptions). At that time, giving up and trying something else felt like the most realistic option and that was simply sad. I don’t think that lack of support and financial resources, or even something as random as being born in the wrong place should be the reasons an artist of any kind decides to stop creating. So that’s why, supported by a wonderful group of people, I decided to create a platform that would help artists around the world develop their projects. Sometimes, all we need is a helping hand and that’s what PnC is here for.
3. How were the very first months of PnC ? Did you already have in mind the idea of making compilations, for example ?
Not at all! And they were quite chaotic, to be honest. I simply went for it with nothing but the desire to help emerging artists release beautiful and meaningful music into the world, so it has been a process of constant change and growth. In the beginning, we would only focus on physical releases and wouldn’t distribute to streaming platforms, for example. We also didn’t count with the talents of the amazing visual artists that are now part of our team.
4. PnC has gathered artists from all around the world during these 5 years. What makes you sign an artist, whether it is for a single or an EP/album ?
If I connect with the artist and adore what they create then our doors are always open.
5. And has PnC been about neoclassical music from the very beginning or have you thought of expanding your artistic direction at some point ?
It has never really been about the music genre. If we haven’t been working with other types of artists is because I feel there’s not much I can help with. I was already quite familiar with the neo/contemporary/classical scene – I knew the artists, the labels, the blogs and radios, and the concert venues – so it felt like the most realistic environment to explore when starting this new project. But we are always trying to explore new roads, and as our audience and contacts grow, it gets easier to be bolder. And I think this first compilation is a clear statement of that.
6. I know that PnC is more than a label, it is also an agency. Could you tell us more about how it differs from your label activity ?
Yes! We offer creative solutions to artists and record labels upon a previously agreed fee. We handle the production of music videos, photo sessions, artwork, graphic and website design, and concerts, among other services. Even thought we craft these projects with the same love and attention than the label ones, it is more of a company-client relationship.
7. Finally, before hopping on to the compilation that is “Realismo Magico”, what would you say was the biggest milestone in the 5-year story of PnC ?
Oh, that’s a difficult one! So hard to choose… But concerning the record label I would say that the release of Justina Jaruševičiūtė’s debut album, Silhouettes. It was a complete success! It received several glowing reviews, was featured on the main page of Bandcamp, made it to various editorial playlists across streaming platforms, and sold out quicker than any other release. Regarding PnC as a creative agency, I would say that our Piano Day celebrations in Stokcholm (2019) and Amsterdam (2018). It was incredibly special to organize these beautiful, intimate shows and bring together some of the most amazing musicians in the neo/contemporary/modern classical scene. What made these shows even more rewarding is that I organized them from my bedroom in Peru.
“Realismo Magico” : a compilation both artistic & aesthetic that blurs out the border between what’s real and what’s not.
8. Before digging in the tracks that are to be found in this record, I want to talk about the name of the compilation. You’ve said it is inspired by an artistic movement, that of magical realism. Can you tell us more about what made you choose this movement as the main theme of the compilation ?
For this project, I wanted to find a theme that would be interesting and unconventional. While thinking and doing research, I remembered two books I adore: Bestiario by Julio Cortázar and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, which are popular examples of magical realism in literature, and that’s when I thought that the concept of incorporating strange, magical, dreamy elements into our mundane, natural world could be nicely depicted into music.
9. I know I’ve already asked Tim Linghaus this question early on, but did you guide the artists you signed onto this project in any type of way ? Did you guide some more than others so that the overall sound of the compilation fit your vision ?
Not really. All I had to do was to share with them the theme of the compilation, which they understood perfectly. It was really easy to get this project done since we had a clear concept and the most talented and professional group of musicians involved.
10. And how did you choose such artists ? Did you know them all before or did some magical encounters happen during the process ?
The curatorial process for this project was quite long because I wanted to find balance in various aspects. A similar number of female and male composers as well as of emerging and established artist, for example. It was also important to have different lengths, instruments, and styles. So, considering all of this, I decided to invite these musicians. I knew all of them before, though! Some of them from a couple of conversations on Instagram and others from years-long friendships.
11. Let’s dig in some of the tracks we can hear in “Realismo Magico”. I want to start with “Zosima” by Sjors Mans, which comes right after “Saturn Days” by Tim Linghaus, and which is very much on the ambient side of music. What kind of relationship do you have with ambient music, and how it is linked to you with neoclassical music ?
After three or four years of constantly listening to the piano music being submitted to our blog and our record label, I got extremely tired of it, specially since most of it was quite predictable and monotonous. Luckily, I found a new friend in ambient music, which quickly became an escape from the piano world. First, I came across artists such as Brian Eno, Grouper, Sara Davachi, or William Basinski, and then I fell in love with Japanese environmental music composers such as Haruomi Hosono or Hiroshi Yoshimura. Nowadays, this is the music that mainly accompanies my life and is the one that influences my own creations the most. I truly love when neo/contemporay/modern classical music merges with ambient music in a natural, interesting way.
12. Jumping to “Speaking Of Explosive” by Martyna Basta, a track that stands out of the tracklist for its experimental, harsh sounds. Did you come to her specifically for such a track, or did you let her express herself freely for it ?
I contacted her specifically because of the type of works she creates! Her music is amazing and she reminds me a lot of Felicia Atkinson, one of my favorite experimental sound artists.
13. Finally, I want to mention Ella Zweitnig “You Went Through Me, Truly”, which is one of the very few tracks with vocals on it. Is there a specific story behind this track ? It sounds very light & different from the rest and the name of the track is a story itself !
Oh, yes, I also contacted her because I was sure she would bring something completely different to the table. And yes! Ella told me that You Went Through Me, Truly was originally the name of a soundscape she made a couple years ago after a beautiful summer she spent in the south of Austria, hiking, swimming and sliding into lakes. But life keeps moving and this past year went through her truly, in a way she couldn’t have even made up in her mind, and that’s why she decided to adopt the title.
14. I know you’re still celebrating this 5-year milestone, but what is to be expected in the upcoming months, release wise ?
We have various projects planned for the rest of the year as well as for the first half of 2022. We will be releasing the third album of the mysterious Plïnkï Plønkï, a captivating organ EP by French composer Casual Melancholia, the first of three volumes inspired by Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier by Trio Ramberget, and more! Hopefully, I will have the energy to start planning our next compilation and some live shows.
15. Finally, there’s a question I like to ask when my interviews come to an end : is there an artist you’re keeping an eye on at the moment ?
I am following closely the works of Sarah Neutkens, Olec Mün, Martyna Basta, Casual Melancholia, and Justina Jaruševičiūtė, to name a few. Thank you once again for the interview and for the recent support hauméa has been giving PnC. It means a lot!
piano and coffee records’ releases are to be found on all streaming platform as well as on Bandcamp. You can also follow them on Instagram, and dig through their Spotify playlists in order to make some good music discoveries !