Comfort Zone Records

Christina Nemec [Chra]

Comfortzone Music is a record label founded by Christina Nemec in 2009, and is based out of Vienna, Austria. It’s a label for experimental and electronic music with a majority of the artists being comprised of female composers. I wanted to find out her perspective on running a label while working as a musician at the same time.

Femmecult: Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

Christina Nemec: I was born 1968 in Villach which is a small town in the south of Austria very close to the former Yugoslavian (now Slovenian) and Italian border. The neighborhood I was brought up was quite poor and/ or working class. Lots of families my parents age with kids and refugees from second world war as the colony of Untere Fellach was a former camp for forced laborers freed by the allied forces and the UNO who didn’t go back to the Soviet Union countries. My childhood was very exciting, my parents were very liberal, so I can say I had a really good time in this weird environment. At the age of 14 I discovered punk (1982 – way too late) for me as a way of living and I left home as runaway kid to visit squads in Vienna.

FC: How did you get into making music?

CN: Punk was the promise that anyone can do music with or without training or education. I started to play guitar, switched to bass guitar later. my first electronic works i produced in the early 90ies. first with Atari, later with Apple.

FC: Did you have formal musical training?

CN: When I was a kid, I started to learn to play guitar – but after one year I gave up – for I was to impatient to practice. Later my interest in music was more focused on theory and conceptual art. I never wanted to be a girl playing an instrument. I was more kind of a monster who expresses its anger.

FC: What has been influential to you as an artist?

CN: Punk, activism, and artists: Lydia Lunch, Kim Wilde, Kim Gordon, Kim Deal, Siouxsie Sue, Yoko Ono, The Slits, X-RAY Spex, Ut – but also bands in the mid 80ies: Einstürzende Neubauten, Loop, Joy Division, Jesus and Mary Chain, Faith No More, Birthday Party, Foetus …. Later Hardcore and Deathmetal.
Nowadays: my influences lie in music and concepts – not just music as music – not only songs and tracks but also. It’s very difficult to bridge the gap between demands and entertainment, but sure I love (good) entertainment. and I love catchy tunes.

FC: How do you usually start writing a song? And how does it develop?

CN: There are several topics I am interested in: sociology, movements (in all ways – also f.e. earthquakes), borders, natural disasters, relations, feminism, gender and queer studies, theatre studies, war…usually it starts with a sound or a sentence or buzzwords i pick from a dream, or newspaper or drunken in the streets … that’s why i always have my iPhone with me to be able to record stuff – formerly I was using a tape dictating machine or a minidisc recorder … in my apartment their are piles of notes (ideas, quotes, songs to listen etc…)
When there is time I start to put on machines I think that would fit to realize my thoughts …. and then it goes on … very fast, very impatient, very spontaneous – the finishing of a song lasts sometimes couple of times less than developing it in mind.

FC: What kinds of technologies do you use to write songs? Hardware, software, analogue, digital or a combination?

CN: I use my Mac book – Software: Reason, Life, Logic, and sound effects. Hardware: cheap interface, mixing desk, speakers, Oxygen keyboard
Technics turntable (only one), bass guitar (3 – Ibanez, Vester stage series and one which is build by my bandmate, who is a carpenter)
Synthesizer: Little Boy Blue, Microkorg, Groovebox Roland MC 303
Pedals: Big Muff, Metalzone, reverb, Kaosspad, Yoko harmonizer, distortion, phaser ….
No special mics – (only in studio) at home: Sure sm58.

FC: Can you talk about your process of writing lyrics for songs? What are some themes that tend to arise?

CN: See above where i write about motivation, idea …
In my little home studio, I work it out track after track …. exploring sounds ( i am very interested in the aesthetic of sound.)

FC: What motivated you to start your own record label?

CN: The urgent need to have a platform to work with people I highly respect and love for their work and performance – and to collaborate and get to know people with similar ideas and kind of visions – our label Comfortzone doesn’t have a specific sound for there is so many different music we bring out on vinyl and CD – also I love to do play live and to arrange parties . We are far from establishing something what has to do with lifestyle – we want to establish a living and working together facing prejudices. I have learned within playing in different bands and solo for more than 25 years to be self-confident with my music so no one can treat me bad in a way… on the other hand I am doing radio shows, tv shows and write about music in several media. In my work, I cover almost of all fields in music – even doing workshops with girls.

FC: What was the most challenging thing about starting and running the label? What is the most rewarding thing about it?

CN: Starting a label really is a big challenge – but to say in the case of Comfortzone – we (my partner and me) were thinking about it for the last 4 years – now we are celebrating our 3rd anniversary and almost 20 releases. my partner which is also my companion in life has been running a label for independent alternative rock and experimental music for almost 17 years, a distribution company for 15 years and an independent recordshop in Vienna for 10 years – he brings all the business knowledge and supported me with giving a loan to the new label. So my work was to find an artistical device for it and artists we love to work with. I also started to apply successfully for grants to help to finance in the beginning. The rewarding thing is all the shows, tours, traveling, communication, fun and friendship we still have with lots of artists we released, experiences I would never want to miss. and I am looking forward to 2013 to go for it!

FC: What style(s) of music are you generally attracted to for potential releases on your label, and why?

CN: We do not believe in styles, we believe in artists and performance. I believe in working conditions which are anyway hard for all of us but should be fair. I prefer working with people who are experienced, who know what it means to play shows. As we have experience with artists disappearing after a release ( and me sitting with 500 copies of vinyl), I need to know the persons i work with quite well.

FC: How has the business of running a label affected your work as a musician?

CN: The business takes too much time – so I had to reduce my work – but in 2012 I found a way to combine both – I am very busy at the moment with different projects, bands, and with my second album and remixes ….. the experiences I had help me to go on – and of course it gives exposure, too. I got a lot of attractive offers to work on things, and even paid for. I am invited to festivals (at the moment I am more into Noise, Drone) which is a great opportunity to present also the label [Comfortzone Records], even if Noise [fans] for example would not really be drawn to or listen to acts like KUMBIA QUEERS or CRAZY BITCH IN A CAVE – but somehow they are and do listen- and they understand why I love it so much.

FC: What do you plan for the future in terms of your own work and your work for Comfort Zone record label?

CN: In 2013 we will have my second solo album Chra – Shopping With Violence, an EP with Yodas Dolphins, a 7″ with Mika Vainio, an LP with THE APP (its a project were I together with 4 musicians play analogue live soundtrack to movies like White Zombie, 1932). There will be a KUMBIA QUEERS tour in Europe, CHERRY SUNKIST is going to start to work on her next album, CRAZY BITCH IN A CAVE works on an remix album and one with me not on Comfortzone, but part of a band called SHAMPOO BOY (with Peter Rehberg EditionsMego, Christian Schachinger, and me playing bass). This will come out in Spring on EditionsMego or another label we are now in negotiation with. It looks like 2013 will be a great year too!
Check out our 3rd anniversary compilation: