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We explore the density of Veronica Vasicka’s passion for all things synth. A discussion of her work from the early days of East Village Radio to today’s Minimal Wave and Cititrax. Veronica’s work has produced a renaissance of rediscovery for the underground and experimental music scene of the 1980s and beyond. The magnitude of her impact on the music scene is yet to be fully measured as the sounds of the past have at times exceeded the trends of today.

Veronica Vasicka is possibly one of the most important label owners and DJs in the underground electronic industry. As a woman, the impact of her work and continual influence has positioned Minimal Wave as a repository of assorted auditory gold. Vasicka’s label and work as a DJ have provided some of the most iconic and memorable tracks the underground which dominated our minds and bodies for nearly two decades. Today, Minimal Wave and its sister label, Cititrax have brought us In Aeternam Vale, Marie Davidson’s Adieux Au Dancefloor, Oppenheimer Analysis, Martin Dupont and Deux to name a few. It is without doubt that Minimal Wave’s Veronica Vasicka is underground royalty and will continue to inspire fans and artists alike in years to come.
Would you say your initial music taste (Bauhaus, The Cure) shaped the structure and aesthetic of Minimal Wave as a brand? If so, does it continue to?
My initial music taste was undoubtedly the gateway to the more obscure underground bands that I ended up licensing for Minimal Wave, in terms of both music and aesthetics. As a child growing up in New York City, I was listening to Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, Bauhaus, The Sisters of Mercy, Death in June, Fad Gadget, Throbbing Gristle, Nitzer Ebb, and Front 242, amongst others, and loved the crossover between goth, new wave, industrial and 1980s electronic music in general. I was attracted to the stark, angular aesthetic of the bands as illustrated through their artwork and fashion sense and wanted to tap into the lesser-known groups who were making similar kinds of music during the same era.
Yes, for me, the music lives on along with the aesthetic as it continues to be fresh and modern. The influence of goth, industrial, cold wave, and new wave remains a common thread in the fabric of the Minimal Wave label as the bands I choose to release are the originators of those musical styles. The search seems endless, with more music resurfacing from the underground cassette world and unknown bands continuing to emerge from the woodwork.
Minimal Wave has been around since 2005, how did you maintain growth and relevance for over a decade?
As a label, we’ve been able to grow and stay relevant by releasing music at a steady pace. We are particular about what we choose to release and stay true to our mission of making excellent, obscure music that was never readily available now accessible to listeners via limited-edition high-quality vinyl pressings and, more recently, digitally. Also, we have our sub-label Cititrax as an outlet for new music by bands who have been influenced by the old sound, so that provides an opportunity for younger listeners to engage with both the new and the old electronic, new wave and techno sounds.
We have always been a boutique label, providing a more personal product, one that is hand-numbered and limited-edition with careful attention to detail – from pressing to design to materials used for printing. From the beginning, our mission has been about releasing music steadily and paying close attention to detail to provide the highest quality product.
You started the record label from scratch, importing your art background from RISD and music taste; was Minimal Wave a creation only achievable because it was founded in 2005? Would you have had the same impact if you started today?
Launching the label in 2005 helped establish the label in a way that only that time and place made possible. It also allowed us to create a strong foundation for our output and allowed us to be what we are today. There were not many reissue labels at that time and vinyl was just beginning to make a resurgence. Those two aspects enabled us to create a niche for ourselves early on. I do think we would have a similar impact if we started today, but we would have to approach things differently.
As a DJ, do you consider your knowledge of music as a contributor to musical rediscovery but also as a force to review past graphical art (albums) and related musicians, in almost a scholarly or documented manner?
Well, my natural inclination is to learn about the music I love both inside and out, meaning to find out the artists’ intentions and explore how they presented themselves through artwork and imagery. Initially, the way we used to find records and cassettes was by encountering them in record shops and noticing the cover art, or finding a flyer for a band playing and then checking out the music later on. Things have changed since the pre-internet times, and now, there are multiple ways to discover music such as via Spotify, Youtube, Soundcloud, or Apple Music. Those avenues don’t always rely on visual appeal.
I enjoy learning about music the old way, and the visual aspect has always been of utmost importance to me. It is a powerful medium that builds upon the image of the band. When I first launched the Minimal Wave site in 2005, it was going to be an online audio-visual archive of the underground electronic scene of the 1980s from around the world. I always had a passion for documenting this period, but as time went on, I felt that doing it in the form of releasing music and actively continuing the legacy of this music made the most sense.
Minimal Wave has an excellent online presence, would you ever explore a physical representation of the label separate from DJing? A physical representation not necessarily as a record shop, but more of an art gallery but for music?
I’ve been thinking of doing exactly that. Our office feels like a gallery space already as it is on the ground floor and has polished concrete floors and white walls. The plan is to make more space for warehousing our stock, which may happen by partnering with someone for distribution and transforming our current space into a gallery. I envision that as the direction to go in, not only for Minimal Wave art, but it could extend to other contemporary artists who are related to Minimal Wave. It would make sense in our trajectory as a label and our aesthetic.
How will you continue to sustain the label, other than the resurgence of vinyl and physical mediums? Essentially, what happens when vinyl isn’t in fashion again?
Fortunately, we do quite a bit of licensing to fashion houses and films, and we also have most of our releases available digitally, so we can maintain revenue from that. Vinyl is a hard sell; it always has been, so I never expected it to sustain the label. Pressing vinyl and continuing to make it available is more of an aesthetic choice and I will continue to do it as long as there’s even a small demand simply because I love the process. That may mean reducing pressing quantities in general, which is fine. The key is to remain open and flexible to the changing market.
Have you ever come across anyone doing something similar to Minimal Wave? Are you essentially the only one?
About five years after we established ourselves as a label, I noticed a resurgence of independent labels doing similar work. Each one seems to have its own agenda, and that creates differentiation, which is important. Some labels do more straight reissuing, where their records are replicas of the originals and don’t offer more in the way of revised artwork or additional imagery or text. Meanwhile, others offer a more in-depth, detailed look at the band from a modern perspective. So yes, there are undoubtedly many more labels out there that reissue 1970s and 1980s underground electronic music than there were when we first started, and it’s interesting to see how their output has influenced new bands. I’m curious to see where all this will go.
Let’s talk about NYC. How do you adjust to the variety of nightclubs which come and go throughout the years, especially with the closure of Output? Do you have a ‘go-to’ venue for your local gigs?
The New York City clubbing scene has always ebbed and flowed. Nightclubs come in waves. At the moment, there are many more clubs than in previous years, and for a while, warehouses were the only places that housed decent parties. During the past two years, I have been consistently playing at Good Room, and it’s been great. Basement is also an excellent new addition as it’s in the basement of an old door-making factory called Knockdown Center in Queens, and the location is unique. It seems to be the first club in a while dedicated to underground techno. There’s also Elsewhere and Nowadays and a new space in Gowanus called Public Records.
Has your method for music discovery changed since you first started? Have streaming services influenced you? Are they helpful? In past interviews, you mentioned visiting shops to collect music. Is that as important considering what is online to browse/listen to?
My method for discovering old music is still mostly the same. I love to go digging for old tapes and records and find music by stumbling upon it. As far as new music, I get a lot of music emailed to me, –promos and recommendations from friends –, so that process is different. I often get SoundCloud links, which I find frustrating as it adds a context to the music. I always ask for artists to send a zip of mp3s or WAVs so that I can listen without being distracted by a web player. As far as music that is currently coming out, I listen to albums on Spotify or Apple Music. It feels elusive, so I still prefer having the physical object like a record to play on a turntable and the album artwork to hold and admire.
Have fans of Minimal Wave ever suggested musicians that become included? Any interesting stories?
Most of the Minimal Wave releases are of artists’ music that I have respected for a long time. I used to play many of these bands on my weekly East Village Radio show (2003-2014), so when I launched the label in 2005, it made perfect sense to contact those bands that I already knew and loved. An interesting story was when I was working on tracking down Tomo Akikawabaya. He seemed unreachable, and in my mind, I thought perhaps he had passed away, as I had tried all avenues to contact him. Later on, when a Japanese friend finally reached him, I was shocked to receive an email from him saying that he was a longtime fan of the label and would be honored to have me release his music. It truly felt full circle.
As far as Cititrax, the process of finding music to release is looser, and I often take recommendations from other musicians, fans, and friends. For example, I originally discovered the music of Broken English Club through Juan Mendez (aka Silent Servant). I ended up releasing several of his records as he was the perfect fit for Cititrax. These days, we often play together on the same bill at clubs all over Europe. The same goes for the latest Cititrax release, which is a duo from Berlin called Schwefelgelb. They were recommended to me by another artist and friend named Doug Lee (aka An-i). I have released two 12”s of his and I’m currently working on his debut full-length album. It has been nice to work in this way for Cititrax as it feels like a close-knit group of like-minded artists.
Minimal Wave has a catalogue of artists who already were at their peak in the past. What happens in the future when circumstances change? Especially with Experimental Products (deceased), will Minimal Wave become more of a curation and archive of underground music from different eras? Will Cititrax take the forefront with newer, younger artists who are able to tour longer and book more gigs?
Minimal Wave has always focused on the music of the 1980s, and many of the musicians who recorded that music are no longer alive. Despite this, their music can still be quite relevant and forward-thinking. Even though they aren’t touring, the mystery and excitement around their music live on. Many artists never reached their peak in the past, so we are happy to be able to provide them with a platform for their music and connect them to fans, old and new alike. Often, they receive more notoriety now than they ever did in the past.
Cititrax has always been a different type of entity from Minimal Wave. Some of our artists tour and some don’t, and we don’t select music based on their presence in the scene. Of course, it’s a bonus when an artist does tour as it brings another element of salability. I imagine in the future, Cititrax may take the forefront, but at the moment, there’s plenty of unreleased Minimal Wave material that needs to be heard.
What defines originality for today in electronic music, especially considering changes in tools and the online presence of the medium? Would you agree with Richard H. Kirk (2017), who said, “Too much music is being made just because people can. It’s too easy and a lot of it sounds the same”?
Originality in electronic music today is no different than it was in rock and roll fifty years ago. To make a great song, it takes a combination of several key ingredients and ingenuity. I agree with what Kirk says about “too much music is being made just because people can”, though there’s still the issue of whether the music is quality or not. It seems harder to make good music these days precisely due to its over-saturation and accessibility. There are tools out there that give anyone the ability to create music. Historically, it has always been a challenge to make excellent, memorable music. I don’t think that’s changing despite the influx of music-making, from musicians and non-musicians alike.

Nicholas Clarke
Keyi Studio

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