By Dani Deahl
Trying to get a straight answer out of Kompute Musik label-head Matt Nee is like trying to run up an icy hill. In his enthusiasm for the imprint’s success, Nee skips over important details, instead painting in broad, abstract strokes. However, it’s this A.D.D. mentality that has spread the Kompute fever everywhere from hometown Chicago to Mexico and Moscow, so when I ask Nee what the sound of Kompute is and he answers, “music to fuel the resistance!” I don’t get annoyed; I simply try again. After a few more Q&A attempts and some MP3 exchanges, Nee comes to me with a new answer: “future-retro/alternative-electro/acid-jackin’-house/techno-rock.” I think that’s as specific as he’s going to get.
As a label, Kompute is relatively young. Started in 1999 by Nee and friends after a series of successful warehouse events, the group didn’t waste any time taking the idea to the next level by building a Kompute studio on Chicago’s South Side. The first official Kompute release came in early 2000 and since then, according to Nee, they have “toured, remixed, released, produced, DJed, promoted, licensed, tracked, published, partied and organized with our good friends and other noteworthy co-conspirators on three continents.” Hard to believe that somehow in between everything, they have found the time to put out releases, and are already coming up on number seventeen.
What is important to remember with Kompute is that the releases probably wouldn’t be possible without Kompute parties, which wouldn’t be happening without Kompute DJs, and so on and so on. This ability for the label to reach out on a grassroots level is of the utmost importance, each event adding to the idea of a Kompute lifestyle. Not only does this allow the Kompute crew to showcase their newest tunes, but with parties like “AlterEgo” and “The Communist Party” advertised on retro-glam neon flyers, they’re also putting virtual stock in the Kompute brand. They now average about five events a month worldwide, which can seem overwhelming to some, but to Nee it’s never enough.
Of course, all the parties, remixes and mayhem also depend on continually adding to the Kompute family. While the label has strived to adhere to its original philosophy of having an independent identity built around a native Chicago sound, as it became more established, that shifted slightly to indiscriminately embrace artists and influences that jived with the Kompute state of mind. Most recently, they’ve found this in someone who first peaked in their favorite decade, some twenty years ago.
Cult musician Alexander Robotnick slipped into his position as Kompute’s main man with ease. An Italian who saw passing fame in Europe during the early eighties producing electro-disco, Robotnick actually fell into Kompute’s hands by chance. Nee is admittedly a Robotnick enthusiast, so when he heard a friend was doing studio work with the electro legend, he rushed over a brand-new collaboration with Mount Sims that had been heavily influenced by a Robotnick tune. Robotnick loved it, created two additional mixes for the release, and just recently sent in another demo that will be picked up by the label.
Although Robotnick is an old soul in the world of electronic music, his recent entry into the Kompute family makes sense. His own reinvention as a live act and DJ combined with the electro revival has relaunched his career, leading to new releases and tours, including a spot at last year’s Detroit Electronic Music Festival. Although Kompute seems to be heavily pushing Robotnick as its newest artist (featuring him at the upcoming “Mr. Roboto” event), what Nee believes is key to remember is that everything is a collaborative effort. This welcoming attitude seems to genuinely celebrate creativity.
By the end of our conversations I’m still left with questions about the inner workings of Matt Nee’s mind, but not his ethics—or the best way to figure out what Kompute is, which is clearly just to experience it.
Pink Machine and Kompute Musik present “Mr. Roboto” featuring Alexander Robotnick, Jesse De La Pena, Matt Nee, Trancid, Akira Smith, Rayaline, Mr. Bobby, Eddie Riot, Adam Sensen, Billy Dalessandro and host Glamboy Al Shaw at Kompute Musik, 3965 North Rockwell on August 11 from 10pm-4am. $15 cover before 1am, $20 after.