UI alum’s fandom leads him down the path of putting out his favorite artist’s next record

Jake Hopes
Kind Gesture founder Jake Hopes is preparing for his first release, Thin Drum by Tigrics, which he plans to release on vinyl on Sept. 8. — Photo by Kim Zesiger

As music fans we occasionally come into contact with artists who leave a profound impact on our lives, informing our tastes for years to come. Rarely do these relationships extend beyond mere fandom, but for University of Iowa alum Jake Hopes and Hungarian electronic artist Robert Bereznyei (Tigrics), the story goes far deeper: This September, Hopes will get to release Tigrics’ first album since 2007, and with it launch a label of his own, Kind Gesture.

When did you first came across Tigrics music?

Jake Hopes: I was a nervous 15-year-old at a record store in Omaha called Drastic Plastic. I had just recently discovered bands like Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin and all that. I struck up a conversation with an employee there named Todd. He was into that sort of bedroom listening electronic music too, and he wrote down a few albums that I should check out. I remember them being múm, Björk and this guy Tigrics.

If this was the only album I put out, it would be totally worth it.

I went home and started downloading. Tigrics’ music was particularly hard to find, but I eventually came across a download for Compact Disco, one of his albums, and even found some random tracks of his on Todd is still the only person I’ve met personally that knew who he was. So, for me, it was a very serendipitous moment because I’m not sure if this label would exist if I hadn’t chatted him up.

Did his music leave an immediate impression, or did it slowly grow on you?

I immediately fell in love with it. Some of his albums, like Synki, had to grow on me. But his music had all the technical, detailed sound design I loved, but was also so expressive and emotive. His melodies can be playful or brooding. So much of my fascination … was because I was completely stumped about how he made the sounds he was making.

What made him stand out to you more than any of his contemporaries?

People have said he’s the “Hungarian Aphex Twin,” but he would never say that. I suppose I can see where they’re coming from, because he shares a lot of the warmth of [Aphex Twin’s] early analog-based stuff. But honestly, what really draws me to Tigrics’ music is that he has such a signature sound and unique compositional approach that is both technically brilliant yet extremely emotive, sometimes playful or even humorous, other times dark and claustrophobic. If someone showed me a Tigrics track I hadn’t heard before, I’d know it was him.

What first lead you to contact Tigrics? What was your initial intent, and what was the response?

I’d been listening to Tigrics regularly, and I just had assumed he’d stopped making music, since his most recent Hungarian label, High Point Low Life, went defunct. But a few years ago, maybe 2011, I was just curious to see whether he was still active, and I found him on Soundcloud. I ended up messaging him just saying I loved his tunes and saying thanks. I had no plans to start a label or put out his music. We kept up a friendly correspondence since then.

Thin Drums
Kind Gesture Records will release Thin Drums on vinyl on Sept. 8.

Then, in 2014, me and my friend Max were mulling over the idea of starting a tape label. I loved the idea. It was a healthy way for me to show people music I loved without stealing somebody’s aux cord at a party. I approached Robert about it, and he agreed and was excited to do it. After about a year of Robert writing and pruning tracks, I realized I had enough money to press a record, so thats what we ended up doing.

How has your relationship changed as you’ve transitioned from fan to label head?

We’re now pretty good friends! As far as the internet allows, though. Hopefully someday I will meet him. It’s kind of surreal.

What was the process like from when you first thought “I should put out a record” to “I am going to put out this record?”

It was — and has been — a lot of work. And has taken a lot longer than I had anticipated. However, most of that has been the process of ironing out the kinks and actually establishing the label as an entity. From here on out, it should be easier.

You’ve mentioned Bereznyei builds his own hardware. How is the tech important to the overall product?

He hand-builds many of the oscillators’ filters, and other components he uses to make music with. It’s important because for one, you know you’re getting an all-analog sound, and some people are into that. I don’t have a preference either way, but there are definitely qualities to an all-analog set-up that you can’t emulate digitally. it’s also important because he knows his machines inside and out, and it’s easier for him to make totally rich, new sounds. Other musicians in Budapest have even tried to … steal his presets. His instruments are important for Tigrics to sound like Tigrics.

If this is the only record that Kind Gesture puts out, will it have been worth it? Future plans with Tigrics? For the label?

So far, the reception of it has been really positive, and I personally think it’s a great album. But there will be some extra work on my part to be done because much of Tigrics’ fanbase is in Europe—so it will definitely be an obstacle to get the tunes out in the states.

If this was the only album I put out, it would be totally worth it. I’m doing it because I’ve loved his music and respected him as an artist for a very long time, so its a pleasure just to be able to get new Tigrics music out to the public. Robert and I are talking about doing another release down the line, but I have a couple other things in mind before then — really excited for that.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 183

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