Despite all of her past and present travails in the corridors of power, Italy fondly remembers Guiseppe Garibaldi, the firebrand who sought to unify his people under one banner. On the crest of a wave of similarly unprecedented pro-republican movements across the continent, the man who was later immortalised in biscuits succeeded in bringing together a previously disparate peninsula. Why the history lesson? Just an extra-curricular activity, something to remind you that events have a neat little way of recurring, because it looks like the age of the Italian revolutionary is upon us once more.
Jacques and Paolo, childhood friends from Rome and the brains behind UPITUP RECORDS, are retreading the ground of their forebears. They are applying an at once fiery, laconic and laid-back southern European vibe to an almost limitless supply of releases. Running the gamut from genre-spanning albums and singles to mixes that inspire and create envy, UpItUp seek to spread their form of aural propaganda across the world. Both men laugh when the suggestion is put to them that UpItUp, with its formless anonymity and lightning attacks, is akin to a tech-savvy terrorist cell; a very modern form of warfare. Indeed, with HQs in Stuttgart and Rome as well as Liverpool, the organisation, flow of ideas and co-ordinated releases is militaristic in its fashion.
Paolo, with his traditional Mediterranean good looks, speaks with fervour and passion when discussion leans towards UpItUp’s modus operandi: “What we do can be seen as a political statement against the mob rule of the record labels, who still cannot keep up with the times despite constant warnings. It’s something we’ve thought about and fought against ever since Jacques and I started the label.” Are they agit-prop pranksters? Are they taking the piss? It’s much simpler than that. With a cool eye levelled at his interrogator, Paolo intones, “We do it because we can.”
Jacques, now a decade long in Liverpool and with a Molby-esque Scouse lilt to his accent, picks up the thread: “Paolo and I grew up in Rome together. We were lucky enough to meet like-minded people with common interests through school exchange programmes. We communicated constantly by post and emails, sending suggestions, mixes we’d created, albums we were distributing. Very DIY, but even ten years ago, the internet and its capabilities, in terms of music, were yet to be fully realised.”
Even with the first flourishes of burgeoning technology available to them, UpItUp utilised what they had as quickly as possible. So fast off the mark were they, that an academic paper released not too long ago offered evidence to show that UpItUp were one of the first one hundred ‘net-based labels to get started. No mean feat, but it’s their continued success that bears repeating.
Combining digital releases with a more than fair price tag (i.e. FREE), it’s a label, nay, movement, that is very much in tune with these strange times. They allow use of the creative commons copyright, meaning that any would-be acolyte can mould and re-shape UpItUp’s releases and apply their own touch to them. Their biography proudly states that they remain “completely uninfected” by commercial interference. The artists they work with are true manifestations of a neglected, distorted and noisy underground; a rabble with a grudge. True revolutionaries.
The work of the past decade will culminate with three consecutive nights (21st/22nd/23rd March) of surrealism, noise and fun at a trio of Liverpool’s most prestigious venues. MelloMello plays host first, welcoming the certified oddball ERGO PHIZMIZ and his talked-about production Gargantua, a medieval techno-opera based on the Cold War and the writings of French scholar and philosopher, Francois Rabelais. The following night at the Kazimier promises, in UpItUp’s own words, “the most exciting future electro-acid-techno rave to date”, with the mix-and-match dystopian collages of CEEPHAX, VHS HEAD and DATASSETTE. Last, but by no means least, is the weekend’s closing party at Drop The Dumbells: a veritable smorgasbord of UpItUp’s friends, colleagues and idols take to the stage to celebrate what might just be one of the finest underground stories not just in Liverpool, but across Europe.
“We’ve had over 30 live events since 2007,” states Jacques, “and we just want this to be a proper celebration of not just what we have achieved, but what everybody else we’ve come into contact with has contributed too.”
Paolo continues, “It’s the full spectrum of both our roster of artists and the talents of those we work with. We just want people to see what we see, hear what we hear and feel how we feel about these brilliant sounds and ideas.”
The question remains, are we to expect another ten years? Will we in fact be celebrating the big two-oh in 2023? Jacques and Paolo eye each other, slight grins creeping onto their faces. “We have no intention of stopping now,” promises Jacques. “The first ten years have gone so fast, the next ten probably will too. We never thought about getting this far in the beginning, but our future is very bright. Our work is like a marriage: you just have to take it day by day.”