Plastic Dreams: An Interview with Pablo Salas of No Problema Tapes

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To enter the No Problema Tapes office and studio you must first, briefly step through something of a time warp. The first floor entrance looks like an abandoned office space from the late 90’s, complete with fluorescent lighting panels and yellowed CRT computer monitors on unoccupied particle board desks. It seems all too perfect that an independent record label releasing cassette tapes would have set up shop in the basement just below.

I met with Pablo Salas who founded and runs the label alongside Gonzalo Silva and Felipe Mercado, in their subterranean headquarters, a modest but ample space adorned with NPT-branded posters, vintage audio machinery, and of course, lots of tapes.

No Problema has had nearly 40 releases in less than two years, and the copies sell out nearly as quickly as they’re published. With a growing roster of international artists and an enthusiastic global fanbase, No Problema puts Santiago on the indie map while maintaining a strong presence in the city’s own music community.

Running a physical label from a country as geographically isolated as Chile can be logistically difficult, though Salas and his team welcome the challenge. By sourcing materials from different countries, enlisting the help of local designers, and reproducing each tape in-house, No Problema Tapes has settled into a steady release schedule with larger plans on the horizon. Salas spoke to us about some of the label’s inspirations and ambitions, showed us around his treasured tape collection, and contributed a CJ and lo-fi video mix as El Altiplano for Discobres Mix 002.

 

What about the cassette format originally interested you?

Originally we were interested in physical format editions that allowed us to bring together music, design, and collectibles. The cassette presented an ideal option for a label that would be novel and that could rescue the ancient ritual of “listening to a disc.”

While the internet helped with the diffusion and ease of exposing new music, it becomes difficult to be attentive to everything new that comes out. So we decided to show music that we liked, and the cassette presented everything that we wanted to bring together.

 

 

What’s the process of pitching releases to new artists?

We’re constantly looking for new and interesting things, things that in our opinion should be immortalized as music objects. Usually, we reach out via mail to ask artists if they’d be interested in creating a cassette with us. Artists also send us demos.

 

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What are the difficulties of running an independent label in Chile, particularly in regards to the physical format?

In Chile, the problem is that there is no industry to fabricate physical formats. This means that we have to import supplies which turns into greater production costs. Cassettes require special machines that are no longer manufactured, and for this we’ve had to revive very old maintenance techniques.

At any rate, it’s really interesting for us to investigate everything.

 

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Tools of the trade.

“We differentiate ourselves because we’re not worried about the risk…we like the danger.”

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One of two tape repro machines owned by the label.
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The obsession runs through—an assortment of VHS tapes.

The vaporwave, lo-fi, and internet art scenes often contain an aesthetic of irony in reference to the music industry. Do you share this sentiment, or are you working further from these concepts?

We’re a label that’s catalogued as DIY, so we do make our own rules and guidelines—within legality, of course haha! However, we’re also not separated from the industry since we participate in record fairs and events that help spread what we do.

The difference that we’ve found is that we’re working with ideas of innovation and new approaches. We include new musical styles, interesting designers, and we’re always looking for new ways to present our records. In this sense, we differentiate ourselves because we’re not worried about the risk…we like the danger.

 

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The guys’ personal collection…

“No tenemos problemas en No Problema.”

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…including some rarities.
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A tape by Jardin Secreto, a Chilean techno-pop group from the 90s.

 

Have you considered doing collaborations with other labels on releases or performances?

Yes, we’re always open to receive projects, and for now we’re thinking of how to grow ties in the alternative scene in Chile. No tenemos problemas en No Problema.

 

 

Visit No Problema Tapes on Bandcamp, Facebook, and SoundCloud.

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