We met Filippo Palazzo, CEO and co-founder of Asian Fake, during the opening days of their Milanese temporary store, located in Via Marco Formentini (Brera district, Milan). Holding a drink, we had the opportunity to chat about the history of the label and all the forthcoming projects. Many things are going on at Asian Fake – right after the two temporary stores in Milan and Rome, they recently launched the online store at www.asianfake.com – and we are pretty sure they will prove to be among the most compelling independent projects in 2020. Music, art, fashion and illustration, besides a clear vision of how to communicate, are the key elements of this emerging Milanese collective founded by a bunch of eclectic people with loads of ideas.
Hi Filippo, let’s start by talking about you and your story. Asian Fake is not your first business project. Before Asian Fake, you were already an “insider”, weren’t you? What’s your background?
Yes, let’s say that Asian Fake represent the next level, which has enclosed a little bit all my past work experiences in one creative process. My very first job was in a small advertising agency in Milan. A year later I started a pioneering career as a promoter in my city – Pavia – with a crew of guys with the same point of view on musical and creative trends. Many of them are still active and they are doing really well in their sectors. The attention to new music trends has characterized my approach to work from the beginning. Cycles related to music, fashion and design have always been my favorite points in show business. Later on in Milan with Club Nation at first, then Zona Uno, I consolidated my work as an agent, previously in the world of clubs, later I took a more marked step towards rap. Here my reference figure was DJ Harsh, I became more aware of the work and its possible development. A very important part of my career was working for and with Maurizio Pisciottu, known to most as Salmo, in his Lebonski Agency, founded with his brother Sebastiano: perhaps the most complete and totalizing experience of my career so far. Before Asian Fake there was a long “hybrid” period between booking and management within the rap system, when there still was very little attention to the genre.
How and when was born the idea to beginning a label with Yuri Ferioli and Frenetik and what was the spark or, if there is one, the particular episode that signed the start?
Asian Fake was born in 2016 from a simple observation on the reality of the time: too many things were changing around me, it was a moment when the world of independent discography was sweeping away forever the old rules of the game and the Italian musical culture.
My vision on the “scene” had perhaps never been as lucid as in that moment, I had understood that scouting – in general – was becoming a more complex profession than in the past because of the musical offer’s width: just think about the explosion of the web as a privileged place for the fruition and diffusion of one’s own art, the new generations more and more smart and the widespread ability to express in the best way the concept of “self made”. An example? I’m thinking of Ghali, an artist whom I worked with in his zero moment, he made me discover a new way of working on music. One of the sparks that triggered the fire was the job with Yuri and Frenetik on Achille Lauro’s record “Ragazzi Madre”. In that case we shared a beautiful project that made us understand that together we could do beautiful things. Without making excessive proclamations we opened Asian Fake, a bet.
The choice of the name is also curious, it recalls the imagination of a “different universe” (as mention in Asian Fake’s about), right?
Absolutely, yes. Asian Fake is a way of thinking, a “filter” to read the society and its trends in their depths. It is the search of fulcrum, the original in the middle of a universe of copies. Absurdly enough: copying today is the real trend, in all areas. Nobody really invents anything anymore, at least in the artistic field it’s a great competition to who knows how to choose what to copy and propose it in the most original and creative way, just transforming it in something unique.
This is a period of “creative vintage”. I thought to associate two words that actually express the same concept, only in a lexically different way. Two “negative” words that, if you put them together, generate a third of opposite value.
Among the most established artists gone from Asian Fake, Ketama126, Coma_Cose, Venerus have been discovered and launched by you. How your talent-scouting and research are set and what criteria do you use to choose artists?
Actually there are few and very clear Criteria. First of all is a sound label, not a gender label, so one of the key of the decision process is harmony, not similarity, not necessarily. Imagine a travel playlist, you are in the car with three friends with different musical preferences but the trip has to be pleasant and appreciated by everyone: this can’t happen with music of this or that specific genre, but it always happens with good music, regardless of its matrix. Thinking about artists what strikes us is undoubtedly the “self made man”, someone who is really able to work on his music in the first person, and on himself accordingly. It’s important for artists arriving with super clear ideas and knowing how to play. One last element is related to the particularity of the sound. There’s a little “gag” between us that makes the idea: when we listen to an artist for the first time, at least one person turns to the others and asks “What the fuck is this?”, we have a good start.
The last Maggio & Tanca and DARRN’s EPs show a do-it-yourself 2.0 attitude: music from their own studio rooms, with an extraordinary energy and lot of stories to tell. Do you have any other names you are betting on and that we should keep an eye on in this 2020?
We signed two artists who personally bewitched me: GINEVRA and HU. There may be a big surprise, but for the moment let’s leave it that way.
Asian Fake is a reality that is expanding not only in the roster of artists and releases, but even with collaborations with other brands. How are you experiencing this growth internally? If you started in three, how many people are working with you in your staff right now and what is your relationship with your team as CEO?
Actually, everything that is happening is the result of an original master plan. Let’s say that we have a pretty clear working model where music is at the center but it is also the connection to other worlds that we want to explore and conquer in our own way, with our touch and trying to make everything homogeneous and credible. From Asian Fake’s platform start like space probes that go first in exploration, then return to the base with messages from other planets. Everything is quite outlined, we know who does what and growth is experienced in a very low profile, perhaps from outside the perceived is different from what we live every day. We started by ourselves, but after three years we are 15 people, we have decided to reinvest a lot on the structure because we believe that it is the healthiest way to develop.
My figure integrates with the team in various ways – the vertical and hierarchical relationship lives in parallel with the horizontal one, of sharing – our priority is giving a vision and a business model in which to reflect, especially at a cultural level. All young people are curious. They deepen even at night their passions, and this is something belonging to myself and I appreciate it so much, because every improvement is an improvement for us and for Asian Fake, every new notion of them is the lifeblood for the development of our company.
The two Temporary Stores in Milan and Rome are in a way a stance of the fact that Asian Fake is a project that goes beyond music, there is also art, a lot of art, including comics. But also fashion and lifestyle. Is this 360° direction fundamental in your opinion to be able to emerge and live producing music today always remaining independent?
The two Asian Fake Temporary Stores and our future activities are a manifesto of an alterative working model. I don’t know if it’s better or worse, it’s definitely ours and it represents us. Our direction in the market aims to be 360 ° and we are absolutely convinced that to stay in the market and sell your music is essential to be as unique as possible, know how to give more than one reason to the public to appreciate and support you
What are brands and you looking for from your respective collaborations?
Brands try to do something alternative, working with a small but well defined reality like ours. We look for creative spaces to describe ourselves with other languages, transmitting the same message.
We get closed to the end: which one do you think were the most interesting appointments held in the two temporary shops in Milan and Rome? Is it an experiment going to be repeated in 2020 or are you already working on some other new formats?
Honestly I was happy with the whole project, but the relationship created with Galleria Varsi was the tangible proof of the coherence and conceptual flexibility of our project, I am very proud of it. Yes, it’s a model that we’ll replicate in 2020 and surely, now that we have done the first round, we are going to modify something to further improve the result.