Astronomers Anonymous is Rotterdam’s latest record label, founded by Iona Fulton, a.k.a IO. Iona moved to the Netherlands from the UK to study Fine Arts at The Hague’s Royal Academy of Arts. She soon developed an interest in DJing, an interest that would burgeon thanks to her internship at the city station Operator Radio. It was here that she started Astronomers Anonymous as a radio show where she would invite guest artists. “After a while I realised I had energy for more exploration and began considering starting a label with the same name”, Iona told us.
After months of work, the label’s first E.P. “Yugoslavian Space Program” produced by Haris Belgic (artistic name is Gymnasty) is ready to be released. “Instead of speaking about the Balkans as it is (nationalism, corruption, separatism), I am offering an opposite reality (highly developed, science orientated and very self-aware society where none of those problems exist)”, Gymnasty, now living in The Hague but originally from Bosnia–Herzegovina, explained.
Last week we spoke to Iona and Haris about their career in the music world, Astronomers Anonymous, and their new and exciting collaboration.
- First of all, congratulations on the upcoming release and label. We heard about your project some months ago and it is really nice to see everything finally come together.
Iona: Thank you so much! Yes it is a dream come true that we have arrived at this point and we are so thankful to Every day is Friday for the interest along the way and for having us on the platform!
- Could you tell us a bit about yourself as an artist and DJ?
Iona: I started DJing at the same time I moved to the Netherlands to study a Bachelor of Fine Arts at KABK. While exploring many mediums at art school I realized I was most interested in sound, specifically dance music. From the beginning I felt very supported and welcome in the music community here; Wavy Cartel, Performance Bar and Het Magazijn took a chance on me right at the beginning and that I will never forget. Playing music I have never focused too much on the genre, rather on the energy and mood of the music. I love dark and weird journeys with moments of beauty and euphoria.
- How did your label Astronomers Anonymous come to be?
Iona: Astronomers Anonymous started off as radio show on Operator Radio. I began volunteering at Operator after the first lockdown to meet and connect with more people in the music community and hear their stories. After a few months of playing solo on Astronomers Anonymous I decided to mostly invite guests on the show. I tried to program people on the show who hadn’t met and whose styles complemented each other without matching in a traditional sense. After a while I realized I had energy for more exploration and began considering starting a label with the same name. Programming I see as a zoomed-out form of DJing in itself and I really enjoy curating music in that way too.
- What can you tell us about your first release “Yugoslavian Space Program’’? How did you meet Gymnasty?
Iona: Haris Begic [aka Gymnasty] was also studying at KABK, we met there and connected through music. Haris was the ghetto blaster behind the decks at all the school parties. Haris mentioned he had made an EP for his graduation project and that his dream would be to press it on vinyl. The time was perfect, his concept fit the label perfectly and as soon as I had a listen I was in and I asked him if he’d like to release with Astronomers Anonymous.
The album was so diverse and mature, I was blown away. Haris had a really clear idea for the visual aspects of the release too and he worked with designer Emir Karyo to create the beautiful album cover. I was lucky enough to have wildly generous support and guidance from Patrick [co-founder of Operator and founder of Pinkman], Haris, Marnix from Triple Vision, MarcoAntonio Spaventi [who mastered the tracks], Jorn [co-founder of Operator] taught me how to do my taxes, undying patience and understanding from all my friends and family, and slowly but surely we worked out how to do things and arrived here. The release is out on the 11th March and will have an event to celebrate at MONO, so come join us!
- Hey Haris! Congrats on the release and we are looking forward to the event in Mono. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Haris: I am Haris, a North-born but South-oriented artist and DJ. I grew up in Sarajevo, Bosna and Herzegovina, which is a place with an extremely vibrant history that still resonates in everyday life. That inspired me to start producing visual and sound pieces that speak about it but are somewhat contrary to how we know it. For example, this project Yugoslavian Space Program is made as an escape from reality. Instead of speaking about the Balkans as it is (nationalism, corruption, separatism), I am offering an opposite reality (highly developed, science oriented and very self-aware society where non of those problems exist).
- When did you start producing?
Haris: It was two years ago when I downloaded my first version of Ableton. In the beginning I found it extremely difficult and strange but I really dedicated my time and energy to it. This also helped me stay sane during Covid times.
- Can you tell us a bit more about each of your tracks for the upcoming release?
o A1. Computer rhythms future planet
This track is, I believe, the signature of the release. I see it as longing for futuristic narratives and exploring places that are yet unknown.
o A2. My dad used to tell me
In the Balkans, every dad likes to tell stories about how it used to be back in the days and somehow try to put our attention on not repeating the mistakes from the past.
o AA1. Negative return
Negative return is a track that symbolizes take-off. It starts very slow and then it becomes quite psychedelic.
o AA2. Is this how human music sounds like?
This track is a reflection of times when ex-Yugoslavians are found and recognized by creatures that live in other galaxies. It reflects the confusion and guessing on how does the human music sound like.
o AA3. Orbiter
Orbiter is the name that really describes what’s going on sound-wise. Listening to it you get the feeling of just flying through outer space.
- What can we expect from you in the future?
Haris: Currently I am very focused on making this release as good as possible in terms of organization and promotion, but at the same time I am busy producing more music. I believe that within a few months I will start assembling my next release.
Follow Iona on Instagram.
Yugoslavian Space Program Release Event – March 11, 2022