Q&A with HatHut Records Founder Werner X. Uehlinger

AAJ Staff BY

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Boy, if there was ever a label that suited my taste, anti-establishment and underground, Hat Hut would be it. There is a constant with all of the labels that I believe are on the cutting edge, they are all run by individuals who love the music dearly and their dedication to their artists and the music that they create is unyielding, profound, and inspiring. I will recommend that you start slowly in collecting the Hat Hut catalog. There is plenty of material to spend your hard-earned dollars on. But this should get your appetite wet. You can thank me later. Enjoy.

  • Joe Maneri -Coming Down the Mountain
  • Ellery Eskelin -One Great Day
  • Misha Mengelberg -The Root of the Problem
  • Ran Blake & Anthony Braxton -A Memory of Vienna
  • Matthew Shipp with Joe Morris -Thesis
  • Myra Melford & Han Bennink -Eleven Ghosts
  • Joe McPhee -As Serious As Your Life
  • Ellery Eskelin -Kulak, 29 & 30
  • Clusone 3 -Rara Avis
  • Joe Maneri -Tenderly
  • Gregorio, Gustafsson, & Nordeson -Background Music
  • ICP Orchestra -Jubilee Varia
  • Horace Tapscott -The Dark Tree 1 & 2
Now, you know and knowing is half the battle. You can grab these gems at hathut.com. The following is my conversation with the founder, owner, and man behind the music at Hat Hut, Mr. Werner Uehlinger, unedited and in his own words.

All About Jazz: Let's start from the beginning.

Werner X. Uehlinger: I was born 1935. After World War II, living in Switzerland near the German border, I was able to get the stations of the American forces: AFN, which had daily jazz hours, beginning with the Newport Festival in the Fifties, also live broadcasting from the festival. I got into it from the original voices. My first recording I had was Charlie Parker, tracks from the Dial sessions.

AAJ: What prompted you to take the significant leap from casual listener to creating the Hat Hut label?

WXU: During the Seventies, it became more and more difficult to get recordings from new voices/musicians. This was the time I discovered an ad from Joe McPhee about a self-produced LP and I wrote him to get his LP. In 1974, my first visit to the USA, I visited Joe McPhee and came back to Switzerland to help him by financing an LP. This is how it started.

AAJ: When did you begin the label and what were the first releases on the label?

WXU: It started in 1974. The first 4 LPs have all been Joe McPhee recordings, followed by Milo Fine and Steve Lacy, Clinkers (which is now out for the first time as CD).

AAJ: Did you have a mission statement for the label and has that changes through time?

WXU: In the beginning the recordings have mostly been live recordings, which have been released. I learned a lot and the wish came up to produce in the studio. McPhee's Old Eyes LP was the first studio production.

AAJ: How many different labels are in the label group and what are the different areas of music they cover?

WXU: Three: hatOLOGY for jazz and improvised music, hatART for contemporary composition and new music, and hatNOIR for for innovative music projects.

AAJ: A significant portion of the label's recordings are live, is there a reason behind the choice of live recordings rather than studio sessions?

WXU: This has been in the early stage of Hat Hut. More and more the productions are done in studio. Ninety-nine percent of all recordings of new music are studio recordings.

AAJ: How many releases did the label group release last year?

WXU: About 25.

AAJ: Have you noticed growth in the last few years for new music?

WXU: It's always about the same.

AAJ: Has it been difficult documenting the music of American artists?

WXU: It is not difficult to record American artists. I started with American artists and I have no problem contacting new musicians/composers I like to record.

AAJ: Your thoughts on the term avant-garde and do you consider the music on the labels avant-garde?

WXU: I prefer to say, it is the future music for more people to listen. People need 30-40 years to get into new sounds/music.

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