Iboga Records with 20 Years of Psytrance – Interview

Iboga Records are celebrating 20 years (!!!) with a special massive Hologram show in Copenhagen in February 2017. We sat with the label bosses, Emok & Banel, for an in depth interview about the past, present and future of Iboga Records, and there’s a lot of music inside as usual including Free Download compilation of Iboga Records Hidden Gems!

While you read listen & download “Iboga Records – The First Years” from Trancentral’s Soundcloud: 

Q: Please each tell us about the first party you attended and the impact it had on you. How much is that party still present in today’s Iboga Records’ vision?

Emok: My good friend and music partner for many years, Jeppe, the other part of what ended up being Phony Orphants, spent 2 months trying to convince me to go to a rave in Copenhagen. At the time I was into punk music and didn’t really feel like going to a rave, but in the end I did to make him shut up…….
Well that night changed my life. I fell in love with the music right away and I knew that this was what I needed to do with my life. I remember it being Orbital playing and then after a DJ set from Jean Borelli (Orion). Lights and visuals was something I never in my life saw before and the whole installation of sound, light and dancing people created an energy that dragged me into this world like it did to so many other people. It was something new, the rave culture just started in Denmark and I was part of it. It made me think I suddenly had a purpose. On Monday when the hangover was gone, I went straight into a shop and bought 2 Technics 1210 vinyl players and a lot of records. I wanted to be a DJ… that was 100%.


That vision still stays really strong in our minds. The events, festivals, parties need to be a full experience of music, installation, lights and people to create that TIME HOLE where past and future disappears and where we all connect in the same frequency. The Iboga 20 year show is a result of that. A new installation of lights, visuals and music to create that WOW effect that makes us all keep doing what we do.

Iboga Records Emok
Emok (left) & Banel when it all started.

Banel: I started my DJ career in a youth club in the suburbs of Copenhagen at the age of 15. A guy from the club gave me a tape with Acid House music. It was in 1988. I was already into electronic music such as Jean Michel Jarre and Kraftwerk, but the Acid House sound literally blew me away, so I started collecting records. At the time Danish DJ Kenneth Bager was doing the now legendary parties called Coma Club. It was at one of those I experienced a rave party for the first time and was amazed by both the sounds and the way people were partying. It was this special feeling of oneness, the dance floor as a place of smiles and positive vibes, the music as a universal language, a language seeking to unite and inspire.

Q: Why did you choose the name Iboga Records? Were there other candidates?

Emok: Well we were into Psychedelics. First many years ago when going to parties we did Acid, so it came natural to pick a Psychedelic name. So we did some research into psychoactive drugs and plants. And then we stumbled upon IBOGAINE TABERNANTHE, a magical root from Central Africa. The name was already super cool, but after researching more on the effects of Ibogaine, we realized that it has more to it. It was used to rehabilitate Heroin and Coke addicts with tremendous effects and results. Actually it’s so effective that a lot of scientists and doctors has been pushing the medical industry for more research into this drug. BUT as it is with the medicine industry, a drug which is to effective and actually CURE people is not something you can earn billions on, so the medicine industry turned their back on it and they still do that to this present day.
WOW, that was something with a story that also appealed to my punk blood. There is some sort of rebellion in the name. So IBOGA RECORDS was born.

Banel: At the time we thought it was a perfect analogy to describe the powers of the music we intended to release on our new label.


Q: 20 years is a long time, can you give us a story or two (preferably very embarrassing ones) about two young guys starting a label, that can now be told after such a long time ?

Emok: YES. Our first release and CD was called Tabernanthe. We had NO clue about label work, music industry, mastering and so on. So we made a Master DAT tape to send for the CD print factory recorded with a small mini jack cable between 2 small Sony DATS (we used to DJ on those back in the days). That was for sure the most terrible way to create a master of your music. Well… we learned a lot since then.

Banel: Another story is from one of the times I was on tour in Mexico and I had just arrived to Mexico City. They brought me to a club in a rough neighbourhood and we were there just for a beer and left again. When we came out the windows of our car were broken and my CD case were gone. The guys said it’s probably the local gang who did it and there’s nothing to do, but I insisted that we went there again the following day and asked around on the street to try find the ones who did it. We managed to find somebody who knew about the break in and we were told to stay and wait on a street corner. After a while some guys arrived with my CD case, which had to be bought back for 150 USD.

Q: Your first releases were very hypnotic and psychedelic with a dark edge, even a bit “dirty”. Release names were revolving around entheogenic plants. Surely very underground. You’re not underground today, as far as psytrance goes. Can you map for us the musical journey Iboga has taken in the years that passed till today’s Iboga Records sound? Maybe give us some critical points that show changes of direction. The different Iboga musical phases.

Emok: Yes at the time it was pure underground days for the electronic music scene. I still do think Iboga Records is in some ways underground. There are not many INDEPENDENT labels that survived 20 years left in the World. Also a lot of the work we do, the events, parties and music I still consider being underground. But of course the scene changed and with it also the label and artists. Psytrance has always been a minor genre in the ELECTRONIC music industry, but the past few years it seems like it changed. The audience increased a lot and also the more commercial music industry started to respect the Psytrance scene and music. That of course pushed Iboga Records and some of the artists a bit away from the underground scene and into the more commercial scene. But it’s still a result of the scene changing and us following with the artists and music where people like it.

Emok compiled this playlist for Trancentral telling the story of 20 years of Iboga with 20 tracks:

Banel: We started out as a so called progressive trance label, but we have seen ourselves as much more than that. We have always been interested in new sounds and released a wide variety of styles during the years. Something that we still do today.
It resulted in several sub labels such as Sofa Beats, Iboga Trance and Prestige Music. All attempts to categorise our sounds.
One day we realised that it made sense that everything went out on our main label, Iboga Records. It had become somewhat part of our brand to present a wide range of styles.
Recently we have re-opened Sofa Beats, but in co-operation with FM-Booking and Itay Berger, it is also running as a booking agency. Another new thing is Future Music Records, which is a co-operation between Iboga Records and FM-Booking.

Q: Do you remember a certain point in time where you realized that this is really working, that Iboga Records is a success?

Banel: That point in time came quite early for me. The first release became a success and got us a distribution deal. we had a couple of years with the first line of compilations and singles on CD & vinyl. Soon after we started releasing music with more artists from outside of Denmark and it were the beginning of what were to become a very strong bunch of artists on the label.

Emok: I guess I had few of those yes. First I remember when I quit my job. I was 21, and I realized that I could actually live from the DJing. It was a proud day. The label is different though. One of the reasons why we managed to stay around for 20 years is because for more than 10 years we NEVER took money out for ourselves. Even after 10 years it was only occasionally we got money and only small amounts just so we could live. With both of us being DJs, it made the label survive and we had enough to live. We had many years with pasta and ketchup. Trust me. Banel and I kept believing in what we did and that made the label strong. Today we live from the label and DJing. It’s different, we now both have families and kids. It gives you a new perspective on what you do. There is no place for pasta and ketchup any more as we now have families to support.
But the success comes from believing strong enough. One of the only magic spells that actually works in real life.

Iboga Records Emok

Q: So what is the Iboga Records vision? Did it change over the years?

Emok: The vision when we started was creating a platform around Danish Psytrance music and evolve it. That changed fast as we realized this culture doesn’t have any borders. Today the vision is like when you cook a great dinner for your friends. Its creating something extraordinary that other people enjoy. The feeling you have inside when you make other people happy, is one of the best feelings in the World. That what kept us going and that is what remains our vision and goal.

Banel: The label’s foundations were built on passion for the music and as a platform for up and coming local talents. It quickly evolved to also include talents from all over the globe but we still do sign up newcomers from time to time. We feel its very important to include the new generations and support the talent.
We have always felt that this music gives something positive to our world, something that is important and gives valuable meaning and inspiration to many thousands of people all over the world.


Q: OK. So 20 years. How do you celebrate? And what’s in it for the people…

Banel: We celebrate our 20 year anniversary with a massive show in Copenhagen in February 2017 (more info here). We have developed a series of special hologram visuals that will blow people’s minds. For this event we go all in with the biggest label party so far in Copenhagen and a huge line up with some of our biggest names. We also release a very special 20 year anniversary CD in the beginning of 2017.

Emok: We created a unique 20 years Hologram show together with FMBooking. The idea was to create something new and unique and also bring a FULL concept to people with music, light & decoration. It’s been very nice working on this concept and to see how people love it. So people will get a new extraordinary experience with a Psychedelic Hologram show. It’s something new and we also hope to encourage other people to put energy into the concept of their events and to keep pushing borders.

Iboga 20 years Hologram Show
Iboga 20 years Hologram Show.

Q: Tell us more about the Iboga Records Hologram show.

Emok: Iboga & FMbooking hooked up with Mark, a dude from UK that has been into the Psytrance scene since the early days. He built a light and visual company based on his experiences with Psytrance culture and he became so good at it that he is today doing the visual show for Eric Prydz, Coldplay, The Olympic Games and you name it. So with his expertise and crazy mind, we decided to work together on the 20 years concept and to bring the scene something VERY psychedelic – The Hologram Show. We got David from Hungary involved (Most will know him from doing visuals on the mainstage at OZORA festival) and his company Global Illumination). He spend a half year programming psychedelic DMT 3D visuals to work in the HOLOGRAM. The result….. Well come see one of the shows. It’s not possible to capture the effect good enough on camera……. It works with the music and people…

Q: How do you stay connected to the music with so much other work you obviously do with such a big label? What is your balance between business and music?

Banel: It’s not a problem since we deal with music every day. It’s been a nightmare to keep up with demos, though. Through the years we have been bombarded with demos and requests for help and it simply hasn’t been possible for us to keep up with that. Since we are both trying to get some producing going in the studio it has not always been easy to balance between office work and studio time, but what has made a difference was that we have expanded our team and got more hands to do the jobs.

Emok: Its Yin & Yang. Like a lot of other things in life it always works best for me when I balance between things. A bit too much of this, needs a counter of something else. So running the label and business takes a lot of effort, responsibility, work, sleepless nights, flights, investments, trust and so on, so when I go to the studio to create music or to the stage playing, time and space disappears. Past and Future is non existing. It makes me relax, focus and I get filled with happiness and excitement. The excitement I need to keep going and believing in what we do is the right thing.

Banel compiled this playlist for Trancentral telling the story of 20 years of Iboga with 20 tracks:

Q: What were your big mistakes?

Banel: I think its impossible to avoid mistakes whatever you do. We had our fair share of mistakes, but we have also learned important lessons each time, and it has given valuable experience.

Emok: We did many, I guess. But learning from your mistakes is what makes you stronger. We hooked up with 2 Hands, some guys in Denmark (that actually in the beginning saved the label with a loan of money), but that was a VERY bad choice. We had something good, we worked on getting up a new distribution, publishing deal for a lot of labels in the scene. But the head of 2 Hands was impossible to work with, really IMPOSSIBLE… it resulted in some people and an old friend losing their patience and trust in us. So we ended that story after a year and a half. Also we had few signings of artists, where we realized that their vibe and energy was not part of what Iboga Records was believing in and we ended up with the feeling of being used instead of respected. We had some years where we got VERY progressive and almost lost the Psychedelic vibe…. but it was also a result of trying something new… We still love that progressive sound, but we found a better balance with how to do it now.


Q: In 20 years, are there releases you feel were special but were not successful? Ones that were “missed” by the listeners? Give us some Iboga hidden gems.

Emok: Sure was… I think our compilation release with Gaudi “Everlasting” is one of the special ones.

Banel: I’ll mention Krusseldorf “Thermo Nuclear EP”. It’s not like he is unsuccessful though. For me Krusseldorf is very unique and an awesome producer and I have had some great times producing with him when we did our KBBE stuff. We released an album with him on Sofa Beats back in the days, “Smokers Lounge”, and I’m super excited to announce that we now again in 2017 will release a new album with him on Iboga.

Q: Please each give us one Iboga track that is personally very important to you, and tell us why- please no politically correct answers! And yes, we know it’s hard to choose, but you’ll have to deal with it…

Emok: Reefer Decree – 506 – our first vinyl ever and still today an amazing track……… Wow that early Reefer Decree sound was something new…… This track still gives me goosebumps but also fill me with pride.

Banel: One of my all time favourite producers is Sun Control Species, so i’ll chose his track “Serenaii”. His sound is to me very rich in balance, groove, depth, melody and storytelling. Very inspiring music. I hope he returns to producing one day!

Q: The future. Do you have plans? Can you share some?

Emok: We will for sure continue making Worldwide label parties like the IBOGA 20 year show where we bring the design, visuals and concept. We are already working on ideas for it. We are very close with taking our Iboga Radio Show to next level – LIVE with video streaming. We are very excited about this. We will put a lot more focus in our radio show.

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