Karel Fialka ‎– Film Noir

karelfialka.com ‎– 001-500
CD, Album, Limited Edition


Add Review



March 16, 2015
IT TAKES CHUTZPAH TO CHARGE people £100 for your new album at a time when record labels are struggling to convince us to pay for recorded music at all. That's doubly true if the last time you had a hit was more than 20 years ago. But this is what Karel Fialka is doing with his new CD, Film Noir – on sale now as a limited edition of 500 copies, at £100 each.
Karel who? If you know the name at all, it's likely to be from his 1987 single Hey Matthew, featuring Fialka's young son. Two decades on, Matthew is all grown up and Fialka earns a living from lecturing in the north of Scotland. He hasn't released an album since 1988.

So why should anyone pay £100 for his new one? That's my first question when I meet him in Inverness. Eccentric, schoolmasterly pompous but oddly likeable with it, Fialka simply reels off a list of things that people regularly pay £100 for – a shopping trip to Tesco, his students' trainers. "£100 is very little to charge for something that has involved a lot of time, skills and creativity, and is in limited supply," he says.

Arguably, but this is a pop album, a thing which, to repeat, is a product people don't want to buy any more. The smartest minds in the music industry are all adapting their business model accordingly, whether it's Radiohead selling albums on a "pay what you want" basis, or Prince giving his music away to promote gigs. Meanwhile, Fialka is striding nonchalantly in the opposite direction. All 500 copies of his album are numbered and signed. But they are still CDs like everyone else's.

It feels, more than a little, like a vanity project. Fialka justifies the price by saying Film Noir is a work of art. "I think it is, politely, at least as good as anything that Tracey Emin or Damien Hirst is doing," he tells me. "If I had a rich patron and good marketing, I would encrust the CD with diamonds and sell it for £10,000, and most probably sell all the copies."

Really? Leaving aside whether Fialka is as talented as Emin or Hirst, art-world prices are – as in the music industry – dictated by what buyers are prepared to pay. Still, if Fialka wants to be regarded as a serious artist, he's getting off to a not bad start by making such a provocative artistic statement. Why shouldn't albums be worth £100? A consensus currently exists that they are not, because they're seen as disposable pop-culture products. But a relatively new painter or photographer can sell original works, or even prints, for £100. "I have a friend who has some genuine prints from the Warhol factory," says Fialka, "and though these are visually perfect, they are worth a lot less as an artefact as they do not have the provenance of being numbered or signed by Andy."

Fialka, obviously, is not Warhol. He is a college lecturer who makes electronica mood pieces with spoken word stories on top, and once had a hit. Some of his music is worth your time; you can listen to it at www.myspace.com/karelfialka. But £100? That's up to you, not him.