Tapes 'N' Tapes: A Cassette-Only Label?
Yesterday, Bright Men of Learning (right) guitarist and solo performer Ben Murphy (far left), known to everyone on the Hands Up Houston message board as "bdm," announced his intention to start a cassette-only label whose first release would be a tribute tape to pacesetting '90s indie-rockers Sebadoh.
Has enough time elapsed so people are nostalgic over the same pop and hiss that used to drive them crazy, not to mention cassettes' annoying tendency to get tangled in the tape player if you played them often enough? (R.I.P., Shake Your Moneymaker.) Apparently so. Rocks Off emailed Murphy earlier today to get the lowdown on this most lo-fi of ideas.
Rocks Off: What are you calling this label, and what do you plan to release on it?
Benjamin D. Murphy: It's not in concrete, but I'm thinking about using the name "I Play Guitar Like a Robot." Why? Because it's long and annoying and awkward to use. For example:
Q: What label is that on?
A: I think it's I Play Guitar Like a Robot records... I mean tapes... Wait... What?
I don't want to say I'm putting out so-and-so's tape and then look like a ding dong when it doesn't happen. But I'll keep you posted as info develops. So far it's looking good for a first batch of five releases - short runs, maybe only 50 tapes each. Bear in mind I just sent my first email and made my first phone calls only a couple days ago. Let's not jinx anything.
RO: When can people expect the first release, and where can they buy it?
BDM: Like I said, it's all kind of brainstorming and fact-finding right now. Ideally, I'd love to have a small little counter display at Sound Exchange, Cactus, maybe Domy books - perhaps have them in a few little shops in Austin too.
I'm still in the process of tracking down OKs from various bands/musicians to use these old recordings I have, as well as gathering submissions for the Sebadoh comp. I'm aiming for the first batch of releases to come out in a few months, maybe by early, early summertime.
RO: Why cassettes?
BDM: Why? Nostalgia, novelty, general dorkiness. There's really no other excuse. I have fond memories of home recording in the early '90s on cassette four-track, and endless hours carefully crafting mixtapes for friends and girls high-school me was enamored with.
Let's face it, while the novelty/nostalgia and general dorky fun of cassettes is appealing, you're probably not gonna want to carry your Sony Walkman around everywhere with you, and unless you drive an old Toyota pickup like me, you probably don't have a tape deck in your car. With the download, you have all the tunes in a handy format to add to your iPod or burn a CD from.
RO: How much does it cost to produce and release something on cassette these days, anyway?
BDM: Cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap. Not much more expensive that it ever has been, I believe.
RO: What does Sebadoh have to do with this?
For me, they made music something that I could be a part of - it was no longer this mysterious, unattainable thing only rock stars could do. Anyone could get a cassette deck and a cheap microphone and make their own recordings.
The whole point of this little venture is just to have fun, put out some music I really like and try to recapture a little of the magic and charm of a dead technology.
RO: Did you ever see them live?
BDM: Never did. Probably for the best. Every story I heard of their live performances was not flattering. I did get to meet [bassist] Jason Lowenstein one night - the last show Proletariat ever had, actually. He was playing bass for Fiery Furnaces.
So life came full circle that night. FYI, it's way easier to talk to your heroes after a night full of cheap beer.
RO: So... are cassettes the new vinyl or what?
BDM: That's a silly question. No, but I did hear that brown is the new black.