Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Before the chop, noise labels

I just finished reading the new Henry Rollins book, Before the Chop, which is a collection of his LA Weekly articles from the last couple of years, in their longer, unedited form.  Previously, Rollins would write in his journals all year about his travels and whatnot, and then at the end of each year, dump them into a book.  I liked this format, and was hoping he’d continue to do that, but it’s also good to get the regular dispatches as they happen.  The writing is a bit different between the two, and he spends more time talking about his music collection and infatuations in the column.  This is bad news as a recovering collector, because it’s hard to get through reading this book without spending at least $500 on new CDs.

One of the things that he talked about a few times that really interested me was the concept of Noise, and microlabels that support this genre.  I don’t know the history of noise as a musical genre, and I’m sure there are a million different ways to approach it.  I guess I’m most familiar with the more musically-based grindcore-derived stuff like Old Lady Drivers, and I’m sure to the non-metal fan, any grindcore is considered noise.  What Rollins was talking about though was the post-industrial stuff that came from labels like American Tapes.  For a good example, go to http://www.wolfeyes.net and listen to the videos there.

American Tapes is now apparently done releasing stuff, but they put out a thousand titles over a dozen or so years.  Every title had strange artwork, and was on bizarre formats.  Boxed sets of cassette tapes, CD-Rs sharpied up with artwork, lathe-cut vinyl, freaky-colored 7″ records – they did a lot of weird stuff, all in limited editions, all carped-bombed out at a rate in which even a frenzied collector could not keep up with.  Their site (http://americantapes.us) still has stuff for sale, along with sound samples and pictures of releases and flyers.  Some of their stuff is pure art – miniature sculptures made with glued-on junk and spray paint that just happens to have a music delivery device of some sort wrapped inside of it.

This stuff amazes me.  I mean, I love zines and chapbooks and weird-sized booklets and anything like that.  Even if the writing sucks, tell me your half-digest gold-foil-wrapped broadside is letterpress printed and limited edition, and I’ll paypal you money as fast as I can open the web site.  I love collecting stuff like that, and to see someone who has done a thousand releases like that only makes me feel like a slouch for writing one or two books a year.

I wish I knew how to draw enough to do something like this.  I’ve been looking for some way of putting out cool little books like this, and spend too much time on eBay looking for a printing press, not that I’d know how to use it or have room to keep it.  I want to learn a lot more about design and find some way to crank stuff out like this, but it’s more of a distant dream, because even writing the books that I write takes a lot of time and effort.

I need to research this more, and find more places doing this sort of thing.  God damn you, Rollins.  This is going to be a huge cash outlay.  It’s bad enough a bunch of these albums are on iTunes and can be purchased with the click of a button.