An Outpost on the Fringe: Exoteque Music

In my post on the infrastructure of the Columbus scene I posted 2 weeks ago (Read That Here), I delved into how people bring our music to life through their interactions with one another and the use of the music and traditions we love. This is an important point to make when you are talking about a music community, because our scene is only the sum of all the individuals that are spinning, producing, listening, or dancing to the music. The problem with this approach is it makes scene analysis a much more complex matter that defies easy categorization.

As humans, we do not like complexity. It makes us feel uncomfortable. We like to feel like we have a handle on the world around us. Psychological research has shown that we seek to try and streamline our interpretation of the world around us by placing things in simple categories. This is an essential coping mechanism for living in our highly mediated, complex world, as we have to be able to put blinders on and easily categorize things in order to carry on the basic tasks of being human. I see this happen in our scene. Its much easier to place the trajectory of our scene in the Right or Wrong box by saying, “Oh, the scene is going in the right directions, because of X, Y, & Z” or “The scene is going in the wrong directions because of X, Y, & Z”. Just as it is also easier categorize the crews that populate our scene in different boxes, “Oh that click’s sets and shows are played out, commercial, and this crew over here is authentic and underground”. (Genres also work in a similar way).  We all fall into this trap since we are taught from a very young age to put things neatly into categories (Race ,Gender, Sexuality operate the same way). By becoming active in the scene, you quickly learn the relevant categorizations you need to be a member of the community.

The problem with these categorizations is that they do violence to the rich complexity of the practices, rhythms, and art we make on an everyday basis.  Our scene is never going in a right or wrong direction. Crews are not commercial or underground. We always exist somewhere in the middle. The scene shifts and evolves as the people in different crews enter,  exit, and re-enter the scene, change their tastes in music, or try to adapt different artistic concepts to their practices in a scene. For this reason, no one person could give an accurate assessment of what the state of the scene is at any one moment, because you just don’t know what everyone is doing at all times.  There will always be another pocket of people working with the same ideas and rhythms in a different way that you didn’t even know existed or have been forgotten.

I seem to gravitate towards these people on the fringe, because I think it helps us understand our scene in a much richer fashion. For instance, there is a rich history of improvisation and experimentation in our music community. Did you know that the individual first credited with creating the mash-up lives in our city? (Trademark Gunderson of the ECC) Did you know our city has housed multiple experimental/electronic tape labels that have released almost over 150 distinct pieces of music over the last 20 years? (GMBY, Exoteque Music). Just as shocked as most people are that their was and still is a thriving dance scene in Columbus, it may be shock to people in the dance community that there is still a thriving experimental scene working with beat-driven and beatless electronic music. I have already delved into this part of our community with interviews with Alison Coleman (director of The Fuse Factory Electronic and Digital Arts Lab), Mike Shiflet (Noise/Sound/Electronic Musician), & Jeff Chenault (Ten-Speed Guillotine/ Noise/Sound/ Electronic Musician). Yet, that was just skimming the surface.

One of the most interesting developments I have been following over the past 2 months is Jeff Chenault’s work to restart his Exoteque Music Label.  When I got to the Blur show in November, Chenault handed me a piece of paper announcing the re-emergence of the label and a list of releases forthcoming in 2013.

Release List

To say I am excited about the re-surfacing of this label is a gross understatement. I think local record labels are such an integral part of the infrastructure of our music scene. Not only do they give local musicians the ability to understand the creative process of putting together cohesive pieces of music and sharing it with the world, but they also send a beacon to the rest of the world that creativity is streaming out of our city. It furthers our artistic dialogue, and enables all people in the scene to have a file or physical object they can hold on to and enjoy. I sent Jeff a few questions, and he was gracious enough to provide me some insight behind the history of the label and where it is going now:

LA: When and how did the Exoteque Label first get started?

JC: Exoteque Music originally started as a DIY cassette label in 1983. It was a release platform for my own music that gradually expanded to include other artists as well.  The label was originally known as the International Terrorist Network, or ITN, but wisely decided to change the name.  Exoteque Music was chosen because it represents my dual interest in exotica and technology.

LA: What is propelling you to bring it back now? Is there something brewing in Columbus and across the country that is inspiring you?

JC: Since getting back into music a couple years ago I have been doing a serious amount of recording, both live and in the studio.  I’ve also joined the Fuse Factory organization to help bring artists to Columbus for their Frequency Friday events.  Exoteque Music allows me to showcase not only my own work but other people’s work that I highly respect and admire.  Columbus has a huge electronic and underground music scene.  It is a virtual hub of creative sound artists.  People like Mike Shiflet, Joe Panzner, Mark Gunderson, Mike Textbeak, Steve Wymer, John M. Bennett and Kevin Kennedy are doing incredible work.  These are the people that inspire me.

LA: Your release note that you recently passed out at BLUR notified the world that you already have a full schedule for releases for the upcoming year. It also said that the releases will be available in various formats. What drove your choice of release format for each of the releases?

JC: I love physical objects.  Records, cassettes, and CD’s were formats that I grew up with.  I loathe the digital download but do see its advantage for people who want portability.  It also helps to preserve these recordings as well.  When I decided to re-launch the Exoteque Music label I wanted to make available any and all formats that I could afford.  Everything released will be in some kind of physical format as well as having a digital download.  

LA: I think it’s a great idea to also bring back past releases from the initial run of the label from the 80s and 90s. How did you make the choices what to bring back?

JC: Over the years I’ve been slowly digitizing some of my favorite releases.  A few things like the Stimulus and Response compilations are simply amazing.  The choices were simple.  If I loved it and deemed it worthy of re-mastering then I’m going to reissue it.  This stuff is too good to let sit in the basement collecting dust.  My most anticipated reissue is a cassette that I never even released.  It was a privately pressed cassette, released in the 80’s, by Paul Steinborn aka/Shame, Exposure.   Paul lost all his master tapes and all that remains are the cassettes that he sold locally and a few tracks he did for the S/M Operations label.   I owned one of these cassettes so we meticulously re-mastered it and gave it new life, all with Paul’s permission of course.  The CD will contain all his known recordings and come with original artwork made by Paul specifically for this release.  

LA: What are your hopes for this run of the label?

JC: Exposing people to new music has always been my hopes for the label.  Some of the best music I have ever heard comes from independent artists.  If I can turn people on to this music, and preserve some of these vintage recordings at the same time, I have fulfilled my goal.

Below is a list of scheduled releases for 2013…..

1)     Shame, Exposure; Werkshau – CD and download

2)     Circuitry Room; Tuned to Tomorrow – CD and download

3)     Best of Frequency Friday Vol. 1 (various artists) – CD

4)     Jeff Central; Primativa – 25th Anniversary Edition – CD and download

5)     The Escargonauts; same, Vinyl LP, CD and download

6)     Jeff Central and Friends – Multi Collaborative LP and download

7)     ZOA / ZOA Mike Textbeak/Paul Von Aphid collaboration – CD and download

8)     Highly Funktioning Kult – CD and download

9)     Jeff Central solo – cassette

10)  Dan Rockwell solo – CD and download

11)  Circuitry Room collaboration with poet John M. Bennett – CD and download

12)  Jeff Central and Hal McGee collaboration – CD and download

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