As I sat staring out my opened window and the cooler air brushed past me, I felt the urge to listen to something different. I have been listening to house non-stop for the last 3 months. I really love house music. I love the history & resistance to mainstream norms. I love the inclusion of diverse groups of people. I love the optimism of house music. However, as I prepared myself for the changing of the seasons, I felt the urge to lose myself in a soundscape much less structured by beats or by propulsive rhythm. I wanted something that would accompany my meandering journey back out to the fringes of our knob turning community. Yet, its not like going out to the fringes where the drone, noise, and experimental folks often reside marks a distinct departure from where I have been. I am still moving in a circuitous route around the collective soul of our community. I am just circling back again to a place I was some 6-7 months ago in the hopes that I can find how these musicians contribute to that energetic, optimistic core of values and motivations that makes our attempts to build a common community across diverse practices of music creation meaningful.
One group of people that I have never discussed in this local autonomy project, but is quickly becoming essential to the story of Columbus Dance/Electronic music today is a group of people centered around Cafe Bourbon Street. This summit street bar is more known for being a node in punk, garage rock or metal circles, but has quickly become one of the places that people go to hear noise, industrial, techno, and experimental electronic sounds. People like Kevin Failure and Tyrant Manque have been throwing the type of open form shows that don’t consider it is a problem to present any of the above-mentioned genre labels together. They think of this clash of sounds as an opportunity for creative people to come together to find new ways of making sound. This ethos that underlies their approach is the same type of inclusivity and genre breaking I was hoping to achieve with the BLUR show I threw last November. As a result, when I heard what they were doing, I knew I needed to lend a hand to share with people what they were doing. I will be doing a string of posts with these individuals in the lead up their show on September 27, which includes The Fallen, Mike Shiflet, Circuitry Room, Mancontrol, & Tyrant Manque [Event Details HERE].
First up on the decks, I wanted to share an interview I did with Tyrant Manque some time ago about the Snow Clone Cassette Tape Label that he runs. As it always happens, I just kinda fell into the Snow Clone label when looking at the cassette tape selection at Lost Weekend Records. I was very interested in our city’s history in cassette culture at the time and the people that were still running cassette labels in the city. I had been spending a lot of time with Jeff Central of Circuitry Room learning about our city’s role in the mail art/cassette culture movement. Due to this, I was gobbling up cassettes like crazy (For more on this community watch the excellent documentary Grindstone Redux or Read his Interview HERE). It was in this context that I happened upon a stash of Snow Clone Tapes next to some new copies of Jeff Central’s Stimulus & Response III compilation. There were a variety of tapes to choose from, but one really caught my eye. It was a quite striking fingerprint-like print in white and black with orange accent lines. On the side of the clear cassette case it said, “Outer Spacist.” I am a pretty curious person, so after hearing from the owner of Lost Weekend that it was a local label I bought it and took it home.
As this slice of up-beat Psychedelic rock pop spun around my tape deck, I was immediately impressed by the release. However, more importantly, I was shocked at the serendipitious events that brought me to a place to get to experience this wonderful release. How many people pass by counters at record stores around our city unaware of these wonderful tapes from a local record label? How many people are willing in this day and age to take a chance based on the art and learning its a product of our community? How was it that I had just had all these conversations about cassette culture and now was sitting at this counter looking at these releases? It all just seemed too much to weave through. These big questions hung over my head as the cassette played and a voice from the tape yelled out, “OUTER SPACE IS THE ONLY PLACE TO BE.” Yes, I agreed. Being out on the fringe and taking chances is the only place to be even if not many people are out there with us.
[Sample from Outer Spacist Record]
Isn’t that what unites us all in our community at some level? Isn’t that the formative moment we all share when we took our first steps toward understanding the SOUL of this community we are all a part of? We took a chance and went out to the fringes of sound because we thought there was something there. We felt almost instinctively that there was something to learn or something to experience with these sounds that we couldn’t quite put a finger on. Whether we took our first chances on music loosely defined as house, punk, techno, jungle, post-rock, drum & bass, noise, experimental, dubstep or ambient music, the fact still remains that the minute we started to trust our gut and started walking down a different path than the majority of society we were all walking together. We knew that experimentation, the ripping down of barriers of genre, class, race, gender, sexuality, religion, and nationality, and curiosity were more important than being force fed culture. It was in those formative moments that our place in our communities collective soul began to take root and it is in those moments of discovery where our love of our community is renewed. Tyrant Manque’s Snow Clone Tapes fosters this love of discovery and offers us an opportunity to relish in the breaking down of the boundaries of electronic music to create a more unified culture outside of genre. The work the label releases helps us remember these essential points about how we all are iconoclasts in some ways and seek to experiment with our lives to learn about who we are. I hope you take the opportunity to read his words. They offer a wonderful glipmse into the label and Tyrant Manque’s music history.
Local Autonomy: What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?
Snow Clone: I’ve always been very drawn to music and have a pretty natural hand with it, so it’s a pretty integrated part of my life. Playing guitar is a sort of meditative thing for me, and I’ve always practised pretty regularly. Not doing like scales and stuff, just learning songs I like and little songs I come up with. It’s not the same as writing songs purposefully but a lot of songs I write start out that way. As a listener I like a lot of different stuff and I feel like there’s so much out there that thankfully I’ll never run out. It’s great too, the way that these various obsessions mark time, certain songs are like emotional reservoirs for all yr past lives and stuff. Playing music is a big means of socializing for me too, as I am a rather bookish sort in general. Not that all of my friends are music people or anything, but usually shows and stuff are when I’m “going out”.
LA: How did you get your start creating music and how did you start experimenting with synthesized sound?
SC: Both my parents play music, so instruments were always laying around the house, which was nice because I never had to beg my parents to buy me a guitar or anything so it was very casual. I never had lessons or anything, my dad would show me stuff and we would jam on “Dear Mr. Fantasy” or whatever. We also had a piano which, though I still don’t technically know how to play one, let me figure out how some stuff works musically without being directly related to guitar. I bought a 4 track in high school and when I left for college, I had that and a guitar and my mom’s old Casio keyboard and just started tinkering with those things, messing around with direct guitar sounds and filters on the keyboard and general aimless experiments: What does a piano sound like through a chorus pedal? Can you use a blown out 4 track as a distortion pedal? stuff like that.
LA: We had a wonderful talk about the role of “honesty” in music and art more generally. Why do you think honesty is important for music today?
SC: I think honesty in life in general is important. I think the issue gets confused with regards to the arts with the related issue of “authenticity”, which I have very little truck with. There is pretence inherent in any art form, and authenticity hawks I see as people who gripe about not being sufficiently mystified by something or other and thus, let down I guess? In any event, authenticity is a retrofit classification, related to perception or criticism and so very subjective. Honesty, on the other hand, I feel is about what goes into a work, the attempt to communicate or to create music suited to it’s purpose. I mean, who would argue that Weird Al should be taken seriously? It doesn’t invalidate what he does, really, because it’s a joke. Some people get stuck in their little genre ghettos this way too, can’t take anything seriously except “punk” or whatever. I guess what I’m getting at is that I don’t think honesty is as rare a commodity as some people make it out to be in the arts. In general it might be a little more scarce, that’s a whole other issue, but in the arts I think it’s really an issue for people making things, to be self critical enough to keep yrself honest in what yr doing.
LA: What is the back story of the label. How did it start? What benefits did starting your own label afford you and your friends as musicians in Columbus?
SC: I started recording keyboard experiments very crudely on a couple component tape decks, and when I had compiled some of the more interesting stuff to a tape, I just started dubbing them off on those same decks, as that was really the only way for that music to exist, before I figured out how to do a kind of adapted live set. I kept at it that same way, accumulated more tape decks and, since I had the means it just made sense to do tapes for other people too. Of course most of the releases are made by friends of mine, and generally a batch of tapes coincides with my finishing a new tape myself, but I’m game for releasing anything I like. Whatever helps use up that bulk order of cassette tapes.
LA: I found the practice of finding and listening to your label’s tapes as incredibly meaningful to my experience of music. What role do you think physical objects play in our increasingly digitized world?
SC: I think that only things can have a magical dimension, sort of rooted in chance, in an encounter. Too much context can kill that, which is why I skew toward the obtuse rather than the over-promoted. I also have no distinct talent for self promotion, so I’d rather let the music speak for itself, which is not, as I gather, how the internet works.
LA: We both share an interest in big ideas and trying to understand different ways of looking at the world. What role do the philosophical beliefs you hold about life/reality play in your creative process and creation of art?
SC: My ideas tend to permeate my music, both in subject matter and in a sense in presentation, but I don’t observe a strict separation of life and art and philosophy, or an emphasis on any one of these, like putting certain ideas in songs as a political thing or having a specific approach to creating music, or only doing certain types of shows, but in how all these things inform and enrich one another. There is a definite political aspect to aesthetics, but just as important, especially any more, is the very definite aesthetic aspects of the political, so one could easily argue that good taste could rapidly be becoming a survival instinct. If you understand how the magic that helps works, it provides insight into the magic that hurts.