Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Howard Stelzer [Interview # 173]

1)     As someone who seems to use cassettes over all else, do you feel that cassettes are the optimal way to experience recorded music?

I don't! In truth, my attraction to cassettes had little to do with thinking of them as ideal ways to listen to music, and more with becoming fascinated with them as sound-producing objects. When I was in high school (1989-1992) and banging on trash cans in my parents' garage with a boom box recording in the corner, I discovered how the sound captured on the cassette was different from the acoustic sound in the room while I was making the music. From then on, I experimented with making collages on tape-copying decks, furiously pressing the pause button on the record side while changing the source tape on the other. Soon after that, I began seriously digging into the RRRecords catalog, Option and ND magazines and learning about the hometaper network and the meaning of cassettes as a response to the record industry. Twenty+ years on, though, I use tapes to make my music because they've become the way that I think. My body moves with tape machines, my composition and processing ideas all revolve around tapes, not because I particularly love them but because tapes are engrained in my conception of sound-making as English is the only language I speak fluently. 

2)     Your last official release was back in July of 2013, “Pink Pearl”.  Are you working on anything new?

Yes, I am. These are the confirmed releases: 

HS The Case Against CD (Monotype, Poland) - this is the "major" album I've been working on since "Bond Inlets" from 2009. The comics artist Tony Millionaire is doing the cover art, which is exciting.

HS Narrow Escape CDR (Obsolete Units, US)
HS Brayton Point CD (Dokuro, Italy)  

... both of these are single long tracks, rather static and (I hope) enveloping sound. The latter is made out of recordings of the Brayton Point power generating station in Massachusetts, of which I have an unexplainable phobia. 

HS & Frans de Waard After All tape (Copy for Your Records, US)
HS & Frans de Waard However tape (Banned Productions, US)

... the newest chapters of my ongoing collaboration with Frans de Waard! Both are made out of "Pink Pearl", but altered radically. Frans and I have been making albums out of recycling the same material since the late 1990's.

Other than these, I'm working on a collaborative album with Joe Bastardo (Bastian Void, Homeowner) and a live tape for his Moss Archive label. I've also made some very sketchy sketches for the next studio album, but I work so damn slowly it won't be finished for years.  I have some bits in various stages of incompletion that will become part of the next collaborative thing with Frans de Waard, and a thing I'm making for an installation at Extrapool in Nijmegen (NL). Also sitting around my studio on various tapes that I'm hoping will gel into something eventually are collaborative pieces with AMK and Abo (Yeast Culture). 

3)     You run the website for Noisy Bandcamp, which is a somewhat extensive collection of various Band Camp pages for artists in the noise genre.  What was it like putting that together?  Have you had to tell anyone yet who has tried to submit their Band Camp page that they were too “normal” sounding to be on Noisy? 

Nah, I haven't done that. It's just for fun, and to fulfill my own nerdy obsessive desire to file and categorize things. I'm please if other people find it useful.

4)     Where do you feel has the best noise music, in terms of country/state/however specific you want to get with it?   Where do you feel has the most?

No idea. I've been out of the loop for so long, I couldn't really say. 

5)     Often times when I listen to cassettes, I hear clips that make me thinking of splicing the tapes together in the literal sense of cutting them up and taping them back together in different pieces.  Is this a real thing or have I been watching too many movies?

I've heard of people doing that, so I suppose it's possible! Sounds like a lot of work, though. 

6)     You have done a number of splits/collabs.  Is there anyone out there you’d still really like to work with?

No one in particular. I like to make music with my friends. One thing I'd really like to do is go play concerts with AMK, if someone will give us airplane tickets and an excellent PA system and enough time to hang out, eat a lot, relax over beers. I don't see him nearly as often as I'd like. Same with Lasse Marhaug or Roel Meelkop, who I just enjoy being around. I'm not moved to make music with people who I don't know, and I'm not into the random improv meet-up. 

It might be fun to do something with Jonathan Coleclough, actually. I have a tape of him playing guitar in my living room five years ago that I've been meaning to do something with.   

7)     Is Intransitive Recordings going to stay inactive or do you feel it is time for a comeback?

Intransitive is quite dead, and will remain that way. I ran the label for 15 years. That's long enough. Now I'm happy to concentrate on my job (I teach fifth grade at a public school), making my own music, spending time at home with my wife, seeing friends when I can. The label was a formative experience for me, for sure. It was part of my identity, and I loved doing it for awhile. But it took so much time and so much money, and as I got older it stopped being fun. People stopped buying my CDs, and to be honest it became a pain to try to promote and sell the damn things. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of Intransitive. I think I made some good albums. But I don't see the need to throw thousands of dollars out the window anymore. Other labels are doing a far better job publishing experimental-type music than I ever did. 

8)     You sell your music digitally, and I’ve been struggling lately with the idea that digital music has value because you can’t put a number on it in the way that you could a cassette (For example, if a cassette is an edition of 50, yet digital downloads don’t seem to be of a finite number), yet I know it does have a certain value and that needs to be addressed.   Do you feel that digital songs need some sort of assigned value on Band Camp, where instead of being able to download them for free or at a name your price option, all songs should have to be at least a certain price, such as a dollar per song for instance?

I don't think it's much of an issue. The "limited release" object is ideal for some albums, but I'm happy simply to be able to hear music. I used to be a rabid collector... my library contained 8000+ CDs, tapes, and records. But I've been selling it all, ripping it to a couple of hard drives and scanning the art. That's okay for me. As far as assigning value, I suppose it comes down to personal choice. My thinking has turned around completely... I used to hate mp3s! But now I'm happy to pay for a download, and don't need an object. I've had so many objects, they filled my apartment. I grew to hate the clutter. If a label makes a physical, short-run release, I like to wait and buy a pristine download of it later, ideally on Bandcamp so that they get most of the money directly. 

9)     Final thoughts, shout outs, questions, etc…?? 

Were you really raised by Gypsies? 

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