Archive for the ‘Black Tape For A Blue Girl’ Category
This is the original English version of Sam’s interview that appears in French magazine Obsküre (Read it here in French.) Sam discusses the history of Projekt, how the business has worked out over 40 years, and some of his proudest moments:Q: 1983-2023: this year marks the fortieth anniversary of your label, Projekt. How do you feel about this achievement, and how do you look back over the years?
SAM: It’s amazing that Projekt is still here 40 years later. Few businesses make it this long, so it’s quite a surprise. It is great to survive as a business focused on art. I am fortunate to earn my living running the label. I love paying the artists their royalties; it’s nice helping all these great artists get their music to the world.Q: Can you tell us the story behind the creation of Projekt? What was the starting point?
SAM: In high school I ran my fanzine (Alternative Rhythms) writing about alternative / punk / college rock / electronic bands. Many of them were local bands in South Florida where I lived. Back in 1983 there was no easy way to hear the music I was writing about. The options were to see the band live, or buy their cassette or LP. I decided to put together a cassette of some of the electronic bands I liked that I was writing about. Their releases were obscure and hard to find, and who wanted to spend $5 on music you had not heard before? My idea was to put a bunch of the bands together on one tape to expose people to the music. Pretty much the idea behind Projekt today: I release music I enjoy and hope people will discover these artists, and grow to love them.Q: How did you perceive the music scene in the early eighties?
Most of the music that people listened to was (bad) pop music. Pretty much the same as today (laughs). I was into the weird music, underground indie stuff that most people had never heard of. With the fanzine, I was hearing more and more music not on major labels, often self released. Attrition was one of the first that was doing exactly the musical style I found interesting. My favorite artists back then were Soft Cell, John Foxx, Marc & the Mambas, Eno, Tangerine Dream. In fact, I’ve made a Spotify playlist of music I listened to in the ’80-84 era. One of the acts on there — Futurisk — was a great South Florida minimal synth / electro-punk group; I wrote about them in Alternative Rhythms. Jeremy released his music on 7” single. If Projekt had been a few years further along, and a bit more established, I definitely would have loved to release his music on the label. Finding “unheard” bands and promoting them and getting their music heard has always been one of my favorite parts of running Projekt. Whether it was LYCIA or Aurelio Voltaire back in the day, or new acts Arin Aksberg, DELREI, and VEiiLA, it’s really enjoyable to be in a position to think, “I like this! I want other people to hear it!”Q: Projekt has made a name for itself on the alternative music scene with its darkwave and ambient aesthetic. Why did you choose to highlight these two seemingly distinct worlds?
SAM: My band Black Tape For A Blue Girl encompasses both genres. These were styles I was connecting into. As BlackTape got more attention in the late-80s and I met artists and music writers and Projekt gained distribution, it made sense to bring additional artists onto the label. The label became known for the ethereal, goth, darkwave sound in the early 90s with Thanatos, Love Spirals Downwards, SoulWhirlingSomewhere & LYCIA. When I started releasing Steve Roach & vidnaObmana in the mid-90s the ambient side of the label began to blossom. Now that sound is where the label is focused. There are still some vocal releases, but I’d say 85% of the new albums are electronic-ambient.Q: Questions that will undoubtedly be difficult for you to answer: which Projekt artists have had the greatest impact on you? Which albums are you most proud of having released?
SAM: Projekt has 415 releases and the Archive digital side label has roughly 300 more. That’s a lot of music. These days Projekt puts out around 50-60 albums a year. I wouldn’t want to pick one and seem to be ignoring the others, so this is just off the top of my head here. The album I’ve listened to the most often for pleasure is Steve Roach’s 1984 Structures from Silence; it now has been on Projekt longer than on the original label. I’m very proud to have that one on Projekt, it turns 40 in 2024! I’m also proud to reissue Michael Stearns’ classic albums such as Planetary Unfolding from 1981. But as I said, discovering new music is really the thing that keeps it all interesting for me. It has been so cool to be the label that first release LYCIA, Aurelio Voltaire, Unto Ashes.Q: Forty years is almost half a century! There have obviously been ups and downs. Could you tell us about a particularly happy episode, and perhaps a harder one. And a few tasty anecdotes along the way?
SAM: The hardest was the early 2000s. Projekt had gone deep into debt in the late 90s, and I had to downsize the staff from 10 to 2 to get things under control. I caught up on past-due royalties, dealt with the debt and put things back on track. It was fortunate I downsized when I did, because 2002-2007 was a hard time for small labels as unlicensed digital ate away at CD sales. Many labels didn’t have the ability to get out from under their debt, smothered by returns from stores and/or stores going out of business without paying their bills. I was fortunate to start early at fixing Projekt’s financial problems.
As far as ups, I’d point to 1996’s Projektfest in Chicago. It was a two-day concert with 1000 people in attendance. 97’s fest had 1100! It was so great to have all those label fans in one place. Those were the peak days of Projekt’s fame. I have to give a lot of thanks to Patrick Ogle, who was Projekt’s publicity guy at the time. I’ve known Pat since high school, we have the band Thanatos together. Pat pretty much conceived the fest, and was one of three or four people who got it all together.Q: That sounds amazing. Are there any special events organized to celebrate this 40th anniversary?
SAM: No special events. No special releases. Continuing at my job of putting out a lot of great music. And doing interviews like this one.Q: I’ve seen on Facebook that you’d like to see the Projekt faithful get involved in perpetuating its memory, expanding the label’s Wikipedia entry and so on. For example, would you like to see a major publishing project evoking Projekt’s history, a bit like Martin Aston’s book on 4AD?
SAM: I have no interest in spending a few years of my life putting together a book about Projekt’s history. That is too much work, and I need to do my job to keep the money flowing to all the artists. If somebody wants to write a book, have at it (laughs)! Peter Ulrich (former Projekt artist) has a book about Dead Can Dance, the early 4AD era, etc. Projekt is mentioned a bit in there. Writing a good book is a big job.
As far as Wikipedia, yes, I would like our entries expanded. There’s so much more to include on the Projekt Records page, the Black Tape For A Blue Girl page, and any of the artists’ pages. It would be nice to connect with an editor to help fill those out.Q: You remastered your 1984 electronic Round Trip debut this year, and your name is irrevocably linked with that of black tape for a blue girl? What do you think about your career as a musician?
SAM: I’ve gotten very good at creating music, and achieving what I set out to do. The Cleft Serpent (BlackTape, 2021) is a perfect album. It says exactly what I want it to say, and Jon and Henrik did fabulous jobs contributing to my vision. It takes hundreds and hundreds of hours to make an album like that! Creating music with lyrics, a theme, a story, it all takes time. I flesh out the concept, live with it, make sure the plot makes sense. Do all the recording, writing, design. When I feel like I have something new to say which can match the albums I’ve already created, I’m sure I will head back into the studio. I have no rush to make music for the sake of getting something done.Q: As a label owner, how do you see the music industry evolving? Over the past forty years, we’ve seen the emergence of the CD, then its death, the digital revolution and streaming platforms, piracy, the return to favor of vinyl and cassettes…
SAM: The full answer to that would take hours (laughs)! Streaming is the key to all of our survival in 2023. Vinyl and cassettes are fun, but as far as “profit” they are a bit of cream on the top. Even the acts who have the best physical sales still earn around 95% of their royalties from digital. I know, I know! This doesn’t sound as romantic as you might expect. Keep in mind that I’ve been at this for 40 years. It’s my job. I have pretty good business sense, for an artist. So a lot of your questions get me into a logical business perspective. I know maybe you are thinking more about the beauty of the physical format, which I definitely do appreciate. It’s that my job as the label boss is to see where the industry is headed, not to get stuck in where it was. I keep up on what’s going on, to make sure I can do the best job for all the artists I work with.
Now, for Black Tape For A Blue Girl, crowdfunding at Kickstarter is my primary business model. I fund super-deluxe LP, CD and MiniDisc editions with the generosity and support of the people who love the music. I like making my beautiful color-vinyl releases. They are so sweet to look at. I’m the only act on the label that relies on crowdfunding. Aurelio Voltaire is out playing live, spreading his music and entertaining his fans; while also doing a ton of streams on the music. YouTube, Spotify, everywhere! Steve Roach is creating a lot of new music, and doing major concerts a few times a year. Pandora and iTunes are two of Steve biggest streaming sites.
The Projekt Bandcamp page is incredibly successful for the label’s acts. Like I mentioned earlier about the first cassette, bandcamp is now the main way I expose people to the variety of artists on the label. Projekt releases all new albums at Name-Your-Price for the first month, which gets a lot of people to hear the music. And it brings in income for the artists as well.
Free is people’s favorite price point (laughs).
How an artist brings in fans and sales is a bit different for each of us. I think that’s the answer to “how do you see the music industry evolving?” Every artist has their own thing that works for them. There’s no right answer. But there is a wrong answer: Only thinking about what worked in the 1990s, or thinking that one strategy will work for everyone.Q: What can we wish you for the future?
SAM: A long life with good health. I wish that everyone gets to do the things they love, with the people they care for, and are able to do it for as long as they want to.
Here’s something fun for your Sunday! It’s Sam’s new collaboration with his kitty Nova. Download the album name-your-price or stream at Bandcamp, stream the album at Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, etc, watch the video for “Interstellar Purr (with Ambient Music)” at YouTube.
Genres: Meditation, relaxation, ASMR, healing, new age
On their second collaboration, Nova Cat and Black Tape For A Blue Girl’s Sam Rosenthal take the purrs to deep space. The first track is Nova’s raspy purr on its own, the ideal accompaniment to sleep, study and healing work. On the lengthy additional tracks (10:30 and 26:34 respectively), the purrs are processed and accompanied by Rosenthal’s deep space ambient music. Sonically, it’s a bit like a super-mellow version of his As Lonely As Dave Bowman project with purrs keeping the stellar motor humming.
Cat purrs relax and stimulate the brain through their rhythmic repetitions. With close-miking recordings and subtle harmonic EQs, the experience is intimate and comforting.
Nova Cat is a 18-year-old (88 in human years) American Shorthair Tuxedo Cat with a distinctive raspy purr attributed to an health issue. Along with her collaborator Sam Rosenthal, she created these close-miked recordings utilizing subtle harmonic EQ shaped for relaxation and brain stimulation through rhythmic repetitions. Following lengthy negotiations upon the release of her 2022 debut, Nova Cat reluctantly agreed to Rosenthal’s addition of ambient music to two tracks on her sophomore effort.
Sam was interviewed by I’ve Pet That Cat, a Twitter profile from a kid named Nigel who shares cats. The interview was used as source for the 280-character tweet. Here’s the full thing:
Q: How did you get your cat? Sam: I adopted Nova from the Oregon Human Society here in Portland. She was 14, she’s now 18. I adopt older kitties because they need love and a good home too. My partner Mercy and I make up stories about what her life was like before we met her. Who she lived with, what it was like at their house, things like that.
Q: What is your cat’s personality? Sam: Nova is very sweet. In fact she’s sitting between my arms purring, as I type this. She loves sitting on the couch in the living room, watching the world go by.
Q: What makes your cat happy? Sam: The aforementioned couch, and sitting in the sun.
Q: Do you have any funny stories about your cat? Sam: At night before bed I give Nova her thyroid medicine by rubbing it in her ear. After that, we play a game where I slide treats across the kitchen floor and she chases them. Often she sits in one spot and stops the treats with her paw like a soccer player.
Q: What is your favorite thing about your cat? Sam: She’s a sweetie. She loves having a nice home at her age.
Q: How did you decide to record Nova’s purrs? Sam: After Nova’s medical issue was addressed her purr grew more raspy and loud. My partner and I love hearing her purr, and we talked about recording it. As a musician I thought it would be fun to make an album of her purrs so others could hear Nova. It seemed like a fun idea. To add variety I included my own ambient music on some of the tracks on the debut. On her new album STELLARPURR there are three songs, two are long and are made up of purrs & music, such as the video for “Interstellar Purr (with Ambient Music).”
Q: Does Nova like the purring music? SAM: I think so. Sometimes when I’m playing the tracks at my desk, she’ll jump up and purr along with it.
Q: What makes Nova purr the most? SAM: Human interaction. Laying on her side on the couch, pawing at the back while getting pets. Thanks for asking me about Nova and our album. Pet your kitty for me. Sam
Track Listing: 1. Interstellar Purr 06:20 2. Interstellar Purr (with Ambient Music) 10:28 | YouTube video 3. Stellar Purr (with Ambient Music) 26:34
Your Bandcamp donation buys Nova her favorite treat, Churu.
To thank the 260 backers that pledged $13,282 to help bring Black Tape For A Blue Girl’s A chaos of desire reissue Kickstarter to life, the current 3-piece “Serpent” line-up releases a 2-song single with neoclassical reinterpretations of two songs from the 1991 album.
The focus on strings and vocals reveals a new shine upon the dark existential beauty. These passionate tales inhabit a chaotic realm of memory, fear and desire confronting pained emotions. Synthesist Sam Rosenthal is joined by Swedish cellist Henrik Meierkord and vocalist Jon DeRosa.
Sam Rosenthal writes:
While planning the Kickstarter for A chaos of desire I wondered how to bring the 2022-era band into the past and involve us in the campaign. Inspiration strikes!!! We could record new neo-classical versions of tracks from chaos. I formed these recordings by reusing my synth parts from the digitized 1990 8-track master tape; Jon and Henrik added vocals and strings in their respective hometowns (Los Angeles & Stockholm, Sweden). Then — like when I mixed The Cleft Serpent — I pulled as much of myself out of the mix as I could to end up with lush, beautiful, mournful versions of “A chaos of desire” & “Could i stay the honest one.”
Jon and I tossed around ideas and thought it would be a wonderful surprise at the end of the campaign to give the band’s fans something entirely fresh: our reinterpretations of the past. We’re thanking everyone for their pledges which brought us to the funding goal; and thanking everyone who has enjoyed the band in the 31 years since we released A chaos of desire.
The single will be at all streaming sites on April 15. Sam
From Black Tape For A Blue Girl’s Sam Rosenthal: Hi. I’d love to have your support on my crowdfunding for a reissue of Black Tape For A Blue Girl’s 1991 album, A chaos of desire. There’s one week to go to reach the funding goal — as I write this 148 people have brought us 66% of the way there. With your help I’ll manufacture three formats: a 140-gram 2-color vinyl 2LP, the CD, and a MiniDisc.
Martin Bowes of Attrition’s remastering reveals a new shine upon chaos’ dark beauty. It’s a realm of memory, fear and desire set upon dense electronics confronting pained emotions. Oscar Herrera’s intense, searing vocals and Julianna Town’s sensitive siren song are complemented by Vicki Richards’ sinewy violin.
Backing this campaign is like preordering and a lot like being a patron of the arts.
📹 To begin the final week I’ve posted a 2nd video from the album on youTube, this one for the instrumental “beneath the icy floe.” I’ve always thought of this song as a passage through the shamanic death & rebirth initiation; it was cool to find a cinematographer with footage that captured this idea, and then edit it into a clip that creates the experimental narrative I imagined. Watch it on your big screen. It’s gorgeous. 🎬<
OPTION MAGAZINE #37, 1991: Melancholy streams of electronics and strings, with either floating female vocals or gothic male intonations – reminiscent of certain Dead Can Dance pieces (especially guest vocalist Loren’s reading of the title track), although without the mysticism, scholarship, and anachronistic plunderings. These pieces are contemporary interpretations of the gothic mind set, and the lyrics are often maudlin and self pitying: try “shine shuddered light into my eyes / I cannot escape, unending lies” from “The Hypocrite Is Me.” The music itself is a pleasant depressive drone, and certain songs – “Pandora’s Box,” with its busy rhythm, guitar, and Roxy Music-like melody, and “Tear Love From My Mind,” with its piano highlights and Skinner Box’s Julianna Town’s fine singing – are good listening no matter what your genre preferences. <
Listen to the remastered 12-track album augmented with 18 bonus tracks at Spotify (or wherever you stream music.)
Kickstarter is all or nothing, We need to pass A chaos of desire‘s $12K goal to make this reissue exist. Thanks for helping make it possible!
From Projekt’s Sam Rosenthal: I find myself spending more and more time watching youTube on my living room TV. It’s becoming the all-knowing archive of everything! With that in mind, Projekt & Steve Roach are creating more visual material for you to enjoy. In the last few days, we’ve added these new clips:Projekt’s creepy attic & roof collapse (2009) at youTube
I found a short bit of video on a backup harddrive; I mixed that with some photos to take you on a brief tour of the creepy attic of the 2009 Brooklyn office, and recount the story of the roof collapse. Happy Halloween!Timothy Leary’s Trip 1 narrated by Alex Cox at youTube
To commemorate the centennial of Timothy Leary’s birth, I recorded an electronic space music/art rock collaboration with Projekt’s artists, including 4 short Trips with Leary’s words. This clip has narration by Repo Man director Alex Cox.Steve Roach 10/24/2020 Livestream… the day after Tomorrow at youTube
Stream starts at about 25:38 minutes in. Enjoy a replay of Steve’s Saturday Livestream concert, a 90-minute show followed by the premiere of 3 videos from the new album Tomorrow.Black Tape For A Blue Girl • Dracula’s Ball 2010 at youTube
January 16, 2010, Black Tape For A Blue Girl performed our 126th show — the 7th with the new 3-piece line up of Athan Maroulis, Nicki Jaine & Sam Rosenthal. The 30 minute slot at Dracula’s Ball included 6 songs off the then-new 10 NEUROTICS album, and 2 tracks off HALO STAR.Timothy Leary’s Trip 4 narrated by Reggie Watts at youTube
This track is narrated by Reggie Watts, bandleader on CBS’ The Late Late Show with James Corden. I did some Nam June Paik-inspired video art effects in the middle.
Celebrating Timothy Leary’s 100th birthday, Projekt’s Sam Rosenthal collaborated with the label’s electronic artists (Steve Roach, Erik Wøllo, Mark Seelig, Forrest Fang, theAdelaidean, Jarguna and others) to create Tim, where are you now? Interspersed within the music are trip narrations based on Timothy Leary’s writing, read by Alex Cox (director of Repo Man and Sid & Nancy), Rick Doblin (executive director of Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), Reggie Watts (bandleader on CBS’ The Late Late Show with James Corden), Lee Ranaldo (founder and guitarist of Sonic Youth) and others.
Sam talks about the album…
Q — With the music and the album, what are you trying to evoke? How do you want people to listen and engage with the music? What are you trying to show them?
Sam — Well, first it’s a listening experience. It’s music — new sounds and new spaces. The narrators read short scripts that float within the music. The trips come from Leary’s writing. He’s question reality — Is this thing that seems to us to be so firm and inviolable actually real? Is this actually what it appears to be?
Leary wrote in 1968, “…since that first LSD trip, it remains impossible for me to return to the life I led before, unable to take myself, my mind, and the social world around me as seriously.”
Q — How did you gather these musicians and readers?
Sam — I asked Projekt musicians to send me sources to work from. I wasn’t looking for finished tracks, this wasn’t a compilation album. I asked artists for bits of music, perhaps unused individual instrument tracks from their projects. My idea was to compost those sources and make new music. I’d listen to their source, see what ideas it brought up, which portions I’d like to focus on, what sort of song it inspired me to create. I might use an 8 second bit of their source and loop it, or a longer segment as a texture to build upon.
While these songs are collaborations, the structuring, editing, processing was my contribution; I also add my electronics here or there where a texture is needed. On some tracks, I’d get a structure for the song flowing and then go to a specific musician with an idea for a part they could add on top, such as Erik Wøllo’s driving electric guitar part on “Reality-tunnel,” or Ryan Lum’s bossa nova-flavored guitar part on “PSY PHI love means High Fidelity.” Or Steve Roach’s drone in the 2nd half of “Reality-tunnel.” I sensed that area needed some low-end support, and I knew Steve was the magic man to give it the texture it required.
The other track I created with Steve was “Molecular symbol, thinking” which is very abstract and spacey. Steve being ever-prolific sent me a gigabyte of great source material to work from. All of it really lovely. This source stood out because it was oblique, with a psychedelic spaciousness. I edited out some of the places where it took form, to keep it on an abstract level. Listening to Steve’s track, I envision my thoughts drifting away like a train on a swirling track heading off into deep space, the cars growing further and further apart as the packets of thoughts begin to distort and lose their connection and form. It created exactly what I wanted to occur at that point in the album. About two and a half minutes into the piece I laid in a little bit of Erik Wøllo’s processed electric guitar textures — painting with their sounds. I didn’t worry about BPM, or even what key the pieces were in. It was just a question of, “Do these elements sound good together?” Then another minute in I’m playing a short 4-note pattern, giving a bit of earth under your feet. At the end I brush in a bit of Jarguna’s modular synthesizer textures to add some sparkle as the track comes to a finish.
For the narrators, I was looking for marquee names to help spread Leary’s words out further. I sent a ton of emails, asking agents, contacting friends to see who they knew who might be interested. The first on board was Alex Cox, followed by Lee Ranaldo. Hearing them on the finished tracks was exciting! The pieces worked as I had imagined them. Yes! Perfection!
Q — What is your definition of a “trip?”
Sam — Speaking with people at Portland Psychedelic Society meet-ups (pre-pandemic, of course), I know there are all kinds of trips. Some are purely body, energetic experiences. Some are purely visual. Aside from an LSD trip when I lived in Los Angeles in the 90s, I hadn’t done any psychedelics until 5 years ago, when I accidentally discovered that I easily trip on edible THC. For me, trips are very hallucinogenic with experiences that feel absolutely real in the moment. Visuals, sounds, emotions. A single trip contains hundreds of short vignettes, many are past-life experiences. I am there as the observer, and those observed. I rotate consciousness through the people in the scene, often overlaid at once.
Timothy Leary and Stanislav Grof both came to psychedelics from the therapeutic angle: guiding subjects via psychedelic-therapy in a safe environment with attention to set and setting. Grof speaks of our internal healer who knows what we need at that moment; our trip is directed by that knowing. I am very much of the mind that psychedelics have great therapeutic benefits. MAPS.org is proving this with the success of their FDA-approved MDMA trials for PTSD. Psychedelics are also helpful for addiction, depression, and end-of-life anxiety (Rick Doblin, executive director of MAPS, reads one of the trips in the digital bonus material.)
Of his first psilocybin experience, Leary later said, “I learned more about my brain and its possibilities and more about psychology in the five hours after taking these mushrooms than I had in the preceding fifteen years of studying and doing research in psychology.” Progress and connections can be made during a trip that cannot be made in talk-therapy. When the mind is free to wander outside of the ruts, interesting new answers that were not previously available are found.
If you share this page on social networking, please include #timothyleary100 & #TL100
Sam will answer your questions and reminisce. You can chat in the text window with Projekt artists, fans, and long-time assistant Shea Hovey. See you there! Saturday May 2 — 11am Pacific / 2pm Eastern / 8pm Italy facebook.com/SamProjekt If you are not on Facebook, use this link: www.facebook.com/SamProjekt/posts/10218929688366123 and then chose “not now” on the pop up.
“This set is a triumph that goes beyond the scope of mere words. It should stand as one of the year’s best.” – ALTERNATIVE PRESS
1994 — Inspired by seeing Love Spirals Downwards’ perform a black tape for a blue girl song live, Sam asked other artists to contribute their interpretations to this one of a kind compilation. Fourteen artists from the Projekt roster, guest artists from America & Europe, and even fans who create music in their home studios come together with strikingly different and beautifully personalized renditions of black tape for a blue girl’s touching ethereal-goth sound.2CD Box Set (final copies)
These are the final copies of this box set, that have been in storage for years. 2CD in jewel boxes, with 4 art cards + sticker in a nice hard box. 1994 release. Note that although they are in shrinkwrap, they have been traveling the country with Sam for ages; there might be some scuffs or dings. As mint as it gets, I suppose. 6 remaining.
Concept, design, production • Sam Rosenthal Original idea • Ryan Lum Photography • Susan Jennings Model • Anne Chen released November 12, 1994Consider joining the Black tape for a blue girl patron area. For $5 a month you get this album (download & streaming) and lots of other exclusive music. Plus you're giving a monthly contribution to help me create my art. And that's just very cool of you!
from Sam Rosenthal:
Thoughts at the end of the tens.
Today is that "holiday" launched by AmEx in 2010, Small Business Saturday, where we go out and support a small business or two. Well let me tell you, Projekt is small. Very small!
Projekt is almost as small as it gets. The staff is:
Sam (me) — (not quite full time) — I communicate with the artists, design the album covers and other graphics, keep on top of the physical production schedule, email the distributors (Hi Sebastian, Mike, Scott, Tracy, Rob, Sue, others), communicate with many of our press contacts, update Projekt’s Bandcamp store, post a portion of our social networking, update the website, write album bio copy, and look out over the bow a year into the future for an idea of where the industry is headed.
Joe — (a few hours a week) — fulfills your orders at the Projekt webstore.
Shea — (a few hours a week) — posts the rest of the social networking, updates the reviews on the website, proofs the copy I write (but not my email lists, which is why there are always those damn typos), and is my trusted sounding board (She’s worked at Projekt since 2001!)
We’re a small business, and that leads me to what I’m thankful for.
I’m thankful for you, and your love of music… hold on… I have to do some business before I continue with what I’m thankful for…
Enter BF19 in the coupon code field during checkout at projekt.com. The sale excludes pre-order & new category items. Sale ends Friday December 6 at Noon EST.
Right. As I was saying…
I’m thankful for you, and your love of music! I’ve run Projekt as my full time job since 1991. For 28+ years your love of music has put a roof over my head, food in my belly, and helped me pay the costs of raising my son. It’s pretty great that we’ve been doing this for each other all these years!
Projekt began as a hobby when I entered college in 1983; the label grew out of my fanzine, Alternative Rhythms. Do you watch Stranger Things? I’m the same age as the older kids like Jonathan, the non-conformist photographer. That show does a good job of showing what it was like to live in non-big-city-America in the mid-80s (except we didn’t have to deal with The Upside Down where I was from.) I popped over to youTube to find a video of Jonathan and synchronicity brought me the perfect clip for this blog. In it he’s giving his younger brother a mix tape. They’re listening to The Clash and Jonathan says, "All the best stuff’s on there — Joy Division, Bowie, Television, The Smiths. It will totally change your life!"
Honestly, that’s exactly the reason I made the fanzine and started Projekt — I really loved music and wanted to expose other people to it.
Back in the 80s and well into the 90s, we didn’t have the internet to expose us to interesting music from around the world. It took dedication to find underground sounds. We read magazines, listened to a cool local college DJ if our town had one, went to dance clubs, and if we were lucky there was a cool record store where the owner got to know our tastes ("Yes, Leslie, of course I want to special order a copy of that Mick Karn/Peter Murphy 12-inch!")
Exposing people to great music is what I did and continue to do.
I know it’s easy to stream music these days; people are buying less and less. I’ll fess up, I’m one of those streamers. Streaming brings in around 50% of Projekt’s income and it grows every month. Streaming does pay!
If you’re a digital fan, it helps that you go to the Projekt Bandcamp page to purchase a download, and/or chip in when there’s a new name-your-price release. That money ads up to royalties for the artists you love. In fact, right now there’s a new release, Christmas Nocturne by Sue Hutton and Athan Maroulis. It’s a name-your-price holiday download!
As many of you know, I’m the songwriter/bandleader of Black Tape For A Blue Girl. Since 2013 (when I moved from Brooklyn NY to the more-reasonably-priced Portland Oregon) I’ve put more time into my own art. It was hard in NYC — working as much as I could at Projekt to bring in income, raising my son, AND trying to find time for music? It was too hard to do it all. I know everyone has different economic realities, for me Oregon is a less-expensive place to live; this has lowered my financial stress and I take more time to make art. It also helps that I have 67 very cool patrons who contribute towards my music-making expenses.
It takes time and money to create music.
Back in the beginning of this decade, I used to argue with people on Facebook (and in email) about how piracy & illegal downloads hurt artists because it deprived them of income they needed to cover the costs of creating (let alone paying the rent.) I’ve long since given up on arguing with people on social networking (that was a pretty annoying way to spend time, wasn’t it?)
In a sense the battle was won by Spotify, Pandora and YouTube. Streaming took over, and much to my surprise it seems Daniel Ek was right — streaming reduced the piracy problem, while sending money to artists. Count me corrected!
Now we’re in the last weeks of this decade (!!!) and I understand that the problem of fans buying less physical releases is going to be solved when artists (1) catch up with the modern age and accept what is changing (and has already changed) and (2) embrace new ways to bring in income.
Projekt has a couple of artists with the success necessary to work full time on their music. However, most of the musicians I know create on a very part-time basis. That’s sad when you think about it. There could be a lot more great art if musicians were able to work less at their income-producing job, and more on their art.
It turns out I am a (Democratic) socialist. I think society would be much better if the billionaires didn’t have quite so many billions, and their hoarded money wasn’t sitting in their 3rd mansion and stocks. It would be better if that money was equitably shared in the system. This isn’t just to benefit people I know, it’s to benefit you. I doubt you’ve got a billion, or even a million, or probably even fifty-thousand, socked away that you’re not using. You could probably use a little more of a fair share, and some security, right? I hope one day we have Health Care For All and a Basic Income for everyone, so if you want to get out of the grind of that day job and start the business you’ve been dreaming about — well, you can take the leap and try. I was fortunate that I didn’t have crushing college debt, and I was healthy. I could chuck the job in 1991 to focus on Projekt. The label was growing and it needed me to take the risk to be there full time. Nowadays, how many of us can follow our dreams?
Economically, that’s not easy at all!
I hope that things change in 11 months and we get new leaders with a desire to help the people rather than the rich. Oh, yes… another thing I’ve learned is talking politics here on the list pisses people off. I’ll just say: let’s all get along and be good to each other. I’ll be thankful for a time when there’s more love and compassion, and less divisions and us-against-them.
And that’s my Thanksgiving message of hope (and despair — yes, I’m GenX. I have a healthy dose of skepticism and cynicism.)
Somebody will inevitably email me and tell me off — that’s not going to wreck my day. After I realized life wasn’t a tragedy, but a farce, it got a bit easier.
Speaking of governing the right way — Ryan Lum (formerly of Love Spirals Downwards and of LoveSpirals) is running for Long Beach City Counsel. If you’ve loved their music and you’re a progressive that wants to see positive change, pass a donation his way: https://ryanlum.net/
So….. new topic…. I’ve made a video! My first new video in 6 years! It’s really nice. Please watch it…
black tape for a blue girl "In my memories" video at YouTube
I conceived, shot & edited this rumination on the passing of time, nostalgia, regret and loss with the help of my three great actors. Shot over the course of two year, it stars Dan Von Hoyel (vocalist/songwriter from the bands Harmjoy and Titans) and fellow adult industry performer Mercy West.
Watch “In my memories” off To touch the milky way.
Sam explains, "The piece began with a half-minute phone-video of Mercy splashing & diving underwater at a rubber fetish pool party. A few months later, a piano part I played in the studio felt to me like it was about ‘memories’ — those seconds of Mercy in the pool inspired the direction of the music and then the lyrics I wrote. It’s a character’s first person narrative thinking back to the summer when he was 23 and enjoying a nothing-special — and yet everything-so-special — afternoon with his lover. It moves me seeing the raw emotions Dan brought to his performance. How often do you see men cry in tv or film? In our culture, men are considered weak when they show feelings other than anger. It’s still not common for them to tear up and display their loss or sorrow. I like that we captured that; it gets to the core of the song.”
Next week I’m reprinting BlackTape’s The Rope T-shirt. If you’d like one, preOrder at the BlackTape Bandcamp page. Projekt 20% Off Sale. Enter BF19 in the coupon code field during checkout at projekt.com. Sale excludes pre-order & new category items. Sale ends Friday December 6 at Noon EST.
Hi, This is Sam from Black Tape For A Blue Girl — With 5 days to go on the Ashes in the brittle air crowdfunding campaign, we're 68% funded. 145 people have joined together to pledge $6172 towards the $9000 goal of creating an expanded 2CD & clear-vinyl LP edition! The remastered 11-track album sounds fabulous. Pledge at Kickstarter.
In 1989 I made a video for "is it love that dare not be? / ashes in the brittle air." It never was shown anywhere, and nobody has seen it in the last 28 years. I digitized it and posted on youTube.Is it love that dare not be? / ashes video history
Another piece of history from the archives! I had such a warm sweet feeling watching this video the other day, the first time in 28+ years. My college friends Kathryn (dancing) and Dimitri (her mostly immobile partner) swept across my monitor recreating the rolls they’ve played in my mind for the last three decades — for all of eternity. And me the viewer, knowing every frame by heart yet watching like it was the first time, excited for what would come next.
My patrons provided the funds to cover the cost to transfer some of my old 3/4-inch (U-matic) videos. This was the first clip the guy at the lab sent me; perfect timing.
From what I recall, I shot & edited this two-song video after the release of Ashes in the brittle air. The video had technical issues I wanted to fix back in the day, but couldn't because I didn't have good enough equipment. I never was sure about showing this piece. I've fixed those problems, at last!
Back in those days it would have been difficult for most fans to see this video, anyway, as we didn’t have the internet. Fortunately we do now! Everyone can enjoy the “is it love that dare not be? / ashes in the brittle air” video at youTube
Support the expanded edition of Ashes in the brittle air at Kickstarter . A download is a $5 donation, clear vinyl LP is $30, CD is $20. Everyone gets the 21 bonus tracks.