Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Tape-beatles

The Tape-beatles

I've been waiting for the perfect opportunity to post about The Tape-beatles. The obvious choice would have been to wait until we run the episode featuring my phone interview with Lloyd Dunn and John Heck (the two remaining members of the group, pictured), but since we've discontinued our use of the podcast as an archive for older episodes, it's anyone's guess as to when we'd get around to it, as I'll only go back to archiving episodes here once I've stopped producing new ones. I hope that will be a long time from now, so I've decided to go ahead with it now. The first new artist feature of 2007...

The Tape-beatles have had a major influence on this show, actually. I'm sure I've given the long version of how the show got started here before... I put out my own sound collage record in late 1998 and had spent some time, the year or two before the release, doing some research online and finding that I wasn't alone in the world of sound collage. Actually, I'd been aware of sample based music since junior highschool, but was only just learning about artists who took it in more interesting directions. Once online, I was excited to find that the community of sound collagists went much further than I'd previously realized, and one of the groups which made the biggest impression was The Tape-beatles. I loved their concept of being a sort of Musique concrète pop group, or as an article at their website puts it, "Spreadsheet statistics reveal that the Tape-beatles are the locus where the Avant-garde and popular culture meet."

That concept really struck a chord with me. They were taking themselves very seriously, while at the same time having as much fun as possible with the idea. This struck me as beautifully Middle Path, which was a relatively new concept to me, at the time, and it's certainly an approach I've adopted for the show. I do take it very seriously, but I'm trying my hardest to have a little fun with it as well. Eventually, once I'd learned even more about artists working with sound collage, I had developed a library which could just barely support a weekly show, and over the years have continued to grow that library to the point where I'm now quite proud of the diversity of the program.

So, back to The Tape-beatles. The group came together in 1987, in Iowa City. Former members include Linda Morgan Brown, Chuck Hollister, Ralph Johnson and Paul Neff. The current members are two of the founding members, Lloyd Dunn and John Heck. The name seems to have originated from the traditional drinking game of "who can come up with the most ridiculous indie rock band name?" The Tape-beatles was the best they could do? Well, it does relate both to their medium and their concept.

The first CD came out in 1990. It was called Music With Sound and it's the first record I purchased from the group, online. It might have been the first record I ever found and bought online, in fact. From there, I went looking for new stuff at a record store in Minneapolis and was introduced to Public Works - a sort of spin-off band. Actually, the record cover says Public Works is a division of the Tape-beatles project - or something like that (I'm not at home, so I can't check for sure). Their album, "Matter" was exactly what I was looking for. From there, I went and bought all of their albums. You can find their full discography HERE. You can also read the SAR Q&A with Ralph Johnson of Public Works HERE.

As good as their albums are, you really have to see the films which accompany many of them, if you want to fully understand how beautiful this work is. Three of their CD releases have accompanying "expanded cinema" performances. If you ever get the chance to see them perform "The Grand Delusion," "Matter" or "Good Times," definitely go. It might be a bit of a challenge if you live in the US, as although it seems like they've been presenting a lot more lately, they currently live in Prague and have been doing most of their shows in Europe. I saw "A Grand Delusion" in Chicago, several years ago (I drove down specifically to see the show!) and in 2001, I was very pleased to work with Sound Unseen here in Minneapolis, to bring them both over from Prague to present the world premiere of the expanded cinema performance for Good Times. Actually, if you can't see it live, you can purchase some of their film work on VHS HERE.

The Tape-beatles
pooled their resources early on, and purchased the word Plagiarism® (I wonder who actually gets paid for these word purchases? The US government? An interesting racket). Of course, their purchase of that particular word is a comment on the whole culture of ownership, specifically in regards to intellectual property, which is something one must deal with on some level, if one is to be a creator of this particular kind of sound collage. It's worth pointing out that The Tape-beatles have not concerned themselves overtly with issues of copyright. Their purchase of that trademark is one of the main statements they've made (along with a handful of articles) about the fact that what they do is controversial, in that way. Their work has much more to do with making music with non-traditional instruments (in this case, playback equipment) and social/cultural criticism, which is (in general) much more interesting than talking about copyright all the time -- another way in which they've influenced Some Assembly Required. I try to address that issue as briefly and as infrequently as a show of this kind can get away with.

So... Lloyd Dunn was one of the first to respond to my request for answers to the SAR Q&A, back in June of 2005. I'm amazed to see I've been sitting on this for so long. He was on his way to Paris, he writes, as he took the time to fill out the questionnaire, so that explains the brevity of his response. That might also be why I never posted it. I was probably planning on asking for an update at some point. Ah well, I forgot about that plan as I scheduled the feature for this week and now that I look at it, I realize it's too late to ask for more info, as I've no other possibilities for a Q&A to run today! Hopefully my longer-than-usual introduction will fill in some of the gaps. And if you're hungry for more information, you can always visit The Tape-beatles online at their website. Without further ado, here's the SAR Q&A with The Tape-beatles...

*Name: The Tape-beatles

*Are there any additional names used to describe this project: Public Works

*Members: 2 (now) - Lloyd Dunn and John Heck

*Founding Members: Lloyd Dunn, John Heck and Ralph Johnson

*Tape manipulations, digital deconstructions or turntable creations: Tape Manipulations

*Another genre descriptor: Performed Cinema

*Why you use this descriptor: We perform with movie projectors.

*Location: Now living in Prague

*Original Location: Iowa City, Iowa

*What is your creative/artistic background: I am a filmmaker and visual artist. Heck is a visual artist and music maker.

*History: Since 1986

Dunn: 1957, Iowa Heck: 1964, Iowa

*Motivations: (from …an interest in making music... using recording technology itself as a creative, expressive medium with unique capabilities. ...The notion that recontextualization of previously ‘finished’ works can be done ethically and can in itself constitute authorship; and making use of contemporary media to critique culture and social milieux.

*How would you like to be remembered: We labor in obscurity, so maybe we'd rather be forgotten!

*Web address:


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