I first noticed punk and metal labels releasing cassettes when I was working in a record store a few years back. This ongoing retro trend is a little odd, but it’s also the result of an influx of music fans who appreciate a more lo-fi approach and who favor analog’s warm sound over digital’s crispness.
The DIY self-produced nature of cassette releases also is a welcome respite from studio-heavy recordings—particularly when bands release super-produced albums and then can’t recreate the sound live. It’s almost like they’re cheating.
As cassette releases have become more prevalent, small labels are popping up all over the world and embracing old methods. Even here in Santa Fe, we have our very own DIY label that releases cassettes. Hair On My Food Tapes & Records is a small operation run solely by a fellow named Joe the Stache.
The Stache moved to Santa Fe from Illinois a little over a year ago. “I visited once, and I really liked the terrain,” he says.
The Stache has released four splits thus far, and has a fifth release on the horizon. I stopped by the Stache’s house to listen to some of these bands, as well as get the details of what he’s up to.
“I started doing tapes last summer,” he tells me. “I picked up some really cheap tape duplicators off Ebay, started a
to get the word out, and bands started contacting me.”
He slides a cassette into his tape deck and plays me a French band called Audiocum.
“This band is harsh noise. It’s a very specific subgenre of noise…very screechy and intense,” he says. “It took me a while to get into noise as a genre. It’s not very accessible. It started with punk and hardcore, which led to grindcore, which led to my love of shitty lo-fi recordings.”
The music we’re listening to is intense. It lives up to its genre title and is definitely not for everyone. Audiocum uses its instruments to create low rumbling background noise while blending in almost brutal vocals subtly enough to make it hard to distinguish between the two.
“I’ve gotten to where I can really veg out to this stuff,” the Stache tells me. “It’s actually quite relaxing.”
The tape ends, and he slides another in by a California-based power-violence duo called Gorgonized Dorks. Thrashy and heavy, the duo sounds so full that I almost don’t believe it’s only two people.
“I love this band,” the Stache laughs. “They’re dorks.”
“They’d have to be to use a term like ‘gorgonized,’” I reply. “Plus, they call themselves dorks, so…”
How does one decide to release tapes? It’s not like it’s a lucrative business—the Stache sells his tapes for $4 or $5 apiece. Cool as it may be, it does seem a little regressive. In the case of the Stache, it began through a music zine he publishes titled Big Whoop.
“I’ll trade my zine to people all over the place, and it wound up introducing me to a German cassette label called Soundo Maso [Records]. I was really inspired by the label.”
That’s all fine, but why tapes?
“I see this resurgence of people getting reacquainted with analog sound,” the Stache says. “Just look at how records have made such a strong comeback. It just makes sense that tapes would be a part of that as well.”
Usually limited to 100 copies or less, these tapes are not only recordings of obscure bands, they’re true collector’s items. Put together lovingly, each tape comes with one-of-a-kind artwork from both local and international artists.
I can’t help but think this is what punk is all about: DIY record releases by people who don’t make a lot of money but want to share what they love with the world. The Stache distributes tapes and releases music from bands from all over the globe.
“I don’t care where a band comes from,” he says. “If it’s good, it’s going on a fucking tape.”
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