Considered by many to be the central figure in underground cassette culture, Al Margolis is like some others in this community: he ran his own label, did his own music, guested on radio shows, did live performances and was (and is) a tireless champion of independent, experimental and do-it-yourself music.
He currently runs the Pogus label which mainly features high quality, experimental sounds packaged with loving care and artistic grace.
When Don asked me to do this the first thing that popped into my head (and due to maybe too many years and too much alcohol under the bridge or over the lips) was actually what i recall as my first tape purchase. So since one sort of leads into the other i shall write about both. What i have been finding by the way with the beginnings (finally) of some of the historical look at tape underground etc is that trying to remember a lot of this has dredged up some interesting memories plus i am sure, some very false ones. So i am hoping that as some of this gets related (by myself and others) any factual errors can be corrected. For instance i can no longer quite remember what magazines i first heard of the cassette and noise thing in. In the early 80s i was reading the New York Rocker (a monthly) and the Soho News (a weekly) – and either one of them (maybe both?) could have mentioned some cassette labels – or more likely they mentioned Op which i probably went out and bought and read about some of the small labels (and in the early issues of Op there may have been 5 or 10 tape reviews). Somehow, somewhere in this mist of magazines i read about George Smith of Chainsaw Tapes and his own project Senseless Hate. I believe George was located somewhere in Pennsylvania. I can’t recall what i bought first – could have been a Senseless Hate tape or could have been one of the compilations he had put out. If it was a compilation it was also an introduction to me to Smersh among others, which led to further purchases…(and a quick word on Senseless Hate which was guitar and screaming and very cool and new to me). And after purchasing tapes from folks on the compilations and what i was reading elsewhere, the desire to not have to buy tapes but to trade them was one of the mail reasons that i began my own cassette label – Sound of Pig Music. So that i would have tapes to trade – for more tapes. The first SOP tape was a compilation called Slave Ant Raid (in late 1984) and featured the very first piece that i made as If, Bwana (entitled – Slave Ant Raid – oh that self-referentiality. I do not recall who was my very first trade – and it was likely this compilation. My very first trade i can really remember was done with none other than Zan Hoffman. If memory serves he was just heading off to college in Des Moines and swapped for my Sombrero Galaxy cassette (another more “song” oriented project) – it may have been the first trade that i did not originate – just for some reason the letter from Zan, who continues to plug away to this day as well and who i remain in contact with) sticks in my head as the first person wanting what i had produced. Now of course if someone else wants to remind me of them being my first trade, go for it – i had actually even forgotten the Zan thing till Don asked for this (ha!! brief) memory lane stroll.