To me, Brook Hinton was an early pioneer of the home taping experimental scene in the San Francisco Bay Area. His music was challenging, unusual and certainly “experimental”. From my perspective, He seemed to be really connected to the whole Bay Area scene and also collaborated with others like Big City Orchestra. He even appeared on my radio show in 1989 as part of a BCO trio. ( By the way, you can hear that archival show here).
He released tapes of his own and also ran the Subelectrick Institute label which issued some other artists as well. I lost touch with Brook for quite awhile but am happy to be reconnected with this highly creative individual.
I became aware of the cassette underground as a normal part of my search for inspiring music. A Portland record store often had Sub Pop cassette compilations, and some of the artists on these did memorable shows at fly-by-night venues in town that helped me survive my late teens/early twenties. I started reading OP, started buying cassettes, and eventually wrote reviews for some of the post-OP magazines. I hated writing reviews – so much of this stuff was done for pure love or the joy of participation, and it felt so unfair to subject the makers to my “Art Forms Must Evolve!” mentality, which I never have quite escaped.
I started releasing my own stuff on cassette, and briefly ran (very poorly – the artists deserved much better) a cassette label, not so much because I felt part of the scene but because I objected to the idea of wealth, patronage, or commercial potential being a prerequisite for the making of art. This was partly out of a sense of fairness, partly because the end result, to me, is dull and obvious work. This goes back to my buying cassettes – it wasn’t that they were cassettes, it was that this was, to me, the most interesting music.
As for trades – I kind of sucked. I’m not a natural networker type of person and have enormous difficulty self-promoting, let alone contacting someone I’ve never met with Actual Artistic Output as though I expect them to have time to listen to it, especially since I would already be an admirer of theirs so would assume such accomplished people had better things to do (which is insane, since some of those same people would have sent me something to begin with) . I’m also not a collector: I’ve always fantasized about a time when one wouldn’t HAVE to deal with anything physical to experience music, film, etc. The extent to which I was able to be a part of “cassette culture” had mostly to do with my friendships and collaborations with a small group of wonderful people who lived in San Francisco and environs during the mid-80s. All were far more steeped in it than I, despite my best efforts, and they made it possible for me to meet many other people in the network. dAS, Alan Herick, AMK and I put on lots of shows at which many tapes were sold and traded. The mid-80s was kind of a golden era for underground music in SF – in any given month I’d be performing live at least twice, doing radio performances or interviews, and working on some new release with someone. There were multiple regular radio shows, at least a half dozen places in SF to play, and a small but very dedicated audience.
To this day some of my favorite music is work from the cassette underground. The Dave’s “Lois” cassette is still my all time favorite collection of songs of any kind. A sure way to get my jaw to drop is to hit play (or the spacebar) on something by Minoy. Cassette Culture was an incredible phenomenon that produced wonders that would otherwise never have existed.