Christopher Earl ( Zajkowski)
Christopher Earl ( nee Zajkowski) has been The Squires Of The Subterrain since the late 80s. His imaginative and joyful pop sound comes from a world where XTC is as important as The Beatles, although The Fab Ones certainly are an influence. One might also hear hints of Daniel Johnston from time to time. Like other truly great home pop producers like Michael J. Bowman, The Silly Pillows and Ray Carmen, Chris extends far beyond his primary influences into something totally fresh and invigorating. Plus, like those artists he is his own drummer, and a good one. The Squires have always been a personal favorite to me and as a DJ this is an artist that makes it hard to pick tracks because so many are good.
The tape above comes from 1993 and is infused with just the right amount psych and rockin’ Pop to make it a classic. However, there are many classics in this artists body of work.
Chris has gone on to make several outstanding CDs too as he keeps creating presently. To me, he exemplifies all that is good and fun about home recording. Below, his 1990 cassette, “Royal Slumber”
In 1989 I assembled and released my first tape by The Squires Of The Subterrain. Some local indie record shops carried it and I handed it out to friends. Though I was playing in a local bar band then, my material wasn’t getting into the repertoire. My house mates at the time were in bands, sending stuff out for review to a variety of papers and magazines. I decided I’d try it too. I received a kind review in OPTION by Jack Jordan and soon after was contacted by Jonathan Caws-Elwitt from the SILLY PILLOWS, who must have read the review. By Jonathan’s suggestion we began to trade tapes. What a blast to uncover and discover his quirky, catchy, melodic songs! What a thrill to know my songs were being heard outside my neighborhood. As we traded, we shared contacts to other home tapers and self publishers of all kinds. I remember OOH OOH MUSIC was not only a cool label w/ a roster of artists, but also a cool zine, xeroxed, folded, and stapled. As the trading continued I never knew what would show up in my mailbox next, it could be anything: mail-art, magazines, records, tapes, photos, small trinkets. This was all before the internet. I would send stuff out and never know if or when the recipient might reply w/ some goodies or some feedback. Going to the mailbox was such a thrill and an adventure. As more stuff came in, I’d try hard to get stuff out so the whole thing would keep snow balling. WHAT FUN! Very early into this adventure I contacted Don Campau who actually hosted a radio show, NO PIGEON HOLES, dedicated to these home tapers. I thought this is the coolest thing I’ve heard of. It wasn’t about pristine recordings or hardest working band in show bizz. It’s about creative people expressing themselves and Don gave us an outlet ON THE RADIO! Not only that, but I started trading tapes w/ Don, his own creations as well as other wild sounds from around the globe.
I felt like I was part of a secret society.
I love those days of cassettes, xerox covers, fliers, and posters. It was a different time before the digital age. Now anyone can record a professional sounding CD, but back then I heard so many weird cassettes. It was part of the process. I think in someways people had to be more creative using only 4-tracks. I hear more clean recordings these days, but not necessarily more creative, in spite of “superior” tools. Even I am guilty of this at times.
Thank you Don for creating the LIVING ARCHIVE and for asking me to contribute to it. You and all the home tapers I’ve heard over the years have made my life much richer, interesting, and fun! You wanna trade?!