Tape Heads was a series of eclectic compilations curated by McGee and showcasing independent artists around the world.
Droning ambience, sudden stops and aural verite characterized this challenging release on his label, HalTapes.
I was first introduced to the then burgeoning hometaper cassette scene by my friends Debbie Jaffe and Rick Karcasheff in late 1981. In the Fall of that year and throughout 1982 Debbie and I would go visit Rick at his home on Park Avenue in the Broad Ripple area of Indianapolis, and he showed us numerous small press publications and indie label records that he had gotten though the mail. It was apparent then, perhaps more so than might seem obvious today, that this early hometaper scene grew in large part out of the mail art and small press scene. Some mail artists started including cassette tapes of their audio experimentations in their postal packages of highly personalized art objects, and some print zines that usually dealt with concrete poetry and abstract writing expanded to include an accompanying tape readings of poetry and bands that the poets/writers were involved in.
In 1982 Jaffe produced an issue of her 12 Seconds Of Laughter zine in a 60-minute cassette tape version, which included recordings of cut-ups from library records, our various audio experiments, simultaneous poetry readings, sounds and conversations from daily life, and extracts from live actions. Most of the people who originally received the 60 Minutes Of Laughter tape were Jaffe’s contacts in the small press scene, and I seem to recall that the tape wasn’t all that well-received form those folks, or at least didn’t meet with the enthusiasm she might have hoped it would.
Among the small press publications that Karcasheff introduced us to, in zines such as ND and Factsheet Five we found listings and reviews for homemade cassette releases of experimental and electronic music, avant rock, and weird pop. Many or most of the artists accepted trades for their tape releases (and some, DK is one example, would only accept trades – no money!). This inspired us to make our own recordings so that we would have something to send in trade when we wrote to the artists. In early 1983 we produced a 60-minute cassette release called In A Foreign Film, under the name Viscera, which was the name we gave to our duo. We sent this tape to the addresses of many of the people we saw mentioned in the zines and asked them to send us their tape in trade.
I cannot possibly remember who the artist was with whom we first did a tape trade, but I do know that those were exciting days! We felt like we were entering into a new world of artistic expression, in which artists could express themselves in highly-individualistic and idiosyncratic ways, without bowing down to good taste or what was popular, or what would sell. The hometaper movement opened doors for many artists because it gave anyone and everyone the opportunity to create. Cassettes were readily accessible and affordable for just about anyone. The cassette provided a means of artistic production that gave the artist the freedom to create as he saw fit, without having to rely on anyone but himself and his peers.
The tapes that we received in the mail from those with whom we traded were a revelation. Most came with simple homemade packaging and artwork, many with photocopied pictures, and some tapes came in handmade / handcrafted one-of-a-kind editions. The range and depth of expressions and sounds was overwhelming. Much of it was primitive or even embarrassingly amateuristic (including our recordings! – ha!), but also much of it was exciting and thrilling and you could hear the artists really pushing boundaries and searching for new sounds.