Gajoob Magazine featured reviews, features, interviews, notices of activities, calls for compilation submissions, ads, pictures and tons of contact addresses for the home taper who wanted to learn about and perhaps join the international community of tape traders.
You can still view past issues here.
Above, issue #5 from 1990.
The next evolution of Gajoob was as Homemade Music which continued the same concepts of underground music coverage as before. Above, from 1999.
Bryan also produced compilations that bore the Gajoob name as well. One is pictured above and featured Hermanos Guzanos, Ken Clinger, Rotcod Zzaj, KD Schmitz and many others. This tape can be downloaded here.
A smaller ad from Matthias Lang’s German label, IRRE Tapes. If you look closely you may be able to see this was on a page with an interview with Ken Clinger.
Sometimes overlooked because of his massive efforts for others is his own music as The Blind Mime Ensemble. The double CD set above is filled to the brim with rock solid songs, quality production and excellent musicianship.
It’s hard to know where to start with your story Bryan. You have done so much over the years. Let’s begin with Gajoob though. Although magazines like Sound Choice and Option had come before, Gajoob was the first publication to focus on and feature home recording artists primarily. What made you go in this direction?
I started recording music around 1979-80 on a portable cassette recorder. I’m a real home studio dweeb. I was making up songs and pretend albums long before that. When I found out through Option, Sound Choice, Factsheet Five, etc., about other people making music and sending it out to other people I just thought that was the coolest thing imaginable.
Later, I started working at an AlphaGraphics print shop and got a used Mac Plus for $50 when they upgraded all their self-serve Macs. So, having all the tools, I started publishing my own zine. I wanted to focus on home taping people because I was (and still am) really fascinated by the whole activity of someone creating something just to create something. And then maybe getting other people to hear it or see it or whatever.
What years did Gajoob operate?
It’s still operating! It’s just evolved into different things. The first print issue was November 1988. The last print issue was 1994, but by then GAJOOB had been online for several years and had evolved into a web site with daily updates on music activities and searchable reviews, along with interviews and articles. I did a couple issues of GAJOOB in an electronic Docmaker format that was distributed around bulletin board systems and on AOL, before the web had really hit. Then in 1994, I started publishing an email newsletter 2-3 times a month called The DiY Report. 124 issues were published until 2001. It had contacts, activities, reviews, articles, interviews the same as GAJOOB, only it was fast and getting out to thousands of people. I produced a weekly 3-hour radio show from 1991-1994 on Salt Lake City’s KRCL called Cassette Culture Shock which featured the artists sending albums to GAJOOB for review. Around the end of that the radio show was also taken online with RealAudio podcast shows. It had compilations of artists and I also had a feature where I gave artists 15 minutes to make their own show about themselves. All of this stuff was active with something different pretty much every day until around 1999 when homemademusic.com was started. And things kept evolving.
How were you able to secure ads for the mag, especially the early editions? Did it ever pay for the actual printing costs?
I made up fake ads (those are pretty obvious) or put in free ads for people at first. Eventually I had paying advertisers, but I was never much of an ad executive. The magazine never paid for the actual printing costs, even working at a printshop with a discount on the printing. I didn’t lose a lot of money in print though. I never had any backing or other resources to lose, working for $4-5 dollars an hour and living in a tiny apartment and then later starting a family.
Gajoob is a virtual history of cassette culture itself. With interviews, features and countless reviews this publication raised the flag very high for self producing artists but must have been a tremendous amount of work. Considering that you were also recording your own music and doing other projects, how did you have time to make it all work? Did your own music take a backseat during this time?
I don’t really know how I made it work. It’s just something I enjoy doing. I’d probably spend all my time developing cool ways to experience homemade music if I could.
Most GAJOOB readers didn’t know I also recorded music. I had been recording eight years or so before I started publishing the zine and I recorded a lot of stuff. Not only on my own, but I lugged the 4-track around to record with other people. I recorded stuff by river streams up in the Utah mountains and down in the basement of what used to be a funeral home (a guy named Doug Balmer was the guitarist and I told them they should call themselves The Embalmers — they didn’t), and several other people’s bedrooms and living rooms. I record every chance I get just about, I guess. But, yeah, once I got involved in GAJOOB that was curtailed quite a bit.
Was it difficult to get other people to contribute reviews and feature writing?
There are never a lot of volunteers. I occasionally put a notice in the magazine and one or two people write back and I’ll send out a few shipments of CDs. Or friends now and then will see the zine or the web site and think it would be cool to write reviews, but most often that doesn’t work out. Writing reviews is not easy after you’ve done a few. The difficult thing is to find the soul of each recording, what makes it unique. Especially the more commercially-bent stuff. Which is another reason I prefer homemade stuff. The soul of the recording is right there. It may not be slick, but I don’t want that.
Features usually have to be requested directly, although there were a few kind souls who contribute stuff out of the blue.
How did Gajoob get distributed? Did you have any distribution outside of the USA?
I used Desert Moon, Tower, and See Hear mostly. Redwing Blackbird. Plus subscriptions. There was a fair number of print magazines distributed overseas.
I assume that many people were happy to be included in Gajoob but there must be stories of folks angry or displeased at a bad review. What kind of fall out did the mag have for your personally?
I don’t know of any real fallout from the writing I’ve done. I opened up GAJOOB to let people write about their own music before my review. More often I would get letters from people being embarrassed that I actually printed what they wrote. Sometimes what people wrote would go on for several pages and I would print it all. I did get the occasional letter, but nothing really pissed off or anything. I had an exchange with tENTAVIVELY a cONVENIENCE about a tape that was a field recording where the recorder was put in a room where someone was buffing a floor or something. I didn’t really see the point from a listening perspective and we exchanged ideas about that. I talked about that with another artist I was interviewing in print at the time as well. tENTAVIVELY (who does some really fascinating work, by the way) had well-thought ideas about the whole thing and the mind-numbing aspects of labor and capitalism exploitation of the masses, etc. I just thought, “But it’s 60 minutes of someone buffing a floor.” Lately I’ve been doing field recordings myself and incorporating them into my music. I love the sound of ambient atmosphere as background to music. Joe Newman wrote me a terse letter about my review of Bad Boy Butch Batson. He said he couldn’t understand why reviewers didn’t love Batson’s stuff. I printed most everything I got, good and bad.
How did you know when it was over? Were you burned out?
I’ve never thought it was over. The print magazine just evolved into different things like the GAJOOB website, The DiY Report, Cassette Culture Shock radio show, the online podcast, homemademusic.com, tapegerm.com, discoversounds.com, etc. There’s always something new to be excited about.
Have you archived the issues of Gajoob to the web?
There are issues of print GAJOOB onlineAnd homemademusic.com is where I’m archiving content from the magazine as well as stuff that never appeared. I’ve slowly been putting up digitized copies of cassette albums
archive.org and featuring new interviews with artists about how they were madehomemademusic.com and extracting loops for others to rework into something new @ tapegerm with the idea that recordings are like living things that can breed new ideas, take on new forms, foster new artistic exchanges. Album Reviews from GAJOOB post-print are all available online through homemademusic.com and I’ve been updating the database with the print edition reviews off and on over the years. It’s got around 5000 releases and new stuff still comes in.
Let’s go back in time now. Were you ever in rock bands? Radio? Were you always based in Salt Lake City or move there?
I was born in Lynwood, California, home of Weird Al, around the Compton area. My family is from Utah and I was born while my dad taught school there for a couple years. We returned to Utah when I was still a baby so I don’t remember anything about it. I was raised in northern Utah, in the Ogden area north of Salt Lake City in a town called Roy. A Mormon family in a largely Mormon community.
I grew up with four brothers and a sister. Music was a huge part of our life which is odd because our parents were not musicians and owned maybe two records. Christmas albums. We had a piano that no one played. None of us took lessons. The music was happening on our radios and stereos which were constantly playing upstairs in our rooms.
None of my friends or anyone in their families played instruments either. Which I’ve only now thought of. Seems odd. But I’d say music was a big part of our life. I followed the Top 40 religiously, writing down the songs as Kasey Kasem counted down the list. I had a portable reel-to-reel recorder I recorded odd stuff from TV and whatever. My group of friends had an air Beatles band (I was Paul).
The closest I’ve gotten to being in a band was having practice sessions with my college friend Joe Maki. After years of recording as Baby Fred we were going to do some live shows around town, but he and his wife were also anxious to start a life on the east coast and opportunity took them there.
I’m kicking around doing something live as Blind Mime Ensemble yet.
What lead to your interest in underground music and home recording?
I’ve always made up songs in my head. In high school my family started moving around a lot and I retreated into there and started writing lots of lyrics and making up band projects and album covers and liner notes and stuff like that. In college I started making recordings using the method of recording on a cassette then playing it through another stereo while playing along. I hooked up with a brother of a friend who was singing in a band and we got together and toyed with writing some stuff and then I bought my first 4-track and I was recording tons of stuff myself and with anyone else I could. It was then that I came across zines and underground music and then found Maximum Rock n Roll, Option, Factsheet Five, Sound Choice and learned about other people making homemade music.
Let’s go through your other work and projects. First, your own music. Was The Blind Mime Ensemble your main home recording project?
The Blind Mime Ensemble is my personal project, my solo stuff. I also recorded many years with Joe Maki as Baby Fred. We released one cassette album, but have many songs. I did lots of stuff with Gregg Allen, the brother of a friend, and I later put together a homemade CD of some of that material. My brother, Wayne, is a fantastic guitar player and we’ve made several recordings (not as many as I’d like). We and his friend, Brian Cantwell, made several recordings with the thought of putting together an acoustic cassette album which I later completed. There have been many other one-offs and recording dates with other people here and there.
Did you ever collaborate with other home tapers?
Oh, sure. Not nearly as often as I’d like. There’s Tapegerm, of course. But in terms of working on a song together one-to-one, I’ve worked with Zzaj on a track or two. Mike Bowman stopped by my place and we jammed with Joe and Mike left with a basic track he later recreated and mailed to me and I added vocals and stuff to. He was one of only a few people I’ve ever personally met from cassette culture. I hooked up with Robin James a couple times while he was passing through. We talked a lot about archiving cassette culture material. Liz Lemon and Cameron Craig from Australia stayed overnight on their way across America. They’d never seen snow before so I took them up into the mountains and made snow angels. Liz and I stayed up talking about making zines. She had a xerox machine in her flat and made every new visitor smash their face onto the glass for wall portraits.
I’ve also collaborated with Ken Clinger and did a track with Chris Hoblit for a song at SongFight.org. I’d love to get together a permanent Internet rock band… Anyone?
I’ve got a “lot of stuff up at”: http://bfbakermusic.com
There are probably roughly 75 collaborators in my history, if you count Tapegerms.
What about live performance?
I played Joe Namath in panty hose for a church skit when I was like 10. I performed songs I’d written for my grandmother and my sister at their funerals. I think I have a live show slowly brewing.
You live in Salt Lake City and I’ve never been there but have always ( perhaps unfairly) assumed that it was a conservative city with little experimental music or forward thinking artists. What’s your experience there? Did you feel isolated or were you able to connect with others in your own town?
Salt Lake City itself is fairly liberal with a supportive alternative and underground scene and outlets for experimental exploration. SLUG Magazine (http://slugmag.com) has been covering the Salt Lake underground since 1989. There’s something happening most every day at places like Urban Lounge, Kilby Court and others. Salt Lake has a Democratic city mayor and congressman. The #1 morning radio show is decidedly liberal. The City Weekly is a widely circulated independent newspaper. KRCL is a community radio station that’s been around forever and where I hosted Cassette Culture Shock for a few years. There’s always room for more of this or that, but it sounds like you’d be fairly surprised by Salt Lake City. I know GAJOOB regularly received letters from people surprised that my magazine came out of Mormon central.
Let’s talk about The Tape Germ Collective. What year did you come up with this idea for interactive music? Were you able to put it in practice right away or did the technology have to catch up ?
Initially I created tapegerm as a way to archive and present cassette albums and artists. I was introduced to collaboration via loops by a project Ian Stewart of AutoReverse sent me. After that project, I thought it would be cool to extract loops from old cassette albums, so I asked a few people if they wouldn’t mind. Then I thought it would be cool if people could come to the website and join me in creating something new from these loops. So you could hear the original tape and then participate with other artists in creating something new from pieces of the album.
I put the website together, but then I thought that since I already had homemademusic.com going and people were going there why not do that there? At the time, homemademusic.com was an online shop where people could buy homemade music. I thought it might be cool if you could experience the music further by really touching and feeling it, so to speak; by playing with its elements and hearing how other people were doing that as well.
It’s really fascinating to hear a dozen different compositions as an album all based on the same material. It has a thematic quality that reflects the original work and I think the whole experience and artistic exchange reveals how an album can be a living thing. A shelf of cassettes is like that for me. And as the artists who were assembled at homemademusic.com were creating this new music, we began talking about setting up something where we could exchange our own loops with each other on a more regular basis. I offered up tapegerm.com and we called our project The Tapegerm Collective. This was May 2000.
We tried various file hosting places, but none of them are as easy as just using an FTP area, so I opened up a place on gajoob’s site where we all dropped our loops into a pool to be shared by everyone involved. We set up a spot on the old mp3.com where we uploaded new compositions and we created albums called Germinations as the music was being made.
It was myself, Chris Phinney (Mental Anguish), Scott Carr (hebephrenic), Jay Mundock, and Bev Stanton (Arthur Loves Plastic) in the beginning and we were quickly joined by others. We’ve always had roughly 15-20 active participants. The group functions as a collective and we discuss issues on a mailing list. After mp3.com died and space on gajoob’s server was getting full, Mike McGary hosted us on his server for a few years. We were not very automated at the time. I tweaked some scripts to make searching and organizing the music possible, but we were moving files around and manually creating new profiles and such. Craig Tanis wrote some nifty scripts to join the search functions with some play functions.
Then we found Jamroom which is software that provides for having an online music community. At that point, we decided to make Tapegerm a self-supporting artist community (rather than supported on someone’s server, the group would pay collectively) and started leasing our own server. Scott Carr handles the IT server stuff, Chris Phinney is our people guy, our shepherd ass kicker and I do the programming, cataloging, whatever. Others pitch in on various projects. Pitching in is encouraged. We discuss special projects and major moves on a private mailing list. Recently it was Dave Fuglewicz who got our 10 Year Anniversary project going.
Do you know of any other interactive sites other than Tape Germ?
I think Tapegerm has developed into something unique, but there are a bunch of interactive sites where you can collaborate with artists. They’re very cool as well. Some of them allow working live with artists around the globe, while others have a sort of multitrack approach where collaborators build songs a track at a time. Sites like Tune Rooms, eJamming Audio, Indaba, Kompoz, and many others. There are links at homemademusic.com. Just search for “collab” in the links search box.
OK, here’s where even I get lost. Your HomeMade Music, Indie One Stop, Discover Sounds set of projects. Can you detail them a bit and add other things I might have left out.
Each site focuses on something I’ve been doing with GAJOOB for all these years. At some point I’ve thought it would be interesting to develop a site which explores a certain aspect of independent music activity specifically or maybe pursue a different take.
homemademusic.com started as a CD shop for the home recording artists I was covering in GAJOOB. That played itself out several years ago and I’ve been working on different things to do with it while continuing to update information and materials behind the scenes. You can find a lot of GAJOOB stuff there now along with a blog approach where I’d love to have hometaper artists blogging about creating new music on a regular basis. It’s more or less GAJOOB 2010, I guess.
discoversounds.com is where I’m writing reviews. I’m still reviewing CDs and I’m really into netlabels and free music distribution so I post about cool releases I’ve found.
indieonestop.com is in limbo. It’s an mp3 site for indie artists but somewhere along the line it became one of those “listen to my mp3” sites and I’ll be levelling it sometime soon for something different.
I started remixfight.net several years ago after a project I had with artists at songfight.org where they remixed my song “Skin Disguise.” I thought it would be cool to have an informal remix “contest” 2-3 times a month, remixing indie artist material. It was taken over by some cool people who were really into runnning with it more than I was for the long haul.
My main focus is homemademusic.com.
You ( with Chris Phinney) have been one of the few I know to actually create a community on the internet with Tape Germ. However, much of the internet seems like a one way street. Like, ‘here’s my mp3, go listen to it, I don’t have time to talk to you’. What do you think? Is it inherently more superficial?
I’m proud of what we’ve done at Tapegerm. We try very hard to make it so everyone who participates there feels they are a part of creating the community. Community exchange is integral to the whole creative process of what it’s all about.
I don’t think the Internet is any more or less superficial than real life or the postal network of exchange we had pre-web. Just like then, you can find people to interact with on meaningful levels and a lot of your success in finding those people largely depends on what you put into it. Also, I think if you position yourself as someone who “listens to your mp3” then you’ll attract a lot of people who want you to do that. Or anything else.
You can find music communities all over the web. A lot of times they are found in pockets on larger sites. Like the regulars on a musician’s bulletin board. Or a small group of regular bloggers/reviewers on an mp3 site. Like on mixposure.com, for instance, you’ll find an active bunch of really excellent muscians that contribute to each other’s recordings and provide supportive feedback on each other’s new material. Or at songfight.org you’ll find an extremely active bunch of amazing artists who regularly collaborate with each other and play on each other’s recordings and give each crap if they don’t like what they hear. It takes time, but as you participate and give back in the mutual exchange you’re rewarded with it. Often you become really close with people. Songfight people even get together several times a year for live shows where the getting together is the main thing.
Facebook and MySpace certainly have their place but can ( or should) the spirit of the Cassette Culture community be recreated?
In many ways we do have a tightknit little group of hometapers on Facebook. Once again, it’s the same few people that comment regularly, but I think it’s way cool that hear about Dino DiMuro’s wedding leading up to it and nearly live as its happening; and also pictures of his early bands and updates on his work on a new album, etc. That’s a lot better than what we had when things were postal. I wish I could focus in on it. I guess that’s what I’m working on over at homemademusic.com. But it depends on who joins in and where it goes from there. That’s one thing about communities is that you can sorta set things up, but if you don’t let things evolve then nothing happens. Recreating the spirit of something is impossible, I think.
Besides speed of communication what has helped you the most using the internet?
I like exploring and creating things. As far as creating and experiencing music, it opens up new possibilities. It gives me more places to explore and more opportunities to create and exchange. And it’s not just about the web. The things you can do with an iPad and Internet connections, for instance, are mind-boggling; and its untapped — developers have just begun to think about its potential.
Is there any lasting legacy to Cassette Culture?
I’ve got walls of tapes that speak to me. It’s possible to experience them in new ways. It’s possible to interact with them. Talking about the past is important too. I don’t want to merely preserve it, however. People should touch and feel it and continue the artistic exchange.
What’s next for you?
I’m not planning too far ahead, but I’m looking forward to it.
And when do you sleep?
I should do more of that, but there’s too much to do.
What is your main URL or contact zone?
Thanks Bryan. Good luck with all and thanks for all you have done for this subculture. We all owe you a tip of the hat.