Doomsday Transmissions/ The Ceiling
To me, one of the leading exponents of experimental and home recorded music is Jim DeJong, located now In Hamilton, Ontario. I have known Jim since the early 1990s and not only is he a super creative, intelligent individual but a truly nice guy to boot. There is no bizarre or outrageous personal peccadilloes that he exhibits. He’s just focused on his art and music. Since the early 90s he has been running underground labels. First he co-founded one of the seminal Canadian tape labels, the Doomsday Transmissions label producing and distributing independent , underground work from himself and other artists. Later, he started up the label and distributorship known as The Ceiling specializing in some of the most experimental and interesting work anywhere in this genre.
Below is a short interview I conducted with Jim and I hope you find it interesting enough to get in touch with him, hear his music and experience a true artist in action.
Living Archive interview with JIm De Jong
Jim DeJong of the Doomsday Transmissions and The Ceiling labels and the music project, The Infant Cycle.
“Entropy” by Kirchenkampf, the project of John Gore from IN.Released in 1998 on Doomsday Transmissions.
What gave you the idea or impetus to start a tape label? And what year did you begin Doomsday Transmissions? What prompted the name?
It was pretty simple- we (Jared Davison, Neb Rakic and I) had a tape and we wanted to put it out! It was pretty exciting to form a label, and do everything ourselves, all the hustle and bustle. The name came about through my dad’s complaining about the noise sounding like the end of the world, though later we hated the name. We always called it DDT… We were young and idealistic- Neb and I were 19 and Jared was 17. We started in 1991, but it took until 1992 for us to put out anything, because we kept spending all our money on drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.
Was it to simply house your own music to begin with?
Yes, though I do believe we were talking about releasing other stuff pretty early on. The fourth tape was Unit 731, which was Paul Verma, later known as Plasmalamp.
Most of the label’s releases ( as with The Ceiling) are of an experimental nature. Did you shy away from rock and pop material as a rule?
There were no pop artists beating down the door to get on my label!
Who did you send tapes to begin with? Were these trades with friends?
We were not really internationally oriented in the first few years- it was based in the southern ontario area- Toronto, Kitchener, Hamilton… It was people like W.A. Davison, Robert Olver, David Faris, Dion Conflict, Adam Thornton… I know I am leaving some people out… my memory could be better. Mostly it was other musicians, pals, and people would buy them at shows or local stores.
Talk about the Canadian scene of the 80s/ early 90s for minute. Although it may have been small it seemed very potent with artists such as Darren Copeland, Dan Lander, Violence and The Sacred, WA Davison, David Keyes, Vraxoin, and others. Were you in touch with most of these people?
Some of them I was, and some of them I would hear (buying their music or on the radio) or see live. W.A. Davison and I worked together on numerous occasions, and Adam of Vraxoin and I were friends back then. There were a few very strong regional scenes at that time, and me being transient, I bumped into a few people here and there, in different scenes and cities.
Kevin Paisley of Mutant Cactus label ( and the Static Insect music project) credits you as an influence and inspiration. At the time I thought you and him were the most vital tape labels in Canada. Did you have a lot of discussion and back and forth with him then?
I remember having quite a few discussions with him, and I think I gave him a little practical advice here and there… but I am not sure I am a good influence!. He was far more productive than we were. In the time it would take Neb and I to get together and think about what we were going to do, Kevin would have ten things done. He was doing a better job releasing my music than I was.
I think that we were influential in the way that, while before us almost everything in Ontario and Quebec seemed to orbit the big cities, we maybe helped start a shift to the smaller cities and towns and quite a few cool labels sprung up afterwards that we became friends with- Mutant Cactus, Xcreteria, Austenite… there were a few….
Early on it was it was apparent that you had raised the bar for cassette packaging and design with oversized plastic sleeves, special art work, fold out panels and an overall sense of graphic understanding. Are you also a visual artist?
I am, but not a particularly productive one. It all seems to be corralled into music releases rather than any other medium. A lot of it has been learn as you go, while working on music projects, and I was fortunate to develop a design sense before I got a computer. Those sleeves were practical too- way cheaper to mail, though perhaps too fragile. I don’t think there are many intact these days…
How many tapes did you issue on Doomsday Transmissions before you changed to The Ceiling label? And what year did The Ceiling label begin?And what prompted this name?
We did 19 tapes in about a seven year span. DDT in effect split up- Ne and I were just tired- tired of it, and tired of each other. I took what was left and started the Ceiling with it. It’s the area floating above peoples’ heads that they don’t notice… unless it crashes down on them. It’s also this blank area that gets left untouched usually… I started it 98/99 thereabouts…
Is there a list of the older Doomsday Transmissions tape on the web anywhere?
There is at Discogs
And why did you change the name? because of switching to CD? Was there also an overriding philosophy you were expanding or evolving toward?
I regarded the two labels as different entities. The Ceiling was only me. It is also more an umbrella name for me- office, studio and also label. It felt like a breath of fresh air back during the changeover, and I felt pretty enthusiastic, whereas DDT near the end felt like a weight, even if we were releasing some pretty good stuff.
With The Ceiling your CD designs became more minimal, more mysterious.In fact, you sometimes don’t even use titles and simply call them “MysteryDiscs”. Is this to create an ambiguity or some kind of personal definition for people who listen to them?
Dropping them in the deep end! I liked the idea that eventually these discs would end up with people who would have no idea what they were- released from any kind of expectations and able to exist on their own. I also noticed something of an over-catalogued and structured mentality that has risen with the internet, and this was a bit of fun messing with that… I like the idea of messing with the idea of a definitive object, which is what you often try to present when releasing music.
The Ceiling is not only your label for your own work but also a distributorship of others. Does the business end of this get in the way of creating your own music at all? Have you ever run into negative issues because of this aspect?
Yes, in fact I really scaled it back a number of years ago for that reason. It was just too much to deal with- totally exhuasting. The outside stock that is there now is just leftover items from the earlier period. I had to scale it back- my sanity really depended on it!
In the early 90s ( and 80s) the home taping/experimental scene seemed like a real community. Did you find this to be the case? And can you contrast that to now? Were the “old days” better because of it…or just different?
I can’t comment on that too much, because I myself don’t network anywhere near as much as I used to. I think the community used to be tighter because it was in the pre-internet days where we had to work for it. Now networking is a part of everyone’s lives with facebook, myspace etc- nothing precious about it at all.
What’s your take on blogs offering free downloadable music? Do you see it as OK under some circumstances and not OK under others?
I think it is a big grey area.
It appears that women are playing a larger role in experimental music and the home recording scene now. Why were there so few women then ( 80s and 90s) doing this? Or am I missing something? What changed?
I think that can be said about a lot of subcultural scenes in general. Our society has changed quite a bit in even the last twenty years and people just aren’t as hung up about issues like gender, sexuality or race… some of the time. And the accessibility of the internet does make it hard to maintain the old boys club…
Talk about collaborating a bit. Do you like to do music projects like this?
Sometimes. I don’t know if I could ever go back to a band situation, but to have a nice musical love affair with someone is a lot of fun. But sometimes, no matter how well intentioned, collaborations can be pretty torturous situations. Most of my stuff I do on my own, so I guess that answers your question.
With this method and also your own solo work do you like to be surprised at the results? Or do you want them to sound like something you’ve planned in your head?
I usually go back and forth between one extreme or the other. Everybody has those few things the gods give them, that come out of nowhere, that seem far better than anything you might have written that day.
What’s next for you?
The Ceiling is actually pretty dormant these days- there has not been anything new released on the label over a year. But there is a new Infant Cycle CD called “Drop-out Center” being released on Zhelezobeton soon!
And the best way for people to find out more information?
Thanks for your time Jim and good luck,