Interview with Scott Slimm from Archive

As the man behind every drone freak's favorite label,the simple and accurately titled "Archive",Scott Slimm has taken a love for sonic documentation and turned it into an ongoing project to bring people the real sounds of modern underground music,all lovingly (obsessively?) presented in some of the most beautiful packaging you will ever see.I decided to get the skinny on Slimm,and how all of this came to be.

Hammer Smashed Jazz. Ok, first up. I’ve always wondered...what were you up to pre-Archive days? Were you just a notorious tape-trader?

Scott Slimm.I grew up in the 80’s with skateboard culture and of course was raised on old hardcore which later turned into late/mid 80’s metal, which then progressed onwards to other abstract forms of music.In the 80’s their was a pretty interesting underground tape trading network that I was pretty involved with. In those days of course it was a big deal to actually have a record out and thus bands still had “demos” which were small runs and circulated through uber fans. I continued with tape trading from the live aspect and record collecting more or less 'til I start Archive.

HSJ.Your first Archive project was the Keiji Haino boxset you did. I know you managed to get him a copy. What was his reaction?Also,you had said that you wanted to do 20 sets, but only did 6.Will you ever make the other 14,or maybe do a wider release for this?

Scott.I wasn’t able to actually present Haino San with a Haino box in person but I heard he was interested and sort of puzzled by the whole thing. In theory I wanted to make 20 of the sets but I became much more involved in actual label releases and never had the time to go back to get the run actually finished.
It was also really time consuming for Tony, from Tequila Sunrise Records, who actually fabricated the boxes which were really lovely little things all covered in black book binding fabric. I would like to do a Haino release of scale, but probably not that particular material.

Really to be perfectly honest with you Archive was created by me out of fascination for Haino. I had access to hundreds of unreleased performances many of which I thought were totally fantastic. I initially pitched Haino on doing a CD subscription series of releases over the course of a year. This was probably too big of a bone to bite off for someone who had never done a release at all but I asked and he declined. I later got him on board with two double CD’s for the label, the Sitaar Tah! Collab double disc being of particular note I think in the Haino catalog of works.

HSJ. So,your first official release is LiveWhite by Sunn O))).I'm sure I'm not the only one who wonders how you got them as your first release. They were smoking hot at that point.

Scott.If my memory serves me correct it was just prior to Sunn O))) really taking off. I recorded Live White while they played on the White 1 tour, which was the first record that really jumped. I knew Stephen from seeing him at shows in NYC and Brooklyn.
He was aware that I was doing lots of live recordings of his shows and after the White 1 tour I sent him a mock-up CDR copy of the of the show with the acetate photo cover in a sleeve. I recall he liked the picture and the look of the mock-up and I probably asked him at that point if he’d be into doing a CDR release. Sunn O))) agreed and that was that.

HSJ.Your early releases read like a "who's who" of drone/metal, with releases by Growing,Earth,Boris,and Khanate.How in the hell did you pull it off?Also,how'd the Boris 3xCD come about?I know it was a big deal then,but man,people would really shit if someone released that now.

Scott.The bands all mentioned were bands I was into so I was seeing and recording them, therefore content existed. My label releases filled the need of a touring band having some interesting looking small run “tour merch” which became a very important part of the business model for an independent small touring band to make ends meet. So in that sense it was something that fit really nicely for all parties. Also,giving more then standard artist compensation didn’t hurt my chances either.

The Boris release specifically I had been in corresponding with Atsuo for years. Actually even prior to me having access to the internet I did a zine interview with Boris and Greenmachine around 97-98?? I stayed in general contact with Atsuo for some time.

Boris was getting ready for their first US tour and I can’t remember if I asked them or they asked me about doing a tour CD for them?? But I do remember Atsuo saying yes he wanted to do 3 CD’s with me for tour. I was like wow that’s a lot of work...hmmm ok well how about two CD’s and he responded back,ok great I’ll send you three masters for tour CD’s. I thought that was pretty funny so I was like ok what the hell three CD’s it is.
Last minute I decided to make an obi belly band that would hold all three CD’s together as a set. I figured it was a cool idea for the people that would buy all three CD’s. I thought maybe I’ll have like 200 people order all three I think we made like 300 out of the 600 with the belly bands. Turned out every single person who ordered the CD’s ordered all three together. I was pretty shocked to be honest.

HSJ. The first LSD March CD you put out seemed to push the label in a fresh new direction. Was this a conscious decision? Maybe use your newfound notoriety to get some other names out there?

Scott.Yeah that was a bit of a change in direction on a number of levels for me and was really a product of a bunch of events. One of which was running into some label stuff with Greg at Southern Lord about doing the Earth release. I found it a huge bummer and mega let down with having to deal with him on that release.
It’s actually probably unfair to even bring up what took place, and I’ll take my share of the blame for some of the doings that went on with that release. But I was sort of burnt with trying to work with bands that had a bit of viability to them and a “real” label backing them. It just came with all this extra red tape that to me was really annoying and not stuff I wanted to deal with again, but at the same time I enjoyed the creative side of the label.

But anyway,I was doing assembly on some release; I can’t recall which one it was?? Normally when I do assemble it’s a week of lots of music and just sitting in a chair getting that done. I was spinning in marathon fashion a shit load of Lez Rallizes Denudes live recordings and was thinking "Wow,it would be sooooo amazing to release this stuff".

Of course I also knew that would be fairly impossible on an official level so I emailed Shinsuke, from LSD March, and asked him “Hey,lets do a live CD all burned out and in the red like a Lez Rallize Denudes bootleg” .Next day or so I got the greatest response from him. “Ok I’ll send you a master” I thought that was awesome. So uncomplicated and he understood exactly what I wanted and was into it. It was just a huge relief with no negotiations,no bullshit...just about music, which was fantastic. (editorial note:Ironically I’m listening to the Earth Live Hex now which I haven’t done in some time and its better then I remember.. been on an Earth marathon tonight playing the studio Hex CD. Sounds shittier then I remember it?? The Pentastar CD also which is fantastic, maybe my fav earth release).

HSJ.Ahh yes,the much-maligned Pentastar.I always enjoyed that one as well.So,many years back,I had a friend who was obsessed with Zeppelin bootlegs,specifically a label called Tarantura,whose packaging and aesthetic is loosely similar to yours.Were there any "Live" or bootleg releases/labels that inspired you when forming Archive?

Scott.I was inspired by a whole bunch of stuff. I remember very clearly buying a copy of Merzbow's “A Taste of Merzbow” on the Mego label while I was in Shinjuku at a tiny CD shop and just loving the little package and the wonderful art work. I also loved lots of nice looking LP’s and 7”s, particularly from labels like Bacteria Sour records and the Hydra Head label, which I was pretty into from the inception of their existence.

To me it seemed also important for the CD format to not be the throwaway cash cow;do as cheaply as possible for the label. I was thinking to myself why can’t the CD pressings be as nicely produced as the good vinyl pressings??

At the same time I noticed how the majority of free jazz recordings I owned were from live performances and that the studio works were a far less important aspect to the music and that it was mainly about the documentation of the event. The real essences of the music was about the actual sonic event,not what was assembled piece meal on a PC workstation,one instrument at a time. To me it felt important to document left of center music as though it was just as important as anything else.

I also loved the intimacy of Michael Gira’s “I Am Singing to You From This Room” .Just so simple and clean.Real takes recorded at home with a single mic to DAT. Just totally perfect. I rolled that all together and Archive is what happened.

HSJ.Recently,LiveWhite was reissued as bonus tracks on a Japanese Sunn O))) release,and both Nadja discs you released were also reissued via Daymare.Is this a band choice,or yours?Also,will you ever reissue any of the older Archive stuff (like you did with Khanate and Nadja)?

Scott.Basically the deals were setup between the bands and Daymare.I wasn’t involved.
In terms of re-issuing Archive older stuff,I’m generally not in favor of doing it since I’d prefer to pour my energy into new releases rather then try to squeeze a few extra dollars out of old ones. Although some LP pressings of some older release might be fun to do. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen at some point if it makes sense to the band and Archive.

HSJ.Favorite Sabbath song?

Scott.Anything off Paranoid. I often think back what it may have been like to bootleg a formidable Sabbath at a small venue during the prime years!!

HSJ.You're now doing vinyl and DVDs, which is very exciting, but have you ever been concerned that different formats would deter from the original intent of the label?Did you ever have a blueprint for the label to begin with?

Scott.The DVD arm is really a creation of Plotkin, and while the format is different, I still think it maintains the intention and spirit that I wanted Archive to be and or achieve. Non-mass produced releases in non standard packages with a slant on documentation. That’s more or less the loosely fitting blue print for the label. I have strayed from that from time to time but generally that’s the back bone of the label. The actual medium of the release isn’t terrible important to me.

HSJ.Ok,so there's CDs,vinyl,and DVDs.Where's the cassettes,man?

Scott.Well,ironically,I hate cassettes. It’s funny you mention this to me as I remember having a conversation with Dom of Hospital Records up at his shop about how much cassettes suck as he was dubbing all these small edition tapes.

Basically,while I tell you I’m an older guy who grew up with cassette tapes and I own hundreds of them but I think CDR’s are 3 million times better. I can’t tell you all the hours I spent rooting through super nerd tape trading lists of Melvins bootlegs that listed the generations of the dubbed tapes trying to track down the lowest generation possible from 8.19.89. The thought of lost audio due to tape generation just goes against my DNA. CDRs are clones,kids.The audio is better.Get over it. Not to mention the fact you can play a single piece of music that’s 80 minutes long.

At the same time I get the heritage of the tape, especially from the noise side of the world, but beyond a nostalgia kind of thing I don’t care for them any longer.

HSJ.I saw that you were credited in the Melvins' recent live set.Have you been a part of other live releases not on your label,and are you open to shelling out your "archives" to other labels to release them?

Scott.Yes I more or less knew different parties that had content for that Melvins release and put people in touch which helped make it happen.

But yes some of my recordings have been released by other labels. The B side of an ASVA record. This was suppose to be an Archive CD after the Growing release but got washed out late in the game. 20 minutes of the audio later made it into the LP.

The first Ginnnuuupppapapapapa thing or how ever you spell that O’Malley band, I recorded. Utech used some Nadja stuff I did. The Growing live CD I did got an LP pressing of Conspiracy Records. Probably some other stuff out there floating that I can’t think of.

I’m fine with other labels or bands using material for releases. I don’t record all that stuff to be placed in my coffin with me when I die.

HSJ.I always wanted to ask you collect your own releases?Also,have you ever done any variants or one-offs just for yourself/for fun,that no one knows about?

Scott.I’ll fool around and make mock-ups from time to time for different things.. I made this bad ass double CDR of both the ASVA shows I recorded when they toured the east coast a few years back that had this big fold out accordion type cover with all these photo’s that I took that came out really cool.

Sometimes I’ll make acetate and or vellum covers to use up extra discs I have from a CD pressing if the covers run out. Plotkin and I did that one day when he was down at my house with the extra CD’s we had from the repressing of the Khanate releases. We made like 10 different versions of them and James took most of them.

HSJ.So,looks like 2009 will be another banner year for your label.Any future releases,projects,label or otherwise,that you'd like to tell us about?

Scott.I generally don’t like talking too much about upcoming releases because it makes me look like a total slack ass when shit doesn’t happen for months on end. But I am trying to refocus on the label backbone which is live material I’ve recorded. I’m trying out a small run vinyl release as well and if that goes well I could go ape shit and re-issue like 10 different things in editions of 200-300. The next two releases are more or less along those lines of thought.


Kevin G. Yuen said...

Slimm carries the torch and keeps the dream alive proper!!

Kevin G. Yuen said...

ps. i was kind of buzzed and got really excited when i saw a giant skull, when i made that first comment.

great interview still.

Matt said...

Good interview