- March 26, 2018
BlackTape fan Brandon bought this at Raggin’ Records in Visalia CA.
Probably back in the mid to late 90s.
BlackTape fan Brandon bought this at Raggin’ Records in Visalia CA.
Probably back in the mid to late 90s.
As my patrons know, I’m close to completing the next Black Tape For A Blue Girl album. This weekend, Danielle Herrera will be in Portland to record her tracks. I completed the music before the holidays, but we got a bit behind schedule with the break, as well as I was having a tough time writing lyrics for “Does anything remain?” For that – and a hundred other reasons – it took longer than expected, but I’m very thrilled we’re going to record this weekend!!
After all the struggles, the lyrics turned out really great, I think:
i don’t know, i just don’t know, does anything remain?
something not worn away by all the battles.
can i trust again? can i even trust myself?
i haven’t left the house in days, calling in sick with spirits watching over me
drinking alone, i’m thinking you’ll abandon me when you keep finding me like this,
of course i can stop, i promised i’ll stop
why don’t you hold me and talk anymore? why are you shouting? every word a lifetime
i wish i could take back those angry words, i really only wanted to tell you i loved you
does anything remain through all the mistakes and all the wasted years.
i try to forget myself
While we’re recording here in Portland, Michael Plaster is working on his tracks in Phoenix. If everything comes together as I’m expecting, I plan to launch the album’s Kickstarter in 6 to 8 weeks. I’ve been having a lot of cool ideas for the cover shoots with Mercy. Where Fleeting had one location and one theme, I’m thinking of a number of different shoots that combine to tell the story, almost like stills from a film. I’m thinking I’ll do those shoots during the Kickstarter month, and post photographic updates on the progress.
To describe These fleeting moments‘ theme, I wrote, “The lyrics explore the existential predicaments of time’s passage, choices questioned, and loves lost.” This album seems to be about being at the point where something has to give, realizing that something has to change, that the dead ends need to be left behind. It’s the desire to feel alive and live a life that has been left unlived, after too many years spent in hiding, in limbo, giving in to fears. And within that, questioning the loops and repetitions, and wondering if there’s something more to all of this.
While we’re having fun working on music, you can grab a free download of BlackTape’s 2002 album, The Scavenger Bride. The download is name-your-price and the CD is on sale for $10. All your contributions help me make art. Thanks so much. Sale ends at midnight on Monday the 12th.
It would be super helpful if you could share these posts:
Black Tape For A Blue Girl's THE SCAVENGER BRIDE is on name-your-price sale this weekend. And the CD is $10.
Black Tape For A Blue Girl's THE SCAVENGER BRIDE is on name-your-price sale this weekend. And the CD is $10. https://t.co/PpHqZZRYO4
— Sᗩᗰ ᖇOSᕮᑎTᕼᗩᒪ (@BlackTapeSam) March 8, 2018
All the time I hear from former-BlackTape fans who reach out to me on Facebook and say, “Wow, I didn’t know your band was still together.” Yes! As long as I’m alive, BlackTape will still be around and creating music. Thanks to the help of patrons like you, I can dedicate time to art. Back in the late-90s, the music business was about selling thousands of albums at retail stores. I am very fortunate that the early-90s albums all did respectfully, and then the Remnants of a deeper purity album took off and was very successful (especially considering how obscure the music actually is). In that era, my music reached a lot of people, sparking something emotional and resonant within. These days, Black Tape For A Blue Girl survives from a much smaller group of loyal fans who love what I create, value the music in their lives, and want to support my art via patronage and crowdfunding the releases. I am very grateful to those of you who are loyal to my vision. I am excited that I can keep creating because some of you want to chip in to support it. I get to make really cool artistic packages because you want me to! Thanks.
I don’t begrudge those of you who listen on streaming sites, only. It takes all types of fans to support an artist. Streaming adds up to a trickle of nickles that goes to my music budget.
But to those of you that love the music and feel like supporting it, let me tell you that your pledges are really what keeps the music flowing, and I appreciate it.
Now that the album is almost finished, you’ll be hearing from me more frequently. I’m very excited for you to hear this one!
The top tier on the These fleeting moments Kickstarter included a one-of-a-kind art box. I am now sharing the first box with you, as well as Scott’s really lovely reflections on the piece of art I created for him….
The art box I received from Sam after the fundraising campaign for These fleeting moments has a prominent spot next to my listening chair. It makes for a nice decoration and reminds me of how interesting it was to hear songs from These fleeting moments on Patreon as they progressed from initial sound sketches to the finished double-LP. The wooden box contains a bass nestled among twigs and surrounded by small images of Mercy (from the cover photo shoot) posing inside the bass. What follows is a summary of my thoughts about the art box and how it relates to the album:
There are only a very few leaves on the twigs and thus the suggestion of the Gothic idea of All Beauty Is Sad (because it always comes to an end), but the box has never seemed like a casket to me. Rather, it reinforces the album’s lyrical theme of living life to the fullest (“if only i could live a little more”). The branches (“trees”) and the bass are all wood and seem to grow out of the soil at the base of the box (“reaching out i’m limitless”) as if they were alive. There is life to be found in music and artistic expression in general, and all art is interactive to some degree – “you’re present in every moment, and every moment is in you.” The combination of twigs and bass struck me as symbolic of music and sound being part of daily life and of the natural landscape.
Of course, These fleeting moments also touches on emotions like sadness and frustration – it is, after all, a Black tape for a blue girl album – and the band treats us to the entire panorama of human emotion. Sam’s art box addresses these unhappy themes for me with the images of Mercy, which can represent everything from innocence to desire, ideals to daydreams. They are like seeds (in the ground below the bass) and sunlight from above, giving the bass (representing music, existence, etc.) life and energy by evoking beauty and encouraging acts of expression and growth… “let’s hold hands now and together we’ll leap.”
I have experienced life’s ups and downs as much as anyone, and I find These fleeting moments to be very relatable and thought-provoking. It’s interesting how, in the context of the album, this box of seemingly unrelated objects has created such inspiration for me. It’s my personal reminder that “it’s fine, i’m fine, it’s time to move on.”
– Scott M
Follow Sam on Instagram: instagram.com/BlackTapeForABlueGirl
In the three days since my last email, 75 people pledged Journey to Aktehi, my collaboration with Mark Seelig. 199 amazing backers pushed us past the $7000 goal, assisting in the release of this album.
There are 33 hours to go, Aktehi is still gathering support.
Visit the Kickstarter page to pledge/preorder your copy; watch the video to hear some of the music, and follow the link to a Bandcamp preview of the first track. Aktehi is an album of hallucinogenic ethno-organic-electronic music, centered around Mark’s Bansuri flute and chant vocals, with a subtle layer of my electronics & processing.
We’re in a new paradigm in the music industry. Or perhaps better to say: For my own music, I am working within one of a number of new paradigms, each with their own set of rules. Crowdfunding works when artists ask their audience for support to help a project succeed. It’s definitely more ask-y, more direct, more blatant than the old music industry.
In my role as a creator, I am honestly saying that I need your help to release my albums. That’s my reality. Making art costs money, from the investment in studio gear, to the time spent making the music (instead of doing something else for income), to the manufacturing of the various parts of the release (CD, cassette, t-shirt, poster, etc). It all costs money. With sales decimated “at stores,” my albums have become limited and collectible releases for a small group of dedicated people who believe there is worth in what I create.
I think some people mistake the ask for saying, “Whine, whine, I deserve your money because I make music!” That’s not it. If nobody liked or listened to what I create, I wouldn’t feel entitled to getting paid. I understand there’s an exchange going on here: people appreciate the work, and some of them want to chip in to cover the costs of making it. Others want to listen for free on Spotify or youTube or torrents. That’s part of the new reality. I accept that, I understand that.
But I gotta tell you, I find it really cool when I see a $10 or $70 pledge from a first-time backer. Not just first time supporting my music, but first time to Kickstarter. That makes me smile because it tells me, “Here’s another person with the desire to contribute to music and art.” I love seeing that! And then there’s the person who has backed 786 campaigns, and I’m blown away as I think, “I wish I could be so dedicated to art that I searched out 786 things I cared about enough to subsidize!” Both types are amazing. And of course, the people returning to support a seond or third of my Kickstarters: you are the core that propels my album to the goal.
Years ago, I used to write a lot on this elist and Facebook about the devastating effect of torrents and illegal downloads on creators; the need for artists to be paid for our work. There’s no way to put all the cats back into the bag on that one. However, the possibilities for compensation for creation has morphed and evolved. Artists are uncovering and exploring the new paradigms of what it takes to fund their creations.
On Sunday morning I wrote to Mark, “Aktehi is a great album, a great collaboration! And people like it enough to make it happen. I find crowdfunding more rewarding than the old way we released albums. I feel love & appreciation.”
Back in the 80s when I reached my audience via my paper mail-order catalog, I received hand-written letters-in-the-mail from fans of Black Tape For A Blue Girl. Fast forward to the 90s: the CD and big-distribution-era; I no longer heard from the people who listened to my music. CDs sold at Best Buy or Tower or a cool local shop, but we weren’t in touch. Now with crowdfunding, I communicate with the people who like my work. Some people are still with me after all these years (Hi, Erik!), and there are people who have joined along the way. It’s a great mix of people who care about art and are fortunate enough to have some money to spare to donate to projects they believe in.
Thanks for your support, I appreciate it! You really are helping out here! My Kickstarter campaign ends in about 33 hours. Check it out, pledge if you like what you hear.
Thank you all so very much.
Are we going to make it?
Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing proposition. Our project needs to reach the $7000 goal, or none of the backers are charged, and I’ve raised nothing. Not a penny goes towards creating the Journey to Aktehi CD / Cassette / Shirt.
The stakes are high this weekend!
We’re currently 68% of the way to the goal, 124 backers have pledged $4796. That means the campaign needs to raise $551 a day, for the next four days to make it.
Maybe I was overzealous? Maybe it was a mistake on my part to include a royalty payment to Mark and myself within the budget this time?
After doing eight crowd-funding campaigns, I thought it would be a cool idea to finally get paid for the work I do, creating art. That’s the thing: the budgets for my past Kickstarters have been for the manufacturing costs. The budgets never included a payment for the band or for me.
I thought this time, it would be a sweet idea to get paid.
124 of you have pledged your support because you appreciate what I create. And that feels good. I know I write it often, but I **do** like knowing that when I take a day off work (Projekt) to create music, not only are there people that appreciate the music, but there are also people willing to put some of their money into the project to make it happen.
I know that in 2017, most people don’t pay for music and support art. My Pateron patrons have been very cool about helping me make work, and my Kickstarter backers have been very cool as well. But are there enough of you out there…. ?
To pull in that final $2201, I need 220 more backers at the $10 DIGITAL level, or 88 more backers at the $24 CD level, or 49 backers at the $45 CD & POSTER level, or 31 more backers at the $70 ALL THE PHYSICAL THINGS level….
It seems doable to me.
Remember that every pledge of $10 or more immediately gets a download of my Isotope album. It’s a 90-minute dronescape excerpted for the background of “Meditation on the Skeleton.”
I am really happy with the Journey to Aktehi album I created with Mark. I love the sound, the mood, the experience. I wish it didn’t have to be all about me asking for money. Alas, that’s the reality of the underground music business in 2017!
I hope we make the goal, but I must admit that this is a nail-biter!
Every time I listen to ambient music, I let it take me to unknown crossroads within my mind. For me, there are no signs, only unlit pathways no matter how overgrown they may be. I willingly go in trust to those places because they hold wonders. And stories.
With this set of music, I’ve gone to a place that is very hypnotic. I’ve passed by here before but never stepped foot in it. There’s a sense of not being physical, whereas before I’ve generally felt that I’m physically walking or flying somewhere. Strangely, I feel like there’s an orchestra of souls musically wrapping around a central point. I loved being one of those souls attracted to the psychic scent of awareness. Sounds weird, psychic scent, but it’s a drawing of myself toward the blend of spirituality that is swirling like a majesty of clouds. Thick, enveloping smoke of clouds. I felt more than the wisp of those clouds. They were my protective covering.
In “Meditation of the skeleton” I felt a strong sense of life and formation. The wrap of life, with no sense of time (which is important to me, not to have a sense of time), was a rush to the center of my self. I know we’re more than flesh and bone. I know that we’re not accidental. Doesn’t matter how we got here, but there’s a sense of intent and unknown purpose.
Rosenthal’s collaboration with Seelig blends a strange union with that which is electric, with that which is fashioned by nature. Mixed with unworldly chant, that blend feels like a restorative gateway. A return to what we once were. And should be now. We’re far too embroiled in the business of living that we’ve forgotten how to merge with those other souls.
Journey To Aktehi is more than music. It’s more than brilliant compositions. It’s more than a map. It’s the actual doorway to resolve. To peace. And that’s worth a lot. Especially to me.
CD in 6-panel DVD-sized Digipak,
with illustrations by Oscar Herrera.
This album is being supported by people like you, at our campaign on Kickstarter.
(Above: sketch in progress by Oscar Herrera, not the final illustration)
(July 16 update, the Kickstarter is now live)
On Tuesday, I listened to the nine tracks I’ve written since the sessions for Blood on the Snow. I think five of them are good enough to keep working on. I’m setting aside four of them for now. Tuesday afternoon, I worked on more mixing on the track temporarily called “0819 Guitar” (it’s the upbeat song that Brian played drums on, from August of last year). I think it’s together and coherent, now. I sent stems to Chase, so he can work on some bass and guitar parts.
As you heard in my May 27th Patreon post I am working on is a collaboration with Mark Seelig. He’s a Projekt artist who has worked extensively with Steve Roach and Byron Metcalf. I’ve created an album of trippy, hallucinogenic ethno-organic-electronic music. The primary ingredient is Mark’s flute and throat singing, plus a very slight touch of my electronics. It has an altered-state-of-consciousness feel, in the sense that I envision it as a psychedelic trip with a main character / shaman leading you through a journey of sound.
My idea for the cover is a hyper-realistic illustration of the main character / shaman. Even though the music is trippy, I think it is an immediate, real-feeling experience; the flute and voice are hyper-present in the music, it is not gauzy and distant like some music in this genre. Thus a realistic image made sense to me. Oscar (blacktape’s vocalist) is a graphic artist and works in the pencil illustration style I have in mind. We discussed the idea, emailed back and forth with a few sketches for placement and proportion, and he’s now at work. The image above is a detail of his most recent sketch, it is not the final illustration.
I have the mixes finished now. I’m sending them to Howard for mastering, once he finishes some other projects he’s working on.
I plan to fund this album as a Kickstarter, to pay Mark and Oscar for their work (and hey, something for myself too!).
I’m also thinking of including a cassette release within the premiums. What do you think? Did you know that cassettes are a thing? Vinyl is yesterday’s news (again). Now it’s cassettes. They are incredibly cute and totemic. I like the idea a lot more than vinyl. Perhaps it’s because making a cassette cost 10% of what vinyl costs and there’s none of that annoying metal-work process and test pressings. Cassettes can be made in two weeks, rather than the six months of vinyl. But I digress.
If everything stays on schedule, you’ll hear from me shortly regarding the Kickstarter.
Part of the habit of working on my own art Tuesday and Thursday (see next post for more on that) is getting the routine/ritual down; I don’t want to get side-tracked during the month of the Kickstarter campaign. I want to keep working on BlackTape material.
When I woke up this morning, my son was still asleep. Since my studio is right above his bedroom, I didn’t want to start making noise. I wrote this blog instead. That’s a productive use of my early morning hours. Now I need to take my kitty to the vet for a check-up. Then I can get to the studio….
Back to the music soon….
I’ve decided that the only way I am going to work on music is to work on music! The idea is so simple, but it’s been surprisingly difficult. Life has a way of eating up the time I want to dedicate to creating. Whether I’m spending time working at Projekt, procrastinating when I should be working at Projekt, hanging out with my son, or relaxing with my partner… I find that I’m not working on art often enough. My solution: work on my own stuff on Tuesday and Thursday (whether in the studio, or here writing a blog), work on Projekt Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.
How can I afford to take time away from Projekt during the week? As I wrote in my last post, the record industry is in an ongoing decline as people transition from buying music (CDs/downloads) to getting it for sort-of free (Spotify/YouTube). That genie is out of the bottle, and the result is small labels like Projekt are having a hard time earning a profit. The real issue is the smaller acts aren’t selling anymore (the 5th best selling artist on Projekt represents about 2% of the total income, and it goes down quickly from there!). I find I spend a lot of my time, promoting and working on music I enjoy which just doesn’t make money. As much as it’s hard to say “no” to people, I have to do it. I have to face facts. Time is a scarce commodity. I cannot put my time into things that aren’t earning income. Especially when I could spend that time on my music for you!
Truth is, I get by. I made a few smart choices a while back, including moving to Portland Oregon, which is reasonably affordable. I can get by here as an artist running an indie label. I’m thinking about how much time I have left (aren’t we all?), and where I should invest my time. We each need to do the things that matter to our fulfillment (and “enlargement” as James Hollis says).
It helps the priorities become clearer.
For Black Tape For A Blue Girl and my other recent releases, Kickstarters have succeeded in funding the manufacturing. While that’s not immediately putting money into my pocket, my Patreon page has been helpful as part of my monthly income.
Oh wait, I kind of got off track here. I was writing about working on music. Right! (It’s all sort of intermingled: money – art – time – cats).
I have a collaboration with Mark Seelig. He’s a Projekt artist who has worked extensively with Steve Roach and Byron Metcalf. For last year’s These Fleeting Moments (from Black Tape For A Blue Girl) I asked Mark to play Bansuri Flute on “Meditation on the skeleton.” Now we have a whole album together of trippy, hallucinogenic ethno-organic music. The primary ingredient is Mark’s flute and throat singing, plus a very slight touch of my electronics. I’m not even sure what genre to put it in. It’s not exactly “electronic” because there’s very little electronics. I am not sure if it’s traditional “tribal” because there’s no percussion. Yet it has an altered-state-of-consciousness feel, in the sense that I envision it as a psychedelic trip with a main character / shaman leading you through a journey of sound.
Last year, I recorded an hour of Mark improvising over the skeleton drone; in the previous 30 days, I’ve done a bunch of editing to his initial tracks to shape it into three journeys:
1 he became the wind
2 voices in the water
3 meditation on the skeleton (23 minute version)
My Patreon supporters heard the first 7 minutes of “he became the wind” two weeks ago. All new backers who pledge at Patreon this week also get to hear it. All it takes is $2 or more a month, charged on your credit card.
This morning I spoke with Oscar (blacktape’s vocalist) about the cover. He’s going to work on a super-realistic drawing of the idea I have in mind. After I finish writing this post, I am going to listen to the (hopefully final) mixes of the tracks. I’ve been getting closer and closer with them; I’m almost ready to send them to Howard for mastering. I plan to release this album as a Kickstarter, in order to pay Mark and Oscar for their work (and hey, something for myself too!). Part of the habit of working on my own art Tuesday and Thursday is getting the routine/ritual down; I don’t want to get side-tracked during the month of the Kickstarter campaign. I want to keep working on BlackTape material: write a number of additional pieces for when I begin working on lyrics.
If everything stays on schedule, you’ll hear from me soon regarding the Kickstarter. You can get that sneak preview by supporting at my Patreon page. If the cost of a cup of coffee, once a month, is within your budget, that would be super cool of you! You help give me the freedom to be an independent artist.
(* The bear above is a processed version of an image from http://www.gobibearproject.org/ )
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