Al Margolis – “You never know how many copies someone made of a tape”


Well, a first one very spontaneous question: I see a lot of LPs in what seems to be a basement, or a least a low ceiling room. The records are so heavily wrapped in plastic that at a first sight they don’t even look 33 rpm vinyls. My friend Gianmaria Aprile, musican and label owner like you, said that he does not like to keep them in plastic as he wants to listen them very often. What do you think of his consumed records? Does this make you suffer? Are you a fetishist of the perfectly-conserved music?

Well – the LPs (and they were not even all!) are in my house – downstairs – that is my main studio space as well; that is the “contemporary classical collection” 20th century music etc… They are all very accessible even in plastic, not sealed, open ends out… The plastic coverings for those were done for three reasons:

  • one for the “collector” side;
  • to keep them clean;
  • the area they live is next to a wall with just some insulation so it is extra protection against possible wet/mold… and it also started at a time when we had cats and it was just some extra protection against cat spraying!

So again – they are easily reached and listened to – not sealed.

Al Margolis (11) - Wrapped vinyls

And another one is… I see a sinister chain hanging from the ceiling. Are these little COWBELLS? It won’t looked bad in Skin Chamber’s pictures with Paul Lemos and Chris Moriarty, both from NY like you. Do you know them or Controlled Bleeding, their main band? Did have you ever feel part of a sort of ‘experimental/noise’ scene of NY in the Eighties (I also think of Swans or even John Zorn most extreme stuff with Naked City…)?

…as for the chain with little sleigh bells (not really cowbells) – the chain is not quite as sinister looking as the Controlled Bleeding pic!!! Maybe sadism light (kidding) – Yes, I know Paul and knew Chris Moriarty and Joe Papa… I even played one gig with Controlled Bleeding – I was on bass and then some grinders or something – would have been around 1986 or 1987 at Limelight in NYC – on the “They Call Me Bwana” tape, the piece called “Bleeding at Limelight” uses my bass line from one piece we did that night (no members or recording of CB were on that piece on the tape – I just re-used my part).

Well, I did not know Zorn or Swans etc… I mean personally – NYC being huge we were “part of the scene” but peripheral… and more as part of say the electronic/tape scene in NYC. So I knew and was friends with Lemos and Bleeding, but also with the improv people – Fred Lonberg-Holm and the PS 122 improv set as well.

Al Margolis (5) - Cassettes.jpg

So you mention the electronic/tape scene, and there are quite a lot of nice cassettes too. I’m struck by the one with the Italian title “Rosa d’Autunno” (“Autumn Rose”). What is that? It’s nice to see the contrast with “Sexual Immorality” and “Regicide Bureau”. So are these tapes that you exchanged with other similar artists in the Eighties? Is there then something unavailable in the ‘market’, maybe something you think it’s fabulous and only few lucky ones in the world can listen?

Here is info on the tape you saw, from Discogs:
It looks like I have the tape with sides W and Z… I guess I will have to see if somewhere is the other tape!
I do hope you can come to New york for a visit at some point… and yes these are all tapes (I have probably a couple of thousand) were from trading in the 1980s, with some in the 90s and now of course I am getting tapes from people making them. Is there something in there not in the market? Probably a lot of them! You never know how many copies someone made of a tape… and so. There’s a lot of cool stuff in there, and considering overall how many tapes made to how many listeners might be interested, there are a lots of things but only a few can listen to them I believe…

Ah, ok, I see that the “Rosa d’Autunno” tape was really an Italian one, from a label that I never heard before (RV Tape Records), but I see that they published DsorDNE, a rather know band, still active! My ignorance is wide! So you probably own very precious treasures in that ‘couple of thousands’ of cassettes stored in black drawers. Any special recommendation among them? Something you think it would deserve a repressing (or a first pressing!) to be available to the world?

There are many, but I will give you two in particular (I though if you ask again in a few days I would probably give a completely – or at least partially – different answer). So Gregor Jamroski – who did a couple of tapes for Sound of Pig – was always one of my favorite artists (maybe due to his tapes being “difficult” – his Machinic Indices.
Also a group from Norway – Genetic Plans. I will stop there, since again I could run you a whole list!!!

Al Margolis is a composer/performer, improvisor, and painter. Since 1984, often under his project name If, Bwana, he has worked in the field of non-commercial, non-popular music and sound.

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