Philip Sanderson Interview (with Philip Sanderson)

Philip Sanderson Interview (with Philip Sanderson)

Richard Wilson, brains behind this great blog conducted an interview with Philip Sanderson. Sanderson (Storm Bugs, Claire Thomas & Susan Vezey) was the mastermind behind the Snatch Tapes label, which operated between 1979-1981, via mail-order from Paddington, London.

  • Richard Wilson, brains behind this great blog conducted an interview with Philip Sanderson. Sanderson (Storm Bugs, Claire Thomas & Susan Vezey) was the mastermind behind the Snatch Tapes label, which operated between 1979-1981, via mail-order from Paddington, London.

    1. Hello, Philip! Why do you think there is a resurgence of interest in music from the post-punk era now, particularly in DIY groups?

    Probably a few reasons: here are a few possibilities.

    Arguably the DIY paradigm has become the dominant mode for making music. Back in 1978 you were not taken seriously if you went into a studio without a drummer and there was a clear separation between professional and amateur whereas now the idea that people should make music at home is commonplace and not seen as having some negative connotation.

    DIY blurred the distinction between the instruments and recording equipment; indeed the tape machine often could be the only instrument. Again this is taken for granted as part of computer based recording programs such as Cubase.

    In terms of a resurgence of interest in the specific DIY recordings of yesteryear clearly the influence of the net is crucial. The web suddenly made everything available and that included the most obscure releases that pre-web were literally only known to maybe 5 or 6 people. Initially that resulted in the re-issuing of a lot of material on CD but that is being rapidly superceded by the download and sharity blog.

    2. Briefly state what made you want to release your own work on cassette back in 1979 (if you can remember!).

    Despite the indie labels that grew up in punk’s wake, putting out a vinyl LP was still very expensive. Tapes offered a cheaper, quicker, and more immediate format. The DIY cassette wasn’t a demo tape; a poor version of some other format it was a medium that had intrinsic value (artistic if not financial). Tapes were not only cheap to produce in small quantities, they were also easy to distribute, and this led to a period (from say 78-81) when there was an explosion of activity with people mailing tapes back and forth.

    3. Where did your influences and interests lie in music and sound during the Snatch Tapes era (1979-81)?

    There were the usual suspects: Kraftwerk, Faust, Neu!, Eno, Bowie, Steve Reich etc. but I also listened to a lot of popular music (from all eras) as well as more obscure things such as library recordings of Tibetan Monks, film soundtracks and so on.

    4. Some of your contemporary film work employs structuralist techniques and/or ideas. Was the likes of Peter Gidal an influence at the time, and did any of this cross over into your music?

    I did visit the film co-op in 1978/9 when I first moved to London as it was next door to the LMC and was aware of the general conceptual approach that was prevalent in both the visual arts and music throughout the 70’s. I’d read books such as Experimental Music and beyond by Michael Nyman and seen David Hall’s video work. It was this structural/conceptual, which to a large extent I was having some tongue in cheek fun with on Reprint.

    5. Who were Loop Records?

    A one off label I invented, whose only release was the Storm Bugs Table Matters EP in 1980. I can’t recall now why it didn’t go out on Snatch Tapes.

    6. Other than the VCS3 synth, what other kinds of instruments, electronics and recording methods did you employ?

    I had been experimenting in the bedroom at home from about 74 onwards and had built a tape delay based on the Terry Riley system though with really cheap Phillips 1/4-inch machines that ran at 1 3/8 speed and corroded the sound beautifully. I’d also done a lot of what is now called circuit bending, basically re-wiring radios and cassette players to make them oscillate and produce random blips and electronic squeals. Another technique was record scratching; not in the hip hop sense but literally going at records with a scalpel to produce locked grooves. On Eat Good Beans from Table Matters the rhythm is produced by feeding such a scratched groove through a broken speaker that had an old biscuit tin lid on top covered in various household objects producing the death rattle snare sound. The guitar was also fed through the same speaker to get a buzz fuzz sound. On top of this you can hear a rewired radio oscillator called the sythi-bug.

    All kinds of records were scratched from cheapo charity shop novelties to some re-worked experimental LP’s. So for example there is a scratched Sex Pistols groove on Cash Wash (also from the Table Matters EP) and some mutilated Metal Machine Music on Window Shopping.

    In terms of recording a lot of tape loops were used along with musique concrete techniques employing splicing and speed/pitch variations. By 1979 I had bought an old valve Revox for £100 and was able to work on 1/4 inch at 7 inches per second. The Revox allowed you do things like hit play and fast-forward simultaneously thereby getting radically pitch bent sounds. Basically if there was a way in which a piece of equipment could be abused it would be. It was quite rare however for equipment to ever ‘break’.

    7. Did you have a particular fondness for tape work, other than your own, from the cassette culture era?

    Still a favorite of mine is David Jackman’s Slow Music from 1980. Nigel Jacklin under the Alien Brains banner produced some really good work, as did the N4s, Beach Surgeons, and a whole host of other names.

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