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Pogus & Sound of Pig: Label Profile

img  Tobias Fischer

About the 80s tape scene
There was most definitely a community there and I still remain in touch and friends with some of my closest colleagues from that time. I can remember not really listening to much other music that what I was involved with and getting through the mail … so these days looking back I know there are gaps in my listening to what was happening. As for quality, there was certainly some really fine music and sound made and published at the time. But it was really also about just being able to make your own music directly and pass it along to someone directly. It was not a commercial venture, but about self expression, without the gatekeepers. And so there was also lots of lousy music made … that was okay.

About the early days of Sound of Pig
I started the label mostly so that I could trade for tapes with others instead of having to buy them – a very inauspicious and selfish start I suppose. When it all started, I remember all kinds of compilations, not just on Sound of Pig, that featured all kinds of styles. It was fun – noise next to pop next to jazz next to who knows what. It was a fairly fluid time. I think maybe, over time, we sort of moved more into genres that were of more interest. After a while I stopped doing compilations and mostly did single artist/groups. I don’t think I thought of one specific style or genre, it just kind of evolved to what interested me the most. Though it remained diverse, I think.

About the stress and romanticism of running Sound of Pig

It certainly started off at a slow pace – but maybe not: Probably in the first year or so I had done about twenty or thirty tapes, then it kind of accelerated. It’s not unlike now – once people hear you are releasing tapes, CDs etc, they start a calling – and also I was inviting people whose work I liked or thought interesting. Lots of letters and package went out. It was not a big thing. I think what one may lose with the ease and pace of the internet, when you did not have that stuff you did not miss it. So writing letters to people you wanted to get in touch with really was nothing special – it is what had to be done …Maybe something to keep in mind in general. Dubbing tapes was not stressful – not sure if I would call it romantic either – something that had to be done as well. I kept many dubbing decks running and one got a very sharp ear hearing the “click” of a deck going off. Probably, both at home and my job, at least three decks going all the time ...

About the decision to close down Sound of Pig and found Pogus
Stopping the label I think became more a factor of time, my work situation changed and there was less time to do it. Also, if I recall (correctly or not it is hard to say) that time seemed to be a slowing down in general – maybe transition period is a better term – a lot of the zines and mags had folded or slowed down and seemed to be a loss of energy. Maybe just my own. Actually, Pogus originally was meant to run simultaneously with Sound of Pig. Dave Prescott and I wanted to collaborate on this label dedicated more to contemporary composers. We really did start it with the idea of it being “Before They Die”: Feldman, Scelsi and Nono had died and now their music was finally being released in larg quantities and we wanted to get some of the folks who were of interest to us out before they died. So that was a partial direction. And so the first four release were LPs. We had not gotten to CD status yet in our thinking - or finances.

About early financial difficulties for Pogus slowing down the release schedule
Actually that could have been the situation with Sound of Pig originally as well. When first starting the Sound of Pig label, my choice was to get a couple of hundred tapes dubbed “professionally” or do it myself. Since the cost of dubbing was probably around $200 for 100 tapes, it seemed more economical to buy my own dubbing deck. I also eventually got a copy machine for home, too, and thus I was able to do as many releases as I did. For Pogus, once I decided to go CD, well then you have the whole manufacturing process etc. Which cost so much more. So it was certainly frustrating not to be able to do what you want when you want. Still is, actually.

About establishing connections with the Big City Orchestra, Trigger and other artists in the beginning
By that time I was old friends with BCO - and had released a couple of tapes on Sound of Pig - and Trigger was Fred Lonberg-Holm, Paul Hoskins and Leslie Ross. I knew Fred quite well and was friendly with Paul as well. So those folks were easy to get. I actually recorded Trigger live in the studio on DAT. BCO supplied their recording. I remember having to get them mastered to the big tapes they were using back then. It was a new process for me, so a lot of whatever system in place now (designer, mastering, manufacturer) was not there yet. So it was probably more expensive and difficult than it needed to be.

About working with the artists on the Pogus roster
Usually the musical choices are set. Once I have offered an artist a CD, then what they usually supply I accept as their musical choices. There have been rare occasions, where I may have mixed a track or suggested something else, but generally it is composer/artists choice. Some of the composers come in with general or specific suggestions for art work. For instance, Noah Creshevsky had a piece of art he liked and that worked. Some have no suggestion. Some send photos etc, so it can vary … I tend to let my designer work most of that out. Again, once in a while someone has a finished design as well. And usually I am supplied with finished masters. But I always at least have Tom Hamilton – who over the years has become my mastering person - go over it, just as a final check. So some things he masters and some are just, say, quality control. I do like to make sure the final results sound the best that we can get them. 

About the criteria for releasing something on Pogus
I have to like it and be interested in the release. Some titles have kind of come in unsolicited; most I have any interest in that composer/artist. I think the label has been fairly consistent in that I tend to try to ride this idea of releasing older archival material of lesser known composers or works, my own material, new works by contemporary composers and new works by “outsiders’  if you like. In the end, I have to be interested and I have to want to hear it. So maybe in the end I put out what I want to hear?

About establishing a steady fan base
I am still wishing/hoping for that to be the case. But it isn’t. It would be nice – would certainly help knowing that I had x amount of a release sold right away. But, for whatever reason that really has not happened to the level that I know it happens with some labels. I mean there are a handful of steady consumers, but not a ton - I am talking about “direct buyers” as opposed to distributors etc. Guess you still can’t trust what I might be putting out there …

About the motivation behind re-releasing some out-of-print titles
It satisfies my love of that music. As well as having been a history buff in the past, sort of satisfies a bit of that as well as hopefully putting forward the occasional composer who was unknown or underrated/valued. There is still a wealth of material from the beginning and middle periods of electronic and experimental - or whatever label you want to use - that has still not seen the light of day – or has been out and has again disappeared. I like to try if possible to keep them in the public eye. I sometimes find it strange/ disconcerting maybe that some labels release important artists and titles in limited editions so that these recordings, that have been out of print for years only fleetingly see the light of day and become collectors items once again – I understand the logic but it seems a disservice to the artists. Just an opinion. 

Comparing the situation in the late 80s, early 90s to the status quo

I certainly like the amount of music being released and that diy type of culture has really been moving forward. Particularly in the struggle against the music industry (industry being the key word here) this is great and slips around that control that was always present. Of course the endless amount of music being made and presented thus also make it more difficult to try and continue to run a label. Sales are certainly not what they were and digital has been helpful but has not replaced the loss of physical sales. And as much as “digital digital” is held up as the endless answer - well you still have artists and composers who want physical type of releases. So you are trying to cut through a lot more material out there. It just makes things more interesting. I do like that there is much to choose from.  So a better situation and yet at the same time more difficult all around. This should actually come off positive sounding I hope ...

About continued interest in the Sound of Pig back catalogue
There had been a fair amount of cassette orders for a while. More than CD sales in fact. My prices had remained really low for a long time and after I recently raised them, the orders subsided somewhat. They are picking up a bit again. The titles that orders do come in for, usually all of a sudden two or three people want one specific title or artist, that I suspect these are being written about on some of the blogs. I rarely get to look at them, so I never know. For instance, before my recent trip I had some people wanting X Ray Pop tapes. 

About not releasing on vinyl
This becomes a multipart answer: I’m not really interested in doing vinyl. More expensive than CDs, more expensive to ship, storage for me is a problem. And since so much of what Pogus puts out is lengthy tracks, it is not suited to records - just not really where I am looking to go or do. It’s always been about the music and not the delivery system for me.

About Frans de Waard's tongue-in-cheek suggestion that the myriads of fascinating artists on Pogus and Sound of Pig were all Al Margolis releasing under different monikers
Having just come from finally meeting Frans after all these years, I think this might be a case of projection - talk about someone with a batch of different projects!! It is blatantly false … or is it. In reality, the names I recorded under (or was a part of) for Sound of Pig would be: If, Bwana, Sombrero Galaxy, Thick Slimy Whisper, XTSW, Johhnson Forest Tendency, BCP, As If (squared), Bwana Frolic, Fruit Bat Savvy, Bwana Bohman. Not so many really. Most of the other release are legit.

Homepage: Pogus Records

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