Freak Scene: Catching Up With Austin, Texas’ Holodeck Records

August 16, 2013

Just over a year ago, I interviewed Jon (just Jon) from Silent Land Time Machine, about his label Holodeck Records, an Austin, Texas-based outfit that was releasing cassettes from bands in the area with great frequency. A prolific tape label is nothing especially new in the world of experimental music, but Holodeck's absolute dedication to documenting their scene felt really important to me, if only because I was fascinated by the scene and still confused by how many different projects there were. Holodeck was offering both an easy way to access all this music from a distance, but also doing it in a cohesive way that explained what each band was all about. Essentially, the artists were already there, but the actual ability to hear so much of the music wasn't. A year out, Holodeck has grown beyond the confines of Austin, out to Montreal and the rest of the world. They even reissued a gorgeous, semi-forgotten American experimental album from Scott Tuma's Good Stuff House project a few months ago. The tapes, and now sometimes vinyl, range from straightforward house to ambient journeys, to wild synth experiments—all united by a love of exploration and pure sound. Just looking at the Holodeck website, the excitement is palpable, and what seemed like a promising label a year ago has become an important part of the way I consume experimental music. Because of how fast it grew, and the diversity of the stuff on the label, I asked Jon, along with Adam Jones, his partner in Holodeck and a member of SURVIVE and Troller, to put together a mix of stuff that they'd be putting out for the rest of this year. If you're a regular reader of this column, you'll definitely find something to like. Check out the mix and tracklist below, followed by a quick interview about the last year of Holodeck Records.

Download: Holodeck Summer 2013 Mix

• 1 - Le lieu où vous voulez vous rendre
from Marie Davidson's s/t EP
HD017, out now on CS / DL

• 2 - Untitled 1
from Good Stuff House's Untitled LP
HD016, out July 23 on LP / CS / DL

• 3 - Eventide 1 (excerpt)
from Sneaky Snake's Eventide
HD018 - out August 13 on CS / DL

• 4 - Strawberry Days
from Sensum and Clunch's s/t EP
HD019 - out August 27 on CS / DL

• 5 - Ashes
HD021LP - out FALL 2013 on LP / CS / DL

• 6 - From Ashes Come the Day (excerpt)
Silent Land Time Machine vs. Drophead - From Ashes Come the Day
HD020 - out FALL 2013 on LP, CS, DL

• 7 - Clear Passage
from Symbol's Online Architecture
HD022LP, out WINTER 2013 on LP / CS / DL

It seems like there's a strong cassette culture in Austin, why is that? JONES: I guess CDs have died out. Nobody really buys CDs anymore and they were never really that cool to begin with. I guess now tapes are--if you're an indie musician of any kind--tapes are the accepted cool form of something you can make at home and produce fairly cheaply and sell at your shows for a lot less than vinyl. It came from all the bands I would see all the time, and my bands…we were all dubbing tapes of our music at home and just selling them at shows and I just wanted to actually make something that was legit or at least nice-looking. At least for my bands to have. I'm in a lot of bands and we were all finishing records around the same time and we didn't have a good plan to release all of them, so I said, I can do that. I'm just going to go for it.

I was walking by Urban Outfitters and they're now selling cassette players. JONES: I remember back maybe ten years ago when CDR labels were the big thing. This was before people had been doing digital releases, I guess. Everyone was making CDRs, trying to make nice looking packaging for it, and that was the hip thing to do. Certain labels like Disaro, for sure, were a big influence on me back then because they were out of Houston so it was really close. They were doing a bunch of really experimental stuff on CDR and people were actually talking about them. I thought it was cool that they started something that people could basically do out of their house and then make a name for it.

So Holodeck offers a cohesive way to show what's going on musically with a specific subsection of Austin's music scene. JON: For sure, it brings a focal point. It's a very prolific group of people here producing things, so to an outsider it brings some kind of cohesion to what would be a chaotic thing to look at from afar. We've been working with artists that are geographically outside of Austin, though, like the Marie Davidson release. JONES: I just want the label to represent my personal taste in music, which happens to be the people I surround myself with. I love doing the ambient and experimental stuff and then I also love putting out the electronic stuff like SURVIVE and Troller, but at the same time, I also like house music, and I want to continue to put that out. We want to keep developing things in all the different directions that we've established. Not even have rules for what we're going to have in the future, just whatever we're moved by we're totally down to release.

Cassette labels typically operate on a "batch" system, releasing a bunch of tapes at once. You guys have done this as well. Is there any kind of thinking that goes into how those releases fit together? JON: For the first couple batches it was just what was ready. It arranged itself almost for the first 15 releases. Since Marie [Davidson]'s release, we've been doing one thing at a time because we realized dropping a batch of tapes on people was kind of difficult sometimes because it was hard to get people to focus on any single one. The arrangement of the batches just did itself.

So is Holodeck turning into much more of a business than you were initially expecting? JONES: We always wanted this to happen. JON: I think we both admire labels that function well and wanted to have a crack at it for a while. It just takes time before things arrange themselves to where there's a critical mass of things you can release. I definitely feel like it's changed. We actually have to do things every day.

To keep up with what's going on you have to pretty continuously release material. JON: In Austin there's so much. The little bit that we are documenting is such a small piece of the pie, but I do think it's an important one because it's pushing boundaries with a DIY aesthetic. To actually release weird music.

From The Collection:

Freak Scene
Freak Scene: Catching Up With Austin, Texas’ Holodeck Records