Words: Mundi Ross
Images: Tanya Martineau
Let's start with the why and when of Blank Tape.
Blank Tape was created first out of necessity and grew into what it is now. My brother Ravi and I (he was in New Mexico at the time) used to mail each other home recordings and demo’s on cassette tapes back and forth. One particular tape called “The MEXICAN” (which eventually became Blank Tape’s very first release), was mailed to me with my brothers return address marked “Blank Tape Records,” needless to say, we loved the name and when it came time to do our very first Haunted Windchimes / Mexican tour (which consisted of Ravi, Chela, Desi and I) we all decided no one would take us seriously unless we were on a record label, thus Blank Tape was born. Blank Tape as a legitimate (if you could even call it that, ha) business came a few years later, when I was being approached by folks to release their album on our label… We decided to give it a real shot and some of our very first releases were; Katey Sleeveless “The Hour I first Believed,” The Jack Trades “Whiskey Well,” The Haunted Windchimes “Honey Moonshine,” Joe Johnson “A Time to Dance,” and The Changing Colors “Ghost of Red Mountain.”
Is there a recording studio available to artists?
Although we don’t own a dedicated studio space currently (we have in the past), it is a common occurrence to utilize great local spaces and recording engineers for projects. We’ve worked in Hideaway Studios with Marc Benning, The Milkhouse / Sunshine Studios with Ian Bourgal, Conor Bourgal & Mike Clark, Right Heel Music with Adam Hawkins, Goat Hill Pickin’ Parlor with Sean Fanning and have even made various pop-up studios in friend’s homes, churches, warehouses etc.
How many artists on the label?
Currently our active roster consists of (In Alphabetical Order): The Changing Colors, Desirae Garcia, Grant Sabin, The Haunted Windchimes, Joe Johnson and Mike Clark & The Sugar Sounds
Do you seek out artists to join the label, or are you fielding submissions?
We do not actively seek new talent for our roster, but we’re always open to being blown away by an artist and rallying for their cause any way we can. Our roster came about organically, "friends helping friends put out records,” that’s our motto. We are never opposed to submissions, inquiring artists can do so through our email: email@example.com — Please keep in mind, we have no interest in building any careers in music from scratch, rather nurturing and building on the one you’ve already created for yourself in being a musical pillar of your community.
It seems like everyone is friends who is apart of BTR, how do you draw a line between friendship and sometimes the need to get shit done?
It’s always a challenge to run a business with your friends, but we do a good job of knowing when to get serious and meet deadlines. All of us are pretty good about finding contributing roles for each project and have the flexibility to shift gears and multitask when applicable. We are at our best when everyone is working together towards a common goal, one step at a time.
What would you say are some successes of the label? As you as an artist?
Our biggest successes come from planning each step of a album’s release — from idea to early production; demoing, tracking and recording, to post production; mixing, mastering, artwork and manufacturing — concluding with the necessary steps to launching the album; cd release show, promotions, press, radio and physical / digital distribution. All of our artists have been nominated for CSIndy Awards with a handful of wins in their respective categories, including best album awards for; The Haunted Windchimes: Out With The Crow (2012), Grant Sabin: Anthromusicology (2013).
What is each of your rolls?
I personally oversee all of our projects and do the majority of the art / design and maintain the website for Blank Tape. Both Conor and Ian Bourgal have helped as audio engineers, producers and audio consultants — and when there aren’t recordings being made, help with artist development, shipping / receiving, inventory and promotions. Mike Clark has helped to organize many of our successful album release shows and generally contributes many ideas in the way of promotion and artist growth. Conor also helps a great deal in the realm of social media and is currently heading our publishing department. Chela Lujan is our book keeper and head of merchandise. A lot of these roles shift depending on the project; this is where flexibility and multi-tasking really come in to play. Each artist is encouraged to help see his/her project along and help with the planning and creation of their album release and release show, in this sense Blank Tape is more of a cooperative / collective than a traditional label.
Do you feel that the community really rallies behind you guys? I see Blank Tape artists everywhere. I would like to assume so.
We have great support from the community! KRCC and CSindy (to name only a few) were both early supporters of ours thanks’ to a couple of good friends who were there from the start and put the bug in their ear, Adam Leech (of Leechpit fame), and Bobby Joe Grubb, who is now a promoter in Taos, NM. It takes a village, you know… and we’ve been very fortunate to have had the help of a very supportive community.
What have been your biggest challenges, as artists?
One of the biggest challenges we face is the amount of content our artists create, not a bad problem to have if you ask me… but it is important that we share resources fairly and accurately; that being said although Grant Sabin, Joe Johnson and Mike Clark could put out 3 albums worth of songs a year, easily, it doesn’t mean financially it makes sense. We have the challenge of learning to balance ideas, releases and resources and to not shoot ourselves in the foot or exhaust funds unintelligently. We get so excited about each project to the point where it is easy to over-look these things. Furthermore no artist including myself likes to hear “no,” we are working hard to make sure we can say “yes” more frequently and for it to make sense for the whole.
What is the future for Blank Tape?
The future of Blank Tape is always to tighten up ship, see our short comings, correct mistakes, build on our strengths and make smart intentional moves in the right direction. We are working on expanding opportunities for our artists though commercial licensing and publishing for movies and television. In 2016 we plan to outsource a bit more with publicists, distributors and other areas of marketing… less work for us means more time for music and creation, this comes through strategic planning and knowing when we need help.
Favorite artist, or better yet, where do you pull inspiration from?
We are inspired by a number of other labels, namely Greater Than Collective, Bar None, Discord, SUB POP, Anti and more. We are inspired by a number or artists too… too many to name that is.