This interview was conducted between Sam Rosenthal and Dj Despair on March 21, 2015. Read it below, or listen at https://www.mixcloud.com/WFKU/sam-rosenthal-wfku-interview/
WFKU helped in bringing this interview to you. Please support dark music at WFKU.org and donate if you desire. It helps a lot 🙂
Sam Rosenthal – WFKU Interview
Host: Hello, hello DJ Despair here, you’re listening to WFKU and I have a special program this evening, an interview with Sam Rosenthal. He is the creator of Projekt, the record label who hosts many dark wave bands. He sent me a bunch of CD’s of samples and music to play. I’m going to be doing an all Projekt show in the near future. He also founded Black Tape for a Blue Girl. And he is currently writing new music for a new Black Tape album. And he’s asking for support at Patreon dot com. He’s asking for a crowd funding support, donate as much as fifty dollars or as little as two or three dollars. You get various things for that. I particularly was fond of the ten dollar deal. He’s sending out rare demos that he’s currently making, and I have already received over an hour and a half of music from him. Also for that ten dollar a month donation, we are getting Sam Rosenthal himself on Live Stream for an hour long with, in a chat room. He is on camera, and he’s answering any questions that are asked. So you definitely get something for your efforts. The interview that I’m about to play is a whopping fifty-two minutes of Sam, and it went really well. We got comfortable as time went on, so here it is, this is Sam Rosenthal on WFKU. I have an extra special guest on today, he runs a record label based in Portland called Projekt. And he is also the main band member, lead singer, and founder of…
Sam: Not singer.
Host: Oh, not singer, okay.
Host: He’s the main songwriter and he’s the main man of Black Tape for a Blue Girl. Sam Rosenthal, hi Sam.
Sam: Hi there everyone.
Host: Thank you very much again for taking this time to do this, I know you’re very busy and time is very, time is very valuable. So thanks again.
Sam: Yeah, sure, thank you.
Host: So you’re running a record label, you’re working on new music, how do you balance all that?
Sam: I think a lot of the time the record label takes all my time, and there is not very good balance between the record label and making music, and then I have my son with me half the week, so there’s another aspect of time. But lately I’ve been making more time for music to kind of get the label into it’s proper spot.
Host: Very nice. There’s a lot of juggling parts.
Host: I’m drinking, I’m having a beer, and I like to talk about beer on my show, because I like to drink. I’m drinking seventy-two imperial, oh it’s by Breckenridge. Have you ever had anything by Breckenridge?
Sam: I do not know, I don’t think so.
Host: Okay. It’s a chocolate cream stout.
Sam: Oh wow, I should have that.
Host: It’s pretty tasty.
Sam: Yeah there’s one called imperial, there some Portland Oregon stout with imperial in the name that I’ve had.
Host: There’s a lot of craft beer in Portland I hear.
Sam: Yes, I don’t drink a lot at a time, so I’m usually like, which one will be the best?
Host: Are you a dark beer person? Because it sounded like you’re excited about the stout?
Sam: You know, I used to never be a dark beer person, and then the stouts and porters that are all chocolate-y, it’s like well there you go, that’s good. I think the problem was like Guinness was the only available dark beer it seemed like, it just wasn’t doing it for me.
Host: How is Portland, do you like it? Because you’ve lived around many different parts.
Sam: Yeah, so I’ve lived in Florida, LA, Chicago, and New York. And so pretty large cities. Portland is very different because it’s the twenty-sixth largest city in the country, so it’s pretty tiny. But as far as having stuff, meaning beer, coffee, bands, it has all these things. So I think it’s a really great city. It’s really, I mean maybe Baltimore’s reasonably priced, I know parts of it are probably nice, and parts are reasonable. But Portland is definitely reasonably priced. So it’s really good.
Host: That’s good. Yeah, and of course that’s where I’m from, Baltimore. The, it is, there’s some nice, it’s cheap to live here in Baltimore, you know, property taxes are not too high and so it makes things a little easier. Let’s talk about your, okay, your in Black Tape for a Blue Girl, and your band members of yours have come and gone, and just tell me a little bit about who’s in the band now, and how everybody’s doing.
Sam: Well to the first, the second part, yeah the band over the year has had many members, it’s been twenty-nine years now. So I’m the only consistent person in all that time, and there was sort of a big band member shake up you could say, before 10 Neurotics came out in 2009. And that basically moved to an all new line up from the previous line up, and the main male vocalist was Atin Marolis who we then after the album played a whole bunch of shows live with Atin as the front person. On the album Lorrie Reid and Nicki Jane are singing the female vocals, though live the most recent female vocalist was Valerie Gentile, so Valerie and Atin are in New York and they’re doing well there working on their own music as well. So when I start recording vocals again, my plan is to come out to New York and work with them on stuff.
Host: A couple of those band members there, you said they’re in New York?
Sam: Yeah, so the two most recent vocalists are in New York. Lorrie’s in Minneapolis and Nicki, who no longer performs, is in Philly.
Host: Oh, okay. So I guess you got, do you see each other often or?
Sam: No, not really. I mean I’ve moved, but the early days of the band which was the first ten years, Oscar lived in Florida and I lived in California, and then Chicago. So it was kind of common not to live in the same cities, just because it was only a recording band back then. So the current gap is kind of along the lines of what was normal. But I’ll see them again when I start working on lyrics.
Host: Okay. Well all of you are very great musicians, I’m really excited about any new music that’s coming out. It is, I guess a specific, Brian Bigleon, are you, is he…
Host: Your drummer?
Sam: Well Brian played drums and guitar on 10 Neurotics. It’s just the new stuff I’m working on it’s not the same sound, so I’m not sure yet how drums will fit in what I’m doing.
Sam: So I, he’s not, not in the band, it’s just I don’t know what the songs will be like and if they’ll be a place for drums.
Host: Gotcha. Yeah because a large, I guess a large portion of Black Tape for a Blue Girl’s material is a little more ambient, a little more mellow, and I guess you didn’t feel the need or the desire to have much percussion in your earlier music or?
Sam: Well I would say it was even more, I was quite opposed to drummers in the early days. You know…
Sam: Allen played on a song, maybe one or two songs on the first three records. But other than that I just most of the drummers I knew at the time just made a lot of noise and filled up all the space, and I wasn’t really looking for that in what I was doing. And so, I generally, yeah I mean I remember in the very early days being really opposed to drums. And now I’m not that way anymore, but it just didn’t really make sense to what I was doing. So I met Brian though, because I was writing 10 Neurotics and it definitely had a need for percussion and a drummer, and oh I don’t remember, oh yeah, I think actually Nicki Jane had met Brian, and somehow I can’t remember now. Oh no, actually a photographer friend of mine, Pixie was the one who made the connection, and you know, I told her I was looking for a drummer for this music, and she suggested, got me in touch with Brian. So that was really cool.
Host: Very nice. And of course Brian Bigleon, the drummer from Dresden Dolls.
Sam: And now he’s in the Violent Femmes.
Host: Is he?
Sam: Yeah, he’s there live drummer and I think he’s recording with them as well.
Host: Oh nice.
Host: Very cool.
Sam: Yeah he was in Portland in the fall he was in town with them. So that was fun.
Host: Oh cool, did you meet up with him?
Sam: I met with him, yeah, not the band.
Host: Nice. Alright well, you’re getting new music together for potentially a new album, right? You’re looking to make a new album soon?
Sam: Yeah so, I’m doing a new kind of crowd funding thing called Patreon, which is a place where people can make a monthly donation towards the creation of art. So there’s sort of some funding to work on music and pay people when they come to record. And so I’ve been doing that for a couple months now, it’s kind of motivational, inspiring to get in and get back to work and kind of, like I was saying earlier, get the priority levels of Projekt label, which is the job versus, you know, the music I’m working on. So it’s kind of inspiring me to get back into making more time for the studio and work on music.
Host: How’s it feel to have, you know, almost strangers just kind of give you money out of their pocket? Are you humbled, is it humbling, or?
Sam: Well I guess I don’t feel like they’re strangers because I get in touch with people this way, and then I meet the people who are, you know, interested in what I do. And I really like connecting that way, which was something way back in the old days when people wrote letters in the mail, that I kind of felt, oh here’s a person who really likes what I do enough to write me a letter, this is really cool. And now, once again through a new method, there’s a connection. So I think it’s really, really rewarding and it’s really nice to have that connection with people who care about music.
Host: Yeah, certainly. Well I pledged, I’m a pledger.
Sam: Thank you.
Host: No problem, I’m happy to. Let’s see, and so you can pledge as little as two dollars a month, you know, is that correct?
Sam: That’s right. The lowest pledge level is two dollars a month, and there, what happens is that when you pledge you get access, I upload music so people can hear things I’m working on, either all tracks, do you hear my cat?
Sam: Yeah, cat meow. So you know, it’s, the money comes my way and the music that’s not released comes your way. And so there’s this access to stuff that otherwise, you know, actually let me back track. When I started doing Remnants of the Deeper Purity on vinyl, I was able to update every day, every week about the progress, and that experience was really fun and I wanted to come up with a way to give people the experience of hearing the music before it was done. Because most musicians I guess kind of hoard their music until they’re ready to give you the thing, here’s the album, and that for Black Tape is a years and years and years experience of waiting. And I’d rather have something between, and this way, you know, there’s tracks that won’t get released or won’t be released in this form, but people often enjoy an instrumental version of a track better than when it gets all filled up with stuff. Sometimes there’s something interesting about that side of it. So it kind of gives more, gives more music. I just put up twenty-four minutes of music a few days ago, and then maybe two weeks ago there was another I think, sixteen minutes of music. So it’s like an ongoing sort of stream of music that is happening, as opposed to waiting until, you know, the sixty-five minute album comes out down the road.
Host: Fantastic. And that’s for Patreon, or Patreon is that how you pronounce it?
Sam: Yeah, Patreon dot com backslash Black Tape for a Blue Girl.
Host: Yeah, I suggest everybody go there and just I mean, put in five bucks, I mean, what’s five dollars a month? It’s not too much, I guess it could be to some, but I’m happy to do it, so I suggest everyone check it out. So let’s see, you like you said, you’re the main songwriter in Black Tape. How do you start to create new music? Do you play one instrument and kind of get something down? Which instrument do you start playing if that’s how you do it? Or what’s your, the way you create music I suppose?
Sam: So 10 Neurotics was the first album that I actually played guitar on. So most of those songs started on the guitar, and it would lead, it led to songs that were much more structured I think than earlier Black Tape songs. Where I guess, I’ll just say, I don’t know, let me put a horn sound on and just start making sounds on it and see what happens. That’s kind of how I start a song. There’s not, you know, I don’t have a melody, I don’t have a lyric, I’m just like, I’ll hit some things and see what it sounds like, and then sometimes, and I mean it’s very much of those intuitive putting sounds together, or some little thing will come out that I like and then I’ll sample that and make a loop and start with that instead of what I thought I was starting with. Or I start with a piano sound, or I was listening to one old guitar track I had recorded in like 2011, and there was this one little eight second bit, and I went, oh that was neat. So I just like made a loop of that and started, you know, looping that and then adding on top. So it’s very much just about the sound, rather than an idea of a melody.
Host: Nice. When you make new music, like when you have a new little bit that you’ve written, and you give that to your other band members, are you kind of protective of that music? Or are you open to other ideas?
Sam: So well the first part is, I pretty much give them a song. So I work on it and figure out the structure, and if it has lyrics, I mean I usually don’t give it to anyone until I’ve already written the lyrics and the melody. So I think I’m kind of, I already know what it is at that point. So I don’t know if protective is right, or just like, I just kind of feel like okay now I just need to make it be what I imagined it, as far as recording it with them. They’re times, like the Pleasure and the Pain on 10 Neurotics, I just couldn’t think of a melody for it, and so I said to Atin, here’s the song which is pretty much nothing in the music was modified after that point, and it’s just like, can you come up with a melody? Can you do something, just sing something on top of this and try to think of something? And then he gave a melody with some words, and then he gave that back and then I wrote the lyrics around what he had started. So that one was collaborative. On Sailor Boy, the song had, I mean it had all the way from the beginning to the end, and then when Brian was going to play drums, he kind of came in and you know, produced it and shaped it and kind of suggested, hey why don’t you do a break here, and why don’t you move this part around to over here. So I think in the past I was a lot less open to input and now I was like, you know, with what Brian was doing, I was like yeah that really improved the song, great that’s good. Or on one song, I think it was In Dystopia, Brian just said you need something low in this section, and then I was like, oh okay, and then I just sort of tried some different things and played some low keyboards, and was like, oh yeah that totally pulls the song together by adding the low keyboard part.
Sam: And it was a very open suggestion, and it was kind of like, you know, anything could have been low at that point, so but it was just getting this other idea about what was going on there. And then there was one song, it was, yeah Curious Yet Ashamed, that I couldn’t figure out lyrics for, and Gregor was playing violin on another track, and I played it to him and said, why can’t I write lyrics? And he said, that one keyboard sound is obnoxiously loud, why don’t you turn it down. I went what one is the obnoxious one? And I poked around until we found the obnoxious one and then when I turned it down, he was like right, it was just occupying all the space. So by, I muted it, figured out a melody, and then I could bring it back in later. So I think, yeah, I think hmm what does it say, this says when I’m stuck especially is when I’m open to input.
Host: Yeah, makes sense. A little bit of a background of how I got into you guys, Black Tape, as One Aflame Laid Bare by Desire was the first album that I heard from you, and when it came out in ’99, and I mean it’s just fantastic. I’ve been listening to that CD for fifteen years, and I haven’t, I’m kind of scared to say this, but I haven’t really had to buy any more Black Tape albums because that one was just fantastic. I mean I have since then, but for a while there that was all that I needed. Do you, well I read in an interview that while recording that album, kind of no band members were in the same room while recording that.
Sam: Well except for me.
Sam: I was in the room.
Sam: With them, but yes, nobody saw each other. Maybe, let me think, I mean it’s possible, I was, I would think Juliana and Lisa met because, you know, Juliana was in Chicago at the same time. But that’s right that nobody played together at the same time.
Host: So let me, was it, so you guys did a tour for that one right? Like a little mini tour or?
Sam: Well we did a tour before the album came out that Juliana was part of, and then we did a tour for the album that Elizabeth was the vocalist on.
Host: So let me, how was it when you guys got together for like the first time to I guess rehearse for that, you know, that little mini tour? You know, everyone was kind of in a different spot while it was being made, and all of a sudden you guys get back together, get together to play it all live, was it like kind of surreal at all?
Sam: Well, I’m super hyper organized, so I had already gotten all of the tracks prepared, so that I suspect the ones Juliana sang on, I had already sent her, you know, mixes of so that she would have something to practice to in Arizona. So by the time she got out to rehearse, there was already, you know, oh okay that’s how it is going to sound live, the backing, how it sounded on the record, and so the first time the band played live was a few years before that at the Projekt fest in ’86, no sorry, ’96, and that was definitely more of a chaos, oh my God what the hell is going on, how are we going to do this, oh can’t swear on the radio, but that was more chaos…
Host: No, you can. It’s perfectly fine.
Sam: Alright good.
Host: I do.
Sam: And so I think what happened with that one was, since Oscar had played live a lot with his previous bands, it was a little bit more, he was kind of more aware of how to keep a band together, how to get practiced to get ready to do a show. And so by the time of the ’99 with Juliana, I had done more shows and had a little bit more experience. So I think I was just used to the process of people who never had played together, but I knew all knew what they were doing would then come and do it.
Host: Gotcha, okay.
Sam: And back then, I mean, I believe almost every song except for perhaps Given had a backing track. Whichever ones we did like Given, were more of the acoustic numbers, we would do live. But still only maybe two or three songs didn’t have backing tracks. But then by the time of the 10 Neurotics tour, I would suspect half the songs were played, just all the instruments were played live. So it was, it definitely got more fun to play live as there was more opportunity to screw things up. You know, it’s like, oh I started at the wrong speed, let’s just stop and start again on the guitar. But if it’s a backing track, you just have to kind of go with it.
Sam: So it made the band more fun I think, as you know, there were songs where Valerie and I are both playing guitar and meshing together really nicely, and then Atin singing, and that’s just the entire sound is the three of us doing it.
Host: Right on. Well I was supposed to see you guys on that tour, but unfortunately I couldn’t make it. My friend did, and I was really envious. He said Voltaire opened for you guys.
Host: In Baltimore.
Sam: Oh yeah, yeah.
Host: In Baltimore for that…
Sam: Oh, at Fletchers.
Host: Yeah in ’99. Yeah Fletchers.
Host: That’s not even around anymore, unfortunately.
Sam: Yeah, like upstairs above something else.
Host: Yeah, with a really bad staircase to get up there from what I understand.
Host: Really treacherous staircase.
Sam: We played a show in I think it was that tour, outside of DC just a little bit south, and it was a massive place that had like the crappiest sound people, and it was like the loudest feedback that I’ve ever heard in my life came out of that show, and it was like, we just stopped and stepped back and just waited, it was horrible.
Host: Oh gosh. Well that was a festival?
Sam: No, it wasn’t.
Sam: It was some venue, so it was just the three of us on stage with our fingers over, in our ears.
Host: Yeah, that doesn’t sound like a good deal.
Sam: The problem, the soundman was also the cook and he wasn’t at the mixing board at the time, and so there was like no one there to turn the volume down.
Host: Oh man, well he was making someone’s omelet.
Sam: Yeah exactly. Hey, hey, hey we’re out here too. I think he was probably making fries.
Host: Oh yeah.
Sam: Beer battered fish or something. But…
Host: Very cool. So here’s a rather fan boy question if you don’t mind?
Host: And so this will take the elevator down a little bit, if you know what I’m saying?
Sam: No I don’t.
Host: Okay, what I mean is I’m going to ask you a deep, deep question.
Sam: Oh, okay.
Host: Okay. So and I wrote this out because I was having trouble figuring out how to answer it, or ask it or what not. But basically there’s a certain kind of intimacy that one can have with sadness, and feelings of loss and longing. Almost to the point where it becomes a part of your identity. For some people that intimacy can be a source of strength. Do you, at least that’s like one way that I, how I understand your music and how I get it. Do you have something like that in mind when you’re writing lyrics or new music?
Sam: I mean I would definitely say that was very true up through as One of Flame that you’re speaking of earlier, that there was a lot of sadness and confusion, you know, mainly around relationships for me, and I would put that into the music and I would think that there was some aspect of hope within it as well. You know, I don’t know how much other people saw it, but I thought that was in there too. But it definitely was a place to express that sadness and that confusion and that not knowing how to get the things that I needed and desired.
Host: Yeah and that’s the…
Sam: And I think…
Host: I’m sorry, go ahead.
Sam: Continue, I’m done.
Host: No, that’s the strength that I was talking about. There’s a, I find that there’s like, it’s almost like a romanticized relationship with sadness, that I draw strength from. I don’t know, that’s, I just wanted to mention that because that was one way that, something that I’ve gotten from your music.
Sam: Yeah, I think that I hear from a lot of people who connect to it on levels with that aspect of it, and it’s, I mean the rope, the song The Rope is about kind of finding connection with people so that you can get through the sadness, and not end your life but continue on. So that’s definitely in there.
Host: There’s a lot of, I mean there’s a lot of deeply personal themes in Black Tape for a Blue Girl. After you go through the process of creating and you know, producing an album, and releasing it, and going through that whole process of putting out an album, do you feel vulnerable at all about like the public accepting your music? Or like do you ever say to yourself, what if people don’t like this? You know because you’re putting yourself way out there.
Sam: No, I don’t think so.
Sam: I think the thing is that, the first thing is to actually get the album done, it’s like ah, what a relief, I got it done the way I wanted it to sound. So there’s the first aspect of just feeling good about capturing that album, that music, and that expression. And then I guess I’m kind of just like, well you know, a lot of people aren’t going to like it anyway, so I can’t really worry about it. You know, if you think of just the world, then what people mainly listen to and buy, those people aren’t going to like it, you know, so you’ve just written off ninety-two percent of the population right off the bat anyway. You know, so.
Host: I believe you’re right.
Sam: Yeah so most of the world is going to either not care, or just hate it if they heard it. So I’m not going to worry about it, I guess. But, you know, I mean by the time of Electric Garden, which is ninety-three people were telling me I’d sold out already and I’m like really, what? What’s different? So I guess you develop a thick skin towards criticism from people in a way, because there’s always going to be someone who hates what you just did and like the last one better.
Host: Yeah, I guess…
Sam: And then albums that people didn’t like, then ten years later, it’s like yes, the classic period, and you’re like really? That was the one people said they didn’t like.
Host: I guess what prompted me to ask that question is you’re familiar with Weezer, right? The band Weezer.
Sam: Only by name.
Host: Okay, well they came out with a really great album in ’95 that made them super popular rock stars. Their second album that came out, the lead singer wrote what he thought was his most personal music he had ever written, and the CD did awful, people didn’t like it. And he was really like bombed, he was you know, he went into a deep, you know, from what I read and what not, he went into a deep depression because what he had put out there was, he put so much of himself into it. I was just wondering if you went through anything kind of like that?
Sam: Probably not, thinking through it, I mean, like when I finished the Chaos of Desire, I was just dissatisfied with it, I didn’t think it quite got what I wanted for some reason. So I kind of ignored it for about three months, and then I put it on and went, I like this, this is fine. So you know, there’s, I was thinking there’s a certain insanity to being in love and making art I think that it makes total sense at the time, and then if you look back at it ten years later, you might go, what? What was I thinking? So either way, you know, in relationships, as well as, in making art, I think you get really focused on it being this one thing, and then later I’m kind of like, oh there’s other ways that could have been done. Which is really all about my own look at it, not about other people’s look at it. I think that it’s also a little hard to measure now, just because of how record industries have changed, that you can’t go by, are people buying it to tell if people like it anymore. So yeah, but like a band like Weezer, you could say oh my God, we only sold a half, but I think everyone’s selling half every time they put out a new album these days so it’s hard to measure.
Host: Have you ever written a sound track to a movie? Is that something you would like to do?
Sam: I have only made music for my own videos when I was in college. I’ve never written something for a movie. My understanding from people who have done it, is it’s really an obnoxious thing to have to do, because you have a committee in Hollywood telling you why what you did is bad, and how you need to change it to make them happy. And so it sounds like very frustrating to do it.
Sam: I would prefer if someone just likes the music enough to use what already exists and I don’t have to please them.
Sam: But you know, if something came along it might be interesting, but it just sounds to me from the people who have done it that there’s a lot of making music that they don’t like.
Host: Right. I just kind of see, you know, your music as being a good soundtrack to a movie, you know, nice landscapes, musical landscapes with you know, some kind of movie visual.
Sam: Yeah, I mean I could see it, I just think that like you’re hearing a finished piece and thinking how it would be visual, and I think that would be the easiest way to go.
Sam: That someone finds pieces and you know, works from there.
Host: Alright. So the new album, how will it be different from previous releases?
Sam: I think that as the albums came out in the last decade, Scavenger Bride, Hallow Star, 10 Neurotics, it was sort of a process of probably getting more into song structure and writing songs as opposed to soundscapes. So by Hallow Star maybe had two instrumentals on it, and 10 Neurotics had none. So I’m feeling like I need instrumentally dark ambient within the music again. So I think in a way there’s some past elements, just you know, I’m doing it now, so it has a modern quality as well.
Sam: So I’ve been recording pieces, and some of them I’m like, oh yeah this one fits into that idea, and then this one doesn’t, and this one doesn’t, so for the first time I have a quantity of music, and yet I’m still feeling like, you know, okay I have whatever the number is, fourteen things that are started, but maybe only three of them feel to me like they belong on the next record. So it’s kind of unusual for me. Whereas in the past everything that I recorded got finished up and became part of the album. So it’s kind of nice to have a lot to work on and choose from. So I don’t, even though there’s a bunch of music that exists, I don’t feel yet like I’m anywhere near to an album.
Host: Yeah, you’re still in the early stages, right?
Sam: Well yeah, and you know it’s been over five years since 10 Neurotics came out, so I should be done. But the problem was it’s been very like, you know, I moved from New York out here almost two years ago and that was a lot of time and energy and I wrote a novel before that, which took about a year to get together, and I did some touring for promotion. So there’s all these life things that came up in between. So now it’s getting back to work on this, and once again, with Patreon I feel kind of, I mean motivated is one word, but I feel there’s people out there that want it, so it kind of inspires me to go do it.
Sam: So I’m getting to work more.
Host: Fantastic. Do you push yourself really hard when you make music? Like do you set high expectations for yourself or how’s that?
Sam: Yeah, I do and I think that’s part of the reason why I procrastinate on it. I get into this like, you get into this situation where, you know, you’re going to work on that, you’re going to do that, and it’s kind of, the self pressure. So one of the things that I put out in 2007 was a side project with just me, but it’s not Black Tape exactly, it was called As Lonely as Dave Bowman, which was electronic music and some of the songs I had been working on fit perfectly into that sound, and it’s kind of a much easier band than Black Tape, because it’s just me, and it doesn’t have like the same level of my own expectations on what, you know, writing lyrics, getting string players, and all the things that Black Tape has, that definitely, you know, has a more exacting requirement. So the electronic stuff, it’s fun because it’s not as high pressure.
Sam: And you mentioned As One Aflame, and Tell Me You’ve Taken Another off that song, album, I rerecorded on 10 Neurotics. And then The Passage, the last track I reworked into, you know, a full album length version of it. It’s funny because it’s one four minute song, versus one sixty-five minute album. And the four minute song was more work.
Host: Oh really?
Sam: Just because it had lyrics and it’s a song, and it’s just it’s so much of a different requirement on it.
Host: Right. Well how about, let’s see, how about some non music related questions.
Host: I’ve got my little, I’ve got my little questions on notecards here so I’m going to mix them up.
Host: Alright. What’s your favorite vegetable?
Sam: Guacamole. Now I said avocado and then my son pointed out that avocado is not a vegetable, it’s a fruit. So I’ve got to pick a different one, I guess.
Host: I actually…
Sam: So after avocado it’s tomato.
Host: I thought it was a vegetable, I guess not.
Sam: Well we could Google it, but it has a seed.
Host: Oh is that the defining factor, is it has a seed?
Sam: I thought it was, we can Google that. Because after avocado I would say tomato, but I think they’re also a fruit.
Host: Oh snap, okay. So…
Sam: But if you just mean generally things that grow in the yard, then I would go with avocado and then tomato.
Host: Avocado and then tomato, okay. Sounds good.
Sam: And they’re great together.
Host: Let’s see, classified as a flowering plant, it refers to a fruit. I’m reading Wikipedia and it doesn’t, it’s not telling me. It’s not giving me.
Sam: It’s not helping.
Host: It’s not giving me a clear answer. It’s…
Sam: I’m going to type in, is avocado a fruit? That was the first thing when you type that in, and it says, it’s called avocado or alligator pear is a fruit, because it’s a large berry that contains a seed.
Host: Okay. Well there we have it.
Sam: Oh no, all the vegetables I like are fruit.
Host: What, tomato is a fruit?
Sam: Avocado, beans, bean pods, corn kernels, cucumbers, grains, nuts, olives, peppers, pumpkin, squash, sunflower, no, and tomatoes. Okay.
Host: Oh no, man.
Sam: We learning on this show.
Host: That’s news to me.
Host: Okay. Well so we know your favorite fruit then.
Sam: Well I think one of the things I like about them is fruit.
Host: Oh yeah.
Sam: Okay so now do I have to look up what is a vegetable? Wait, I have a list here, let’s see. Vegetables include celery, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, beets, carrots, and potatoes. I think carrots would be the favorite vegetable then.
Host: Oh, good choice. Let’s see how about another non-music…
Sam: Wait a minute, okay.
Host: Yeah, do you like pizza?
Sam: I like New York pizza, yes. I think that there’s stuff that calls itself pizza that is kind of not, so I like pizza.
Host: Very good.
Sam: It’s not the number one thing I would eat, so.
Host: Oh yeah. I like pizza, it’s alright. But I just…
Sam: I mean in New York, when you have a minute, you go, you need to eat, you go grab a slice and you keep walking. It’s not like to me, pizzas something you really go out to do.
Host: Oh, I see.
Sam: So it’s kind of like when you, other people might get a burger, and I just like get a slice of pizza and keep going.
Host: Is that what they do? They just grab and go?
Sam: You know, in New York you kind of do, yeah. I mean you can sit down, but…
Host: I’m going to ask Whiskey, the main DJ that runs WFKU, DJ Whiskey, he lives in New York, so I’m going to tell him about that.
Sam: Yes. Trying to think if in New York I ever went out for, to a restaurant for pizza. I mean, yeah I guess I have, but it wasn’t like the thing I would do.
Host: Right. Okay, okay, next one, if you were president what’s the first thing you would do?
Sam: Oh, offend a lot of people who are conservative.
Host: Can I join you in that?
Sam: The first thing I would do? I don’t know, there’s so many things that need to be done, but unfortunately the President can’t get them done as easily as he would hope.
Host: Right. Yeah, the President doesn’t actually have too much power. He can inspire.
Sam: Well in the executive orders he can do a lot of things, but nowadays they try to say he’s not allowed to, which is absurd because all presidents have used executive orders. So it’s a very annoying, frustrating, country at the moment.
Host: I agree. Moving on though, because I don’t, do you believe in life on other planets?
Sam: Of course.
Sam: How many billion planets are there? We can’t be the only one.
Host: I know, right? That’s what I always say. It’s like, I mean there’s got to be another planet out there that is just the right distance away from the sun to form water and not be hot, and have life.
Sam: But you’re assuming life like us, and that’s true. But there has to be so many other kinds of life as well. Because why should all things be carbon based and breath oxygen, that seems still absurd, you know. That just worked out well here.
Host: I couldn’t have said it better. Are you a cat person or a dog person?
Sam: Yes, cat. You heard the meow.
Host: Yeah, I like cats too.
Sam: She’s around here, she went somewhere.
Host: How old is your cat?
Sam: She’s nineteen years old actually, she’s very old, but she’s in good shape.
Host: Yeah, what’s she? What’s her name?
Sam: Her name is Harley, and she’s moved many times with me.
Host: I bet. Is she, what was I going to ask? I can’t remember. I have a cat. My cat’s name is Sophie and she’s black and white and spotted, and she’s hugely fed, so she looks like a little mini cow.
Sam: No Harley, she’s a tuxedo cat, so black with a white underside, and she’s only like maybe I think nine pounds these days, she’s very light.
Host: Nice. Do you watch football? American football.
Sam: I watch the super bowl, that’s about it.
Host: It’s okay, just thought I’d ask. Do you think people put too much emphasis on competition?
Sam: Yes, sure, definitely.
Host: Me too.
Sam: I mean it’s funny because going back to music for a second, people always think Projekt and Cleopatra were competitors, and I’m like we do our own thing, what’s the difference? Why would we compete? How do you compete, you know? You just put out music and you do what you do. But, everyone likes to paint things into competition.
Sam: Is Black Tape and Voltaire, or Black Tape and Faith in the Mood’s music in competition with one another? You know, so it’s kind of absurd.
Host: Right. I believe there’s too much competition as well in every aspect, I mean workplace, social circles, little too much of that.
Sam: Yeah. I mean I definitely have gotten, I’d say almost all drama out of my life, and you know, so I don’t really deal with that, because it’s just absurd.
Host: That deserves a fist bump if I was there. No drama.
Sam: Thank you.
Host: Or keep it to a minimum.
Sam: Yeah, it’s just like. Well yeah, I mean there was a time where there was some bands that were drama on my label, but I’m like, I don’t work with them anymore, and that’s fine, and I get along with them, it’s just I don’t need that. You don’t need drama in your life, if you’re trying to make it.
Host: Let’s see, well we’re winding down here. How about Projekt, how many, you’ve, Projekt has been going on since the mid eighties, right?
Sam: Actually, the early, the first thing was 1983, so it’s twenty-two years.
Host: Very nice.
Sam: So thirty-two years, I can’t count.
Host: And you’ve amassed a lot of bands on the label. Do you have a rough count of how many?
Sam: It’s hard to answer that because many of the bands aren’t on the label anymore, so bands that people think of with Projekt, like Lycia aren’t on Projekt or Love Spirals Down aren’t together, and Android Lust are on their own. So you know there’s bands associated with the label that aren’t on the label. But if you put every band together, it’s probably forty bands maybe? I’m up to release three hundred and seventeen, but fifty of those are (unintelligible). So you know, and then Lycia maybe had six or seven, Love Spirals had four or five, so Voltaire has five. But so, you know, I guess in the forty-five range.
Host: Okay, well I’m sure it keeps you busy.
Sam: Yeah, I mean it kind of, as bands leave, I haven’t necessarily been adding new bands. So kind of making life simpler. So there’s, you know, the most recent band is this band called Mercury’s Antenna, that has drew from this ascension singing vocals and, but there hasn’t been as many bands added lately.
Host: Very cool. I read in an interview once that you said, on your label, electronic music sells a lot more than other musical styles. Is that true? And why do you think that is?
Sam: That is definitely true nowadays. At the peak which was in the, maybe ’97, the dark wave side was selling more than the electronic side. So Black Tape for a Blue Girl still has the best selling album on the label, and most of the albums that passed the ten thousand selling were dark wave. But these days, the electronic does better, and I have to assume part of it’s that it’s an older audience who still buys stuff.
Sam: You know. They buy stuff and therefore it sells better. So but even the electronic fans are moving into the digital more and more. So it will be, the digital side of the label brings in more royalty for the artists, because they get, you know, a better royalty on a digital because the way the arrangement is. And so it’s just been, I’ve been releasing more electronic, which then of course means, electronic sells more. But it’s kind of where people are interested in buying.
Host: I can dig some electronic, I’m down with it. And you know, I’m a very unaccomplished musician, I play the drums, and so I’m down with rocking out too.
Host: Did you have any musical idols when you were young?
Sam: Idols. So Alice Cooper was one of my favorite musicians in probably middle school and until high school, and I definitely quickly gravitated away from pop music into the weird stuff. And so I like Zappa for sure, Alice Cooper, but then I heard Devo and I was like oh, what’s this new weird stuff? So you know, it quickly got out of even mainstream rock into Devo, Soft Cell, Tangerine Dream, you know, just quickly got off the path into weird stuff. Purpineno I really like, which just made everyone crazy. Just because it’s like, you know, really early ambient noise, but it has a lot of content, or structure, but you know, people are listening to the, either they’re listening to, oh God, what were they listening to in Florida? Thirty-eight Special or Led Zeppelin, they were like, what is this? It was, you know, wasn’t mainstream.
Host: Yeah. Alright, well I’m out, I’m out of questions.
Host: We’ve exhausted, we’ve exhausted everything that I’ve got. Is there any…
Sam: That’s fine.
Host: Is there any questions you’d like me to ask? That you would like to answer, sorry.
Sam: Well I think upcoming at some point this year, there’s going to be a new Voltaire EP on Projekt, which is, you know, something your listeners are going to dig when it comes out. And at some point, I don’t know if it’s before that or after that they’ll be Black Tapes new one. I have a feeling that Voltaire’s might be sooner, because he’s already, it seems further along on it. But so there’s that, there’s going to be a new Mercury’s Antenna, they’ll probably be a new one To Ashes later in the year. So there are things on the dark wave side coming out as well, just nothing, nothing immediate on the schedule yet.
Host: Very nice. Well thank you very much, I couldn’t be more happy with you coming and on and talking.
Sam: Cool, thank you.
Host: Yeah. This is DJ Despair and you’ve been listening to Sam Rosenthal, the man behind Projekt Records and Black Tape for a Blue Girl. Thank you very much Sam, and we are out. Alright I hope you enjoyed Sam Rosenthal, the WFKU interview. He’s a great guy, I had a lot of fun, and yep, look up Projekt and see if there’s any music on his label that you’re into, even if you are already a fan, he’s there coming out with new music all the time. So thank you very much, hope you enjoyed it, and I will be playing an all Projekt show in the near future next week, maybe I’m not sure, it might be two weeks from now. But you’re listening to WFKU, this is the Pit of Despair, I’m DJ Despair, and I will leave you with In Dystopia by Black Tape for a Blue Girl off the 10 Neurotics.
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