Blackbean and Placenta Tape Club
I first became aware of the Blackbean and Placenta Tape Club label when Six Cents and Natalie’s Show Me the Honey CD came out. It compiles the Water Machine and Tressel tapes, along with a bunch of compilation tracks and singles. A bad needle had damaged my copy of the seven-inch with “Sea Scout” on it, and I’d been dying to hear a good copy of that song again. I was thrilled this CD was out.
Looking through the records listed for sale, I found a host of other gems. A lot of what I first ordered was stuff that had entrancing descriptions and extra cheap prices (like a dollar or two for CDs and records). It’s easier to take a chance when it’s just a dollar at stake. Fifty-some dollars and a huge box of records later, I had emerged with some newfound favorites that have stayed with me.
One of the things I admire about Mike Landucci (BBPTC) is that he puts out anything and everything he wants to without thought as to how many he’ll sell or how things will fit with other styles on his label. From the bedroom indie pop of Eric Metronome and Mathlete to the noise of Merzbow and Harry Pussy and the San Diego hardcore of Festival of Dead Deer, this was a label after my own heart. Some of the recordings are a bit raw, and the packaging can be minimal (when there is some), which leaves the emphasis squarely where it should be — on the music.
Mike was kind enough to satisfy my curiosity about how he thinks and operates through an email interview a short while ago.
What prompted you to start a label? How did you start things out? What was the beginning like?
I started the label to release my own solo stuff, which wasn’t very good or interesting, unfortunately. As I moved from tapes to vinyl and CDs, I realized I really enjoyed putting releases together. I decided I wanted to start a series of one-sided compilation 12-inches, and from that I started discovering a lot of really neat bands I wanted to release stuff by. This was about 8 years ago. At first I had a bit of trouble finding distribution, but that came together pretty easily and quickly, in retrospect.
Did you release as many records at the beginning, as well, or is that something that happened as of late?
I started out at a reasonably fast pace, and it sped up from there. I actually release a little less now then I did a couple years ago. I get overwhelmed sometimes, ’cause I’ll have as many as like 10-15 projects at different stages of production or planning at one time.
What’s the difference between the Acme catalog and the BBPTC catalog? Did one label precede the other?
It’s all the same label, Blackbean and Placenta. It’s just different catalogue numbers. The Acme catalogue numbers were started when I purchased my own record pressing equipment. That was the name of the plant, Acme Record Pressing. So the Aikagi 7-inch is Acme 1, ’cause it was the first record cut with the intention of pressing it myself. Of course, I never got the equipment fully operational, and I eventually sold it after wasting a lot of money trying to get it to function for me. I had the drive but lacked the skill and help I needed. Anyway, I ended up getting another plant to press all the stuff for me at a discounted price, and I brokered for other labels to help recoup some of the loss. Now the Acme catalogue numbers have ceased, of course, and we’re back to the BBPTC numbers.
I’ve been told (gossip, really) that you cut your own records, which is how you were able to do such small runs of things as well as sell them for so cheap. Is this true? I asked the person if that meant that you plated and mastered your own records and then sent them off to be pressed, but they seemed to be under the impression that you actually had your own press and hand-cut each record. Is there any basis in fact here?
There is a guy in New Zealand, Peter King, who makes lathe cut records one at a time. I don’t know if he does a label, but he cuts limited edition stuff for whoever sends him money and masters. Back to the question, no, I don’t do that. I have a friend who lives near me who is a professional vinyl cutter, and he gives me a great discount. I broker for him and pass on the savings to other labels. I kind of hate to tell the truth about it all, ’cause it’s a lot less interesting than the mysterious gossip that floats around.
If so… How did it happen that you took that path? Did you get a good deal on a press or something? I’m very curious about this! Nice to be personally involved in each record, even beyond the hand packaging!
Well, there’s not really any more vinyl pressing stuff on the market. It’s very expensive, cranky, old factory machinery type stuff. No fun at all. Pressing records is not something you just go and do in your suburban garage. People have so many misconceptions about vinyl.
How is it that you can sell stuff for so cheap?
I cut corners a lot. I’m constantly questioning what a record really requires to be released. I’ve kind of become a sell out lately to pay the bills. I’ve been releasing a lot of CDs with full color printing in jewel cases. I hate myself for it, though.
It’s an awesome feeling to get a big box of stuff to explore in the mail for a relatively small amount of money. Even the stuff that I’ve gotten that I haven’t liked… it cost a dollar! I’ve found many good things from just stumbling about your catalog this way. Besides which, your descriptions make things less risky. I tend to have more successes than the other way around. I got the random 7-inch + CD box set, and ended up with a Wallpaper CD, which is so very good!
I’m glad you dig it. I am big on getting and giving bargains. I think music should be cheap – $15 for a CD is ludicrous. I guess I just don’t like putting much of a monetary value on music. I mean, I don’t fetishize records at all the way a lot of people do. I’m surrounded by records here in my office, but none are part of a personal collection I can’t part with. With Blackbean, I gladly sell off the last copies of everything and discount stuff to close to free if it stops moving. If someone sends me a couple stamps or a dollar or something, I’ll always send them a CD or two. I don’t keep any sort of ark, life’s not long enough to collect all this shit, even if it is great music. It just becomes clutter to me. I’ll leave the collecting to others.
The prices vary from release to release, as well. What determines how you price things?
They start off at a certain normal price, like $7-$9 for a CD, and then they go down in price as people lose interest, time passes, new things come out, whatever. But some people have been burned cause they put off buying something waiting for the price to go down and then it sells out and they’re out of luck. So buyer beware… ha ha.
You put out so much I’m always somewhat in awe when I get a catalog. Are there things that you’ve wanted to release but have had to turn away?
No, never. If I ever get to that point, then I guess I’m doing something wrong.
Is there something in particular that you’re hoping to release someday that you’re working towards? How many demos do you get?
I want to release a Gang Wizard CD soon. I get a few demos a week, but nowhere near as many most labels get, from what I understand. Fortunately, the demos I do get are pretty on-target in terms of things I’d be interested in hearing, at least.
Why a series of one sided 12-inches? They’re neat, for sure, but from what I understand they’re no less expensive to make. Is it just that you wanted one-sided 12-inches?
One-sided 12-inches are cheaper. You save on one side of mastering and one side of plating. So that’s like a couple hundred bucks saved, which is a lot if you’re only pressing like 100 copies of something or whatever. Skip on the test pressings and get blank labels, and you’re all set! You can release all sorts of things. Plus it’s kinda cool to not have to turn the record over, and most bands get old after one side anyway. I think 20 minutes or so is a really nice length for both pop and noise.
I love the video comps as well (I have the first two). What’s it been like doing that? Will that continue? Those are some of my favorite videos, particularly the Aikagi and Metronome ones.
I’m really fond of the video comp series too, but basically, no one at all is interested in buying videos, so it’s going to end after volume 4 at the end of this year. It’s too bad, ’cause all the videos are really nice and clever. It’s not just a bunch of live crap or anything. In fact, there’s nothing like that. Oh well. Sometimes I feel like doing a label is just a series of disappointments.
Lots of your stuff falls out of print, I assume in an effort to keep putting new stuff out. Are these things gone for good?
Most of them are. Occasionally things get reissued, like the Color Filter 12-inch got re-released this year as a CD with two new remixes. Most of it’s gone for good, though.
What are future projects for you? Any chance of the other Six Cents and Natalie recordings coming out?
As a matter of fact there will be a second compilation of Six Cents stuff, very similar in spirit to the first one, released on Blackbean later this year.
What are your goals as a label? Are they the same as when you started?
Hmm… Yeah, basically I’ve always maintained that I want to be able to release whatever CDs or vinyl I want when I want. So I guess I’m par for the course. I plan to do the label ’til I die, so I guess we’ll see how well I’ve done in ten years.
What labels do you look to for inspiration?
Oh, there are so many good labels. Many, many more bad ones, but the good ones are 555, Darla, Tape-Tape, Trolley Bus, Clairecords, Shellfire, Sunship, Rocket Racer, Airborne Virus, Tape Mountain, Unread, Hub City, Smilex, Priapus, Boa, Tinseltones, Outside, AIP, Chapter, Drive-In, Myke Droner, Betley Welcomes Careful Drivers, Little Mafia, Deathbomb Arc… There’s tons more, but I can never remember them when I need to.
What’s on your stereo lately?
Swedish stuff like Blissful, Tommy 16, Cloudberry Jam. Food demo by Ferro Lad, which is GBV-ish type four-track stuff. Zumpano, Bailter Space, Orange Cake Mix demos, Harry Pussy, Cocteau Twins, Pastels, Lenola, Secret Shine, Summer Hits. The Phil Hendrie show is on my stereo from 4-7 every day. I’m a huge fan of his AM show, fucking hysterically brilliant.
For a catalogue or more information, write to PO Box 1476, Frazier Park, CA 93225, or visit http://freenoise.org/BBPTC/.