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Public Guilt Records Interview; Son of Concrete
Wednesday, October 15 2008 @ 01:00 AM PDT
Contributed by: Sage

Public Guilt Records Interview

Heathen Harvest:  Firstly, can you tell us the origins of Public Guilt, when and why it began, and what it has evolved into today?

J.R. Fritsch: Public Guilt began in the Spring of 2004. Cream Abdul Babar, who I have known since the late 90’s, was looking for someone to re-issue all of their early out of print material. I had been kicking around the idea of starting a label for a year or two prior, so it seemed like the perfect way to kick things off.

HH:  Why did Public Guilt split off with a sublabel called "Implied Sound" in 2005/2006?

JF: Implied Sound was actually the initial label idea. I wanted to do a small label that only released 7”s (about 2 or 3 a year) and was very much a casual affair. When I decided to do the Cream Abdul Babar double disc, I wanted to keep the IS name for a 7” series, so I came up with PG.

HH:  Implied Sound seems to have stopped functioning as of 2007.  Why is this?  Will we see a return to this sublabel?

JF: The Psychic Paramount 7” picture disc will be out in early 2009.  I hope to continue to do more 7”s, but the cost involved in relation to the sale price and shipping costs makes it hard to break even.  It’s unfortunate, because I love 7”s. So, IS will probably remain stagnant for a bit, but I hope to be doing more vinyl releases (12” and 10”) in 2009.  Most of the IS artists have already or will be working with PG in other formats as well.

HH:  Obviously "Public Guilt" seems to imply a meaning that leans more towards social issues.  Can you tell us what exactly the label name means to you and how its meaning has changed over the years?

JF: Strangely enough, the name was never intended to be social or political. At the time I was trying to name the label, I was just listening to words and how they fit together. I heard the two words apart and put them together in my head. I liked it, so it stuck. The meaning I was envisioning was the public display of an individual’s guilt, not “public” in the societal sense.  But I liked that it could be read on a social level as well. Now, the name Public Guilt represents the people who have been a part of this experience for past several years and the music they have created.

HH:  Public Guilt doesn't seem to really have a defined genrelist for their included releases other than "experimental".  Why have you chosen to avoid releasing a stream of a specific (and could be broad) style?

JF: I think quite simply because I do not listen to music in a single genre or style, so it would feel strange to release music in that way.  It feels more organic to me, more of an evolving process and less of a pre-established game plan. At times, it can make things difficult on a commercial level, but it makes complete sense on another level.

HH:  One release sticks out in your back catalogue in the collaborative experimental hip hop effort between Destructo Swarmbots, Oddateee, and perhaps most notably, Jersey duo Dälek (whom we already knew through their production efforts on Ifwhen's "We will Gently Destroy You").  Other than the inclusion of Destructo Swarmbots whom you released previously with the "Mountain EP" and "Clear Light", why did you feel that this release was destined for Public Guilt?

JF: I have been a big fan of Dälek for years and met them a few years ago.  I released the solo record from their former turntablist, Still  He introduced me to the work of Destructo Swarmbots, who I have worked with a lot.  I had heard Dälek was working on this collaborative project, but knew very little about it.  I ended up hanging out with Oktopus one night in NY and he asked if I wanted to release it. I  said yes and we decided to go with the 12” picture disc since none of the artists involved had released anything in that format.  I had not heard a single note of music, but I knew the combination of these three forces would make an awesome record. The Deadverse Massive is a sick fucking crew! Awesome guys, all of them.

A CD version of the 12” (with bonus tracks and completely different artwork from Paul Romano) will surface sometime in the future. And Oddateee’s newest disc will be out in November on Dälek’s brand new Deadverse Recordings imprint.  It’s a great record.

HH:  What release has been the biggest surprise for you?  I know this is a vague question, so to keep it interesting, take it in any way you wish.

JF: I think the Aluk Todolo “Descension” CD. I had worked with them on the 7” and really loved what they were doing. The CD arrived in my mailbox and my first listen was one of the stranger music experiences of my life. I felt my body and mind changing as the record went on. I wasn’t sure what I was hearing, but I knew that music had never made me feel this way. After several more listens, I was hooked. I wasn’t sure how the record would be received, but I knew that I had to release it. It was simply amazing. It went on to be the quickest selling record in PG history. The first pressing is sold out.  I will be doing a second pressing this Fall. 

HH:  One of the most interesting releases you have put out was Magicicada's "Everyone is Everyone".  Why haven't we seen a return from this project on Public Guilt?

JF: Magicicada (aka Christopher White) has put out a few limited CDr releases since his PG album and has also been spending time on another musical project, 1,000 Holy Shards.  Magicicada made an appearance on the 55 artist, 3CD compilation and will be rejoining the PG fold in the coming months. He appears on the upcoming Darsombra remix disc, “Nymphaea” (he twists Darsombra into something akin to a frenetic, hurdy gurdy jam) and will be releasing a very limited art piece/CD via PG in late 2008/early 2009. Chris is not only an great musician, but an amazing visual artist as well. These upcoming pieces, known as “fleshboxes,” are mixed media sculptures that are baked in the sun for days. They will house the disc along with some original photography and silkscreened art.  I am really excited about these. There will only be 25 in existence, but we will make the CD contents available for sale via digital download. So, the music will never go out of print, but the few who get the actual item will have a nice original art piece to appreciate.

HH:  Zu, another band that has been known for working with Dälek, is a pretty well-rounded project being on a different label for virtually every one of their releases in their impressive back catalogue of music since 1999.  How exciting was it for you to land "Observing the Armies in the Battlefield" for your Implied Sound 7" series?  Has it been a good seller?

JF: I was super excited to be working with Zu. I have been a big fan of theirs for years. And I love the artwork of their longtime collaborator, Scarful, so it was very cool to see his art grace a picture disc.  We had a CD in the works that was to include the entire 11 tracks from the session the 7” tracks came from, but things have been delayed due to a problem with one of the other labels involved. Hopefully, things will be back on track again soon and it will see release in early 2009. It’s a great disc and the addition of Okapi and Reeks to the Zu power trio line-up makes things even more twisted and beautiful.  

HH:  As you no doubt know, the world of underground music is split between two types of labels it would seem:  Those dedicated to the DIY lifestyle, and those who scrap by with every release trying to afford pro-printings.  Public Guilt is one of the very few labels out there who combine the DIY lifestyle with professional printing.  Why have you chosen to take this path with Public Guilt and has it proved rewarding for you?

JF: I like to look at each release individually. Some artists will sell a lot of copies where others will not sell as many, but their music is still great and deserves to be out there.  So, I do some releases as short run limited CDr’s (primarily 3” mini discs) that are all hand silkscreened and assembled by me.  It’s really fun for me. And even with the larger-run, pro pressed discs, I do a lot of hand assembling.  The wax sealed o-cards on the Still disc, all of the 7”s, plus the assembly and shrink-wrapping of the Magicicada, Darsombra and 3CD compilation discs… I did all of these by hand.

I really enjoy working with each artist to conceive the packaging and I also enjoy the hands on aspect of creating these packages.  In the age of digital downloading, a release needs to be as much an art object as a vehicle for music. 

HH:  What has been the most notable tour that Public Guilt has sponsored (for lack of a better word) in the past?  What has been the most memorable concert you have been to and why?

JF: There haven’t been any official PG sponsored tours, but there was a Destructo Swarmbots / Darsombra tour in the Spring of 2007. Each night, they would do their own sets and then join each other on stage for an improvised piece.  I had the pleasure of being on the second week of the tour and these collaborations were awesome. Each night was very different. My favorite of the improvs happened at a college radio station in Providence, but unfortunately, technical difficulties prevailed and the engineer and I were the only people to ever hear it.

HH:  Are there any exciting tours coming up with the Public Guilt name attached? 

JF: This November will see an Ala Muerte / Darsombra tour that will be pretty awesome. Brian from Darsombra is playing as part of the Ala Muerte live band. If you live in the southern US, make sure to get out to see this. For an upcoming show in Baltimore, Ala Muerte will be joining Darsombra on stage for a live rendition of her remix from the upcoming Nymphaea album. And PG had nothing to do with setting this up, but it is still very exciting…  Strotter Inst. will be touring Russia and China this Autumn and Winter. Dates for both of these tours are posted on the PG site.

HH:  Tell us a bit about your upcoming releases.

JF: This Autumn will see five new releases… The debut CD from Ala Muerte entitled Santa Elena, the Darsombra remix disc, and three limited 3” CDr’s from Vopat, Oblong Box and Perfekt Teeth.

Ala Muerte’s debut full-length is a rich, ethereal excursion filled with somber, vocal melodies, intricate layers of guitar and dissonant, sound collages.  So sad, yet so beautiful.  I’ve been hooked on the tracks from this record since they were just demos, so I am excited to put them out into the world. 

The Darsombra remix disc features 12 artists from around the world reinterpreting Darsombra’s track,  “Nymphaea”. No two tracks sound alike and the variety is amazing. Artists involved include Max Bondi & Bleeding heart Narrative, Le Knell, Blood Fountains, Guilty Connector, Strotter Inst.,  Ala Muerte,  Pulsoc, Destructo Swarmbots, Perfekt Teeth,  Magicicada, Decimation Blvd. & Darla Hood, and Heirs of Rockefeller.

Vopat is an awesome one-man, melodic, drone-metal outfit from the midwest. Ryan has been sending CDr’s to my mailbox for years and each one immediately becomes my new favorite on first listen.  Vopat is amazingly beautiful and catchy while also heavy and pounding.

Oblong Box is the minimalist drone project of Bill Henson from Housepig Records. Bill’s track on the “untitled” “ 3CD box set is one of my personal favorites. I had the chance to see him play live in late 2006 and was floored, so I asked him to do a release with PG.

Perfekt Teeth is the brainchild of former Fulci member and Crucial Blast Records head honcho, Adam Wright, and is the epitome of experimental, outsider metal. “Beastcraft” takes black metal and 80’s crossover thrash riffs and arranges them to induce space rock like hypnosis.

After this, in early 2009, will be the new Strotter Inst. CD, the Psychic Paramount 7” picture disc, the Magicicada fleshbox, and a handful of other things that are not yet confirmed, so I can’t mention them yet. Plus, friend and cohort, Stephen Kasner will be designing a new Public Guilt t-shirt.

HH:  What does the future hold for Public Guilt?  Will we ever see the return of the mailorder once it is gone?

JF: Public Guilt’s future will depend a lot on finances. Unfortunately, we are in a tough time for small labels (a handful of great ones folded in 2008) and even larger labels seem to be struggling a bit as well.  But as long as money is coming in, PG will be alive. I take no salary and often fund new releases out of pocket. 

The PG mailorder will not return, but I will always stock releases from PG artists on other labels. Doing a full-scale mailorder was very time-consuming and the money coming in did not justify the workload.  I am much more interested in releasing music than running a store. If anyone would like to help us make space (and pick up some good records cheap) check out the Public Guilt Clearance Sale.  Lots of single copies of things are left.

HH:  Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview and I hope the future will provide many more Public Guilt releases.  Feel free to take this last spot to say whatever you feel you need to say!

PG: Thanks so much for the interview and for supporting small labels!


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