Alex Maiolo

Season One: Episode Twelve

On the season one finale, Ryan talks with Alex Maiolo about the different categories of opening tracks and his own opening track selection “The Final Frontier” by Underground Resistance as it relates to the black DIY origins of techno.

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Alex: It is such a gloriously interesting story. That should appeal to any punk rock person out there because it’s punk what these people did. It’s self-sufficient in the way that anybody who admires the Black Panthers should see. It’s musical. It uses vintage synthesizers before they were vintage. At the at time a lot of them were just considered junk.

The reason people pay $4,000 for a [Roland] TB-303, to get that bassline, from a failed instrument, an instrument that Roland failed with, is because people bought them for $50 and figured out how to make music that changed the world.

Ryan: Today is the season one finale and it’s a doozy. My guest today is musician and music journalist Alex Maiolo. Alex is also a voting member of The Grammy Awards, an advisor to the DC-based music think tank Future of Music Coalition, and guest lecturer. And that’s just the tip of the Maiolo iceberg.

I first talked with Alex when he guested on two episodes of Global Garage for which he put together a primer on the history and legacy of Krautrock.

Today, Alex joins me to talk about his song selection and the black DIY origins of techno music. Let’s make a mixtape.

[Theme music by Scotty Sandwich]

Ryan: Alex Maiolo, thank you so much for helping us make a mixtape. Which opening track did you end up selecting?

Alex: Okay, well there was a process of elimination. This is a very, very complicated and difficult thing for a person who’s been a music nerd, you know, basically since he could talk, I mean.

Ryan: As we were saying offline, it’s one of the benefits about being the host is that I don’t have to deal with the- I don’t have to make the hard choices. I get to make my guests make the hard choices.

Alex: You’re a cruel man. So basically this is a little bit like, you know, even though it’s ostensibly a narrowed-down thing, it is a little bit like picking one of your favorite children. And so I think, somewhat like how there’s no one soulmate in the world, there are lots of soulmates, you just end up with one of your soulmates. Hopefully. If everything goes well for you.

I think I’ve ended up with a soulmate, but let’s talk about how I got there. Okay. So what makes an opening track good? I would say they’re the ones that start the album and they’re so good that you want to hit the repeat button or lift the needle and put it back. It’s so good that you can’t even get into the album because the kickoff song is so good.

I was thinking of “The Good in Everyone” by Sloan. What an album that is. It’s so good. It’s two minutes of perfection.

Or “The Headmaster Ritual” by the Smiths. I generally listen to that song twice before continuing with the record.

Then there are songs that are so good that the first time I heard it, I knew things were going to change for me. That I had entered a new world, if you’d like to put it that way.

I was thinking of like “Paperhouse” by Can. The first time I heard that song, I was like, “okay, I think I’m a Can fan now, what does that mean?”

“Stars of Track and Field” by Belle and Sebastian. I knew that I was going to be listening to that record forever, just by hearing that first song. They would have had to screw that record up really badly for me, not to want to continue listening to Belle and Sebastian.

Summer Babe” by Pavement is a great example of that.

Or “Keep Tryin’” by this sort-of-soul artist called Mandre, who I love.

Then there’s a similar thing, music as we know it is going to change. This song is going to change what pop music even is.

So like “Autobahn” or “Computer World” by Kraftwerk. I was a child when Autobahn came out, I was in seventh grade when Computer World came out. Both times and when I heard those songs I was like, “I think this is different music.”

“Paranoid Android” by Radiohead is an amazing example of that I remember hearing that and thinking like “what is this even” and then I listened to a bunch of Radiohead. Radiohead is really good at that. You can also say that like “Planet Telex,” that’s a great kickoff. “Bloom” is a great kickoff. “Packed Like Sardines.” “Everything in its Right Place.” These are all great paradigm shifting first tracks.

Then there’s the old 1-2 Punch. “Summer’s Cauldron” into “Grass” by XTC.

“Afternoon Speaker” into “All the Photos” by The Sea and Cake.

“Circuitry of the Wolf” into “Chinaberry Tree” by Mew. The opening track is two tracks. It’s a two for one and it’s badass.

Then you get into songs that are like the modus operandi of the band isn’t contained in one song for the record. I think of “Myrrh” by The Church from Hay Day. Amazing tune.

La Femme d’Argent” by Air, which kicks off Moon Safari, one of my favorite records of all time.

Then you’ve got the whole kick-ass opening track preparing you for the album that’s getting ready to come.

“Expander” by Future Sound of London.

Or “The Song Remains the Same” by Led Zeppelin. What an opening track that is. So is the “Immigrant Song.” Led Zeppelin’s really good at this.

And then, on the subject of Led Zeppelin, you’ve got songs that kick ass out of the gate, but they’re really kind of the only good song on the record. So “Achilles Last Stand,” I think Presence is a good record, but “Achilles Last Stand” hits above that record’s weight.

This is an interesting one. “The Golden Road,” Unlimited Devotion by the Grateful Dead. I hate the Grateful Dead. I cannot stand that band, but that song literally is, in my mind, the only good song they did. The first song on the first record is a super song and then it’s all downhill from there for me.

All right. And then we’re getting close. I’m going to say my runner up here is “Cups” by Underworld. I think the Boku Fish record is the great underappreciated record of its era and “Cups” is a good listen. It takes you places. It’s really super. And as I started leaning into the electronic world a little bit, I came to my ultimate conclusion, which is left field as hell.

Ryan: Drum roll.

Alex: Drum roll. “Final Frontier” by Underground Resistance, probably the least known out of all of those. And it’s going to sound a little bit high fidelity record store clerk nerd snob. But I can make a strong argument as to why.

Ryan: Let’s hear that argument.

Alex: Okay. That sounds good. So, I’ve long maintained that the Detroit techno scene is the greatest DIY scene in pop music history. Now, I grew up in Chapel Hill in the 1990s and that was one heck of an indie scene. I’ve played in bands. I went to see lots of bands. All the bands came through. It was a joyous and wonderful time to be alive. Not better or worse than any other time necessarily, depending on who you are. But for me, it was meaningful every day, right? And people were four-tracking their records and recording for cheap and pressing singles and doing all that DIY stuff that Gen-X is known for.

We were actually quite good at that. I felt like, and it did feel like a reaction to boomerism, but what I didn’t know is, about the same time in Detroit, there was a DIY scene that basically was putting our little college rock thing to shame.

So put yourself in Detroit in the early 1980s and that city’s been left for dead. You know, the auto industry is gone. The most important music thing in that city is gone. Motown has moved to LA. Gary Gordy has moved it to LA.

You’ve got kids who should, by historical precedent be getting into trouble, there should be bad crime, and all that stuff did exist, but a group of kids who were reading all this like future philosophy by people like Alvin Toffler and listening to this radio show called The Electrifying Mojo. They were just drinking in all of these influences.

On The Electrifying Mojo show, he was playing not only funk by like P-Funk and all that, but he’s also playing The B-52s. He was playing Neu!. And he was playing Gary Neuman. And he’d have little philosophical breaks. And he’d talk about, you know, how the mothership had landed, and he was here to spread good vibes and philosophy and all that.

Apparently, he could interview Prince anytime he wanted to. Prince just adored him. He was one of the few people who basically just had carte blanche to talk to Prince.

So these kids, you know, are listening to this stuff and they’re like, “man, I want to make synthesizer music.” So Juan Atkins goes to his grandmother and asks her for some money and she helps him buy a synthesizer and he starts making music this way under the name Cybotron with a Vietnam vet called Rick Davis.

So that is kind of incredible that, drunk on Kraftwork and funk, these guys make this futuristic music. They’re reading Alvin Toffler and Toffler’s books, talk about a post-race future where as long as we don’t let the billionaires take control of the technology that we’ll all have better lives and better days, work less, be smarter, be healthier.

Of course, we know how it turned out. The billionaires are building space phalluses and people are working 65 hours a week for $7 an hour. But, for a moment, these kids were just like really drunk on this idea.

So that wave went by and the second wave came along and those people were a little more cynical. They not only loved all the things that Juan Atkins, Derek May, and Kevin Saunderson, who are collectively known as The Belleville Three, because they grew up in Belleville, outside of Detroit. They not only liked that, but they were also kind of into the idea that the Black Panthers, who’d been very strong in the Detroit area, probably as strong as they had been in Oakland or anywhere else, were like, “if nobody’s going to do it for us, if nobody’s going to do it for the black community, we need to do it for ourselves.”

So we like to think of the Black Panthers as these guys in berets in black, holding guns and stuff like that. But nobody talks about the fact that they’re feeding kids before school. Nobody was talking about how they were tutoring kids and really trying to make a better community. Because nobody else cared about them.

So Underground Resistance as a kind of label and collective was formed. This is done by a guy called Mike Banks, Mad Mike, as he’s known, a guy named Jeff Mills, who’s still out there doing it, and then later Robert Hood came into the fold.

So just like their predecessors, they were buying up this so-called “obsolete gear” and making badass music with it. Now that synthesizers had gotten to actually sound like actual instruments, the ones with the knobs could be bought for very little.

And they started making this sort of retro-futuristic music with it. And Underground Resistance pushed the idea a little bit that like dystopia looms. You hear a little bit more of dark Detroit in the music. So they would be the second wave of Detroit techno. And what, what era are we talking about?

Ryan: What era are we talking about? What’s the time period? at this point?

Alex: At this point we’re right around 1990. So Cybotron would have been ’82, ’83. Juan Atkins went into Model 500 after that, which would have been the mid-80s, and now we’re at about 1990.

So, me, being in college in 1990, I’m oblivious to all of this. Why? Because I’m a white guy who lives in a reasonably affluent college town. And I think, like, “oh, aren’t we cool?” Like, we professor’s kids and all that. We don’t need no record label. We’re going to get- we’re going to use our four track machines and we’re going to make this mopey-ass stuff about how work life is boring and whatnot and, you know, reference classic literature or whatever we’re doing. In this sort of like mopey-yet-elegant way, you know, with Stephen Malkmus and people like that being our patron saint.

Meanwhile, where shit is actually raw, in Detroit, the very first Juan Atkins/Cybertron record had been put out on Fantasy, which was also Creedence Clearwater Revivals label. He decided that all things going forward would be put out on their own label. And so they started making their own labels.

By the time Underground Resistance formed, Mike Banks had a real distrust and distaste for the record industry, so he really wasn’t interested in getting signed. Again, “we’re going to do this for us because nobody else is going to do it for us.”

Every time record labels get a hold of black people, they exploit black people. You can go back to the blues for that, and jazz. This is not a new thing. And you could even make an argument that Berry Gordy wasn’t always cool to his own community. Record label bosses were first and foremost business people.

So they just- all these people decide like, well, how are we going to like make this stuff happen? So a crew of them go down and go to the old record pressing plants and say, like, “how do you make a record?” And people at these plants are saying, “well, you know, if you need 10,000/20,000 records made, this is how it gets done. We lathe them and we do this and that and the other.”

And they’re like, “what about if you want two or three hundred” And they’re like, “yeah , no, no, no. We don’t really deal in volumes like that.” And they’re like, “well, “what other kind of work do you have right now that Motown’s gone?” And they’re like, “uh, nothing.” “Cool. Yeah. So let’s talk about pressing two to three hundred records.”

And very much to their credit, like the people at Archer and some of the record pressing plants there became like, not only open to the idea of it. They became really helpful. They’re like,” yeah, they’re like, “okay, so check it out when you’re recording music, these are things that you need to take into consideration. If you want to do something interesting with your music, be careful that you don’t do that. Or like, you know, whether you put 22 minutes on the side of a record or 20 will really affect fidelity.”

And, you know, these are mostly older white men who are really, really partnering up and being cool with these young kids who are just thirsty for knowledge, right?

And so they decide they’re gonna go ahead and put these records out and, for the most part it just stays within their community. Their community becomes unlike any indie community I’ve ever known. Crazily fun and supportive and whatnot, but it’s mostly locked into Detroit.

Richie Hawtin is coming over from Windsor, Canada, which is right across the bridge. Oddly it’s South of Detroit into Canada. And, you know, he’s looked at with a little bit of scrutiny because he’s a young white kid, but soon he’s in the fold and he’s doing great, Right? And because Richie Haughton- well, I should back up a minute. Part of the Underground Resistance credo is to not draw attention to themselves. Celebrity is bad.

I can’t say that for everybody, but most of them are like, “let the music speak for itself” because the minute you start getting into like celebrity stuff, the music suffers and you take away from your art, you know. These are manifesto people, right?

So, Richie Haughton is a little less concerned about that. And he, you know, he has a little white privilege working in his favor, I guess, if it’s okay to say. And the Detroit guys like him all right. He’s starts traveling a little, and at the same time, members of the Detroit techno crew start going over to England and, because their music is getting kind of popular there through very underground channels.

The same thing that would have been, like, my friends and me passing around singles, you know, and, like, mixtapes and all that kind of stuff. They’re doing the exact same thing, and it ended up in, like, dance clubs that were in, like, closed down warehouses that, like- illegal raves and stuff like that. Like, real DIY stuff.

So now, the attention from these kind of university educated kids, who are not unlike the he indie rock scene I was in, is on like what’s happening in Detroit and also Chicago. So these guys start get, start getting brought over to Britain like celebrities.

Like they kind of like how, you know, when Cream and John Mayall and The Yardbirds were popular. They started bringing over like Lead Belly to play for them. That’s kind of what’s happening again. There’s an old expression that the British are very good at giving Americans their own music back to them. The Beatles would show up and people would be like, “Whoa, man, where did you learn this?” And you’re like, “Oh, Carl Perkins and Little Richard”. And they’re like, “who’s that?”

Ryan: Punk, too, of course.

Alex: Yeah, for sure. Absolutely. Like the people are like, “the Sex Pistols are great. Where did they learn that?” They’re like, “Oh, the New York Dolls.” “Who’s that?”

Like this is just another case of that, you know? Yeah. And so all of the sudden this starts to blow up and. And it becomes giant in Britain and you get bands like, you know, I’m skipping around a little, but like 808 State, obviously The Prodigy comes out of that.

Stuff that doesn’t quite sound so, for lack of a better word, like black, you know. It’s not as funky. It’s not as influenced by Soul. It doesn’t have any political side to it or anything. Nobody’s going to say The Prodigy is funky, but it’s definitely techno-influenced, you know? I mean, maybe it’s a little funky.

So like this DIY spirit grew into that and that, you know, worked its way into the rest of Europe. You know, Berlin became this techno capital around the time the wall fell down. The German- formerly East German DJ refers to techno music as the East German liberation dance. And its probably the most common musical language of Europe, even though it’s not that popular here.

Berlin is kind of its capital, even if Detroit is the source. Very much in line with the other quote I just said, somebody at Tresor Records, I think, in Berlin said “that we’re just keeping techno music safe until the Americans realize what they’ve got.”

Ryan: That’s so good

Alex: So the reason I’ve picked this song, the reason I’ve picked The Final Frontier is because as an EP, it’s not something you could just go out to the store and buy. You had to seek it out. The internet has made it so we can go out and listen to things.

Some of my favorite records, like S.F. Sorrow by the Pretty Things is an excellent example. I’d never heard it until I could get it on the internet. ‘Cause I could never find it and, man, am I the demographic for that record. That record should have been in my life when I was 15 and I didn’t hear until I was 40.

This music has remained timeless, it is massively influential, and it all happened without the record industry infrastructure. That is incredible to me. You can draw a direct line to the bullshit that’s happening at Burning Man right now, you can draw a direct line to these $250,000 a night DJ things straight back to techno, except for the fact, and I just found this out the other day:

All 10 of the highest paid DJs are men, nine of the highest of the top 10 are white. One of the ten is of Asian descent, so he’s not white. But he’s the son of the guy who started the Benihana restaurant chain. So he’s rich, rich, rich to begin with. So once again, black people cut out of the conversation of the music that they created.

Now, you can make a strong element that this music wouldn’t have existed without a strong argument, rather that this music wouldn’t have existed without Kraftwerk. They will tell you that they have a strong connection with Kraftwerk who are really shy people for the most part. But they, they love these, these folks. And in fact, one of the only sanctioned mixes of a Kraftwerk song was “Expo 2000” by Underground Resistance.

So what incredible odds these guys overcame. It’s a lot more than Pavement doing victory lap tours right now, which I support, by the way, I love pavement. They changed music history. They did it all, against all odds, drunk on funk, Kraftwerk, and Alvin Toffler’s books. And yet they’ve been kind of written out of the whole thing. And when you listen to the Final Frontier EP, which is available on YouTube from beginning to end, it still sounds like the future.

Ryan: Listeners, for some context, I did not know what song Alex was going to pick. So I have not yet had a chance to listen to this song. Yeah. So I’m, I’m just as excited as you listeners, I hope, are to give this a listen after the episode. I’m going to dive right in as soon as we, we finish talking about this.

This is fantastic. And it’s, it’s interesting to see, you know, history continuing to repeat itself again. You know, we have so many black musicians that have defined genres and have been written out through appropriation and just business taking advantage of the culture.

And, you know, it’s interesting because I feel like we’re just starting to- with the internet and I’m curious for your perspective, starting to dig some of that back up again, do you feel like Detroit is starting to- do you think it’s getting that reputation back? Do you think it’s getting that credit back? Do you think people are discovering to, to paraphrase, what the German said, “discover what we already have?

Alex: Yeah, well, I think little by little. And I had to give a lot of thought. I’ve written a long piece on this for Reverb, which is why it’s fresh on my mind. And I thought like why, with such a compelling story, is this not bigger and more well known. Part of that, I think, is the no celebrities thing. The record industry is a bunch of people just clawing over each other and stepping on each other’s faces to get to the top, right? And these people were not interested in that.

Maybe at the very beginning, Juan Atkins thought, you know, I don’t know, I can’t speak for him, but maybe Juan Atkins thought, “hey, it’d be cool to be a musician for a living” and just assumed, you know, by signing to Fantasy Records that like, that’s just how you did it.

Probably a bad record label to pick because CCR was at legal war with them for a long time, you know, but nevertheless, you know, he obviously went the route of signing to a label, a subsidiary subsidiary of A&M, I’m not sure. But, but very shortly after that, like all of these people started making their own labels.

So like Saunderson had his own label, [Derrick] May had his own label and they, sometimes they had multiple labels. Jeff Mills has gone on record as saying like, he’ll start a label. And then when he’s completed what he wants to do with that label, he’ll shut that label down and basically start another.

So he’s not even building like brand recognition because it’s not necessary to him, even though he’s probably arguably the best known to that 1st and 2nd wave crew. Like, he’s been awarded the Honor of Letters by the French Government- Letter of the Arts, because he’s like worked with artists outside the scene, he’s worked with Tony Allen. He gets out there. He’s amazing. They all are amazing.

But anyway, basically the no celebrities thing probably didn’t help very much. The disdain for the record industry probably didn’t make the record industry come knocking.

So the fact that- here’s some other things that I came across. A lot of the, like, kind of funk lovers in the Detroit and Chicago area didn’t find their music to be, and I finger quote, “black enough.” It was a little too nerdy and technology-driven. And like, you know, people want to just go out and party. They don’t want to talk about like, “what is the future of transportation?”

Drexciya, one of the acts that came out of that scene, their entire myth is based around the idea that during the middle passage, when pregnant slave women were thrown overboard to their deaths because they were too expensive to keep alive, I mean, think how grim that is. That they gave birth to their babies underwater who had only known living in liquid. So they were born underwater and remained liquid-dwellers, right?

They became Atlanteans basically; started their own empire. So they emerged from tragedy to become strong, which of course is an allegory for what any member of the black community would have hoped for at that time. And still does.

That’s a little heavy, you know, when just wanna freakin’ boogie, you know. And so that probably didn’t help very much, but now we live in this internet age and people are interested in stories. I’m endlessly impressed with people who are 20, 25 years old right now and like how they just are open minded about music.

So I think that that will help a lot. And there, there’s this long running music festival that happens every Memorial Day called Movement that happens in Detroit. And they- it’s a combination of like Detroit artists and people coming back to Detroit. So like Underworld played it this year. Surgeon played, Charlotte De Witt.

So a bunch of Europeans came over and played it because they’re like, I finally get to play at the wellspring of this music. So we’ll see. We’ll see if it takes off and finally gets the credit it deserves.

A friend of mine called DeForest Brown Jr. has written a book called Assembling a Black Counterculture, and his book really goes deep into that. About how, you know, we need to return the blackness to techno. He provocatively has used the term regularly, “make techno black again.” And yes, I understand the irony of you and me, two white guys, talking about this, but I also feel like everybody who is interested in writing historical records, no matter what they are, no matter how insignificant they are, needs to speak up.

So the reason I picked this song is not only because it’s just good. It’s a good, cool song on a cool EP that like has a little electro energy to it. Like you can breakdance to it, you know, like it is cool.

But also because how it got here, and what it’s done, and what its adjacents have created is a miracle and needs to be talked about in the same breath. That movement needs to be talked about in the same breath that we talk about blues and jazz, as far as worldwide influence. Basically all electronic dance music comes from this, even the crappy stuff.

Ryan: Yeah, it’s amazing. I mean, I’m generally oblivious, you know, growing up I always just had the assumption that, that techno was this more European cultural music. And it wasn’t until I talked to you when we first recorded that episode of Global Garage, where you talked about the panel that you were moderating at SXSW about “making techno black again” and the roots in Detroit. I had no idea. I mean, I had- I think I had known that there was a connection in Detroit, but I wasn’t necessarily aware to what degree and to what degree it was significantly cut out of the narrative.

Alex: Oh yeah. You can even, you can even say that like most people know that House Music comes from Chicago and House Music is an adjacent to Techno, there’s a lot of crossover. Like if you listen to Kevin Saunderson’s first big hit, a song called, well one of his first big hits, “Big Fun,” which made it to the radio in Britain. There are some House influences on there and the, the so-called Belleville Three were going to Chicago to see what was happening.

They’re taking field trips because there were nerds that way. They’re like, “I want to know how does MIDI work? I want to figure that out. I want to see what’s happening in Chicago” and all that. And it was an interesting scene to go to because Frankie Knuckles was now DJing in that scene. And Frankie had come from New York, from Paradise Garage. And all of that, that gay club culture that ultimately gave birth to Disco with a capital D and a TM on the end of it that Bougie people in the suburbs ultimately started dancing to in 1978 & 1979. Not the stuff that was again, for lack of a better term, “gay music,” in gay safe spaces before that term was used.

Frankie Knuckles had come from that and kind of brought that to Chicago and in a way as an ambassador. if you want to break it down to something very simple. And Detroit music kind of came from funk and Future Shock literature and all of that. These two things blurred at times and House Music, of course, is extremely popular in Britain during the rave scene, much more than Techno, I guess.

But every time somebody like Madonna comes along and drops a song like “Vogue,” which owes a debt to the music we’re talking about, people are just like, “Oh yeah, she’s tapped into the European club scene with her new hit single ‘Vogue.’” Nobody talks about the fact that this is black music from Detroit and Chicago that she’s tapped into.

So Madonna has given Americans their own music back to them again. She did it again with “Ray of Light,” I’m not here to diss Madonna. I’m not, she didn’t go out of her way to cut people into that conversation so much. That’s the thing about this that’s so fascinating to me.

It is such a gloriously interesting story. That should appeal to any punk rock person out there because it’s punk what these people did. It’s self-sufficient in the way that anybody who admires the Black Panthers should see. It’s musical. It uses vintage synthesizers before they were vintage. At the at time a lot of them were just considered junk.

The reason people pay $4,000 for a [Roland] TB-303, to get that bassline, from a failed instrument, an instrument that Roland failed with, is because people bought them for $50 and figured out how to make music that changed the world.

Ryan: Wow. I mean, you picked a song that changed the world. I gotta give it to you. Thank you for sharing that story.

Alex: I’m glad. I wouldn’t go so far as to say- This song is a little bit of an outlier. The reason I picked it, I would say that the people I’m talking about changed the world. The reason I picked “The Final Frontier” is because it’s probably the song that made me go, “wait a minute, what is this and how did this come to be?” So it’s kind of my entrée into the whole thing.

And it also, like a lot of that music, still sounds very, very good. And when you listen to it, you go like, “yeah, I know that sound. I know that sound too. Yep. There’s that sound.” And you’re listening to not quite Year Zero music, but it’s pretty close. And that’s the one I keep going back to. I love Drexciya and I love Underground Resistance.

When I went to Detroit for Movement this year for an article I’m writing, I was there with my friend, Dan Bowen, who played in a bunch of like indie rock bands in the nineties. Dan and I went and we couldn’t find the house, even though we were standing right in front of it. There are no signs on it or anything. Finally, somebody sticks their head out and they’re like, “Hey, you want to come in?”

We’re like, “uh, yeah.” So we go in and there’s this room of all the old gear, like old [Roland] TR-909 drum machines and stuff like that. And then we go down in the basement where Submerge Records is and every record in there is something that was basically pressed locally in a white sleeve. I bought 18 records that day. As I went upstairs, I looked in the back of the room and I noticed there’s the old Scully lathe.

They still lathe in-house and stuff like that. They don’t press in house but they’ll do editions of 40 lathes and you can basically only buy them there. And that stuff was so wanted by some people that when they were working with some of the people they were working at, at the lathing and pressing facilities, they would go to them and say, “Hey. Some of these things are being bootlegged. What do we do?” And one of these old guard guys who was helping them out and was like, “I got an idea. Why don’t we cut the, why don’t we lathe this backwards so you drop the needle at the label and it plays out towards the edge. Then you’ll be able to identify it ’cause nobody’s going to bootleg it that way.”

And then when Jeff Mills was doing his Rings of Saturn record, after this kind of stuff, he goes “Man, I got an idea. I want every song to have a lockout groove like the end of Sgt. Pepper where when it gets to the end of the song it just goes around in a circle and sounds like a sustained note” And he goes, “okay, let me do some math on this and he goes back to Jeff and he says every song is going to have to be 133 beats-per-minute. 33 and a third. All the songs have to be 133 beats per minute. And every song on the Rings of Saturn record is a lockout groove so you play the song, it gets to the end of the song and it becomes a sustained note. Then you move the stylus to the next song. I own one of these and it’s one of my prized records.

So that’s what I mean is, we didn’t do that. We thought we were freaking cool because we made cassette tapes on 4-Track. Or the guys in Polvo who, bless them, they’re one of the greatest bands ever to come out of this town, are like, “yes, we’re going to use an oud on this song”, or “we’re going to play aeolian scales or whatever, which nobody does that in punk rock.” Bless than for it because it felt good, you know, but like nobody was doing this kind of stuff.

Ryan: Yeah. That’s wild. Thank, thank you for picking this track. This was an illuminating conversation.

Alex: Wonderful, man. That’s what I was hoping for. I figured plenty of people were going to pick songs that are great like “Achilles Last Stand” or “Taxman.” What a great opener that is. I figured plenty of people were going to do that, so why would I want to compete with- it’s not a competition, but why would I want to compete with people who are picking songs that are, like for all time, excellent opening songs, when this could be an opportunity to share new music in an era where we have instant gratification.

Ryan: I think you made a fantastic choice and I’m very much excited to fall down this wormhole. Thank you so much, Alex. I really appreciate it. It was like, it was great talking with you and learning so much.

Ryan: If you’ve been to letsmixtape.com for a show transcript before, you’ll know they’re usually full of notes and links and all that. This episode? Yeah. Lots of ’em. Be sure to check it.

Regular listeners to the show will also know that I’m conservative when it comes to music copyright on this podcast so I won’t be playing “Final Frontier” but I would like to leave you with a song from one of Alex’s many music projects. The track I’m going to play is from Themes for Great Cities: Tallinn. Themes For Great Cities is this really cool project Alex is a part of where he and other musicians record sounds from cities and incorporate them into a music composition. Their first performance, Tallinn, was put together in two weeks and performed at Tallinn Music Week in September of 2021.

But, before I play the song, I just wanted to thank all of my guests from season one as well as all you listeners out there. I appreciate your support and patience as this all came together.

Work is already starting on season two and, I’m not going to reveal the prompt yet, but I’m very excited with how it’s all coming together. I don’t have a release date yet but it will be sometime early next year. Between seasons, be sure to follow the podcast @letsmixtape on social for updates, insights, clips, and all that jazz.

Speaking of jazz, as promised, here is Themes For Great Cities with “Jazz Halyards.”

Ryan: If you liked what you heard from season one, be sure to rate and review the podcast to help new people discover the show. Theme music was composed by the one and only Scotty Sandwich. Thanks for listening and Let’s Make A Mixtape will return next year with season two!