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Collective Jyrk

Over the last couple of years, Portland’s Collective Jyrk has been responsible for a slew of CDRs and lavishly packaged records by the likes of Xiu Xiu, Yellow Swans, John Wiese and The Intima. Go look at www.jyrk.com and you will discover a whole new world of weirdo music. Yellow Swan and co-founder Pete Swanson was kind enough to give us an insight into the label’s background.

Could you start by telling us a little about how you got started, and how long you’ve been running?

Jyrk started in 2002.. Not exactly sure when in 2002.. It was started by Gabe (my band mate in Yellow Swans) and our buddy Eric Mast.. We had both finished up some CDRs and wanted to have some sort of less serious label for these releases… Eric started doing his animations around then and it seemed to fit with what we were doing…… So it all got thrown together under one roof. Eventually Gabe and I decided that it would be a good idea to put out records because there really isn’t much in the way of labels in Portland that support it’s very odd music scene and I totally hate mass-produced CDs…. But we’ve only put out a few records so far.. It’s very expensive and we are all very poor. All in all tho, we’ve put out probably 15 – 20 releases.. I’m not really keeping track.. Most of those are Yellow Swans CDRs. We record everything we do and put out a lot of stuff…

Is there an interesting story behind the label name that you’d like to share?

Not really, just a joke about the way the label was going to function.. A lot of people working under one name doing whatever the hell they wanted with it without consulting the others involved..

Who has inspired you in terms of style/ambition/enthusiasm?

There are too many inspirations to name.. One major thing was the bands in Portland. There’s been a lot of interesting music happening here..

I also really like a lot of very low key, DIY labels.. From El Saturn (Sun Ra) and Gate 5 (Harry Partch) through to American Tapes (John Olson of Wolf Eyes).. I’m pretty obsessed with this 70s post-punk, DIY label, Fuck Off Records. They didn’t really put out a lot of releases.. Most of their releases were cassette compilations where you would have to send in your own cassettes with a SASE and they would copy the cassette with a master per demand.. I’m guessing there probably weren’t more than 50 copies of a lot of these tapes made originally.. It was very low key.. Black Noise, which was the Homosexuals’ label, is also pretty great.. Lots of hand made covers…

Oppositely, is there anything you saw others doing that you distinctly wanted to avoid?

Big money, big bands, press, attention, losing a lot of money, losing a lot of time…… I’m not very excited with the state of “independent” music right now.. There’s a lot of people who are going through independent routes to become professional pop musicians.. No promotion, no budget, no big names… Staying locally focused…. Quiet simmering…

What kind of a role has the internet played regarding your label? Some people these days operate exclusively via the ‘net, whilst others are still very much mail order based. What’s your stance?

Most of our info is passed around on the net, at live shows and in person. I like running this way because I pretty much get to interact with every person who buys our stuff.. It’s interesting to see who’s buying our stuff.. Interesting people for sure….. I’m not really sweating the mail order VS. net.. I’m not very into big distribution, but they’ve asked a few times and I’ll work with them on occasion. Trying to up the communication in the information age.

Do you feel an affiliation with other labels out there? Is there any kind of community or so-called ‘scene’ – be it local or not – that you feel linked to?

Well.. there’s a lot of little noise labels out there right now that we have a connection with. Definitely the paper rad folks in Providence, the Wolf Eyes folk and their labels, Since 1972 tapes from Seattle, Folding Cassettes from San Francisco.. They all kind of function similarly..

Locally, we’re both really involved with trying to support bands in whatever way we can.. There are a ton of good bands here.. I’m not sure if anyone realizes that bands like Get Hustle, Glass Candy, Nudge, Nice Nice, Jonny X, Yellow Swans, Smegma, Daniel Menche, Super Unity, Strategy, Gossip all play shows with each other often.. It’s a really diverse crowd that is relatively past the idea that genre is important……… Lots of crossover between rock and electronic, structured and improvised, “noise” sounds and “musical” sounds..

Eric also runs Audi o Dregs..

In terms of a “scene,” I would like to feel like we’re a bit of an outsider label even among the weird music scene… I hope any given person would have problems with half of what we’re putting out.. I can’t even listen to all of our stuff.. Everyone involved with the label has pretty diverse tastes and I hope it shows.. We can see a thread from John Wiese to DJ Brokenwindow to Ghost to Falco.. It’s very obtuse, but it works for us..

How much of your time are you able to devote to the label? How do you find juggling a day job etc with your label commitments?

Well, I work nights.. Run errands in the day.. I also have Yellow Swans that’s pretty full time. There’s not a lot of juggling.. I just don’t go out much.. I listen to a lot of music and send a lot of e mails and put together packages.. A lot of multitasking and to-do lists… Our way of running a label is pretty time consuming… Lots of time burning CDRs, making packaging.. Getting help when we can get it…

I’m not sure how much time I spend on this thing. Probably a lot less time at the post office than other labels, but when we’re putting out something with crazy packaging.. There goes three days easy….

Has there ever been a time when you felt like calling it a day, that the label was too much trouble?

That’s why I don’t think we’re going to do another Xiu Xiu record again! I love that dude and his music but the first few weeks that we had that record out was BRUTAL. Same thing with the Yellow Swans lathe LPs.. Those were packaged so excessively that I had to build my own mailers.. PAIN IN THE ASSSSSSS. I’m going to make sure my records fit in SOME mailer next time I try something like that.

Where have you found bands you’ve released stuff by so far? Do you get demos etc sent to you? Do you ask the bands or do they ask you?

They’ve all just kind of happened.. No pressure or anything.. Every once in awhile one of us will get really amped about some weird project and we’ll just be real gung ho about it.. Gabe’s been working on this double CDR of Monger, which is a noise project by John Pugh from !!!.. It’s all crazy sound from very modified records, played on questionable machines.. I’m starting work on this release for Super Unity, probably one of the weirdest improv groups around since AMM.. Totally bizarre and sparse.. They changed the way I understood music.. I’m working on some insane box set.. Maybe 5 CDRs or two 120 minute cassettes.. I’m putting pressure on them because I don’t think their stuff would see the light of day without a little pressure.. Mainly we just know people who do really weird music and we ask our friends if they want to do something with us or we get really excited about stuff that a lot of people write off and bug the artists…

Speaking of which, do you have any hot musical tips for us at the moment?

Well, Super Unity is pretty much over… Most of my favorite stuff these days is old news.. Favorites are things like Shadow Ring, Smegma, Daniel Menche, Ann Briggs, old Ska, lots of 20th century classical………. I’ve been really into the Improvised Music from Japan label and a few things on Rune Gramophone.. If you’re asking about hot new band.. I would say Silentist’s record, whoever puts it out, is going to be a totally monumental piece of work.. Pretty much anything on Weird Forest that’s coming up…… Lord (the band). New Get Hustle stuff…. LHD…. Dead Machines.. WIVES. Everything on Sublime Frequencies.

Who decides the artwork for your releases? Do you have a major say in the matter, or do you let the bands decide?

Well.. The bands give us ideas and then we go back and forth over things trying to keep the art costs as low as possible.. We are broke dudes… I think we’re doing the art for the Curtains/Ghost To Falco 7″ for under $10 for a few hundred covers.

Got any advice for the prospective new label mogul?

Moguls are made to be run over.. Take advantage of the information age and give me something I’ve never, ever, ever heard.. Don’t spend much money.. You can do records a lot cheaper than the pressing industry would have you believe…. Do your research.. Build your own covers.. Make something with your hands. Have fun.

Finally, what would be your dream release – which band, which format, and how would it be packaged?

We are living the dream.. We’ve got a few releases I’m very excited about.. There’s a Yellow Swans/Super Unity lathe LP that’s going to be limited to like.. 20 copies probably that’s going to be packaged in a sleeve completely covered in spring leaves if everything works as planned.. Also there’s the Super Unity box set that will probably be insane elaborate and LONG. Hopefully a repress of the Xiu Xiu LP can get everyone off my back about it..

Fantasy world… well…………………… My buddy Eric (not Eric who’s part of JYRK) just got a few lathes in good condition so hopefully I can put out a few 7″s that’ll be limited to 5 or so copies packaged in insanely elaborate sleeves.. There will actually probably be some records limited to one or two copies so I can be sure that my label mates don’t have copies of all the releases.. Jyrks..

Collective Jyrk Website