interview with Steve Harmon and Eric Lee of Wil-Ru Records
Q: a couple years ago, while researching new music that was coming out, i came to a realization that there's tons of super creative stuff coming out on cassette. can you talk a little about that?
A: Sure. Well, it seems that most of the music coming out on cassette is independent music which is generally more creative or perhaps less mainstream than the stuff coming out on bigger record labels. Artists don't feel the pressure of having to please everyone in the world with their sound, due to the limited numbers of their releases, so ultimately they are freed up a bit to pursue more creative niche genres.
Q: what is your typical tape buying customer like?
A: Although we don't know many of our customers personally, first off, we assume that they have cassette players. Secondly, we've noticed that the market is a world wide market. We are always getting orders from places all around the world (US, Europe, Asia etc.). The tape format appeals at various levels; first to someone that grew up listening to cassettes will have that nostalgic connection to the format and fidelity. Younger listeners see this as a new exciting and perhaps retro format in an age dominated by digital music. Due to the nature of cassettes (side a, side b), they are really designed to listen through the whole album with out skipping around and just focusing on the "Hits". People who are buying and listening to cassettes are most likely wanting to the album as a whole.
Q: what about playback units? where do you recommend someone find one, if you are asked, can you talk a little about that?
A: Ebay is a great place to get boomboxes, walkmans etc. Even cheaper is your local thrift store. You can find walkmans for as low as 99 cents these days.
Q: can you talk a little about your aesthetic vision?
A: In an age focused on digital sales, physical releases are becoming viewed as objects of art. It's important to please costumers on a visceral level and give them a reason to purchase physical releases. Cassettes are somewhat of a boutique product now, so it's imperative that they are presented well in order to give them collectible value as a unique limited object.
Q: how did you get where you are?
A: Well, it started with the idea of releasing a one sided 12" by Davis Hooker, which ended up being a co release with Marriage Records. After that materialized we realized that we had a record label. From there we started putting out releases by friends. Soon after that, Eric started contacting electronic artists who he had corresponded with in the past which quickly lead to the development of WR (the sub label of Wil-Ru focused on electronic music). We have managed to put together so many releases in such a short time due to two things: cooperative and willing prolific artists and affordable formats.
Q: what was going on in your life when the idea to put out cassettes first came up?
A: Steve is an entrepreneur and Eric is an artist, so the collaboration made sense.
Q: what types of things are coming out this year?
A: A whole lot of electronic stuff. Also an full length LP by Ozarks is on the schedule. And a bunch of unannounced stuff. Check in at www.wil-ru.com. We tend to release things in batches (and frequently!).
Q: where do you feel like we are in the story arc of cassette culture?
A: About in the same place as in the story arc of Muppet culture. The new Muppet movie coming out this fall is called "The Muppets" as if nobody knew about them until now. Introducing the Muppets.... ...Again