On the basis of Grebo’s lust for a bit of 4tRECk action, I decided to check out the website, www.4track.co.uk, and I was immediately intrigued so purchased the records he has reviewed across the page. I can happilly say that everything the Greeb has to say is entirely accurate. I’m always pleased to hear quality material from ‘bedroom artists’ and ‘CDR labels’ and so, being both, I questioned Sam Callow to see what makes him tick.
>Please introduce yourself and tell us about the ethics of 4tRECk.
Hello folks. My name is Sam and 4tRECk is the name I've given to theimaginary band I'm in - If that makes any sense? Basically I'm trying to make music I want to hear, using a fairly basic set-up of four-track, mini-disc, a few mics and an array of junk-shop instruments. There is never usually a fixed plan to a song I'm making, I just take it one step at a time. Sometimes this involves some short and quite intensive periods of recording then just leaving something unfinished for a few months and forgetting about it before coming back to it. Overall its quite a gradual process although there can be a few tracks on the go at once. I have made four CDR albums and one 7" record which can be a bit tricky to find in shops, although the 7" is the first distributed release (i.e. Not personally by me going into shops hassling the staff, but by CARGO who have yet to take some from me....grrrr!).
>What influences your music?
Probably quite difficult to say. In a sort of deep-rooted way my parents were both musicians and from an early age I was 'subjected' to many classical concerts and have been surrounded by music. I think that this has had some influence on me in that I've been exposed to quite allot of musical styles and structures, and also perhaps I developed a way of concentrating on long pieces of music and instrumental music, as oppossed to the usual Pop upbringing, although there was a bit of that too. I can't say anyone in particular directly influences me now, perhaps the Japanese band Ruins did a few years ago (and still do), they are a duo and play very fast, stop-start, 'prog-punk' and the idea of making seemingly impossible music struck me as something that I'd like to hear more of. I think what influences a track most is finding new ways to record, new ways to play an instrument and bringing fresh elements into the recording process, for example I learnt to use the mini-disc as an editing and sequencing tool, so I could cut, paste, and rearrange something I played in new ways.
>What do you do when not making music?
I haven't been making music for quite a while now. The last thing I did was over Christmas, which was the Jesus Lizard cover on accordion, I knew I had a few days holiday from work and just decided to try to do it. Generally I don't go out a great deal, perhaps to the pub or to a gig, or listen to Peel's show and meeting up with friends as most do. I spend a lot of time on the phone to my inspiration, Caroline, my lovely patient French girlfriend. What I want to do more of in my spare time is work on the 4tRECk live show - in my head it would be a puppet show or cartoons on slides, but will probably just turn out as me with some backing tapes.
>What's so good about recording on the same battered old 4-track then?
Its always a good starting point as it is quick, simple and its good to know everything is safe on tape rather than some file on a computer. Also I think it is quite good to have your options cut down a bit, so perhaps you can explore outside of the machines capabilities, otherwise you just follow the paths that other people would use the equipment for and rely too much on technology. At first I just used the 4-track on its own, but now it has become more of another instrument rather than a means of just recording sound - It is very battered though, the 1st track caught fire once when I stupidly made an effects loop with a 100w valve guitar amp - it sounded OK on the headphones for a while - until I noticed the smell of burning plastic!
>Your next release will be recorded on 8 track I notice - would you ever put out a 32 track recording?
I definitely don't want to get too carried away with the move up to 8-tracks, it has taken out a lot of the frustrating barriers of tape recording but I'm a bit scared I won't know when to stop. That's another great advantage of the 4-track: you can only go so far. But the idea of having unlimited overdubs I think secretly appeals to me - although I would hate to record in a studio, with deadlines to meet, and paying money for recording time. For me recording happens as soon as the idea happens and is all part of the same writing process.
>Is any instrument out of bounds, any you have not yet used that you are desperate to?
I just use what instruments I can. I think with being a guitarist mainly, string instruments are most accessible, but for example I'd like to be able to use more wind instruments, but financially and technically it's a very big leap. It would be wrong to think that I can just pick up and learn any instrument, as long as you can make a sound from it you can edit and manipulate to suit whatever the track needs (with a little patience). I would like to learn the clarinet though.
>CD-R label, bedroom recordings - all very lo-fidelity. Do you consider this a more authentic way of going about things? Is there room for this type of endeavour now MP3 is beginning to muscle in to the way people consume their music?
I'm a bit lost when it comes to the MP3 debate as I've never really downloaded much stuff, also my computers so old and slow it just seems that to contact the artist themselves is a much nicer way to obtain home-made music. Am I right in thinking that you can get MP3’s on CD but with a lot more minutes available. That appeals to me in that you could release much longer albums, although its always nice to have the artwork and the physical presence of a nicely packaged 'product'. The CD-R label just came out of collecting and organising the music I had on tape initially for my own needs, in case the tapes got mangled or something. I think the Future looks better for music makers like me if the MP3 thing takes off as it levels the playing field between the corporate majors, the Indie labels and ultra-indie 'CDR labels' which if nothing else is the way most bands should promote themselves, maybe.
>Would you be happier if more people began to run CD-R labels or do you enjoy occupying a tremendously distinct position juxtaposed to the mainstream?
It would be nice if it took off a bit more, at the moment its hard getting the music heard, I really like hearing from people who have heard some of my music. It would be great if more people did the same, so many groups get the hard sell to the public by the music press, it makes you wonder what deals are being done behind closed doors, it'd be nice for some artists to emerge organically, without being latched onto by music biz scum (for want of a better expression). I feel too far removed from any sort of musical community in my position, which is something I'd like to change - I`m not saying I'd like to go schmoozing/networking, just if I had more time and, lets say, a more outgoing drive to succeed, to become more part of a community of musicians (if such a thing exists?)
>What are your future plans for recording and the CD-R label - do you plan to release anyone elses material?
The main thing to concentrate on right now is the 7" I've just made as it's new territory for me, obviously CDRs can just be burnt off if anyone needs some, but now I've got 400 7"s lying around the place (...still waiting for Cargo distro to take some from me) so I haven't thought much about my future plans, but I'd like to continue with a series of another 3 7" e.p.s (4 cdr albums and 4 vinyl's has a nice symmetry about it), probably like the current one - a mixture of new tracks, a cover (I'm toying with the idea of Fennesz's 'Year In A Minute' from Endless Summer, and Prince's ‘Ballad of Dorothy Parker') and some re-worked tracks from the CDRs. I would quite like to keep most of the material 4tRECk related, I think that is the job of a 'proper' label to help other artists, but there are some good things around that I`d like to get more people to hear, a band called Foe are rather good, so are Cheval De Frise, Sky Destroys Dog. (Check the site for links if anyone wants to know more).
>4Treck's Desert Island Discs:
Prince - a ‘best of’ CDR of my own selection (for nostalgic reasons of course); Gastr Del Sol - 'Camofleur'; Led Zeppelin - 'Remasters'; Ruins - 'Refusal Fossil' (The thing is so complicated it'd take an age to fully be able to whistle along to); Zeni Geva - 'Freedom Bondage' (contains some of the most satisfyingly heavy guitar moments in the history of recorded music, I reckon); Brigitte Bardot et Serge Gainsbourg - 'Bonnie and Clyde' (nice memories associated with this one and would be a good party record - albeit alone.)
>4Treck's Desert Island Book:
Teach Yourself French in 30 days (pourquoi pas)
>4 Treck's Desert Island Luxury Item:
A 4track of course.and maybe a stereo for the above albums?
For more information of 4tRECk you can email Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org.