Monday, January 24, 2011

It’s mostly just weirdo music...’
Prairie Fire Tapes/Dub Ditch Picnic Records operator Chris Jacques talks tapes and his new music project, White Dog
By: Don Beat

"Musically I perform as White Dog right now. It’s mostly improvised electronics and drone. It’s mostly just weirdo music," says Prairie Fire Tapes co-operator/Dub Ditch Picnic Records mogul/music critic/DJ Chris (Criz) Jacques.

"For the upcoming show on Dec. 23 at Freud’s Bathhouse & Diner it’ll be some looped samples — real old school. I may use a tape or portable CD player, and some pedals, then some external synths — a circuit-bent Casio or some of those little Korg boxes that act as touch synths," Jacques says.

"This time I’ll have my son, Magnus join me. He’s a performer. We tried it out once at Mondragon. I set him up with pedals and a microphone. He does his thing. I have a space echo. It affects his voice, and he gets a kick out of it. He thinks it’s hilarious.

"Chris Bryan (Grumble Toy Kaiju Company) is doing his thing too at the show — more like sound art, and No UFOs — Konrad Jandavs — is the headliner. We just released Konrad’s second tape, Mind Control, on Dub Ditch."

Jacques says he and a fellow noise artist started producing cassettes because it was cheap, easy and almost instant.

"Prairie Fire Tapes is pretty much focused on local artists, and it’s a partnership between me, and Cole Peters (Gomeisa), another noise-ician," Jacques explains. "I figured since we’re doing this why not start a label? I was able to source out some high-speed tape duplicators. We started off that label in January with a split tape of our music. He takes care of the art, and I take care of about 70% of sourcing out the music — it’s all harsh noise and drone — plus the production of the tapes, all the retailing, marketing, and all the money losing.

"Because my interests are so varied, I just wanted to have another label that follows the interests of my record collection, so about six months ago I started Dub Ditch Picnic — the name of it was inspired while on a trip to Jamaica."

Since beginning the PF label almost a full year ago, Jacques and Peters have released two-dozen different titles. Toss the seven releases on Jacques’ Dub Ditch offshoot into the mix, and that makes over 30 cassette releases on both labels in under a year — a noteworthy local achievement in my humble opinion.

"Let’s see… on Prairie Fire there’s Cole and I, KKRACKK, Greenhouse and Art Muscle (Antidada) locally, and also P.F. Tranquilizer on Dub Ditch," Jacques says. "I’ve released artists from Germany, the U.S., France and Norway. I’m putting out an Australian band called xNoBBQx, and an hour-long compilation of New Zealand underground artists soon. Then I think in the new year I’m going to look into releasing something on vinyl." 

U noise-hungry street beaters can find out more at and

As far as the gig at Freud’s is concerned, Jacques says get there early!

"(Freud’s has) been super supportive of everything that we’ve done. I think we’re going to do a mostly improvised set as far as White Dog is concerned," Jacques says.

"Konrad will probably be doing pieces from his cassettes — the sort of techno Kraut rock that people dig. I sent a tape to WFMU (visit for more info) in New Jersey and it made the WFMU Music Director’s Top 10 list for 2010."

Once again, underground tastemakers, appreciators, supporters and listeners are the ones driving this cassette resurgence. And locally PF and Dub Ditch are ahead of the curve. Jacques says the demand for tapes is growing for his biz, and local support has been enthusiastic but limited.

"There are still not a lot of places in media that want to play tapes. I sent digital files of our releases to UMFM, and CD-R recordings to CKUW. It’s a double-edged sword. We tried releasing some CDs, but we only sold about five. With the tapes, initially we were doing 25 to 30 for each release when we started. Now we’re comfortable with runs of between 75 to 150 cassettes.

"We ship them all over the world, mostly to kids who haven’t grown up with these things because they grew up with CDs, and CDs are boring."

Got some local news to bleat? Fire tips to Don at Street Beat!

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