Kief is the game and Eric Hardiman is the name. With bowls blazing, I'm privileged to present the latest Kief interview with Eric Hardiman of Tape Drift and Rambutan, among many other fine projects. Back in 2008-09 - when I started collecting tapes after Foxy D provided the impetus - I would wait impatiently by the mailbox for the latest batch of Stunned Records. It was through Stunned that I was introduced to Rambutan, along with other upstate New Yorkers, Parashi and Chapels. On a personal level, this interview is extremely meaningful. Eric was among the first few people - along with Mike Griffin (Skell Records; Parashi; Burnt Hills) and Adam Richards (House of Alchemy; Chapels) - to exhibit belief in me and the things I was trying to accomplish with the blog. I will always be grateful!
The bowl is packed tightly and covered with a generous amount of kief. It presents the ideal condition to congregate as friends, revel in the Rambutan, and feast on the trichomes. It's high time to fire it up, friends!
Tape Drifter for life. peace and love to my friends at Humboldt Relief :)
1) You have participated in many different musical projects, you are a contributing writer for Foxy Digitalis, and operate the venerable Tape Drift among other things. How long have you been making music, and do you have a favorite project?
Eric: I’ve been making music in different forms since I was in high school, although I stopped for a long time out of frustration. In 2006 I met Ray Hare and then shortly afterwards the Burnt Hills folks, which changed everything for me. It was a total revelation to be able to make music with such amazing people and now I can’t imagine life without it. It’s only been since 2007 that I’ve been releasing my music. I honestly don’t have a favorite project – I love all of them and they each are important to me in different ways. It’s about the other people I’m playing with and the inspiration I draw from them.
2) Rambutan is one of your most renowned projects. What led you to record as Rambutan, and can you talk about its evolution?
Eric: Well, there has never been a plan of any sort with Rambutan. It was more a case of late night home recording experiments and a ridiculous backlog of archival material. For the past six or seven years, I’ve been fairly obsessed with recording as much as possible. It’s partly about ritual/habit and partly about getting ideas onto tape so they don’t disappear. It took at least a year or two before I felt confident enough to let anyone else hear the recordings. I floated an initial cdr to a handful of friends, mostly other Burnt Hills members. The feedback was positive, and then after my first live solo set I started releasing tapes and cdrs. There’s still no big plan to it at all – Rambutan is simply the vehicle for me to explore my own musical ideas. I feel very fortunate that other labels have been interested enough to release my music too, and I’m genuinely honored whenever someone takes the time to purchase or listen to one of my releases. Musically, it’s been all over the map – probably too much so. But on the other hand, that’s part of the process for me. I never want to feel inhibited to try new things because people might expect my music to sound a certain way. I just try to follow my interests wherever they lead me. Hopefully there will always be enough of a running thread in the various styles to make it emerge on the other end as Rambutan music. I’m incredibly excited to have an LP coming out on Fabrica Records because I have such respect for the label and how it’s run. I’ve got some other exciting stuff in the works following that too. And I’m hoping to finally do some collaborative recording this year with Jefferson Pitcher who has been a huge inspiration for me.
3) Your recent split with Fossils From the Sun - Ray Hare of Century Plants and Burnt Hills - on House of Alchemy was a harbinger of sorts to the single-sided and untitled Century Plants LP. Compared with the Locrian split, how was that record different?
Eric: Well, the House of Alchemy split is something we’re both very proud of. It comprises live solo recordings from two or three years ago. Similarly, the split with Locrian feels like ages ago – I think we recorded that material in 2009. The new Century Plants record is a unique item in our catalog – it’s a one-sided live LP. I haven’t always loved one-sided LPs in the past, but with this one it made perfect sense. On the surface, it’s just the recording of a live set with our good friend Phil Donnelly sitting in on drums. But it’s also more than that – it’s a tribute to bands like Discharge, the hardcore music of 1981/82 that inspired us. Ray was part of that scene, as the lead singer of Deadline in Washington, DC, and I was an avid follower of the scene having grown up just outside of DC. Ray’s been my most consistent musical partner through almost all of my projects, and he’s an amazing musician who I feel lucky to play with.
4) Lesser Halogens, the Sicsic tape of your duo with Mike Griffin, is one of the best tapes of the year. There seems to exist a kinship, a special bond between you and Mike, which is conspicuously audible. What are your feelings on this tape? What is it like to record for Daniel of Sicsic? And, are there plans to record in the near future?
Eric: That tape is definitely a personal favorite in my back catalog. Mike and I have become good friends and band mates in several different projects now (Burnt Hills, Mensheviks, Location Ensemble, etc). He’s an incredibly versatile and engaging musician, and we both just really enjoy creating sound together. Daniel had originally invited each of us to do solo tapes, and then we pitched the idea of a collaborative tape instead, and he was all for it. So Mike and I set up for a late night recording session deep in Heron Room North, and what you hear on the tape is almost our entire session, all improvised first take stuff. Daniel has been nothing but supportive, and did a great job with the packaging and the tape itself. I’d love to work with him again in the future. We definitely have plans to record a follow-up this summer.
5) As Rambutan, you were able to cross paths with Phil and Myste of Stunned Records. My introduction to Rambutan occurred through Stunned. They were prolific and released some of the best tapes for many years. What was it like to record for them? And, how do you view their impact on experimental music labels?
Eric: For me, Stunned was the pinnacle of the tape scene for a long time. And I don’t think that moment can be recaptured in the same way. Everything they put out was just incredibly conceptualized, recorded, and packaged. It all held together as part of a larger body of work, which happens so rarely with labels. When I look back on Stunned now, I don’t really think of individual tapes, but on all of them as a singular statement. The art was part of that, but also the sound of the music. I always got the feel that when somebody recorded for Stunned, they reserved their absolute best work for the label, and that showed. And for those musicians, Phil and Myste were beyond generous with their praise and support. My releases on Stunned were huge confidence builders for me simply because of the support and encouragement they showed. I got the sense that if folks like them dug what I was doing, it was worth me pursuing. And they always gently pushed me further into doing better work. Their impact was huge in terms of showing other labels how to run a label the right way – with artistic and personal integrity.
6) Burnt Hills - the psych/noise maelstrom - is quite different in sound compared to your other projects. There is a certain mystique about it. For our readers that are unfamiliar, could you provide some background on this project, the intense live shows, and the Helderberg House? Also, do you have a favorite Burnt Hills recording?
Eric: Well first of all, for me at least, the band is as much about ritual and friendship as it is about music. It’s all the vision of Jackson of Flipped Out Records. Essentially we all get together every Monday night to hang out and jam for a solid hour. The concept is that simple, but it’s taken on a pretty magical importance for all of us. The music is intense – we start playing and ride the wave to wherever it takes us, with no plan or discussion about it. We’ve all developed a style of musical communication that I love. It’s been running for more years than I even know, but I’ve been involved since late 2006. At various points, the membership was a bit more fluid, but we’ve really solidified into a stable lineup/band for several years now, with Mike Griffin (Parashi) being the newest member. It’s an incredibly important part of my week, and very inspiring to create music with such good friends every Monday. Occasionally Jackson will open things up and invite touring bands to come through the basement and we have a big party. And every once in a while we’ll put out records, but they’re never the goal – just byproducts of our experience together. My favorite Burnt Hills recording is always the most recent – we record everything we do, so I have a massive archive of old recordings. There’s always a new one every week, which is always a blast. As for the released LPs, “Live at the Elevens” is one I love because it documents a fun and rare out of town appearance for us. The “Tonite We Ride” CD is also a favorite, even though it’s older, because it gives the whole experience in one extended blast. They’re all different in their own way, and a lot of our best stuff has never been heard outside of the band members, but that’s alright – it’s never been about product. We just love playing together, and if nobody else ever listened, that’d be cool too.
7) It has been a successful year for Tape Drift. Your recent batch is outstanding, and the Mason/McLaughlin tape is one of the finest of the year. What are your views on this tape? What can we expect from Tape Drift in the future?
Eric: It’s definitely a favorite amongst the tapes I’ve released, although truthfully I love each and every TD release. But that tape grabbed a hold of me like very few others have. It was an unsolicited demo too. I rarely take those, but I knew within minutes of hearing it that I had to release it. Something about their attention to detail and the mystery of the sounds drew me in. I dub all the tapes myself in real time, so I typically get to hear each one many many times. This one got better with each successive listen, and eventually I absorbed its contents deep into my brain. Have no idea about future Tape Drift batches – the label’s been on a temporary hiatus while I’m in Scotland. I’m definitely planning to release Twilight of the Century two-tape set – our first release. That’s exciting – we’ve been playing sporadically for almost 5 years, and have recorded a ton of material, but just never put anything out. So I’m very excited about that. There’s also a Century Plants CD in the works, with some archival live sets that are too long for vinyl. That’s about it for plans though.
8) Since 2007, Tape Drift has been running strong. In the intervening years, and from the perspective of a label proprietor, how have things changed within the experimental music community? What advice would you provide to people that are interested in starting a label?
Eric: It’s tough to step back and say what’s changed within the community. There are certainly more labels and artists these days, some would say too many. I’m all for it though – as the means to make music gets easier to access, folks will just have to work harder to stand out among the crowd. I still find the community just as inspiring, creative, and supportive as ever. I do worry that with the economic situation and the increased costs of international shipping, people will buy less and less music. I think it’s really important to support DIY artists, and I try to buy music whenever I can. But I also get the reality of the situation where it’s just not always possible to shell out for things you want. I do worry that the smaller distributors will get pushed out and we’ll end up with just one or two bigger distributors calling all the shots. That won’t be a good thing for anyone, so I’m hoping the smaller places can hold on and keep at it until things improve. As for advice with starting a label, I’d say just go for it – release music you’re passionate about, put some love and energy into it, and people will respond.
9) Thus far, what are your favorite releases this year?
Eric: Truthfully I haven’t listened to as much new music as I would have liked so far this year. But I really dig the new Ensemble Economique record and the Nite Lite LP on Desire Path Recordings is amazing. The new Wolf Eyes is fantastic too. I can’t wait to hear the Josh Mason record and Matt Krefting’s LP when I get home in the summer.
10) A while back, you and members of Burnt Hills contributed to Listed on Dusted Magazine. On that occasion, you mentioned Space Ritual from Hawkwind. Along with that, what are some of your favorite recordings?
Eric: Space Ritual is a magical record. Besides being one of the best live records ever, it’s also got the most amazing packaging. Hawkwind has long been a massive influence for me. Other favorite recordings? Probably nothing out of the ordinary. Tough question and I don’t usually think in terms of favorites but if forced I’d have to include Plux Quba by Nuno Canavarro, a bunch of Alastair Galbraith records, some Loren Mazzacane Connors, The Shadow Ring (particularly Lighthouse), Les Rallizes Denudes, Supreme Dicks, Throbbing Gristle, Souled American, Dead C, Sun Ra, etc… Birchville Cat Motel and Vibracathedral Orchestra records were both very influential in inspiring me to make my own music too. The list goes on, but those are in my head at the moment.
peace and love, friends :)
The trichomes on my nug begin to glisten at the mention of Flipped Out Records!! Buy anything Eric Hardiman-related from my brother, Jackson, at Flipped Out!