Emeralds’ John Elliott on how mind-altering substances and goofball music inspired his Spectrum Spools label
Do you find the practical side of running the label has taken up a lot of your time? Has it impacted negatively on your own music-making?
“The label has been quite busy, and it’s definitely taken up much more time than I originally had thought it would. There’s no end to the work! You can never promote enough, plan enough, think enough of ideas to improve or change. So, yes, absolutely in the last six months or so it’s been kind of dawning on me what it means to do some of these things. That being said, Peter [Rehberg] is absolutely remarkable in his rapid release schedule, and his ability to not only get everything done on time, but looking and sounding flawless. I’ve had a great teacher to learn from. He’s got a few surprises up his sleeve that nobody is ready for, and I’m looking forward to that! “
“As far as making music goes, it really hasn’t affected me that much, I just need to make sure that I use my time more wisely. There’s no way to schedule inspiration or ideas I’d want to pursue, so it’s pretty much the same in regards to getting things written and recorded. Recently I’ve been more interested in playing music freely, without recording or composing. This has helped take the pressure off of trying to always be prolific – even though there are two Outer Space 12″s in the works for the near future.”
“It’s important to take risks and have variation.”
“I generally just try to put out music that I’m naturally attracted to, or more importantly feels natural to me. I am a fan and a listener of the artists on my label, and I go through nerdy extents to make sure I get all their limited cassettes and all that kind of stuff. A lot of the artists so far are people I’ve admired and had a lot of respect for, so it’s my pleasure to be in a position to get these releases out there to – hopefully – a wider audience. It’s also important to take risks and have variation. Take Hive Mind and stack it next to Container: there are parallels that can be drawn, but on a surface level they seem very different from each other, musically and aesthetically. I have an album by Plvs Vltra [Toko from Enon, touring keyboardist for St. Vincent] coming out in May that’s pretty much a straight-up pop album. Looking forward to that!”
“Myself and like-minded friends like Steve Hauschildt, Mark McGuire, Henry Glover and Erik Gomola all grew up in Cleveland, an isolated north-east Ohio town with a lot of real surface-level, unadventurous musical tastes. Erik had bought a Kevin Drumm LP, Land of Lurches, by mistake at a Wolf Eyes gig in, like, 2003. I was just out of high school and getting into Tangerine Dream and other weird music, and all of us were on the hunt for more interesting stuff. Anyway, we were always pretty loaded on various mind-altering substances and totally stoned listening to new stuff. We threw on Land of Lurches and everybody was totally blown away – there’s this mental series of multi-oscillator drones that the first track builds up to and it’s my favorite moment of any album.
“A few of my enduring obsessions are my hunt for Kangaroo Kourt albums (I need two more), Tangerine Dream albums, Pink Floyd bootlegs, limited 7″ releases by The Locust, and private synth sides.”
“We were on the hunt for more interesting stuff… and always pretty loaded on various mind-altering substances.”
“There seems to definitely be an increased interest in analogue and even digital synthesizers. It’s being incorporated into musics across the board, and it’s very cool. Nobody can predict the future and it seems like there could be another regression into experimental based rock musics, or things could go fully electronic. The technology advancements in the electronic instrument world are exponentially growing. There’s a lot of functionality, and crazy potential in new equipment and I think a lot of people are stepping up to the gear and having a good time experimenting with it. Some of the new synthesizer equipment at NAMM this year was pretty next level.
“I bought my first synthesizer, a Korg MS-10, off eBay for $525, shipped from Japan in new condition. I bought a synthesizer because I was fascinated by the sounds Greh Holger [Hive Mind] was making and wanted to pursue the instrument. Back then, in the midwest underground, not too many heads were jamming synths aside from Greh and Aaron [Dilloway], so maybe I was just coming from a different place, or maybe there’s been a collective recognition of the potential of the synthesizer. Who knows?”