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Interview w/ Art Bourasseau of MuSick Recordings
By MuzikMan
(more articles from this author)
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MuzikMan: The new Space Cossacks CD "Tsar Wars", has just been released and there is quite a buzz in the Surf-Instro community. Why did it take three years for the group to release another album?

Art: It's really been two years, but maybe to some fans it feels longer than that. It takes a while to produce and mix a good recording sometimes and that was the case with "Tsar Wars". We spent a lot more time in the studio with this one, from recording techniques and ideas, the mixing of the songs and even the mastering, which was re-done 3 or 4 times. You had 3 perfectionists striving for the final result, Engineer genius Bruce Kane (of Rick James fame), Cossacks guitarist and main songwriter, Ivan Pongracic and myself. I thought I was tough, but I met my match with these two guys. They really knew what they wanted and worked endlessly for it.

We also divided the recording, mixing and mastering into various sessions over the course of almost a year. Another difficult obstacle to overcome is that Ivan now lives in the mid-west and away from Catherine (bass player), Mark English (rhythm guitar), both songwriters, too, and Doug Hoekstra (drums) who all reside in the Washington D.C. area- where the band started. So it took some creative planning (as well as long driving and or flying hours) to pull it all off. I believe it was worth it, and I hope instro fans think so too.

MuzikMan: What was you involvement with the new Space Cossacks CD?

Art: I produced the record with the band, co-wrote two songs with Ivan, nagged artist Shag to finish the artwork and, oh yeah, paid for all the sessions.

MuzikMan: What is your background and experience? How did you become involved with MuSick Recordings?

Art: I've been working in the "music business" for over 10 years now. It started with retail as a manager for a chain of record stores, later I worked for Sony Music in NYC and towards the end of my run with them, I started MuSick (late '96).

MuzikMan: MuSick is a play on words, who came up with the name for the label?

Art: You noticed! I thought of it. It can mean many things, some get it and some don't...some people think it has something to do with The Cramps. I'll just say that it has a certain's a universal term that, to me, means good music.

MuzikMan: How are you able to attract all the top flight surf-instro artists?

Art: Probably by showing the bands and artists that the label is passionate about what we do and release. To be quite honest, sometimes it hasn't worked to the label's advantage or my advantage, as label president. Without mentioning the bands by name, it's my opinion now, that the presentation made to some of our bands to join and sign with MuSick was quite good and I think that some of them thought that it would be better for them than it actually has been. By that I mean, they probably thought that it would be easier, a shorter ride to success and that the label alone would catapult them to fame. Bands, especially these days with so much competition, have to work even harder in support of a record, the label can't do it alone and though that's always been the case since recordings were released to the public, I think it's much more important today. Not just by touring, heavily in the beginning, but also by making appearances in stores, radio, working with the press- all the basic things to gain and attain a loyal following, and, of course, having a strong and active presence on the web. The label can only do so much by itself and a successful partnership between artist and label is possible only when they both work together.

Having said this, I am aware that not all bands can get out there and leave jobs and commitments behind to support their records, I'm just saying that it becomes difficult for us as a label to market the record on our own. Not every band wants to sell their soul for rock 'n roll. Plus, selling the instrumental or surf gospel is even harder.

MuzikMan: Are there any plans to expand into different genres? Surf-Instro has been your bread and butter, will it remain the core focus of the label?

Art: The plans are in effect as we speak. Yes, surf-instro has been the bread and butter, but in order for us to continue to put out and pay for instro releases of quality (from great studios and gear to CD and LP packaging), we will also have to sign bands and artists of other genres that could, most likely, sell more records than the surf or instro bands. Hopefully adding other genres will help the label become bigger and supplement the whole roster, including the

Left to Right: Doug Heskstra, Mark English and Catherine Gray
(Space Cossacks) and Dave Pilgrim (Satan's Pilgrims) and Art.

It's exciting for me to venture (no pun intended) into new areas of music. I've always loved all kinds of music of so many genres; soul, punk, r&b, bossa nova, punk, hardcore, funk, heavy metal, even disco, house and dance. There is so much great music out there. Some of my favorites are Jobim, Astrud Gilberto, Curtis Mayfield, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, AC/DC, Roxy Music, The Church, Dead Boys, Iggy Pop, Motorhead, Cheap Trick, the Ramones, Husker Du, Judas Priest, The Damned, Depeche Mode, The Plasmatics, Chic, The Police, Herb Alpert, Love, Carl Smith, Johnny Cash, Bauhaus and, of course, the Shadows, Ventures, Duane Eddy and so many other great surf instro bands from the 60's and today. If my taste in music gives you any indication as to where MuSick is headed then good, if it scares you, or some of the hardcore instro fans of the label, then I'm sorry. I feel it can only be good for all involved and I hope that music fans will grow with the label.

MuzikMan: What are the releases that are scheduled for 2000?

Art: We just released the long awaited second LP/CD by the Space Cossacks, "Tsar Wars", which is great. The disc version is a CDROM with interactive material including a novella by writer Jamie Miles. We also just put out our first pop record, by Seattle's Mystery Action, "Here's to Another Year", with Evan Foster and Nick Contento from the Boss Martians. These guys blend pop with elements of punk, mod/soul and classic rock. Some of the next releases include Milwaukee's Bleed (growling rockin' band that combines the power of the Sonics with the punk attitude of the MC5), a Link Wray tribute (with the Fleshtones, Woggles, Space Cossacks, Bambi Molesters...), GT Stringer (great sax-driven instro from Australia), Croatia's Bambi Molesters, a Halloween compilation (with Electric Frankenstein, Mystery Action, Deadbolt...), Instrumental Fire Vol. 2 compilation. Other releases planned after those include new Fathoms and Satan's Pilgrims. As you can see, there's still plenty of instro here.

MuzikMan: Your website is getting overhauled now. What can the music browsers expect to see once it's complete?

Art: It's going to look great, not only on content and information about MuSick artists (every one will have their own page), but also in design. We got 2 wonderful artists to design the art for it. It should be up and running by early June.

MuzikMan: Do you feel that the Surf-Instro genre is taking an entirely different direction with a more progressive sound?

Art: Good question, though not that easy to answer. Without getting into a long discussion about what is surf and what isn't, my approach to instro/surf has always been to find new ways to approach recording it and producing it without losing its essence. That respect for the essence of surf is lost often by some bands out there. In some instances it ceases to be surf and becomes something else, yet these bands still want to call themselves surf when clearly they are not. I'm not saying that some of them are not good, that's not the point, but to call it something that it isn't simply to use the tag is a cop-out. Some "new age" artists want to be called jazz, they may borrow from jazz, but it's something completely different and for that they should be proud, but they should not be surprised when the more purist fans, some who have even a better understanding of the genre than some of the musician's themselves, do not like what they do.

MuzikMan: Has the music become more popularized because of the Internet?

Art: I think it has, there are news groups and e-mail exchange lists and of course the many artists websites out there. I think it will keep growing and hopefully bringing the music to the fans.

MuzikMan: What are the future plans for MuSick Recordings? What can we expect to see happening over the next few years in development of artists and the connection to the Internet?

Art: We plan to continue to release bands that we're excited about and that we feel will produce great music. The internet will definitely be part of it. It will be a combination of the old and new. Embracing technology while still keeping alive all the things that make music great like purchasing and owning a record or CD and, of course, seeing the band perform live, which is always the ultimate when you love an artist. The future looks bright.

MuzikMan: Is there anything that you would like to say to all the loyal Surf-Instro enthusiast out there?

Art: First, thanks for supporting our recordings and artists. MuSick will continue to release instrumental and surf records by great bands from all over the world, so keep the faith and your ears open for some cool music. And thanks to you, Keith.

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