Interview w/ Art Bourasseau of MuSick Recordings
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
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
MuzikMan: What was you involvement with the new Space
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 appeal...it's a
universal term that, to me, means good music.
MuzikMan: How are you able to attract all the top flight
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
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
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
new areas of
all kinds of
music of so
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
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
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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