Tim Gane (Duophonic/UHF Disks)
My first introduction to the world of Duophonic/UHF Disks was in one of the downstairs dressing rooms at the old 9:30 Club (back when the "930" actually denoted their location on F Street in DC). Arcwelder was opening up for The Jesus Lizard that December evening, and upon peeking into drummer Scott McDonald's bag, I saw a new Arcwelder single! "Oooh! Can I get one of those?" And, of course, five dollars later, I held in my hands my first Duophonic Super 45's single which was the label's third release. Over the proceeding months and years, I would come to realize that not only was Duophonic (and their more "legit" label Ultra High Frequency Disks) the label run by Stereolab, but also, they put out some tremendous records when the urge hit them.
The real clincher was the Spring of '95 when the unbelievably stellar 12" by Tortoise ("Gamera" b/w "Cliff Dweller Society"-DS33-09) was released by Duophonic. I was fortunate enough to get one of the initial copies which, over the years, has spent time in more than a few dear friend's collections. Moreover, "Gamera" unquestionably serves as Tortoise's most shining moment showing them in an artistic growth spurt placing the first fifteen minutes somewhere in between This Heat, '87-era Eno produced U2 (I'm totally serious here, folks!), and the more shimmering moments of Nick Drake, with the remainder of the 12" quickly drifting from the former's anthemic leanings and stumbling into a melodious, yet more abstract tape collage temper tantrum that serves as a fine preface for the band's later (and decidedly less essential) series of remix 12"s. For Duophonic, "Gamera" further cemented their place in the small yet prestigious pantheon of great (yet regretfully obscure) labels to emerge in the 90's. Duophonic's disinterest in widely distributing their releases, combined with their apparent indifference towards promotion, doesn't seem to bother the label's trustees. As if that weren't enough, two of the label owners (Stereolab's Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadier) have touring and recording to contend with, while the other one-third owner (Martin Pike) manages Stereolab and Broadcast along with supervision of the label's day-to-day operations. After being originally slated for inclusion in issue 12, I quickly found out that getting in touch with Tim, Laetitia or Martin was going to be virtually impossible. Eventually, after persistent attempts to contact them, I got a grand total of one fax from Martin outlining the release history for both Duophonic and UHF. However, getting a one-on-one interview - which would serve as the major focus of the article - proved totally fruitless. Elektra kept wanting me to do phone interviews (which I loathe) and still, no word from Duophonic. Of course, anybody who would stop just because of this bleak situation is just a sissy-assed quitter. Me? I went deeper.
December 1997. Stereolab played the Coca-Cola sponsored Roxy in Atlanta. Meathead security. All-access tour laminates. $5 Budweiser drafts. How much more need I elaborate? I went to the show with four friends, all of whom were totally convinced that there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell that I'd get to interview the band's bus driver let alone Tim or Laetitia. And in a way, I sort of had to agree with them. Still, through a small miracle combined with proper celestial alignment, I was able to wedge my way backstage after the show (no small feat, mind you), and through a chain of events that still have me baffled, I found myself sitting on the Roxy stage asking Tim Gane questions about the label while he took down his guitar gear. He shoots! He scores! The interview was conducted amidst autograph seekers, well-wishers and a tour manager who pointed at his watch and glared at Tim (and me) every four minutes in an attempt to get him on the bus. As a side note, Tim eluded to the possibility of a Stereolab single that would have potentially accompanied this issue, but of course, that never happened. But Tim, if you're reading this, we're still interested!
Seeing as how the clock was ticking, I got right down to business starting with how the label actually began:
Martin [Pike] used to sell T-shirts for McCarthy. We first knew him in 1986 when he used to do a fanzine in England called Diana Rigg. After McCarthy stopped, me and Laetitia wanted to do a group and Martin wanted to help us, so we decided to do the group and the label ourselves all in one go. Always from the beginning the label was there. It wasn't like we sent off any demos or didn't get any replies. So we borrowed 1,600 pounds from Martin's dad in 1991, and with that we financed the first 7".
And so the principal owners are still Martin, Laetitia and yourself?
Owners, yeah, I suppose so. We run it. Duophonic is the non-profit label. It's just the mail order and small run releases. Nothing is registered. It does other bands as well. It also does the more uncommercial Stereolab records. Whatever money we make just goes into making another record. We'll also sell them at a few select specialty shops like Intoxica, Rough Trade or Other Music. UHF is a limited deal which is more legalized because it does the bigger records that we do through Elektra.
Why are all of the Stereolab records that aren't on your label shown as being explicitly licensed from Duophonic? Was this influenced by previous experience?
Sort of. It was done because in the beginning we gave out records to anybody who asked. For instance, Sub Pop gave us $700 to record the Lo Boob Oscillator single for them. When we were getting the latest singles compilation ready [Refried Ectoplasm], they said we had to give them $2,000 to license it. We recorded that single for nothing! We even lost money on it! So now we license our recordings and just give them to people, then we don't have to ask for permission if we want to use it. We just want to be in control of our own music. We didn't know that in the beginning, and would give out tracks, and all of a sudden they would own the track. So we record out of our own money and then give it to them. That way it's cleaner. I'm not that annoyed with Sub Pop, but that's an example of a situation where we made a mistake. But now the single's done, and they can't get any more out of it.
Are there labels that have served as examples for Duophonic?
Actually, it's really bizarre example because our music is nothing like it, but both Sarah and K Records I really did like a lot. They did 10"s and that's what we wanted to do. I wasn't particularly keen of their music as such, but more importantly, I hated 12"s. I thought they were really boring and they were the only labels I knew that were doing 10" records. In a weird way, we began getting a lot of people started doing 10"s a couple years after we started. I thought it was a great format.
Have you ever considered rereleasing some of the more rare or out-of-print Duophonic releases?
What? In their original forms? All of Stereolab's early releases are available on compilations. There's none that isn't available. Some people ask why we don't release them in their original forms, but why go back to do that? We can't artificially do that. The sleeve to the first Stereolab single had a fax paper sleeve. We didn't have any money to do it on anything else, but now it's like "Oh, the original sleeve!" It's just a cheap piece of paper that looked like crap.
Is everything done spur of the moment?
Yeah, pretty much. We fancy doing what we fancy doing at that particular point. We're looking forward to the future. I don't want to be bogged down with doing reproductions of what we've done in the past. I'm not interested in the legacy of rock music or recreating great moments of our records. It's pointless because they'd lose. I'm interested in what I'm doing now, not what I was doing then. I'm not an archivist or a librarian. The bottom line is, all of our records are meant for everybody, but not everybody's meant to have one of our records. For instance, our tour only singles are available only to the people who come see the gigs. We're not going to suddenly rerelease them in ten years time to let people pretend they were there when they weren't. Not all of our records are meant for the collectors in England. That's the thing people must understand. I'm a music fan, and buy more records probably than anybody who buys our records. I buy six to ten albums a week, every week of the year, every year. I completely understand that people want our records, but at the same time we need to make all different types of music or we'd just stagnate making one album every two and a half years. People wouldn't like that. If it adds an element of excitement for collectors then that's cool. At the same time, we don't do it to irritate people, but it's an unfortunate by-product. We can't afford to make everything available. If 5,000 people want a track by us, we need to print up 30,000 copies to enable all those 5,000 people to easily obtain that record because it doesn't add up that you make 5,000 records and it goes exactly to the 5,000 people who want it. It doesn't work that way because you need to make up six times as many copies which we can't afford, and we don't have the interest either.
I'd like to know how you met some of the bands whose records you've released. Like Tortoise?
We knew the guys in Tortoise for about two years before the "Gamera" 12" came out, and one day John [McIntyre, Tortoise drummer] rang me up and said "we'd really like for you guys to put this record out." They sent us this track that we thought would fit on a 7" and in fact it was "Gamera." I rang John up and said "Are you sure you want us to put out this amazing piece of music?" And he said "Yeah, no problem." Up to the new record, I think it's the best thing they've ever done.
How about Nurse With Wound?
I have been a long time Nurse With Wound fan since 1981. I wanted Steve [Stapleton] to produce Peng!, so he came down to see us play, but we were pretty all over the place, and he thought we were too rocky. So two years later, a friend who runs Clawfist asked if we would want to do a split single where two bands do cover songs. We wanted to do the split with Nurse With Wound and decided we wouldn't do covers or anything. Instead, we wanted to do original music which Steve would record, and then do whatever he wanted. That was the idea. In fact, on that first collaboration, we did sort of a homage to Faust. We did that on purpose because we knew Steven really liked that and he then made it even more Fausty.
I read one review stating it was a contest to see who could out-Neu! each other.
Some people think everything we do sounds like Neu! and I think a very small percentage sounds like it. Maybe two or three tracks on earlier records. "Super Electric." "Motorik" doesn't have the Neu! two note chord, but I love that rhythm. It was unusual back in the early 90's.
How did you meet Labradford?
Carter [from Labradford] is a fan of ours and came to see us the first time we toured America. In fact, he got us our Farfisa. Labradford then toured with us. They wanted to do a 7", so we did it.
They made a demo cassette and sent out two copies, one to us and one to Too Pure. We weren't interested in signing them, but we got in touch with them and said that we really liked the cassette. We went down to see them live and thought they were amazing. Martin now manages them.
What about the Duophonic logo?
What? Cliff? In 1969, there was this Swiss underground comic. There's a six piece thing with this guy reading a right wing Swiss newspaper and Cliff points his finger at him and he's saying "Don't do this, don't do that, get your hair cut, blah blah blah." In the end, the finger eventually turns into a gun and the last frame it says "Peng!". I thought it would look like the Ralph Records [owned by the Residents] logo, which is one of my all-time favorite labels.
Does Duophonic have a long term vision?
No. We don't have ambition or long term goals.
Is there a label motto?
I'd like to teach the world to sing?
So with that ended my semi-scattered, yet wildly informative interview with Mr. Gane. Since this interview, I'm sure Duophonic has put something out which will eventually find its way into my mitts, but as Tim said, they're moving full steam ahead. I know there's upcoming singles with both Colm and Dymaxion. But you can rest assured that whatever happens at Duophonic, it will continue to be nothing short of amazing.
Contact Duophonic Super 45's at:
Post Office Box 3787
London SE22 9DZ
DS45-01 Stereolab Super 45 10" Stereolab's first ever release. A mail order only 10" 880 copies (40 with handmade sleeves)
DS45-02 "Stunning Debut Album" 7" tracks featured are "Doubt" and "Changer" 985 copies on clear vinyl and 200 on multi-colored vinyl all w/an insert
DS45-03 Arcwelder "Favor" b/w "Plastic" 1000 copies on black 300 on amber
DS45-04 "Harmonium" b/w "Farfisa" 7" 1306 copies on amber vinyl all came w/a flourescent orange sticker
DS45-05/06 Shimmies in Super 8 Double pack with a fold out sleeve. Each band had a side and they were: Stereolab with "Revox"; Huggy Bear with "Trafalgar Square," "Godziller," "More Music From Bells," "Snow White Rose Red"; Colm with "Soundtrack"; Durlin with "Cindy So Loud" and "Darlin'" 800 copies of which 400 had stickers. all copies were numbered. One 7" was green vinyl, one was white.
DS45-07 Herzfeld "Two Mothers" and "Who the Scroungers Are" 1000 copies
DS45-08 Herzfeld "The Sack" mini LP 1000 copies
DS45-09 Tortoise "Gamera" b/w "Cliff Dweller Society" 12" 1500 on red vinyl 1500 on clear 1500 on black and 1000 on flourescent yellow
DS45-10 Split tour 7" with Yo La Tengo "The Long Hair of Death" by Stereolab and "Evanescent Psychic Pez Drop" by Yo La Tengo 3000 on flourescent yellow vinyl with a flourescent yellow sticker
DS45-11 Stereolab/Nurse With Wound "Simple Headphone Mind" 12" 3000 on black vinyl, 1000 on translucent yellow vinyl A limited run of promo CDs were also pressed
DS45-12 Labradford "Scenic Recovery" b/w "Underwood 5ive" 10" 2500 copies on black vinyl
DS45-14 broadcast "Living Room" b/w "Phantom" 3092 copies on black vinyl DS45-15 pram "Music For Your Movies" CD-EP/12" 1488 copies on black vinyl 2213 copies on CD
DS45-16 broadcast "The Book Lovers" CD-EP/12" 1968 copies on black vinyl 2882 copies on CD
DS45-17 splitting the atom "Splitting The Atom Parts 1 and 2" b/w "Monkey Brain" 7" Features Andrew Ramsay and Simon Holliday augmented by Mary Hansen and Sonic Boom 3234 copies on black vinyl
DS45-18 turn on s/t LP/CD Features Tim Gane, Sean O'Hagan and Andrew Ramsay
THE ULTRA HIGH FREQUENCY DISKS DISCOGRAPHY IS AS FOLLOWS [NOTE THAT ALL ARE STEREOLAB RELEASES]
D-UHF-D01 "Jenny Ondioline" b/w "Fruition" 10"/CD D01P featured a new version of "French Disco" which be-came "French Disko" and an alternate version of "Golden Ball" CD only 1000 copies with handmade sleeves and 3000 with printed green and white sleeves
D-UHF-D02 Transient Random Noise Bursts With Announcements Double vinyl LP/CD/Cassette 1500 had a catalogue number of D-UHF-D02x and this was on gold vinyl
D-UHF-D03 "French Disko" b/w "Golden Ball" sold during European tour with Pavement "Golden Ball" is version from D-UHF-D01p 1500 copies
D-UHF-D04 "Ping Pong" b/w "Moogie Wonderland" 7"/10"/CD 7" pressed on green, black and pink vinyl 10" and CD had "Pain et Spectacles" and "Transona Five (live version)" as extra tracks
D-UHF-D05 Mars Audiac Quintet Double vinyl LP/CD/Cassette
D-UHF-D06 Free clear vinyl 7" or CD which came with initial copies of Mars Audiac Quintet
D-UHF-D07 "Wow and Flutter" b/w "Heavy Denim" 7"/10"/CD All copies (appx 2000) of the 7" had handmade sleeves A 10" and CD were also available and these had "Nihilist Assault Group (parts 3, 4 & 5)" and "Narco Martenot" as extra tracks
D-UHF-D08 The Amorphous Body Study Centre CD release intended for use with Charles Long art exhibit. "First Edition" was CD only. subsequent edition was on CD and 10" with a yellow sleeve
D-UHF-D09 Refried Ectoplasm (Switched On Volume 2) Double LP/CD/cassette Initial run of 6000 on amber vinyl. Drag City version was on clear vinyl
D-UHF-D10 Cybele's Reverie 7"/10"/CD Both the 7" and 10" were limited to appx 2500 copies
D-UHF-D11 Emperor Tomato Ketchup Double LP/CD/Cassette LP on black vinyl with a limited run with glitter
D-UHF-D12 Stereolab/Tortoise split tour 7" Stereolab track is called "Speedy Car" and the Tortoise track is "Yaus" Appx 4000 copies on blue or flourescent orange vinyl
D-UHF-D14 Flourescences 7"/12"/CD D-UHF-D15 "Metronomic Underground" remixed by Luke Vibert and "Percolations" remixed by John McEntire 12" 2500 copies on black vinyl
D-UHF-D16 Miss Modular 7"/12"/CD 7" and 12" limited to approximately 2000 copies each
D-UHF-D17 Dots and Loops Double LP/CD/Cassette Initial copies of LP had first disk on green vinyl and the second on white vinyl d-uhf-d18 "iron man" b/w "The incredible he woman" tour single red vinyl