steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

20 questions
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with goaty tapes' zully adler

It's safe to assume Goaty Tapes' Zully Adler is way cooler than you were when you were a college sophomore. In fact, he's probably cooler than you are right now. But what else to expect from the lone orchestrator behind a design-savvy experimental tape label? With a discography that spans from the unknown to Thurston f-in' Moore, and an impeccable packaging style that puts most cassette imprints to shame, Goaty is establishing itself as a singular purveyor of "good stuff."


Family Battle Snake's Arabian Knights cassette

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1. First of all, how did you decide upon the name "Goaty Tapes"?

My bestie from home has a little goat stuffed animal named Goaty. She also had a baby pillow named Pilly. They're the best and a constant source of inspiration. When I left home she snipped off a little piece of its beard and gave it to me as a gift. Still got it right here around my collar.

2. How did you become involved in experimental music?

I guess became curious about experimental music when I was thirteen or fourteen. I didn't really have any friends my age who were as interested as I was, so it I kind of developed my tastes in isolation. Only when I decided to start the label did I really start to meet people and find a place in the experimental community.

3. Why have you chosen to stick to cassette releases?

They're silly and really fun. I'm not a fetishist as much as I just like making tapes.

4. What inspires the design of your tapes?

I like working with formal layering. You know, how things go on and off the page. When you're working with tapes, you have a very interesting and particular set of interacting shapes and surfaces how it all folds up and whatnot. It's fun to fool around with this interaction, find ways of accentuating or abstracting certain parts. Small changes to the model j-card can really alter how you handle the tape physically.

5. Where do you get your inserts printed, and where do you get your blank tapes from?

Depends on where I am when I want to make a tape. It's not a particularly romantic part of the job. I like quality prints, so wherever I can find a good machine. But I really enjoy inking and printing the covers myself on the letterpress.

6. What is your day job?

I'm a student.

7. How much of your time does Goaty take up?

There are weeks where it's all emails, and that's not too laborious. Assembling takes forever, though, especially what all the hand-cutting. And I'm compulsive, so I don't let my less-coordinated friends help out. Once in a while Emmy or Erin will sit around and cut some inserts with me for an hour or two if I offer them a snack.

8. How did you end up putting out the Thurston Moore / Kommissar Hjuler und Mama Baer split?

I liked all their music so I talked with the bands and they were into it.

9. Part of the intrigue behind your tapes lies in the abstract descriptions written about them, credited to Valhalla. What is the story behind these, and what inspires them?

I met Valhalla at the New England Annual Sacred Harp Convention in 2007. She's fifteen, born in Tulsa and raised in Middletown. She talks like she writes, so I knew I was in for a real treat. She loves music, but I don't think she knows the artists I release before I play them for her. She's quick in picking up what the bands are all about though. I think her write-ups are based on her first or second impressions of the material.

10. What does your music collection look like? Is it largely tapes, or do you have a fair share of CD(R)s and vinyl, as well?

I think its primarily vinyl. Lots of the Shadow Ring, turn of the century Greek vocalists. I have plenty of tapes and cd-rs though. You always forget how many cd-rs you have, because they take up so little space. Then you sift through them every once in a while and there are way more than you remember. Cassettes get those festive tape racks that are a constant reminder of their presence.

11. What is your opinion on music criticism?

Necessary evil.

12. How in touch are you with your customers?

I love the folks who buy tapes from me. Shout out to Caren down under, Jan in Berlin, Kyle on 39th, SK III! Every once in a while you meet a mail order customer and it rules. It's like great vibes exclusively.

13. When you put out a tape, do you assemble and dub all of the tapes at once or do you make them to order?

Hahaha, the big question. It really depends on how I feel. It's generally a good idea to get it all done at once, but come on.

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David Joon Jaberi / Cole Moldy Miller split

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14. Describe your favourite on-the-cheap meal.

Mexican food of only the most maximal legitimacy. That or I steal some cheese from Whole Foods, cause they throw it out anyway.

15. What fellow labels do you admire and why?

I love labels that cultivate a personality without subscribing to a particular aesthetic. Some labels are really great at making themselves notable but not overbearing. Labels that focus on local music are my favorite. They really let you into a particular musical community and they have real purpose.

16. Recommend some good books.

John Berger's Ways of Seeing, Bruno Latour, Dave Hickey's Air Guitar. Berlin Childhood around 1900 is a perfect little book. Dennis Rodman's autobiography is choice.

17. How important is the physical product in terms of a musical release? Does an obsession with packaging risk objectifying the music?

The physical product of a Goaty release is very important to me, because that is my contribution. If I'm not designing the packaging, I'm just a source of financial support, which is nice but not enough for me.

Yes, an obsession with packaging definitely puts the integrity of the music at risk, but there are ways of making sure you don't take it too far. Music should always be affordable, so only put as much money into the packaging as you can make back without pushing your prices past a reasonable level (one might also consider time as money, but I don't really take that into account). I think that if you stick by this principle and do your best to make sure the packaging fits the sound, you aren't objectifying or overpowering as much as celebrating the music. The truth is, packaging and cover design is just fun; we shouldn't read into it so much. I trust that listeners can maintain their focus on the music and appreciate the packaging for what it is.

18. What is there to do in Middletown, CT? What is the music scene like?

Attend lectures, eat in the cafeteria, make out in the stacks. We like to drive down to New Haven and throw nuts at Harold Bloom. The music scene is totally great; there are some real grimy hardcore and grindcore units just killing.

19. What is your favourite colour? Justify your selection.

Green is my favorite color. Celery, weed, cash money.

20. You've got several releases in the pipeline, including a VHS by New Yoga and even some vinyl! What can we expect from the upcoming Goaty releases?

I'm really excited about what's coming up. The Dark Bong VHS is totally insane. It's like looking at the future through the past. I guess what you can expect is a more focused catalogue of close friends and artists that don't shun popular song structure as much as reinterpret it. I am planning the transition into vinyl, but I will wait until the time is right. That will mark a serious about-face in the character of the label. Should be baller.

interview conducted by Michael Tau
April 2009
published May 2009

Image credit: Goaty Tapes website

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