As many of you know I have hosted the radio program, "No Pigeonholes" since 1985. This show has been dedicated to underground, independent and home recording artists during this time.
In December though I will be retiring my "regular" No Pigeonholes show and beginning a new phase of documentation and archiving.
One goal is to post my own music, my wife Robin O'Brien's, and many of the artists on my Lonely Whistle label. The main goal will be archiving as many of my radios shows as possible.This material will be posted to Archive.org as hi res mp3s .
In addition, I will be continuing the experimental spin off of this show called "No Pigeonholes EXP" on KOWS Radio ( www.kowsfm.com). That show currently airs on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Thursday nights from 6-8PM Pacific Time. This show is more about "sounds" and not "songs" and features many styles of experimental music.
All of the archiving and historical information will be available through links at my main web site, www.doncampau.com
Panoply was the first in 4 releases I did with the crew at Tape Germ, a site for interactive music making run by Bryan Baker and Chris Phinney. People would upload loops and other folks would download these loops and mix them, cut them up, add to them, etc. and make pieces out of them. Then, they would upload them and share them back with the Tape Germ community. It was a lot of fun and those guys did a lot of work on this ground breaking project
At the time I did not possess a computer program for creating and cutting and pasting tracks so I had to use a novel method of recording the loops and using a minidisc player to play them by hand with the remote control in a live fashion. I would also add my own instruments and layer the various loops using this minidisc method.
Listen to Panoply here:
Tape Germ series #1
Lonely Whistle Music 2006
Loops by Hal McGee, Dave Fuglewicz, Buzzsaw, Heuristics Inc, Mental Anguish, International Garbageman, Cystem
merge into room 16:15
Loops by Hebephrenic, International Garbageman, Virus Factory
Loops by Heuristics Inc, Hebephrenic, Virus Factory, International Garbageman
A friend of mine denied being an “artist” recently because he only considered himself an artist if he could make a full time living from it. Getting paid gives the credibility, at least to him.
I wonder if other people feel that way.
My definition may be somewhat broader, and simpler.
An “artist” is someone who makes art. Now, sure, they might not be a “professional” artist, or even a “good” artist but for sure, to me, they are artists.
When I was in my twenties I wanted to be an artist. I painted abstract works somewhat in the style of Gorky or Kandinsky. Looking back, most of them were not too good ( whatever that means) although a few had their charm. And, I’ve never really had the talent for representational drawing or painting and ultimately I gave it up feeling a bit frustrated.
A couple of years ago, and 40 years later, I had the urge to start making some visual art again. I’m not sure why really but I seemed to find my calling in small size collages and have had a lot of fun making them and giving them away. Purposefully, I made them the same size as CD covers so when I made a new music album I could stick them in as the CD cover, and each would be one of a kind.
hover your mouse over the slideshow to view controls such as Pause
They are not meant to be representational although sometimes I see things in them.
Some people have suggested that I go larger. To me, I am very comfortable with the size and format I have chosen and here’s the other thing: when people do large canvases or large form works of sculpture or site specific work where do they put them? Don't they run out of space fast? I own my house and have a large garage but I’d be out of room in a hurry (Of course I also have an extra large music collection) if I did large size works. I can keep a couple thousand of my collages in a couple of show boxes.
As a Christmas present my wife Robin made a framed collection of about 25 of my works that can be changed out because she backed them with velcro. They look really neat together like that.
Most of my life music has been my biggest creative endeavor. Whether it is my own music or my radio shows, sound has been my principal outlet.
But now, for the moment I actually prefer the visual process although I’ll probably go back to music sometime soon. I know a lot less about making visual art than I do about music and maybe that is one of the things that draws me to it.
Here are a few newer works. If you want to trade my art for your music or art (or anything else) just let me know. I do not sell them. So, without sales, does that still make me an artist?
You can view all of my works here: https://doncampauartworks.shutterfly.com/pictures/8
Here’s a few collage style art works I did on February 15-16, 2019
My pieces are all untitled and are slightly smaller than 5X5”. I use paint, pen, paper pieces, masking tape, coffee grounds, flowers, found objects, stencils, spray paint, dental floss, etc.
They are not intended to represent anything although even I see things in them sometimes.
I still continue to do music but during winter when the music studio is pretty cold I have been shifting to these art works. I have been actively doing these abstract collages since the start of 2017 and have a lot of them now.
You can view them all at:
Although I do not sell these pieces I am happy to trade them with anyone for a variety of things. Drop me a line and we can set something up.
Don Campau email
You can stream or download this show here:
For a few years I have been doing a radio show (“No Pigeonholes”) on Berlin’s Independent radio station, Radio On.
Generally on this station and program I have featured material from the Cassette Culture era (approx 1980-2000). On this particular show I focused on vinyl releases created by hometapers and underground artists of this time period. Most were highly obscure hometapers but there were a couple of greater renown.
A few comments about the music on this program and my memories of the time.
In the mid 80s and 90s I was getting a lot of submissions for the radio show daily. It was difficult to keep up and assure personal contact with every artist that sent me a tape, record or CD. It has always been important to me to document and notify people who I play on the show. I know some college DJs and others who simply play the material (if you’re lucky) and you never find out about it. I wanted my interactions to be more personal.
It wasn't always possible to give people deeply personal, handwritten notes but I tried my best. And, in the very early days not only would I send playlists (and my music catalogs) but I would send people cassette copies of the show they had their music played on, and many times, my own music in trade.
After awhile this element kind of dried up when I realized that many artists did not even want my own music tapes. They were generally happy to get the radio tapes but that soon became difficult and costly, especially to Europe or outside the USA.
People seemed happy enough just to have their music aired on my show and to be notified of a radio appearance. As I used to say… “your first airplay, and maybe your last”.
Here’s what I recall about the music on this show:
Bugo/ Questione D'eternita/ Questione D'eternita/ Bar La Muerte 7" 1999
I don't really remember getting this and although I remember having many contacts in Italy I cannot recall the person's name who sent it. I think it was an Italian guy who ran a label. This is a strangely angular, head bopper of a tune sung in Italian.
Trespassers W/ You/ Macht Kaputt EP/ Pillow Talk 7" 1987?
A favorite band from the first time I heard them, Trespassers W were an intelligent, almost literary group from The Netherlands, who dabbled in politics and topical situations while rocking, rolling and purveying a type of progressive rock that blended cabaret and other styles into a unique whole.
Monster Squad/ Death & Destruction / Monster Squad/ ---7" 2001
Hardcore punk in the original 70s fashion. Hard, fast, angry but filled with hooky segments and breaks. This came from a 7” record that I don't recall much about.
Steine Fur Den Frieden/USS Weltpolizei/ Romp 7" late 80s
More hard and fast material sprouting from these Euro punks. Not really that poppy but it changed speeds from fast to even faster and then slower again. Good energy although not a lot of melody to hang onto.
Keith Levene & Hillel Slovak/ Clothesline/ split with Kendra Smith/ Overzealous 7" 90’s?
Of course Levene was well known as a member of Johnny Rotten’s Public Image Limited group and Slovak was well known as the guitarist for The Red Hot Chili Peppers. In those days I probably would not have even played this on the show because I was sort of an elitist. If anyone ever heard of you I wouldn't touch it. But on this archival broadcast show I found this odd little 7” in the collection and thought “why not”? Its a fun, funky oddity as you might imagine when these two get together. No vocals, just hip shaking rhythms and flourishes.
Die Kuche/ Granada V8/ Die Kuche/ Stetzer 7" early 2000’s?
I’m pretty sure this 7” was given to me by my good German friend, Achim Treu (Dauerfisch, Kunstler Treu, Der Plan), when he visited me in about 2001. I don't think he had anything to do with it but he knew I liked bizarre, underground productions.
And he probably knew the artists in this group which means “The Kitchen” in German.
There is some ultra cool jazzy organ that really drives this instrumental. I think they had other material but not sure.
Pop Threat/ Ripen/ Ripen/ Squirrel Records 7" 2001
A jangly Brit pop female fronted band that hits the right spot for me. Verse, chorus, verse with a neat spoken middle part. Good full band sound too.
The Saturday Nights/ Rabid Wolves/ Rabid Wolves/ ---7" 2000’s?
Tremolo rocker with a certain amount of twee to make it more modest. They ramp it up during the middle and overall a decent tune. Don’t remember the person who sent it. An American band I believe.
Dubeaumont/ Les Ronds Bleu/ La Vie D'un Garcon/ L'usine 7" late 80s
An odd 7” vinyl compilation of various French weirdos. I don’t recall much about this particular band but they certainly reek of Frenchness so much you can taste the croissant and stinky cheese. Poppy but filled with a resistance fever.
Populaire Mechanik/ Muster/ Muster/ ---7" 1981
I believe this band went through a couple of incarnations, this one being the first. I really have always dug this tune. Very funky and catchy with vocals that aren't really melodic but the beat is so insistent it doesn't matter. Don't ever let them tell you Germans are not funky.
Davey Williams/ Firing Up The Old Sikorsky/ Carbon/ Table Of The Elements 7" 1993
Davey has been well known in the improv scene forever and although a more major “name”, this rare 7” on the Table Of The Elements label is as crazy and avant garde as you might like. Beautifully packaged and a real collectors item.
Garlic/ Drink Induced Conversations/ ---/---7" early 2000’s
A mid tempo mumbler from a band that combined Brit mopeyness with American style country. Super cool tune.
Sleepy People/ Home Is Where The Telly Is/ ---/ Soporific Foundation 7" 1997
I never could quite understand this band. Were they Bowie influenced poseurs? Were they post prog slick style rockers circa The Nice 1968? In retrospect they had a lot going for them with undeniable execution and talent and probably dressed up too.
Bubblegum Thunder/ Describing The Symptoms/ ---/Dada Records 7" 1993
A great and rough rocker from these Jersey-ites (if I recall correctly ). This is what grunge should have been. Reminds me a little of MX-80 Sound (a good thing).
Alphane Moon/ To Almondine/Circle Of Four/ Spiffing 7" 1995
I always truly dug the psych instrumental space nature of this group. They appeared on some tapes and even made some vinyl including this one, a green colored 7” on an obscure British label.
Alvaro & Toshiyuki Hiraoka/ Perfection Is Boring/ ---/ Hard Disc 7" 1992
Alvaro was known as “The Chilean with the singing nose” and was a real character. I couldn't tell whether or not he was kidding and what the deal was. But he kept at it and convinced me he was real, and quirky. Here, he teamed up with the great Japanese hometaper, Toshiyuki Hiraoka, who put out his own cassettes and was always a favorite of mine.
Pamela Z/ Echolocation/ Echolocation/ ---cassette 1988
All the other material on this show was from vinyl but this one was from a cassette that San Francisco area artist, Pamela Z put out. There were very few African American women artists working in the underground at that time, at least that I was aware of. And she is/was a most highly creative artist doing interesting sounds. Using echo and effects she also created some incredibly catchy tunes that could be called avant pop. People like Holly Herndon and others are in debt to this original, talented artist.
Don't forget, I still accept your original music for the radio. Go to www.doncampau.com and click the “submit” link for details. You can also click the links to hear recent radio shows, my own music and more.
And, although I have not worked on it for sometime now there is still some good, archival information (and tons of free music) at my Living Archive Of Underground Music site:
and lastly, Frank Maier is doing fantastic work at:
He is creating a huge database with pictures and sound files and has now collected at least twenty five thousand tapes. Frank is officially now The King Of Cassettes. Drop by and see his progress.
What do “underground” and “independent” mean now any way?
In the old days it was pretty easy to tell what was truly outside the mainstream or “underground”. I used to simply describe this type of music as being unavailable in the music stores. But now, most record stores don't even exist even though the press is quick to point out Record Store Day or the resurgence of vinyl. Evidently, vinyl is what’s keeping many local shops going now. That’s fine. I’m a record lover and have been for over 50 years when I bought my first 45, “Twist And Shout” by The Beatles.
In the early days of my “No Pigeonholes” radio show (circa 1984-5) getting all these weird and wild tapes from all over was fun, exciting and distinctly underground. There wasn't much delusion about “making it” (whatever that means) from a one off (or maybe a few dozen) cassette with hand printed or badly xeroxed cover images. Some artists featured better graphics and sound such as Carl Howard’s audiofile Tapes label (and others) but even then the music set itself apart as bizarre and experimental forays into the unknown and commercially inaccessible.
I did receive the odd tape from artists who seemed to think their band or home taping project was their key to a better life or music career. I often referred them them as the “shrink wrapped” mentality because they would have their tapes professionally duplicated (like at Discmasters) and cellophane enclosed. And instead of a hand written letter with tons of crazy compilation invites or strange nonsensical art it would have the dreaded “one sheet”…a promo tool used to describe their music and with comparisons to somebody famous. “Head Shots”, glossy paper, glowing reviews from semi famous friends, that sort of thing.
I cannot tell you how many of these I get every single day now but fortunately most of them are in email form so it is easy to wipe them off my computer. The amount of money spent by bands and musical artists on promotion is ridiculous now. Everyone is looking for an angle to “cut through the static” of too much information.
So, as I outlined in one of my earlier posts, things started to get gray and fuzzy around the turn of the 21st century. The trading scene had all but dried up and people were getting more serious, or so it seemed to me. Oh, a few people hung on to the trading ethic and I would still receive some odd material and little announcements of compilations, collaborations and so forth.
At the same time the Major Record Companies started complaining about illegal downloading and the possible death of their profits from the internet. Spotify, Pandora and iTunes did not exist in any great degree yet but they were coming. Who knew then that the real death was of ANY physical product?
So, about then, the word “indie” started to get used a lot. I mean, it was used before but now it was used as a term of endearment, a way to “pigeonhole” bands to make them more fashionable and trendy. Instead of it being a high flying flag of weirdness and individuality it was a decree of some short term fad.
So, the terms “underground” and Independent” really lost all meaning, or became just more adjectives for promotion.
To be honest, I have used these words to describe my own show. And, also to be honest, I am now playing bands that might have been too slick or mainstream in the old days. But, I decided long ago that I would not simply be stuck in the past and try to remain open to the new trends and statements of younger musicians. Plus, I was no longer getting hundreds of tapes (or even CDs/files) from home tapers and outsiders.
So, has my show simply become a mouthpiece for an industry I cannot stand? And, if so, why do I do it?
The reason to me is simple. Most of the artists I now play on “No Pigeonholes” are actually “indie” in the sense they are regional, or low profile groups/artists, who sometimes play live and record in small studios. There are plenty of “home tapers” but that has a whole different sense now too.
I do still refuse to play big time names or Major Label artists but heck, they hardly exist anyway. I look for the ever elusive “independent attitude”, whatever that is.
I must admit that I don’t even like all the groups I play now. But I am lucky because I have a wide taste in styles/genres and my goal is to be as inclusive and open as possible. I try to give everyone a shot although there is stuff I just cannot stomach and get rid of.
I am lucky because I have four separate radio shows. Three of them are called “No Pigeonholes” and on two of them I feature todays “indie” scene from rock, hip hop, singer-songwriter, instrumental, new age, experimental and more. One the fourth show called “No Pigeonholes EXP” I stick to challenging and experimental works from free jazz, dub techno, improv, noise, sound collage, drone, etc. One other DJ called it “sounds, not songs”. I think think that’s apt.
On one of the “No Pigeonholes” shows on Radio On in Berlin I have been featuring Cassette Culture material and even more recently actual radio tapes from back in the day with home tapes I had received then. (Link at my doncampau.com website )
So, many years ago I made the call. I would move forward the best I could. Sure, I prefer getting home tapes and original, strange expression. But, now a lot of what I am offered is from agents, managers, PR people, small labels and musicians who have an obvious intent to climb the ladder.
But, that’s OK. It is not my place to judge someone’s intent. No, I do not have to be a shill for the music industry although I do seem to be participating to some degree. I make it clear to people who submit that I won't be giving them “heavy rotation” or sending my playlists to CMJ or charting websites. I do try to still keep it personal and make sure each artist is aware that they got radio play and offer them links to the subsequent podcast (always free for downloading/streaming).
Why does any of this matter? Why do I bring it up at all?
Well, I think it needs to be spoken that I (and other former underground DJs) am aware of the evolution and change regarding my own program and the landscape that now exists. I need to look in the mirror and admit something. Like it or not, I am part of the problem, the sickness.
Basically, even though I still use them, the terms “underground” and “independent” are shallow at best. They still have meaning but have been warped, degraded and kidnapped until their former meaning is all but forgotten.
a new rock tune, completed today ( 4-26-18 ) called "Crisis" featuring Robin O'Brien on backing vocals.
Free streaming or download at Soundcloud
This is about inflexibility between people, nations and anyone else who cannot disagree without resulting to violence or debasing behavior. There’s got to be a better way, a way of grown ups.
A new exclusive piece by writer George Charpied on some of his early experiences
but also a fleshed out perspective on the scene in its glory days and then what came after.
George Charpied: "The Global Cassette Community in the 1980's/ After and Into the Digital Age"
at The Living Archive of Underground Music
What does something that came after the Cassette revolution have to do with it?
Ok, we know the Internet didn't really get going until about 1995 and of course the potential was unfulfilled at the time. No easy downloading music then, no streaming movies, no cell phones in everyone’s pockets. Cassette Culture was pretty much wrapping up its show by then, or not long after.
We all knew some of what the future would hold. More net speed, easier and faster communications, unimaginable amounts of music and videos in our pockets, no getting lost in unfamiliar neighborhoods, the ability to find pizza and coffee and record stores in any town you visited, the answers to stupid questions in bars and parties, etc.
I don't think many of us realized the sea change and the pervasive nature that phones would come to represent at the time. Who knew that the desk top computer itself would almost be an afterthought by 2018 and that the phone was the center of the universe?
Will the phone eventually go the same direction as records, cassettes, and CDs? Man, that is tough to know but it seems that this one may hang around for a long time. Of course it may not be a “phone” that way we see it now. Maybe a watch, an attachment to our glasses…what about a brain implant?
So for our purposes in 1995 the tape scene was gone, the community essentially disbanded
(except for pockets), CDs and CDRs the new platform for musical artists. I got my own digital recorder in 2002. It was an 8 track BOSS 1180 made by Roland. It provided me with a new clarity of sound, hundreds of built in effects and the ease of burning CDs directly from it. I also got the first of many CDR dubbing decks soon too. It took some time for the cost of digital equipment to come down in price but eventually it was more or less affordable.
This was now a great way to do high quality sounding collaborations with others. This is something I have always loved and with tapes the degrading tape hiss from too many generations was not fun. Not a game changer for me but something I wished was better. The new digital set up immediately solved this. In fact, I still use the 8 track today ( in combination with Garageband on my Mac ) to record my tunes.
I was really stoked with my first digital collab album with Eric Wallack called “Disappearing Act”. This was like a dream come true….complete silence between tracks and in the places during the songs when stillness and quiet was needed. The sound also jumped from the speakers.
So as the Internet started to mature I always wondered, “why can’t the community we had during the tape scene exist now”? I mean, the equipment was better ( perhaps somewhat more expensive overall though), the ability to communicate immediately with somebody across the world, the closeness that could be had by such contact seemed unparalleled.
What happened? Why didn't we group together even before social media and have our own cliques again?
OK, some of us did but it took the rise of MySpace, Facebook and all the other sites to facilitate any kind of major groupings.
The dangers of being involved with corporate structure to this degree was on my mind, and the minds of many friends. It wasn't just that our privacy would be invaded but it just didn’t seem as personal and tactile as getting something from the post office. The ability to “like” something seemed phony and off putting.
However, was the Internet and all the possibilities just inherently superficial? Of course not.
To me, I sometimes envision the Internet as an actual highway with the looming billboards as I travel. I do see the billboards and even read them sometimes but mostly I just try to drive and get there safely and not get consumed ( quite literally ) by the information.
One theory that is bandied around is that people got more self serving with the entrepreneurial possibilities of the Internet. Anyone could reach out to the entire world and hawk their product. I don’t really know why most people did not seem to care about anybody else. To be frank though, the social media platforms that arose did allow people to communicate and develop relationships ( if you wanted ).
Perhaps some don't want to hear this but Facebook, Twitter, Instagram are good things…well, at least to me. I make sure that any personal information I put out is limited though. I completely understand that it is a giant corporate business and that my info is to be mined and sold back to me. I am actually fine with that as long as they are not publishing my private messages. But, if it is info I put out there publicly what can I expect?
I don't blame some for not getting involved in this but if you expect to live in this century and not be a Luddite you’d better get on the train. Also, the ability to connect with artists is tremendous. For example, I try to send every single artist notification of radio play ( you might be surprised how few DJs do this) and if I cannot find their email address it is more than likely they are on Facebook. I have also reconnected with former colleagues, high school and work chums, and made new contacts galore.
Sure, some of the chatter seems childish and stupid. Sure, the ads can be annoying, the endless political outrages are to be expected as well as all the usual ranting. There is always a trade off with anything.
I recently started creating my own visual art work as a new hobby and social media has been a great way to share it, the very same day I create it. By the way, this is not a business and, like my own music, I GIVE IT AWAY FOR FREE TO ANYBODY WHO WANTS IT.
I got into a huge blowup with a guitar guy because he and his friends claimed I was devaluing THEIR music by giving mine away for free. How dare I? Shouldn't I be thinking about how it affects them? Was I wrong to hurt them so badly?
It is fun to get feedback from all over when I record a new song. It feels good to be “liked”. You must recall that during the height of the Cassette Glory Days many of us ( including me) were ridiculous back patting cheerleaders unwilling to really dish out criticism too harshly. Sure, Carl Howard was always there to bring us back to Earth but how many others could claim his honesty and way with words?
Another great thing ( to me ) is Bandcamp and some of the other music sharing platforms. I know nothing about Spotify or Pandora so I will leave that to someone else. I do really have an aversion to the music business in general although many of the bands I now get for the show are distinctly interested in being part of it.
As I said in another post, “if it works for you, do it”. I realize that I may contradicting myself here. On one hand, I am all about exposing new artists to the world but I don't really examine their motives. And what does it mean now to be “independent” or “underground”? ( That will be the focus of my next post ).
One of the greatest resources on the entire internet is the Internet Archive, also know as archive.org. This site is run by a rich guy ( and his team) in San Francisco and the goal is to be The Smithsonian of the Internet. This site allows for ANY AMOUNT of uploading FOR FREE. I believe in what they are doing so much I make monetary donations.
From what I can tell, this is the closest thing to “permanent” the Net has to secure your files for the future.
I am in the process of uploading every album I have ever made for free download and as many radio shows as I can before I leave this planet. I will never get it all done ( because there are thousands of shows) but my recommendation is to support and use archive.org. You can stream or download for free any files posted.
OK, most of the stuff I have gone on about here is nothing new to anybody. I just thought it would be a good bookend to the previous posts I made.
What is your opinion?
Can you stomach the ills of the internet to use it for what it is good for? Does it work for you?
…Don Campau 4-21-18
My name is Don Campau and I have been involved in underground and non mainstream music and radio since 1969. I continue to be an active home taper and Cassette Culture archivist with my own site, The Living Archive.