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Dylan Herkes (Tape Man/Stink Magnetic Records)

Dylan Herkes (Tape Man/Stink Magnetic Records)

Interviewed by
Danielle Street
Thursday 10th April, 2014 11:09AM

Over the last 16 years, Stink Magnetic Record Company has taken ratbag musicians from the backblocks of rural New Zealand and put their lo-fi rumblings to tape. This month, with help from Swiss affiliate Voodoo Rhythm Records those same misfits are making musical waves as far abroad as Los Angeles and Germany with the international re-issue of Wolf Party: New Zealand Werewolf Sounds from Stink Magnetic. The album is a compilation of “werewolf sounds” originally released in 2010 to celebrate the label's 13th anniversary and features a mix of local artists like Golden Axe, Delaney Davidson, Voodoo Savage and His Savages, Boss Christ, The Don Kings and more.

Wellington-based Dylan Herkes is the founder of Stink Magnetic as well as being the the enigmatic figure behind the surf guitar legend The Mysterious Tape Man, who over time has evolved into anti-hero Lightning Tape Wolf. We caught up with Dylan ahead of a five-date tour to promote the album’s re-release and have a chat about the label got started from the back of a bus in Palmerston North.

Hey Dylan, first of all I want to know about Tape Man, where did he come from?

Tape Man just evolved out of tape and man, recording and home movies. I used to work in a place which dubbed VHS tapes and it was like an old mansion, and I did the night shifts there and it just made a lot of sense.

That was back in 2003, right? Tape Man’s had a few evolutions since then...

Yea, well, I got to thinking about how you could do music where it could be anonymous, it didn’t need to be known who was responsible for it. It just evolved from there to where I kept displacing the title and the format.

What were you doing musically before Tape Man?

I’ve been running the record label obviously since 1998 and played in a hell of a lot of those bands. But I was in a band called The Dallas Pro-Drag Allstars, which was like Hawaiian industrial band, when I started the record label. Then after that I’ve been in a whole bunch of bands of other through the label like Voodoo Savage and the Savages, The Chandeliers, The Side Effects ummm, just a whole bunch of different stuff.

So you started the Stink Magnetic label in 1998. What prompted that??

I was living with someone in Palmerston North that was making a tape label out of his bus that he was living in on the back lawn, we were living in a free house. None of us had much money and we were all doing things and became very apparent that it was an easy way of getting music out there. Self-publishing just seemed to make sense and cassettes were the most accessible format, CDs were still really expensive back in 1998 and if you wanted to burn CDs, well, not all computers were able to burn them. It seems kinda ridiculous, but it wasn’t that long ago.

So that’s where it all started, Palmerston North...?

Well, actually before Palmerston North it started in our hometown which is a little town called Pahiatua. That’s where I met the whole bunch of people that I’m still friends with today who play music on the record label, like Boss Christ and Bad Evil and Dane [Taylor] from the Savages and a whole bunch of kids from the Wairarapa. We had little band that we got together and we had parties. We had a festival actually in the Pahiatua cinema in about 1996 called Chicken Stock and that had about 10 bands, all in the movie theatre one afternoon. So it kind of started off there in our hometown in Pahiatua.

Cool. What was the first cassette you guys put out on Stink Magnetic?

On the first day we actually put seven releases out, I probably can’t rattle them all off, but the very first was a band that I was in with a friend called Shit All To Hell and it was just a two-piece of trash heap blues.

Do you still have the back catalogue of cassettes?

Yea, I’ve lost a bit, because we also went through the Christchurch earthquake and over the years I’ve moved around the country a lot. I went overseas for about a year as well, just travelling and playing, so bit and pieces have got lost along the way, but I do have most of the collection there.

What kind of equipment where you recording with bin the early days?

We were recording on mostly four-track cassettes, they were really accessible at that time and a lot of people had them, just like little home recording devices with four channels. They were restricted just down to four independent channels and just onto a common cassette, you used to be able to buy chrome cassettes or you just recorded over any old cassette. And the recording was done in people’s bedrooms and people’s kitchens and things like that. It was very intimate. We went to studios a couple of times and were pretty dismayed, especially when we compared the digital recordings in a studio to things we were doing in our living room at home on the cheapest stuff around, we actually kind of learned quite a lot about that and ended up formulating a lot of preference around sounds, and how the recording production can assist the content.

When you’re playing live to tape I imagine it keeps a rawness that would be quite fundamental to yourself and your labelmates...

Yea, totally, because we are kind of like small town little ratbags playing, not really punk and not really rock, just having a lot of fun and being experimental, but not being too hung up on it being perfect. That is pretty much what we are like.

So are you still using lo-fi methods to get records down?

Yes, still, we still do. I got a four-track reel-to-reel from an op shop, and I got it because I heard it was the same one that Chris Knox used to record a whole bunch of the early Flying Nun material, but the recordings it made when I started using it were almost too good so I used shittier microphones and put amps into strange little areas to make them sound worse, hahaha.

How have things changed over the years... you were based in Whanganui for awile and you in Wellington now?

Yea, well, things have changed in that I have less and less time to spend on it, because back then I was just like a teenager on the dole who had a lot of time on my hands and I could actually sit there and dub tapes one-by-one. But now I’m married and I’ve got a kid and I work full time, so it’s harder and harder to do, but it’s some of the most satisfying things in my life. I still really enjoy and I just find smarter ways to work it, so it’s still fun and I'm still putting recordings out that I’m proud of and I stand behind, and still backing artists that I want to show people.

You’ve got musicians from all over the country on your books, how did you connect with such varied acts like Delaney and Golden Axe?

A lot of it is actually from being a part of the community. Once you get out there and start playing music you get out there and meet a lot of people and that’s totally where it comes from. But Delaney I sought out. The record label we are re-releasing the Wolf Party album with, Voodoo Rhythm, I’ve been a real big fan of theirs since I was a teenager and I was looking at their website one day and I saw a movie they had made, and it had this Kiwi accent in there, and I was like "Holy shit! There's a New Zealander involved in this crazy record label". So I wrote to the record label and Beatman wrote back, and we ended up forming a little relationship, and he gave me Delaney’s email address. And we have been great friends since.

It’s great to see this Wolf Party album coming to fore again with the help of Voodoo Rhythm, does it ultimately mean that Stink Magnetic’s music gets further around the globe?

That’s exactly it. That’s Beatman’s gift really. It’s awesome. It’ being distributed freely to 50-100 radio stations all around the world. It’s being distributed in Japan, in America, all across Europe, in Australia. It’s been sent out to all these magazines and we’re getting all these reviews from LA and Germany. It’s just fantastic. It’s brought a whole bunch of relatively unknown kind-of-backyard acts from Aotearoa over into a realm that’s got much more potential in it than the backyard, haha.

The term you coined to describe the compilation is “werewolf sounds", what does mean?

Well, I just wanted to put a compilation together that wasn’t like any other compilation, but that had some consistency and I have some sort of weird affinity with werewolves. I thought it would be cool to make a compilation and I think it might be really cool to make a robot compilation too. My friend suggested we make one called Robot Hootenanny, I’ll probably do that.

Haha… well, what else is on the cards for the label?

Well, getting this tour out of the way, and I’ve always got a whole bunch of bands in my mind that I want to get out, I’ve got about 10 bands in my mind right now that I want to put out, which I don’t want to say because I don’t want to raise any hopes, because there is only so much you can practically do. And it’s always about money which really sucks. But in saying that, the restrictions often end up guiding you into the best scenario, because you are making the best with what you’ve got. You just really appreciate what you are doing, you push your resources to the limit and you do everything you can with whatever you can get hold of.

Cool... yea... Is there anything else you want to add before we finish up?

Yea, every werewolf should come to this show because it’s going to be completely ape-shit. And you should all vote this year.


Check out a video of The Tapemen playing Mighty Mighty back in 2008...

The Wolf Party album release tour kicks off this Saturday 12th April at Whammy Bar in Auckland. Check out further dates and buy tickets through UTR over here.