Feed & Seed
Run by the inimitable Daniel Presnell, Feed and Seed Records is unique in its place among handmade/DIY record labels. Though somewhat unheralded and under the radar, Presnell and partner Jenni have stayed true to a consistent aesthetic vision, seen both in the meticulous design and packaging of releases and the wonderful music they contain. Presnell’s also been involved in numerous musical endeavors himself (read below), including the legendary space rock combo Astral Blessing. Feed & Seed headquarters are now located in Vancouver, and listeners of fine music would do well to seek out the website and order some music posthaste. I had the good fortune to spend some time with him in New Orleans before the flood and his work has been a regular inspiration ever since.
Well, one summer in Athens, Georgia, I guess around 2000, me and my good buddy Wyatt Nicholson read about ether parties which were a big antebellum hit amongst the plantation crowd. We were amused by this and hoped to boost popularity once again. We figured we would need a band that everyone would love to help sell our idea, and our friends, The Possibilities, were just about the best thing we’d ever heard. So we foolishly decided to eat Dixie Darling peanut butter sandwiches for about two years, in order to put out a 7in record. It sold a million right off the bat, and the proof is in our closets. I can’t hang my coat up in there for all of the 20$ bills falling out. The success proved too much for the Possibilities, and they soon broke up. The confederate ether party phenomenon of 2001 imploded due to our supplier, Eugenius Nesbitt, getting a little too possessive with the sauce.
A little later, me and Paul Lebrecque made some Astral Blessing cdrs, Live at the Yurt, and Wedding Procession, in anticipation of our tour. In the early 2000’s you could get cdrs burned on the cheap, so it suddenly seemed like you could issue recordings without risking your storage space and diet.
I suppose the impetus would be our devotion to music, to the materiality of records, to art, and to the glorious diy aesthetic. We really liked the Possibilities, and thought the world would too. And really loving something and wanting to share it, what better impetus could there be?
Feed & Seed’s rebirth came in 2003, when we released Hildegard’s Family Hymnal, The Chesterfield Gorgeous, and the Lloyd Wyatt 3in. These releases united our vision of sound, and the idea that the work should be something celebratory, a package full of its own inner logic and wonder. Chris Corsano once to told me to make it as nice as you can, even if it means you only make 20.
I hesitate to list labels as inspirations, but of course there are many fine labels. Feed & Seed is most directly inspired by the life work of Jonathan Williams and his Jargon Society Press, who has issued the most beautifully hand crafted books by avant garde writers, photographers and artists this century. He used to drive around America in a Volkswagen, with a slide projector full of photographs of avant garde poets, and artists, and he would give lectures and read poems to students, or anyone who would listen. He was singing the praises of people like Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Clarence John Laughlin, Mina Loy, Lorine Niedecker, St. Eom, Guy Davenport, Russell Edson, John Jacob Niles.
We are also encouraged by the efforts of groups like Fluxus, the New York School of Correspondence, LAFMS, and the few networks of like minded people who trade in highly individual ideas and images. John Cassavetes, who took acting roles in films he didn’t care for, so he could buy a house, turn the garage into an editing suite, and shoot the film in the various rooms, would most certainly be an influence, as his devotion and craft is a pinnacle in the “cottage” arts industry.
We like to immerse ourselves in our environment. We have lived mostly in places that did not have a music scene sympathetic to what we do. So, we tend to find other things in those places that we are attracted to—histories that for us, at least in some sense, constitute our scene. For instance, in Asheville, you could walk down a steep hill in our backyard and in a matter of minutes stand at the graves of William Sydney Porter and Thomas Wolfe. We were also attracted to Black Mountain College nearby, a history that continues to have importance and influence in my life and art. Those things inspired us, and I think resonate in the projects we issued at the time.
Jenni and I are very much interested in architecture, art, literature, history, and it seems that in all the places we’ve lived, Massachusetts, New Orleans, Asheville, Vancouver, we uncover people, details, materials, and ideas that agree with us. Mind you, sometimes you have to dig very deep, but we don’t mind, we’re southerners. We are used to looking under rocks for the good stuff.
The challenge is time and money. I suppose I also spend a lot of time dealing with the Beckett paradox…why go on? I must go on. There’s a lot of stuff in the world, and sometimes it bums me out to think I’m contributing to that. So, I guess that’s why we try to go the distance for our releases, to make them something more than a plastic disc in a sleeve.
To revoke time, to defy the heavens, to birth the eternal, to instigate memories, to summon all of the senses, to reveal, to obscure, to free these wonders from their private isolation…I’m not sure we accomplish this, but we attempt to. I believe that each of our releases contains, or is made from, its own unique universe.
I wanted to make something like the old Aspen magazines, works that engage the senses. The packages are modeled after memories. They blend image, ideas, sound, text to create a sense—they hint at things, and rely on the person on the receiving end to determine the connections.
Our releases capture the flight of the hand. They are imperfect. To produce them, I start with the limitations, budget, ability, resources. I design the package, which usually means hand cutting all of the paper, carving the lino blocks, printing, gathering the text, and assembling. When I’m doing a release, I come home from work, have dinner, and then work until midnight on the various pieces for a couple of months or more. It’s not mining, but it actually does end up being rather tedious work. There is an organizing logic to each release, an idea that unites the parts.
Well, I hate to sound like a t-ball coach, but I really like all of them. Jenni and I felt very good about Family Hymnal, both in terms of the package and the music, but I suppose we have been most fortunate to issue music by The Chesterfield Gorgeous, Ed Yazijian, and Donald Miller (which is coming very soon), Magneticring and Sam Shalabi.
We come to work with artists through very serendipitous means. Ed, who I had seen play with Dredd Foole when I was living in western Massachusetts, showed up at Map of Moves, a festival I put on in Asheville. It turned out he was living down the mountain in my old hometown of Greenville, SC, so we started jamming together and hanging out. Ed is truly one of the most remarkable people I have ever met in my life. I would issue an lp of him coughing if he sent it to me. Jenni and Donald met while working together in New Orleans. She came home from work and said, “I met this weird guy who’s into all kinds of music. I think you would like him.” I said, “yeah, right.” The weirdo was Donald Miller and soon enough we were talking French literature and sustained drones. He’s another person that has been kind enough to teach us, and what we’ve learned from him far outnumbers anything we could do for him, like simply issuing his fine recordings.
But to be honest, I don’t have much desire in soliciting artists, or listening to demos. This is not a business, but a minor mission. It is nice to make enough money to keep going, but that is not our concern. I’m not interested in issuing works by people who already have tons of stuff out there either, especially folks in this “careerist” psych scene of late. I work a day job so I can do what I want with this art, and that is something I feel very strongly about, whether it’s music, writing, visual art, or anything I’m involved in. I do this without concern for the market, or careers, or the tastes of our age. If the works and artists seem to true to us, then we delight in sharing that truth.
In a dream world, I’d love to issue lps for Bad Boy Butch Batson, Wizz Jones, Michael Hurley, John Bender, or Abner Jay. But I imagine Feed & Seed will continue to focus on people we come into contact with, people who share their art and their vision with us.
We have three new releases out now, Magneticring & Sam Shalabi, Ed Yazijian, and Shasta Cults. We are working very hard to get Donald’s 2xcd out by spring/summer 2009, followed by Hildegard’s lp, and a 7in from Ed Yazijian all in 2009. I will also be distributing cds from a small label, Cuckoo Clock, run by this weird dude, Klaus Sununu, who I met through the mail. His label is dedicated to analog synth recordings and he’s got some real humdingers coming. I’m designing the packages for him.
Well, Lloyd W. is holed up in a sweat lodge somewhere north of 100 Mile House, recovering from a series of hallucinations involving Louis Riel, a hijacked opium shipment, and a river barge loaded with green liquor. Sparrow Durham got a religion of sorts, sired a child, and is an apprentice at a saw mill, so his time is null. But the bond is strong there, and yes, someday he and Lloyd will hit the tape again. Until then, I would advise you to transfer the cdr to a dollar store tape, arm yourself with a loud boom box, copious spiritual devices, and head deep into the woods (preferably beside a loud river) and once a suitable site has been procured, play that tape until the leaves change color.
Hildegard recorded a southern epic lp in the summer of 2006 with what we feel is the essential line-up. The record is called Death from Not Dying and will be issued on lp in the spring of 2009 on Feed & Seed. Von Bingen is Jenni and I along with our good friends Josh Stevenson (aka Magnetic Ring), and Richard Smith and we have a record coming out very soon on Amen Absen. Von Bingen is currently at work on a record with Valerie Web (from Astral Blessing, and Lebrecque/Web self titled lp). Richard, Josh and I also play in BCVCO, a six piece analog synth ensemble and we are currently recording an lp for UZU Audio. I run the machines for Lloyd Wyatt, and he’s hard at work on a collection of rambling songs. I may exist in other forms, as well, which I shall not disclose.
Group 1850, The Outsiders (Holland), The Bachs, Tractor, Josef K, Neu Duetsche Welle stuff, Chrome, Detroit techno, Code III, Guru Guru, Hairy Chapter, Cluster, Zaccharias, Groundhogs, Eno, Bowie, Mickey Newbury, Heinrich Mueller, UGK.
As for new stuff, I received a mysterious record in the mail by a group named the San Francisco Water Cooler, which has a nice damaged psych feel to it. Paul Lebrecque’s new lp on Ecstatic Yod is a beauty; Tarp cdrs kill; Red Favorite, the Bad Boy Butch Batson lp, the first 3 entries in the Assophon catalog all have been getting a lot of play. The Boots, C.C., Snake & Remus box set on HP Cycle has remained near the platter, and I would like to add that this is one of the best releases of this puny decade, so go buy it! The Magneticring lp is a heavyweight, and Josh also plays on Sam Shalabi’s The Land of Kush lp, which is a monster 25 to 30 piece orchestra. I’m looking forward to Ed Yazijian and Dredd Foole’s cd on boweavil too. Sunburned laid some damaged stuff on me when they passed through. Anything from Mississippi records is fine.
I would like to say thanks to the few distributors out there who peddle our music (Volcanic Tongue, Eclipse, Tomentosa, Mimaroglu), to the very few people, like yourself, who take their precious time to write about music, and to all the folks out there who buy our releases and send us nice notes and emails. It makes the world feel smaller, and more comforting.
And remember kids, Feed yr Head, Seed yr Ground!
-- Eric Hardiman (22 July, 2009)