My process of discovery coming across the Reserve Matinee imprint took a similar tale of many great discoveries within underground music and art. I first met John Daniel, co-founder of the Chicago-based imprint Reserve Matinee while he was playing in another legendary Chicago act – Avant-Gospel Black Power electronics act ONO at the legendary Empty Bottle. I was familiar with John’s work as Forest Management, who’s new double LP record “After Dark” (American Dreams) is a tour de force reimagination/reworking on Debussy’s “Le Mer” a complex and deep work in itself. John’s presence is very much like his new LP, nuanced, deep, and passionate and from the heart. It is without a doubt the strongest work I have heard under the Forest Management moniker, although it does almost without saying that everything I’ve heard has been stellar, to say the least. “After Dark” is morose, haunting, but also serene and beautiful, and is ripe with the complexity and honesty that mirrors almost everything Daniel does, including his new imprint, founded with friend and frequent collaborator Michael Stumpf. Here’s a distillation of what we spoke about and what is in store for RM for 2020 and beyond.
“We of like minds need to unite now by working together to fight against the known ailments of global capitalism on any local level—whether slavery, segregation, racism, sexism, transphobia, xenophobia, toxic masculinity, police brutality, etc., the disease cannot be fought alone.” – Michael Stumpf
Welcome to Decaycast interviews, thank you, John and Michael, for sitting down with us. First off please introduce yourselves and talk a little bit of what you’re excited about lately;
JD: Thanks so much for having us! Been lookin’ forward to it. We have some tapes coming out soon in 2020, excited to share them with folks. We also started doing gigs at a Vietnamese restaurant (Nha Trang) in Uptown Chicago, back in December 2019.
MS: Looking forward to Nha Trang this Friday, and more gigs 2020.
John, you run three different labels/imprints, is that correct? Can you talk a little bit about Reserve Matinee, and also what makes the imprints different. Have you ever thought about combining them into one massive label, or does it make sense to keep them separated?
JD: Yeah. Sequel will be coming to a close this year, with just a few more releases planned. Afterhours Ltd is kinda just chillin’ right now, I honestly got pretty behind on assembly and shipping for that label, so I wanted to slow it down and re-evaluate some things. I don’t feel great about making people wait for stuff. Reserve Matinee came to life out of a friendship, so it’s about that collaboration and like-minded vision. I see that as separate from any other imprint I would run.
“I believe music can be a healing force that can be regenerative for those engaged in capitalist struggle.”
At what point did you realize your label was taking up more time that you all had anticipated, has it grown to become something more than when you started? And if so, how has your relationship to it, and it’s processes changed?
JD: Definitely. We released 20 tapes in our first year so we were very busy. We’re actually focusing a little less on releases this year, and more on events. But our process has evolved, for sure- Michael and I will now naturally split tasks when producing and selling the tapes.
MS: Feels like the same processes to me from the beginning just a shifting focus away from so many tapes and on to event planning and the first vinyl for the label this year.
What is your process of discovery / curation? Do you focus more on the sound, aesthetics, or philosophy/ethos of the artists you choose to work with?
MS: The label was definitely meant to be a platform for us to explore other sides to the sounds we had been traditionally working with and initiating more collaboration and improvised live take recordings with local artists. We strive to release unheard and/or neglected sounds from our friends in Chicago, the Midwest, and abroad. That is what first and foremost drives our curation.
JD: We definitely listen to everything that comes our way, and we have a bunch of talented friends making interesting music right now in Chicago. It has only felt right to support the Midwest through the imprint, we’ve both grown up in and have gained inspiration from this region.
What do you see as the biggest problems within contemporary experimental music that you would like to see change (either political, philosophical, or aesthetic) and how if at all do you try to mitigate through this through your label and various projects?
MS: The biggest problems within music now are the exact same as the biggest problems caused by late capitalism. We strive towards an anti-capitalist ethic in what we can create together.
JD: Lack of openness, exclusivity, and boxed in. We tend to stick with what we know. There can be a great joy and healing feeling when you jam with someone you don’t know.
Can you elaborate a bit more from a standpoint of collaboration? In a time period that seems focused on the individual, do you see music as a building block of resistance to capitalism?
MS: I believe music can be a healing force that can be regenerative for those engaged in capitalist struggle.
JD: In the words of Jack Johnson, we’re better together.
If you could explain the concept of your label to a person who has never and will never hear your releases – how would you describe it?
MS: We exist only in the hopes of describing it.
Can you each elaborate on your individual practices? What is the daily motivation and how do you keep such a high-quality stream of releases for both yourselves, collaborators and other artists you release?
MS: Daily motivation is faith in the music, and love of music and belief in communicating and communing through it, by bringing people together in these times of social isolation, alienation and fear. Tapes are an affordable way to push back against the algorithm-ization of listening, and give those with open ears more than would otherwise be hear-able. We are blessed to be surrounded by so many talented friends which makes releasing sounds much easier of an effort, and getting to cherish each other’s work is always rewarding for all involved. More seizing of the means of production on a local scale is something we believe in and plan to continue to strive towards.
JD: I think music is just very central for both of us. Even when we’re not creating and just listening to something. When the ideas are flowing, you go where the current takes you. When it comes to the label, it’s an opportunity for us to be active in our support of artists who are right in front of us, oftentimes close friends of ours. We get to help tell these stories and share our own. We don’t take that for granted.
Can you talk a little bit about some recent releases on RM – also what has been your most memorable release thus far?
MS: Connive is a new alias, tape coming 2/18, my political response to the Aurora, IL mass shooting. Most memorable might be Sara Zalek and Norman W Long‘s “Steel Workers’ Drone” dropping on RM 2/11…
JD: After a Summer of solo tapes we finished 2019 with a few different split releases, which is a fun format. They’re all up on our Bandcamp now. Yeah, I’d also say the Sara + Norman tape is one we’re super excited about at the moment. It really sets the tone for this year, being the first release of 2020.
What do you have upcoming both personal and for the label that you’re both excited about that we might not know about yet?
MS: New Faithful album coming this year on Anomia (material been ready for a while now) otherwise staying busy locally w Nha Trang nights, some live performances and deejaying
JD: Finishing a few recording projects including the debut release of 8990, which is Michael and I. I’ll be booking solo dates in the US/Canada very soon after a brief break, and buying a film camera. We’re also dropping the label’s first vinyl LP this year for our friend Door. He lives in Baltimore.
What are things that inspire you outside of your normal practice? is there a separation from art and life? Personal and political?
JD: Looking back, some things that have inspired in the past..the sky, glimpses of light, people, loss, film. Is there a separation between art and life? I guess it just depends on how you define life. For me, not really. It’s not like I’m going “Ok, it’s art time now”. Most of the time you don’t know what’s happening until it manifests itself in front of you.
MS: The existence of the impossible (or of the strange, or the weird, the ether), which I find omnipresent, constantly and unrelentingly inspires me. I believe and have faith that things can and will happen that we cannot imagine in any present, faith in the unthinkability of the infinity of future possibilities. That combined with the wisdom that life is unintelligible to life itself, a reality which in and of itself allows the irrational imagination to wander every slope of the summits of desire (or, time). But I see absolutely (and necessarily so!) no separation between art/life nor the personal and the political. All are one in the same from my vantage, and must be, as the passage of time and how we choose to risk ourselves to chance is all we have. Chance IS life IS art IS what we do with time itself (desire). In this way, I find the element of chance to be for me a strived-for basis of all my recorded works, as they strive for an element of stream-of-consciousness by design; breaking away from quantization, from conformity, from status quos of sound. As for politics, I try very hard to not believe in gods, idols, leadership, ideologies, in authority, in political platforms/parties, but vehemently believe all aspects of human life under late capitalism are political, music included. Music—the practice/craft but also who gets heard, who gets gigs, who gets streams, who gets festivals, who gets to play the best venues/clubs—is always political. Just follow the $ and prepare to be endlessly disappointed with your supposed ‘favorites’/‘heroes’/‘idols’. My politics are anti-capitalist and anarchic and bend towards communistic ends; they affirm inherent imperfection in all human political tasks as a result of our contradictory/flawed nature (a nature of violence, of hierarchy/power), as their very starting point. We of like minds need to unite now by working together to fight against the known ailments of global capitalism on any local level—whether slavery, segregation, racism, sexism, transphobia, xenophobia, toxic masculinity, police brutality, etc., the disease cannot be fought alone. In these times of disunity and discontent, we must seek the opposite, which means cultivating, sharing and connecting, believing in the impossible, believing in the possibility of an end to capitalism in our lifetimes.
MS: Listen to more Skin Graft.
“Faith is not belief in whether or not God exists but rather knowing that love without reward is of value.” – Emmanuel Levinas
JD: I highly recommend Coast Sushi on Damen Ave and Margie’s on Armitage & Western. Also, shop Uptown! Jk there’s nothing to shop around here. Only bars and theatrics. But there is the Green Mill Jazz Club, off Broadway and Lawrence. Al Capone used to get faded there. It’s pretty sick to take acid and go sit in a booth. I also recommend listening to as much Gene Pick as you possibly can. Also this rec:
2/28 – @ Nha Trang Fourth Fridays – Peak Descent b2b Faithful w/ r.ss & Space Dog Jaxx