ROSTOV’S HATCHET : AN INTERVIEW WITH JAY PAUL WATSON of Dental Work / Placenta Recordings.
I’ve been following the work of Michigan based surrealist artist, label head, musician, and all around intellectually deep and philosophically and visually rewarding stalwart of the noise scene Jay Watson for over ten years. I first met him in the flesh after trading tapes online at a show i put on at our old house in Oakland, The Razorwire Compound, and we instantly became great friends and collaborators. It’s been great to see Jay’s projects evolve over the years including his main recording project, Dental Work expand into a three piece entourage and his label, Placenta Recordings slowly inch it’s way toward its 500th release. After many years, we finally pinned him down for a short penning of the strategies and philosophies of his past and current practice, enjoy!
Dr. Decaycast: Please introduce yourself, and introduce your various projects?
Jay Watson: Hola! Thanks for having me. My name is Jay Watson, I am the leader of an international collective/record label called Placenta Recordings. I also participate in a number of musical/non-musical endeavors but my main squeeze is my project Dental Work.
Can you talk first a little bit about Placenta Recordigs? When and why you started the label, and how has it changed over time?
Sure! The concept of Placenta Recordings came to my head in 2005. I was making really weird music, and I was looking for a way to release it. I was 18 years old and I saw an actual placenta for the first time when a litter of kittens was born at my apartment. Disgusted and intrigued, I asked my roommates what it was. The told me about it, and that we all had one, it’s vital to life, helping us with nutrients. Apparently some have even grown hair and teeth! I knew then that this would be a fitting name for my new label. The first actual releases were in 2006 and 2007, when I switched from one project “Jehova Wrinkle” to “Dental Work”. I really didn’t even know what Noise was, I was listening to stuff like Agoraphobic Nosebleed, discovered Merzbow, and wanted to make something a bit heavier, and that’s when Dental Work was born. The first releases I put out were on handmade and distributed CD-R, probably around 50 copies of each of the first EP releases. I never intended on releasing other people’s music, but that quickly changed. What started as a bedroom “noise” label has evolved into an entire international family of artists, over 700 projects deep.
We surpassed our own expectations to the point that we actually released our heroes and idols including Agoraphobic Nosebleed AND Merzbow. Now we are releasing everything from Detroit Rap artists like Menacide, Esham The Unholy and Team Eastside to Doom Metal legends like Black Mayonnaise, Canadian Gorenoise, Norwegian Black Metal, the list goes on. If you would have told 18 year old me this, I would say “ha, right”…Now our aim is mainly to document and archive extreme pockets of diverse music from all over the world, in a variety of formats. We also organize and host shows, run a distribution for underground artists, do printing and manufacturing work, release films, have a dedicated team of alternative models who represent us, graphic design, charity work, you name it.
How has Placenta Recordings became so diverse in the genres represented, it seemed to start as mostly a noise label, but now you’re releasing everything from hip hop to gorenoise to black metal, can you talk a bit about how that progression took place?
I have always been into all kinds of music. I started collecting tapes at 5 years old, I would save up quarters I earned for stacking firewood and buy cassettes from the liquor store down the street. My first tape ever was something called “Rap The Beat”…My 2nd was some Metal mix that I can’t recall. This was around 1991. My obsession continued to grow, I started buying CDs and digging through my relatives vinyl collections, picking up whatever I could get my hands on. My Dad was into psychedelic music and Jazz, my Grandma was into classical, so I absorbed plenty of that, and continued to soak up as much music as possible, which definitely reflects. Magazines and the internet definitely helped later on.
With the label I realized that there weren’t too many labels releasing more than just one kind of music. I wanted to share diversity with people in such a narrow minded world. Just because you listen to 80’s Hardcore doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy Rap, Techno, Noise, or whatever you find to get into! Pretty much as long as your music isn’t racist, it deserves to be hear somewhere by someone!
Interesting, yeah it boggles my mind how many labels stick to a very formulaic presentation through the artists and genres they work with. Was this a conscious decision or did it happen more naturally?
I would say it started to begin naturally, and over time I really started to zero in on this being a certain code to live by!
You also have a very longstaning recording project, Dental Work, can you talk a little bit about this, it’s philosophy, and how it has evolved over time?
For sure! I got bored with the confinement of my previous project Jehova Wrinkle, which was a quirky Industrial/Trip Hop mutant offspring thing, and wanted to create something with less rules, and something to reflect some of my own internal struggles. I have always loved aggressive music since I discovered it, Death Metal, Horrorcore, Grind, Hardcore, and stuff so I definitely draw inspiration from all of that, Horror movies, etc. – anyway I’m rambling on. I was heavily influenced specifically by Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s “PCP Torpedo” which came with this remix disc that blew my fucking mind. Still does. So yeah I wanted to push the limits making really fast, untraditional, loud, almost Punk but not…You feel me? That’s when I cranked out the first DW release, “Mike Vick Raped By Pit bulls” EP, self released on CD-R via Placenta Recordings, which was my version of a revenge fantasy scenario against Micheal Vick, who was a football player who was involved in dog fighting rings. I am firmly against all forms of animal abuse and cruelty. So yeah it was a total platform to get out all of my aggression, weird, uncomfortable thoughts, anything.
Over time i developed multiple split personalities within the project, becoming some sort of bizarre anti-hero out for all of the underdogs…I ended up adding 2 full time members after a variety of live collaborations and ghost members, and since around 2014 we have been performing and releasing albums as a trio, merging Noise, discomfort, BDSM, Comedy, and a trash attitude with plenty of sarcasm, inside jokes, political unrest, anti-society ethics, and general distaste. We like to leave our fans, family, friends, and haters wondering “what the fuck just happened?” LolZ
Is Dental Work more of a live based performance project or are the recordings more important, less important, or incomparable?
It started with recordings. The first DW EP was released in 2007, I believe there were about 6-7 more releases before the first live set in 2008. Both have been evolution. When I first started doing live shows I was wearing normal clothes during the sets. After a few years performing in the Midwest and east coast, I did my first west coast tour and saw what people in California were doing, so I took all of that in, and decided to craft my own aesthetic, which I have been building upon, manipulating, morphing, and upsetting people with since. Now I even have other people joining me and ordering raincoats from China to collaborate with us…It’s crazy. So yeah I think that you really need both the albums and to catch a few performances to complete the puzzle, to understand some of the humor, inside jokes, sarcasm, and love that is put into it all.
Would you ever allow a Dental Work performance to happen without you for any reason?
Actually, yes. It’s already happened twice. Once around 2012, when I couldn’t make it to one of my shows in Chicago I had my friend Billy Sides perform as Dental Work, he wore a hoodie and bandana and only a few people noticed. The other time was literally last week, I couldn’t make it to one of my shows, ironically because I just had oral surgery…So I asked if Justin and Sean could pull it off without me. They did, and it was fine. The project will die with me though.
Talk to me about the connection between your art and food, because between track titles, cover art, and photographs that my pop up online, it seems to permeate your artistic practice. What role does food play in your practice, and if none talk about some of your favorite foods.
Food is crucial. Food is life. Food is death, and death is important. I love food. I grew up eating food. I’m not vegetarian, but I respect every creature that feeds me. Man has been eating meat since the dawn of time. I am totally against unfair treatment of animals in any way, like fuck Tyson. You would definitely catch me at a Halal butcher shop though. I started working at 14 in restaurants. I did prep cook and line cook for years. I’ve always been into writing my own recipes, and the last 10 or so years I’ve been working on a cookbook of all original recipes with my own photography included. It won’t be available another 5 years I would imagine, but I will be publishing it. I’ve also always had a dream of running my own food truck. I come from a diverse background, I am part Lebanese and learned a ton of middle eastern recipes and skills from my Dad and Aunt…I worked in Mexican restaurants so I have a huge background there, and I grew up in Michigan so I have a ton of BBQ knowledge and a growing obsession for Canadian favorites like Poutine. My favorite foods besides what I just mentioned would be Pizza, Chorizo, Tacos, Shawarma, Indian food (hotter the better), Pakistani cuisine…Coney Island (Detroit or Flint), Gyros, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, even recently got turned onto Portuguese. Fucking A I love food, dude.
Can you talk about any up and coming acts that are inspiring, or new music or art that you’ve heard or seen which has made an impact on you as an artist?
I’m inspired in some way by everything I come in contact with…I am always peeping what cats in Oakland are up to, some great stuff seems to be coming out of Toronto lately, definitely digging a lot of Gorenoise, basically Goregrind but even more liquified…lots of wild mutations always seeping out of Japan, but I can’t name any specific acts.
As far as shout outs, totally. I have so many people I want to thank, but I’m gonna keep it pretty simple for the interview. Definitely number one to my parents, my cats, my girl, the entire Placenta Recordings Family, Ratskin Records, Grindcore Karaoke, Jay Randall, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Patrick Doyle, Trashfuck Records, Morgan Feger, Will Olter, Justin Lee Smith, Sean Barry, Krysti Mathz, Doc Colony, Nice, Clee, Billy Sides, James Lee Jones, Dan Bale, Menacide, Bad Mind, Esham, Jon Pilbeam, Nerfbau, Styrofoam Sanchez, Coral Remains, Tommy “2 Blades” Kittendorf, Bobby Waters, Hex, Project Born, Bonus Beast, Ben Durham, Craniophagus Parasiticus Records, Lexie, Luke, Nirma, Todd, Caleb, Aaron, Vincent Trotto, Watabou, Cock ESP, Evan Glicker, McCarthy’s Pub, Lob, NorCal Noisefest, Caroliner, Denver Noise Fest, WZRD FM, and R.I.P. Heidi Johnson. Dental Work is forever dedicated to YOU, and everyone who ever gave us a chance…R.I.P. Jsun, R.I.P. Uncle Charlie, love and miss y’all.