De Nederlandse Cassette Catalogus
Book excerpts via Frans de Waard
ED NOTE: Author Frans de Waard recently collected four volumes of his 'Dutch Cassette Catalog,' chronicling his research into this fascinating indie cassette culture from 1983 to 1987. The new book includes not only his extensive listings but also flyers (which are both historic and beautifully designed), articles and even (as you'll see below) some hate mail.
The book is now available through Korm Plastics at http://kormplastics.nl/ncc.html
As I'm not inclined to write the same thing twice, I'm going to plunder my earlier book This Is Supposed To Be A Record Label, in which I revisit my time at Staalplaat, an independent record label from Amsterdam. The book begins with me recounting how I became involved in the alternative music business by running a cassette label from my bedroom before enlisting in Staalplaat. And how, just before I started doing that, I published a small booklet, De Nederlandse Cassette Catalogus. Let me start by repeating the anecdote about how I got into the world of independent cassette labels from This Is Supposed...
I loved reading about music, and if a magazine had something extra - especially if it was a free flexi disc - I couldn't resist. Little wonder then that I bought a punk fanzine from Rotterdam called Raket, published by the legendary band The Rondos, with a flexi disc by The Ex. It could have been in this issue that I read something about people releasing cassettes. As a fifteen-year-old it was easy to imagine what the implications of that could be: cassettes were easy to copy, hence no costs to start with, and no costs equals anything goes. [...] The first issue of Vinyl also had an article about people releasing their own cassettes, and a review of From Brussels With Love, the first cassette-only release I bought. I didn't agree with the review (it was way too negative), but it opened my eyes to a surprisingly extensive subculture of independent cassette releases. The Squats for instance, still high-school compadres of mine, released one, which was the second independently released cassette I purchased. However, it was the third tape I bought that changed everything for me. It's called Nightsoil 5 Futurists, and was released by the label Finger In The Dike from Breukelen, the Netherlands. It received a rave review (in Vinyl, of course) and the label managed to sell about 500 copies. The music is all-out experimental, from heavy noise to bits resembling pop music. I was thrilled. This is what I wanted - to be an experimental musician. I'd flunked piano lessons, and then wanted to learn to play the guitar, but not the acoustic 5 box my parents bought me. It was with this beast that I ended up recording my first ever 'experimental' piece of music. I banged the strings with a handheld blender and recorded it at high speed on my Dad's reel-to-reel, then played it back at the slowest speed. "Its three times longer," I realised, "this experimental music is easy to make!" I recorded it to a cassette and posted it to Willem de Ridder, a former Fluxus artist, who had a unique radio programme. His premise was very simple: "You send me a tape, and without pre-auditioning it I will play five minutes on the radio" - a bit like 'So You Wanna Be a Popstar' nowadays, but the radio version. My piece was broadcasted, but it sounded like a bunch of hiss over the radio. Nevertheless, hearing my music on the airwaves spurred me to create my next composition: sounds were wrung from an egg-timer and the same blender, with me banging away on a typewriter - not rhythmically, you understand, because even back then I wasn't that good at keeping time. I posted this new composition to Finger In The Dike, who released it on Pianoman Is Dead, a compilation of similar experiments and very lo-fi acoustic punk. It didn't sell in similar quantities as the Nightsoil 5 Futurists cassette, but by then there were lots of cassette releases around and this one didn't get a glowing review.And that's where the tale of De Nederlandse Cassette Catalogus ended, at least in that book. I started my own label, Korm Plastics, and I gave the Catalogus a proper catalogue number: 1. However, that was not the end of De Nederlandse Cassette Catalogus, as I published three more editions. These are collected in this book.
I wasn't particularly blown away by my two experiments, which sounded a bit dull compared to what I had heard from others. A mere two years after I started, I decided to stop making music. This was in 1982. But my interest in weird music on cassette continued to grow and I began collecting whatever information I could about this scene. At the end of 1983 I decided to publish a small booklet (in Dutch), De Nederlandse Cassette Catalogus ('A Catalogue of Cassette Releases in the Netherlands'), which listed all the releases by Dutch labels. It was a bit like Discogs, but less comprehensive. It brought me a lot of publicity. At the young age of 18, I was suddenly being interviewed on the radio and for magazines. I had blossomed into an authority on the subject - at least in general perception.
If you find a niche market - cassettes, for example - and have an overall view of it, people assume you're an expert. I never considered myself a real expert on the subject of independent cassette releases, even if others did. The highly commercial Veronica radio station invited me for their night programme, Countdown Cafe, but cancelled at the last minute: "You've probably never heard of the pop star Tom Robinson, who has a big hit with "Listen To The Radio," and because he's in the country, we'd like to move your interview to another time."
"I doubt there'll be another time."
One day someone called from the 'alternative' VPRO broadcasting organisation, but I didn't catch his name. I thought it was another radio programme and because at the time none of the radio stations reimbursed any costs, I suggested they talk to someone from that specialised store closer to them in Amsterdam called Staalplaat. He noted this down and just before we said goodbye, I asked him which programme he represented. "Jonge Helden of VPRO television," he replied. I'd blown my chance to be on TV. A few weeks later Geert-Jan Hobijn and Roland Spekle were invited to appear on the idiot box.
Listings from the 1983 edition of De Nederlandse Cassette Catalogus
Advert for Ding Dong Records, an important Dutch label
Some of their releases included early albums by the Legendary Pink Dots
the beautiful catalog of Kubus records
Art work/ad via Drielulk/Zaandam
Advert for the tape label of Dutch powerhouse company Staalplaat, which de Waard once helped to run
They put out albums by Alvin Lucier, Charlemagne Palestine, Laibach, Lustmord, Muslimgauze, Nocturnal Emissions, Zoviet France and many others
Letter from musician/writer Jan van den Einden, who also ran the WW Tapes label, based out of Helmond, in the Southern part of the Netherlands:
we, of the Lumpen Proletariat, really do not see any reason to respond to your whining and ask you, no, demand that you leave us alone in the future, so that we can fall asleep again in peace and quiet and muddle along without being startled by some sort of freaked-out maniac nagging us for information about cassettes that we - the Lumpen Proletariat - have tossed onto the unsuspecting market. what is it that drives you to do these things?
our purged executive K. (merely coincidental) once told us about you and we didn't like what we heard at all; we don't want to be classified or ranked, and certainly not without our knowledge! and certainly not by retards from nijmegen who are unworthy of existing on this earth. a geezer like you should do the very lowest work in society; our hatred and disdain for you will certainly, in time, turn out to be a recommendation!
you, as a disconsolate hunk of meat, need not count on our cooperation at all because we:
a) regard this whole catalogue as (your) personal pursuit of profit,
b) are displeased by these catalogued advertising activities,
c) our President, who lives in nijmegen, knows that we don't like your mug,
d) do not want to support such activities because we don't see any point to them,
e) would like to see you, as a human being, transported to the frozen villages of Siberia.
don't bother us anymore, whippersnapper, or else we'll come with a truckload of strapping geezers to strangle you, and we don't give a damn whether or not we are included in your mess; on the contrary, removing our address is strongly recommended because we abhor publicity, almost as much as we abhor you!
so, blue willy,
no salute and a kick in the bollocks!,
-the Lumpen Proletariat's messenger boy-
Also see: Our interview with Frans de Waard
Frans de Waard's article on Enno Velthuys
Thomas Bey William Bailey's article on Dutch cassette culture
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