Winebox Press is an independent tape-only label from England, that houses it’s releases in exquisite wooden packaging, crafted by hand from found objects. M3 contacted the man behind these releases, guitarist Jon Collin, to find out more about running a tape label and why this supposedly obsolete format is still in fine health…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Jon Collin – I’m a guitar player and artist from the Northwest of England. I play solo as well as in the bands Serfs, Whole Voyald Infinite Light and Vampire Blues. I started the tape label project Winebox Press in 2008 (see below).
What inspired you to start the Winebox Press? What is your own musical background?
A few years ago I had some free time and access to a workshop. I’d been playing around previously with non-standard packaging for self-released cassettes and wanted to start a project that incorporated this in a more ‘official’ (i.e. label-esque) capacity. I wanted to play with the idea of a DIY label and the result is a personal project that takes the form of a tape label taking ‘DIY’ in a musical context to a logical conclusion of sorts.
I started playing guitar as a young teenager, about fifteen years ago, and have been playing free music for most of the last decade. I have no formal training and take much inspiration from the blues, the Velvet Underground and Neil Young.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
Always live, but for recorded music, vinyl and cassette. Without wanting to fetishise too much (though I’m not as averse to this as some), I just prefer those two as a listening experience. And tape hiss is one of the most used instruments on Winebox Press releases. Whisper it but I’ve owned two MP3 players in the past (one broken, one lost) and I have no problem with people listening in this way.
Why did you decide to focus the label entirely on tapes?
For a project like this it’s the only viable format as everything else is too fragile to hold up to. That’s the main reason but, aside, I like the fact that it’s an ‘obsolete’ medium, i.e. it’s something that if electronics companies and the music industry had had their way would have died out shortly after the invention of the CD. Vinyl too. Running a tape label is an act of dissent.
Do you think the recent surge in popularity of limited pressings, coloured vinyl, rare tapes etc. is in some way a reaction to the easy access and ready availability of digital files?
Yes, to some extent. But more than that, it seemed like there was a moment early in the last decade when CDRs became accepted as a means of publishing music. That’s more a reaction against the mechanisms of the music industry – the idea that something has to be accepted by a record label and released ‘officially’ – than it is against the digital media itself. Alongside, it felt like there was an explosion of underground tape labels that benefitted from this acceptance. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that this was occurring at a time when MP3 technology was being made widely available.
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
Somewhat. But I don’t think it’s just digital media that’s responsible for this. Ipod shuffle encourages a similar kind of listening experience to watching MTV, for instance. It’s an attractive proposition as listening to an album requires an attention span (I have none sometimes). But I think the idea of an album is ingrained in our culture enough to continue to exist.
Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
The latter of course. Though, again, I don’t think it’s the digital age alone that’s responsible. People have been talking of the death of independent record shops for as long as I’ve been buying records from them, and I’m still buying records from them. I would imagine that a number of factors – global recession, aggressive free markets, as well as the increasing popularity of non-physical formats – make it really hard to run a small record shop at the moment.
What do you personally believe the future of music distribution will look like?
This feels slightly out of my jurisdiction, though I feel sure that small labels, records and cassettes will continue to survive and sustain despite all of the above.
Finally, what does the future hold for Winebox Press?
Sustaining. A few regular releases planned as well as a few *deluxe* ones. There’s to be a ‘proper’ label spin-off too, releasing related material on vinyl and (unlimited) cassette, as well as non-art edition cassette versions of upcoming Winebox Press releases. The first release – a Whole Voyald Infinite Light 7″ – will be available shortly.
For more information about Winebox Press, you can visit their official website.