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HomeMusicGrateful Lifeless Tape Collector Mark A. Rodriguez Talks Tape Buying and selling,...

Grateful Lifeless Tape Collector Mark A. Rodriguez Talks Tape Buying and selling, Conceptual Artwork, and His New Ebook


picture credit score: Gillian Garcia

There is a corny previous enviornment rock trick we have all seen, whereby a performer throws purple meat to their followers by informing them that they are “an important members of the band”, or some such. Relating to the Grateful Lifeless and their offshoots, although, there may very well be one thing to it.

Entire cottage industries have grown across the Lifeless over time, all created as a present of devotion, a method to unfold the Good Phrase. These artisanal hordes descend upon the open-air “Shakedown Avenue” markets that pop up in each Lifeless-related present’s car parking zone to ply their wares: streetwear referencing the band, enamel pins, and “blotter artwork” (prints made on the perforated sheets of paper usually used to distribute LSD), amongst a fantastic many different issues, are provided on the market or commerce. These people, one may argue, are the true caretakers of the band’s standing within the tradition at giant.

Most significantly, albeit much less profitable by design: over five-plus many years, the band’s legacy has been largely secured by the numerous hours of bootleg reside tapes traded amongst rabid followers. This apply, lengthy tolerated by the band so long as the tapers weren’t cashing in on it, has perpetuated a well-liked notion that the Lifeless’s exploratory reside recordings are of larger worth to listeners than any of their studio information. Many more moderen followers might forego the analog route in favor of streams on archive.org or the numerous apps devoted to jam band reside recordings, however the central impulse is kind of the identical.

Round 2010, conceptual artist and sculptor Mark A. Rodriguez, himself a teenage Deadhead, began to build up bootleg tapes once more, each to revisit his youthful obsession and to assemble supplies for an intensive artwork venture. This resulted first in documenting the tapes’ fan-designed tape covers (“j-cards”, in cassette tradition parlance) as Lifeless Tape Collector on Tumblr and Instagram; later, the tapes have been compiled in a collection of assemblage sculptures, made up of large cassette racks containing hundreds of the tapes. Stated tapes ranged from pristine grasp copies to dubs in growing levels of degradation (many dubbed by Rodriguez himself), thus the titles of the items within the collection: 1st Gen, 2nd Gen, and so forth.

Dead Tape Collector Instagram

Now, Rodriguez’s ongoing venture has yielded a espresso desk e-book, After All is Stated and Completed: Taping the Grateful Lifeless, 1965-1995, out September 20 from Anthology Editions. Past compiling pictures from lots of of customized j-cards, Rodriguez affords up a wealth of taper-centric data: up to date interviews with the likes of Dave Lemieux (the band’s audiovisual archivist and legacy supervisor) and David Gans (cohost of Tales from the Golden Highway on Sirius XM’s Grateful Lifeless channel), classic interviews with Jerry Garcia and Lifeless tape archivist/uber-collector Dick Latvala (of “Dick’s Picks” fame), even early assembly notes documenting the band and their group discussing the taper phenomenon. Garcia’s daughter Trixie even provides a foreword, giving Rodriguez’s venture an implicit seal of band approval.

We sat down with Rodriguez just lately through video chat to debate the e-book, his historical past with the band and with taper tradition, and the way fellow Deadheads have reacted to the conceptual artwork side of his ongoing venture. Right here, edited for size and readability, is that dialog.


AllMusic: How did you first come to the Grateful Lifeless? Have been you drawn extra to the iconography, the music, or one thing else?

Mark A. Rodriguez: I used to be drawn to the Lifeless as a tweenster, and in response to my sometimes-faulty reminiscence, I believe it was extra for the music. There was a little bit of mystique with their visible references, however I haven’t got that frequent story of getting an older sibling exhibiting me the “steal your face” factor and getting me into what they have been into.

I grew up within the midwest, which is the world of traditional rock, and being the curious particular person I used to be, I spent a whole lot of time trying by means of my mother’s information. She by no means collected Grateful Lifeless information, however she did go to see a bunch of bands on the Fillmore East and went to Woodstock. She had a narrative of speaking to Phil Lesh at some present in Buffalo, however Jerry was asleep or one thing… she had a bunch of tales like that. So, after I was at an age to buy music, I bought curious and bought the What’s a Lengthy Unusual Journey It is Been set.

What a Long Strange Trip CDSo, I sort of bought into them alone, with no information. Bob Weir’s voice was very bizarre to me at first, however I additionally discovered it compelling; Jerry’s voice additionally appeared odd to me! There have been simply odd pressure factors, I might by no means heard singers like this. There was a whole lot of backwards and forwards on whether or not I favored it or not on that stage, however I nonetheless felt like I may get into the music.

I used to be actually younger within the early Nineties, so I could not actually go to live shows. As an alternative, I did a whole lot of analysis: I used to be at all times on the library, taking a look at books on the historical past of music. My aunt gave me a e-book about “favourite albums of your favourite musicians”, and Phil Lesh contributed a bit about John Coltrane’s Africa/Brass. It was form of a long-term analysis venture that expanded into all types of music, and digging in greenback bins at report shops.

AllMusic: Proper, catch as catch can. I relate to that very strongly. I spent years crouched on my knees within the greenback bins at report shops.

Rodriguez: You are youthful, you do not have as a lot disposable revenue. That impacted how I bought into the Lifeless, too, although, as a result of it was such a gradual accumulation of knowledge.

Within the web 1.0 period, although, all these items got here alongside that sped up the method: message boards, Lifeless.internet, all that stuff. From there, I bought into tape buying and selling.

AllMusic: Deadheads have been very early adapters to net 1.0, so far as utilizing it for dialogue and tape buying and selling, so it appears applicable that that might pull you in deeper! After All is Stated and Completed is a fairly deep dive into that bootleg tape tradition surrounding the Lifeless, which includes a whole lot of handmade, distinctive artwork. As an artist your self, did which have something to do together with your moving into the tape buying and selling aspect of the band?

Rodriguez: Not after I first bought into it as a child, no. The tape buying and selling was simply an fascinating factor to participate in, and I wasn’t actually associating it with artwork.

If we’re speaking about starting the venture that result in creating the e-book, although, the reply is rather less clear. I used to be trying extra at learn how to use these objects as a fabric. The tapes had seemingly misplaced their efficiency at that second in time, round 2010. It’d been 15 years since Jerry died, and whereas there have been totally different iterations of the band and the entire jam band scene was going ahead, it was thought of sort of laughable by lots of people at the moment, like third wave ska.

AllMusic: Yeah. Being in a jam band in 2010 wasn’t going to make you the cool particular person on the social gathering.

Fare Thee WellRodriguez: No. The members of the Lifeless have been nonetheless working, too, however had sort of petered out for just a few years between the early 2000s and their fiftieth anniversary exhibits. So, these tapes did not have as a lot perceived cultural worth as they as soon as had, or as they might sooner or later, however I might determined to start out amassing them once more.

It turned on the market have been a lot of individuals on Craigslist all throughout the nation with 200 bootleg tapes or no matter, they usually simply needed them to go to a superb dwelling. I might contact them and clarify what I used to be doing, and over time of amassing I might discover all these fascinating new elements to use as an artist.

AllMusic: What questions do you suppose you have been making an attempt to reply with the Gen collection? What was the motivation?

Rodriguez: It took me 4-5 years to determine I used to be going to start out one thing, as a result of there’s an inherent battle in there: how far do you go together with the gathering? Do you get to the place it is a full assortment? At that cut-off date, that wasn’t actually attainable, and even now there are nonetheless round 160 tapes lacking. I am on yr 12 within the amassing a part of the venture; I may conceive of it taking one other 12-15 years to chip away at that listing. So, when would I begin the precise artwork half?

There was additionally a query of how I might match this into my bigger artwork apply. There are a whole lot of themes of repetition in my work, and replicating Americana in a means the place my hand is ideally not that noticeable. That is how I developed this technique of dubbing from one assortment to the following.

The general idea, although, was creating a group and performing the sisyphean job of amassing each obtainable Grateful Lifeless present on tape. Inside that, there is a simultaneous effort on my half to degrade the data because it’s being generated as a group. That is form of the principle crux of the venture. I simply wanted to determine learn how to finest current it to an viewers visually.

From there, there have been a whole lot of different questions: what concerning the artwork on the tapes? How do you current that? I in the end selected to duplicate Napa Valley cassette cabinets and simply make a extremely massive model of that, and show all the pieces in a deceptively mundane sort of means.

So, there have been a whole lot of totally different questions happening. Lots to meander over!

AllMusic: That appears applicable for a band as famously meandering because the Grateful Lifeless.

Rodriguez: Sure, nevertheless it in the end wraps up right into a neat package deal. Hopefully, I make it look simpler than it was, however there have been years of thought going into it earlier than I even began the sculpture a part of the venture.

Even with the e-book, there have been so many informational paths to decide on. The Grateful Lifeless has so many various connections to totally different varieties of individuals all around the world; a lot of subject material can discover its means into it. I knew that folks would count on a whole lot of tape covers, and there’s a lot of that, however what was most fascinating to me was to carry out much more analysis, and to get to speak to individuals I have been studying about for years and ask them about trivialities that they did not actually bear in mind.

AllMusic: As you’ve got sort of implied, a whole lot of Deadheads who had actually prized their tape collections at one cut-off date began surrendering them as CD-Rs, archive.org, and the like turned obtainable. Is there one thing that you simply’re particularly drawn to about cassette tapes, past their utility in your work?

Rodriguez: I have been grappling with that internally. Wanting again on the venture at this level, I’m wondering if it is partly me contending with my highschool self. I do not know fairly but: there might be a consolation in revisiting that point in my life, after I was tape buying and selling as a youngster. I am unsure what I am accessing there, nevertheless it was extra of a carefree time for me.

Once I began a Tumblr web page in 2010 to get the phrase out concerning the amassing finish of the venture, it strengthened my pleasure about it, as a result of I used to be speaking with Heads once more. It was gratifying to have the ability to method the topic as an grownup, reasonably than as a spaced-out child.

So far as how I really feel about tapes now: they’re an superior medium. Among the tapes in my assortment are from the Nineteen Seventies and nonetheless sound superb, after most likely going by means of all types of climate and storage environments. The know-how itself may be very sturdy, however its continued existence depends on this small group of individuals believing within the know-how.

So, there’s this private narrative I’ve with tapes, however there’s additionally this appreciation I’ve as somebody working with the medium. Typical artwork stuff: “as I used to be working with the medium, I got here to respect it because it subsumed me and took over my life”.

AllMusic: Between the truth that the Gen items are made up of recordings of 1 band making their artwork, and the objects themselves are graced by designs by fans-turned-folk-artists, have you ever caught any flak for being appropriative in your work? If that’s the case, what would you say to such a cost?

Rodriguez: I’ve gotten extra flak for going in opposition to the unstated settlement amongst Deadheads of not promoting the tapes. I knew very effectively that I might be entering into that, although.

Within the artwork world I occupy, that is not likely an accusation that goes round at this level. You begin with Duchamp and transfer on by means of Warhol, Koons, Kaws… it is simply not likely an argument. Once I first began this venture, throughout the artwork world it was virtually laughable that I used to be working with the subject material of the Grateful Lifeless, however that modified with the resurgence of acknowledgment of the Lifeless inside popular culture. So, what had been a joke to some inside that group become them making an attempt to narrate to me by speaking concerning the Grateful Lifeless, however with out their figuring out lots of the intricacies of the historical past across the band and the subcultures round that.

In the meantime, after beginning the Tumblr, I used to be additionally functioning throughout the Lifeless group as a fellow fanatic. I used to be having extra real conversations across the band in that context, the type I might been used to as a Deadhead teenager, however that group did not actually know concerning the artwork side of what I used to be doing.

What ended up occurring that was controversial is that this: I confirmed two of the Gen items, two tape racks, on the Frieze Artwork Truthful in LA in 2019. I actually needed to try this, with a purpose to present what was happening with the venture conceptually. I really needed it to be three, the purpose being that the viewer would see three tape racks, perceive that they are separate entities, then begin to query why there are three very related issues hanging at this prestigious artwork truthful having to do with giant portions of Grateful Lifeless tapes.

Mark A Rodriguez Gen Project

The venture began to get a whole lot of press, which was superb, but additionally created some points for me, as a result of some Deadheads began questioning my motives. They thought that I used to be discounting the historical past of these items and being untrue to the unstated settlement to not promote them, they usually did not actually take the conceptual or sculptural ingredient into consideration. They simply noticed it as utilizing sacred objects for my very own egocentric functions.

AllMusic: All artwork is product of sacred objects, although, proper? Should you made artwork out of a bit of wooden, to any individual that tree was a sacred object.

Rodriguez: Heady! I prefer it. However yeah, it simply will depend on the viewers and what line of communication they’re utilizing. On this case, I used to be getting flamed on Instagram as a result of the worth of one of many items was revealed on some weblog, so it was sort of this traditional cliche of “Hey maaan, the music is sacred and free! It will possibly’t be owned by anybody!”.

I am fairly jaded on that stage, although: the Grateful Lifeless is a really business car, and has been for a very long time. They nonetheless do good issues, and donate to righteous causes and people and the like, however there is a clear business side.

AllMusic: They’re an especially standard band that performs stadiums, and who had a line of pricey neckties within the Nineteen Eighties. It isn’t an anarchist commune.

Rodriguez: Proper. So, it was fascinating, however aggravating. Being public with it was not my favourite factor, regardless that it was a pinnacle I needed to achieve with the venture. It is gotten higher, however hopefully it does not occur once more with the e-book. Hopefully, individuals admire my making an attempt to make one thing that is actually heady and informative.

AllMusic: I’ve bought yet another, extraordinarily essential query: favourite “Darkish Star”?

Rodriguez: Oof. For me, I’ve by no means taken the path of “I will hearken to EVERY “Darkish Star”, regardless that I can now. I will hear moments I actually love after I’m dubbing, however I am not organized sufficient to do any of it from begin to end. Like, the John Oswald album Greyfolded (an album during which the “plunderphonics” artist took hours of reside recordings of ‘Darkish Star’ and edited them into an “final” model) is a tremendous venture in that regard… I solely hope the e-book might be one thing that bizarre and fascinating!

That mentioned, “Truckin'” on 11/6/77 at Broome County Veterans Memorial Area in Binghamton, NY, which was launched as Dave’s Picks Vol. 25 a pair years in the past, is especially superb. The tape that I heard it on, although, was this nice viewers recording: the viewers goes apeshit, the crescendos are so intense and elongated… they’re clearly having a tremendous time enjoying that evening. Moments like that reinvigorate my religion in tapers capturing magic to be handed right down to youthful individuals.


Mark A. Rodriguez’s espresso desk e-book, After All is Stated and Completed: Taping the Grateful Lifeless, 1965-1995, can be obtainable on September 20 from Anthology Editions.



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