Heather Perkins Interview (in progress)
Your Dangerous Household Objects was one of the first underground, home taper cassette albums I purchased back in the late 80’s. I’d been home taping for a few years at that point and it really opened my mind and I’m feeling that same thing with your new album. First, if you don’t mind, take us back to the beginning and how you started on your journey to become a famous hometaper.
A long, strange but not entirely insane journey into the world of home-taping.
I was always interested in music and recording. I listened to records for hours as a kid, classical and comedy but mostly rock. All kinds. Radio wasn't quite so genre-bound in ye olden times, and that inspired me. You could hear James Brown, BB King and Sly & The Family Stone along with The Beatles, Iron Butterfly and Jefferson Airplane. I lifted records from my brother, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, and Grand Funk Railroad. My Mom also had cool records, the cabinet under the hi-fi had Tom Lehrer and the Smothers Brothers alongside Beethoven and Debussy. Later on I discovered Pink Floyd and Yes. Bless the band Heart and Joni Mitchell for showing me gals could do it too, and bless Neil Young for showing me that you could make a song with only a few chords, and that a guitar solo could be a single note instead of a million wanky ones. I did childhood piano and clarinet lessons, sang a little in choir, and got my first guitar at age 12.
I lugged a battery-powered Panasonic cassette deck everywhere in my tweens and teens. At first I used it to record songs off the radio, but later I used it to record weird sounds I liked, nature sounds and eventually my own tentative teenage music. I still have some of those old tapes. I'm almost scared to listen back, But it must be done!
During high-school I continued my musical journey. A friend showed me how to do sound-on-sound on a Sony 2-track reel to reel. I spent hours trying out keyboards at a local music shop until they threatened to banish me, and I bought my first synthesizer, a Mini Korg 700s. We would go to the park with a battery powered Gnome synth that my friend built, and blast it through a Pignose amp, annoying I'm sure the people that had gone there for peace and quiet. My friend Ole recently told me that we also did an impromptu jam after-hours at the elephant house at the Portland Zoo, which honestly I don't recall. Sorry, elephants!
More of the same through college at Evergreen in Olympia. I got to play with an Arp 2600 as long as I wanted. I was baffled by the space-ship sized Buchla modular (and I remain baffled by modular synthesis to this day.) But it sure was impressive to look at! I did some trippy multi-media shows with my friends. I was a DJ on KAOS FM, which is where I discovered R. Stevie Moore. He is the first person I'd heard of who made their own record, without using a commercial studio or dealing with a record label. The record was a 12" EP of "Dance Man/Manufacturers," and I became obsessed. I played that record on the radio a LOT. (I also played a lot of commercial stuff, like Yes and Neil Young. I don't think I had yet fully grasped the concept of public, non-commercial radio. But I had a blast)
The notion of recording at home was so attractive to me. I already had a music room in my college apartment with all kinds of instruments in it. Near the end of my time at Evergreen a friend leant me a TEAC 4 track reel to reel, and I was in heaven. Mostly recorded stupid stuff, but I had a blast.
After college and a year out in the desert I ended up in Eugene, OR in 1980. I started a string of manual labor jobs - shingle mill assembly line, paper delivery, apartment cleaning, chimney sweep, landscaper, bar DJ, stagehand, and dozens of restaurant jobs, usually multiple jobs at once. I got my DJ gig and was asked to join my first band the same year, 1984. The band was a rock/funk/pop band called Transister, and yeah, there were mullets and spandex. Hey, it was the 80s.
By then I was living by myself in a rented house on 38th and Hilyard. In 1986, after a gig in Portland, the band told me that I was out. Just like that. Although looking back I saw it was a great thing for me, at the time I was devastated. That's when I decided to take out a loan and set up my own home studio and make music by myself - be my own band. I already had a guitar and a Pro-One analog synth. I took out maybe $1,500 - a huge amount at the time - and got a Tascam 246 Portastudio, a couple of cheap Peavey mics, and a Yamaha RX15 drum machine. I quickly also bought a Casio SK-1 - the first sampler! And I either had or was about to buy my pre-scarred 1974 blonde Fender Stratocaster and my beautiful Guild acoustic. I still have the Tascam, and I still have the guitars.
So I was off and running. I named my studio "Land-O-Netws!" a riff, for some reason, on Land-O-Lakes butter. Newts, because I had a huge tank full of newts, creatures I have always felt a deep affinity with. I didn't learn until decades later that the skin of these newts contains deadly poison. Two of those newts, Fluffy and Snowball, lived into the 21st Century, I reckon they were each at least 36 years old when they finally passed, within a few weeks of each other. Who knew?
"Dangerous Household Objects" was one of the first two cassettes I made, it was sort of a double-release with "Burning Through," both made in 1987. The former was more experimental music, the latter song-based. They came out very quickly. I loved recording at home. The act of recording was as much music to me as the actual music. Two of my old bandmates played on a song on "Burning Through," no hard feelings! Then I had two tape albums, and I thought "Huh. What do I do with these now?"
I was in the music store when I picked up OP Magazine. I don't remember if I was guided to it by the staff, or found it on my own. I flipped to the back and saw the ads for hometapers. I saw that I could send a cassette to someone, and get a cassette back. This was a huge revelation for me, and opened up the entire world. Literally. I was incredibly fortunate to do my very first trade with the legendary Don Campau , I sent him my two cassettes in trade for his amazing double album " Pinata Party ." His letter was so gracious, and he was incredibly helpful in my musical journey, and still is to this day.
And that's how the whole thing started for me.