Cascade Records Interview
Cascade is a record label formed and mostly operated by Nathan Lelandais-Miller, a musician from Michigan who has been in a number of historically important and influential bands. Over the years, the label has been active under various names; “Cascade Recordings”, “Cascade Records”, “C.A.S.S. Records” (Cascade Audio Sound Spectrum), “C.A.S.S. Works” and most recently as the “Cascade Collective”. Additionally, Nathan has recently been one fifth of the label “Caveman in a Spaceship”. This interview will hopefully serve as a documentation of so many amazing bands he and the label has managed to help over the years.
According to Nathan, this is the label’s full discography, in chronological order, even though some of the releases bare slightly messed up and overlapping catalog numbers.
- Cascade Recordings C1 Chelsea’s Gone Under (CD, Summer 1995, with Conquer the World Records) 1200 pressed
- Cascade Records 1º Boy Sets Fire / Jazz Man’s Needle split (12″, 1996, with Conquer the World Records) 1000 pressed
- Cascade Records 2º Empathy – I Need (CD/12″, 1996, with Conquer the World Records) 2000 CDs, 1200 LPs
- Cascade Records 3º Khai – Demo (tape, 1996) 50 pressed
- Cascade Records 4º Triptych – Demo (tape, 1996) approximately 45 pressed
- Cascade Records C5º Chelsea’s Gone Under / 7000 Dying Rats split (7″, 1996, with Alley Sweeper Records) 1000 pressed
- Cascade Records 6º Thoughts of Ionesco 7″ (1996) 1000 pressed
- C.A.S.S. Records 006º V/A – Black Sabbath Volume Detroit compilation (tape, 1998) about 120 pressed
- C.A.S.S. Records 007º Mainspring – August 23 1994 – April 5 1996 Discography (CD, 1998) 25 pre-edition, 1300 final pressed
- C.A.S.S. Works 8º Phillip Rizzi – Patch (An Open Letter) (book, August 1998) 200 pressed
- C.A.S.S. Works 8.5º Sean Madigan Hoen – While Drinking Alone (magazine, 1998) 500 pressed
- C.A.S.S. Works #9 Thoughts of Ionesco – Abnormalities (CD, March 2000) 1000 pressed
- C.A.S.S. Works #10 Leaving Rouge – Demonstrations (CD, 2001) 40 pressed
-Were you born in Royal Oak, Michigan? Do you still live in Michigan today?
I was born and raised in Royal Oak, which is located 2 miles north of Detroit, Michigan. I’ve been able to travel all over the country and world extensively but still find myself here in Royal Oak. I feel like my life is similar to my favorite movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It’s the story of a man who lives in a small town and throughout his life he tries to move. Every time, he gets really close but something keeps holding him back, taking care of his family and friends. As his small-town grows to become a pseudo-mecca, he watches his friends, siblings and other family members move on.
-What was your first show ever? What was your first introduction to hardcore and then to emo?
The first show that I ever attended was at a club called Todd’s in 1992, an infamous punk rock hard-core venue, which no longer exists today. I recall that I had just received my driver’s license and had purchased my first car. Mike Derrick, Graham Pawluk and I went to the concert to see the bands Stand Down, Cold as Life, Pitbull and Gallows Tree (which later changed their name to Current). That show changed me forever, it changed my life! That was my introduction to hard-core/punk.
-Let’s talk a little bit about your musical career. Can you list all the bands you’ve been in, played live with and recorded with over the years and roughly the years you spent in each? I’ve compiled: False Pride, Bind, Empathy, Chelsea’s Gone Under, Manetheren, Building, Triptych, Thoughts of Ionesco, Hot Carl and the Cleveland Steamers, The Black Jesus, Whitey, Toronto, Leaving Rouge, War Pigs, One Another, Power Tree of 1832, The Holy Fire, Shadiamond Le Freedom, The Hotwalls, Maggot Tongue, Knife, Kit Oh Nein!, Warhorses and Her Dark Host.
I have played with and been involved with many musical projects. False Pride was the band that I had throughout high school (1989-1992). We played high school talent shows and garage parties. Our first real show we ever played was at Paychecks Lounge in 1991 and actually Graham and Mike (of Empathy, Chelsea’s Gone Under, etc.) opened the show with their first band, Burning Refusal. After that show, a musical bond was formed! Graham Pawluk, Kevin Roberts “Hindu Kush” (of The Meatmen) and I started a group called Bind. Graham sang and played drums, Kevin was on guitar and I played bass (1992).
Within a year we recruited Jay Palumbo, who at the time was the guitar player/vocalist of Provisional, to join us as a vocalist and Empathy was born (1993-1995). Soon after, we added Mike Derrick as a second guitarist and put out our first 7-inch. Shortly following the release of the 7-inch, Kevin quit and then we added Drew Cramer, which brought us to a whole new level! We were the Grounds Coffeehouse house band. Grounds Coffeehouse (located within the campus at the University of Detroit) was the early to late 90′s punk rock, hard-core, indie rock, ska, underground music haven run by Eric Ziembowicz (Element Records/Refuge Skate Shop). It was one of those venues where we went to every show to support our fellow musicians no matter who was playing. Empathy was able to tour the East Coast with bands such as Snapcase, Kerosene 454, 108 Holy Name, Shoulder, Endpoint, Falling Forward, among others. We went at it, without abandon. All of the gentlemen in Empathy were my chosen family and are still to this day!
During Empathy, as an experimental side project I played drums/percussion in Chelsea’s Gone Under (1993-1996). The band was essentially the same members of Empathy however we exchanged instruments and improvised our music being in the moment! None of the parts were ever thought out.
Also during this time, I was in a short-lived project called Manetheren. Which consisted of myself on bass, Mike Derrick on guitar, Mike Warden (Conquer the World Records) on vocals and guitar along with a fellow named Cliff Magreta on drums. Three brief days. Day one: We practiced and wrote a handful of tunes. Day two: We went to the studio to record and mix all of the songs. Day three: We opened up for Lifetime at “The Ham-House” where we played a basement show, in Hamtramck.
As the light started to dim on Empathy, everyone parted ways. Jay moved to Louisville, Kentucky to form Elliott and play in the band By the Grace of God. Graham, Mike and Drew embraced their side project, Khai. One day lost, alone and band-less I was record shopping at The Beat Hotel in Berkley, Michigan. There, I met a very intense young man who lit the room on fire just with his looks. This young man is known as Brian Repa, who at that the time was 16 years old. Right off the bat, I knew there was something peculiar about Brian. It was very hard for me to stop myself from just embracing him. We found that we had a heavy common interest in music; we exchanged numbers, we started practicing and creating music. I thoroughly enjoyed the synergy that we had together. I had never met a man who loves dogs more than I do, I really respected that. We decided to put up ads at local record shops looking for fellow musicians to join us.
Through many trials of guitar players and saxophonists, we discovered Sean Hoen. We were into his guitar playing and his tone. He was the classiest of musicians. His sound was so heavy, it sounded like two guitar players playing at once. We no longer needed to look for a second guitar player. We weren’t able to find a vocalist that would fit our sound nor our personalities. We decided to remain a three-piece with Sean taking over vocal duties. Repa who had a brutal throat was able to enhance Sean’s ability on vocals. For the first year Sean never used a PA or microphone for that matter, he just screamed into a microphone stand! We practiced five days a week, Monday through Friday, 3:30 PM sharp to 6PM. We called ourselves “Triptych” and within months, a demo was recorded. Shortly after that, we changed the name of the band to “Thoughts of Ionesco” (1996-1999). I loved those guys; we were all from completely different walks of life and the only thing in common we had was that none of us were afraid to die. We had no fear, all we cared about was our music and being the best musicians we could be. Similar to old rock bands from the 70s like Black Sabbath or even Metallica, seeing pictures of them makes you think that that they just hung out all of the time and drove around town drinking beers listening to music, always together like a gang or mob – that’s what we tried to be.
Brian was in and out of the band due to personal reasons, we had two replacements in between his coming and going. The first replacement was Derek Grant (Suicide Machines, Face-To-Face, The Vandals, Good Charlotte, Gyga, and The Alkaline Trio among others) and performed with us on the “Skin Historic” record. The second replacement was Brett Fratangelo (Radio Holiday and Dead Season). Brian returned one last time and eventually followed his dream to move to Japan which ultimately ended Thoughts of Ionesco.
In late 1999 near the end of Thoughts of Ionesco, I started a band with Scott Stimac with the provisional band name – Hot Carl and the Cleveland Steamers. The band was comprised of Scott on guitar (Wallside, Radio Holiday, Bang Bang), Eric Blanchard (Knife, NEMA, Temple of the Void) on guitar, Rob “The Gun” McKenzie on drums, Jason Morton aka “The Gimp” on throat and I played bass. We recorded the instrumental portion of five songs at Woodshed Studio, the vocals were supposed to be completed at a later date. Unfortunately, Eric was MIA for the recording session and Jason was not able to record the vocals. Giving credit where credit is due, both Eric and Jason contributed to the songwriting and the spirit of the band.
Years later, I found the recordings and was hoping to complete the session. Essentially, Jason declined recording the vocals. At this time I recruited Brian Repa for vocal duties who was stoked about our sound. To give the project a more serious vibe, Brian and I gave the band an official name – The Black Jesus. A local record label had interest in a split release with Cascade. This project still sits on my shelf, unfinished, to this day. Sadly, the only thing that was completed was the band name.
In 1999, I started playing with my then roommate Matt Valade “Fox” of 57′ Waltz. We started a quirky and noisy indie rock project called Whitey. While playing with Whitey, I started another music venture called “Toronto” with Graham, Mike and Drew of Chelsea’s Gone Under. Toronto was able to record and create more improv music with Mike Hostettler (guitarist of Whitey) who had a music studio in the attic at his residence in Hamtramck.
From 2000-2006, I was in a house band that consisted of some of my roommates (Steven Nicolich aka Baba Ganoush on bass & vocals, Travis Reiff on guitar & vocals, and I played drums). The group was called The Power Tree of 1832 which was named after our humble bachelor pad. We were primarily a cover band with a basement-rock tone mainly performing at block parties with the shittiest music gear possible. We were the first official original block party rock band. Steve and Travis were more than roommates or bandmates, they became brothers of mine. The band’s motto was “Life is just one big barbecue”.
I reunited with Sean to start another musical project and it was called Leaving Rouge (2000- 2002). I played on the first two demos and the first release. Leaving Rouge had a rotating door of members. I moved on and joined a Black Sabbath cover band called “War Pigs”. The singer could sing like Ozzy, we had the guitar player of the band Mog Stunt Team and Timmy Mycek (drummer from Cold as Life). Timmy and I started a fresh project called One Another (what a horrible name!) from 2002-2003. Ryan Murphy did vocals and guitar, Tim Toohey was on guitar, Adam Russell on lead vocals, Timmy Mycek was on drums and I played bass. Sadly the band was short lived due to drug addiction.
While I was in One Another, I was asked to join Sean in a new musical project with Dan Skiver and a fresh guy on the scene, Nick Marko. I was floored with Nick’s performance, he was an animal by nature on the kit. If Alexander the Great played drums, this is what it would of sounded like! He and I created a “bombastic” rhythm section. Dan was able to make massive and purely beautiful sounds from his guitar despite his timid being. Our sound was sexual, brutal, and motivational. The four of us formed “The Holy Fire” (2003-2007). There was always a rotating fourth member for a second guitarist. Ryan Wilson (of Drafted by Minotaurs) replaced Dan; with his phenomenal technique, he was able to fill the shoes smoothly. Ryan’s style was hard-edged, he had a no bullshit attitude and a voice of a raspy angel which of course enhanced our live shows. Even though Ryan was discredited on the recording, he heavily contributed to the creation of our second EP, “In the Name of the World” produced by Michael Ivans (of the Flaming Lips).
In the final incarnation of The Holy Fire, we had a solid dude in the band named Erik Maluchnik who in fact is one of my favorite guitar players around. After the death of the band, Erik asked me to join his newly found musical endeavor, “Shadiamond Le Freedom” (2007-2009). While I was in Shadiamond Le Freedom, I was performing with one of Detroit’s finest indie bands, “The Hotwalls” (2004-2012). It was challenging, being the first time that I took over someone else’s role musically as a fill-in member. Prior to joining the Hotwalls, I was always an original member starting from the ground up. The Hotwalls had a different approach to music and their sound was completely different than I was accustomed to. I learned so much from those cats and more than just being a better musician!
Prior to the Hotwalls throwing in the towel; I was getting heavily involved with my new band “Knife” (formally “Maggot Tongue”), our drummer Jarrod Champion moved on to a garage rock group “The Sights”, our guitarist Gabe Doman (“Papa Gabe” or “PPG”) started playing drums with a group called “Jeremy Porter and the Tucos” and the vocalist Ryan Milligan moved to NYC. Both Jarrod and Gabe were touring excessively with their new bands. The long distance relationship with Ryan and our extremely busy schedules started to make it quite difficult to function as a complete unit.
Ironically in late 2009, Graham and Ryan met on a small boat that was docked in the Mediterranean. Long story short: I invited them to my wedding in the south of France, the two of them stayed in the small boat with an endless supply of red wine. They discovered that they had a lot of similarities in musical taste. Several months after arriving home, they threw down some jams. All in one night, they wrote and recorded half a dozen songs on Graham’s 4-track in his garage! They called it “Kit Oh Nein!” aka K.O.N. (2009-present day). I caught wind of it, thinking it was rather catchy and unique. Even with the distance, the Hotwalls still performed. After a show in Brooklyn, Ryan and I were discussing music. I expressed my appreciation for the sounds of K.O.N., Ryan then invited me to play bass on the studio recordings. In due time within a year (2011), the three of us managed to get together. With my given musical history with both Graham and Ryan independently, our sounds flowed smoothly and quite naturally. It was as if it were another three day band which consisted of the following – Day one: I learned the current songs and the three of us created five new additional songs. – Day two: We recorded at Rust Belt Studios, one song right after another. – Day three: K.O.N. played a show at the Berkley Front. We then put out the CD of the recordings we created from the session and played our release show at Spike Hill in Brooklyn K.O.N. Live in NY. Things were going really well, a tour was set and unfortunately Graham quit the band prior to hitting the road. Ryan continued K.O.N. with a new line-up on the east coast.
Filling in the blanks of my musical history, bringing it back to 2009; Repa was playing with guitarist Eric Blanchard (a former member of Nema & Kathode who now plays in Temple of Void) going by the name of “Maggot Tongue” and they let their bass player go. Repa asked me to practice with him and Eric near the end of Shadiamond Le Freedom. This project had been going on for some time. I was stoked; Repa is one my favorite drummers/percussionists ever period and one of my favorite people ever. We have history and he is like a brother. It was great playing with him again! Eric and I have history as well, we go way back because he lived at the Ham House where we used to book punk shows in the basement. Eric not only is a solid brother, he has a great ear for guitar tones and is a riff master (dark and creamy hooks!) Right out of the gate, we plugged in and instantly came up with the tune now known as “The Mess”.
While at practice, there was constant talk of the movie “Cobra” staring Stallone. In the film, a villain used a special knife. This knife was continually a highlight of conversation at practice. During a discussion about the apocalypse, Repa mentioned that a knife (such as the Cobra knife) would be the first thing he would obtain. For the remainder of the evening we all kept repeating “KNIFE, KNIFE, KNIFE!” From then, Repa called us Knife and it stuck (no pun intended). You may notice that the cover of the EP is a still from the opening scene of “Cobra”.
After having a handful of songs created, we decided to look for vocalists that fit our mold. That’s when we found our fourth member, Curt Massof (from Mother and Planet Eater) who I already knew as an acquaintance because we worked close to one another back in the day. He was one of the first people I gave the Triptych demo to, what a small world! Upon arriving to practice, he grabbed the mic and “blew the dust off of the pipes”.
Through Curt, we gained an additional guitarist, the notorious and infamous Chuck Burns (from Speed Ball and Seduce among others). It is an honor to play with him and he has been described to me as a “Five Tool”; 1 – He can play the drums like a mofo. 2 – Plays the guitar like no other 3 – You know he plays bass 4 – He can sing too 5 – He looks cool. The best musician all around.
The best way to describe Knife is over-the-top and in-your-face; down-tuned guitars, melodic though remaining heavy with extensive drum and guitar solos. Powerful, heavy, loud. We recorded an EP at Rust Belt Studios. On the last day of recording, Repa departed for the west coast where he still resides with his wife today.
Repa is not replaceable, it was quite a setback. With much trial and error of auditions and performing with a handful of drummers, it took just about a year to find the right fit with John Lhei. He picked up on everything rather quickly and meshed well with all of us. Not only is he solid because of his technique and persona but he has a real professional attitude. John is currently the drummer for multiple groups: The Meatmen, Year of the Pig and Negative Approach.
In the 2013/2014 winter, I was asked to join “Warhorses” which have been around since 2004. Their sound reminds me of a sexy version of the Swans or the Velvet Underground, they have a rather dark persona live which drew me to them. Featuring Monkey on guitar and vocals, E.Z. on guitar and backup vocals and Thunder Queen on drums. I’ve been a fan of the group and had previously owned all of their records. Of late, Warhorses has been my primary focus. This summer, we’ve been busy playing gigs and recording.
I also recently started performing with a band called “Her Dark Host”. Featuring Justin Felix on guitar and lead vocals, Joshua Felix on drums and backing vocals and Kyle Davis on lead guitar.
-You’ve talked about the bands you played in and filled in for live. Have you been a guest on any studio session or releases by bands you were not in?
Yes, I performed on Sean Hoen’s initial solo record titled “The Atavan Tapes”.
-Prior to starting the label, had you been involved in the music scene in other ways than just playing music? Perhaps putting up shows, promoting bands, or pressed any merch?
I was heavily involved with the music scene and still am to this day. In the past I have printed t-shirts, booked local & out-of-town bands (which proved to be amazing for networking), housed & fed touring bands, and provided sound for underground punk rock venues. Also, I was able to promote bands compliments of an old punk rock local legend by the name of John Tenny (Magnifico Giganticus – refer to Black Sabbath Vol-D) who worked midnights for a corporate photocopy company. He was the cornerstone of our scene whether he knows or not, I am uncertain.
Currently, I work in live music production providing my expertise at all of the major venues in the metro Detroit area as a stage hand, loader, merch sales and concierge/runner. I am learning the ropes of production management as well. Being amidst the day in-night out of running live shows gives me the ability to hustle and work at all of the different venues around town.
-Apparently you used to have a zine called “Whatever”? How many issues were put together and how many copies of each came out? What was the zine about?
Everyone in Empathy had their own fanzines which were always free or dirt cheap. Graham and I were the creators of “Whatever” and it only consisted of two issues (we printed a couple hundred of the first issue and only a few of the second.) Whatever was sold or traded on tour and sometimes given away. It was a basic fanzine of the time with mainly music reviews, band interviews (we did the very first Hoarse interview) and us bitching about dumb shit.
-There was also the Empathy zine “Empathy Vacation”. What was this one about? What year was it published in and how many copies were made?
It was a compilation of tour journals from the entire band circa 95-ish, it came with a centerfold of Mike Warden (CTW) and plenty of funny stories of him that were documented. At first there were only few copies made to give away, we reprinted the zine many times however.
-At what point did you decide that you wanted to start a record label? Were you influenced by any labels to do this? Was Cascade started solely by you or was it initially a collaborative band effort? How did that change over the years and each releases? Was it mostly always you or mostly always the full bands you were in at the time?
Cascade was created collectively between Mike Derrick, Graham Pawluk and I which started in 1995. Chelsea’s Gone Under was the starting point for us, as the label was a way for us to finance and get our own musical endeavors out there. Hence, the majority of the music on the label was our own. Mike Warden of Conquer the World Records was a big influence for us, he was able to guide us in the right direction at the beginning of the label.
-Why did you choose the name “Cascade”?
We all agreed upon the title and appreciated the meaning to us; a waterfall, falling over a cliff cohesively.
-The label’s first address was 401 Maxwell Avenue, Royal Oak, Michigan, 48067. Where was the label operated from?
We ran the record label out of our parents’ houses because it was the only place where we had enough space to store our materials and assemble all of the record covers and CDs. Very DIY!
-Initially, when Cascade released Chelsea’s Gone Under’s self-titled EP (usually referred to as “Orchestra. Piano. Grind.”), the label name stamped on the artwork was “Cascade Recordings”. First off, what was the logo (it’s hard to tell with the stamp) and why did the name change from “Cascade Recordings” to “Cascade Records” on its next few releases?
The original logo was a waterfall and was changed to a scribble within a square (designed by Mike Derrick). We felt the new logo was simple and to the point. Also it didn’t bleed together when printing. The new logo was more iconic, if you will. At the time, we were constantly changing the name because we figured “Why not?”.
I believe that we changed it from Cascade Recordings to Cascade Records because we where thinking that we were going to be a vinyl only label at that point in time. The label name changed yet again to Cascade Audio Sound Spectrum aka C. A. S. S. Works, because Graham and Mike stopped being part of the collective and I decided to keep it going. Initially I was planning on releasing material in all formats and was going to start publishing books. Yes, I was a pipe dreamer!
-I’d like to focus on Chelsea’s Gone Under. It’s a fascinating band with very little information to go on. Can you brief me on how this band started, what year it was active during, who played in it, how many recording sessions there were and what the band was about? Did all the material recorded by this band get released within the two Cascade outputs? About how many shows did the band play? What was the band named after?
The beginning of Empathy was the start of Chelsea’s Gone Under because Jay had to leave practice early for both work and travel. The rest of us stayed for the love of music and improvised after switching instruments. The core members and instruments were as follows: Mike played bass, guitar, keyboards and viola / Drew played bass, guitar and keyboards /Graham on throat / I took care of drums and percussion.
Technically, Chelsea’s Gone Under recorded three times, at Woodshed Studios on every occasion. The first recording was only one song done in June of 1994 while Empathy was working on our first record, “Under the Lost Smile”. Actually, it is a hidden track on the Empathy CD. The song was called “Leaching” [track 13 on the CD]. Our second recording session was compiled in May of 1995. Jeremy Freer, who had never heard our music, jumped in headfirst and unrehearsed, recording piano on all of the tracks. This would be released as our CD. Our third improvised recording session was a year later in August of 1996 but now with a cello player, Megan Morrill. Graham recorded vocals in the bathroom of the studio where we were able to capture a natural reverb sound. Most of this session is unreleased, except “Anthony and the Boulevard” that is on the 7,000 Dying Rats split 7”. The 7″ has a locked groove at the end of the Chelsea’s Gone Under song, therefore it just keeps playing an ambient loop, on and on. There are four unreleased songs from the third session, one was a 5 seconds grind song which was supposed to be on a compilation. But somehow we dropped the ball on that one.
Our name was discovered by Graham while reading an interview with Walter Schreifels of Quicksand, whose second record was supposed to be called “Chelsea’s Going Under” referencing the old Chelsea Hotel in New York. The title was fitting for our music and town, similar to old historic building(s) collapsing due to lack of finances to keep afloat. Our lyrics were tackling dark issues such as suicide, children being torn from their parents, being innocent and lost, destroying to rebuild again.
Chelsea’s Gone Under was pretty much a studio project, we only played three shows in our existence. The first show was while on tour with Empathy and Enkindel. The last and final show held at Zoots Coffee House was the last show we ever played. We performed with 7,000 Dying Rats and Anal Cunt. I recall Kid Rock being there and the venue getting destroyed on its last day of operation; chairs, tables and glass breaking. Anal Cunt threw cylinder blocks into the ceiling fan as they played, straining the fan which shattered into pieces going all over the audience. The venue was just getting destroyed. Real rock ‘n roll! It was fucked up.
-How did the band come to self-release the Chelsea’s Gone Under EP? What was the process like of hand-making these albums?
The EP was a split release with Conquer the World Records due to budgets; Mike Warden said he had extra studio time (credit at Woodshed Studio) so he basically paid for Chelsea’s Gone Under to go and record our first full session. And Conquer the World had credit at the CD pressing plant, so the deal was that he would have the CDs pressed and we (Cascade) would pay for mastering and creation of the artwork. On the CD face itself, it was supposed to say Conquer the World and Cascade but Mike went with the blank neon pink, not sure why, maybe it was less expensive, but whatever it looks cool. As far as the process of making the covers, all we did was obtain a bunch of lunch bags/sandwich bags, take them to our buddy Tenny at Kinko’s and had him chop them to the appropriate size and then we made a bunch of paper stickers for the front and back and a poster lyrics sheet that went inside. Then we made a factory style production line and started sticking on each cover, stuffing each cover with a CD and a poster and finally we would take the rubber stamp and stamp the back.
-How did you first meet Mike Warden and develop your friendship with him?
I met Mike “CTW” Warden at Grounds Coffee House, a cafe located on the University of Detroit college campus, circa 93ish. The Grounds was run by Eric Ziembowicz of Element Records/Refuge Skate Shop, who would put out the first Empathy 7″, “…Of Innocence”. Mike was a regular there, with his huge afro and sleeveless jean jacket. Grounds is where I formed many relationships. At the time, Mike was the vocalist in Provisional who played there often and sold CTW records at all of the shows. I was quite impressed and amazed with him running his record label out of his home which had records stored in every corner and hallway from floor to ceiling. I found myself attracted to the chaos of him running his label, how involved he was with music, how much he loved music and how much he helped the music scene. At the beginning of Cascade, Mike was very much influential and part of the collective. I believe that to this day, Mike CTW is still running his record label out of this trailer in Redford, Michigan.
-Tell us your funniest Mike Warden story:
Mike was such a character, right out of some strange fictional book. Going to visit him at his trailer was always a big deal for Empathy (we had band field trips if you will), walking into his world. He had a cage-less bird named Jingles who was always landing on people. The best thing for you to do is just leave it be, because as soon as you would try to catch it or swat at it, the bird would start shitting all over! It was unreal!
As for one of the funniest stories about Mike, it was about a time when he only consumed raw juice. He drank so much carrot juice, that it turned his skin orange. It freaked me out, it looked like to a poor fake tan. Imagine an orange colored dude wearing a Chokehold shirt with an afro and a bird on his shoulder- “Straight up Jackson!”
-The second release for Cascade was the BoySetsFire & Jazz Man’s Needle split 12″ vinyl. Can you talk about how this record came to be made? Cascade Records’ implication compared to Conquer the World Records’ implication? Apparently it was a very DIY production (gluing new covers on previous CTW releases) because it was “apparently” a financially difficult time for Mike Warden (I know this sounds funny), who co-released the album? Who paid for the bands to record in March and April of 1996? Did you have any say on the two bands that were on this record or was this mainly setup by Mike Warden and Conquer the World? Had you played live with either band?
We would receive all sorts of fanzines, demos and letters. Much of our time on tour and on road trips was spent listening to the demos we had received while driving in the van. Jay was particularly excited about the “Boy Sets Fire” demo, we were all pretty impressed and listened to it often. On the flip side, Graham discovered “Jazz Man’s Needle”. You can say that Graham was the A&R guy (of sorts) for Conquer the World Records. He would often listen to demos that Mike CTW received. Graham actually discovered more than a couple of bands that Mike ended up working with. Like Spit Acid and Vanilla!
We contacted both bands and they agreed to proceed with the split 12”. Both groups remixed their demos, funding their own studio sessions. Empathy then played with Jazz Man’s Needle at the Ham house. Sadly, I never saw or heard of them again. A few years after the split release, Thoughts of Ionesco played with Boy Sets Fire at a festival in New Jersey, along with Lifetime and where Saves the Day performed their first show.
-Can you remember how this release was received when it first came out? Over the years rumors have circulated that BoySetsFire were never happy and they quickly turned to Magic Bullet Records and Rosepetal Records to re-release their demo on CD. Magic Bullet has since re-issued it multiple times on both CD and vinyl. What’s your side of the story with this whole deal?
The original release gained popularity rapidly, the music was phenomenal and both bands toured their asses off. Mike Warden took over (re-)production and distribution to keep up with the demand, he had the ability to do so.
It was only our second release, we didn’t quite know what we were doing. Mike informed us that Boy Sets Fire was aware that we were recycling covers of previously released CTW records which is why we proceeded. If they weren’t in fact informed, I understand why they would be unhappy with the DIY covers. I thought the covers held a lot of character, Cascade is all about the DIY utilitarian style! After the release of the split 12”, there seemed to be drama and bickering behind that record so we stepped away from all of that giving up our share of the deal. I believe that bands can do what they want with their music. With that in mind, Cascade returned to the original idea of the label (collective) to put out our own projects.
BoySetsFire later took out a full page ad in the Second Nature fanzine in January of 1998. Here’s a transcript of it:
Well… CTW (Mike Warden) is currently repressing the BSF / JMN split 12″ without our permission. To make a long story short, when we decided to do a record with Mike, he was pretty broke, and needed us to pay for the recording and the mastering, which we did. We paid for ALL studio costs; recording costs, mastering costs, hell, we even paid for the reel and the DAT that we recorded on. What I’m saying is that we paid for EVERYTHING. All that Mike had to do was print covers, which he couldn’t do without printing them on the inside of Culture covers. After the record had been out for about a year, Mike’s participation got to be less and less to the point that we didn’t hear from him for about 6 months. We called, wrote and called some more, and we could not get in touch with him. As we were at that point getting ready to tour, we needed more records, but we couldn’t get in touch with Mike to get them. In addition, there have been TONS of kids who we’ve ended up giving free records to because they sent money to Mike, and never got a record. Anyway, at this point we decided that we needed to find someone else who was willing to put the record out. We enlisted the help of 2 friends (Brent and Jason) from State College, PA who were into the idea. That is how the 6 song CD on The Magic Bullet / Rosepetal came to be.
This began the process of attempting to get back the DAT from Mike so that Brent and Jason could press their CDs. We still, after many conversations with Mike, have yet to get our DAT tape back from him. As you recall, it IS our property, not Mike’s, and there is really the root of all of this. Mike has continually refused to return our DAT to us, and has continually refused to stop repressing the record that we paid for. That record is Mike’s only in that it has a CTW logo on it, we paid for the recording and everything else involved in the music that it contains. In addition WE own the copy right on that music, not Mike.
It comes to this: Mike has made it very clear to all of us that he has full intentions of repressing the record. He has advertised for it in zines, and many people have seen him selling it in the recent past. This is being done for ONE reason and one reason only. Because Mike knows he can make money off of the record and the controversy that surrounds it. He’s not doing it because he believes in us, or because he even necessarily believes in the message that our side of the record contains, he is doing for financial gain.
The tactics used by Mike Warden throughout this entire ordeal smart tremendously of big business tactics used by major labels. We don’t have the money or resources to go after him legally, so he knows that there is nothing that we can do to him in that department, and he is counting on the fact that word of this travesty won’t get around too much to hurt his “market share”.
Basically the facts in this incident can be summed up in several points:
– We paid for absolutely every expense related to our contribution to that record, and we own its copyright.
– We made many efforts to get in touch with Mike to try to settle this without having to go to this length.
– Mike in his own words thinks that we are “full of shit” and that we don’t really stand for anything that we talk about in our records, yet he still wants to do this record.
– Mike knows that he can make a profit off of this record.
It is for these reasons why we are asking you to boycott Mike Warden and Conquer The World Records, and in doing so send a message that big business tactics, and greed will not be supported in the hardcore / punk community.
Thank you for reading. Action and reaction is now in the hands of you the reader.
-Can you describe the process of hand-making the BSF/JMN record covers? Where did all this take place?
We recycled previous CTW releases by turning them inside out and screen-printed the blank portion of the covers. Mike used his networking and took care of it all, I believe that the process took place in the basement of the Ham house.
-When did this release come out, how many copies of this vinyl got pressed and in how many colors?
I believe this release came out in early 1996. Initially we pressed 1000 records on red and black vinyls, I’m unsure how many have been repressed since then
-What was the idea behind having a degree sign (º) in the catalog numbers?
It was to be original and looked great, it was Mike Derrick’s idea.
-In the BSF/JMN split 12″ booklet, next to the Cascade logo, the label’s write-up says “Jazzman’s Needle. Boy Sets Fire. Monday… -Thank you”. What’s “Monday” referring to?
Monday Busque is a local indie rock hero! He hooked us up with the printing of the booklets (he and Tenny worked together at Kinko’s). Monday currently plays in a rad Detroit band called “Destroy this Place”.
-Cascade’s third release was for Empathy, your previous band at the time, which had already been broken up since July of 1995; but had gone back in studio in September of 1995 to record the final written songs. Apparently some members of the band didn’t want this material to be released, it being supposedly recorded only for documentation purposes. The “I Need” EP ended up coming out on both 12″ vinyl and CD as a co-production between Cascade Records and Conquer the World Records. Whose idea was it to release this material and what was each label’s responsibility in making this happen?
There may be some confusion regarding the release of “I Need”, we were hesitant to be associated with Conquer the World Records because its reputation was on a downward spiral due to his poor business practices. If it weren’t a split label release, the record would probably not be available because no one else was putting up the money for it. We wanted to be a part of putting it out just so we could maintain some control. I am uncertain if some of my then bandmates didn’t want this material released or not. Maybe not to be released by Conquer the World. I can’t speak for others, but for me I wanted this record to come out. I love this record and still listen to it! I do know that some members believed that the EP was not a complete idea or fully mixed. I am grateful the record is out there and means so much to me; the EP stands the test of time, which I find to be a good tool to measure if music is good. It was as if Empathy had finally found ourselves and where we stood. Just as soon as we stood, we fell.
-Who designed/created the artwork and layout for this release?
The entire band designed the overall layout but Mike Derrick provided the photographs and concepts. Mike CTW changed the colours last minute without our knowledge; the orange was to be shiny copper with black font. Also, the EP was going to be self-titled but the “I Need” writing on the wall in the photograph stood out and stuck as a name.
-When did this release come out, how many copies of this vinyl got pressed and in how many colors? How many CDs were pressed?
The Empathy EP came out late in 1996 or early in 1997. I believe that there were a total of 1,200 records pressed: 550 on black, 550 on red and a set of 100 limited edition on transparent green vinyl. Originally, there were 2,000 CD’s made. Both formats have been repressed several times and I do not know the total number. Mike CTW would know for certain.
At one point we were thinking of remixing and mastering it and possibly re-releasing it on Revelation Records. Let’s just say people can be their own worst enemy and lack commitment.
-Was the song “Penance” from this recording session, the same recording that also appeared on the split “Vinyl for Fools” with Enkindel? Where did the instrumental song “Until Then” come from? There were no recording dates on the split covers.
Yes and no, “Penance” on the 7 inch is a different mix than what was on “I Need”. We saved the rhythm tracks and the rest (guitar and vocals) was re-tracked for the CD in September of 1995. “Until Then” was performed by Drew, recorded in 1994 in one take. It ended up as the acoustic intro for “Black Eyes for Sale” on the EP.
-After Empathy, the remaining members, minus Jay Palumbo and yourself, formed Khai. Again, very little is known of this project. What were they about and how was it working with them?
Khai was birthed as a three piece after the split of Empathy. It consisted of Graham Pawluk on drums, Mike Derrick on guitar and Drew Cramer on bass/vocals. They pursued it as their main project while I was heavily involved with Thoughts of Ionesco. They played a handful of shows and produced a 4-song demo. Khai had been approached by Caulfield Records and proposed a tour with Mineral and Braid, which both came to a halt because Drew moved to the west coast where he ended up playing with the Kissing Book and Still Flying (a reggae band).
-When and where was the Khai demo recorded? When did this release come out and how many copies of this tape got made?
The demo was recorded at 40 Ounce Studios in 1996 for fifty dollars! It was never mastered. Approximately fifty cassettes were made and only three CDs.
-While the other members of Chelsea’s Gone Under were doing Khai, you started a new band named “Triptych”. When in 1996 did Triptych form and for approximately how long did you guys use that name before changing name to “Thoughts of Ionesco”?
Triptych was formed in early 1996 and we only used the name for our first two shows. Both shows were shut down by the cops. The first was cut halfway through our set and the second before we even started. We started on a bad foot right out of the gate.
-What influenced the band’s name change?
We wanted an original name that described our manic dark music. After discovering there were several bands who already held the name “Triptych”, Sean wanted to call us “Ionesco” after Eugene Ionesco who was a dark playwright. I wanted the name “Thoughts of”, so we combined the two creating “Thoughts of Ionesco”. Our first full show with our new name was in Ohio with Function and By the Grace of God.
-When and were was the Triptych demo recorded and how many songs were tracked during this session? Were all the songs included on the demo tape? How did this demo session end up being re-issued by Conquer the World Records as “The Triptych Session”? I believe the CD featured more songs that were not actually recorded during the demo session? Why were those included?
Our demo was recorded in June of 1996 and consisted of seven songs, all recorded at the same time. Two of the seven songs went on the 7 inch, we wanted to keep “Prize (To Crawl)” as a B-side. Conquer the World was one of few record labels that replied to us and we were anxious to get our sound out there. “The Triptych Session” was compiled of six remixed songs from the demo session and four new songs. The four new songs were a tribal drum solo from Repa (“Quickening the Pulse of a Grey Noise”), an acoustic recording from Sean done on a four-track (“Commencement”) and two additional songs with Mike Derrick on guitar (“Crimson Reflection” and “Martyr”). “Quickening the Pulse of a Grey Noise” and “Violence Versus Motion” were CD-only tracks, thus not on the vinyl.
-As far as Cascade Records was concerned, who was involved in putting together this release through the label (as you were the only member of the band to also be behind the label)? Were Graham, Mike and Drew involved in it at all?
The recording, design and printing for the Triptych demo were all done by me.
-How many copies of this demo were made and how fast were they distributed?
There were approximately 45 demos made, half were sent to record labels and the remaining half were given away at shows. We weren’t playing many shows at the time so we had them on hand for a while.
-The song “Randall” from this session ended up being used on five Thoughts of Ionesco releases: the Triptych demo (Cascade), the self-titled 7″ (Cascade), “The Triptych Session” (Conquer the World), “Abnormalities” (Cascade) and “The Scar is Our Watermark” (Seventh Rule). How do you look back on this iconic song? Whose idea was it to have the sample from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”?
“Randall” always remained in our sets, it was about desperation and addiction which was a common thread throughout our existence as Thoughts of Ionesco. The song will always stand the test of time. We were all fans of “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. Either Brian or Sean brought the sample to the studio.
-The label’s sixth release was a split between Chelsea’s Gone Under and 7000 Dying Rats. How did these two bands come together?
I frequented a record store called “Play It Again” where the metal guru of all time worked, his name is Scoob. Josh Diebel (of 7,000 Dying Rats) and Scoob ran Alley Sweeper Records. The three of us set-up a show at Zoot’s Cafe with both the bands where we developed a relationship and decided to put out the release.
-You co-released this vinyl with Josh Diebel’s (singer in 7000 Dying Rats) label Alley Sweeper Records. What were each label’s tasks and implications to make this record come out?
We split everything right down the middle, 50/50.
– I thought it was an interesting point that the label logos and contact information were listed on the opposite band’s side of the sleeve. Thus, the 7000 Dying Rats side had the Cascade Records logo and the Chelsea’s Going Under side had the Alley Sweeper Records logo. Was this done on purpose?
Yes it was done on purpose. Why we didn’t want to put both labels on both sides, it would just look congested and take up space for artwork.
-Whose idea was it to have hockey cards in the CGU/7DR split? Were/are you a hockey fan yourself? If so what’s your favorite team?
The hockey cards were Alley Sweeper’s idea, clearly they love hockey. They even had a label logo based on the NHL logo. I could take it or leave it. Go Redwings!
-How many copies of this vinyl got pressed and in how many colors?
There were 500 black records pressed with 300 limited edition which included said hockey cards.
-This release was the first time that you used the P.O. Box 1910, in Royal Oak, Michigan as the mailing address. How much label mail were you getting at this point? Was the label self-sufficient or did you still have a day job to help put out the releases? Or were you doing music full time at this point? Were the releases selling well?
The Cascade Collective was never self-sufficient nor intended to be, it was a not-for-profit entity because any money made was put right back into the label. The majority of the releases were used for awareness/reviews, for trade of music or zines, or given away. While supporting the label, I managed a café/coffee shop by day and worked at a vintage guitar shop by night called “Junkyard Guitars”.
-Where were you advertising for the releases?
Most of our ads were left on our distro table at shows, put in smaller fanzines or stickers were put on record sleeves.
-After collaborating with Mike Warden and Conquer the World Records on Cascade’s first three releases and being signed to his label while in Empathy, the Chelsea’s Gone Under / 7000 Dying Rats split 7″ matrix read “Conquer the World Sucks”. What’s the story behind that? How long did this fallout last, as it seems that you two made up shortly afterwards since you collaborated with him in Manetheren and he also signed Thoughts of Ionesco?
Mike CTW doesn’t sign anything nor believes in contracts, hence we were not signed to his label. This may be why he has rocky relationships with bands that he works with. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know boundaries concerning other people’s art. He doesn’t know his limitations and thinks that he can do or press whatever he wants. Our relationship was definitely manic; we had a friendship as well as a business relationship, when mixing those two there seems to be some sort form of friction.
-What can you say of Cascade’s seventh release, the first Thoughts of Ionesco 7″? It could possibly be the most famous release of Cascade’s catalog. Was it an expensive endeavor? How was this record received?
I would agree that the Thoughts of Ionesco 7′′ was the most notorious and in fact is the most expensive endeavor to date from the Cascade catalog. Being that Cascade was no longer a collective, I was riding solo to front the funds for the record and at the time 7 inches were more expensive to produce than other formats. There is not much of a return.
The 7 inch was also the first official release for Thoughts of Ionesco and consisted of two songs, “Randall” and “Prize (To Crawl)” from our demo cassette. I wanted to go all out with this release and went with extras, such as a booklet to go inside the 7″ and additional printing on the inside cover. There was this eerie photo that Sean obtained from the Northville insane asylum, which I wanted on the inside cover, so when you opened it up you saw this photo looking back at you. All of this cost a little extra and at the time it was a bit of a burden. But the 7 inches were well received and we were able to sell the majority of them. The money from the 7″ went towards buying Thoughts of Ionesco’s tour van. I went to a police car auction to purchase this conversion van which we named “Orgasmatron”.
-How many copies of this vinyl got pressed and in how many colors?
There were 1000 black vinyls pressed.
-Who’s idea was it to make a Thoughts of Ionesco music video? How was this put together and how was the Cascade Collective involved?
The music video was primarily Sean’s idea and was created by him. At the time, Brian and I were not into making videos. Cascade Collective never had anything to do with the video nor had plans of releasing it.
-Which venues was the footage filmed at?
The live footage was filmed everywhere from the Trumball Theatre in Detroit, The Bastard in Pontiac to the The Fireside Bowl And Lounge in Chicago.
-How many versions of Blamesday were recorded? I saw that it was released on four occasion: the Triptych demo, “The Triptych Session”, “Abnormalities” and “The Scar is Our Watermark”, each have different running time. Are they all from the same source? Which version was used for the video?
There were a total of four versions:
- The Triptych demo was the original mix and un-mastered
- The Triptych Session was remixed and mastered from the demo
- Abnormalities was re-mastered but is the same mix
- The Scar is Our Watermark is the same mix but was re-mastered again. I believe that this final re-master was used for the video.
-In 1997, you participated in a Mike Warden band, Manetheren. Conquer the World Records released this on 7″ vinyl but Cascade didn’t take part of it, even though Mike Derrick and yourself were in the band. Seeing as the two labels had previously collaborated, how come Cascade had no part in putting out this vinyl?
Mike Derrick and I were involved with Manetheren as musicians but it was Mike CTW’s main project. We played one live show with him but we had no interest in collaborating with CTW to put out the 7”. It was Mike’s own thing.
-How many songs were written during the first day of the band? Were additional songs recorded other than the 3 that made it onto the 7″?
We wrote a handful of songs on the first day, I don’t recall exactly how many songs we kept. There are additional songs that were never recorded. We had enough songs to fill our half hour set when opening for Lifetime.
-Cascade then put together “Black Sabbath Volume D”; an original concept where Michigan emo and hardcore bands did their take on Black Sabbath songs. Featuring 7000 Dying Rats, Cloudcar, Cromwell, Hamilton, Left in Ruins, Magnifico Giganticus, Thoughts of Ionesco, Trinitone and Wallside. Who came up with this amazing idea and how did you get the word around that this compilation was being put together for you to gather bands?
I came up with the idea for this compilation because I have great love for Black Sabbath, I find them to be very influential across any genre of music. Actually, it annoys me when musicians don’t appreciate Black Sabbath. The original concept was to be a split 7” between Thoughts of Ionesco and Wallside. Collaboratively, we wanted to add a third, Cromwell, and then a fourth band to play on the compilation. The word of the compilation fell upon many ears through many underground musical scenes and the desire to be involved was more than I could have ever imagined which is why I chose the route of cassette production. It was done out of the love for Sabbath.
The “Vol. D” compilation consisted of not only hardcore and metal bands but also some more notorious space rock/indie rock groups that I was friends with. The compilation was supposed to come with a fanzine that consisted of interviews and essays on why each band appreciated Black Sabbath. I collected all of the info and did the interviews and gave the material to someone who was going to handle the layout and help print it. But unfortunately he lost all the material!
-Can you remember what other bands were asked to be on the compilation but didn’t make it?
Chelsea’s Gone Under.
-Did you pay for the bands to record their covers?
Most of the bands recorded the songs themselves at home, or while they were in the studio recording their own material. I paid for Thought of Ionesco’s recording of “Under the Sun”.
-How did you come to call it “Volume D” and what’s the story behind the artwork for this compilation?
All of the bands on the compilation where from Detroit. And Black Sabbath’s fourth full-length record was called “Volume Four”. I used the cover from “Volume 4” but as a play on words I titled the compilation: “Volume D” standing for “Volume Detroit”!
-How did you promote this release?
It was a promotion tool within itself to promote the label. It was a freebie and was all done for the of love of Black Sabbath!
-When did this compilation come out and how many copies of the tape were pressed?
The comp was released in the summer of 1998. There were only 120 made, a dozen at a time. I repressed it ten times. Someone eventually burnt CDs of it to give it away but this wasn’t Cascade.
-For this release, you changed the label name to “C.A.S.S. Records”. What’s story behind this and where were you located at this time? Are you familiar with another label by the name of “Cass Records” that started in Detroit, Michigan in 2003? That’s hitting it close to home!
Cascade Audio Sound Spectrum (C.A.S.S.) was changed because I was the only person running the label at that time. That was the title for the label came about through the Thoughts of Ionesco camp, I was still in Detroit. We had internally been calling the label as such since the release of the Thoughts of Ionesco 7″, so I felt it was time to officially use it.
At the time I thought the abbreviation of C A S S was cool because there’s an infamous street in Detroit named Cass Avenue. Unfortunately, half a decade later another label came out from Detroit under the same name. That record label is actually operated by Jack White’s cousin or nephew or something; he plays (or used to) drums in The Dirt Bombs. It kind of sucks. Makes me wish I hand’t changed the name.
-The label’s ninth output was by one of the most important Michigan emo bands ever. How did you first meet Mainspring and how did things come down to making a discography happen for them?
I knew all of the members through the music scene, we were all friends and I was a huge fan. Drew Cramer from Empathy & Chelsea’s Gone Under was the vocalist and guitar player in Mainspring. John “Dusty” Dustin (their bass player) was also a pseudo-roadie for Empathy. He went on a lot of road trips with us. I felt that they would be a great band to work with. I asked John Dunn (guitar/vocals) to put out their music, he simply responded with “Dude, YEAH dude!”
It was a complex endeavor having to get their vast recordings on par with volume and tone, everything had to be re-mastered from DATs and cassette tapes. The process began while Mainspring was still together and the final product was completed after the group broke up. Regardless, I felt it was very important to have the CD put out. So before getting the CDs pressed I had their last three unreleased and unrecorded songs from their final show added at the end of the CD. Even though the quality was poor, “315” was one of my favorite song. It just struck a chord in my heart. And I felt it had to be on the CD.
-The packaging for the CD was very DIY, coming in a soft plastic envelope. Was all the artwork and layout created by the band or was it a Cascade job?
I created an original black and white layout which was only used in limited quantities. A cut-and-paste style with a transparent blue jewel case. The spine of the jewel case had little metal BB balls in it. Mainspring designed the final cover/artwork because with the envelope style we were able to enclose all of the songs and recording information. The new cover fit better with the Cascade image and style that we were going for, plus it was what the band wanted!
-How many CDs were pressed and when did this come out?
The discography CD came out in the summer of 1998. There are 25 pre-release edition in the blue jewel case. 1300 of the final version. I had paid for 1200 but the pressing plant sent about 100 extras. We had planned on releasing it on vinyl too but since the band broke up in the process, that was abandoned.
-In 1998 you ventured the label into pressing two reading materials. The first of these was a book entitled “Patch (An Open Letter)” by Phillip Rizzi. Who was Phil Rizzi and what was his book about?
Phillip Rizzi, also known as “Vegan Phil”, was one of the punk rockers that resided in the attic at the Ham house with Mike Warden, Eric Blanchard and Jay Palumbo. He was a good friend, our relationship involved many chess matches that lasted for hours. The book was ultimately a memoir, sharing stories of his relationship with his father, paranoia and his life.
-Did you find it hard to release a book in a market where you were principally releasing music? How many copies were made and when was this pressed?
The book was sold within the punk rock community; we used what we knew, the standard distribution tool (networking at shows) so it was both difficult and easy to sell. “Patch” was a minimal release, there were only approximately 200 pressed in August 1998. But Utilitarian may have pressed more over time.
-Utilitarian Press is also credited as “Patch”‘s co-publisher. Who operated Utilitarian and what was its implication in making this book happen?
James Marks was the man behind Utilitarian, he was greatly involved with the music scene in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s. He owned a vegetarian/vegan grocery store which was very much needed in the community nor were there that many around back then. Also, he held shows in the basement calling the venue “The Bastard”. Phil and he were very close too. I understand that James also put out records under the banner “Utilitarian Records”. I believe that he also owns a practice studio space, for bands to practice, in Ypsilanti, Michigan called The Spur.
-You once again changed the label name for this, opting for “C.A.S.S. Works”. Can you explain this change?
The plan was to use C.A.S.S Works for publishing reading material; “Works” is about getting our stories across to the masses.
-Cascade followed up with a magazine of poems and lyrics titled “While Drinking Alone” by Sean Madigan Hoen (under the name Sean H. Madigan), who was playing with you at the time in Thoughts of Ionesco. Was this zine created, designed and printed by Sean himself and bared the Cascade name by association or did you have an implication on the makings of this publishing?
The guts of “While Drinking Alone” were the works of Sean solely. I assisted Sean with the design and layout and then I printed 500 copies. I had plenty of experience with printing fanzines from working at Kinko’s and from the Empathy days. We sold them at Thoughts of Ionesco gigs to fill the gas tank of the “Orgasmatron”. Each was hand-numbered.
-Did Cascade consider continuing in the book/zine department with other artists? Was anything in discussion but never happened?
Yes, I considered it. I had planned to publish a book by Bill Bracco who was picked up for his memoir by another publisher. Bill is a Detroit native who lives a mystic life as a wayfarer. I also wanted to publish a sci-fi book by Matt Harding.
-Cascade’s twelfth release was a Thoughts of Ionesco CD compiling out of print, rare and unreleased material. Did you come up with the idea to put “Abnormalities” together or was this a collaborative band effort?
After the band as a unit realized we had many songs on compilations and there were various demo versions and cover songs that were then unattainable, we brainstormed “Abnormalities”. The 7″ was also quickly selling out. Sean and I decided it would be cool to put it out using the C.A.S.S. Works banner. It was supposed to be more of a collaborative effort but I ended up taking on the project full force. There was a lot of dealing with the pressing plant and it was a financial burden as well.
–When was “Abnormalities” officially released and how many CDs were pressed? How did it sell, considering that Thoughts of Ionesco would breakup shortly after?
The process of getting that CD together was long and endearing. Getting all the different DAT tapes together, from different recording studios and dates, by the time it was done, Thoughts of Ionesco was no longer a band. Though it was not planned that way. After our tour in November of 1999, the band slowed down due to Sean’s personal life.
We were initially set to play the Michigan Fest in late March of 2000, which was put up by Joel Wick of Makoto Recordings. I remember hurrying the layout and having the pressing plant rush the CDs in order to have them in time for the festival. I had 1,000 copies pressed. But Thoughts of Ionesco ended up not playing. I set up a Cascade distro table at the fest, and Sean was supposed to help out, but he came and went throughout the weekend and I saw little of him. I assumed that the record would do well, but no one seemed to care at the time. Very few people even asked how come we weren’t playing. I still have half of them today, most of which have sold after the facts. It is currently being sold digitally, by an unconfirmed source (likely the same who is selling every other Thoughts of Ionesco material online), even though I was the one who put it out.
-What is the insect logo that is found on the Abnormalities cover? Does it have anything to do with CassWorks or is it Thoughts of Ionesco? Who created the artwork and layout for this release?
The insect logo on the cover is a circle wrapping around a cockroach and is called “The Cycle of Life”. It became the emblem for Thoughts of Ionesco, created by Derek Grant. I did the layout with my friend Patrick Knisely and the photos were by CJ Benninger.
-How come you decided to continue using “Cass Works”, a sub-label you had created for books, instead of going back to C.A.S.S. Records, like the previous music releases?
The label name is continually morphing because the individuals involved are ever changing.
-A good deal of the material found on this compilation would later be re-used on the Seventh Rule Recordings Thoughts of Ionesco compilation “The Scar is Our Watermark”. Although this later version provides more of a best-of selection of songs plus a DVD, what do you think of this second compilation? Did you have any input in it? Was “Abnormalities” out of print by the time this compilation came out in 2006?
No, “Abnormalities” was not out of print on 6/6/6 when “The Scar is our Watermark” was released. I still have some copies available at this time. After being interview, I was excited to hear the re-mastering of our songs but had come to find that the album was already released. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any input with our new record. Seventh Rule then supplied me with one used and cracked copy of our CD/DVD which was so badly scratched that I couldn’t play the entire album. And the two unreleased songs were mixed horribly. My portion of the interview was also butchered severely and insulted my image.
After discussing the DVD with the Constantines who seemed thoroughly excited of the shared stories, I gave my only personal copy to them while they were on tour. I noticed that they played an abrasive show at Mac’s bar in Lansing, MI, literately tearing down the ceiling the following evening after having viewed the film.
I was told that the compilation sold-out in pre-orders and has been repressed many times (10,000 copies). I really wanted a decent copy of “The Scar Is Our Watermark” for my personal collection, yet I didn’t want to have to pay for material of a band that I gave many years of my life to. But I broke down and bought a copy in 2013 for five bucks used. So I ended up getting a copy nine years after the fact. Fuck you Seventh Rule Records, jerks!
-The last release to date is Leaving Rouge’s “Demonstrations” demo CD. Cascade’s name, or any of its variants, is nowhere to be found on the covers. Was it simply listed as a release by default that some the band members have been so long associated with Cascade?
It wasn’t an official Cascade release, they were CD-Rs to be used as a demo.
-When did this release come out and how many CDs were pressed?
It came out in early 2001 and 25 CD-r’s were burned.
-Did anyone in particular handle all the burning of those CD-Rs in the band? Were they ever sold or strictly used to send to labels?
My roommate at the time, Matt Fox Valade was kind enough to help me out and let me burn the CD-Rs on his computer. I made the covers Cascade style at Kinko’s, cutting and pasting.
-Were the recordings found on this Demo CD ever reused on any of the Down Peninsula Audio or Greyday Productions releases?
I believe some of the cuts were re-mixed and put on the first official Leaving Rouge release on Down Peninsula.
-Did Cascade ever end or is it just on a long hiatus until it is needed again to release more records? Have you considered reissuing the entire catalog digitally?
Mike Derrick and I are going to continue Cascade together and we definitely have more to come! We are in the process of digitally releasing all of the material. Since this interview started [April 2014], Bandcamp pages have been created for Chelsea’s Gone Under and for the Cascade Collective. I also have studio time booked to remix a lot of the Empathy material and reissue it digitally. I also hope to release other bands digitally and on vinyl.
-With Cascade still active as a label, how did it come to Knife self-releasing the debut EP on its own label “Caveman in a Spaceship”? Whose idea was it to start up that label?
As a band, we were eager to release our demo in its proper format. We took a DIY approach and used money that we earned from playing shows to release the CD/EP. We needed a label and Caveman in a Spaceship seemed to fit appropriately. It says it all.
Erik is definitely the cornerstone of Knife. He is the one that put the band together. Overall I would say it’s his brainchild and we all just connect the dots and fill in the color.
-Will Caveman in a Spaceship be releasing more material under the imprint or will all future material be a part of the Cascade Collective?
Yes there we be more to come on Caveman in a Spaceship. CIAS and C.A.S.S. are too separate entities, I just happen to be a part of both. Spread the love!
-Kit Oh Nein! also released the first album “KON!” through another new imprint, “Elbe Damned”. With you and Graham in the band, how come this wasn’t released though the Cascade Collective? How much input did you personally have as part of Elbe Damned?
Elbe Damned is entirely Ryan Millagan. I was really just sitting on the sidelines with that project. I practiced with them maybe three times. Kit Oh Nein! would have fit nicely on the CASS Collective but over all it was more Ryan’s thing.
-What were some of the planned releases for Cascade that never came to be? I’m sure a lot of bands have sent you demos over the years. Did you possibly ever work on another compilation other than “Black Sabbath Volume Detroit”?
There was intention of releasing a 7 inch or full-length of Whitey. Then there was always intention of releasing Mainspring’s discography and Thoughts of Ionesco’s “Abnormalities” on vinyl, but found that it was not necessarily wise being that all three bands are no longer together performing or touring. We still want to press a vinyl compilation of material from Chelsea’s Gone Under including never released songs. With that said, the members of Knife put out our own EP under a label we created called Caveman in a Spaceship (CIAS). We will be releasing other material. Also look out for Temple of Void and Her Dark Host!
-Will Her Dark Host and Temple of Void be on Cascade or on Caveman in a Spaceship?
I really can’t answer that. Temple of Void is already on another record label at the moment. There’s talks of Her Dark Host doing a split 7 inch early next year but nothing set in concrete at the moment though.
-Toronto recorded some material which was never released. How close did this come to being released and would this have been through Cascade? Is there a plan to release this digitally through the Cascade Collective?
Toronto was more of a personal project, featuring members of Empathy and Chelsea’s Gone Under and Mike Hostetler (of 57 Waltz and Whitey). Our prime objective was hanging out in the attic, recording and making noise all the while getting stoned and drunk. If it was to be released it would be on the CASS Collective or maybe as hidden tracks to Chelsea’s Gone Under discography release. But until then, Toronto will be left unheard!
-Has Cascade created other band merchandise for any of the bands that you worked with during its existence? Was there any Cascade Records merch? Stickers, t-shirts, flyers, posters, buttons or anything else?
We printed hundreds, if not thousands of flyers throughout the years – thanks Tenny! Regarding other merch, we only made very few, stickers and buttons with the Cascade logo. There was also a Boy Sets Fire sticker.
-Where can people people get Cascade’s back catalog? Do you still have any of the old physical releases for sell?
- Chelsea’s Gone Under CD, 40 left
- Chelsea’s Gone Under/7000 Dying Rats split 7″, 50 left
- Thoughts of Ionesco 7″, 12 left
- Mainspring CD, 100 left
- Black Sabbath Volume D comp tape, 6 left
- Thoughts of Ionesco “Abnormalities” CD, 500 left
- Leaving Rouge demo CD, 5 left
I also have available other musical projects that I am or have been involved with:
- Thoughts of Ionesco . Heads Will Roll split 7″
- Knife EP
- Knife t-shirt
- The Holy Fire EP on Down Peninsula
- The Holy Fire EP “In the Name of the World”
- The Hotwalls, first release
- The Hotwalls, Every Body Here
- Provisional 7″
- Empathy 7″
- Kit Oh Nein!
- Warhorses, Song of the Month
- Warhorses, Flap Your Useless Wings
If interested, please check out the Cascade Collective Bandcamp page, or contact me via e-mail: nathanlemiller[at]gmail[dot]com. Prices vary according to the item(s), but I guarantee it will be inexpensive. Lastly, I want to share that I thoroughly enjoyed doing this interview and I appreciate your patience. You’ve been more influential to me then you may ever think! Thank you Alexandre for the nostalgia and rekindling of my spirit!