Primitive Violence's Jean Saiz Packages Pocketknives in Cassette Releases
Jean Saiz is without a doubt, one of South Florida's leading ladies of rock. Her band Shroud Eater has steadily gained an envious momentum in the short time that they've been shredding faces and melting hearts. A talented and accomplished artist, Saiz has added yet another area of expertise into her CV with her fledgling Primitive Violence Records and Visual imprint; which like all her projects, she tenderly dotes over with a caring hand.
Borne out of necessity for Shroud Eater's early recorded products, Saiz has continued to forge on beyond her band with the label. Hers is a boutique approach that harkens back to the incredibly detailed and intimate (read: limited edition) releases of the '90s noise and power violence scenes. Its latest release is Forest of Tygers' album, Bruises. We had a chance to discuss the label with her as well as the legalities of including a knife in the release.
New Times: You're already part of one of South Florida's most happening bands, Shroud Eater. You're an accomplished visual artist. Tell us about the label and what prompted you to start it.
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Jean Saiz: Well, Shroud Eater self-released our first record and our demo EP. I figured if we were going to self-release again, then I may as well do it under a moniker and call it a "label" for the purposes of PR/marketing and things of that nature. But once I made that decision, then I knew it wasn't going to be just a label to put out Shroud Eater stuff, it had to expand in order to be taken seriously and not be some vanity project.
I also wanted to include my illustrative work under the Primitive Violence name, because ultimately, I don't see what I'm doing, at least currently and in the near future, as a proper label; I've wanted to maintain it as a collaborative work between myself and the different bands to get their tunes out and heard in as artistic a way as possible, hence the emphasis on the Limited Edition releases.
I know quite well what appeals to me about "archaic" formats like vinyl and cassettes. Primitive Violence is a "cassette only" house. What appeals to you about the medium and what advantage does it have in the digital age?
Cassettes are just very cost-effective all around, they're small in size and weight so it facilitates mailing them around the states or overseas, relatively inexpensive to reproduce, and you have lots of options with colors of the cassette shells which is attractive to me. I'd love to release vinyl, but it's just so damn expensive, and I don't have that kind of disposable income, so the next option was cassette.
There are obvious disadvantages, mainly not a whole lot of people have equipment with which to play cassettes, but personally, when I went out to grab a cassette player and sat down and listened to the cassettes I own, I just really loved the grittiness to the sound.
Did you find any difficulties in the process of creating releases? J-cards, mass-reproduction, anything like that?
No, not at all. The graphic stuff I could do blindfolded because I work in graphic design and print so the terminology and file formats I'm very familiar with. The first two releases had a super tight schedule as far as getting the cassettes in time for their respective release dates. I remember staying up till 3 a.m. a day or two before Orbweaver's release show assembling the packages and putting everything together. Otherwise, it's been a smooth process and no complaints.
What kinds of bands are you looking to work with?
Bands whose music I enjoy, obviously, but I tend to gravitate to bands that are stepping out of the comfort zones of their respective genres and are doing something that, at the very least, I find to be different or interesting. I tend to gravitate to the heavier end of the musical spectrum, but ultimately I just have to enjoy the music, and have a sense of camaraderie with the bands I'm working with. Also, bands that plan on pushing their releases via live shows, touring, and being generally active as a band.
I know you have the Forest of Tygers tape out and the packaging on that is monstrous. What are the legalities of including a blade in the release?
Hmm... not sure, nor do I want to investigate! Before we decided on the pocketknife we had toyed with including human teeth, but they proved to be too pricey to procure and there may have been some weird legalities with including them.
Your releases are relatively cheap. At $5 a pop, that's cheaper than what most labels/stores want for a 7"er. Is this model on purpose? Can you manage to turn a profit at that rate?
The only profit I'm interested in making is to fund future releases, that's it. So far it's worked out and worked out well enough to keep the model going. I'm not planning on doing more than two to three releases a year, so it pans out well.
Like I said before, I never intended this to be a proper label, and the idea of "turning profit" is kind of a turn-off. I just want to help and facilitate in creating something cool and unique for bands that I enjoy; bringing money into the fold would turn an enjoyable project into something stressful, and I have enough of that at my regular full-time job.
I like the "bagged" idea. It reminds me of the incredibly complex and sophisticated packages found in mid-'90s noise releases. What kind of packaging ideas have you toyed with that we could expect to see?
For now I'm keeping with the polybag motif, if only because I really like the way everything is packaged together and it reminds me of old toy packaging or comic book stores and the weird and wonderful packages you'd find therein. I have toyed with incorporating wood, leather or other materials as far as packaging, but it would really drive my costs up, and right now I'd like to maintain everything at a feasible working level.
The things that I'd like to focus more on is the weird trinket or "extra" object that comes with the limited edition releases; for Shroud Eater I found these ceramic Death charms from Peru that went with the whole "Dead Ends" vibe, Orbweaver had trading card packs with the characters from their crazy narrative, and with Forest of Tygers' release I have the stainless steel engraved pocketknife, which has this cold, surgical vibe that I think went really well with the aesthetic for their release.
It's part of the fun to try to come up with some odd object to include with the releases because it has to make sense with the band and with their music, so who knows what weird shit will be included with the next release!
What's next for Primitive Violence?
Well the Forest of Tygers' tape has been released into the wild and is doing well. I'm in talks with another band for a possible fall release, and it's a band I really enjoy and who are a lot of fun, so I'm definitely excited about that project. I'd also like to incorporate more of my illustrative work under the Primitive Violence umbrella and push that aspect as well, and generally just try to get some more exposure as a label/illustration house so that in turn, it gains more exposure for the bands.
Forest of Tygers
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