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Mike Prezzato of Flesh Wave Tapes interview

Mike Prezzato of Flesh Wave Tapes has been pumping out some of the best DIY cassette tape releases out there since 2012, but I only became aware of that after a recent interview with Sick Thought’s Drew Owen (Interview here) when I discovered that the then digitally released Selfies Bad Bloodalbum was not only another one of Drew’s many side projects, this time slated for release on Flesh Wave, but that the guy who ran the label also played on the album.  I really dig the scuzzy, lo-fi, demo like quality of Selfies and had checked out a few of the other bands on the label including Fake Surfers, Eroders and an insanely awesome Timmy Vulgar tape, Center Of Saturn, which was recently repressed for the last time; so take note fanboys!  I grew up around 80’s punk zines and DIY cassette tape releases, so from the instant I clicked play and started listening to the music, I was whisked away to a time when people did stuff because they cared.  They put music out because they gave a shit.  They did everything themselves.  They recorded the music, they dubbed the tapes, they made the artwork and then usually they gave it all away to friends or fans accepting money when it was offered to them.  It’s good to know that spirit is still alive and kicking with labels like Flesh Wave around.  Don’t get me wrong, Flesh Wave isn’t caught up in the 80’s or any era really for that matter, but they represent the kind of label that typifies the era to me.  A label that’s more concerned with putting out good music that fits into what they’re doing and that they enjoy, and will enjoy, listening to than anything else.  A label that represents one of those intangible but always intelligible visions of self-expression and exploration with little thought to the critical audience that might receive it.  Needless to say, I was sufficiently interested in what the label had planned for the future and just how they had gotten started.  By chance founder Mike Prezzato, who turned out to be a super cool dude more than willing to give our lucky readers a glimpse at where he’s been and just what Flesh Wave has in store for the universe, popped up on my Facebook feed one day and that was that.  So pop the top off a bottle of beer, stick some sick punk on the stereo via the link below and enjoy the ride because this is more lo-fi, Detroit punk in once place than most people find in a life time!
Listen while you read:

Where are you originally from?

Mars, probably.  I grew up in suburban Detroit and lived in the city in recent years.  Currently moving to Austin in March.

What was the music scene like where you grew up?  Did you see a lot of shows when you were growing up or get very involved in the local music scene?

Yeah, a lot of local shows.  We’d go to any show just to have something to do.  Most of the time shows in the burbs were pretty crummy but there were a couple all ages joints at least.  I’ve been involved with one music scene or another actively since about 1998, whether it’s just going to shows, doing art for bands or putting stuff out.

What was your house like when you were younger?  Was there a lot of music around you?  Were either your parents or any of your relatives musicians or extremely involved or interested in music?

Nothing overwhelming music wise growing up.  I had to find out about all the weird music by myself, as my parents interest in music didn’t exactly go too deep underground.  My dad’s cassette copy of Billy Joel’s Glass Houses really stuck with me though.

What was your first real exposure to music?

Real exposure to music, or to “real” music?  Something that I remember being a moment of hearing “real” music, something that seems to me to have some semblance of heart and balls, was hearing a cassette of Dead Kennedys In God We Trust Inc.  Raw, quick, funny and fucked up.  It was a mess and I dug it.

If you had to pick a single defining moment of music, a moment that opened your eyes to the infinite possibilities of music and changed everything for you, what would it be?

There isn’t one.  It’s not that simple, it’s more of a load of experiences that happened slowly over time, and even that shouldn’t be bothered to be sorted out or defined.

I grew up around a fairly sizable collection of my dad’s music and I was encouraged to check out anything that I wanted to when I was young and enjoy the collection.  I would snag stuff off of these enormous shelves of music that never seemed to end.  I’d stick it in the player, kick back in the beanie bag, read the liner notes, stare at the artwork and let the music transport me off somewhere else.  Having something physical to hold in my hands, something to experience along with the music always offered a rare glimpse inside of the minds of the artists that made it and made for a more complete listening experience, at least for me.  As a result I’m a little bit obsessed with the rush that comes along with listening to physically released music and don’t think I’ll ever fully get over my “addiction” to it.  Do you have any such connection with physically released music?

Yes and no.  I sort of hate owning too much stuff, so my collection of music, and everything pretty much, has downsized a lot.  Plus I had some music stuff stolen from me, including a ton of cassettes, so that kinda made me say, “fuck it" as well.  I want to start getting some of my favorite stuff back on vinyl, as I do enjoy the physical product, but I listen to a ton of music on the computer, because hey, it’s the future and it’s really damn convenient.

As much as I love my music collection digital music is amazing.  Not only has it allowed me greater access to my music collection but when you team it with the internet, that’s when things get really interesting.  I’ve been exposed to an entire universe of music that I would never have been exposed to and they seem to have somewhat levelled the playing field for independent artists and labels willing to promote a good online presence and really interact with their fan base.  On the other hand illegal downloading is running rampant right now and it’s getting harder and harder to get any sort of following or anything in the chocked digital jungle out there.  As the owner of a label during the reign of the digital era what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?

I mean, personally, if I listen to it online or if I download it, and I really like it, I’ll buy it.  I think that’s sort of the common mentality with people who appreciate underground music and labels.  It’s hard to pick up everything cool though because, who has the money for it?  Honestly, in regards to my label, I just appreciate people checking it out, even if they get a download and don’t buy anything.  That’s how it goes.  I hope they would buy something, but I’m not gonna be pissed off if they downloaded it or anything.  Sure I’d rather they bought it, but ya can’t control those things. They dig it, they’re listening to it, and that’s cool in itself.

When did you first decide that you wanted to start releasing and recording music and what brought that decision about?

The thing with this label, as far as the tapes go, is that my goal from the get go was to release all the tunes my friend Ian Swanson and myself had recorded from 2010-2012.  I had enough material, plus that of other local bands, to release.  It expanded to bands like Fake Surfers, Eroders, Timmy Vulgar, and so on.  Always keeping with being demo-ish recordings.  And that’s fine, it is what it is, and releasing ‘em on cassette fits that aesthetic well.

When did you start Flesh Wave Tapes?  Do you run the label on your own or do you have any help from anyone else?

Flesh Wave started as a zine in 2005-ish that came with a tape compilation of Detroit hardcore punk bands.  I started doing the tapes just recently, in 2012.  Ian was part of it until he moved to New York City.  I’m running it now with help from my brother.

Did you start Flesh Wave Tapes with any certain goals in mind or in hopes of accomplishing some sort of goal?

Just to release all the tunes I was sitting on, like I said before.  Just releasing them was the goal in itself.

Where does Flesh Wave operate out of?

The basement of that sleazy Chinese restaurant on the corner of Caniff and Campau.

Is there any sort of creed, code, ideal or mantra that the label runs by?  Do you have any basic manifesto you founded the label upon?

Just to create my own little mutant media.  I don’t care about art as entertainment, but at the same time I don’t spend my energy hating on it.  Do your own thing and have it be for something, not against anything else.

What does the name Flesh Wave Tapes mean or refer to and how did you come up with it and go about choosing it as the name for the label?

It’s a takeoff of a line from a Henry Rollins book.  I forget the exact quote and what book it was from, so I’ll let you find it yourself.  That plus, “it sounds cool” would be my most honest explanation, as I don’t feel like searching for too much meaning in it.

Do you give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the label like logos and artwork for the label and its releases?  There’s a cool unifying theme that seems to tie everything together without everything looking like it comes from a cookie-cutter cloning machine or something.  Do you have any artist(s) that you usually turn to for those kinds of things?  If so, can you tell us who they are and how you originally got hooked up with them?

For sure.  Fake Surfers, Eroders, CANE! and Timmy were the only tapes I didn’t do the art for.  Ian and I came up with the punky skull logo.  Yeah, I like the “cookie cutter” thing like you said, but with each uniform product having its own unique voice.  I’m an artist first and foremost so of course I’ll take care of it myself before I turn to anyone else to fill in the blanks.  Jimbo Easter, from Pirahnas and Moon Hairy, did the excellent art on the Timmy tape!  He draws Timmy in that weirdo cartoony way a lot, I love it.

How would you describe the local music scene where you’re at now? 

It’s way cool.  Can’t go through every band but check out these labels, Urinal Cake, X Records and Gold Tapes.  Protomartyr is my favorite local act currently.

Do you mostly draw from local bands for your releases or do you release anything that catches your ear and you think fits the label well?

It’s mostly based on if it really catches my ear.  Don’t care too much beyond that.  The only non-Detroit bands I’ve put out so far are CANE!, from Italy, and Deformities, from Baltimore.  I’ve had a lot of bands send me their stuff asking me to put it out, but nothing really vibed with what I was looking for.

Do you accept demos and if so where’s the best place for people to submit stuff?  I know you said you haven’t released anyone outside of Detroit except for two or three things but with the upcoming expansion to vinyl, are you looking to expand your roster of artists outside of the Detroit area or do you plan to continue concentrating on local bands?

I’m always down to check stuff out, but getting a tape out now won’t happen until possibly further down the road at this point. is the best place to get in touch.  I never confined myself to say that I’d only put out Detroit stuff, it’s just worked out that way, obviously being from Detroit and digging some bands from the area.  I’ll put out whatever I like, from wherever it is.

What was your first release for Flesh Wave?  What are your memories of releasing that first cassette?  Do you do everything yourself?  Was it very a very stressful thing for you?

Astral projection, Klaus Kinski in Cobra Verde and eating a cheeseburger in Ann Arbor come to mind.  Nothing too memorable.  The first release was the Fake Surfers 6 song tape.  I did everything myself, because who else was gonna do it?  It’s not stressful, I enjoy working on, and making, these kinda things otherwise I wouldn’t have a functioning label.

Can you walk us through the typical process of putting something out briefly?

Well it usually involves a lot of emails or text messages with the band member I’m talking to, to square away what we’re gonna do.  While this is going on, I work on a tape insert on photoshop and print ‘em up, as well as order tapes.  When I get everything in one place, I dub tapes, fold inserts and apply stickers.  Then I’ll send ‘em out for review to a couple of mags/online places.  Nothing fuckin nutty, y’know.

What do you think you’ve learned since you released your first cassette in general about running the label and putting stuff out?

Probably just the reinforcement of do what you love to do.  Why are you not doing what you want to do?  Who cares how frowned upon or underpaying it is.  DIY or cry.

How is everything going for the label right now?  Is running Flesh Wave a fun, pleasurable experience or more of a labor of love for you right now?

I’m getting weird music out there, making some cash, which goes right back into the label usually, and meeting cool people because of it.  So I can’t complain.  I’ll usually throw in some free pins and an extra tape in mail-orders because I want to see stuff get out there.

I know you just released a slew of tapes as well as your first repress that I’m aware of, Timmy Vulgar’s Center of Saturn.  What all just came out (February 2014)?

Fake Surfers and Timmy are the only ones that have been repressed so far.  Recent releases (out this week as I type) are Selfies, Sex Objex, Flat Black Animal, the Timmy Vulgar repress and a compilation called Yes Future featuring Surfers, Eroders, CANE! from Milan, Italy, and Deformities, from Baltimore, which is another one of Drew from Sick Thoughts (Interview here) side project.  Each press has a run of one hundred copies on three different colored tapes.

Other than the upcoming shift from cassette to vinyl are there any major goals that you’re looking to accomplish with Flesh Wave in 2014?  What do you have in store for 2014 so far with the recent slew of releases are you going to sit on those for a little while or do you have a bunch of stuff already in the works?

Yeah, more shirts, pins, weirdo art books, and whatever other disgusting art shit we come up with, like 7“ singles!  The tapes are gonna hit a stand still because I’ve put out all the rough stuff I’ve been sitting on, so I’m gonna move on to another format.  I’m not ruling out ever doing tapes again, but I do have some great things lined up for the vinyl releases.

Now that you’re moving on from the tape cassette releases will there be continued reissues of some of those tape titles or should anyone interested make sure and pick them up now as you shift gears to start putting out vinyl?

Yeah, as the tapes sell out I'll do at least one repress per tape.  But I’ll be more focused on the vinyl in the future, so buy ‘em now, suckers!

With the decision to move into vinyl, is there going to be any radical shift in the sound of Flesh Wave Tapes or is it just kind of logical progression that you’ve known was inevitable since you started the label?

I will be looking for more established bands than most of the ragtag bunch I’ve had on the tapes.  That’s not to say anything against Fake Surfers, Eroders or CANE!, it’s more of a shift from just releasing all my side projects.  It will be more focused on established bands.

I know you said that you had a couple of vinyl releases in mind already, can you share any details about any of those releases?  Who’s going to be putting stuff out and possibly when your first vinyl pieces will start being produced?

After I move to Austin in March I’ll get ‘em going.  Sick Thoughts will be one, Timmy’s Organism is another.  There’s another probable one I shouldn’t talk about yet that I’m really excited for (hint: Memphis).  I’m thinking of a three song singles series.

Where’s the best place for our US readers to pick up copies of your releases?

Bandcamp.  And I always toss in extras, since I really appreciate everyone who takes an interest in the label.

With the absolutely insane international postage rate increases over the last few years I try and provide our readers with as many possible options for picking up import releases as I possibly can.  Where are the most inexpensive places for our international and overseas readers to pick up Flesh Wave’s stuff?

And where’s the best place for our readers to keep up on the latest news like upcoming releases from Flesh Wave Tapes at?

(2012)  Fake Surfers – Fake Surfers – digital, Cassette Tape – Flesh Wave Tapes (1st pressing limited to 100 copies, 2nd pressing limited to 100 copies)
(2012)  Fuck Eyes – Complicator – digital, Cassette Tape – Flesh Wave Tapes (Limited to 100 copies)
(2012)  CANE! – Cum In Your Heart – digital, Cassette Tape – Flesh Wave Tapes (Limited to 100 copies)
(2012)  Flat Black Animal – Strictly Nocturnal – digital, Cassette Tape – Flesh Wave Tapes (Limited to 100 copies)
(2012)  Various Artists – Side Effects Compilation – digital, Cassette Tape – Flesh Wave Tapes (Limited to 100 copies)
(2013)  Eroders – Eroders – digital, Cassette Tape – Flesh Wave Tapes (Limited to 100 copies)
(2013)  Timmy Vulgar – Center Of Saturn – digital, Cassette Tape – Flesh Wave Tapes (1st pressing limited to 100 copies, 2nd pressing limited to 100 copies)
(2014)  Sex Objex – Unprotected Sex – digital, Cassette Tape – Flesh Wave Tapes (Limited to 100 copies)
(2014)  Selfies – Bad Blood – digital, Cassette Tape – Flesh Wave Tapes (Limited to 100 copies)
(2014)  Various Artists – Yes Future Compilation – digital, Cassette Tape – Flesh Wave Tapes (Limited to 100 copies)

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
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