About nine years ago, around 2011, a strange record turned up on Discogs, titled 8705640 and credited to an artist named Mark Pawson. I came across it while cruising a list of silent records compiled by a user named “type.” The record’s title corresponds to a strange barcode on the front cover, and it was listed as an anti-record because, as the images showed, the record itself had crude, hand-etched grooves, leading to a warning:
Could be played, but WILL cause severe needle damage.
Curious about this anti-record, I tracked the artist down. It turns out he is a mail art veteran who has published books and staged exhibitions of visual art.
How did the idea for this hand-etched record come about?
Through play and experimentation, and using readily available materials/techniques. I was about 19 when I made this and making printed materials such as spraypainted postcards, photocopied leaflets and an assembling publication. Distributing to personal friends and via the mail art network. I think this was a one-off – (probably) made as a contribution to a specific Mail Art project/exhibition.
Were you aware of other hand-etched or damaged records, or records where people are encouraged to carve their own sounds into the grooves? Was there any conceptual/philosophical background? (Yours is one of the earliest incarnations of this theme).
At this point in time no, but I’d seen self-released records, with folded photocopy/handprinted sleeves, rubber-stamped labels, etc — so that DIY/self-made aspect was more of an influence. The felt-tip pen spirals on the labels were inspired/copied from one of those. My idea was for patterns and textures on the sleeve, labels, vinyl,
What else was going on (in your life, in your musical life) around the time the record came out?
It was the period between school in my hometown, Lymm, Cheshire, UK – the address which is on the sleeve – and moving to London to attend University. Very active in the Mail Art Network – which was my art education. At this time made some very rough tape overdubbed ‘music’ (but nothing since then). Listening to the John Peel radio show, buying a few records (but i didn’t have a record player for a long time!) and going to gigs – when I had the money – and when I could get a lift. Locally – Dislocation Dance, Mudhutters, in Warrington – Membranes, Drones, A Certain Ratio, At the Manchester Apollo – Buzzcocks, Joy Division, The Skids, Altered Images, Vic Godard & Subway Sect, most of the 2-Tone bands, The Clash, Orange Juice, The Mo-dettes, Diagram Brothers, Stray Cats, Barracudas… At the Hacienda in Manchester, Undertones, New Order, The Final Academy -PTV/Wm Burroughs/Brion Gysin…
Can you take me through how you made them? What was the process for creating the covers and for creating and etching the records? (Were they blank records or recycled records?)
Cover – I used this photocopier-generated print for several projects/purposes, kind of as a generic device. Record was re-used, it was hard to scratch with any accuracy/precision, think I used the end of a screwdriver and pressed down really hard.
How was it distributed?
How many copies were made?
I think this was a one-off, it is possible there might have been a couple more, don’t think I still have any.
What did people think of the record? What was the response like?
I don’t know!
Do you have any interesting stories related to the release?
It was interesting to see that it appeared on Discogs!
Just to make sure I understand — this was only produced in a single edition of 1-3 copies? And then it popped up on Discogs without your intervention?
I know that, apart from this, you are involved with numerous artistic projects, including zines, books, and visual art. Your website is amazing! I wanted to know a little bit more about you — some background on where are you from, roughly how old are you, and what do you do outside of your involvement in arts?
Website and Instagram gives a pretty good idea of what I get up to. I’m 56, live in East London, I’m a bookmaker, book seller, Lecturer, artist, writer…
Thanks for filling us in on this strange release!