In 2004 and 2005, a Portland, Oregon label called SRR, about which little information persists, put out a series of one-minute cassettes called “Waste of Plastic.”
Short music is an area of study unto itself, but this series is notable because it produced at least eighteen releases, including tapes by noise music legends like The Haters, The Rita, Pedestrian Deposit, and The Cherry Point. Each edition was one minute in length, meaning 30 seconds per side.
The main surviving relic of Waste of Plastic is an incomplete Discogs listing , but through some complicated web searching, I was able to track down Travis Henke, who ran the label.
“So I started SRR while I was a junior in high school in 2003,” he tells me. “I was from Portland, Oregon at the time, which had a rather robust noise scene during those years. My first introduction to noise was through a no-wave band I was playing in at the time.”
That band’s vocalist, Dennis Naslund — whom Henke considers “the most interesting person I’ve ever known,” was into bands like Negativland, Smegma, and The Residents, which was how Henke got interested in experimental music. Henke and Naslund formed the band ith/ist/ism, which put out a few releases on Naslund’s bizarre label, The Terrorists Win!
“During that time, our whole interest was just doing absurd things with music,” Henke says. “We primarily recorded found sounds, junk covered in contact mics, circuit bent toys, etc. I think we even did a Crass cover.”
Eventually, Henke formed his own solo noise project named Dance Wounds. “I really had no idea what I was doing and just set off with a couple of distortion pedals, a contact mic I made from a piezoelectric transducer from Radio Shack, and a Behringer mixer. I started a tape label just to get my own stuff out there, which I called Self Released Records.”
Prior to getting involved in noise, he was interested in hardcore punk, and especially the hyper-fast, hyper-short genre known as powerviolence. That’s how he came across Slap-A-Ham’s seminal miniature (and unplayable) records, specifically a two-inch record by The Slight Slappers and a one-inch record by Spazz. “I never owned a copy of those two SAH releases, but a friend did. I seem to remember them being Barbie records that were repurposed. Oddly enough, that friend is now putting out 3” lathe cut records of powerviolence bands that are allegedly playable.”
Those novelty records fueled an interest in “ridiculous music formats,” which he parlayed into several experiments. “I made a split ‘record’ between Dance Wounds and (fellow noise artist) Haruki Murakami. I took some old jazz 45 and, using Elmer’s glue, stuck it to a piece of cardboard. When I peeled off the 45, it left a ‘negative’ of the record, which is still playable (although it could mess up your needle).”
That record, SRR023, is listed on Discogs but no photos of it exist. Neither Henke nor Paul Nemeth, who is the man behind Haruki Murakami, have any remaining copies.
Henke also put out an anti-record by Dennis Naslund and the Broken Records, titled Soundtrack For a Landfill. Each copy featured two pieces of 10″ records stuck together with duct tape. As the liner notes warned:
“WARNING: This Record WILL fuck up your needle. DO NOT play it on a decent turntable with a needle you don’t want ruined. For the proper effect, either switch your regular needle out with a shitty one or use your parents’ old busted up record player. This will produce the intended sound and save you the headache of having to repair your record player. Enjoy!
“Even odd formats that were still somewhat user-friendly interested me,” Henke explains. “I remember putting out a Maim business card CD-R (SRR014), which seemed like the most ridiculous format I could think of at the time.” (That format has since become common on noise labels.)
The idea for Waste of Plastic occurred in 2004. “I was placing a bulk order for cassettes and noticed that you could buy them in any increment of time down to one minute, meaning that each side would be 30 seconds long. This seemed so stupid at the time that I had to try it. I ended up titling the series ‘Waste of Plastic’ because it was the best description I could think of for a one-minute cassette.”
He would sell copies of his tapes on the message board for the Troniks record label, which was a popular hub for noise fans and artists in the early 2000s. Many of the artists who put out tapes as part of the Waste of Plastic series were active on that forum in the early 2000s.
Henke also disseminated his tapes in other ways. “I did a lot of label trades to get the tapes out to other people,” he says, “But the most I ever made of anything was 50, so it ended up being rather easy to sell out of everything. I went to an art school for high school and some of my friends were into experimental stuff, but I kept the label pretty separate from the rest of my personal life. “
His Waste of Plastic tapes came out in fifty-copy editions, with each one meticulously assembled by hand. “Most of my memories of doing the tapes were the numerous all-nighters I would pull at Kinkos. A good friend of mine managed it so I was able to do all my printing for free, but only in the middle of the night. I guess the other cool thing I remember was Thurston Moore always bought stuff from me, which seemed really random.”
Thurston Moore was not the only one buying these tapes; their unique concept likely endeared them to collectors. “Some of them sold out immediately, but ultimately, people were buying them pretty regularly as soon as a new one would come out. I think it was just the novelty of the length that was appealing for people. I’ve always been a fan of record clubs like Sub Pop, so looking back I wish I structured it more like that, where each month a new one would come out for members.”
He figures he had gained some credibility before starting the Waste of Plastic series, since by then he had already put out tapes by established noise acts on his SRR label. “Back then, the noise scene was kind of weird. It wasn’t completely over-saturated but there were definitely artists who would let any new tape label put something out for them, which I think may have cheapened the allure for listeners. The Cherry Point was one of those few artists who was excessively prolific but still viewed as a major contender in the scene.”
Today, the tapes are largely lost to the annals of time, though one wonders if Thurston Moore still has his copies. “Unfortunately, I do not own a single thing I’ve released,” Henke says. “I’m not really sure why. For some releases, I ended up selling my own personal copies to people who wanted them, just because I would rather someone else have the music to listen to. I’ve been able to find mp3s of some of the stuff on Soulseek, but there were some SRR releases limited to 8 copies that are gone forever.”
Henke indulges me for a minute and tells me what he can remember from this elusive series.
WOP3: The Found My Naked Corpse Face Down in the Snow – Untitled
“Wasn’t even a noise band, but rather an emo violence band that Dennis Naslund sang in.”
WOP5: The Haters – Audiothecary
“It was just a single tone throughout. The privilege of putting something out by The Haters was enough that it didn’t matter, but that one just seemed a little ‘phoned-in.'”
WOP8: Ahlzagailzehguh – Damaging Habits C1 (WOP8)
“I think my favorite out of all of them was the Alhzagailzehguh tape. There just seemed to be so much packed into 30 seconds.”
Some other highlights from the series include the first Waste of Plastic release, which was Generica by noise veteran Pop Culture Rape Victim (a.k.a. Matt Taggart). Another notable release was Hereyesran by the local Portland noise artist Nkondi (a.k.a. Erik Arteaga), who ran the prolific noise label dollfullofrivets.
Henke recalls there being 18 tapes in total. Three are not listed on Discogs (WOP10, WOP12, WOP14), and Henke could not recall the details on their identities. Fortunately, this catalog provides the details (but not images) of two of them. WOP12 is another tape by Naslund’s “emo violence” band, They Found My Naked Corpse Face Down In The Snow, entitled Spragg Vs. Sporr. And WOP14 is Dennis Naslund under his own name, with the provocatively titled Unconscious Cheerleaders / Central Park Joggers. That leaves WOP10 unaccounted for — a mystery for the ages!
I ask Henke how he feels about the project a decade and a half later. His feelings are mixed. “Looking back on it, I feel like the execution could have been better from an aesthetic standpoint. The design for the tapes is garbage. I let the artists provide their own cover art, but the overall layout was done by me to keep things consistent but I didn’t have much of a clue what I was doing.
“I ended up stopping SRR in 2005 since I had graduated high school, was living on my own, and was too broke to put out tapes on a consistent basis.” Henke has since switched tacks and is on his way to a successful non-musical career, but he retains an interest in adventurous audio. “I haven’t kept up with the scene since then, but I still enjoy power electronics and death industrial,” he says. “I have played in other bands since then, all sorts of stuff.” He’s even started up a new coldwave project. But that’s another story.
Do you know the identity of Waste of Plastic tape #10? If so, please leave a comment or email me!
Thanks to Travis Henke for the interview.