The Waste of Plastic tape series (SRR, 2004-2005)

“This seemed so stupid at the time that I had to try it.”

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.”

ith/ist/ism’s undated release, Forensic Ska/Reggae Vol. 1: Expeditions Into The Aesthetically Obsolete, which came in a sealed bag with a whole bunch of inserts. (Source: Discogs)

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.

Source: Discogs

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!

Love, Dennis”

“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.

The Rita – Thousands of Dead Gods CD (Troniks/PACrec, 2006)

“I spent many hours down there staring into the abyss.”

Sam McKinlay likes sharks. He also likes ballet. And when Sam McKinlay — who is better known as the harsh noise artist The Rita — likes something, he gets deeply into it.

The Rita’s 2006 CD, Thousands of Dead Gods, is one of McKinlay’s most well-known records. And that’s for good reason. It combines recordings of actual cage dives, in which people submerge themselves underwater in a cage to get close to sharks, with McKinlay’s signature layers of harsh noise.

Source: Discogs

“Sharks are easily my longest life obsession,” McKinlay tells me via email. “I got a large rubber shark from my parents when I was a toddler. I still actually have the shark. I think the key manifestation of the interest was the media around me at a very young age in the mid seventies. Grocery store magazine racks had sharksploitation magazines like Killer Sharks and Jaws of Death, articles about Jaws and eventually Jaws 2 were everywhere…  As a kid, I used to repeatedly draw long comic books about shark attacks. To this day I have been collecting rare book editions about killer sharks, mostly from the sixties and seventies, as the Great White Shark was garnering more and more media attention as cage diving became more common.” 

Killer Sharks magazine. (Source)

McKinlay’s obsessive qualities often get incorporated into his art; unlike some enthusiasts, he doesn’t get off on, say, just collecting shark memorabilia. For him, it seems to be a more dynamic process. “I really like to immerse myself in the material, actually live it in most cases. I love the idea of the life obsessions being translated directly into the creative processes – the material then has a real sense of sincerity to it. So when I have life interests such as sharks, it means a lot to me personally that I can use it directly for sound.”

The genesis of Thousands can be traced back to a trip McKinlay took to go cage diving. “My girlfriend at the time and I made plans to go on a week long — never leaving the boat — trip to the Isla Guadalupe to cage dive with great white sharks. Obviously a life long dream of mine, so it was amazing that we had the opportunity to make it happen. My brother who is a videographer and nature film documentary-maker lent me one of his cameras to document everything. The footage that I managed to get from the deck of the boat had resulting audio that was perfect for processing.”

McKinlay’s description of time in the cage seems like the physical embodiment of harsh noise. “Being in the cage was surreal. We had onboard air supply with hoses going through the top door of the cages. You couldn’t see the bottom, so you were constantly anticipating something appearing out of the darkness.”

He explains that the source audio for Thousands was a combination of recordings of his own dives (taken from the surface), as well as recordings of other people’s dives. “My personal recordings with the video camera were from the deck — the shark’s approach to the cages, taking the bait, the reactions from the people on the deck, the splashing of the cage floats on the surface. There’s also documentation of myself coming in and out of the cages. I spent many hours down there staring into the abyss. 

Source: Wikipedia

“The rest of the sounds were from my personal collection of vintage late sixties and early- to mid-seventies shark cage footage gathered through the years.” These include old VHS tapes of shark documentaries from the seventies and eighties. Among those tapes is footage of great white sharks done by classic divers like Rodney Fox and Valerie and Ron Taylor. “I have a great grey market copy of the masterpiece Blue Water White Death that was transferred directly from a rough 16mm print, years before the DVD eventually came out,” he tells me.

Using those VHS tapes, McKinlay carefully selected the portions of the footage with audio he wanted, then processed it “directly to taste from the various audio sources via various analog distortions and custom fuzz effects.”

At the time this record came out, The Rita was an established name on the noise scene. His earliest releases date back to the late nineties, though most of his music came out in 2004 and after. “I had gotten back into recording harsh noise after my BFA at the University of British Columbia. One of my more significant releases post-2000 was Bodies Bare Traces of Carnal Violence for Troniks which made full use of Giallo film murder sequence samples from various rare Giallo films. For my second CD on Troniks, I wanted to dig even deeper into the idea of life long interests, hence the great white shark as source.”

Thousands has since resonated with many noise heads, and McKinlay considers this an honour. He points out that a prominent Brooklyn noise store has adopted the name of the album for their storefront. “They reached out for my approval to use the name and I was honored to say the least. They still regularly stock merch from me and I got to finally visit the store in March of this year when they put on the Brooklyn show with myself, Black Leather Jesus, Vomir and JSH.”

I ask him how he feels about this often-discussed release, fourteen years later. “I still think it makes a strong harsh sound statement in terms of my lifelong obsession with sharks,” he modestly concludes.

Cover of The Voyage Of The Decima MAS (Source: Discogs)

Since Thousands, McKinlay has explored nautical themes in other releases. One such release was The Voyage Of The Decima MAS, a 2009 CD released on Troniks that references an Italian flotilla from the 1940s, active during the Fascist regime. On this album McKinlay combines noise with recordings of him snorkeling. To capture this audio, he used a custom contact mic designed to be used underwater, which was built for him by Traumatone, a.k.a. Ryan Bloomer. “The mic had a heavy-duty plastic and resin enclosure so I could rub it against rock, coral, the deep underwater cliffs where I snorkeled for the recording. The mic was still also sensitive enough to pick up the surface splashing when I came up for air.”

McKinlay snorkeling while wearing his vintage italian full face mask — and contact mic. (Source: Sam McKinlay).

The noise artist Crank Sturgeon later designed a similar contact mic for McKinlay to use during live shows, which he adapted to simulate the Decima MAS experience. At live shows in Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Dayton, he filled a large water basin and submerged the upper half of his body underwater while wearing a vintage Italian full-face diving mask. He put some rocks in the bottom of the basin and scraped the contact mic around among the rough surfaces to generate the performance’s audio.

The nautical story continued in 2017, when McKinlay released a seven-inch record called Journey Of The K-Verband (Throat Lure) — an audio document with an even more unusual premise. For this record, he rigged another Traumatone contact mic to a fishing lure, running its cable along the fishing line. “I have lots of experience fishing in the Pender Harbour area for lingcod, rock cod and dogfish, so I knew that it was inevitable one would take the lure in their mouth and catch some sort of sounds.”

His first catch was a rock cod, and he was overjoyed to discover that the microphone had caught it all: both the underwater “take” sounds and the sound of the ocean’s surface splashing as the fish was pulled up onto the deck. “I knew that when a large lingcod finally took the lure and mic I’d get even more aggressive sounds,” he says. “The plan went perfectly — large Lingcod, lines of underwater thrashing sounds, the surface splashing, and the eventual flopping on the deck before release. The mic held up beautifully.”

Original color photo of the mic being pulled out one of the lingcod’s mouths as it surfaced. (Source: Sam McKinlay)

Those sounds — the sounds of the ocean resonating from the inside of a fish’s mouth — made it onto the eventual record, mixed in with McKinlay’s noise.

Thanks to Sam McKinlay for the interview, and for sharing his photos. McKinlay’s website is bakurita.blogspot.com. His latest release is a split C30 between The Rita and fellow noise artist Bacillus, on McKinlay’s own Lake Shark HN label.