So, Ted, tell us all about it…
Well I’m involved in a project curated by Asher Remi-Toledo, co-founder of a group called No Longer Empty, a non-profit organisation based in New York. Its mission is to address the issues of all of these abandoned spaces due to the financial crisis and to try and get something going in the spaces. The goal is to revitalise the space and provide more community access and more exciting things for the community to get involved with – and we’re working alongside Liverpool’s The Art Organisation and The Biennial.
How come you decided to use the space you found in Liverpool to build a record store and gig venue?
Well, No Longer Empty’s usual modus operandi is that they’ll pick a building and then do an art show based on the history of that building thematically. In this case, with the fact that this (Binary Cell, Seel Street) is a club and a recording studio, my installation sort of follows along that line, I think Asha is also working under the idea that Liverpool is such a music city!
I worked with No Longer Empty back in January and we did this record shop in an
abandoned Tower Records in New York. That record store included forty artists
and musicians, including Arturo Vega from The Ramones and Exene Cervenka from the band X etc – and was really well received! So when Asha was asked to do this project for the Biennial, it was like, ‘oh we’ve got to do a Never Records’.
So what happens at Never Records on a day-to-day basis?
The basic premise of this installation is that we have performers perform, then I record
it, cut the record, and then I fill the bins with the performances that have been recorded
here. This interview is actually being recorded right now, so we are performing right now!
Oh flip. Can we buy the records?
People can buy the record, look at the records… I‘m doing original artwork on each of them and it will hopefully confound people and make them think that it’s a real record store. It will be open to the public during the first week of the Biennial!
Well we had a great show on Thursday with Hot Club de Paris and That Fucking Tank. It was amazing. There were 150 people here and everybody was so enthusiastic! Two groups are helping me curate the performances and that’s Samizdat and Burn Everything. You can find out when the next ones are by visiting the samizdat website, but we are pretty open to who performs. We’re going to record an impromptu performance by a girl from Italy in a bit too. It’s all very open.
What’s the reason behind the name, ‘Never Records’?
It’s supposed to pose this existential dilemma, because Never Records is not a real record store and it’s not a real record label. We have two mottos: one is ‘Never Records you’re not listening’, that’s our slogan, and the other is ‘Never Records since tomorrow’. It’s a fictional title.
It was inspired by a record store back in Washington DC where a lot of my music heroes worked, called ‘Yesterday and Today’. When I was sixteen, my mother was in a mental hospital for a year and instead of becoming a pyromaniac, or getting into drugs, I joined a band and really got into the music scene.
‘Yesterday and Today’ was where I learnt everything: sex, how to dress, politics, everything. I become an acolyte to this secular building that I could go to and learn metaphysical things, in a weird sort of way.
Did your experience of ‘Yesterday and Today’ inspire you to create Never Records, a similar space for others to go to then?
Yeah it did. A lot of my current work explores the symbols of rock ‘n’ roll and rock as symbols of redemption. I’m interested in looking at things like records stores and electric guitars for their redemptive quality and also their salvation. Does that make sense?
So I’m in a constant search of secular communities that provide y’know the sort of spiritual support that a church might without the institutions of the church, and music provides that, and record stores and clubs and musicians provide it.
Have you seen this working elsewhere?
Yeah, at a recording studio called Sun Studios in Memphis Tennessee, the birth place
of rock ‘n’ roll. You would go in there and you’d see all of this history, and photographs
documenting the history of the place, but at the same time it also still thrives as a place
where music is still made. I love that.
Another inspiration for Never Records is the label of the national archive of the United
States. It was started by a guy who sought to increase the understanding amongst peoples through the dissemination of sound.
So you’ve been here just a few weeks. Do you think there’s been a need for Never Records here?
Yeah, the impression I got from our last gig was that while everyone was enthusiastic, they were also really sort of melancholic or sad about the fact that I was going to leave and take this whole thing with me. It really seems like Liverpool needs a venue that maybe isn’t so concerned about making money and selling drinks and is more about being a positive performing space.
So records are being created and sold here, and gigs are taking place in both the day and the night. What else is up Never Records’ musical sleeve?
Well, Arturo Vega, who was the artistic director for The Ramones, did a t-shirt design for Never Records, so we’ll be printing those and they’ll be for sale but I think that at some point during the week I’m just going to invite people down to bring a shirt and we’ll just screen it for free. I have issues with this being a retail store because the whole idea is that I’m taking retail out of the record store and investigating what that means to people.
So what will happen to Never Records when the Biennial is over? Will Binary Cell become empty again?
Well It all finishes on November the 27th and by then we’ll have photographs of everything that happened this week, and hopefully we’ll have a record player too so you can listen to the other records that have been made here! I’m leaving before November
though, so they won’t be able to use the lathe – I have records to cut in New York!
As for the space, I think Samizdat are thinking about continuing it, and that’d be great. Even better than that though, I’d like to inspire other people to do something like this
because that would be really cool.
Visit Never Records at Binary Cell, Seel Street from 18 September to 27 November, 2010 as part of Liverpool’s Biennial Festival, and for a list of upcoming Never Records gigs, visit Samizdat online.