Chapter Music: The First Cassette

3 November 2022 | 10:50 am | Guy Blackman

Chapter Music is miraculously alive and kicking 30 years after its inception.

(Guy Blackman in 1990)

I was seventeen in Perth, Western Australia, in 1992. 

I had just moved out of home and was going to gigs, using a photocopied birth certificate with the year liquid-papered out as my fake ID. I was doing shows on the community radio station RTR FM and had access to the demos and local releases that came into the station. I was young and very excited about all the new music around me.

I had been doing a zine called Chapter 24 since my last year of high school in 1990. It was named after a Pink Floyd song from their first album Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. The zine was dedicated to their early singer Syd Barrett but started to cover more local music as it progressed. Chapter's first release Bright Lights, Small City, was meant to accompany the fourth issue of Chapter 24. 

There were a couple of inspirations for the tape. Local weirdo genius Julian Williams had put out Nuns In Adidas Footwear, a comp of wild and woolly Perth lo-fi pop, as the first release on his tape label From the Same Mother. And I'd recently picked up a benefit comp called Forest Frenzy with a bunch of cool bands like Manic Pizza and the Stoned Posers.

I approached bands at gigs, put up flyers in record stores, and spread the word around the small Perth independent music community. 

In 1992 grunge, shoegaze and Manchester pop were all big, and each of these genres made an appearance on the comp. Yummy Fur (not the Scottish band with the same name) was probably the best-known band on the comp. Their mum was my mum's Avon lady. 

At least three of the tracks on the comp were me in various guises. I recorded a few of the bands myself on my Fostex cassette four-track, resulting in some of the direst sounding no-fi recordings of all time. Horror-edged rock band Vacsonicuum suffered particularly at the hands of my wood-eared production. 

Kath Letch, the station manager of RTR FM, agreed to front up the money to manufacture the first 100 tapes, and I paid them back from door takings at the launch, which meant the bands didn't get paid very much! RTR did that for the next Chapter release too, so I owe them hugely for helping the label take its first steps.  

My friend Carly Nasso drew the cover art, and I photocopied the covers and typed each label individually. 

I had to use my fake ID to get into the venue for the launch of the cassette, at the Shenton Park Hotel, which happened sometime in mid-June 1992 (probably Fri June 19 if I look at a 1992 calendar) with Mustang!, Wooden Fische, Benji, The Violet Slide and Yummy Fur. The show sold out, and I think we sold most of the cassettes on the night. I sold probably another 100 copies through local record stores Dadas and House Of Wax.

For years I was kinda embarrassed by a lot of the music on Bright Lights, Small City. I was really young, and my tastes weren't as "developed" as they later became. Looking back now, it's all great - Torchey Blaine's dreamy synth plod, Andrew Craw's drum machine-driven clatter-pop, Wash's grunge-gaze crossover, and Mustang! 's blustery rock swagger.

In the process of getting the tape together, the actual fanzine had fallen by the wayside, so the first tape came out as "A Chapter 24 compilation" with no actual fanzine attached. 

For the next tape (a Sonic Youth tribute tape, no less), I decided this was actually a record label now and needed a name. There was already a UK label called Chapter 22 at the time, so I just called it Chapter Music. It's always seemed like a pretty bland name, but I guess we're stuck with it!

From then on, I was hooked on this label thing. Ben O'Connor and I started running Chapter together when I moved to Melbourne in 1995, and we have put out nearly 200 releases in the thirty years since this first one, but I guess you never forget where you came from.

Chapter Music, Triple R, and ALWAYS LIVE present Chapterfest 30, an all-day party at Northcote Theatre this Saturday, 5 November, featuring artists from the record label across a 30-year lifespan. 

The line-up includes '80s post-punk band Essendon Airport, pop auteur Gregor, Sydney songwriter Laura Jean, "Antipodean Mutant Melt Down Music" group No Zu, noir-pop artist Sweet Whirl, rap duo Teether & Kuya Neil, Sydney's The Cannanes, and beloved Hobart act The Native Cats. The event will celebrate 17-year-old Blackman putting together a quirky record label with Ben O'Connor. 

Tickets here.

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