Deckhead Records Tells Us Why Cassettes Are Still Cool & How They're Helping Artists Release Them

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Ask anyone over 40 and they might tell you the cassette is dead and then lament over their melted collection, the one that was formerly housed in their red ‘83 Camaro. Heck- even just a few years ago most millennials might have moaned that the tape deck in their car was useful only as a cassette adapter before the ever-present auxiliary (aux) port became standard in car radio. But just as high-waisted jeans and vinyl have made their way back into many of our hearts, so too has the cassette tape. I was recently gifted a Savage Blush cassette by Deckhead Records’ Duncan Bryant, which prompted me to chat further with the classic tape expert about why cassettes are back and how he’s bringing them to ears, cars, and living rooms worldwide with some of Colorado’s own talent. Read on:

Who is Deckhead Records?

Deckhead Records is a two man operation out of Boulder, Colorado. Chris Ferguson and I started the label to help our friends’ bands put out physical music releases. Deckhead is centered around the DIY ethos- we design and assemble all the tapes in-house. It’s definitely a labor of love! We also publish the Chowder Zine, which covers art, music and skateboarding “stuff.”

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How did Deckhead start?

I had the idea of a tape-based record label for a good while. I saw some of the bigger guys like Burger Records and Lolipop Records doing it, and then when I saw what First Base Tapes was doing for the Front Range indie scene, I thought that was something I wanted to do for the garage/psych/alt scene. And it kind of snowballed from there. We’re now working on releases nine and ten, with a few more in the works, so it’s been really rad to see it grow!

Why cassettes?

I’m a big music collector. It started mostly with records, which if you collect records you know how quickly that drains your wallet. Then I rescued an old tape deck out of my work’s dumpster and started getting tapes. At $5 a pop, I could get a few albums for the price of one record, and if I was at a show, I could just shove it in my pocket and carry on. I also started noticing that the bands I love were all putting out tapes in addition to their records. So that whole experience opened up my eyes to how popular tapes are getting (again) and it seemed like a realistic way for Deckhead to get off the ground on a nearly non-existent budget.

Also, from a label standpoint, cassettes are one of the more approachable means of a DIY physical music release. The entire process of making the release can be done in-house for fairly cheap, while still putting out a really high quality tape.

 One of Deckhead's releases.

One of Deckhead's releases.

How does Deckhead find the artists you work with?

It’s really a combination of us finding projects and projects finding us. The big thing is we’re not a “tapes for order” company, and we put a lot of consideration into all the releases we take on. I guess what I mean by that is we put out music we’d listen to, and that’s really the first and last thing that we’re concerned with. So if any bands out there have demos, send ‘em to us! We’re focusing on garage/psych/alt stuff and we’re starting to expand into the heavier side of things, but we’re down to check out anything!

What does the tape making process entail?

We basically do the entire process out of my apartment! We get blank tapes and cases, and the rest is on us to dub, design, and assemble the cassettes. It is insanely time-consuming (anyone out there selling a tape duplicator?! hit us up!), but we love doing it, so it’s worth the time and effort that goes into every release. There’s something cool about doing it all yourself and putting out a quality release too.

 The Deckhead release that started the author's recent cassette obsession.

The Deckhead release that started the author's recent cassette obsession.

Why do you think cassettes are making a comeback?

I think it all stems from a lot of people still really, really enjoying collecting physical music despite the world being in the “digital music age.” There’s something cool about walking into someone’s living room and seeing a record collection or a tape collection. You flip through that and can learn a lot about a person based on what they decided to make the effort to buy.

Cassettes are funny though. A lot of people seem to be buying them without even having tape decks. It’s kind of the “trading card” mentality. It seems like a lot of people will snag a tape at a show because it’s a cheap keepsake and they can slide it in their pocket and not be bogged down with a big record or poster tube for the rest of the show.

 Deckhead's first tape release.

Deckhead's first tape release.

What does the Deckhead current catalogue look like?

We release music we love, and that’s everything from garage/psych stuff, to shoegaze, to stoner metal. We just love good tunes. Here’s a rundown of what we’ve put out since we’ve started:

Past Tape Releases:

  • (DHR001) - GHOSTS (Richomond, VA) - “i don’t know what i’m doing”
  • (DHR002) - GHOSTS (Richmond, VA) - “Ugly Kid”
  • (DHR003) - GHOSTS (Richmond, VA) - “Stupid Boy”
  • (DHR004) - GHOSTS (Richmond, VA) - “Super Star”
  • (DHR005) - False Peaks/Adult Colour (Boulder, CO) - “Split EP” (Local Label Day 2017 Release)
  • (DHR006) - The Savage Blush (Denver, CO) - “DUST EP”
  • (DHR007) - Nocturnal North (Phoenix, AZ) - “Radicle”
  • (DHR008) - The Savage Blush (Denver, CO) - “The Savage Blush”

We also have some more releases in the works for the next six months. We’re really stoked to be focusing more on the Front Range, but we’ll also be doing our first international release early next year with London psych metal band Green Lung.

Coming Up:

  • (DHR009) Slynger (Denver, CO) - “Sharp Teeth”
  • (DHR010) The Amphibious Man (Boulder, CO) - “Silver Alert
  • (DHR???) The Kinky Fingers (Denver, CO) - “Garbage Plate”
  • (DHR???) GHOSTS (Richmond, VA) - TBD
  • (DHR???) Green Lung (London, UK) - TBD
 The Deckhead cassette logo found on every release.

The Deckhead cassette logo found on every release.

Righteous. Anything else we should know about Deckhead?

First and foremost, support small music and especially your local music scene! Find shows and go to them. Buy some merch. Tell a band you dig them. “Smaller” bands bust their asses to bring us good music, so we gotta help them stay stoked!

Also, Deckhead Records publishes a zine called Chowder that I mentioned. It’s the brainchild of Deckhead dude Chris Ferguson. It’s art-centric, but also covers skating and music. Volume 1 just came out and is 20 full-color pages of insanity! Check it out!

I think that’s it? Thanks for talking with us. BolderBeat is the sh*t!

Keep up with Deckhead Records and snag a tape for yourself to join the cool kids here.

-Hannah

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All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.