One of our favorite projects of the year is the new age music compilation, I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990, which was beautifully curated and co-produced by our friend Douglas Mcgowan. Like many of our friends, Douglas is an avid record collector. He’s also the proprietor of the acclaimed reissue label Yoga Records and the newly (re)launched Ethereal Sequence. We recently caught up with Douglas to discuss the merits of private press records, George Bush induced new age revivals and what’s on the horizon for Yoga Records. Read my Q&A with Douglas in its entirety below.
1. You’re a long time record collector, especially of privately issued records, a number of which you have re-released through your labels Yoga Records and Ethereal Sequence. What is it about one-off pressings that intrigues you?
Private private press is realer, more immediate, stranger, more singular as human expression and crucial as a document of the pre-internet world. Private press accounts for maybe half of all the interesting, great music of the 20th century, and it’s the half that is, for the most part, still a secret and a mystery for most folks.
2. You’ve reissued a lot of great music on your label Yoga Records. Some of my favorites include Bobb Trimble, Ted Lucas, and the Social Climbers. How do the projects come about? What is the selection process for what you decide to reissue?
I try to focus on the neglected, and derive satisfaction from people getting down with music they initially reject (eg new age). If you really love something you have to trust that folks will respond to it the same way you do even when it can be hard to explain. How listeners react is somewhat unpredictable and out of your hands once it’s out there. I knew I Am The Center would be warmly received by a few; I’m somewhat amazed by how positive the response has been, and from so many different folks outside the collector / indie music worlds.
3. As mentioned before, you were the mastermind and co-producer of I Am The Center. How did you originally get into New Age? What are some of your earliest experiences listening to and collecting the genre?
Earliest would have to be the wonderful and new agey Cosmos TV series soundtrack, which my father had on tape when I was a kid. I was an unwitting fan for a number of years before I realized that these titles I’d accumulated — Inter-Dimensional Music by Iasos, Gymnosphere by Jordan de la Sierra, Dragon Wings and Wizard Tales by Emerald Web — constituted the beginnings of a specific collection.
4. New Age has long been marginalized and disregarded as a serious genre, but has seen a resurgence in the past couple of years. What do you think has led to this?
Rewriting history is a fun and rewarding when you’re redressing something like the uninformed & nasty dismissal of early new age music. We’re always on the hunt for the next big thing, and often times that next thing is an opposite reaction to the status quo. I think the initial burst of resurgence in the genre during the George W. Bush years could reasonably be connected to the intense feelings of dread and despair many of us felt at the time.
Anyway… New age has always been in part about escapism, and undoubtedly the music served and continues to serve as a healthy, mindful way to distance ourselves from the clamor of the present moment.
5. Do you have any upcoming releases that you want to tell us about?
Yoga Records is working with Drag City on an album of previously unreleased material by the British instrumental savants known as WOO. It’s called When The Past Arrives and it’s sort of a sequel to WOO’s It’s Cosy Inside and dates to the same years. Yoga is bringing out a long-delayed CD of Dane Sturgeon’s legendary Wild ‘N’ Tender, and I’m glad to say we belatedly found the original master tapes for the Ted Lucas record and it’ll go back into print as an all-analog LP & 24-bit mastered CD. After that we’ll finally get around to doing a more comprehensive series of records covering Ted’s career starting with a Spike Drivers collection.
I’m also in the process of launching a new music / reissue label called Ethereal Sequence. It’s actually the revived private label for this ridiculously addictive synth pop album by a man named Konrad. We’re putting out his 1982 album Evil with a bonus single on vinyl in a couple of months.
6. Douglas, thanks again for taking the time to chat. Before I let you go, can you tell us what’s currently in rotation on your turntable?
I think that four crucial reissues of the year are Right On Time by Prophet on Beat Electric, Move With Love by Kathy Heideman on Numero, LITA’s Honey LTD record, and Relaxed Fit by Paula on Ethereal Sequence (it’s true). Other records getting a lot of action around here these days are the Classroom Projects childrens’ music collection by Jonny Trunk; JD Emmanuel’s Time Traveler, a 2LP soundboard album of his 2011 European tour; and something called Liter Thru Dorker Vibes by Médico Doktor Vibes on Companion Records. Thanks LITA!