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Guerrilla Musical Renaissance Man: An Interview with Eric Padget

Posted by February 19th, 2017 1 Comment » Interview
Q&A with Eric Padget of NoiseNoiseOuchStop Records/Studio
By Glenn Smith

Record label and recording studio owner Eric Padget runs NoiseNoiseOuchStop Records, producing, releasing, and otherwise being a cool dude for bands in Seattle and along the West Coast. He also teaches music and plays in a million bands. Let’s have him take a breath for a minute and answer some questions, shall we? Who are you, what do you do, and where do you do it?

Eric Padget: My name is Eric Padget. I’ve worked as a professional cornet player and musician-type for around 10 years in Seattle. I’ve performed almost everywhere in town, toured a bunch, and played on a couple hundred albums. It’s been crazy fun and wonderful, but along the way I noticed that every success was due to the kind intent of somebody interested in my work, and I wanted to pay that forward.

Over the last couple years, I’ve been running a recording studio in Seattle and doing sliding scale work for artists who pique my interest ranging from comedians and storytellers to singers and bands.

The label is a way for me to help get artists published and en route to progress, as well as introduce them to people and resources they need in order to advance.

NM: Is the label called Noise Noise Ouch Stop? I love the title. Tell me more.

EP: Yep, it’s NoiseNoiseOuchStop Records… two words or five. We’re based out of a basement in the Central District and have released tracks by The Cherubs, Future Fridays, and Freeway Park, with tons more to come. We’ve also recorded for Beats Antique, Shitlips, Gruft, Kia Cavallero, Dark Mystic Woods, Honyock, and a bunch of others. We release music digitally and on cassette, CD, and mini-disc. We also put out graphic novellas and cheap books. The first was a poetry anthology by Egyptian writer Yasmin Elbaradie.

NM: Differentiate the recording studio and the label for me.

EP: It’s a bit of a dream to run a working studio, especially after spending so much time at other people’s places. For now it’s called Noise Noise Ouch Stop Studio, and it’s filled with all the stuff I picked up at goodwill, things I traded for, and stuff I strategically acquired at music store sales. Right now I’m tracking Henry Russell Stoddard‘s comedy podcast.

The label – NoiseNoiseOuchStop Records – started eight years ago, with MySpace releases by Boaz and My Posse Don’t Do Homework recorded by Joe Thompson of the Portland band The Tasteful Nudes. Amazing stuff, but the bands all exploded shortly afterwards. I spent a few years playing on records for other labels. I also worked for both the Fin and K record labels, as well as some other majors and minors. I saw what made records take off and I saw what made records flop. I took mental notes. I played some successful tours and performances and as many or more flops… and took more mental notes. I worked with some crazy talented producers and engineers, like Steve Fisk, Martin F, Olie, Kieran, and Dave of Ballard clubs. I took mental notes then too.

NM: Very cool. How is the operation funded?

EP: We operate with a near-zero budget. Instead, we rely on the connections my friends and I have gathered over the last decade. We’re super pro-artist, and operate recording time at a sliding scale.

NM: Where did you get the inspiration for the name?

EP: The moniker was inspired by a life full of noise complaints. As a kid, I was always told to stop tapping. As a teenager, the neighbors threw a fuss about my crappy projects so we had to practice in the band room at school or out in the country. In college, my house venue in upstate New York was often visited by the local police who “gently” told us to turn it down since they were given free pizza at the shop I worked at in exchange for their understanding. I currently have a neighbor with a short temper as well, so I only record drums when she’s out driving metro (hi Martha!). And most of my friends who get by with touring and playing theatres suffer from tinnitus. So it all adds up.

NM: That’s hilarious about the noise complaints. How long has the current form of the recording studio been active? And are you a recording engineer, or are you more like a distributor?

EP: I play a lot of shows between different bands, so the label has a pop-up shop at some of those shows. In that regard, I do distribution. I can get things with UPCs and shrink-wrapped and all that, launch PR campaigns, and get songs on the radio. You’d be amazed how much of the art press is chuffed as chips to get anything made by humans. So yes…I do all of the things.

NM: Have you always done all of the recording? Or did you start the label without having a studio setup at first?  

EP: As far as recording, the early NNOS tracks were taken by Joe [Thompson]. He ran a crazy brilliant imprint called Forced Perspective Collective with a ton of bands comprised of beautiful weirdos. We had the studio in our shared house. Joe fell in love and moved away. The Future Fridays record was engineered and mixed by Steve Fisk and Tom Dyer. The Freeway Park record was recorded elsewhere, but mastered and duplicated in-house. Many upcoming releases were completely compiled here, as the facilities sorta developed.

NM: How many bands do you play in, what are they, and what do you play in each?

EP: I play guitar and sing in Future Fridays, the Music Masters, and Hangry Hayrabs. I play trumpet and synths and stuff for Richie Dagger’s Crime, Hotel Vignette, Sazerac, Orkestar Zirkonium (last show January 17, 2017 at Washington Hall in Seattle), Corespondents, Mark Siano and the Enablers, and a bunch that I’ve forgotten but will remember when called upon (Fabulous Downey Brothers? Alan Bishop? mARMITS? Devotchka?). I’m getting ready to tour with Vince Mira this year as well.

NM: And you set up a NNOS “pop-up shop” at each one of these shows? What’s that look like? Just like merch on a table?

EP: Right now the pop up shop is tiny, but it will grow naturally as we release more stuff. We’ve got zines and web casts and storytelling and a comic book all in production right now. I want to give away free salvaged cassette decks when you buy the cassette discography. Which right now is just one release, but will multiply as soon as the artists get their ducks in a row. (Looking at you Seacats! And you, Gruft and Trannysaurus Rox!) We might get some employees soon too.

NM: Why the emphasis on cassettes?

EP: Polygenesis. Before I could name two bands, I had made multiple glitchy tape delay albums… monkey with a typewriter stuff. I was given cassette duplicators. They just fell in my lap. When I was a kid, I’d make accidental psych albums on a cassette recorder by not having access to fresh batteries. My mom still has those tapes somewhere. Gonna get me a pseudonym on eBay and sell those someday. Or make trashy remixes. Or perform a bunch of them live.

But yes, with the duplicators, I also got an industrial degausser (a machine that erases tapes and destroys hard drives). I suppose if anybody needs their laptop hard drive trashed, they could hire me for that, too.

Plus, tapes are cheap, can have super subversive material on them (off the digi-grid), will be an artifact long after their creators are gone, and are arbitrarily exclusive in nature: poor folks, old folks, people with old cars, devout enthusiasts, thrifters, and other oddballs.

NM: Who was the first artist you ever recorded and how old were you when it happened? 

EP: Probably my sister Rachel. She was my first collaborative partner. We were in Vancouver, Wash. in the 80’s and did Raffi remixes and synthy radio shows with unintentional tape stops. It was gross. And weird.

Padget, with his trumpet. Photo by Stan Reed (Blue Sabbath/Black Cheer).

NM: Haha. Do you make a living with music? You don’t have a side job or anything that’s not musically related? 

EP: Historically I’ve done odd jobs. I’ve worked at restaurants, scrapped metal, and pitched freight. But these days I make a living through music. It takes about 17 small revenue sources. I try to find niches that are completely unserved or underserved. I teach music a tiny bit too.

Seattle has music commerce, but no real music industry. The large format ensembles require public funding and private donors to the tune of millions. Most bands are on a death-spiral right out of the gate. There’s an organization out of Bothell that pumps out the soundtrack tunes, and there are plenty of commercial studios, but in most of those settings, somebody somewhere is operating at a loss. An artist spends their inheritance on a record that flops, or the pop singer with a benefactor archetype. None of this is industry. I literally work every single day of my life. If you ask most full-time creative artists plainly, they’ll explain that the money comes from somewhere outside of sales of their work.

NM: That’s true about artists spending a shitload of money on musical projects that just end up going nowhere, and it’s really hard to see. It’s why I work for free, by myself, and for myself. It’s just that I have no time. 

EP: I feel the oft-imminent failure stems from the inability of the artist to devote as much time as necessary to follow through to the success of the project. People have kids and student debt and families to take care of. Houses to pay off and cars to fix and insurance to invest in and the future to fear.

But every once in a while you meet somebody that’s completely in it. People who have no choice but to manifest their ideas and dreams. They’re too far along. Dreams should also be something obtainable. If you want to drink beers and party at clubs with your friends until the wee hours and be the person of focus for the night, that’s a super obtainable dream.

If you want to take that act on the road, you face the first big hurdle. Booking shows sucks. Everyone knows that. Finding places to stay sucks. Paying 80 dollars in gas money to make 65 dollars and one fan, then having to sleep on a couch if you’re lucky – that’s obtainable.

It’s a sort of broken system and I think it’s meant to be that way. There’s lots of soft money changing hands, if you’re lucky.

If you want to be on TV, you’re a chump.

If you want to play in front of slowly growing audiences and lose money and make amazing friendships and see the world, that’s obtainable.

NM: What would constitute a ‘real music industry’ in Seattle? What would need to happen for that to come to fruition? Funding?

EP: Real industry? Jobs that make money that stays local. A demand. A supply chain. People with reliable work. All of the things that any industry needs to succeed. Instead, every successful act is either insular or sending part of their proceeds to Warner Music. I mean, what are the successful acts out of this town? Either they’re insular of have moved to New York or L.A.

Padget, with his guitar. Photo by Andy Perkovich.

NM: Describe what your days are like.

EP: I’ll give an example of two days. Wake up, drink some coffee, record vocals for Machete. Release a compilation and set up a cheap/cheerful call to the universe. Have lunch, teach a trumpet lesson, deal with mac data for a minute (Artists – always bring your laptop and an external USB 3.0 hard drive to the studio if you plan on transferring data in any way. I work PC. I learned that from Pezzner when we were working on a couple records together. Twice the machine for half the money, and you don’t need a genius in a lab coat to fix it.) Meet up with an MC to track beats. Help a stranger from the internet get their studio working. Sleep. Wake. Coffee, feed the cat, do some dishes. Answer interview questions. Record a story teller. Check analytics on the label. Mix audio. Drive to Tacoma to perform. Return.

Wait, I forgot to add that I wrote liner notes and sent a press release on the second day.

NM: So you’re kind of like a musical Robin Hood?

EP: I just wanna make records and see my friends’ bands take off. My label is an art project. I’ll team up with people with resources, but right now, it’s a four person operation. Three extra people that wanna make good art and play with synthesizers and have ideas and eat meals together make a huge difference. Now I just need the arts media to spin my dinky operation in exchange for cool-points and free tickets. I realize that my tone might seem super jaded, but I’m honestly having an amazing time. My mom encouraged honesty and I try and do my best. It’s all what you make of it. Everett True? Can you spin this one?

NM: Everett True?

EP: Look up Everett True, Glenn… and watch Hype.

NM: You said “it’s a broken system, meant to be that way.” So what makes taking those first steps to tour worth it, what does that band get out of it? Suffering for your music doesn’t necessarily mean you make good music, so I always sort of envy and don’t envy the people who get out and do it. I always wonder what the payback is. My first thought is that we have social media now, increasing exposure a million-fold, while decreasing the distance you have to travel on tour, and the investment required to tour. The second is that playing in clubs is always basically pay-to-play, because it’s all about door sales. And if you don’t have draw and influence, you’re kinda fucked. So I guess my question is, does touring still carry the same weight for small-time bands that it carried before social media came along?

EP: If you want to be famous, get a publicist and do wacky things and block the evil eye and see what happens. Music is a stupid investment, but a fun gamble. Touring will get you more incoming emails, if you want. More or less coffee than usual. Teaches you how to have fun in an airport. Teaches you how to finish your projects, how to start new ones. Teaches you some personal thresholds for human interaction. Teaches you how to smoke fast, how to fix a van with no money out in the wilderness. Teaches you about fidelity, and can return you to a place where all you had in the whole world was time to waste. You’ll learn patterns, be approached by important gatekeepers that you have no time for, and cheesy weirdos that follow you around all night. It’s lovely.

The prize is the work.

Your grand prize for making it in music is that you have to do that job for a while. Very Faustian in nature. It’s great for the fatalistic or bored. To be frank, touring ensembles GENERALLY are just part of the marketing budget in a global industry of beer distribution and ticketing. The art that stands on its own is the goal. It’s like breaking the rules while playing Monopoly with strangers, but doing so because of ethical motives.

If you want to pursue art as a career and want to expect success, you either need to have access to money to begin with, no other choices in life, or are happy to do other work as well. Throw your TV out a window, find some friends with guitars or whatever, and get together and do something noisy. If we are really all just surfing the void in anticipation of the unknown, might as well have a band there. I dunno. Making music and putting out records is my favorite thing to do. I just want more people around that want the same. As far as my three helper buddies, they can’t stop working either. Listen to “Work Harder” by The Fabulous Downey Brothers, or “Work Ethic Rock” by Tom Dyer. A label like this is sort of a femme Capitalism smooching a queer Socialism over a fire burning their remaining possessions.

NM: Switching gears: Not that it’s any dream of mine, except I’d totally be on TV if given the chance, but what makes ppl chumps for wanting to be on TV? You mean bands, right? Unpack that for me, how have you seen that play out in real life?

EP: As far as TV goes, I’ve been on MTV. Been on NPR. All that really came from that is an occasional high school classmate making a move over text message, and an occasional extended family member checking in just a little more often. It takes a bit of support and attention away from the works I actually care for. TV is a place where spineless investments are blindly distributed to somebody’s nephew’s studio to pander to the largest population base. It’s my hometown. It’s Target. Its marketing gone wild. Some people completely skip suburban ennui and are fine. It’s often their children that do the suffering. TV MAKES YOUR CHILDREN SUFFER. I said it.

You wanna make a record? Send me a demo.

NM: I might just do that. So what’s next for you and NNOS?  

EP: I just wanna be making records and going on adventures and meeting new people and all that… Collaboration Contagion. Definitely suffering from that. #whoischrisanderson is cool. Puting out a Seacats cassette soon. And we just put out a compilation in January.

Tons of neat stuff.

NM: The comp is a 2016 retrospective of NNOS? Very cool. I love the bead art. Who made that?

EP: The comp is a baby preview of stuff to come, as well as some stuff we are recording in house that is being released by other publishers. Yesh Mean made the perler bead art. Awesome, right?

NM: Yep… I dig the artwork a lot. Speaking of 2016, wow do you feel the year went for you, seeing as how we’re nearing the end of it and all?

EP: Oof… For the label and myself it’s been solid. As a city and a nation, things are a hot mess. I’m playing cornet for next four years in honor of our new president. I refuse to have his name on my records. As a white cis-presenting male, the privilege I have has become extra apparent. I hope nobody pays their taxes this year. What a hot mess. I’m happy to provide free studio time to any political groups that stand in opposition of our future administration.

NM: Talk about good things that happened to you personally, and the label, in 2016. What was remarkable?

EP: Stayed working. Made huge moves on assembling the studio. Was surrounded by amazing, brilliant, loving friends. Got to make big plans, and get to manifest them this year. I know a handful of people that had great years in the art and publishing. With our awareness and constant reminders of the misgivings of the world and the brutal greed and stupidity of fascists, it’s hard to celebrate that.

NM: I love your honesty. Is there anything else NNOS-related we need to cover before we call this interview a wrap?

EP: Buy our stuff and we’ll make lots more. You hate money, so give it to us and we’ll destroy it and replace it with sweet music to share with your friends and family (TM).

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