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LISTEN: Helelyos Mixtape & Andy Votel Art Exhibition
John Doran , November 12th, 2015 15:49

John Doran interviews the Finders Keepers / Tisted Nerve beard lord about his new cassette art exhibition, opening in Chorlton tonight

Tonight sees the opening of a Manchester-based exhibition of cassette art by Finders Keepers and Twisted Nerve mainstay, Andy Votel - and too celebrate he's given us a blinding Iranian psych mixtape.

Electrik, 559 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, Greater Manchester, is the venue for a show of tape covers - ranging from Bollywood horror themes to Tokyo pop via music made entirely on home made instruments.

The show starts at 7pm tonight with a special musical show by Votel - who has previously designed sleeves for David Holmes, Gilles Peterson, Badly Drawn Boy, Jean Claude Vannier, Jane Weaver, Suzanne Ciani and Gruff Rhys. But tonight's show is dedicated to the many cassette sleeves he's designed over the years.

To hear one of Andy's mixtapes check out the two Mixcloud embeds at the foot of this article for a blast of Raising Helelyos (Silver Tape). 'Helelyos' by Zia has been an office favourite at tQ towers for years now, so it's a blast to be hearing this extended mix of related tunes.

I caught up with Andy yesterday to ask him about his anti-"art", utilitarian, DIY aesthetic when it comes to cassette sleeve design.

What keeps you coming back to tape? What is good about this format?

Andy Votel: I've always been fascinated with literally any mechanical format that can hold musical information whether it be Fisher Price discs, 8-track cartridges, flexi-discs or music boxes. But compact cassettes are close to my heart because it was using this format that I learned to make and manipulate musical noise for the first time. My dad taught me how to make tape-loops inside compact cassettes when I was about 8 years old and the trick was to make our voices loop-around in time. So, the compact cassette was my first sampler. It's also the vessel of my generation so, as a visual tool, tape inlays were my first canvasses. I've been married to vinyl for the vast majority of my life, but as a teenager cassettes were my first love. In recent years vinyl records have been marketed as luxury items and have begun to lose that 2nd class punk aesthetic a little bit - cassettes however will never lose that underdog attraction. The time it takes to manufacture a vinyl record now is absolutely disastrous for independent labels but cassettes are still very spontaneous while possessing many of the tangible and nostalgic traits of vinyl. Many of the rarest recordings we have released through Finders Keepers in recent years, such as the private-pressed new age music or the euro DIY stuff was originally released on cassette back in the early 1980s, so a lot of my friends have become tape collectors again. Vinyl will also be my day-to-day life but cassettes are my favourite holiday destinations.

Tell me about the show you have coming up tonight?

AV: Over the past 20 years I have designed something in the region of 200 record sleeves and just as many posters plus tons of other adverts, T-shirts etc. etc. but I genuinely consider all of them to be graphic design solutions as opposed to "art". I'm interested in visual communication and solving a problem whilst using colour, shape and typography to do this. This is why I have found myself repeatedly turning down offers to do exhibitions, because my work belongs in record shops or on peoples shelves. I'm very committed to the exclusive application of that process of problem solving to that particular format and have a loyalty to that audience. For example I personally don't agree with shops selling picture frames for LP sleeves, but that's personal politics. The artwork I have done in the last few years for my cassette mix tapes are different, however. They are more like classroom doodles or self initiated designs for a much smaller audience and have no commercial or strict communicative intention. The tapes I make are duplicated in small runs of 50 to 100 and sent to regular collectors via post so there is a tidy, definitive and controllable series here which in my opinion makes for a valid exhibition show... and a pretty trashy one at that.

Which are your favourite bits of art at the show?

AV: I should mention that the mix-tapes are all concept-based in themselves, ranging from Bollywood Horror (Hindi Horrorcore) or Voice Manipulation Records (made for Barcelona Museum Of Modern Art) and tracks that are made using home-made instruments (Electro Who Cardio Fluxus). My favourite ones are the Japanese Pop mix (originally done for Oi Polloi) which reveals my attempts at a Tokyo Pop Art Illustration (ala Keiichi Tanaami or Tadanori Yokoo) but working from a subconscious memory... or the one called Curse Of The Tinfoil Tempura which i feel, as a mixtape and cover (and in title) is the most reflective of what I've been trying to say and do since I was a making mix-tapes for my friends at school 30 years ago.


Raising Helelyos (Silver Tape) Side One (Mixtape) by Andy Votel by The Quietus on Mixcloud


Raising Helelyos (Silver Tape) Side Two (mixtape by Andy Votel) by The Quietus on Mixcloud

More details on Turn On Tape In Tab Out here