Sal Giorgi is the man behind Peasant Magik Records. He’s also the musician behind one of their artists, Pillars of Heaven, and played guitar in another, Belegost. He’s also been a friend for the better part of a decade. Sometimes, you forget to ask your friends about their projects. When I heard that Sal was ending Peasant Magik, I figured I’d stop waiting to find out.
Denis: Why don’t you tell us how your label started?
Sal: I guess it was something I always wanted to do, but I never really had anyone that I wanted to work with or that would work with me. Once I started recording music on my own and with Belegost, it was an easy outlet for that.
Denis: Other than the Belegost releases, Peasant Magik is mainly a noise label, correct?
Sal: There’s a few bands (that are not noise): One Master, Thou. Those are the two traditional bands I can think of now. It wasn’t started to be just noise…the first 10 releases were just some friends and I, and after that it just grew.
Denis: Grew into a noise label?
Denis: Why noise? It’s such a specific type of music. What is it about that type of music?
Sal: It’s a large part of what I listen to, and I don’t have the money to fund full-scale releases, so it’s very conducive to the type of label I am able to operate. You can press up short runs of CDRs and cassettes, and short runs of vinyl fairly cheep.
Denis: And that’s usually how noise is released?
Sal: Yeah. I think for the most part bands start off putting out cassettes trying to get a sound or hash through some ideas. Then they present it, get some feedback and go from there. Where as with a full-length, it’s a definitive statement and you have to put a lot of time and effort into it. This allows artists and labels to evolve while still getting their name out there.
Denis: Now your label is mainly a tape label…what is it about tapes?
Sal: I did a bunch of CDRs at first, but I got tired of them. I used to buy them a lot, but lately, the last 5 years or so, I haven’t. I couldn’t justify selling something I wouldn’t personally buy. They also didn’t sell well. I would release a CDR and sit on a hundred copies for months, whereas if I released a cassette at the same time it would sell out in a few weeks.
Denis: What is it about noise that people are still into tapes? Is it just the proper medium for the music?
Sal: If you look at when and where it started tapes make perfect sense. Just like any other small scene that grew up in the tape age, though noise seems to have a different idea of what it wants from their releases. Metal and punk are still both released on tapes and CDRs, though those releases are usually viewed as demos, whereas with noise tape releases can stand alone. Usually. For me it is the next logical step in DIY, one person is now the musician and the label operator. You have full control over every aspect of your recording.
Denis: How do you pick the bands for your label?
Sal: Most artists I work with are ones that I approach. Though, I’ve had a few that have been from demo submissions. Most of the things I get in the mail are just a Maxwell CDR with some marker scribbled on it, so I don’t really feel the need or feel compelled to put time into listening. The worst is when people send me to their Myspace page. Why should I invest my time and money in your project if you can’t put a little thought into the presentation of your music? That said, I’ve received a few demos that caught my eye and was really impressed by, which led to a release.
Denis: How much is it the music that you hear, and how much is it the presentation and the passion of the artists that weighs your decision to put out a band?
Sal: It goes hand in hand. I think an artist that feels strongly about their stuff will present it in a respectable way. They’ll put time and effort into it. I’ve released stuff by friends that I might not have particularly liked as much as some other things, but I know them and I know that they’re passionate about it and are coming from a spot that I can relate to and respect, so I’ll support it.
Denis: So is that most of the reason that you started a record label? To support friends?
Sal: That was and still is a large part of it. I wanted to be part of what they were doing. I wanted to be part of what I was supporting and give back to it, while adding my own spin. And not that I could necessarily do it better, but just have a different approach.
Denis: Were there other labels that influenced you? You knew how they operated and were fans of them and that’s why you started the label?
Sal: Definitely. Growing up listening to hardcore and punk, the DIY esthetic definitely had a big influence on me with handmade packaging and all that great stuff. Labels like Ebullition, Bloodlink, or Tree. There’s a similar feel within the noise scene or at least I can relate to it in a similar way.
Denis: Talk about your introduction to DIY music. How did that start?
Sal: I was 14 probably…in 7th or 8th grade. A friend of mine was in a record store, looking through the punk section and one of the dudes from Boy Sets Fire [90s Delaware hardcore band] came up to him and gave him a flier. I didn’t go to that show with him, but he eventually started taking me to some local punk shows, and it went from there. It started more as something to do on the weekends, but I specifically remember walking into one show and seeing Spirit Assembly for the first time and something just clicked.
Denis: So there was something about the DIY aesthetic that influenced how you’re working now?
Sal: Yeah. The releases are really personal. I used to dub every single cassette, so that means I listen to the record at least 100 times. I cut down every cover and put each cover and tape into the cases, so I’m touching and hearing every one hundreds of times. I have blood on some records and cat hair on others.
Denis: I noticed how all of your releases had a common theme to the packaging. Is that something you set out to do on purpose to make your records recognizable?
Sal: One of the goals from the beginning was to have some sort of recognizable aesthetic where you could not only identify the images but what sounds could be within. You see that this is a Peasant Magik release and if you were a fan of the other ones you could potentially be a fan of these. That’s definitely how I went about collecting records, so I wanted to bring that to my label. I also wanted to have the art separate from the music, which is one reason I started doing the vellum obi strips. For the most part they contain all the information for each release. So when you take them off you have the art alone, not crowded by logos and track listings. I have also tried to involve local artists as much as I can to do the visual component.
Denis: So the newest release is the PM50 box set, how did the idea come about for that?
Sal: I don’t really remember, I started it over two years ago.
Denis: Well tell us what it is first.
Sal: It’s an 8 CD box set. Each CD is a mini 3” CD, and each artist has their own CD. It’s pretty much 8 full albums, and each artist gets 20 minutes. It really wasn’t planned to be anything big. My cat died and I was working on something as a tribute to him. I was talking to some other people that were doing similar things, and it just grew. I also wanted to have a visual part to this, so I got 8 local visual artists to contribute covers for each of the CDs, then I got another for the box, and someone to do a cover for the book that’s included. I wanted it to be both a compilation of music and art.
Denis: How did you end up collaborating with the artists?
Sal: I approached a bunch of different people. Some were into it, others weren’t. Some people were really into it, and then never got me any material. With 8 CDs and at least one musical and visual artist per CD, that’s 16+ people I was dealing with, so it became a lot with a lot of people not coming through. It definitely changed a lot over the two years. My girlfriend helped me. She got in touch with most of the visual artists and gave me a list of people she thought would be into the idea. Most of those people came through. I think it turned out really well.
Denis: But the sad part is, you’re ending the label.
Sal: Well, sad, yes, but it’s become a lot of work recently. The projects I undertook over the past couple of years were pretty ambitious: an 8-CD box set, a bunch of LPs, a 3-cassette tape set. I just haven’t had the time to commit what I really needed in order to get those things done. I did what I set out to do, I feel like I reached all my goals, and I don’t have any regrets with it. There were definitely a few artists that I was really looking forward to working with or getting ready to talk to that I’m sad I’m not going to be able to work with, but I think for the most part I accomplished what I set out to do.
Denis: Without putting one artist over another, what are the releases that you’re most proud of? Maybe because of a total package combining feel, the music, an accomplishment…
Sal: The Expo ’70 LP definitely first comes to mind. It was the first LP I did, which was something I wanted to do from the beginning. It was a lot of work, but I think it came out beautifully. I couldn’t be happier with it. Justin Wright did a great job on both the design and the music. As far as printing, pressing, and sounds, it’s great. Then in the last batch I did, there were 5 cassettes: Eyeballs, Locrian, Fossils From The Sun/Rambutan split, UUHUU, and Bones of Seabirds. The tapes were not planned to be released at the same time, all 5 ended up having a similar feel in both the sound and packaging that really worked well together. I’m not sure if anyone else picked up on it other than me, but I thought it was a great culmination of what I’d been trying to do and I finally saw it realized.
Denis: What’s left for the label? Do you still have a few things that have yet to come out?
Sal: Yeah, I have maybe 12-20 cassettes left and 3 LPs.
Denis: Ah, so there’s still plenty of music to come out?
Sal: Yeah, there’s a lot more. I have five cassettes coming back at the end of the week and three 8” lathe cuts that should be done, and two LPs that should be back by the end of the month.
Denis: Wow, so you’re still pretty busy.
Sal: Definitely. I was planning on ending it in March, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Because of that, there’s a chance that I might release some more things in the future.
Denis: So with the way music is now and how it’s totally changed from even how it was 10 years ago, would you advise someone to start their own record label?
Sal: Not if they wanted to make any sort of money, or even break even. I have not made a cent off of anything. Not that I ever expected to, but it’s definitely a financial hardship and very very very time consuming. Unless they were willing to commit to it 100% and realize the amount of work that goes into these things, I would not suggest it. But I thought it was a very rewarding experience. I got to meet a lot of really great people because of it, hear a lot of great music, and be a part of a really amazing thing. So I think if you’re a fan of music, there are still people out there that are buying records and supporting labels. So, I’d say go for it.
Denis: Quick, tell us 5 artists that you’re really into right now.
Sal: The Locrian cassette that I just put out, I still listen to that pretty consistently. I just recently got into Danzig! The newest Nurse With Wound discs. That’s it.
Denis: Any closing comments?
Postscript: As we were getting this interview ready to publish, Sal has decided to keep the label going. We wish him the best of luck.
You can contact Peasant Magik here.