Johnny Tapeleseed | Music | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Johnny Tapeleseed

Nick Anderson's Far Out Cassette Club spreads the gospel of cassette tapes' low-cost advantages.


  • Nick Anderson

Far Out Cassette Club wasn't a far-out concept at all for founder Nick Anderson; it was more of a no-brainer. When Anderson needed an inexpensive way to get his music (made as Nicky V.A.) onto a physical format, it was not just tapes he turned to, but used tapes.

"Every time I go to the DI, there's like a thousand 'Book of Mormon on cassette tape' things, you know?" he says, explaining the appeal of used tapes over more expensive fresh ones. "So I just started buying up all of those when I would see them ... and I started using those and recording over them and putting sticker labels over the labels. I imagine that the people who owned the tapes probably never even listened to them. ... It's a fun way of repurposing something still usable before it goes to a landfill."

After successfully recording his own tracks, he realized that others benefit from this thrifty option for releasing music, too, given that professional companies often want artists to pay for at least 100 copies for their tapes, at a price most small artists can't afford and for a quantity they can't push out. He's since put out small runs of tapes for locals to use as ever-valuable merch: rapper Ferrari $moke (fka Vinniecassius); found-noise experimentalist Fisch Loops; the smooth and jazzy ruminations by Heather Grey; dark pop princess Cera Gibson. But tapes, unlike the more popular vinyl format, have a special quality despite their lack of monetary value that has led Anderson to making releases that function more as sentimental tokens—like the tapes he made for Ogden rappers Clesh and Earthworm to give to friends who helped with their recent album.

And though the tape-appreciation world is a small one, it's tight-knit. Anderson's easy-going approach to making tapes (i.e. he doesn't care about making a profit) has made him fast connections with other artists and tape enthusiasts from all over the country and the world—like Japan, where the niche format is already quite popular. In India, one tape collector releases compilations pulled from old found Indian tapes as @digginginindia on Instagram, and has plans to create a local label with the help of Anderson's tapes—as soon as Indian borders allow U.S. mail to pass through again.

Apart from these social connections and efforts to make new music, Anderson has fostered an acute appreciation for the format itself, in all its strange, abandoned forms. "Occasionally I'll pop in some tape I find at an estate sale, and it's just like somebody talking, it's like their family history or something," he says. "I found all these tapes where this guy recorded all his favorite music, so I just had a stack of vintage mixtapes essentially. So anytime someone bought a tape from me, I'd just give them one of these tapes as well."

This, he says, is what stops his project from being purely business, or even a proper label: " I kind of just want to be like the Johnny Appleseed of cassette tapes. I just spread tapes wherever I go and give them to people—so the more random stuff I have that I can give out to people and make tapes more available for everyone, the better."

Anderson calls himself an "audiophile" for the format, which of course doesn't deliver the quality that vinyl or digital does, but instead what he describes as a "warm and kind of fuzzy" atmosphere. His affinity for those aesthetics has led him down the path of bootlegging, too, transferring albums like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard's Polygondwanaland onto tape, while also pulling videos from the internet like the meme-ish series of "800% Slower" videos that are just slowed-down songs that scratch Anderson's particular itch for ambient sound. Often, he'll craft these bootlegs and put them out just because they're so quick and easy to produce in his basement, and their novelty is appreciated by his small community—one he hopes to see grow post-COVID.

His future dreams for making cassettes more accessible include selling vintage cassette players and recorders himself, as well as stocking them at record stores like Diabolical Records (his first Hasbro-colored unit was posted on Instagram during this writing). He also hopes to grow the cassette culture in SLC by capitalizing on its cheapness, with plots like installing vending machines at local businesses full of tapes that can be bought for pocket change. "Ultimately I want to be at the point where if I'm at the bar or something, people can be like, 'Oh hey, you're the tape guy,' and I can just give them a tape out of my pocket," he says.

Anderson hopes his efforts will lead not only to more excitement around tapes, but to making it clear that the barrier to entering the cassette world is "very, very low." In the meantime, though, he emphasizes that his barriers are already low for those who want help releasing their music on cassette. Though he makes "zero money," his labor of love extends out to anyone who needs his special, lo-fi talents. Reach out to Anderson on Instagram at @faroutcassetteclub, and keep an eye on whatever novelties he brings to us next.