One of many things I love in exploring and discovering new genres, labels and artists is the variety of opinions, the untapped reservoire of sounds, melodies and (dis)harmonies – not to mention absolutely fantastic approach of people to each other. The instant and constant cameraderie is a feeling to be felt and a real thing indeed. And that’s why here in the Rubber Axe we strive to give a shout to people who deserve the appreciation.
Today, dear folks, we had Jay Watson from Placenta Recordings here and we’ve had a blast time chatting. About what? Well, see for yourself…
OK, what can you tell us about yourself…who is Jay Watson?
First of all, I would like to thank you for taking the time and interest to conduct this interview.
Well, you are interesting person running an interesting label!
My name is Jay Watson. I run the label Placenta Recordings in Detroit, Michigan. I am the leader of the project Dental Work and have a multitude of side projects within a variety of “genres”. I am a musician, an artist, a photographer, film maker, producer, DJ, and businessman. I love all things international, and am obsessed with cats, food, music, movies, video games, books, magazines, and of course, the ganja…
Oh my..that’s quite a lot of stuff to go through!!!! You’re on the scene for 15 years now…but can you take us to the very very beginning of the musical experience of your life…how did it start? What was that band or song which has opened the vast ocean of the wonderful discoveries?
Oh damn. Much internal memory scanning taking place. I have been addicted to music for an extremely long duration. I have to say that my earliest musical memories take place when I was 5 years old. I started stacking firewood for my grandparents when I was 5, I would receive $5 a week for my duties. I had seen a rack of cassettes for sale at the party store at the end of my childhood street, and for some reason was REALLY interested in this one called “Rap The Beat” which was a Priority Records compilation that featured M/A/R/S, LL Cool J, Eazy-E, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Heavy D, and some others, so with my first “paycheck” i picked that bad boy up. Shortly after I grabbed a Metal tape from the same spot that had like Anthrax and Megadeth and shit on it. Those were my first albums in my collection, which began a lifelong relationship with music in it’s various forms. I became obsessed with Insane Clown Posse and Esham when I was around 10 years old, and started my first “project” ever around that time. My grandmother always tried to teach me piano, guitar, harmonica, all kinds of shit, but I was never able to comprehend the whole “notes” aspect…My parents got me guitar lessons but I quit that quickly…I decided I wanted to use turntables, drum machines, etc. at an early age. So I was rapping for sure by ’97, and making beats…Around 14 I attempted a Death Metal/Hardcore kinda band but we all sucked too bad and everyone was too stoned and just wanted to play Pink Floyd covers…Once I started making experimental music and actually wanted to release something of my own is when I started the label Placenta Recordings when I was 18 and freshly moved out of home, beginning with my first official project Jehova Wrinkle which led to my full realization of Noise and the birth of my main project to this date: Dental Work.
Now, I’d guess to establish a label…that’s either some musician going a way beyond his usual activity, or it’s an “enterprise” (and I use this term loosely) by some strongly dedicated fan. Which one would describe you in starting Placenta Recordings?
I started Placenta Recordings out of pure necessity. I was living in a small town in Michigan with very little outsider art culture, and no outlet or connections to release the music I was making. In 2004 I was unaware of net labels. The closest thing we had to extreme music was the occasional DIY Punk/Hardcore/Emo/Death Metal shows that I would attend. Nobody was talking about weird Noise or Experimental music in my circle at the time. A local record store had a double CD by a band called Agoraphobic Nosebleed who I had been researching online bored outta my mind at the job I was stuck at at the time…I decided to pick it up. The album was PCP Torpedo, and the 2nd disc had a remix by a fellow called Merzbow. You could say that was my introduction to Noise. I was making this weird kinda sample heavy noisey Industrial cut up stuff under Jehova Wrinkle, and needed a label to put it out. I always wanted my own label so, after seeing a litter of kittens being born and seeing my forst ever placenta, and being shocked by it…It kind of stuck with me. I went to a festival called Bliss Fest, and was having a conversation with someone about seeing a placenta for the first time, and some hippie man wearing a skirt with long dreads walked up to us and said: “I am extremely offended by the conversation you are having right now can you please stop?”…That moment, I knew that I was going to call my label Placenta Recordings. I couldn’t believe how shocked he was over something that is completely natural. A placenta is disgusting in appearance, yet crucial to all life. We all had one. Some I’ve heard grow teeth and hair. It provides nutrients, so I was like: “Well, that’s kinda like the music I am making. Ugly, disturbing creations yet a crucial part of life as artistic expression and therapy. After 2 releases of Jehova Wrinkle and one from a guy in Portland, Oregon called Lounge Gizzard, I birthed Dental Work, a much harsher project all around…I discovered net labels and realized there were other people all over the world making and releasing all kinds of bizarre stuff, and that’s when I started releasing other artists as well as my own work. It has gone way farther than I ever could have dreamed to be honest. I am very grateful for all of the experiences this shit has allowed me…
Was Placenta started with the same vision as it has today? I mean, its output is all-embracing experimental music. Did you expect it to go this way, or it was something which simply just caught on and you continue it to this day?
My intention was to release music that other labels wouldn’t touch, no matter what “genre” or which artist. I was going to release the most disturbing content regardless, if it was just my own material, or if others joined on. Over the years we have become a literal international family of artists who work together and represent Placenta Recordings worldwide. We refer to each other as “fam”. Once something like that happens, it is impossible to turn back. I started it as an experimental Noise label, but never imagined we would go to the lengths of releasing Horrorcore, Detroit Rap, Vaporwave, Black Metal, to name a few. I love the fact that we can put together a compilation or throw a show or our annual Mental Spaghetti Fest and having all of these different kinds of artists all getting down together. You just can’t find that elsewhere. It’s a good feeling. We have always been the home for the underdogs, that is what it’s all about. The ones left out, forgotten, and spit on…That’s us…That’s the fam. We don’t need to be accepted by anyone because we accept ourselves and each other.
Do you remember your very first release? I was trying to find which one it was, but either I am blind…but I can’t find that info neither on Placenta’s Bandcamp or Discogs page…so, can you help mapping it out? 🙂 And while we’re talking about that one…with passing time, when reflecting on various releases…do you have a feeling, you know, like…I should have done it better, or, I shouldn’t have done it that way – or are you content with the way it is without any itch to improve it later?
I have a listed discography for Placenta Recordings up to a certain point like 2015 or something, really need to update as we have released hundreds of albums since then but you can find that if you scroll down past the posts in a “bio” type thing at placentarecordings.blogspot.com (our official “site” outside of Bandcamp, Discogs, and social media)…Just so anyone who wants to see can see! Yes, I absolutely remember the first release. It was a limited edition CD-R of Jehova Wrinkle “Lowercase Mindstate/Lysurgery EP” which was like 28 tracks or so, an album and an EP combined. I made 50 copies and mostly gave them to family and friends in Michigan and sold a few at local record stores and head shops in Traverse City. I actually completely disregarded that project after starting Dental Work but recent interest made me re-issue all of the Jehova Wrinkle material in one place, and ironically just played the first show for Jehova Wrinkle last week, thanks to Patrick Harsh for booking me for that…It only took 15 years! Ha. I enjoyed going back over the material, and people seem to be digging it now, so I wouldn’t go back and change anything.
Oh, mentioning Patrick (hellooo!!!)…how did you start the collaboration with him and his label Trashfuck Records?
I have known Patrick for many years. I first found his project RedSK on a net label out of The Netherlands I was very into called Dadaist Audio. They were the first label to release my music (Dental Work) outside of Placenta Recordings. I began researching many of the artists on the label (there were hundreds, but RedSK really stuck out to me). After downloading to ton of his catalogue through his various labels and projects and through archive.org, I reached out on MySpace, and our friendship began. The following year, I booked him for a show in Traverse City, and he cruised up north and we met in real life. From there we began releasing each others music on each of our labels, did splits, collabs, a ton more shows, and many a parking lot trade…Some years later we had a brief “Noise Beef”, perhaps one of the most infamous to date, but squashed the beef at Harsh Fest and have reunited stronger than ever, he has since joined Dental Work officially as a member, and we visit regularly.
Now you got me hooked…what was that beef about, if you can talk about it?
Ah, really no need. It was a misunderstanding. What is more important is the bond we have built since then and all of the fucked up music we have exposed the world to together!
I will say that “Noise Beef” is counterproductive. People were afraid to go to either of our shows there for a minute. Bring shit together!
You have released stuff by artists unknown and obscure to some well known names. As I am pretty sure the up-and-coming artists are easier to deal with, how difficult is to deal with the more famous acts? Any interesting stuff from this part of your activities you might share with us?
Each artist is different. There are some really easy going famous acts, and some really difficult unknown acts oddly. I have experienced all sides of this. For the most part, everything has been pretty positive…There are some artists I have worked with though that I won’t again, but they will always be a part of the discography, just not the fam…My advice to any artist: remain humble, practice patience, and build your brand…I don’t care if you are fucking platinum, if you are an asshole, I’m not working with you.
So…no Eminem in plans? 🙂
Never say never! Haha. We have released members of his group D-12. Bizarre has been on a few of the releases and also his homie King Gordy…
Yeah, that’s why I’ve asked, I’d noticed Bizarre’s stuff on Placenta…how did you two get together?
Bizarre was always brought on by an artist I was releasing as a feature…Not any solo tracks.
I see…Now, that might be a very difficult question to answer, but let’s try…from so many different styles, which one is your absolutely most favorite one?
Well, in a live setting I am mostly attending Noise and Grind shows and the occasional Horrorcore or Detroit Rap show…A few raves like Snailzone that cater to Breakcore, Chiptune, Industrial, Jungle, etc. I am mainly listening to Rap, Horrorcore, Vaporwave, Black Metal, Grindcore, Comedy, Horror soundtracks, etc. For the releases and label I will never stop releasing Avant-Garde, Noise, or Hip Hop…
You’ve mentioned an annual Mental Spaghetti Fest…can you tell me something more about it?
Mental Spaghetti Fest started as a one night camping party/show we held in my cousin’s back yard in Northern Michigan around 10 years ago. It was a huge rager that was so memorable we had to do another one…Then 8 more…We moved it the 2nd year to another location in Northern Michigan that was a fenced in compound in the middle of the woods that you had to take a dirt road to get to, and we extended it to 2-3 nights worth of entertainment and camping shenanigans. Eventually the local authorities began posting up outside of the event and causing problems for attendees, so we moved the event to Detroit after MSF5. We did 3 more fests in Detroit, and are preparing for our 9th MSF, aka MSF9 which will be August 21st and 22nd in Detroit. A barrage of the senses, combining an extremely diverse display of music and art from around the world…One year we had 65 acts over 3 days. A blender of Noise, Hip Hop, Punk, Grindcore, Performance Art, Comedy, Theater, Psychedelic, IDM, Breakcore, Chiptune, Black Metal, we have had all kinds of shit…Last year Project Born and Stale Dale of Inner City Posse headlined at Studio 8700. It was THE SHIT!
I am sure we will agree that USPS postage rates completely ruin the sales of independent labels. Do you cooperate with any European labels to make your releases more available to other parts to the world?
Don’t even get me started on USPS. The price continues to raise, costing nearly $15 USD to ship a single cassette tape international. Most tapes are $5-$20, in many cases the shipping costs more than the tape for the fans. On top of this, many packs are lost, confiscated, returned, etc. There is poor organization and no concern for the materials inside. Things arrive damaged, etc. I am currently not working with any distribution. I am doing everything on my own. I have in the past, but many of those labels and distros have collapsed or disappeared sadly.
I would be happy to work with distros again, feel free to reach out if you are interested!
Yeah, this situation with postage rates is indeed crazy. As for Placenta, what new stuff you are working on at the moment?
We are wrapping up a cassette pre-order for the Japanese Idol/Black Metal band NECRONOMIDOL, and addition to a maxi-single cassette of Detroit MC and radio personal Origix. We will have copies in hand of those soon, they are in production as we speak. After that we are pressing tapes for Noa Mal, an Indie Rock/Sadcore/Dream Pop artist from Philippines, and Mexico City Horrorcore legend CHAPA BLASFEMO. Next in line we will be releasing new material soon from: Pig DukE, Devil’s Night Gangstaz, MensVreters from South Africa, Team Eastside D-Nice, George Feeny, Frank Nitty, Ray Huncho, Bushpig Scat Butcher, PASSENGEROFSHIT, Crack Stash, CX da Grinch, CRABFISHERMAN, and many more. Aside from that, I am listing a ton of the rare, out of print, and classic releases on the Placenta Recordings Discogs shop, a ton of stuff that isn’t on Bandcamp. Check it out!
And now, to add to the interesting situation, we have a COVID-19 crisis. How does the current corona virus outbreak affect you and Placenta Recordings operations so far?
Ah yes, the Corona virus. I wonder if Corona beer is having a rough time. We certainly are. Although a few loyal folk continue to support, our merch orders have dwindled within the last month due to the virus. We went from orders every week, to nearly a complete halt with the international mail system turning to shit. Many of our supporters are international, and with fear and many postal offices in quarantine, the orders have ceased for the moment. All shows cancelled and postponed until further notice. My group Dental Work had to cancel gigs in Montreal and Phoenix, Arizona this month and next month. Seanni B will postpone his birthday party in April. CX Da Grinch tour postponed. Many members of the Placenta Recordings are feeling the very real effects of the Corona Virus pandemic. We have been practicing quarantine in Detroit, times are very different. Travel bans, restrictions, curfews, disintegrating economy, yeah, this shit sucks man. Wash your hands!!!
Obviously, I am gonna follow up on your mentioning your favourite stuff…I will pass on cats, food and ganja…but what about books? What kind of books do you like, what are you reading at the moment and which ones are your all-time favorites?
I like all kinds of books, especially Horror, Autobiographical, and True Crime. I spent a lot of time reading books in school and in detention, fell off for a while in my early 20’s and am now back at it. The last book I completed was Pet Sematary by Stephen King. I am currently reading Apt Pupil, and Behind The Paint by Violent J of Insane Clown Posse.
And coming to the last question…any plans for doing something you haven’t done before? Like, say, releasing something from a genre previously not covered, or doing a new collab, new medium to try?
We have plans to shoot an art film this summer in collaboration with Trashfuck Records and a cast of weirdos alike, that should be interesting, can’t reveal too much on it but definitely stay tuned. We have a number of bizarre releases planned through the year, one I’m very excited for is going to be a tape for NYC rapper Myzery. Former Psychopathic Records artist known for his work with ICP and Twiztid. I just did an EP worth of production for Colorado Horrorcore rapper CX Da Grinch. You are gonna see a lot more Rap and Horrorcore releases on Placenta Recordings because that is part of my personal roots and history, you are going to see me doing lots of production as well as executive production, more album covers, more photography, more films. Lots of re-issues coming your way, stuff maybe only 50-100 people ever heard and doesn’t exist online yet. Lots of new t-shirts. New strains. Watch out for that Rostov OG. You can expect a proper Dental Work group album this fall. More from the Pig DukE/Devil’s Night Gangstaz click. A Jehova Wrinkle live album. We are gonna be dropping the new Mensvreters 12”. Crazy cannibal fuckers from South Africa. Jay Watson solo albums. We’ve got a Humman Kibbeh EP scheduled to drop. George Feeny. Beats, collabs, remixes, Noise features, all available. Get in touch fam.
Excellent! And finally, any message to our readers before we close this great chat?
I appreciate every single one of our supporters and fam worldwide, dead or alive. To anyone who ever came out to one of our shows, picked up a tape or a CD or record, watched our movies, promoted our events, told their homies to check us out, collabed with us, read our ‘zines, helped us out when we were down, rocked our t-shirts, or just been down with us, I fucking love you fam. It’s y’all who kept us going. Don’t let anyone stop you. Don’t give up. Shit I made 10 years ago is finally getting play today. My Mom says it was just ahead of it’s time. Big shout out to my folks and my girl and all my homies who have kept it real. Love y’all. Be yourself y’all!!!