Craig Hancock is a lifelong resident of Sacramento, CA where he lives with his partner, Lory, and their beloved cat, Pizza. The 39-year-old music fanatic tells me the first punk cassettes he ever owned were Black Flag's My War and Dead Kennedys' Frankenchrist.
Craig's a talented drummer who has played in several bands throughout the years, including RAD, but these days, he's focusing on Sick Burn, which you can check out below:
Since Craig is also a passionate cassette collector, I thought he would be a perfect fit for the site's little club.
How long have you been collecting tapes?
I guess I've been buying tapes since I first actively started listening to music at maybe 10 or 11 years old. My childhood music collection was almost entirely on cassette. I had a few LPs as a kid but tapes were abundant and cheap, especially used tapes. Plus, I could play them on whatever crappy boombox I had in my room. Like most people, I sort of bailed on tapes for a certain period but I never actively got rid of the ones I had. Even when I wasn’t specifically looking for them I'd still occasionally pick up a cool punk or metal tape when I stumbled across one. I mean, I've lost dozens, had them eaten by tape decks, and melted plenty in my car but I’ve always had a few shoe boxes of tapes somewhere in the house. It was actually my love of record collecting that really drove me back to tapes in the last 10 or 15 years.
I definitely have the collector bug, but I've always been a little cautious about it. I knew I was spending tons of money on records and I always enjoyed finding a cheap tape so I thought that I could put some of the cost of buying records into a less expensive tape collecting hobby. Turns out now I just buy records and tapes.
Where/how do you usually find your tapes these days?
Most of the tapes I buy now are from bands at shows. I know the modern interest in tapes has been ridiculed as pure nostalgia and/or hipster-ism and there is some truth to that but it's also a practical way for bands to release physical media. Making tapes cost a fraction of what records cost to produce. Plus, you can do it on your own with a dual cassette deck, copy machine and a paper cutter.
When I find tapes in the wild its usually at places like thrift stores, antique shops, craigslist and record swaps. Record stores know that people are collecting tapes again and they have gotten pricey. When I see a metal or punk tape at a record store for more than the price of what it cost when it came out, I pause and think to myself, "I'm sure this is sitting in some box in someone’s closet that’s about to be donated or at a yard sale or something". Of course I’m referring to more widely released stuff. Rare is rare and certain things get expensive partly because of scarcity. But, there are so many out there, even from more underground bands. The thought of stumbling across one keeps me from paying the modern inflated prices you see in stores and online. I can’t justify to myself the idea of paying more than a few bucks for say, Kill 'Em All or Reign in Blood or something like that. There are tens of thousands of them!
Plus, I’m still in it for the thrill of the hunt. Same with records. I could go on eBay or Discogs right now and find just about anything I’ve ever wanted but it seems less fun to me. All of this is just a personal thing. I like the feeling of finding the thing about as much as I actually like having the thing, you know?
What is the most you paid for a single tape, where/how did you obtain it, and what was it?
Honestly, I’ve never really paid that much for a tape. That’s sort of the reason I started collecting them again. For awhile there, nobody cared about them. Back in the '90s, new tapes were 8 or 10 bucks new and maybe 3 to 5 for used ones. After most labels stopped making cassettes the value dropped a lot. I think in recent years the most expensive tape I bought was a copy of Crumbsuckers Life of Dreams. I think I paid 10 bucks. It was at Amoeba Records in San Francisco. I usually balk at that kind of thing but, man, I love that album and the tape looked so cool. I think I paid 10 bucks for Uniform Choice Screaming for Change from a friend at a record swap. That one was a friend deal and totally worth it. I really don’t have anything super rare. Just the kind of stuff you might pick up if you generally had your eyes open for punk rock and heavy metal tapes.
If you had to pick one record label you feel had/has the best track record of quality releases, who would that be and what are some key titles you love?
Hmm, I’m struggling with this one. I’m sure there are a ton of labels with great releases that I’m not thinking of. I’m going to pick 625 Thrashcore. Now, I know the label didn’t put out a lot of records that are considered classic and some people might consider a lot of those records to be forgettable but 625 was super important to me as developing thrasher in the late '90s/early '00s. I bought so many of those records. It was a label dedicated to putting out the exact kind of records I was dying to hear back then... and now too, I guess. What Happens Next?, Jellyroll Rockheads, the Insect Warfare LP, I still put these on all the time. Oh, and the Scholastic Deth trilogy of EPs? Those are some of my favorite modern hardcore records.
I just loved the spirit of 625. It started as a way to release records for Bay Area bands that no other label was interested in and then grew into a label dedicated to all things fast hardcore. It was just a super honest expression of love for all things thrashy. I also learned a lot from 625. I heard bands from all over the world that I’m sure I would have missed otherwise. Also, checking out the label’s reissues and reading the references to older bands in the descriptions of new releases turned me on to a lot of stuff. As a kid, I had no idea about Larm, Protes Bengt, Fear of God, HHH, and Skeezicks. It got me digging into bands from different times and places and just kind of stoked and broadened my interest in hardcore in general. Not a lot of tape releases though. Wait, can I change my answer? Selfish! Selfish Records has the best catalog! No! Wait! Dogma! Dogma Records is the best!
Of everything in your current collection, what is your most prized tape and why?
Again, it’s tough to pick. I have an Assuck live demo that I really love having. I have some early BCT comps that I love. But, my favorites are probably the tapes I’ve held onto since I was a kid. I still have a cassette version of Jealous Again that I bought at Tower Records right after seeing Decline of the Western Civilization for the first time. I was maybe 12 or 13. I don’t attach a ton of sentimental feelings to old objects I had as a kid but looking at that tape takes me right back to that feeling I had when I first encountered the early era of Black Flag which is to say, one of my first encounters with hardcore. I thought that tape was so perfect and the songs and attack were just mind blowing to me. So, that one and maybe, my Youth of Today tapes. I remember buying We’re Not in This Alone on cassette. I was pretty young and still learning about punk rock. That tape was so ferocious and the recording was so bad. It sounded totally crazy to me. I still like seeing it on the shelf.
Is there anything that frustrates you about the current tape collecting scene?
Probably the cost of tapes. I’m still looking at the world from this past perspective where few people cared about tapes and every cassette I bought was cheap. But, this is a totally selfish thing. More people are interested in tapes which opens up a market for them. I get it. It’s just that it was so fun to see an ad on Craigslist for some antique store that had cassettes and a get a stack of them for a few bucks. But, generally speaking, I enjoy the renewed interest in cassettes. I think it’s cool that bands can have professionally made tapes that look pretty good and don’t cost thousands of dollars to produce. Or, that they can make something themselves that looks cool and they can sell for cheap. I like being in a band where you can still have music to sell for 5 bucks. I guess maybe bad duplication kind of sucks. I mean, they’re tapes so they’re not the most hi fi medium but I’ve bought some demos that were dubbed terribly. Like, you know someone got an old multi-deck duplicator and one of the decks is busted and 25 of the band’s 100 demos sound like hot garbage. Always a bummer when you get one of those.
Which tapes are still on your want list that you've had a tough time tracking down through the years?
Basically any '80s punk and metal tapes. Maybe some '90s death metal. At least, that’s been my approach. If it’s cheap and looks like hardcore or thrash metal or something like that, I might give it a shot. I’ve sort of limited myself to a few genres so I don’t go off the deep end with it. Some dream ones would be the Charred Remains comp, the Negazione/Declino split tape, Lip Cream’s tape, Kill the IBM, the Siege demo! Realistically, I still hope to find Raw Power’s Screams from the Gutter on tape, YYY’s Repackaged tape, the first Life Sentence album on cassette. I think these could happen. Oh and I still don’t have To Mega Therion on tape. I feel like I should already have that one.
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Tagged: record collector