Tabs Out | Let There Be Crumer – An Interview With Jason Crumer

Let There Be Crumer – An Interview With Jason Crumer
7.4.16 by Mike Haley


Jason Crumer has been wrecking house since the late 90’s with solo noise and in projects like Reverse Baptism, Aluminum Noise, and many many others. 2015 saw the return/evolution of the infamous No Rent Records. I talked to Jason about all of that shit, plus his teenage mohawk and bird watching.


So where and when were you born? And what is your Netflix password?

Those are serious questions. Answer as many as you’d like.
1978, Belleville IL

How long did you stay there?
Until I was about 16, in Southern Illinois in general. Moved to St. Louis for a few years, then to North Carolina when i was 19.

Is that around the time you played in Facedowninshit?
In NC, yeah.

Was Facedowninshit your first band?
My first band was called The Vagrants. We were the punkers of the mighty Edwardsville High School.

How tall was your mohawk?
Hahaha! The tallest it ever got was maybe 8 inches, actually not kidding.

I think the minimum requirement is about 6″ to be in a band called The Vagrants. Ha.
True! Also was in System Disarmed and some other kind of one off deals before Facedowninshit.

So were you the classic, piece of shit high school kid who was always doing dumb stuff?
Not at all, or maybe? I don’t think I was a piece of shit. Certainly didn’t fit in there, but that was also like 25 years ago

Give me three bands you loved from that time?
Pretty basic. Germs, Vandals, Subhumans.

So you’re in high school. Sporting a killer mohawk, listening to a Vandals tape. Walk me through that Jason Crumer getting dumped into noise.
I ran away, moved to St. Louis. A kid named Blake had Whitehouse records. First recorded noise in 98 with my friend Nate Hobbs in NC. Never stopped.

What did you record with Nate as?
We were called Aluminum Noise.

Did No Rent start before or after that?
No Rent didn’t start until, I wanna say… 2008. It was started by me and Roxann from Relay For Death in Oakland. It really has only been a “real” label for a year. Before that was just kind of, whatever we wanted to do. If you look at the discography it gets pretty obvious when the decision to branch out was made.

Was your “Walk With Me” live tape the first thing that was made under the name?

What is the story behind that label? I heard something about releasing stuff so you could actually pay the rent.
Wasn’t rent, was an elctric bill.

Were you able to pay the electric bill?
Haha yes!

Please tell me you kept the actual bill.
No! When we randomly put the tape out then it was literally just to pay the bill, and I even felt kind of bad about it. Wasn’t intended as the beginning of a thing.

Did you ever think that if you didn’t jam and dub all of those tapes, the electric bill would have been lower. And what, if anything, does that make you think about life?
Haha. I don’t think I use that much electricity. I think if I didn’t jam and take tons of time off work, the bill wouldn’t have piled up the way it did.

Are you the kind of person that needs a copy of everything you put out, personally and as a label? Do you have all of the older No Rent stuff?
Not at all. When it’s sold out that means i just don’t have it.

Do you own ANY No Rent releases?
The ones that are in print, obviously. And I have all the masters stored on my computer. Most of the tapes sell around 60 the first day and sit for like a month it seems. So i technically “own” those, but they’re inventory.

It sounds like you move around a bunch? Do you like to travel light?
I can move in one trip generally speaking

So you grew up around Illinois. Lived in North Carolina, Oakland, Philadelphia right now. Where else have you lived, and what would you say is your main reason for ditching a town?
I Left Southern illinois because that’s what you do if you want to make anything and are born there. From NC I moved to Portland for a year to finish a record with a band, moved to Oakland basically for an opportunity to live in Oakland, and back to the east coast to Baltimore at the end of a relationship. I made the short move north to Philly because it’s oddly cheaper than Baltimore. Most of the places I’ve lived have been for 5-8 years.

How do you like Philly?
Its nice enough! Only here since January, so most of my focus has been on label stuff. I miss Baltimore sometimes, hated it there at first but turned out being my favorite place I ever lived. Jury is still out on Philly, but some old friends live here, plus the Heaven’s Gate people, and it’s affordable. I can pay rent by selling noise tapes here. So kind of proudly scraping by.

You said earlier that there is an obvious line when the label started being “real”? Where is that line, and what changed?
The line is Headband’s “The Mask”. I ran a small store for these people in Baltimore for 3+ years and got unemployment when they sold the store. I thought it would be good to actually do something positive with the money, so contacted a lot of people and got No Rent going “for real.”

What did you do different between the Headband tape and, let’s say, your “Let There Be Crumer” tape right before it?The “Let There Be Crumer” tape was kind of thrown together. A learning experience I’ll say. With Headband, I was a lot more finicky because it’s somebody else’s music. Had to establish a standard. Before that, No Rents were packaged in trash.

Did you not care so much about packaging and such because it was your own material for the most part?
No I do care about packaging. I care a lot, just didn’t have real resources and am kind of all or nothing type person. If I can’t make it how I want I tend to say “fuck it”. Its useful in like, maybe making music, and in leaving places. Otherwise a shitty characteristic. Also, “Let There Be Crumer” was truly a test run. Headband was the real start of the label. “Let There Be Crumer” can be considered the last “old No Rent” release, and 8 – 29 are the body of work of the label.

Tell me about Headband.
Its Duncan Moore from Baltimore. Tape music that compares favorably to someone like Joseph Hammer. Fairly insane fidelity because I’m assuming it’s mastering grade tape he’s using to loop and manipulate his sounds.

I saw you play at No Fun Fest in 2007 in American Band. Where does that project fit into your timeline?
American Band was made around the same time as solo albums “Future with No Chance”, “Burning In Hell”, and “Ottoman Black” were recorded. Right before I moved out West. Just met Matt Franco when his van broke down on tour and they [Air Conditioning] stayed at the house a couple extra days. We just kind of decided to do something. My friend Lee CountsĀ is a painter who has lots of tools so we decided to focus entirely on crazy metal abuse and processing of it, but Franco is a pretty unique musician and obviously added his pretty singular touches.

Who else have you collaborated with?
Roxann Spikula of Relay For Death, Ryan Sixes, Aaron Dilloway, Joseph Hammer, Anoushe Shojae-Chaghorvand, Zoe Burke, Cold Electric Fire. Currently woring on a collaboration with Marquis Knox, a young blues artist from St. Louis.

Do you like to record and play live more in duos rather than alone?
I hate playing live basically. I prefer to record alone, but love outside input. I’m a lot more precious with someone else’s sounds than mine and I like how it makes me think differently about the editing process.

What is it about playing live you don’t like?
Crowds. Getting more easily overwhelmed and a deer-in-the-headlights set is often the result. Sometimes I break through it, I don’t know. I liked playing live with American Band. Maybe I like playing live with other people more than solo? There’s less chance of saying “fuck it”, and you have something to focus on with someone else. Allows you to survive the social component more naturally.

I remember watching video of you playing live somewhere, I guess a venue where drinking was not allowed. Someone came and took away your drink and you just stopped playing.
Yeah, that was at The Smell. I get why they have to do that, wasn’t pissed, but didn’t have it in me to sit in front of those people without a drink so had to stop. I should’ve hid it better, or at all.

Did you get your bottle back?
Nah, they dumped it. Again, that was fine. The Smell was a real resource and they could’ve gotten shut down by me boozing.

It still kinda sucks that they dumped it though. Haha.
Well, yeah.

You’ve been involved in the noise scene for almost 20 years now. Who is someone that has vanished you’d like to see recording and playing gigs again?
Easy. Joe Colley. He hasn’t vanished in the real sense, like he responds to emails. Just would like to hear more new Colley.

Have you asked him to do something on No Rent?
Absolutely, and he agreed.

Oh nice. I’m assuming a cassette? When is that happening?
Yeah a tape. That’s up to him. There are longer term projects and shorter term projects, he’s a longer term one.

What are some of the shorter term ones?
There are things that are solidly planned and everything else is in some misty future. Next is Relay For Death, Vanessa Rossetto, Sickness, How I Quit Crack, Howard Stelzer, FFH/Crumer, Purgist, Faster Detail. Re-issuing Zoe’s tape [NRR18: Sapphogeist s/t C28] too, so she can have something on tour in August.

I wanna talk about a tape you just put out that really stuck out for me. The Ama Divers “An Echo In The Sound” C40
Yeah man! Its great

It’s an amazing tape. Definitely sticks out from the usual. Who is Ama Divers and how did that release come about?
Ama Divers is Renee, Brian Mendoza Haran, and a person I don’t know. I’ve known Renee since 98, she was one of the first people in NC who was totally supportive of noise, without any judgement at all. Then, people would be supportive to be nice, but there was always this “not real music” vibe. She didn’t have any of that. Totally love the tape. It’s that rare thing. Great, GREAT, band based ambient “real music”.

Speaking of “real music”, I’ve seen (by way of Facebook) that you’ve been really down on Bruce Springsteen lately. What you got against The Boss, man?
I actually don’t hate him that much, just sort of slightly think he’s corny. I think I can get away with that. I mostly just say anti-Bruce shit to rib Gene Pick.

Which do you think would be better: Springsteen doing a Whitehouse record or Whitehouse doing a Springsteen record?
My god. Is suicide an alternative?

It is not. You either answer that or give me your Netflix password.
Okay, so no way out, Let’s go Whitehouse doing Springsteen.

How have you been deciding what to put out since No Rent became “real”?
Started by asking lots of people if they’d want to do tapes, and as I receive masters figuring out an order. I try to present a kind of flow out of generally four masters at a time. I ask friends what I should put out or at least listen to. Ama Divers was something that totally needed to come out, and it fits with the aesthetic of the label. I pretty much loathe the uniformity of a lot of noise labels, and I know lots of people from lots of different eras, so I get that it may come off random, but over the years a true aesthetic will emerge. It’s just not super up your ass “it’s this, duh, drool” style.

You put out a tape by Christian Mirande not long ago. Did you meet him when you moved to Philly?
I had met him before that, but yeah. He’s a talented guy!

He’s like a pilot or something, right?
Not entirely sure. He works for the Air Force in some way. I think so?

I wonder how the Air Force noise scene is.
Haha, lots of loud noises I’m sure. Which he samples, actually.

That’s so great.
He’s kind of a renaissance man.

Go on.
He just seems to have a lot of ultra specific knowledge. We’re supposedly going fishing and bird watching. We have similar interests, but he’s just better at them.

Are you into bird watching?
I’m a posuer bird watcher, yes. I bought a book on birds, and have actualy went out as an adult something like 5 times. I don’t really care to get too deep into it. I just think it’s nice to be out in nature, no need to nerd it up too bad, but it does feel good knowing what you’re looking at.

Okay, so you’re out in nature and not just staring at pigeons in West Philly?
Haven’t even went in Philly yet. But in Baltimore there’s this filthy, like, hobo jungle behind the Greyhound station that’s a perfect place to bird watch. But if you’re stuck in a place with not enough nature, you can kind of go macro and still get a similar meditational vibe and stay sane.

And if you have a cell phone while you’re out bird watching you can call the noise hotline.
Yes sir! Or a landline

Explain the noise hotline.
It’s an answering machine that anyone can call and hear something on No Rent. 641.715.3900, extension 590622#. On the page there’s updated information about what is actually on it.

Is it some sort of free service or something?
I pay, but there’s a free version. It’s super cheap.

Is it always samples from No Rent stuff?
I’ve put solo material up there but felt weird about it. So I think until further notice, yes.

I know the quality is awful, but ever think of releasing something on there, so people have to call and dub it to tape themselves?
It compresses some things so bad that they’re kind of useless. The Headband tape actually sounded the best on the hotline. No, I hadn’t thought of that. And, yes, it’s a great idea. Thanks.

Last question: How would you describe current noise to 1998 Crumer?
I wouldn’t try. The only difference I made was loud and quiet, and it kind of all grew from there, so any subtelty was lost until at least my 30’s. Ha. No reason to talk to myself in the 90’s.

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