Tabs Out | An Interview with Andrew Quitter

An Interview with Andrew Quitter

1.4.22 by Jacob DeRaadt

My introduction to the sound world of Regosphere happened in 2009 in Portland, Oregon at a defunct noise venue known as Pocket Sandwich/Abyssmal Behemoth that I was living at with other noise-loving degenerates. Andrew’s sound and presence was understated and unsettling, an intensity and focus I hadn’t heard before. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of playing shows with Andrew and releasing one of his albums on my label. Andrew is humble, hardworking, and a mainstay of the American underground for the past 20 years. His label, Dumpsterscore Home Recordings, has released 125 albums by artists like Filth, The Vomit Arsonist, Shift, TOMB, Fecalove, Werewolf Jerusalem, Legless, and many others. Regosphere has nearly 50 releases in its catalog.  This interview was conducted in summer 2021 via several emails.  

When did you start Dumpsterscore Home Recordings?

I started the label in the Fall of 2003. I had previously run a tape label called 309 Thrash Militia Tapes that was active from 1997-2002. It released punk/hardcore/metal tapes (mainly my bands) from the Midwest, as well as my first two noise tapes. I came back to Illinois from train hopping to California and spending a summer living in Colorado and decided to start a new label focused only on noise and experimental releases which became Dumpsterscore. I lost interest in playing in bands, and composing and releasing experimental music (in broad terms) had become my main focus and still is.

What’s the story behind the name?

The name came because I literally dumpster-dived about 200 tapes from a church across the street from a friend’s house and taped over the sermons on them to make the first 3-4 releases, as well as using them to feed my 4-track. I was (and still am) very into reusing and repurposing trash to make something new with, and the name really fit the anti-capitalist stance I felt, using literal trash to compose and release my music. Tapes were basically free everywhere you looked at the time, and an amazing way for anyone interested, to start making records. The “home recordings” part came about because I thought it was silly how many labels at the time were using terms like “productions” and “media” to try and cover up what was a home-made record. I like home-made things. The label’s original motto was “eat trash, shit money!,” which sums it up I guess. Of course I’ve moved on to using high-grade tapes and such (sound/dub quality is extremely important to me), but the sentiment stands.

What was your musical journey that led you into extreme music?

Like I mentioned, I got into punk at a very early age. I was involved in the crust and power violence scenes in the Midwest as a teenager in the 90’s. Playing the drums in a ton of bands and going to every show I could. I was constantly trying to find the fastest hardcore and most blown out crust shit, which is probaly how I first heard noise through bands like Gore Beyond Necropsy and MITB who did collaborations and splits with noise artists. I remember clearly that it was GBN that led me to Merzbow after I got their collaboration album. I was also really getting into synth music like Klaus Shulze and Tangerine Dream, the real acid soaked early shit. I have a deep love for bands like Crass and Flux Of Pink Indians. I think those two bands in particular put out some very experimental records, and trying to find out more about that, eventually led me to Throbbing Gristle, SPK, Test Dept, etc. Then it was a short jump to Atrax Morgue, Merzbow, Contagious Orgasm, Whitehouse, Genocide Organ, etc.. This was probably around 1998, because that’s when I made my first noise tape. It was shortly after that I saw acts like Bloodyminded, Whitehouse, and Merzbow play in Chicago, which cemented in my mind electronics could go just as hard if not much harder than any of the bands I was into/playing in.

Flyer from 2009.  My first encounter with Regosphere.  Flyer by the author.

What allowed you to remain constant output with the label, have diverse releases of drone, glitch noise, harsh noise, experimental, etc….?

Well, like many labels, I think at first it was primarily an outlet to release my own music. After you get a few releases out, you start trading and playing some shows. It’s inevitable to start hearing/meeting other people you want to work with. I’m a very open minded person when it comes to music and never thought of having some super strict focus on the label like I see a lot of people doing now. That’s really the anthesis to what draws me to noise/industrial… Rules and regulations aren’t my thing. I like what I like and I tend to be interested in artists who have a very detailed and obsessive approach to what they are doing. People who find their own sound and work hard on mastering it, I suppose. Also people I genuinely like on a personal level and who have similar ideas to what I expressed above. It’s never been my intention to make a living or boost my ego by putting out records. It’s something I do because I want to share things I connect with.

I was always very impressed by the labels of the 80’s and 90’s willingness to release a wide variety of sounds and the mixing of genres that went on under the vague “industrial” or “post-mortem” tags. I love noise, but it was never my intention to have a “noise only” label. Industrial, power electronics, dark ambient/drone, synth-based stuff, tape music, etc. have always been a bigger interest to me. I fucking love harsh noise, but I’m also pretty picky about it. It’s been nearly 10 years since I’ve released straight up harsh noise records. I figure there’s other labels that do it better and more enthusiastically, and I want to have a wider focus. It’s something I very much still enjoy, but don’t feel the need to focus my creative efforts on any more. I like to release a wide variety of dark, experimental sounds, whatever that may mean.

Are there a regional scenes that appeal to you?

Obviously the local Pacific Northwest scene I’m involved in (Eugene/Portland/Seattle) gets most of my attention. I feel like we have a really strong scene of dedicated weirdos and I really enjoy how shows feel like family get-togethers with a wide variety of sounds. I was booking quite a lot of shows for a few years down in Eugene and it was a really great experience to have all the PNW people getting together along with touring acts. I’d like to get something like that going again when I get settled into a new place later this Summer. Other places in the US that I feel like have a great shit going on are, the Northeast and the Midwest. It’s been quite a while since I’ve toured outside of the West coast, so it’s hard for me to comment on, other than what I enjoy listening to. I also have always really enjoyed what comes out of Italy, Germany, Japan and the UK  and have been hearing a lot of cool stuff coming out of Russia lately. If I’m honest, I listen to more European/Asian records than anything from the states, but there is a lot I love coming out of the US as well.

How have your politics informed your music?

In pretty much every way. I talked about this a little bit earlier, but the freedom of tapes is a huge thing for me. I think that records made at home with total freedom are so important to exist. I also think the tape trading scene is hugely important to me. Creating something with pure intentions and trading it with someone on the other side of the world who has done the same is a very strong anti-capitalist act. I’m sad that more labels don’t encourage trading these days like they used to. It cuts out the act of consumption and focuses on the acts of creation and the pleasure in listening. It’s something that still brings me a great deal of joy. I wouldn’t have been making records for over 20 years if I only wanted to make money. I consider DSHR a working class label that distributes transgressive art, not a way to pay my bills.

Anarchist/ecological politics have always been a large part of Regosphere. Religion, consumerism, gentrification, ecology, gender roles, etc. and their roles in my own life have been a part of the project (and earlier ones) since the start. It’s never been my intention to provide propaganda or spoon-feed the listener, but I’ve also never shied away from it or tried to be ambiguous like some others. Living a life outside of society’s norms is hard and unforgiving. Dedicating yourself to an honest and fulfilling life by your own rules often comes with a fair dose of punishment and derision by those who don’t. I feel like this area is where a lot of my themes come from. It’s how I live my life, so there’s no way it wouldn’t be reflected in the music.

In general, do you have any rules when working with artists?

No rules. I’ve been lucky to work with people that I have a mutual respect with and I don’t blindly ask people for/accept contributions to the label. If I put it out, I have some kind of personal connection with the person that made it, or already follow what they do and trust in their intentions. I may not agree with them about everything, and there’s always some back and forth, but I’ve learned to stay away from the dilettantes and the tourists over the years. I feel lucky that I’ve been able to work with so many amazing people and that they trust me with what they’re doing. I guess I don’t actively seek out new people to do releases like I used to,  but just have a great group of people I work with and the newcomers come through that organically. I think it’s a sign of maturity for the label.

What releases do you feel have defined the label? 

I wouldn’t say any one release. I have done several loose “series” (3″ cd-r series, C20 series, Garbage Monster comps) that I think flowed really naturally and represent a ton of great shit to listen to in formats that I enjoy. I think the Regosphere/Vomit Arsonist split 7″ was a big milestone, being the 100th release and the 10 year anniversary, as well as the first vinyl. Plus its just a fucking nasty slab of death-industrial filth that rips. If I could afford to just put out nothing but 7″s like that, I would. I think the N. “Life” album really stands out in my mind as well, because it was one of the first times I worked with someone whose stuff I had really admired for a long time (and who treated me with mutual respect), and it felt really good to put that out.

Which do you wish you could re-do? 

None really. Is there one or two (or five…) that I wish I would have done better artwork for? Sure. Is there a few I wouldn’t do because it became clear in the process, I was working with someone that didn’t appreciate the effort I was putting in (or was just an asshole), yes. Other than that though, I feel like everything is a product of its time and collaboration between myself and the artist that we were both happy with at the time. I’m not one to rehash the past and wish for different outcomes. Overall, I feel I’ve been very lucky in the amazing people that I have been able to work with over the years. Many of them have become my close friends and we’ve grown up together by this point. There are some things I would like to reissue, but I’m not sure if that’s a road I want to go down anytime soon. I like to stay focused on new things that I’m excited about for the most part.

Which release was the biggest pain in the ass?

Yours haha! (Sterile Garden – One Year Cycle) Laying out and printing a zine is a huge pain I forgot about after not doing it since I was a teenager. Add to that cutting and gluing the custom o-cards, and some crazy tape loops going around the house delay contraption (that the dogs kept knocking over) I made for the collaboration on the b-side and I spent quite a few months on that release. It was well worth it though and still one I’m very proud of how it came out. 

Is it a focus of your label to release splits of your projects?  Seems like a running theme through a lot of the batches I’ve seen.

No, not at all. It just seems to happen organically.  People ask me to do splits a lot. It’s always been that way. I love doing it, because I love (listening to) splits! If you go through my records or tapes you’ll see that it’s one of my favorite formats. It’s also compounded by the fact that, since 2012 or so, almost every split I’ve done has been a live-in-studio take of my live sets. So I do offer those up as splits a lot when people ask, because I think it’s the best format for them to be released and it’s a way to share my live sound with those that can’t see it in person. I’m very excited that Phage Tapes will be releasing a two disc set later this year of the past 10 years of split tracks. It will feel really good to get out there in a monolithic slab. Putting together that set for Phage has made me realize it’s been since 2010 that I did a full-length, and even since 2018 since I did a proper EP… So I plan to definitely fix that this year.

What punk or noise labels shaped your aesthetic?

I would say more than labels, at least visually,  photographers, artists, books, and to some degree films have had more of an impact. That being said, you can’t help being influenced by what you grew up on and really love. For punk labels, the obvious ones are Crass, Profane Existence, Dischord, Ebullition, Slap-A-Ham, Sound Pollution, MCR Co.,  a lot of the local midwest labels I grew up on like Beer City, Lengua Armada Discos, Havoc, etc., etc. The list could go on for days, but obviously the black and white, cut-n-paste style really influenced me in my younger years. I think maybe more so than experimental labels, punk records use a lot of great photography which I really love.

For noise, Tesco, G.R.O.S.S., Slaughter, Malignant, Broken Flag, SSSM, Industrial Records, Drone Records, Freak Animal and a ton of others definitely have left their mark. The standard stuff for an older guy like myself haha. I always loved the look of Coil records for the most part. Some of the dark ambient labels like Loki Foundation and Cyclic Law have some really understated cool looking records that use color in a way I find pleasing. Lately I’ve really thought labels like Galakthorrö and Raubbau have these really clean/stark but graphically interesting covers, which is something I always strive towards in my own art. They both use typography as a strong part of the art which is something that really interests me lately.

What is a trend in packaging you love and a trend you hate? 

It’s not necessarily packaging, but I do love that most albums come with download codes lately. I don’t support streaming services like Spotify, so it’s nice that I can have a good collection of stuff to play over the stereo at work in the bakery or on the bus or in my car or whatever. It’s something that really goes a long way to keep me sane these days, having good music to listen to in less than ideal situations. I was having to do a lot of long drives last year, and that went a long way to making it bearable.

I’m not the biggest fan of oversized packaging. Just from the perspective of someone that has several thousand tapes/records, I don’t want to find special storage to enjoy a record. I like them in theory, but in practice I think it limits the amount of time listening to something if I have to worry about pulling it out of a box in the closet every time I want to play it. For me that’s counterintuitive, because at the end of the day listening to the album should be the focus. I know people do things for different reasons though, and some see putting something out as more of a full sensory art project, than just a listening experience and I respect that fully. I wouldn’t say I hate it, but I buy a lot less crazy packaging than I used to. I guess moving a lot and trying to maintain an uncramped living space has left me more utilitarian in recent years.

Can you talk about the festival that you’ve helped organize in Eugene?

The only festival I have ever organized was DS Fest in 2013. It was to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the label and was on my 30th birthday. I had a lot of the bands that have been on the label over the years play and a lot of the local Eugene and Portland bands played. It was a great time and I think it was pretty successful. I’ve helped out a bit with Eugene Noise Fest here and there over the years, but all credit for that goes to Don Haugen. He is a pillar of the scene down there and criminally underrated as an artist. He’s kept shows going there for 20+ years now. I’ll be releasing a new EP by him later this year. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to book monthly shows up here in Seattle like I was down there. There’s just not the DIY spaces to do it. Another DS Fest will definitely happen for the 20th anniversary in 2023 though! I’m hoping to do it on the coast of Oregon or Washington.

What are the positive and negative ways that you’ve seen the noise/industrial underground evolve over the years?  What would you say has changed and what stayed the same?

One big positive I can see lately, has been a lot more diversity in the people that are making sounds. Having a lot of different people from different backgrounds, (non) genders and countries is by nature going to lead to a wider range of influences and subjects explored. I appreciate that very much. I want to hear what someone who grew up being exposed to things totally different than me comes up with. Or what someone with a totally different life experience than me thinks about a subject I’m interested in. It seems like that is happening more now. It’s very cool to hear music coming out of parts of the world that were more inaccessible in the past.

While I think that it’s very invigorating that there’s a wider variety of people taking part, I think that in some ways there’s a real regression in the sounds being made. I feel like people pick a sub-genre before they even see what they are really capable of. Or let certain gear, or aesthetics dictate what they do, rather than really dig inside and see what’s there. I would like to see people really pushing themselves harder to really experiment and find new sounds and really make it personal. I don’t care about your online persona, etc., and I really don’t care if you are just blatantly trying to make money off the scene. I want sounds and ideas pushed to the limits. It’s the pure freedom of experimentalism and strong ties to anti-capitalist ideas that keeps me interested and involved.

Who turned you on to noise?

Like I mentioned, noise artists doing collabs with bands I was into and just digging in record stores, reading zines and going to shows is what led me to noise. There was no one to tell me about noise in the mid 90’s in Illinois haha! I had to find it myself. So really the answer is self investigation. I’m lucky there were some good record stores with thoughtful employees nearby for sure though.

Would you consider yourself a consumer fetishist?  What makes the noise object valuable over the digital presentation?

I was much more of the collector mentality when I was younger. There were no digital versions/previews of things, so you had to find it and bring it home. That was the only way to hear what you wanted to hear. That mentality has never gone away for me, just slowed way down. There’s things I value for sentimental reasons, like the tapes I traded with artists I admire or tapes I got from people I played shows with, but I wouldn’t put that under the label of fetishism necessarily. Having a lot of things you traded with people from around the world feels very different than just buying everything you can… It’s that intimate connection over consumerism that I talked about before. Keeping shit you don’t listen to, just to say you have it, is when I feel you go into the fetish/collector category.

Of course as someone who runs a label, I think there is a lot of value in making a strong presentation that gives another layer to the senses when putting out a record, but I also think that the most important thing is making a record worth listening to. Over the top packing is fine, as long as the sounds back it up. A nice, well designed cover with meaning is all you really need. Since chrome tape is no longer available (sound quality has gone way down), and tape decks are going for crazy money these days, I feel like it’s becoming a hobby for rich kids, and that goes against why I started the label in the first place. It’s not my intention to make collectors items, so that’s something I’ve been doing a lot of contemplation about lately. I don’t support companies like spotify. I think that having hard copies of the music, books, movies, etc. that you love is important because you can’t rely on these mega-corporations to keep anything worthwhile available if it’s not making them money. I know a huge chunk of what I like to listen to isn’t even available, and what is available, makes the artists literally nothing. So for that reason, I will always support physical releases, even if they’re less necessary than in the past. I’ll have plenty of shit to throw in the walkman when the apocalypse happens!

What would you say is the defining aesthetic of Dumpsterscore?

This is a hard one for me to answer. In a lot of ways I don’t like the term aesthetic, or that way that it’s applied to most things in contemporary culture. I think that a lot of people are looking for instant personalities these days, and having a fixed aesthetic is a way that they do that. My good friends described it perfectly with their band name “Lifestyle Pornography”… I don’t think an experimental record label should be kept to the same terminology as a clothing company or “lifestyle” brand. I understand that you are talking more generally, but I guess that I feel the need to explain that I don’t really see things in those terms. I try to be fluid with the way things are presented.

 At the same time, just take a glance at the DS bandcamp page and it’s clear that I have one. Even if I don’t want to admit it haha! I come from a graphic design background, so bold images and strong typography are probably the things I try to achieve the most. Photography is also a huge part of the artwork that I make. It’s something that I really enjoy and has always been a part of the label. I do enjoy making collages as well, but they are mostly done digitally to make them more bold and geometric. Once in a while, I’ll pull out the scissors and glue like the old days. I like to work in black and white and that comes from the xerox days, but I like to do my own take on that influence rather than continuing to work with an actual copy machine. In general terms my influences are experimental/black and white photographers, horror/b-movie art (and the films themselves), revolutionary/anarchist propaganda, punk records/flyers, dada, brutalism, and 80s/90s cassette culture. I think starting with the C20 series I did, is when I really found the formula that appeals to me going forward.

Why did you pick the name Regosphere for your project?  What separates it from your work under your own name?

Regosphere is a play on the word regolith which is a thick layer of dust in an undisturbed area (IE the moon). This idea of dust gathering for millions of years really seemed to fit what I was doing at the time. Bleak, dusty, black hole shit. I changed the word slightly to make it my own. No one can pronounce it…

The music I make under my own name is much more organic and explores a lot of different areas I don’t go into with rego. Drones, acoustic instruments, pure sound design, tape collage, successful experiments, etc.. It’s very personal in ways I don’t go into elsewhere. I’ve always wanted Regosphere to be extremely heavy and straight forward, centered around the vocals and rhythms, really crushing bass. Psychedelic industrial that gives you a panic attack. I see it coming more from my punk/drummer background and an outlet for my darker side. In the past I wouldn’t have made the distinction between the two, but I’m glad I did. I also do any soundtrack work under my own name.

Was synthesis the main focus from the get go with Regosphere? Your project before (Suburbia Melting) was primarily lo-fi harsh noise, yes? 

In a way, I suppose so. I wasn’t thinking that at the time, but it did come from me wanting to do a project based around analog synths and something much more industrial than what I was doing up until then. But field recordings, vocals, and tape loops were always an equal part of things. I’ve always wanted the project to have a very full heavy sound, that fills the sound spectrum and stereo field from top to bottom, left to right. Synths are a huge part of it, but have never been the only one.

Suburbia Melting was my main project from 1998-2011 and it was definitely harsh noise, but I wouldn’t necessarily say lo-fi. I’ve always invested in the best recording equipment I could and put a lot of work into learning how to mix and master my stuff. It was based on tape loops, metal, screaming and amp feedback, so there’s only so much you can do when pushing things that hard. When I started mixing in the metal and feedback elements into Regosphere is when I think I really found my sound for that project and decided to end SM in 2012. I did what I wanted to do with straight up harsh noise and moved on rather than repeat myself. 13 years is a good run.

 Were there life events that inspired the creation of the project?

It was 2007 and I had recently moved to the West coast a few years prior. Like I said I wanted to start something new that dove deeper into death-industrial stuff that I had always been into and was making the transition from using pedal set-ups to being really into synths and finally getting a lot of the sounds I had always been after. Portland can be a pretty bleak place in a lot of ways. The early Regosphere stuff was inspired by a lot of the gnarly street life that goes on there, mixed with a lot of the death and dark times that were going on in my own life, as well as horror and sci-fi influences as metaphors. A lot of my friends and family died in those years and I was processing it through music.

How has the project evolved over the years?  What’s remained the same?

I think in the early days I was obviously inspired by acts like Atrax Morgue and Megaptera, doing just slow slithering synth type stuff with really effect-heavy vocals and crunchy loops. I remember wanting to make the vocals obscured to the point where they were almost subliminal. Where now, they are obviously much more at the forefront. I was unsure how to add the rhythmic elements I wanted to put in without it becoming too much like techno or EBM or something. I let the tape loops add that element and I think it worked well, but wasn’t exactly what I wanted. But over the years I worked really hard on getting it to sound like it does now, where there is the heavy rhythmic part to the music that I always wanted with my background as a drummer. Getting into samplers let me chop up the tapes/gear/metal and field recordings to be able to have something rhythmic, but still very organic and homemade.

I think when I stopped Suburbia Melting that really freed me up to start adding in all the tricks and elements I learned from doing harsh noise for 13 years into Regosphere as well, whereas I was kind of subconsciously keeping them separate before that. So the sound became less stark, adding those elements in. Mainly metal and processed feedback. I’d say the atmosphere, elements and intention have remained pretty consistent, but the approach has become more like experimental song writing rather than just solely focused on creating dark atmospheres.

Any stories about gear being broken/replaced/stolen? What piece of gear people wouldn’t think you use?

Lately nearly every tape recorder I used for field recordings has died, which has been a huge bummer. They are becoming more and more expensive to replace, which irritates me. So it’s digital field recorders only for a while. I used to go through mics like water when I was playing live a lot. I’m hard on them in the studio too honestly. My main set-up has stayed the same for quite a while now, I’m just always looking to fill holes in the sound spectrum, but the shit I really use to be productive has been the same for about a decade. Other stuff comes and goes.

I think unless you have seen me live, you may not know that what might be credited as just “metal” on a record is actually a homemade instrument. Made out of suitcases, chains, guitar strings, springs, sheet metal, etc. I’ve made quite a few since the 90’s. When I get bored with them, I pass them onto friends and then they end up on their records/sets which is always very cool for me! Also, field recordings being a large part of my sound was pretty uncommon in death-industrial/power electronics until more recently. It was always more about movie samples or source tapes. People would actually talk shit to me for using a sampler back in the day! An MPC on the table makes people think of hip hop, but obviously that’s not how I use it.

What are some of your favorite tours you’ve done over the years? 

I’ve had a great time on all of them, and it’s a great way to bond with the people you’re travelling with that really lasts even if you don’t see each other much. The only people I talk to from highschool are my old bandmates for instance. You have to be vulnerable with people to keep things moving and keeping the mood high when shit goes bad. I will say that the first Regosphere tour of the Northeast and deep south with Lavas Magmas sticks out, just for the fact that it was so long and we really got to hone our shit down to perfection in a way you just can’t do in a week or so. The other person that was supposed to go with us cancelled at the last minute as well, so we literally met on the first day of the tour and became like brothers by the end of it.

What are your current and past side projects?

Current ones are Concrete Moon (Punk/Industrial), Granite City (Techno) and the stuff under my own name, which competes with Regosphere for my main attention. The first CM album is about half done, and I’m extremely happy with it. I hope that it will be out early next year, but I’m not rushing it. There is a full-length GC album that has been finished for a few months, that I worked on here and there when inspiration hit since 2016 or so. As well as an EP of newer stuff that came together fast from what I learned making the full-length, that was done during quarantine. I have been meaning to send them out to a few labels, but my top priority has been finishing some extremely cool collaborations and working on the label. I hope they will be out later this year or early the next. There’s also Crooked Columns which was a project with Luis from Lavas Magmas. It’s been quite a while, but I hope someday we’ll make another album, so I won’t say it’s dead just yet.

There’s a lot of old ones, but really most of them are just one-offs to explore an idea or release a successful experiment. There’s some that were also just collaborations with other people that we decided to name for whatever reason. None of them were something I spent a lot of time on, as far as being something I take seriously like the ones mentioned above. I think there is a misconception that I have millions of side projects based on discogs, but really there’s just the odd thing here and there, that adds up after 20 years.

The latest batch from Dumpsterscore Home Recordings includes tapes from Minoy, a collaboration between Regosphere and Contagious Orgasm, and a Regosphere/Ligature Impression split.

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