Cassettes Won't Listen's Jason Drake

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Jason Drake of Cassettes Won't Listen talked to us about the upcoming release of his album, titled Evin Spacey for painfully overstated legal reasons, and the spatial differences and influences of New York and LA.

Digging Evin Spacey, how does it feel to have the album finished?

It’s good. I’m in the whole other zone of recording it. The past couple years have been spent writing and recording, revising and remixing it and now I’m in the realm of promotion which is a bit more insane, of hopping around and doing interviews and radio and making videos and all that kind of stuff but it’s one of my favorite things about making a record.

Making the rounds must be pretty fun, we helped promote that Mixtape 101 you did on NPR with the Ira Glass intro.

Yeah, yeah, that came along pretty organically but it came on unexpected you know. I was asked to do a theme song for This American Life about a month or so ago and then when I was doing a theme song for an episode I started working on this mixtape and Ira Glass was interested in what I was doing it was great to have the mixtape to promote things but to have him attached to it meant a lot.

Is Ira Glass the new MC for our generation?

Oh, definitely.

NPR has definitely aspired to always be on the wing tips of whatever was going on but it seemed previously that for a while they were too embedded with mostly the majors as informed by CMJ college radio stats as opposed to now where they are embracing more independent artists such as yourself. I think it represents a new step in how they are re-branding themselves.

Right, right. I heard something six months ago on how NPR has become the most influential voices in independent music or they’re starting to become that and I was thinking that it would be great to be promoted by NPR, who knows if that would ever happen, I’m sure everyone is trying to get some press from NPR. Then I did this record and did this song for This American Life with Ira Glass and just trying to make my name on NPR, which I feel so honored to be in that spotlight. Sort of how when music sales started going down everyone went into the licensing game and it became flooded and I’m sure the people at NPR are getting flooded with submissions nowadays, but it’s great to be a part of that. I’ve always been a big fan of them and it’s just another interesting angle to talk about when I’m providing records.

And it presents you to new demographics and audiences out there. Bored commuters, podcast listeners sneaking a stream when the boss isn’t looking, etc.

Right, and it will be interesting to see when the record comes out if my fan base has changed, if it does change but to see what kind of an influence NPR has had on listeners and new fans.

Got to ask you, on a scale of 1 to 10, how sick are you of talking about the cease and desist letter from Kevin Spacey?

Heh heh, it’s probably in every interview! So far I’m not sick of it, it’s still fun to talk about, it’s another talking point. On the record it’s a pretty interesting story so I’m not really sick of talking about it. But yeah, it definitely has caught people’s attention and I’m sure the story alone blew up on the internet when it was posted on a bunch of sites and magazines that have never paid attention to me before. It’s just interesting that he and his lawyer team are trying to shut down, I don’t really know if they wanted to me to shut down the record or they just wanted the change the name but they have just given me more publicity than just sort of letting it go you know. I can understand it was more of a trademark issue at the end of the day but he wanted me to go as far as to take any lyrics that I sang on the album with his name on it off the album and I was like, ‘Wow, you guys are going a little crazy on me!’ But at the end of the day it’s like, with all the chaos I haven’t heard back from his team or him at all so it ended up working.

Well it’s terrific and I think why it’s garnered so much attention from folks is all the villain roles he’s been type casted in like Seven or Usual Suspects. People have taken the story like a big statement that says, KEVIN SPACEY HATES INDIE MUSIC.

Totally! And like when that story broke I was seeing some of the people who had commented and it definitely brought my name to light and people thought much more as if the story didn’t exist and some of the comments were really mean toward Kevin Spacey, like saying ‘he’s such a dick!’ And stuff like that and I was like, wow, people are really getting emotional over this thing. But I can see that his public persona and the roles that he plays in his movies, people definitely have something to say about him.

Well it’s funny where we are with our print mediums like, if the New Yorker can spend the time to track down Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt they will take the Kevin Spacey story and frame some kind of ridiculous narrative and go off from there.

Yeah, I gave people a little bait for a story with the story itself and people decided to run with it and go crazy on it. It all ended up positive, people definitely have been asking if it was a planned thing, hoping for it which is definitely not the case, but it turned into a positive thing.

Do we know if Mr. Spacey ever gave the album a review? Did he provide any constructive feedback?

No, ha ha yeah, that would be great to get a pull quote from him saying like, ‘I don’t approve of this record,’ or something like that! But no, in the cease and desist was a run down from his lawyers saying that he appreciates entertainment and parody but this takes things too far for some reason. Whatever. Maybe he listened to this and was like, ‘I don’t want my name attached to you, Cassettes Won’t Listen!’

How has it been going all out on Evin Spacey from Small-Time Machine, you really upped the energetic ante. How do you describe the shifts that have aided your current work?

I think the biggest influence has been my move to LA two-and-half years ago when I first started working on the record and that’s where I got the name Kevin Spacey from. I made the record and I was really influenced by going to parties like Low End Theory and other venues and just the whole culture. Moving from Brooklyn to LA, I was like living in a cardboard box basically in Brooklyn and there’s no space in New York and moving to LA everything is so fucking spread out. For what you pay in New York you have so much more space to live in, there is so much more space between people, you got people driving around in their own cars and not all crowded on a subway. So the spaciousness and that’s where the Spacey came from on the record. And then from there the other part of LA culture is Hollywood and that’s where I really starting noticing the difference between New York and LA and that’s where I got the Kevin Spacey name from. I think the culture down there has a laid back vibe and I’ve been living now closer to the beach and not in downtown LA or Hollywood or anything like that, I’m just chilling out there focusing on music. I feel like it’s given me the chance to slow down and focus much more and not have to constantly produce and I feel like that’s where the sound of the record came from…the culture out there and my experience with the music out there, the people out there. I’ve lived in Brooklyn for like 11 years, I went to college out here, I’m in New York right now, for two-and-a-half years, and haven’t really moved out and explored the rest of the country on my own. So it’s more of the experience I have had outside of music and producing that have influenced my sound as opposed to Small-Time Machine which was much more…I wouldn’t say rushed but…

Well a big difference that I picked up on was more introspective quality to the lyrics and motion of the sound on Small-Time Machine where there is much more blooming effects on Evin Spacey and there’s a visual vast spatial quality say on tracks like “The Echoes,” “Perfect Day,” you really create a vast work that you translate to be a physical space even if it only exists on an aural plain.

Right, I think that’s what it is with Small-Time Machine, I was going through a couple certain things in my life and I wanted to write it down and get it in an audio format and what was recorded was things I wanted to get off my chest where here like with Evin Spacey it’s much more of an experiential record outside of what I’m going through and more from my own observations. I decided to take almost 3 years to record the albums so I was able to go back and take songs and remix them and rework them. I had a version of the album one day where I woke up and wanted to remix each track. I think that having that time to settle down and have patience with the record painted a whole picture of what I have been through over the past three years instead of just trying to lock down one or two experiences and trying to write a record around that. So hopefully I accomplished that with this record, it’s a bit more fun to experience. There’s storytelling obviously but I wanted to pull that through the overall sound of the whole record.

Now give me three artists you dig from the greater LA area and three from Brooklyn, NY.

I don’t know, there’s a lot of my friends who are musicians and artists, like my friend Bisco Smith, he’s an MC in Brooklyn. Him and I have worked together a lot we started a label and art collective called Daylight Curfew with artist from Brooklyn and LA that I have always been interested in. And for LA, I don’t know, from back in the day, Beck I guess. I have always been interested in what type of stuff he comes up with, the projects he produces… um.

Scientologist or not…

Ha ha, yeah, I can’t pay attention to that other side, as soon as I start thinking about the Scientologist stuff I’m just like ugh. Just the music that he produces and the genres he hops around I would love to work with an artist like that. And I’m more into the story behind it but not so much in the music of Odd Future but more of what they could possibly create when they all grow up. I like the idea of kids getting together and having a lot of fun and doing what they want to do. I don’t really necessarily… there was a few tracks I enjoyed when I first heard them and I was like wow, I was really into these kids. But now that I’ve heard Tyler, the Creator’s new album and some other stuff I’m kinda like, naw, give ‘em a few more years, a better producer…

A bit of a sense of self-editing maybe…

Yeah, I think they have started to become parodies of themselves because of all the press they have gotten. I think they need to step back. I mean, they’re young, it’s gonna take them a while to get to that point. But I like the idea of a bunch of skater kids getting together and making hip-hop. We’ll just see how it plays out; people that blow up quickly fade out quickly.

But yeah, I’m also into Flying Lotus and the whole Low End Theory crew who are thowing parties out there, a lot of dub step shit. Let’s see…in New York…I feel like I have been in the studio so long that new records to me are records that came out a long time ago. I’m in the studio all day and the last thing I want to do is hear more music. But like when I come back to New York and I come back pretty regularly, I used to have the headphones stuffed up to my ears but now when I’m walking around with no headphones and going toward other forms of inspiration whereas before it was just trying to find new bands and new MCs and new music to listen to and I’m now I’m kinda stuck listening to the stuff I was into when I was 14 or 15.

It’s weird, while I enjoy albums immensely, now most of my listening is done on YouTube or SoundCloud.

Yeah, for me it’s SoundCloud or I used to subscribe to MOG where I could stream albums but most of it is Last FM where I can put it on in the background when I’m working on other things. But the whole scavenger-esque vibe I used to have towards music where I needed to hear the newest shit before it comes out and now it’s like I just don’t have the time and energy any more to track it all down anymore I mean I appreciate artists putting out new music and I hope they listen to my shit but it’s hard now.

Yeah, I think LastFM is a great platform, far from perfect but I think it kicks Pandora’s ass ten fold.

Oh yeah, definitely. With Pandora I was on it for a while but then I kept getting the same songs, the same commercials, I love the idea of it but it doesn’t hold my attention.

Yeah and Pandora realizes that well, internet radio is popular, let’s put out an IPO. I feel it exists within this cloud bubble but Pandora’s selection of music and the reductionist bullshit automated DJs and their system of music tagging seems tacky and the repetitious nature only further exposes it’s limitations.

Yeah and I wonder who their demographic really is. Are they trying to pull people sort off of radio, because they repeat the songs in it and the commercials in it and shit like that. I feel like I’m just tuning into a radio station that is a little more cool than shitty radio stations. I mean, there are good radio stations like your KXTs and KCRWs and stuff like that. So, who knows.