I've known Ryan Smith of Green Burrito Records since the day I was born. I am not exaggerating. Ryan and I were both born on the same July day in 1985 in the same North Vancouver hospital. We are convinced that our mother's high-fived as they waddled down the hallway to the nurse's station to get more ice chips. Maybe we were even next to each other in the nursery doing our own little baby high-fives? Who knows?
Fast-forward 20-something years and I find Ryan in my life again. This time, he isn't my pal in diapers, but he's a grown man with a small cassette tape label called Green Burrito Records. Unsatisfied with his typical West Coast life of weed graffiti, pouring beer and skating, Ryan decided to take his very West Coast habit of tinkering with art and music to a semi-legit level. (Very, very West Coast.)
Green Burrito is the only tape label in Vancouver and there is a good reason because as much as tapes rule, they also suck. There is a reason they turned into C.D.'s in the late 80's, which also ended up sucking. However, Ryan stands by his work if only for the fact that he is really, really into tapes. I've never seen someone nerd out so hard on a duplicator in my life and I am not stranger to gear heads. Founded in 2011, Green Burrito has released Capital Six "Captain Rehab", Two Towns "Sisters", Johnny De Courcy "Bad Teeth", Bummer High "Lost Highway" and The High Drops Self-titled EP (soon to be re-released on Los Angeles' label Under The Gun Records).
I went over to Ryan's apartment a.k.a. Green Burrito Headquarters to help him duplicate copies of his latest release Makeout VideoTape's frontman Mac deMarco's solo project, "Rock N' Roll Night Club". The vinyl will be released on Captured Tracks, but Ryan will be producing 100 exclusive cassettes first. Fuck you, Brooklyn. You are not the center of the universe.
Why did you want to start a tape label?
I'd always been into tapes. My favorite albums were ones I got on tape. I never had a record player. I started making mix tapes from this girl in New York. We were pen pals. I had the hugest crush on her. I'd send her zines and mixtapes...
90's romance packages.
[Laughs] Yeah. For sure. Every song was literally about fucking. Girlfriend songs. I remember specifically planning it so that if she listened she would know I wanted to sleep with her and be her girlfriend.
I once got a mix tape from this guy and all the songs were about hating boyfriends and shit.
As much as tapes kind of suck because they warp very easily and don't have the sustainability of vinyl, they have this special nostalgia for people our age.
They sound like fucking tapes! I like the worbles. Sometimes I listen to each duplicate to make sure, you know? Like, they get all messed up. I burn myself out on albums I make sometimes. Recently, I got this new tape deck and it's fucking tight. If you were the richest dude in Japan who wanted to make home cassettes in 1991, you'd have this one. [Laughs] It's called, Takamishi or something. It even sounds cool.
What was the first tape you did?
It was Capital Six which is Malcolm from Sun Wizard's other band. I really like them. Sun Wizard is like, they are on whatever that label, Light Organs, it's like smiley, Tony Petty pop which is chill, but Capital Six are different. Plus, that tape was my entrance into something real with tapes. I thought to myself one day, "Tapes are so sick! This is so cool. I want to do tapes." I found some cheap place that did custom cassettes and, literally, in the same day found a duplicator on Craig's List. I went and picked it up. It was 1982 piece of shit that some church used. It was like 50 lbs. I phoned Malcolm and said, "Let's put out your tape, for real." I dubbed it first on this total piece of shit tape player from digital copies and made 50 duplicates. Then, one day I was listening to one of the tapes and realized it was in mono. It was like, "Sorry, dog."
Did he care?
No. It was chill.
A lot of the tapes you make end up on bigger labels. You make the exclusive first run which is kind of special.
I like to make stuff to give away when I travel. I always made zines, buttons, shirts and shit. The record label is a new way for me to be creative and have stuff to give, sell.
Why did you call it Green Burrito? You know that's a disgusting food chain in the U.S.A., right?
It's got nothing to do with food, it's about weed. One day I was over getting a burrito at this place Budgies and I was talking to my friend Johnny who was working and I asked Johnny what's up and he's rolling a burrito all super pissed and goes, "I wish I was rolling a green burrito." I thought about like a million names and picking a name is really, really fucking hard so at one point or another you just gotta pick a name. I released the first tape under, like, "Ryan". [Laughs]
Don't you ever get worried that as tapes become more "vintage" they will become more expensive for you to make? Is it expensive to make tapes?
Okay, the other reason why I was into this whole thing was because it is cheap. I work this fucking shitty night job and instead of getting wasted on a bender I can take my one night of tips and release 100 tapes. I get my stuff at this Christian media company and 99 percent of their business is CD's, Blue Rays but they started out 40 years ago as a duplication company for church sermons. This is the coolest thing, and I know all this because of finding old duplicators, but churches mostly had them to do their Sunday sermon, so I found this place and they have so many tapes for sale and they are cheap. It sounds cliche to talk about it, but it's the fucking God damn truth, that print publications and tangible documentation is disappearing at a rate that is crazy mind-blowing, and I like keeping that going. I'm also just pumped that there will only be 100 of this tape, you know? That's small.
It's collectors stuff. As print disappears niche publications and items strengthen because collectors are nerds. I collect tapes. I want this tape [I pull out Mac deMarco "Rock n' Roll Night Club"]. I'm excited that I will have 1 out of 100.
Let's make one now.
How did you meet Mac?
The first time I spoke with him I was living in Toronto and my stay had ended and I needed a place to live back home in Vancouver. Some guy I knew gave me Mac's number because he thought he'd have a spot for me. So, I just called him and was like, "Hey, I'm Ryan. I've heard funny stories about you. Do you want to live together?" And he said he had a bedroom that we could share. So, the first time we met I was moving into this bedroom with him. We had two single beds beside one another. It was nasty in there.
What was it like living so close to Mac?
We spent a lot of time in close quarters. It was pretty weird. But I'm equally as gross. It was gross. Nasty. I'm sure of it. I'd try to come in to get changed in the morning, banging on the door and he's jerking off begging me to wait.
Did you guys have any rules? Or was it a free-for-all?
No, we slept on each other's beds with dudes and chicks. It was gross, like the 60's. It was real sweaty.
Did you bring girls back there?
At the same time?
[Laughs] Sometimes. Shortly after that, I went on tour with his band Makeout Videotape when they toured with Japanroids. I left Vancouver with $200. We drove with five dudes in Mac's mom's Ford Escort while Japanroids had this nice bus. Makeout Videotape was making like $50 a show and we were all broke. We got free food though. We all had our bags on our laps and shit for two months.
I heard some nasty stories from that tour. Didn't Mac shit in a plastic bag and jerk off in the car with everyone in there?
I hope Mac gets super famous so that all these teenager girls get massive crushes on him, then they go to see his show and he G.G. Allin's it and takes a huge dump in front of the audience.
What's next for Green Burrito Records?
I want to do vinyl. I'm working on putting out a 7 inch. Two Towns is recording this month and that would be a perfect first record for me. Who knows where it will go? [Green Burrito] is something to keep me busy and I enjoy it. I'm not expecting anything. I'm just going to chill out.