Unless you know diddley-shit about music you could probably thank Tom Lax for a few of the records on the shelf in your dormroom. He and faceless cohort Roland Woodbe make up the staff at Siltbreeze Records out of Philadelphia, PA. They have been spewing out records for practically two decades now, running the gamut from lo-fi to practically unlistenable. I guess you could blame him for making it acceptable behavior for grown men to play boxes in lieu of drums and then make records that sound like they were recorded in a bum's ass, but we won't hold it against him. He's picked some of the best as he is a true man on the ball. He'd have to be seeing as he's had the honor of introducing the rest of us to such nut-tingling acts as Harry Pussy, The Dead C, Halo Of Flies, Pink Reason and some of Australia's newest bangers like Naked On The Vague and Fabulous Diamonds. He even almost beat us to Guided By Voices but missed by a day. ONE DAY. Tom laid down some real talk with me in the brief diddy of an interview.
VICE: So why did you start releasing records? Sick of the the same ol' song and dance?
Tom Lax:Originally I started so I could get rich putting out the first Halo Of Flies 7".
It did well-as expected-but then I squandered it all putting out an lp by the Dead C.
That sounds like a terrible investment. Is there any particular unifying sound or aesthetic you look for in bands you release? You seem to dig the lo-fi racket.
I can't say why I've always been drawn to the more lo-fi stuff. You could blame it on the Fall and Pere Ubu. Listening to their early seven-inchers way back when really spun me into a different orbit. As much as I dug guys like the Buzzcocks and the Ramones, those two bands helped set a course of no return for my head.
You kind of packed it in for a few years there, what happened?
Well, I just got burnt out. The Nirvana decade (aka, the 90s) definitely had a huge cloud of suck hovering over it. By the end, when it was shit like New Weird America and Air and White Stripes, I was ready to puke. I came back to do Times New Viking and also I was sick of chef'ing. The hours nowadays are much better and I rarely have to cook for more than two people unless I want to. Can't beat it.
Any bands that slipped between the cracks you wished you coulda worked with.
Not really. I missed Guided By Voices by a day, but no regrets.
Whoa, Tom, you're gonna have to go into that a little bit further!
Ok, let me set it up for you: Mike Rep had been trying for some time to get me to write Guided By Voices to do a record. He gave me some of their LPs to listen to, which were okay, maybe a little too R.E.M.-y for my liking though. Anyway, he'd been working with them on Propeller which was gonna be their swan song, you know, go out w/a bang. I was back in Columbus for Christmas whatever year it was before that LP "officially" came out. He played it for me and I was blown away. I'd never heard THAT band on those other LPs. When I asked how to get in touch he'd told me some fanboy that worked at the record store upstairs had already sent a copy to Scat, who were gonna do the next record. I'm not saying they would have absolutely signed up with Siltbreeze but I can't imagine why not. Propeller was gonna be it, they'd been in the game for a while at that point with no real fanbase outside of Dayton. It was to be their one last stab. It's pretty amazing when you think about it, since it was the one that got the ball rolling. But there's two sides on every coin. Being on Siltbreeze could have been devastating for them, in
terms of where they went from there. It might have buried them. We'll never know.
Any bands you wished you'd never even emailed back and were shitheads to deal with?
Probably. To be honest, I can't remember. Listening to the singer of the Yips bitch me out for not sending her $100 then demanding I nix our three-record contract—when I had a shitload of copies of the second release that I couldn't GIVE away sitting in my basement and still do—so they could go to Menlo Park was special. I GLADLY gave them a pass. Wish she'd done that after the first album. It would have saved me a lot of money and valuable floor space. No one's really a problem and everybody is pretty easy to deal with this go-round. Local bands always have a tendency to be problematic, but I solved that issue by not having any. Again! Yet!
Your co-worker Roland likes to talk alt of shit on the Siltblog. Do he or you ever get death threats due to his graphic descriptions of the music that is reviewed?
Roland woodbe is a singular and astute critic. I don't know if he doesn't get death threats because the peepers know better or they haven't thought of it yet. He's not someone I'd fuck with though. He's as formidable with a knife as he is with a pen. The dude has been through the fire and back. I pretty much give him plenty of space to do what he want's. I don't want that ratfucker on my bad side.