The Burn Books imprint out of Brooklyn might only have two releases under their belts thus far, but both of them are complete stunners—trust me on that. Besides putting out that good time rager of a 12" by hometown heroes Pregnant last year, they recently released a tape compilation entitled New York Rules that contains the only eight bands from this area that are worth leaving the house to see live and/or pooping over. The cassette contains a good mix of shit; everything from the mesmerizingly rugged "real guy" rock sounds of Nude Beach to the desperate shriek, wail, and thrash of Nomos. In between all that you got exceptional noises from the likes of Byrds of Paradise, The Men, Night Birds, and Hank Wood and the Hammerheads to make you turn your drawing room into a pit of one. But who the shit would put out a tape comp at the start of the beginning to the end of all humankind? I tracked down the dudes behind Burn Books—Max Ryazansky and Alex Heir—and they let me know all they could.
Vice: When did the concept for the New York Rules comp hit you?
Max Ryazansky: I think we were just sitting around thinking of Burn Books projects and talking about how there are so many good bands in the city right now and how there hasn't really been a good NY comp in a long time. It's both, you know. It was fun to do this but I think it's a great document too. And hopefully someone will pick up the tape because they like one band and discover another band on the tape. Hopefully it's something people will remember in the long run.
Why did you decide to do the comp on cassette?
Vinyl was too much of a financial risk for us and no one cares about CDs anymore. Plus I think when we both started getting into punk and hardcore in the mid to late 90s tapes were how you would find out about all the new music from your friends, so it's definitely a nod to that and half of these bands record on a god damn four track anyway. From the start we said that we should put it out on tape to see how it does and then do a second version on vinyl with a handful of more bands giving us exclusive tracks. Now we sold out of the first 250 tapes in two weeks, so the word got out way faster than we thought it would and we've already repressed it and started working on the vinyl sequel.
What's the story on the vinyl sequel?
The vinyl sequel will hopefully have the eight original bands and probably about five more that we'll be asking to contribute one song each exclusively for the comp. One of the things we wanted to make sure with the tape and we will also do for the LP is to only include current bands, which is actually harder than it sounds considering the time it takes to put comps together. With that in mind, who knows what bands will actually end up on it. I think we already put out Terminator and we're just gonna fuck your whole world up with Terminator Two, you know what I mean? We've started talking about layout ideas but nothing is set in stone yet. I feel like we've kinda set a precedent for ourselves with the tape and now we have to make sure that all future releases have as much thought put into them.
The packaging of the comp is pretty ridiculous… in a good way. How did that concept come about?
We really wanted to have a nice package beyond the tape case that people could get excited about. Our initial concept was a punk King Kong, climbing the Empire State building wearing a leather jacket, but we scrapped that idea, did another weird space collage, and scrapped that as well. Finally, we decided on a poster of a freakish, mutant rocker… it seemed a very appropriate representation of the bands on the tape. So we bought a vintage book on monster makeup and turned Stef from Pregnant into the melted face street punk you see now.
The comp has a great mix of bands of varying styles. Was this a conscious effort? Or did it just end up coming out like that?
We definitely did that on purpose. I remember getting the Revelation Records In Flight sampler when I was like 14 and just finding out about all these bands and I was like "Woah! Underdog! Inside Out! Burn! Wait a minute… Beta Minus Mechanic? What the fuck is this shit?" I think the tape is pretty diverse but still cohesive enough that if you only know some of the bands on it you would hopefully be psyched on the ones that are new to you. Even though the bands play various styles; any of them could, and probably have, played a great show together.
Speaking of Revelation, on the Burn Books website you joke that the New York Rules comp could be the best NYC comp since The Way It Is. If you had to parallel the bands on your comps to the ones on The Way It Is, which would be which?
I don't want to speak for the bands but I'm pretty sure that Ryan from Nude Beach has similar political views to YDL and I know that much like Ray Cappo, Rich Samis from the Men just recently went through a Hare Krishna phase and is currently teaching yoga in Costa Rica.
Alex Heir: I would like to add I feel ALL the bands have remembered both the struggle, as well as the streets.
On my copy of the comp, during Nude Beach's Alex Chilton cover, the tape sounds like it's about to break and jumps in and out of phase. Was this a happy accident or a conscious effort?
Max Ryazansky:I think Nude Beach's influences go beyond YDL and into some Andy Kaufman territory making you think the tape player is breaking with their recording of the Alex Chilton cover. It's either that or they are just too lazy and poor to do a proper recording. Regardless, it works.
Alex Heir: Most if not all of these bands are recording with almost no budget, so the recordings all wind up pretty low fi, which suits the style of music best anyway. I wish we could say the cut out in the Nude Beach song was a well planned conceptual edit, but it was purely a happy accident.
Is there an agenda for Burn Books? Do you believe in "the punks" or do you not give a shit?
Max Ryazansky:We're gonna put out the things we want to put out and don't really care what people think about it. I mean, we are honestly grateful for the people who support us but I think we've both seen first hand how easy it is for people to flip on their favorite bands / labels and just do the whole "Their demo rules, 7 inch is OK, but the LP sucks" sort of thing. We grew up within the punk /hardcore scene and that's where a lot of our interest, aesthetics, and morals lie with but we aren't limiting ourselves to saying we are only going to put out releases that associate with that music culture. I think a lot of punks are scared of change and just want the same thing over and over and we're not about that. We want to always be doing new and different things with Burn Books. I think what it really boils down to is that we just want all the loyal Burn Books Juggalos and Juggalettes to show us love and if you want to hate we'll just spray you with some faygo.
Alex Heir: I always joke "I never trust anyone that was never a punk," but I think that is partially true. The word "punk" is so vague, but there are core values that are instilled in you and can shape your world view. Having a DIY approach to things, embracing things that are raw and dirty, realizing how fucked the world is. There are obviously a lot of people that get into punk rock and don't do anything extraordinary, but there are also plenty of people who use those punk feelings to be creative and make some awesome stuff, be it art, music, whatever. So I guess I don't really believe in punks as a whole so much as individual people/"punks."
So what's next for Burn Books?
Well, you already know about the NY Rules sequel we're working on. We're also working with Ian Dickson from Hardcore Gig Volume to put out a book/zine of the first 100 HCGV fliers which will have excerpts written by people involved with those shows and we have a re-issue of an out of print NY punk zine from 2005 called Anarchy Boot Party, which for those of you who have ever seen the original, is probably the punkest thing to come out of NY in the 21st century. There's a couple other exciting projects we've been talking about that people are gonna have to keep checking in with us to find out about.