Tino Corp. Interview

Years before rave culture took hold in North America, Jack Dangers was blazing the trail, playing live, hard electronic dance music to rock and roll audiences across the continent with the group Meat Beat Manifesto. Today, he works as a partner with artist Ben Stokes in a record label and performace project called Tino Corp. Jack was able to briefly get away from a busy recording schedule to talk to Better Propaganda over the telephone.

Better Propaganda Editor Terbo Ted talks to Jack Dangers of Tino Corp.

Better Propaganda: How would you describe Tino Corp. to someone that's unfamiliar with it?

Jack Dangers: Tino Corp. is a label which me and Ben Stokes set up over five years ago now- as a vehicle- not just to put our own stuff out on, but other people's as well. We just wanted to step out of the sort of rigamarole and slavish attitude we were getting from like normal record labels, and we wanted to do it ourselves. So it's more like a co-op: we work with different people and artists and put the stuff out.

BP: So you guys are able to support yourselves independently?

JD: Yeah. Just about. Yeah, we manage to sell everything we press, which is good, and it keeps ticking over.

BP: How much time do you have to balance between the business side of keeping yourself going, and the artistic side of just simply being a musician?

JD: Well, me and Ben are both pretty bad business people (laughter), so thankfully Cathy (Cohn) handles most of that stuff, and you know, we're more on the creative side of things. If we were really good business people, if we were as good at business as what we do with what we make, we'd probably be quite successful, but to us, it's more important, the artistic side than the business side.

BP: Its seems that with the Tino Corp. releases, you know, you have things like these flexi-discs, which seem totally a lark or an artistic indulgence, and then, on the other hand, you have a bunch of Meat Beat Manifesto reissues, which seem like they could be making you some actual money. Do you see it that way? There's some art and some play and some work and some business all together?

JD: Yeah, it sort of goes that way. It started out, that it was going to be more art than anything else, and it just sort of molds itself into this machine which keeps ticking over, which is really good as far as we're concerned. We've actually just completed a distribution deal with Quannum Records as well, so we're sort of working with them, which is another label in the Bay Area...

BP: They have some great stuff, they have Blackalicious...

JD: Yeah, yes, you know all that, yeah...

BP: DJ Shadow...

JD: So it's sort of like, you know, we're sort of in with that lot as well now. Which is good, it's just different small labels just helping each other out basically.

BP: So there's like a sense of community you support your own business with, other businesses...

JD: Oh yeah, definitely. We were working with this distribution company for the last couple of years, and they did actually go BANKRUPT, and went under like the same week the Meat Beat remixes were coming out. So, you know, 3,000 copies more or less just like, you know, disappeared.

BP: Ouch.

JD: We'll never see anything from that. But to me, at least they're out there, and if they exist (laughter)...

BP: Someone heard them...

JD: So that's my business acumen.

BP: Okay.

JD: We're gonna be reissuing that now that we've sort of tied this distribution deal down with Quannum, so that will be like reissued again.

BP: One thing that's struck me about your career- I first saw you play a show maybe in the 80's sometime...

JD: Yeah.

BP: You've always associated all of your products with a very rich media experience. You use a lot of video sampling, the graphic design on all your releases is top-notch, very artful. Do you think a lot of musicians miss the fact that they're artists, and they can prop up their body of work on a much wider range than simply just playing their instrument, I mean, is that something people need to realize more than they do now?

JD: Yeah, I think most musicians aren't exactly ARTISTS you know, they're just into playing their instrument and then doing their own thing. To me it's just like something I've always been interested in. I was interested in art before I was interested in music, so that sort of just follows along, and it's a big important part of it. I don't know if you ever saw any of the shows with the dancers and costumes and... we had quite wild shows.

BP: So you're looking at almost like a Vaudeville or Theatrical sort of thing?

JD: It was theatrical, but very visual. One of the guys who I was working with back then, called Craig, he was a set designer and costume designer, and he actually came up with this process of making like things out of latex with all these spikes all over it.

BP: Cool...

JD: And you know, that sort of got adopted on sort of a commercial level, like onto bags and items of clothing. We had this whole thing going on like between '87 and '90, with sometimes like fifteen people on stage, like mainly dancers and stuff in these completely outrageous, over-the-top costumes. And we were working with a lot of the Michael Clark dancers at the time. So it was very sort of like Lee Bowery slash completely over-the-top kinda stuff.

BP: And then Tino Corp. is planning some shows coming up sometime this year, what kind of media experiences are the audience going to get to see?

JD: Well, when we do Tino Corp. shows, that's definitely very heavily visual orientated, Ben's background as a video director basically pushes all that. One of the guys actually came up with a program, like a video sampling program, we use three laptops. We're triggering video samples, which obviously, isn't just like a normal sample, where you get the audio, you get the visual and the audio at the same time.

BP: There's that much more impact.

JD: Yeah, yeah, it's a visual element. I was working with a band called EBN like ten years ago...

BP: I was going to mention them, I was going to say Meat Beat and EBN sort of pioneered this genre...

JD: Yeah, and so did Ben as well, and DHS. He did a track called "House of God" back in 1990, which is still being sampled to death, it's all over the place in Europe. It's a CLASSIC, it's like "Radio Babylon", but it's techno-flavored. Do you know that track, "House of God?"

BP: Um, no I don't, I might recognize it...

JD: HUGE, MASSIVE. I think it's been sampled more than "Radio Babylon" at this point. So, yeah, it's been a long process. Like ten years ago I was saying that the whole video sampling thing was going to be the next thing. Ten years on, still sort of waiting for that peak. But I think it's more a technical aspect which has been dragging it down. It's been very difficult to do that sort of stuff live. You know the Pioneer CD-DJ, have you seen that thing? You know they're bringing out a DVD version of that.

BP: I've also heard about people getting the vinyl scratch thing that tracks video clips, and all this sort of technology being developed.

JD: This Pioneer thing, that's the shit. You'll be able to basically just pop a DVD in and scratch it, you know, in realtime. So any DJ who is using a CD-DJ is going to pick one of those up.

BP: But that's an interesting thing, because, you know, for example, Apple's got this amazing desktop video editing system, and it came out a couple of years ago, and I'm all like "whoa, everyone's going to be making great TV" and then you don't see any of this great TV being made, I mean, the tools are all there, what's up, is it too expensive, are the people not smart enough, is it being shut out of our existence, why is this stuff not more common?

JD: Well, it was expensive, but the price has been coming down. Obviously, if you've got your laptop and your video sampling program, you need a projector. So that's another alien thing which might put off a lot of DJs, you know, they just want this one box which does it all, and you just plug it in. They're gonna get that with this DVD DJ, but you're still gonna need to like, you know, plug the projector in. But even those things are getting cheaper and cheaper, because of multimedia- the little small projectors which people use for display, showing work and stuff like that- they go for like about a thousand now, eleven hundred bucks. It's sort of like having your amplifier.

BP: Right. (laughter)

JD: So the price of that's coming down as well, because they were always really expensive.

BP: You guys have a new release coming out, which is a dub release, you know, which is a very genre-specific sort of style you're paying attention to, and you've just discussed how you've worked with fashion people and theater sort of people, and you know, we've talked about how you have a wide artistic range to your work. You also have a political veneer that percolates through a lot- but not all of your work- I mean, is this something you do stylishly, or is there a real message there, and what is it?

JD: It's just me, I've always been like that. I don't tend to be overbearing with any political message or views or whatever, but it's something which comes out in the music or lyrics or samples or whatever, because I'm pushing it in a certain direction. Yeah, it's just being aware of what's going on around you. A lot of people are sucking on the stupid nipple these days, and it's just bewildering to me, the way the world is being run at the moment.

BP: Do you ever see yourself in a historical framework, where's you're sort of like a travelling minstrel who's bringing news and information from other communities with your songs?

JD: I would be more like that if I played my flute and had lincoln green knickers and tights (laughter)

BP: Will you be doing that at any upcoming shows? (laughter)

JD: Oh yeah, maybe that will be the new look (laughter) for me and Ben.

BP: You could have little Stonehenge things out of styrofoam...

JD: A little two foot high Stonehenge thing will come down and we'll dance around it.

BP: But still, on the politics thing, what did you think of what happened to the Dixie Chicks, with their career over the last year, and their, uh, what, mistake in making a political statement?

JD: That's just ridiculous. It wasn't a mistake. In some ways, you're not allowed to talk anymore, and if you say anything negative about the government, or anything else that's unpatriotic, there's very derisive ways that the Right Wing Media and Government is running things. It's just based around fallacy and lies, it's so obvious, it stinks. The way they got in power was the same. And I think they'll be doing it again this year, I think they'll actually get in again, it's just unbelievable, you know, the world is like turned upside down. What used to be good is now swept under the carpet, there's all this CRAP out there, whether it's in films or music or television, it's pretty STALE, right now, if you ask me. But then, I'm just a miserable BASTARD from England. (laughter)

BP: Well, is the political process a lot different over there? I think people are more used to attacking celebrities and political figures pretty viciously in the media, and we don't see that here?

JD: Uh, you see that here, you just see it in a different way. Over there, it's more sort of forceful, more in your face, over here it's more sort of friendly.

BP: I guess the Dixie Chicks got a pretty vicious backlash...

JD: Well, I SUPPOSE so. Why? You know, you're not allowed to speak your mind, I thought this was like a free country.

BP: Do you think it sold more records for them anyway?

JD: And you know what, from their point of view, they only said that because they weren't even HERE, you know, they were on the other side of the world...

BP: Which is playing to their audience...

JD: It's all about the Dixie Chicks, they're not fucking political at all you know, they're just an awful pop country and western thing. It's pretty sad that if politics in music has come down to the Dixie Chicks saying that "our president isn't very nice," ...

BP: Then there's this sort of strange hypocrisy in that whole attacking the entertainer thing, I mean, we've got an actor again for our Governor, I mean, how does it all work out?

JD: It's all unreal, it's like watching a bloody screenplay to a film or something. I don't know what's going to happen next... a nice little dirty bomb set off somewhere you know, over... someplace in Texas maybe, you know, Houston. You'll never be able to go back to Houston for the next fifty years. That would be unusual. But the way everything's been going over the last several years, you know, I don't know what to expect next.

BP: But that wouldn't surprise you if they nuked Houston? (laughter)

JD: That wouldn't surprise me at all. There's a lot of people out there who would do something like that. It's a crazy place.

BP: Somehow I'm really confident you'll be playing music and doing your art projects like you have been, no matter what, going on into the future.

JD: Yeah, I haven't stopped me or anyone yet on work, Ben or any of the Tino Corp. people, we're still plowing ahead, motivated as all hell.

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