This interview was conducted via email June 2-3, 2011.
For more information on Bradley Fielder and LoFi Shit Records check out Facebook (LoFi), Facebook (personal), MySpace.
Dave: When did you start playing and writing music? How do you describe your music for those who have never heard it?
Bradley Fielder: I started with piano lessons in second grade, so I technically began learning and playing music in about 1987. I played trumpet in the school band through ninth grade. Around the end of 1994 I picked up a guitar and started trying to put music to my lyrics and poetry. There wasn't going to be anymore Nirvana so I decided it was time for me to do it myself. These days, my music is based more around traditional American styles like folk and mountain/old-timey country with some blues and humorous stuff mixed in here and there. I do an acoustic guitar/banjo/harmonica show or, sometimes when the gig calls for it, I'll plug in my electric guitar and have Brian Cagle (Coyote Teeth) or Ryan Lawson back me up on drums. The electric set is usually an amped up, funkier and harder version of my songs. A fun and rowdy venue calls for a loud and rowdy show.
Dave: What is the history/story behind LoFi Shit Records?
Bradley: In the mid-late 90s I discovered or was introduced to the seminal "lo fi" stuff like Sebadoh, Ween, Guided By Voices, early Beck and Pavement. Then I learned about Calvin Johnson and Daniel Johnston and Weird Paul and those kind of guys that just made their own tapes and put them out on their own. That was what I wanted to be and do. My first tape I mass-produced was just called LoFi Shit. There were seven or eight original songs on there. I was very serious about it and hand drew all the covers and lettered everything exactly the same. I worked at Hastings in Enid at the time so I had a good hookup on 30 minute type II cassettes. The good shit! That was 1997. That same year I saved up and bought my first 4 track recorder- the prestigious Tascam 424 MKII. I learned that thing inside and out. I'm on my second one now and still use it from time to time. After that first tape, I just stuck with LoFi Shit. I think a big part of it was how nice I thought the catalog number looked: lfs001.
Dave: What made you want to start a record label?
Bradley: That's a two part answer: a) Because I realized it takes more effort to create slick sounding demos and package them keenly to catch some trendy record label's attention(which never happened, obviously- or shall I say hasn't happened yet?) than it does to just do it how you want and put it out yourself and b) To feed my ego by making my own thing and seeing my logo on websites and t-shirts and hats and on the back of other people's records that I've recorded. I have chosen the more expensive route but it sure feels more rewarding. Believe me, I have received my fare share of form letter rejection notices.
Dave: How do you decide what bands/artists to work with?
Bradley: Songwriting always comes first. If you can write a song that touches me in some way and makes me want to hear it again, I want to record it. Second to songwriting is originality- in the sense of being genuine. I want what's real to you, not what you think we want to hear or what might be popular with the kids right now. That being said, I'm also very selective about how you carry yourself as a person. I don't want any ill prepared, inexperienced yahoos with their girlfriends and boyfriends coming into my house to waste my time and resources. LoFi Shit is for me and my good friends. Get to know me before you ask me to do something for you. I'll do a fine job of digging my own grave.
Dave: Were/are there any records labels that you look to and think “I want to run LoFi like that”?
Bradley: K Records. Calvin Johnson's DIY ethos coupled with his drive to make his friend's music available to the world was a major influence in the creation of LoFi Shit. And the way the studio and label are one like K records and the original Motown and Sun records- just to name the first major 3 that come to mind. All the old labels of the 50s and 60s that were based around one studio and one producer working for a select group of people that they believed in.I'm also greatly influenced by the extensive field recordings of John and Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress. So much of modern music wouldn't exist without the work those two men did.
Dave: What are your thoughts on the music scene in Oklahoma?
Dave: What are your thoughts on the current state of the music industry and the illegal downloading of free music?
Bradley: You mean what do I think of American Idol and the internet? At this point, the "industry" is there to produce watered down music from mediocre talent to appeal to the widest audience possible. It's an obvious farce that we can all see through. It makes money for those in charge and charges those who need to make money.
On illegal downloading of free music: I assume you mean passing around music that isn't supposed to be free. Well, it's a lot easier than dubbing your friends albums onto blank cassettes! I'm all for artists making money for their work but the second anything goes online, it's out there for the world to do with it as they will. Music is a drug and people have to have it and they're going to get it any way they can.
Dave: This is a High Fidelity inspired question. What are your Top 5 bands/artists, records, movies, TV shows, and books/authors?
Bradley: all lists are in no particular order
Mississippi John Hurt
Bob Dylan-Bob Dylan(first album) &; The Basement Tapes w/The Band
Beck-Stereopathetic Soul Manure
Mississippi John Hurt-Avalon Blues:Complete 1928 Okeh Recordings
Lee Perry-The Upsetter Presents:Roast Fish, Collie Weed & Corn Bread
The Seventh Seal
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
Alice[Neco z Alenky]
(honorable mentions to The Golem and Rockers)
Ren & Stimpy
Most Extreme Elimination Challenge
Dukes of Hazzard
Tao Te Ching-Lao Tsu
The Dharma Bums-Jack Kerouac
A Feast Of Snakes-Harry Crews
Exterminator!-William S. Burroughs
Dave: What’s next for you and the label?
Bradley: I've always got a lot of irons in the fire. Right now, Penny Hill is finishing up an EP of epic proportion. I'm super excited for the world to hear what we've been working on. Then we're going to make a full band record of the Penny Hill Party at the end of June. Ryan Lawson, JV's Fillin Station, Devil Christ (Bloody Ol' Mule w/Coyote Teeth) and The Boomswagglers (Spencer Cornett, Austin, TX) all have full albums in the works as well. Bloody Ol' Mule is constantly recording and creating new stuff. The people who brought you Beats And Streets of Enid have a new project called Cell Phone Bums that will most likely have something hit the surface this year. The Father Phil also has an album that will be seeing the light of day very soon. Samantha Crain has planned to do some recording with me as well.
Personally, I'm going to do some musical traveling with Bloody Ol' Mule and Brian Cagle this summer. There's a place up in French Lake, Minnesota called Weber's Deck that we've been called to attend. Some gigs and radio time have been lined up for us up that way.
Dave: Any final thoughts?
Bradley: If you want to make good, honest music that will resonate with people, look within yourself. Don't worry about what's currently popular or who's selling what. Be true to yourself and your audience. Fancy gear and trendy outfits are completely transparent when you can't write a song to save your life. Do what is real and you'll feel satisfied that you're doing your best. All the expensive equipment in the world can't make a shitty song any better.