‘Poor-man’s analog’

It’s cassette releases only for local punk/metal label Xerox Records

Xerox Records label founder Miles Claibourn in his apartment headquarters.

Xerox Records label founder Miles Claibourn in his apartment headquarters.

Photo by Ken Smith

Xerox Records founder Miles Claibourn was just a kid around the time CDs usurped cassettes as the standard medium, and came of age during the mp3 revolution. Considering his relative youth, some might find his record label’s favored cassette format a step backward, but he explained it’s both a pragmatic and aesthetic choice for the do-it-yourself devotee.

“It’s the poor man’s analog,” Claibourn said during a recent interview in his apartment near downtown Chico, the living room floor of which was three-quarters covered with neatly arranged boxes of cassettes and stacks of fliers for upcoming shows. “It’s affordable, it’s a physical copy, and you have to enjoy it solely through the packaging it comes in … you can’t rip it onto your computer and upload it to your iPod. You have to enjoy it the way it was intended to be enjoyed.”

Claibourn’s been playing in bands since his teenage years in Redding and, as the defacto leader of a gaggle of hardcore-loving young Nor Cal punks called The Jefferson Crew, helps put on shows and release recordings by that group’s myriad projects.

He started Xerox in 2011, and began increasing production when he moved to Chico two years ago, putting out about six tapes a year by bands from Chico, Redding and farther-flung regions (e.g., Eugene, Ore., band Meat Head).

“For the first one, my band Scared to Death decided we wanted to do a tape instead of a CDR,” he explained. “They were all dubbed on boom boxes with photocopied inserts, so in keeping with punk traditions we decided to steal the name Xerox. The way we’ve always done them is with a Xerox machine, using colored paper for the color effect, and dubbing them by hand.”

That is, until the latest few releases. Xerox now outsources “large” (by Claibourn’s standards) runs of 50 or more to an out-of-state cassette processing plant. And the packaging for Criminal Wave’s Rural Savages and Tri-Lateral Dirts Commission’s Kurmudgeon Ghetto—two of the label’s latest releases—wasn’t actually photocopied, and included full-color photographs. Claibourn chalks the changes up to evolution, grabbing a handful of tapes spanning the label’s history to illustrate the shift from Unabomber-style to swap-meet quality. All releases are available as mp3 downloads as well.

In addition to handcrafting cassettes and selling them at local punk shows or on tour, Claibourn also recorded many of Xerox’s releases himself at his own Get Up and Go recording studio. And where is his studio located?

“Well, that’s kind of the [joke] in the name, y’know? It’s wherever I can set stuff up … sometimes it’s at [Jefferson Crew house venue] the Basement of Frustration, sometimes it’s in my parents’ garage,” he said, laughing. “I’m hoping my parents’ garage becomes a more permanent location, that maybe they’ll let me start building some shit.”

Claibourn also hopes to keep growing the label slowly and steadily, but keep it mostly limited to bands he knows and loves personally. (“That’s all we have the budget to do anyway.”) He’s also toying with the idea of a few re-releases, which he mentions when asked if he has a favorite Xerox release.

“The Ripped to Shreds demo, probably,” he said. “It was a one-off project, some thrashcore band a friend and I started and enlisted some of the younger kids in the scene to play with. It’s 11 songs in five minutes with no breaks or anything. We did that recording and were only a band for maybe two months, and it was just chaotic and fun. It’s also where a lot of the connections I have to close friends and current bands started.

“[That recording] embodies everything I like doing … starting projects and just slapping things together, writing a few good songs and photocopying some shit.”