La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela at the Dream House

14. The Record Business

FRANK J. OTERI: Which brings us to this whole notion that creative people sort of have to take it into their own hands in our society and do it themselves. And you know, 40 years ago that was harder to do than it is nowand that’s not saying that it’s easy to do nowbut you’ve created your own space, you’ve started your own record label and that’s something that I’d like to talk about a bit and what that means about taking this and…you know, the large corporations are not going to be able to make $500,000 on it in a weekmaybe they would over time if they gave the time to do it, but they’re only interested in the fast buck, so it’s not going to happen.

MARIAN ZAZEELA: You know, we tried. Well, also we were lucky with Gramavision because Jonathan Rose had independent income, so he wasn’t running the company to make his own fortune. I mean, he did intend it to make money, he didn’t set it up to lose money, but he wasn’t dependent on it. So he was very generous with giving us our own artistic freedom and supporting the projects, you know, like, I remember when we wanted to put a color photo in the centerfold of the Blues Band booklet and he said, “Oh well, let me make a call.” And he called us back and said O.K. [laughs] But, you know, it really was dependent on the personal relationship because he loved the music and it meant a lot to him and he hated the music business and…

LA MONTE YOUNG: He said the reason he left the recording business was because he just couldn’t do what he wanted to do.

MARIAN ZAZEELA: And he was just crushed that he put out music that he loved and the music business just cut it off right at its feet, cut its legs out from under it and, you know, wouldn’t distribute it.

LA MONTE YOUNG: What was that story about there were only 10 slots on the list?

MARIAN ZAZEELA: Well, he told us that, I guess, he had something that he produced that was a little bit more popular and was really getting a lot of radio play, but when the royalty statements came in, nothing was showing up on them. So they called the radio stations and said, well, you know, you played this a lot, how come it’s not coming up on your playlists?

LA MONTE YOUNG: How come you’re not writing it down on the playlists?

MARIAN ZAZEELA: And they said, well, there are only 10 slots and this is the 11th or something like that, but actually what he found out was that the other 10, the people who were going into the 10 slots…

LA MONTE YOUNG: …The people who were going in the 10 slots, were buying in…

MARIAN ZAZEELA: …were buying the radio station personnel tickets to Japan and so on. And although there was Payola, there was a big scandal and then it was kind of put out, but it’s still there.

FRANK J. OTERI: Of course. And those were all major labels as opposed to independent labels.

MARIAN ZAZEELA: Yeah. And Gramavision, always had problems with the distribution thing and that totally discouraged him.

LA MONTE YOUNG: So for many years, I lived a dream that because I thought my music was important and there was some substantial proof of it, some record company would buy me up and give me enough money so that I could really do things and they would put out my music. But aside from Gramavision, it never happened and so then I realized that the technology had provided…even my students were making their own CDs, so I thought, what’s wrong with me? I better learn fast. And I decided that I would just put them out one at a time and I would be happy to sell what I could, so that’s how I created Just Dreams. I’m so happy now that I have my own recording company because I don’t have to have any arguments with people about what I’m going to release next. I make all of my own deadlines. [laughs] I can carry it to the printer myself if I want.

FRANK J. OTERI: You can print it yourself!

LA MONTE YOUNG: Yeah, I can print it myself. You know, it’s really satisfying and I feel that it will be the first time that I’ve every really done something that is both business-like and helpful to my creative process. Because, as you may know, I’ve decided to stop touring. You know, I’ve been on stage since I was 5 years old and I did many, many European tours and I love to perform and I love to go to special cities like Rome and Milan and eat the food and drink the wine, but I began to realize that I was living for the recordings I was making of these concerts and at that point, that was the main thing, and that even though I was getting paid more for touring than for anything else, that the cost on my body was enormous and it was extremely labor intensive, so a few years ago I decided that I would not tour anymore and that I would create my own recording company and that I would perform in the Dream House and I would perform locally and I would try to really create my last works in peace and quiet and record them and video them and hopefully release them with my own company. And I found that it is so much more satisfying to work in this simple, mom-and-pop kind of way, where we can watch over everything. And O.K., maybe I don’t produce thousands of copies. Maybe I only print a thousand at a time or two thousand. It’s O.K. It’s a gradual, continual process and until I get more funding that’s the way it’s going to have to be.

FRANK J. OTERI: I wonder though, one thing that strikes me as so interesting about the transition of going to recordings and giving up concerts, because so much of your work together is about this creating of environment in which to suspend time. To experience sound and light, visual imagery and auditory imagery, and be transported into this sacred space and can that sacred space exist in somebody’s Walkman? Or in somebody’s living room?

LA MONTE YOUNG: Absolutely. It definitely can and it should be able to…