Interview: Kvist Records Owner John Tamm-Buckle on Releasing Albums, Running a Label and his Non-Asshole Pet Rooster



In this week's paper, Ryan Wasoba interviewed Tom Hamilton about Saturday's performance of Separate Checks at the Kranzberg Arts Center and the double-album reissue of Pieces For Kohn / Formal And Informal Music on the local avant-garde label, Kvist Records. John Tamm-Buckle of Kvist also chimed in on some questions about the label, the albums and the perils of urban livestock ownership.

Ryan Wasoba: First off, I've only seen the label's name in print thus far. How do you actually pronounce Kvist? John Tamm-Buckle: It's a little tricky, it's as if it was "quist" but with a "v" sound after the "qu."

I see. How long has Kvist been operating? It's been going on almost three years. The label was pretty much a way to release my own music. I had a bunch of stuff lying around and pretty much said, Why not start a label and try to release some stuff?

And it has expanded from just an outlet for your own material? Yeah, the label's first release is the only one that's just by myself. Other than that, I've put out an LP for Raglani, reissued some old synthesizer music from Texas by JD Emmanuel, some Norwegian electro, a French guitarist...

So you're reaching way farther than just St. Louis. I think at the moment it's split down the middle. Everything is in some way electronic, it's stuff that I like and wanted to release. I'm sure there's more to it than that but I've really thought about this before and thought about the common thread between releases, and really it's just all stuff that I like.

Do you feel that there's a void locally that Kvist fills? I might not be the best person to ask that question, because I'm not going to have a very objective view on that. There are prolific local labels that put out cassettes and CD-Rs, and that's an awesome way to go about things. In terms of an avant-garde label, going through all the steps that record labels go through to get CDs and records pressed and distributed internationally, I can't think of any other local labels like Kvist in that way. Maybe the void it's really filling, though, was a void in my life. It's something I really wanted to do.

So why is getting things officially pressed and released such a big deal to you? This is also something I think about a lot, and I don't know if it might just be some primal completest thing. It might even be some sort of conformism that I've absorbed where something isn't complete until it's gone through established channels. When I hold a CD that's been replicated and has a shiny silver back versus the green back of a CD-R, it looks different and physically it's different. It'll last longer and the sound quality will be better. And vinyl, if it's pressed well, can be a much clearer medium and have more sound information than digital. And they have a great feel, they provide a great canvas for artwork even if they are a massive pain to produce.

Was Kvist originally conceived as a vinyl only label? I thought it would be, but CDs are just so convenient. I actually vowed never to release a CD, and then I worked with an artist who insisted on one and since then I've haven't done vinyl. But Tom Hamilton's album is a double CD.

What inspired you to reissue Tom Hamilton's work on Kvist? First off is the St. Louis connection. I met him briefly last year and asked him if he may be interested in re-issuing Formal And Informal Music. Then he suggested tying it together with Pieces For Kohn, which I had heard before via a bootleg. It was pretty thrilling to do that. I specifically wanted to release something from the St. Louis archives. I'd heard a lot of great local stuff from the New Music Circle and I thought it'd be fun to reintroduce Hamilton to contemporary audiences. We started emailing and then....

Whoa! Was that a rooster? Yes, I do have a rooster and he just crowed. His name is Oberon. I've got some hens as well, but they don't make any noise.

I didn't know you could have a rooster in St. Louis. You can as long as the neighbors are fine with it. There's so much ambient city noise that his contribution isn't so bad. I didn't intend to get a rooster, he came with the chickens. I've met some real asshole roosters, but this guy is cool.

So what's in the future for Kvist? I'm actually moving to Sweden, where I'm originally from, so I think Kohn is an appropriate last release for the label while I'm here. It's kind of a glimpse into the past for me. I'm not the same generation as Tom and it's fun to see the parallels of what was going on when he was in St. Louis to what is happening now.

Well, thanks for talking to me and best of luck with the move to Sweden. Thanks, and if you want a rooster let me know.