by Larry Crane

In 1996 my life changed. A few years earlier, I had been in a busy band (Vomit Launch, a precursor to what became indie rock) putting out albums and touring for almost eight years. In late 1992 we called it quits. I’d moved from Northern California to Portland, Oregon, where I’d enjoyed the culture, music, beer, and clubs while on tour in the previous years. Soon after arriving, I found myself renting a home with a basement, and set up a rudimentary studio space for band rehearsals and recording. 

My early recordings didn’t come out as good as I’d wished, so I started looking for more information about tracking and mixing. I scoured the library, dropped by Powell’s Books, and grabbed recording magazines around town when I saw them. I’d also been writing for small music magazines (BravEar, File 13) and local weeklies for years on the side, mostly doing music reviews. This world of independent press had blossomed into an underground print culture, with ‘zines covering many topics and comics about real life. A local shop catering to this, Reading Frenzy, was run by my friend (and future Portland City Commissioner), Chloe Eudaly. When I expressed interest in starting a ‘zine about music recording, she offered to carry it, and our friend Sean Tejaratchi gave me invaluable advice, and along with Toni Smith helped design Tape Op’s early look.

The first issue of Tape Op came out in April of 1996. I already had a PO Box that didn’t see much use, and an HP computer that seemed pretty useless. I went downtown and signed up for a dialup email account, set up a desk in an unused bedroom, and was in business. For issue #1 I called Greg Freeman, who had produced the first two Vomit Launch records at his studio in San Francisco, and picked his brain. I also called Fred Cornog, of Merge Records’ East River Pipe, and talked about home recording. Throw in a few chats with other musician pals, and some sloppy paper layout, and I was ready. I snuck into my wife’s workplace on the weekend, bringing my own paper and knocking out photocopies. I had to buy a giant stapler, and I would rope in friends to help collate and “bind” the mags. For this inaugural issue I even spray painted the covers, using a 1/2-inch reel flange as a stencil. 

I dropped off copies at Reading Frenzy, Super Digital (the local recording supply store), and around town. I got Tower Records to carry it, as a friend of my sister’s worked in the magazine department. I mailed out hundreds for free, to small record labels, bands, and to John Baccigaluppi, who had produced the last two Vomit Launch albums. I quickly began work on issue #2, interviewing The Apples in Stereo and Anders Parker of Varnaline; people I’m still in touch with to this day. 

What I never considered was the community I would foster and build by creating Tape Op. Issue #1 felt like a lone journey, outside of the few friends that I had discussed it with and some support from my (now ex-)wife. Within three years, John Baccigaluppi would join up as a partner, and take the magazine to thousands more readers. Our team that helps us now is amazing: Marsha Vdovin on ad sales and PR, Geoff Stanfield our online publisher, Scott McChane our gear reviews editor and pre-press guru, Anthony Sarti our CTO, Andy Hong our Gear Geek, and even our proofreader, my wife Jenna Crane, who I met through Reading Frenzy and ‘zine culture! There are even more helpers and contributors behind the scene of Tape Op, working hard to bring the best articles, reviews, and ads into our magazine. 

Tape Op Magazine once felt like it was just my crazy idea, some 24 years ago. Now it feels like something that belongs to all these collaborators and contributors, and to the world to learn from, archive, and enjoy. 

Download Issue #1 For FREE Here!
Note: The first ten issues of Tape Op will soon be available as part of the Complete Digital Box Set!

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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