Warning: For those readers who get upset when we
deviate a bit from matters strictly audio, you should skip ahead to the next microphone review that fits your budget. These next paragraphs will only barely relate to audio. On the other hand: This book should resonate with anyone who's ever put together a band, run a studio or indie record label, or started their own magazine-like the little 32-page magazine Larry Crane started twelve years ago and called Tape Op. I could end this review with that last sentence and leave it at that, but I'm going to give you a little background on Emigre and Rudy and a few of the ways he influenced the magazine you're holding.
Emigre started out as a very small, self-published, culture magazine that quickly morphed into a graphic design magazine that evolved into one of the most significant forums for design of the past few decades. That collections of Emigre are part of several major museums, like SFMOMA, ensure that the mag will retain a place in any history of graphic design. Rudy and his wife, Zuzana Licko, started Emigre at about the same time the Macintosh computer was introduced. Zuzana started making typefaces that initially made quite an impact on the design world and are now established standards. She's designed many typefaces for Emigre, including Base 12 Serif, Base Nine and Mrs. Eaves, which are used quite prominently in Tape Op.
The Mac pretty much completely fucked up the design community for the better part of a decade, just like computers have pretty much decimated the studio business model of the '70s and '80s, changed the music industry, and will completely change the way movies are made in the next ten years. The recording industry is still whining about home recordists and the lack of professionalism. Get over it, you can't stop it. The design industry already went through this exact same thing a decade ago, when "desktop publishing"
was the next, new, big thing. For better or worse, the industry survived it, and in many ways the desktop publishing revolution created a more educated audience for design-or at least a bigger audience. Emigre was there to chronicle that shift from a passionate and involved perspective.
Emigre #69, the magazine's last issue, is a history and retrospective of the magazine, and it includes Rudy's thoughts on why he shut it down. Anybody interested in making a living doing something creative that they love will find this a great read. Emigre started as a large 11"x17" tab-sized mag; morphed into a standard-size mag; went from paid to free distribution; morphed into music CD packages for bands like Honey Barbara and Scenic (Bruce Licher, Tape Op #29); morphed into a DVD project with Elliot Earls (Tape Op #14 and Tape Op book, vol. 2); and finally was co-published by Princeton Architectural Press for its last few issues.
When I first started working with Larry on Tape Op, many of my ideas for publishing Tape Op were borrowed from Emigre. Rudy's a music fan. Check out his self-published books that straddle the line between people and places, such as Joshua Tree, with its Gram Parsons thread. I first met Rudy when he was crazy enough to start an independent record label. Emigre was based in Sacramento then and released CDs for bands like Every Good Boy (an early project of Brian Deck, Tape Op #36), The Grassy Knoll, Supercollider and Basehead, among others. I was writing a column for a local music 'zine that involved going fishing with people, and interviewing them around that experience. Rudy had never fished but was a good sport, and we spent one very cold evening along the banks of the Sacramento River in West Sacto trying to catch catfish and drinking beer that needed no refrigeration. He was even more gracious some several years later when I approached him about helping me figure out this "design thing" I was trying to learn while self-publishing a skateboarding magazine called Heckler. Looking back at it, I guess I had a lot of chutzpah asking somebody who'd won the Chrysler Award for design if they could help me out with this "desktop publishing" thing. Rudy's response has really stuck with me over the years. He said something to the effect of, "I do not think I can do that. I believe that nai^vete is a very good thing." I suppose that could be interpreted as an insult, but coming from him it didn't seem like one. Rudy said that if I wanted to, when we published our next issue, I could bring it by and he would look at it. He would never tell me if something was good or bad, or if he liked it or didn't. His only response would be to look at one page or a spread for a little longer than usual and then ask, "Why did you do that?" After a bit of conversation he would then usually tell me about some book on design that he thought I might want to read. This-and reading Emigre and a few other design mags-was how I learned about graphic design. Several years later, Rudy interviewed yours truly for Emigre #46, which was devoted to fanzines and DIY culture.
But now, after influencing me with his DIY ethic and building a business based on his creative urges, Rudy has stopped publishing Emigre, and I, with no professional experience whatsoever, am now the publisher of the magazine in your hands. #69 includes 69 short stories about publishing Emigre, and as I was reading story 26 on the interview process, it really struck me that I could substitute Larry for Rudy and Tape Op for Emigre, and the story could be about this magazine. I feel grateful and fortunate to be a part of Tape Op and to work with Larry, who's both a great friend and a great business partner. I am also grateful, along with a lot of other people who read Emigre, that Rudy published the 69 issues of Emigre that he did. (www.emigre.com)
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.