Why tapes and vinyl could outlast digital music: A conversation with M Sage

M Sage (due Saturday, May 15, at The Sidewinder Tavern) is Matthew Sage, who grew up in Fort Collins and has been involved in music along the front range as both a fan and artist. Whether in indie rock acts like Castles, the gritty freak-folk-esque M. Pyres or his more experimental offerings as M Sage, he's consistently made interesting music that isn't just cathartic but that also stirs the imagination. With his Patient Sounds imprint, Sage has released some of that music but also the work of other left-field artists who have inspired him.

In the digital age, Patient Sounds' release of not just physical media but specifically cassettes and now vinyl could seem quaint and even Quixotic. In this interview Sage tells us why he has continued to offer physical releases on a somewhat small scale and how his multi-media perspective on creating his own art informed the elaborate packaging of his latest record, A Singular Continent which he is releasing on Saturday.

Westword: Your new album, A Singular Continent, is coming out on vinyl, but your imprint, Patient Sounds, is known for being mostly a cassette release endeavor.

Matthew Sage: This is our second record, our first was Jerry Paper and it's called Jerry Paper Feels Emotions. It's a really fantastic, weird, synthpop record. I worked with a whole group of people on this one and the double LP was the format we were shooting for.

In this day and age, why did you want to release anything on cassette. What about that format appeals to you?

Cassettes are funny. They've become such a huge thing. For me it was always utility. They're really cheap and I've ruined so many laptops burning friends CDRs and I don't really listen to CDRs. I haven't bought a CD in five years or something. Cassettes are really easy to do at home and they're this weird, watershed technology that a lot of people didn't forget about but felt like, "Oh, we're past that now." That happening made them cheap and easy to do at home so everyone started doing it. Then the Internet made it this thing and now cassettes are everywhere.

I'm a proponent of it, absolutely. We've just done so many cassettes -- fifty-four cassettes in the Patient Sounds catalog -- and I've always wanted to do something other than cassette releases even though I'm all about that and they're fun. But the record is a sign of more developed work. I think that's why we decided to do something like that. Even with the Jerry Paper record, it's really funny and so bizarre but it feels like such an album and I didn't want to do it on a tape because it didn't feel right for a tape.

Tapes are great but there's something almost academic about a vinyl. It's more archival. You can wave a de-mag strip along some tapes and lose your entire cassette library. But records are records and they last for a long time with care. It's something I always aspired to do, to do a label where we put out records, tapes, shirts and 'zines. It just took five years to realize but I'm glad it took so long because I needed to grow up before I could do that kind of stuff, I think.

It's interesting to hear you say that because it seems like you've been so ambitious and motivated about what you do and what you're trying to do and how you go about it going back at least seven years.

I think that's just being in a small town and being bored too. In Fort Collins you have to be ambitious or else you just go to bars. I don't know, it's a cool city and there's cool stuff going on here. I'm also one of those people that's incredibly black or white. It has to be this way or this way. For me I'd rather spend as much time as possible working on my craft. Erik Wangsvick, who I worked with in Kick Majestic and he does Wrecked, I love that guy and he's totally the same way and we love setting an exceedingly high bar for ourselves, nearly unsurpassable. I think that's why worked well together--let's do this thing and work on this good live rock band for a while.

You're moving to Chicago for graduate school in a handful of weeks?

Yes. Fort Collins is a wonderful place. I grew up here. It's lovely and there's no crime. I just feel like there's no outlet for what I do here. I don't mean that in a negative way. I don't assume there has to be a DIY venue in my hometown. There should be and there has been, and house show scenes, but there isn't a scene for what I do here now. I think what has existed is kind of rooted in punk rock. That's why I think I do what I do. I listened to punk rock and grew up in a town where there was a secret punk legacy and I got into noise music. But it's just getting so vanilla. Maybe it's the bitter side of me talking. I don't have anything to regret because I love this place. Going to grad school will inspire a lot of different ideas for the label and music stuff. I'm don't have any grudge about this place, I'm just ready to get out of here.

There's a cool hybrid media program at the SAIC where you can mix creative writing, and I have a BA in Creative Writing from CSU, with sound installation and performance art and video art and multi-media.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.

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