We sat down with 17 year old Dante Scaglione to talk about his inspiration behind his Cassette Brand, Third Floor Tapes.
What inspired you to start producing cassettes?
Well, I love music and more specifically, cassette tapes. They have a fuzzy, warm sound that isn't quite like any other format; a lot of charm. They tend to wear over time and sound different depending on what you play them on. Recording and playback wise, they're just not as sterile as digital music and that's very appealing to me. Cassettes are also very aesthetically pleasing, from the rectangular plastic cases, to the paper inserts, to the bright plastic shell, they're just very fun.
A few years back, I discovered online that there was this entire world of cassette culture, and a myriad of really unique labels that sell tapes. In fact, it all started because I was infatuated with a particular album I found online, wanted a physical copy, and discovered it was only available from the label, on cassette. I had of course heard of stuff being on vinyl, but the idea of putting out new music on cassette was really cool to me and now I wanted to get some tapes myself. I needed something to play the tapes I got on, so I bought a walkman at the thrift store and then got my dad to dig his old tape deck out of storage. After a while, I started experimenting with making my own cassettes; making mixtapes, designing covers and labels. My friend Blaise knew I was into tapes, and told me that this band he was in called Forever Lesbians wanted someone to put out their first album, Sherry, on tape. Around that time, I had been floating around the idea of starting my own label, and this seemed like the perfect first release. So, I told him I'd be down to make tapes for them and I decided to do a run of 100 which I would record, assemble, and then number with Sharpie. That's been the formula ever since. I modeled the way I would operate and make the music available online off of tape labels I admired. Since releasing that record in the summer of 2014, I've put out almost 20 tapes with over a dozen different artists. Really though, I think that why I got into this really boils down to the fact that when I came to music, I just didn't want to just be a consumer or a passive collector. I didn't play any instruments or make music, but I wanted to get involved with the music scene and be a creator.
What do you feel distinguishes Third Floor Tapes from other cassette-making brands?
There are hundreds of cassette based "micro-labels" out there, a tag that I might fall under, but I feel that my modus operandi with Third Floor Tapes is what sets it apart from other labels. Although I make tapes in very small and typically hand-made runs, the scope of my vision is much wider than that. What I want to do Third Floor Tapes goes beyond that of a label. I'm growing it as something of a lifestyle; a community thats made up of artists that I encounter, collaborate with, and join together under one roof. I'm seeking to curate the best of up and coming underground music, showcase artists, and make their output available in a really cool physical format in a way that reflects them as individuals. For me, it's also really important to have a presence in my real world community and in the city where I live. A lot of these cassette based labels are exclusively online based and they don't have a presence in their local community. I don't think there's anything wrong with that by any means, I do a lot of online collaboration and communication, but it's just important for me to have a physical presence and to be out at shows and in brick and mortar stores. Most artists on the Third Floor roster I consider to be my friends and I chill with in real life, at shows, in Philly, or wherever they're from. Some of them are very close friends in fact. For me this is about real connections and a lot of real cooperation and exchange of ideas and experiences. It's all love!
I think another thing that distinguishes Third Floor from other cassette labels is that, although this is a national and international entity, Third Floor Tapes is Philly based and is capturing the sounds coming out of there and out of surrounding area. Philly has an incredible house show and basement scene. All these new bands, projects, and individuals just seem to be coming out of the woodwork every month that goes by. There's so many incredible, talented people and when someone catches my ear I make sure I approach them. I have met so many amazing people out at these shows and this community really changed my life. There are plenty of Philly labels and plenty of them do cassette releases, but many of them seem to have a focus on a certain sound, ie. metal, punk, or just don't have the same energy or ambitions as Third Floor. They also seem to be contained within Philly and don't have a wide reach. It's important for me to have a wide reach and also to release an eclectic variety of sounds; rock, hip-hop, experimental music. Genre wise I want to be all over the place, but I think all of the different sounds I put out fit in perfectly under the roof of Third Floor Tapes in their own, special way.
- Who or what inspires your artistic direction?
I have many influences, but to start off I definitely have to name some labels I really admire. Beer on The Rug, Gnar Tapes, Lillerne Tapes, and Ormolycka are all really rad cassette labels and were a huge influence on me when I started Third Floor Tapes and definitely still are now. They all have this clear aesthetic and ethic behind them, as seen through the music they release, the appearance of their websites, the design of their tapes, and the people that run them. There's a certain intimacy with some of them and with others this kind of air of mystery, which are both feelings I want to convey with Third Floor to an extent. Something that all those labels have in common, and something that I adopted, is the limited run model. The tapes I release are made, numbered, sold, and for the most part never made again. I don't re-press or re-release any tapes unless it's be some kind of new and significantly different edition. You have a chance at them while they last and if you were lucky enough to get a copy, it makes it gives that copy you have all the more sentiment and value. Every tape has it's own number and that number was drawn on there by me. Being a collector of various things throughout my life, I guess this concept has always really appealed to me; it reflects the fleeting nature of things in a way and I find that it makes owning these tapes more attractive. You get to own your own piece of a record, of a band, and you can hold it in your hands; you're a part of something larger. It's an interactive and definitely very intimate way to enjoy music, something you definitely don't get from Spotify or iTunes. This model really influences the way I do things and how I produce cassettes. For me it's really about creating a unique product and individualizing every tape I create. It's really the opposite of supply and demand, but I guess being a "business" was never my goal when I started Third Floor Tapes, albeit being sustainable has become a lot more important to me now. I like to think this model pays off in it's own way.
Visually and sound wise, Third Floor Tapes is very DIY and it's not overly polished. Third Floor's designs are comprised of a lot of hand-drawn material, and the music is mostly lo-fi in terms of it's sound. Sherry was recorded on a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder on fucked up, heavily worn tapes. That's the beauty of it though, the sound you get from that. The mixing that record has is objectively pretty poor, but theres so much charm and raw emotion. So that record, the band Forever Lesbians in general, and all the people in it, were a big influence. Shouts out especially to my man Arthur Shea, who is a member of that band and also a really a dear friend. He's a kind, genuine soul, an incredible artist, and has been a major contributor to the label. He did a lot of drawings and doodles for the website and I put out his solo record over the summer. You can check that out here. I’d also like to give a shoutout to my girlfriend and best friend Emmy Liu, who has been a tremendous influence on me artistically, and otherwise since I started the label. She frequently collaborates, contributes her input, and helps proofreads and edit writing. She’s helped me in a variety of areas from booking to PR to design and is a wonderfully talented person.