Greg Harvester is a punk I met at the MRR HQ when I first moved to SF. I had no idea he did a tape blog or what he describes as “a barely functioning record label” until I saw an ad he’s put in Mothers News, a rag out of Providence, RI. So, I thought after Robert Collins’ Terimal Escape tape blog interview why not cover another MRR shitworker and keep the tape blog love going? Here is Greg Harvester (who you may know from NEON PISS) talking about Remote Outposts for Create to Destroy!
What are your ties to the East Coast? How do you know all these rad people like FUNERAL CONE?
I guess it’s mostly from traveling a lot throughout the years. Besides going to NYC, I never really paid too much attention to New England for the longest time. A really good friend of mine, Mike Leslie, is from Worcester, MA, and I started making my way there to hang out with him. Over time, I just kept going back and I’ve fallen in love with the whole region. There’s so many great people and bands, such as CLEANSING WAVE, SKIMASK, THE TERRIBLES and all of those Boston bands that people always talk about (rightfully so). Plus, I just love the season of fall and if I could spend every fall there, I could die happy.
How’d you wind up in San Francisco?
I originally moved here in 2002 from Chattanooga, Tennessee, where I was living on a dilapidated houseboat. My time there had kind of run its course and I was ready for a change. My good friends in SF were starting a band called ALLERGIC TO BULLSHIT and they needed a drummer, so I decided to move out. The bass player, Cinque, and the singer, Ivy, were in town so I hopped in a van with them and a bunch of other maniacs and drove across the country with no money at all. I lived in a van on Alabama Street and at Mission Records (RIP) during that time. I left in 2003 to travel and do other stuff, but was drawn back here in 2008 and haven’t really wanted to leave since. I’m a fairly transient person, but this is the only place that has felt like home in years.
How’d you wind up at MRR?
I hung out at the compound a lot in 2002 because I didn’t really have other places to go that were free. I did a lot of shitwork, like filing records, taking out the trash, doing the radio show, etc…. I did some book reviews, but they didn’t let me write record reviews because I told them that I hated all music, which was maybe true at that time. When I came back in 2008, I just showed up and insisted on being a part of the magazine again, because I want to be actively participating in print media…especially in a capacity that is so anti-corporate…for the most part…as anti-corporate as things can be in 2014.
Is the name “Remote Outposts” a reference to anything?
Yes. When I was first starting the blog, I didn’t think of a name until the last minute. At the time, I was obsessed with the idea of living in Antarctica (still am) and I loved this 1985 article from the Wall Street Journal about people losing their fucking shit while working there. The first line says, “It is Saturday night at one of the world’s most remote outposts…” I liked the sound of that. I liked that the title didn’t tie things down to any certain genre of punk or to anything at all, really. I guess that’s it.
Looks like you’ve been doing this since 2011. How has your “blog” changed since then?
I started the whole thing primarily to catalog and archive virtually unknown punk bands from the Southeast US, because that’s where I’m from…Alabama, to be exact. I think that, in my experience, some of the best punk has come from Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, Arkansas and Georgia. Mississippi too, but not South Carolina. I wanted to provide the back story and sounds of a whole scene of bands who may have only put out one tape and may have only made 20 copies of that tape. I think those bands are the best shit, and I realized that I’m not alone in that thought. I wish that the majority of the blog wasn’t just my perspective or my experience, but that’s just how it happened. I try to get other people to write for it as well, but people are slow or flaky or just not interested and that’s fine. Over time, I archived most of the southern punk tapes that I wanted to, but I still have hundreds of other tapes. I think the only way it’s really changed is that I spend a little more time on the writing because I don’t want it to be like, “Hey, here’s a band from Gnawbone, Indiana,” and not provide context. I realized that people actually read it, so I try to make it interesting. Also, I decided recently to stop posting any bands who use crowd-sourcing in any capacity.
Has Remote Outposts always had a presence on Facebook ?
Not always. I’m not even sure why I started the FB page, but I realized that people pay attention to it. Its only purpose is to tell people there’s a new post, but they could just as easily sign up for an email alert and get it that way. Or just bookmark the blog. I try to update it pretty often. Whatever works.
Why do you do it?
I think a lot of these bands are important. I looked at some music blogs before I started this and they didn’t provide a lot of context. It would just be a link to a download. I want to know the backgrounds. Where do the bands come from? How do they get by? Have they ever had to sell plasma to get gas money? Did they almost die from heat exhaustion while having to breastfeed their kids in a tour van in Mexico? Have they ever killed anyone? Were any of them placed in youth detention centers when they were growing up for trying to burn down their school? Besides that, a lot of music blogs I saw mostly covered metal or hardcore, which is great, but I wanted to also see the more melodic or noisy or arty or fucked up side of music being represented in some small capacity. Besides that, it’s fun. When it’s not fun I’ll stop.
How do you do it?
I’ve always said, “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing,” and I mean that. There was a cord at my house that I plugged into my stereo which allowed me to digitize stuff. I don’t know what that cord is called. I’m not trying to be elusive. I really just don’t know. My house got a free scanner on Craigslist and I use that to scan any art that comes with the tapes. I use Audacity and iTunes to make the MP3s and then host it on whatever file hosting service works, which has been a real learning experience that I don’t want to discuss publicly.
Have you made new friends doing this?
Yeah, I meet people while traveling who like it, which is very encouraging. I haven’t, like, met my best friend in the world or anything, but most of the interactions that have come from this have been really positive.
Where do you get your tapes? Do you get a lot from reviewing demos for MRR?
I already had a fairly huge collection because I just don’t throw things away. I still have mix tapes from my teenage years and a VOMIT SPOTS tape that I originally got in 1989. I also hold onto tapes that I review for MRR, but only ones that either blow me away or have a few indispensable songs on them. Some people have given me their collection to sift through rather than trashing them. Some bands mail me their tape because they like the blog, which is amazing to me. I always buy tapes from touring bands that I like. I’ve found a few of ‘em on the street and in free boxes.
Not so much hardcore?
I fucking love hardcore. There’s a misconception that I’m not a fan of hardcore because I rarely cover it on the blog, but that’s just not true. I grew up on it and it’s still close to my heart. Also, the few times that I have posted hardcore on the blog, no one pays attention to it. BRAIN KILLER demo? No one cared. QUESTION? Nope. HARUM SCARUM? IRON LUNG? THE KNOCKABOUTS (Alabama’s first hardcore band!)? STOCKHOLM SYNDROME? Fuck it. Great fucking bands but I don’t think people read my blog for hardcore, because there are many other places on the internet that have that genre covered. Terminal Escape and Music Not Noize are much better outlets for that kind of stuff than me. Coincidentally, those are the only two music blogs I look at.
What is your punk forte, I mean like…what sub-genre of punk or genres do you mostly focus on?
I wanna just say “PUNK,” but the punk world has split off into so many sub-genres that I can’t (don’t want to) keep track anymore. Before I found punk, I stumbled into the world of performance art which was such a freak zone in 1980s Alabama. Because of that, I gravitate towards bands who are in true freak zones, whether they are arty, melodic, hardcore, drone-y, fucked up noise or whatever. That being said, I also love ultra-precise, no-fucking-around pop stuff like the MARKED MEN. I don’t care about grindcore. Is that an answer?
I don’t even know what’s out there anymore. I like Asswipe, Cometbus, Spare Change and Absolutely Zippo, but honestly I’ve read Harper’s and journals more than zines in the last couple of years. I sometimes do a zine called Rice Harvester and another one called Disunderstood, which is just a journal of me writing down what I think hardcore bands are singing about at shows.
So many. Two come to mind. Once, our van broke down in the South, so we left it at a mechanic with our roadie and just hitchhiked to our next show after sleeping on the ground in a gravel parking lot. The show sucked but we didn’t have to cancel it. Another time, I was in Jonquiere, Quebec, and the entire audience was on PCP. Our bass player quit mid-show because it was so fucked up, but we finished without her. At the end, the guitarist was passed out, dead to the world, and I had to carry him out like a little baby. On my way to the van, I had to dodge a dude who was crying and bashing himself in the head with a hammer, as well as a woman who was trying to make out with me. Oh, and in Budapest, Hungary, the audience ripped the pick guard and the bridge off of two of our guitars and then got upset when we couldn’t play any more. I’m afraid that I have stories like these for days.
That sounds very Quebec. Any last words?
Thank you. Look at the blog or don’t. Stay punk or don’t.