Public Works Productions

Frequently Asked Questions

Concept album? Conceptual art? High concept? What?

How did all this begin?

The Tape-beatles have been making recordings as a group since their founding in Iowa City 1987. Individually, each of the group members began exploring tape art and electronic and concrete music before that time. Lloyd Dunn and Ralph Johnson worked together briefly as The Creature Comforts as early as 1985. John Heck was in the conceptual art group and political party The Less Than Adequate Band. Ralph and Paul Neff were in punk bands, such as Stiff Legged Sheep. Lloyd produced under various pseudonyms, such as 9digit Zip and Cathode Ray. And all of them participated in the short-lived All-Steel Space Weenies.

As early as 1983, Lloyd was editing xeroxed ’zines, beginning with PhotoStatic Magazine (1983-1991), then Retrofuturism (1987-1993), YAWN: Sporadic Critique of Culture (1989-1991), The CVS Bulletin (1991, the Bulletin of the Copyright Violation Squad), The Expatriot (1994-1995) and finally Psrf (1997-1998). It can be truthfully said that these works laid the groundwork for the Tape-beatles’ adopted attitudes toward culture, machine art, and intellectual ‘property’.

Where did the name ‘Tape-beatles’ come from?

Well, we were thinking up a name for the group, you know, a long time ago, and we were just racking our brains for names. We liked the name ‘The Beatless’ but it was already taken by an 80s indie group whose work we never heard. We liked its audacity, you know? So then John came up with the name ‘Tapeworms’ and at the time it seemed like the best we could come up with, but in the end, we didn’t like it so we changed it to ‘The Tape-beatles’.

In reality, we never once seriously considered using the name ‘Tapeworms’, it being the reaction of some of our friends to hearing the name ‘The Tape-beatles’, which we had already decided upon. Although Lloyd does not remember it, Paul maintains that Lloyd came up with the name during a conversation the two had where they were trying to out-do each other coming up with ridiculous names for rock bands. Among these names were ‘The Taupe Notes’, ‘Clown Poop’, ‘Devastation Wagon’, and as fate would have it, ‘The Tape-beatles’. It was during a similar conversation that Lloyd coined the word ‘retro-futurism’, which would eventually become the title for one of his zines.

What’s it all about?

Coming approximately once each 3 years, the combined recorded and performed works of The Tape-beatles and Public Works follow consistent conceptual threads. Among these are an interest in making music without the use of conventional musical instruments; using recording technology itself as a creative, expressive medium with unique capabilities; Plagiarism®, or the notion that recontextualization of previously ‘finished’ works can be done ethically and can in itself constitute authorship; and making use of contemporary media to critique culture and social milieux.

The Tape-beatles emphasized the use of analog tape techniques, executed as deftly as possible on obsolete or home stereo equipment. The Tape-beatles sought to use the esthetic language of tape, tape editing, and analog mixing techniques to its fullest possible level of articulation. Public Works have almost entirely emphasized audio production for the digital audio workstation. What they have not given up, it should be emphasized, is their interest in pushing whatever medium they make use of to its widest possible range of expressiveness.

How do you spell ‘The Tape-beatles’?

It is correctly rendered with a hyphen and a lower-case ‘b’ as in ‘Tape-beatles’. The commonly-seen ‘Tape Beatles’ is incorrect. For the record, the detailed explanation can be found here.

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