Crystal Magic Records is a New Zealand bedroom based CDR / Oddities / Cyber Label Specialising in small-run handcrafted releases and exclusive digital-downloads of Inner/Outer-zone pop music.Masterminded by Frasier Austin. Black Forest spoke to Frasier about how CMR came together….
How did crystal magic records start and what was the inspiration?
Around 2006 was sort of when I started thinking about me and my pals bands playing under the same banner. Like, I was kinda into the idea of us starting a co-op label, like, have each others cds at shows etc. It was heaps naive, totally under estimating how much more organisation collaborative efforts are. So outside of putting out some of my own releases out on CMR, it was only a noble idea, up until Golden Axe (my fav band on the planet) co-release Fantasy Footwork on CMR with their own label Jazz Fusion Bass Solo. They did all the promo/work for that, but it really energised my enthusiasm for CMR, nothing like your favourite band trusting you with their art. The need for CMR started to feel important again. Being a musician in New Zealand, sucks and rules in equal amounts, no one really cares you are in a band, because most people have bands, there is no prestige or glamor just guilt about not having a real job. So CMR slowly evolved into more of a collaborative VIBE, like, us all roleplaying a record label, borrowing trad label structures and kinda hacking them with free youtube-tutorial solutions. Eventually settling on this sort of SHAREWARE philosophy, helped by some of the nets cooler freemium services (bandcamp etc).
What was the first release on CMR?
I think it started with my first release I like to recognise artistically, which was two songs I recorded on my C64s and burnt onto a CD to sell at shows. I housed it in a recycled 5 1/4″ floppy with a custom template disk sleeve, Frase – “Diskette”. Even though it wasn’t an official CMR 001 like release it was when it “STARTED”. Like that point where I was strictly bedroom-diy capable.
Tell us about your own project Secrets? What are your main influences musically?
I was playing with my girlfriend as FRASE+BRI for a few years, but as she got busier with her studies and I was becoming more cantankerous about being in a band I decided to start over after a brief return to performing as just FRASE. I guess F+B was well liked so without BRI people were less receptive. So I was like, I am now playing as Secrets, which I liked because it’s more coffee-fueled confessional, so I liked the irony. Thanks to a weird influx of second hand italo-disco 12″s in Christchurch around 2006~ I became totally emphatic about clumsy dance music. So that informed me a great deal, also servicing our Commodore 64s for touring taught me a great deal about maintaining ageing synths so I managed to acquire some quite busted gear and breathe some life into it. There is a genesis in there somewhere, between solder fumes, octave basslines and indie-rock narcissism.
What influences the aesthetics of CMR?
PC GAMING, haha, I mean like, I grew up through the 90s home computer generation, from single speed cd-roms through to being able to burn my own CDs. And that aesthetic pretty much informs most aspects of my life. Point and Click Adventures mostly. So, somewhere between that painterly box art, laboured 3D FMV cutscenes and interlacing dial-up browser rendering you can probably trace our visual roots. Then I’d argue that DIY process accounts for the rest, emulating limitations and also the fact that I print and hand glue up all the sleeves for the CDs.
Tell us about the Australian and New Zealand music scenes and any artists you think deserve more recognition then they are getting?
I am not really invested in the Australian music scene, it seems still very alien to me. Aside from getting radio support for some of our releases I don’t really GET OUT THERE enough to be a part of it. As for NZ, it’s always hard to regard it as a SCENE. There is so little audience that your scene mostly survives on enthusiasm from your musical peers. Each day you escape quitting music by someone saying “Oh hey great job!”, but it’s barely enough to survive on, so that’s where I think a global community via the internet helps. Analytics of downloads from THE WORLD sort of become your scene.
All the CMR gang are IRL friends and gchat bffs, and I can see them producing great music until the end of time. Although we do joke about all giving up at once to see what a synth-music vacuum would do in NZ… we don’t act on it because nothing would happen.
The whole CMR catalog rules, I am so proud of it and humbled by the fact that my friends trust me with their incredible artworks.
What acts can you currently recommend, anyone you feel deserves wider recognition?
I RECOMMEND ALL OUR RELEASES. I think they all deserve as big of an audience weirdo-bedroom-pop can afford.
Name one of the best live shows in Australia/NZ you have been to…
The show that started it for me was seeing Golden Axe / The Coolies / Disasteradio and Cortina play in Lyttleton I think in 2004, I might have that year wrong, but whatever. It was part of the now legendary A LOW HUM TOURS. I went to see The Coolies whose CD I had brought and was totally into. But WOW, Disasteradio was awesome, seeing a dude rock a desktop PC like that on stage was what I had kinda been missing up until then. Golden Axe… seriously. At that time they were using taped together strollers to prop up an array of christmas lights and really busted yamaha keyboards, and I was like, woah who are these guys… totally fist pumping catchy songs played by some really humble distorted to psychedelia keyboards. <3
It was true love for real. I owe that show everything. Pretty much my hope and optimism for the world/humanity is time stamped on that date (even though I can’t recall when it was). And now we are all best-friends-forever making and exporting cool music.
Has CMR gained any recognition outside Australia/NZ?
Sort of? Most of the artists are quite well known outside of the label, mostly because they are awesome or have toured extensively overseas or have their own networks. As for the label I think it slow builds as our collective reputation grows and it all feeds into each others releases. Which is the real positive aspect of the label, like, all being awesome in what we do as artists and sharing some of that BUZZ.
I mean I’d LOVE to gather us all up and travel about the world, but for now it’s an export from my bedroom in Sydney.
Any stories wild,humorous or otherwise you’d care to share that have arose as a result of creating CMR?
I think this is where I could easily tell you about a cool dream I had and it bet met with an uninterested blank stare. So much of the cool stories are just from hanging out with my friends or really epic gchat sessions. The title for Golden Axes’ Liquid Bacon (that came out on AMDISC) came about after a really great night after a low attendance show in Lyttleton, where we stayed up bouncing movie script ideas whilst drinking a super smokey whiskey til like 6am. One day we will get around to opening Crystal Magic Studios so we can realise “HUGE RAY” staring Ray Romano as a hapless realtor who inherits his mad scientist fathers’ HUGIFYING RAYGUN and cool gadget collection resulting in a COMEDY for all ages.
What are you currently working on and what are your plans for the future?
I am currently in Timaru for Christmas, so I am really doing N O T H I N G, except eating from a well stocked fridge and being awe struck by the general quietness of small-town New Zealand. Though next year we will be kicking off with a new EP from Auckland’s LTTLE PHNX and a release from Wellington’s WATERFALLS as well. Powernap too ought to have something out early in the year and then we will all be hanging out at CAMP A LOW HUM which is a festival run by my pal Blink located just out of Wellington. Also a new CRITICAL HITS 2 compilation will be toured soon after.
So plans for the FUTURE is to just “keep going”, keep learning new skills and better ways to get my pals music from the edge of the earth to spread ever outwards. So we can get those rare “GREAT JOB”s and tangible empowering stats.