It looks like the city of Dallas is putting its faith in the underground Dallas music scene. Arthur Peña, painter, teacher and champion of several local DIY projects, applied for a grant with the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs to turn his Vice Palace brand, a roving music party, into something physical and tangible for the musicians who take part in it.
Such things haven't traditionally received that much support from the city, so it's no small surprise that the grant got approved. The idea, after all, is a little far-flung: Peña is to receive $5,000 from the city of Dallas to start a Vice Palace record label, and he'll be releasing music mostly on cassette tapes.
Peña has been arguing the merits of cassette tapes for a while now. Earlier this year, he convinced Oak Cliff bookstore The Wild Detectives to host a collection of local tapes. In the scheme of physical music format revivals, cassettes might not seem particularly practical, a dinosaur in a digital world and an inferior format to vinyl.
While Peña acknowledges that of course people will listen to music digitally, he argues that the point is to have a physical piece of art and history. That was enough, apparently, to sway Dallas on funding the idea. "40 years from now nobody's gonna find a hard drive," he says. "I've heard people say nobody listens to tapes, no. But they buy tapes and they keep tapes."
Peña plans to get the elusive Larry Carey to take care of the art on all of the releases for this project. Peña hopes to have 10 releases, with maybe two or three pressed on vinyl. He plans to use the grant to get the musicians chosen free studio time, promotion and a physical music product. "Basically what I get to do is say, 'You don't have to pay for anything. Vice Palace will put out your album,'" Peña says.
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Peña plans on getting the bands selected studio time with Tim O'Heir, a sound engineer who was nominated for a Grammy this year for his part in the record release of the Broadway musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. He also plans to once more have Danila Usov, the Vice Palace videographer, document the process, which he's likening to New York City giving Andy Warhol a grant when he started the Underground. (You can't say he's not thinking big.)
Although Peña admits he has relatively little clue what he's doing as a DIY promoter, he'll probably have it all figured out by the time his projected release date for the first project -- in the fall -- rolls around. "I'm making it up as I go," he says, "It's all fucking possible."
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