Zzaj Productions and Dick Metcalf

by Briyan Frederick

Photo submitted by Zzaj for GAJOOB #9. The following is a retrospective article on Dick Metcalf, peering through the pages of GAJOOB in print (circa 1987-1994) and also GAJOOB’s DiY Report which consisted of 128 weekly (more or less) email newsletters from 1994-1997.

    Zzaj Productions is a music label focused on “HIGH ENERGY recordings (in all genres).” The label was founded around 1990 by Dick Metcalf, also known as Rotcod Zzaj. Metcalf has been making music both in the studio and on stage for nearly 25 years, and producing tapes for over 10 years.

    I designed the Zzaj logo (using Typestyler) during the time of the Homemade Music Shop and Zzaj managed a shop within the shop which contained his own extensive catalog. Dick has been using it ever since and I get a kick every time I see it around.

    In addition to running Zzaj Productions, Metcalf is also a coordinator for the annual Olympia Experimental Music Festival, and publishes Improvijazzation Nation, a zine which focuses on improvised music in a variety of genres.

    Metcalf has said that GAJOOB was a strong supporter of Zzaj Musique in its early days, as was the original Factsheet Five. Metcalf has also expressed gratitude to Don Campau, noting that Campau has listened to every tape and CD he has ever released.

    Dick Metcalf: The GAJOOB Interview

    Dick Metcalf, who also records under the name Rotcod Zzaj, is a cassette culture icon, and his work, thoughts, and opinions are featured in multiple issues of GAJOOB. He is perhaps best known as the editor and publisher of Improvijazzation, a zine which focuses on the intersection of improvised music, jazz, and cassette culture.

    In GAJOOB issue number 9, Metcalf is interviewed by Henry Schneider. This interview provides insight into Metcalf’s views on a wide range of topics, including the news media, music reviews, and Cassette Culture.

    Metcalf on the News Media

    Metcalf expresses a strong disdain for mainstream news outlets, stating that he finds them to be untrustworthy and manipulative. He draws a parallel between the current state of the news media and the dystopian society depicted in George Orwell’s 1984, suggesting that the media is being used to control and manipulate the public. Metcalf’s views on the news media are in line with his general distrust of authority and his belief in individual expression and independence.

    Metcalf on Music Reviews

    While Metcalf acknowledges that music reviews can be helpful in exposing artists to a wider audience, he also expresses some reservations about their role in Cassette Culture. He believes that reviewers should be honest and forthright in their opinions, even if those opinions are negative. He also feels that reviewers should focus on the substance of the music, rather than getting caught up in superficial aspects like genre or style. In line with this, he suggests that the term “paraviews” might be a more accurate description of the kind of reviews that GAJOOB publishes.

    Metcalf on Cassette Culture

    Metcalf’s interview provides some interesting insights into the nature and purpose of Cassette Culture. He emphasizes the importance of exchange and networking among artists, highlighting how these activities can help to foster creativity and build a sense of community. He contrasts Cassette Culture with the mainstream music industry, arguing that Cassette Culture offers artists a greater degree of freedom and control over their work. Metcalf’s passion for Cassette Culture is evident throughout the interview, and he clearly sees it as a vital force for artistic expression and independent thought.

    Metcalf’s “Greatest Achievement”

    When asked about his greatest achievement, Metcalf’s response is surprising in its humility. He states that his greatest achievement was simply “getting through 24 years in the military without losing [his] appreciation for life and the living of it.” This response reveals a great deal about Metcalf’s character and values. It suggests that he prioritizes personal growth and self-discovery over external markers of success. It also hints at the transformative power of art and music, which can help individuals to navigate challenging experiences and maintain their connection to their own humanity.

    Metcalf’s Collaborators

    Rotcod Zzaj, also known as Dick Metcalf, has collaborated with a variety of artists, many of whom are involved in cassette culture. The sources mention the following as collaborators:

    • Bret Hart: Zzaj describes a collaboration with Hart in the spirit of “America”, noting they drank beer, went dancing, and were in a “natural frame of mind”. This collaboration resulted in a tape called Zzaj-Art, Vol. 2.
    • Jeff Olson: Zzaj’s collab with Screamin’ Popeyes’ Jeff Olson resulted in (at the very least) the tapes New Directions and Whistlepoot Junction.
    • John M. Bennett: Zzaj has worked with poet John M. Bennett on multiple projects, including an appearance on the GAJOOB CD compilation called The Smell of Success. The source describes their combined sound as thoroughly unique.
    • Mark Kissinger: Zzaj and Kissinger created a tape called Critical Mass.
    • DimThingShine: Zzaj and DimThingShine collaborated on a tape called 2 Sides of Zzaj.
    • Harlan Mark Vale: Zzaj and Vale, also known as Kramtones, made Emotional Circus.
    • Jake Berry: Zzaj and Berry collaborated on Alien Tongues.

    The sources also mention Zzaj’s collaborations with Charles de la Casa on techno/dance music, Luis Encarnacion on Spirit of the Rhodes, and Jiri Jirasek (Cosmic Trend) on Elephants and Angels.

    In addition to the names listed, the sources mention Zzaj participating in a video compilation and working on a project with Ellen Miz Ellen called Playing By Ear. He also contributed to compilations, such as The Funky Mystery Project, which featured artists responding to a 12″ single Zzaj released in 1985.

    What Tomorrow Brings by Rotcod & Briyan

    Words by Briyan Frederick, Music by Rotcod Zzaj and Briyan Frederick

    Dick Metcalf: keyboards, Briyan Frederick: vocals, guitars, keyboards, drums

    Around the century’s turn, I dipped my gigantic toe into the Zzaj’s collaboration pool. He mailed me a tape of improvised keyboard tracks with which I was to collaborate and (thus far) is the result. I released a version of this on my “Blind Mime Confessions Vol.1” CD. That version was edited, but this one here is the full track, heretofore unreleased.

    Those of you familiar with the Zzaj style will find it evident who is playing what. For those of you who are not yet experienced, Dick plays the zzajjy keyboard figures which serve as a bed along with the synth horn stabs that punctuate several breaks.

    15 Minutes

    Metcalf submitted his 15 Minutes for my podcast (circa 2001).


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    dabodab is published by Briyan Frederick (aka Bryan Baker) of GAJOOB, Tapegerm Collective, Discover Zines and other sites which now have a home here on dabodab. read more.

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    i was trying to present it as layers of skin being peeled away to get to the next section, with the glockenspiel over bryan’s piano loop, which was like the true inner self. and i kept thinking about michael jackson throughout the whole process.Jack Shite

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