With a band like Manta Ray, which is not really well known outside of continental Europe, how does someone with a label in Portland, Oregon, come across a band like that? And what was it about their music that caught your attention?
John Askew: In that particular situation, we'd been in pretty good contact over the last couple of years with Acuarela Records, who released the European version of Manta Ray's Estratexa. Jesus, who runs Acuarela, would send me new releases to try to get released over here, and I would do the same with him. Tracker, Norfolk and Western, and Transmissionary Six, all have been on a compilation that he put out [the Acuarela Songs compilations]. So, I guess all this has lead to more regular communication between the two of us.
When I got the [Manta Ray] package in the mail and listened to the album, I was really excited about it -- mainly because I end up getting so much of the same stuff.
I know that feeling well.
John: I'm sure you do. And instantly it was such a relief to hear an album that was so good. That's how I came across [Estratexa], and at that point I started a dialog with Acuarela about it.
I was just excited about the record. It was different from what I put out. And also, I knew the record was doing really well in Europe, so I wanted to take on something that was little bit more of a story for me. I knew that it would be a hard sell over here, and for some reason I pick records that luckily I love but are hard to sell. I like the challenge of it -- so we just carried it from there and it's ended up working out.
The delay in releasing the album in the States is something, I take, that has to do with waiting to see what it can do in Europe before selling it over here? Or was it just the delay in FILMguerrero getting the material and working it through channels?
John: Two things, really. I got a copy of Estratexa pretty much when it was released in Europe, and at that time my schedule was rather full. I think the album came out in February or March, and I basically looked at my schedule and kind of toyed around with it. The more time I have with it over here is not really going to matter to the band -- no one is releasing it here, and the band weren't touring -- so the more time I had to take to put it out, the better for press and what not.
That was one main reason. The other reason was that I was going through some distribution changes, so I didn't want to have the album thrown into some system that was going to end up failing me. I waited until I had a real solid road for it to go down -- [laughs] which I guess is never solid.
How has the response been?
John: The response has been much better than I thought. It's been very similar to your take on the record. I'm not totally surprised by the response. However, I don't think their genre is totally new. In this situation it just kinda hit me with a level of authenticity.
Overall, the response has been really positive.
It's one of those albums that every time you listen to it something new you didn't notice previously creeps out of the speakers.
Like you mentioned earlier, I'm sure you just a massive pile of demo submissions and what not on a regular basis. We're in a similar situation, and it's not that most of what we get here at eP is particularly bad; it's just that it's so middle of the road that you don't have words good or bad to describe it. That's not meant to be a slight to the bands and artists who release the material, it's just that most of it doesn't stand out one way or another. But when an album like Estratexa comes along, it really makes you stand up and go, "Wow! Here's some talented people doing some really talented things."
John: Exactly! It sounds exactly how it affected me.
Getting back to what I really first wanted to ask you: Which came first, FILMguerrero or Tracker and your life as a musician?