Grandmother’s Tea Leaves: Update and Saga

I want to close out 2006 with some interesting news. I am now down to about 5 slightly damaged copies of the original 2 pressings of my debut solo album “Grandmother’s Tea Leaves.” I’ve been searching in far corners of my basement but can’t find any more yet…..though I have been known to absentmindedly stash things in obscure places to be discovered some time in 3046 (if we make it that long.)

For those of you who don’t know the history of this album……I released it in the fall of 1993 on what at the time I had called “Olio Records.” Why I decided to name my record label the word for “oil” in Italian remains a mystery to me, but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with the graphic look of the word and the symmetry of the “O’s”. I guess as an amateur/budding graphic designer, I thought I might be able to make some kind of cool logo out of the label name.

Anyway, I pressed 1000 copies and made my first attempt at going public with my music….sent a bunch out to press and radio etc….all the things you are supposed to do to try and get your music heard by others than your family and friends. I had a few amazing early successes and found some incredibly cool fans, many of whom became and have remained good friends to this day….and some of the reviews I got for that album contain the most insightful and beautiful things that have ever been said about my music by people whose ears I respect immensely.

But soon after the album release, I also got a series of cease and desist letters/phone calls from a lawyer for a to-be-undisclosed record label whose investigators somehow found out about tiny me and thought I had stolen their label name. There was little I could do in this situation other than to assure the lawyer that I was not going to take over any share of their Particular Niche of the music market with my oily little label and that probably less than 200 of my CDs would ever sell anyway. So I don’t really remember, but we made some kind of amicable agreement and I said sure no problem, I’ll change my label name for my next release.

As it turned out, a few years later, I did press another 1000 copies of GTL with the same artwork and “Olio” survived a few years longer under the radar and without incident. My label did finally become DemiVox Records in 1996 and I released “Moon…” and onward. (hey, if you are going to run a vanity label, why not put part of your name and instrument in the title and go all the way with the self-reference. And yes, half a voice is what I always have in the morning, so that was appropriate too…..)

So, getting to the point of the story: when I left for France in 2001, I entrusted my GTL master CD artwork films to the storage warehouse of the great company in SF who had pressed the album for me in 1993. But during the sunsoaked time I was in France, both my American record distributor and this album pressing company sadly went out of business…early harbingers of the music industry meltdown that was to come. The news soon came from across the seas that I had lost several thousand dollars via the demise of this distributor (to try and get the money back would have cost me in legal fees more than I had lost, so I wrote it off…..)

Shortly afterwards I found out that my GTL artwork masters were nowhere to be found, probably locked up as confiscated goods in some legal storage bin in the depths of LA’s San Fernando Valley. And I, having been the inexperienced graphic designer that I was at the time, did not have complete backups for the art-work computer files in any readable form. Oh it was so much fun to get all this “news from home”….yes oh yes it was. (I look at this now as payback for my good fortune to have lived in such a gorgeous place for 2.5 years).

Anyway, I think I consoled myself with a few weeks of serious cheese and wine overindulgence and got on with the making of Angels’ Abacus and pretty much forgot about it — or decided not to worry about it again.

So what I’m saying here today is that I am now down to 5 out of 2000 copies of my first and definitely my weirdest and maybe my best album, “Grandmother’s Tea Leaves”. I think I have to consider this a great success, despite the little traumas along the way. There are other copies to be found floating around the internet at varying prices and I may begin buying them back soon cause I’d like to have some original copies to give to my son and his future kids some day.

This album probably will not be pressed as a CD ever again — who knows. I guess I could scan the original artwork and strip in the new label logo….maybe someday (though the 25-year lifespan of the CD format is about to end very soon, I believe.) But GTL will never be on little embattled “Olio Records” again and that makes me sad as….I don’t know….it’s a big closure to the early part of my creative life as a record-maker-label and closure is always bittersweet.

So if you want one of these 5 remainders from my basement, please let me know. I may yet be able to find a few more but they will have dust and cracks and I will do my best to clean them up for you, put them in new jewel boxes, sign them and even glisten them up with some real olive oil!!!

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to everyone and thank you for listening for 13 years. I am going to try my very best to complete something big and new by the end of 2007. Please wish me and my new computer lots of luck.



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