Q&A with Inaiah Lujan of Blank Tape Records

Let’s start with the why and when of Blank Tape.

Blank Tape was created first out of necessity and grew into what it is now. My brother Ravi and I (he was in New Mexico at the time) used to mail each other home recordings and demos on cassette tapes back and forth. One particular tape called “The MEXICAN” (which eventually became Blank Tape’s very first release) was mailed to me with my brothers return address marked “Blank Tape Records.” Needless to say, we loved the name, and when it came time to do our very first Haunted Windchimes / Mexican tour (which consisted of Ravi, Chela, Desi and I), we all decided no one would take us seriously unless we were on a record label. Thus, Blank Tape was born.

Blank Tape as a legitimate (if you could even call it that) business came a few years later when I was being approached by folks to release their album on our label. We decided to give it a real shot and some of our very first releases were; Katey Sleeveless’s The Hour I first Believed, The Jack Trades’s Whiskey Well, The Haunted Windchimes’s Honey Moonshine, Joe Johnson’s A Time to Dance, and The Changing Colors’s Ghost of Red Mountain.

 Is there a recording studio available to artists?

Although we don’t own a dedicated studio space currently (we have in the past), it is a common occurrence to utilize great local spaces and recording engineers for projects. We’ve worked in Hideaway Studios with Marc Benning, The Milkhouse / Sunshine Studios with Ian Bourgal, Conor Bourgal & Mike Clark, Right Heel Music with Adam Hawkins, Goat Hill Pickin’ Parlor with Sean Fanning, and have even made various pop-up studios in friend’s homes, churches, warehouses, etc.

How many artists on the label?

Currently, our active roster consists of: The Changing Colors, Desirae Garcia, Grant Sabin, The Haunted Windchimes, Joe Johnson, and Mike Clark & The Sugar Sounds

It seems like everyone is friends who is apart of BTR, how do you draw a line between friendship and sometimes the need to get shit done?

It’s always a challenge to run a business with your friends, but we do a good job of knowing when to get serious and meet deadlines. All of us are pretty good about finding contributing roles for each project and have the flexibility to shift gears and multitask when applicable. We are at our best when everyone is working together towards a common goal one step at a time.

What would you say are some successes of the label? As you as an artist?

Our biggest successes come from planning each step of a album’s release—from idea to early production demoing, tracking and recording; to post production, mixing, mastering, artwork and manufacturing. Then concluding with the necessary steps to launching the album: CD release show, promotions, press, radio and physical / digital distribution. All of our artists have been nominated for CSIndy Awards with a handful of wins in their respective categories, including best album awards for; The Haunted Windchimes: Out With The Crow (2012), Grant Sabin: Anthromusicology (2013).

Do you feel that the community really rallies behind you guys? I see Blank Tape artists everywhere. I would like to assume so.

We have great support from the community! KRCC and CSIndy (to name only a few) were both early supporters of ours thanks to a couple of good friends who were there from the start and put the bug in their ear: Adam Leech (of Leechpit fame) and Bobby Joe Grubb, who is now a promoter in Taos, NM. It takes a village, you know…and we’ve been very fortunate to have had the help of a very supportive community.

What have been your biggest challenges, as artists?

One of the biggest challenges we face is the amount of content our artists create. Not a bad problem to have, if you ask me… but it is important that we share resources fairly and accurately. That being said, although Grant Sabin, Joe Johnson, and Mike Clark could put out 3 albums worth of songs a year, easily, it doesn’t mean financially it makes sense. We have the challenge of learning to balance ideas, releases, and resources and to not shoot ourselves in the foot or exhaust funds unintelligently. We get so excited about each project to the point where it is easy to over-look these things.  Furthermore, no artist including myself likes to hear no. We are working hard to make sure we can say yes more frequently and for it to make sense for the whole.

What is the future for Blank Tape?

The future of Blank Tape is always to tighten up ship, see our short comings, correct mistakes, build on our strengths, and make smart intentional moves in the right direction. We are working on expanding opportunities for our artists though commercial licensing and publishing for movies and television. In 2016, we plan to outsource a bit more with publicists, distributors and other areas of marketing. Less work for us means more time for music and creation. This comes through strategic planning and knowing when we need help.