Sonic Youth Is Unloading Tons of Tape in Reverb Shop

Sonic Youth. Photo courtesy of the artists.

Back in the early 2000s, as digital recording came to dominate the music industry, it seemed like magnetic tape was about to go the way of Edison cylinders and shellac records. Not wanting to run out of their preferred medium, the analog adherents of Sonic Youth stocked up.

Now, having found a balance of tape and digital recording—and with fears of a completely tape-free future not coming to pass—Sonic Youth has a largesse of used reels they're putting up for sale in The Official Sonic Youth Reverb Shop.

The Sonic Youth tapes include 2" and 1/2" reels from Ampex, Quantegy, BASF, and other makers, alongside other assorted formats. They were all sourced by Sonic Youth members from studios that were then clearing their shelves and trading in their tape machines for Pro Tools rigs.

"We would run into Manhattan and fill up a car, literally, with 2" tape, and it's awfully heavy, so your car would be riding low on the shocks when you went back through the tunnel," Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley tells us. "People were really just tossing tons of 2" tape away at that point in time."

Ever since, the tapes have been stored in the group's own Echo Canyon West studio, which became a kind of hub for the metropolitan area's cast-off reels. The collection grew larger than Sonic Youth or the other bands that recorded at Echo Canyon West could use.

A sample of the tapes you can find in The Official Sonic Youth Reverb Shop

The tapes that are now available for sale do not contain any secret, to-be-discovered Sonic Youth recordings. While they are all used, they were used in other studios before being acquired by the band. So if there are any moments of music history still on them waiting to be heard, they won't be from Steve, Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, or Lee Ranaldo.

As for other artists' work that may not have been fully wiped on these TBE (or to-be-erased) tapes, Steve says: "There might be stuff on there—I wouldn't say cool stuff. Whenever we were using one of these TBE reels, we would spot-check them first and make sure that there wasn't some amazing outsider music on it that no one had heard of, but it's mostly junk [laughs]."

Steve shares a story of one of their tape scores, where Todd Ploharski—a collector, friend of the band, and owner of Athens, Georgia record store Low Yo Yo Stuff—chanced upon a dumpster full of tape from what was then Diddy's studio.

"We did go through that tape looking for Jimmy Page," he says—it was, after all, just a few years after the "Kashmir"-sampling "Come With Me" had dropped—"but we didn't find any Jimmy Page on the Puff Daddy tape."

While there may not be any undiscovered gems on them, these tapes are ready for your own. Sonic Youth is offering them for market prices, and the group just wants the reels to get into the hands of working studios and artists.

"We want this stuff to be used. It's useful, we love analog tape, and it would be terrible to throw it in a dumpster," Steve says. "So, it's priced to sell, it's priced to use, and hopefully someone will give it some TLC and make something awesome with it."

Find all of the reels for sale in The Official Sonic Youth Reverb Shop now.

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