Of all the peculiar traits of the obsessive record collector, the tendency to quietly hoard music is, by most accounts, among the more undesirable.
Just ask Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore or his record-collecting friend Byron Coley, who recently started a small
record label to guard against such selfish musical practices while spreading the gospel of lost avant-garde work.
The most offending aficionados take an interest in some delicious obscurity only to try to desperately keep it under wraps,
lest it become, God forbid, popular. Fortunately for fans of music on the fringe, Moore and Coley exhibit all the tenacity of
fanatic record hounds, but none of the inclination to keep their finds to themselves. And it is their hopes that their new record
label, K'EY will soon bring their treasured discoveries to the masses.
"Thurston and I have both been collecting weird records for years," Coley
said. "There's so much of it that's both great and unobtainable that it seemed like a fairly natural idea. The basic idea for the
label was to reissue lost or unknown classics of fringe music, be it free jazz, avant-garde classical, acid-mumbler folk or
Although Moore's is the marquee name at K'EY Records, Coley is well-known
to underground music connoisseurs as the founder of the influential 'zine Forced Exposure, and during the late 1980s
he also proselytized about unknown wonders through his "Underground" column in Spin magazine.
In October, partners Coley and Moore, 39, celebrated the one-year anniversary of their Ecstatic Yod rare records shop in
Montague, Mass. Ecstatic Yod happens also to be the name of the pair's joint record label, which itself was combined from
the titles of Moore's and Coley's existing imprints, Ecstatic Peace and Father Yod, respectively. Coley said that an expected distribution
deal with Sire Records should ensure that K'EY's releases reach a broader audience
than either of the other labels.
"We met with Sire people the other day at their new office and it seems
like everything's going ahead," Coley said. "But nothing has been signed
yet. The idea for K'EY was to be able to utilize some existing label's
manufacturing, distribution and marketing structure to present underground
sounds to an audience of slightly different composition than that which
buys Ecstatic Peace or Ecstatic Yod stuff already. It's an attempt to
preach to the non-converted as well as those already in the know."
The record maven explained that the heading for the new label stemmed from
acronyms he and Moore brainstormed revolving around Ecstatic Yod. "It's
spelled K'EY so that the K is set apart from EY graphically. Which sort of
makes it the King Ecstatic Yod label, since it will presumably have some
Because the label is in its infancy, Coley said that he and Moore
still have several details to iron out, from the look of the K'EY logo to
which artist will be on their first release. He added that he hopes the
label will be able to issue not only archival recordings, but also the
occasional current artist who sits outside the mainstream of modern music.
"There are a couple of contemporary things we're hoping to push through,"
Coley said. "One is a trio session with Greg Goodman, Henry Kaiser and Lukas
Ligeti; the other is the new album by Les Batteries, who are a duo with
Rick Brown -- of Run On, Blinding Headache and V-Effect -- and
Gigou Chevenier of Etron Fou. But even those aren't exactly carved in stone."
As if he didn't have enough work to do, Coley said his primary mission for
K'EY is to seamlessly weave its influence into popular culture. "What's
really required now is to start working the word into regular conversation.
As in, 'Hey man, that's really key.' Y'know?" [Thurs., Nov. 20, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]