THRIFT.SHOP.DEAD.DROP Secretly Stashes Experimental Analog Glitch Mixtapes on Thrift Store Shelves with VHStealth! Exclusive Interview with TSDD Main Brain / Visual Artist Mike Rentals!
The THRIFT.SHOP.DEAD.DROP logo. Glitchy, man, Glitchy.Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative history. I believe you said you’ve been involved with the Toronto video art scene for a little bit? Yeah, the art climate up here is pretty strange. I feel like art school polarizes people in Toronto. You’re either eager to collaborate and communicate, or you become a wet blanket. There’s so much talent up here but nobody’s willing to pay for it. In my experience, everything engaging goes on at the party, not so much the gallery. So, I went to Sheridan College for Media Arts. I’ve got mixed feelings about it. John Kneller was a big inspiration, though. He encouraged me to get weird, exposed me to concepts beyond making goofy videos with my friends. I remember rolling into class extremely hungover only to watch a 22 minute video of rotating triangles put to some Italo Disco. I was like “What the hell am I doing? This is awesome! Why am I shooting a fake phone commercial when I could be doing this?” The National Film Board of Canada had some real fire back in the day. In 2006 there was some sweet synth wave bands that would send me their demos. I would match the music to tapes like Dino Riders or Zardoz. Robot Jox was a big deal. Seeing my work projected in front of an audience at a big, loud club was really rewarding. Nowadays I see lots of people getting into projections. I struggle with turning into the asshole who says “I started that!” Honestly I didn’t. That defensive energy goes into trying new techniques. Gotta keep it interesting. I know that’s right, man. Staying fresh staves off death. For the uninitiated, can you describe what your aesthetics are all about? What people can expect when they watch? I’m trying to make you meditate. I want to quench that thirst for nostalgia, but in a way that makes you examine it. You’ve gotta walk away with something new. Not just like “Oh, cool, yeah, I remember Battle Toads” while some guy wales on a guitar. That’s too easy. I like to dig for the weirdest shit like sales training tapes, demo reels for long dead special effects companies and dog grooming tutorials. I’ve gotta make you laugh every now and then, too. Recently I’ve been working with some twitchy VHS cameras to put performers in the frame. I want to blow your mind when you’ve been in nostalgia-ville for the last half hour and suddenly you’re watching something that’s happening RIGHT NOW. OH FUCK THAT’S ME! I guess I can credit Spaceballs for that one. Yeah, man. Everything that happens now, is happening now. Spaceballs abounds with pearls. So, what kind of gear do you use to create your mixes? What’s the process like? The best gear for this stuff is generally from 1997-2003. A lot of the hardware from that time was meant to crunch older signals. Because they reached obsolescence really quickly, used units are seldom in bad condition. You can get new gear, sure, and it’s super sexy. You’re just going to shell out for it. At the moment I run analog video signals through an Edirol LVS400. There’s piles of black spaghetti running from several S-VCRS, VHS cameras and an analog output from an ancient laptop. The real jewel of my setup is a Tachyons Rainbowonic. It scratches that psychedelic itch for grimy, textured, busted up tape. If I’m performing live, the LVS is connected to a projector. When I’m recording to edit it’s either connected directly to a VCR or to laptop via digitizer. I jump formats a lot. That kind of freedom is really satisfying. NO FORMAT IS SAFE. Also FEEDBACK. Peter Raul blew my mind last year when he just plugged all my gear back into itself. Why didn’t I think of that? I say that to myself all the time, man. You’ve collaborated with some musicians in the past creating visuals / music videos. Can you clue us in on some of those radical rewind-inclined co-workings? Well, I’m working on a new Germaphobes video at the moment. There’s a lot of cool stuff coming out of Pleasence Records right now. We did one for “Married Girls” fairly recently that was stupid and hilarious. I got to work with Com Truise a while ago when he was touring Galactic Melt. What a night. I used a lot of footage from Dune, Prison Planet and Cyberzone. The vibe that guy creates is so on point. That kind of sound goes well with sex in space. Lots of smoke and mirrors (literally).
The cover for COM TRUISE - GALACTIC MELT. How about a little VHS SEX? Yes, please.Your latest project is called THRIFT SHOP DEAD DROP. Could explain the essence of the project? What was the inspiration to create something like this? I started getting really frustrated that my best stuff was only committed to a performance. I wasn’t recording anything. Even if I did, I didn’t just want to put it on the internet and pray for traffic. I had been watching a lot of old Tom Green tapes, TV Carnage and stuff like DJ Q-Bert’s Wave Twisters: Independently produced and well distributed performances. Culty shit. There is something really rough and unapologetic about those guys. People were actually buying the tapes, too. Selfishly, I wanted to see my work on the shelf. I recorded a half hour set and started bouncing it to my doubles. Being VHS obsessed, I wanted to make something that would appeal to collectors. That tape that you put on when you and your buddies are up late. Some Tapeheads have gotten pretty pissed that I sacrifice real titles to put my own work on them. I can understand that. But to me, there's some merit in the sacrifice. I don’t necessarily want to fool anyone into buying one of my dubs. The intention is to give them that “golden ticket” rush. There’s only 30 copies of this out there. You don’t know if that edition of Tommy Boy you picked up at Value Village is actually a more rarified piece of art until you take a look in the box. So far most tapes have been picked up by people who are actually looking for them. So at least it’s gaining a bit of momentum.
A sample from the TSDD Instagram on how you can snag a slab. Follow dat VHShit!What’s next for you, duder? More mind-melting mixtapes? You gonna watch Krull again soon? I would really like to start processing video for feature film. The esthetics of analog signals are getting really popular. A lot of people have been trying to make their movies look like VHS with After Effects and it looks like total garbage. Call me, people! I'm right here! I'll do this for you! Don't be scared of the real thing. And yeah, Krull is always ready for a re-watch. Anything involving chrome clad galactic royalty wielding magic weapons to defeat ethereal nebula demons has my everlasting attention. Honestly, think I’m gonna drink way too much coffee, play Rocket League all night and fall asleep while reading God Emperor of Dune. My wife Rachel and I are opening a sweet, sweet bar in Toronto’s East Chinatown. Gonna be lots of weird projection mapping and well curated geeky shit. Studio space in the back. We can all jam on this joint. Look up Farside Studios in a few months. Also a second edition of Thrift Shop Dead Drop. Anything else you wanna shout out to all the Videovores here in Lunchmeat Land? Read Space Riders. Watch Turbo Kid. Watch Manborg. Watch The Void when it drops. Rewind or Die.
I know that's right, man. Mike’s powerful passion to create incredible visual displays of analog-driven bends and blends culled from VHS obscurities is only surpassed by his style. If you want to be in the know about where to find his hidden mixes, be sure to follow THRIFT.SHOP.DEAD.DROP on Instagram to pick up on the hints. The TSDD project is offering truly excellent pieces of experimental video art in a limited and guerilla fashion, man, and we here in Lunchmeat Land VHSolemnly suggest you check out what they’re doing. Take the TSDD tape trip if you can, dude. It totally rules.