Saturday, August 26, 2006

Devil and Daniel Johnston & the History of Stress Records

Daniel Johnston, holding his tape hot off
the press! Back in the day...

by: Rich Tupica

'The Devil and Daniel Johnston' was released on DVD September 19th, 2006. If you haven't heard of this documentary it's all about the troubled times of the talented songwriter. The cover art for the album "Hi How Are You" was sported on a t-shirt by Kurt Cobain back in the 90's, but if that's all you know about Daniel Johnston, you may want to take a closer look, after all Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons compares him to Bob Dylan!
Mr. Stress himself, Jeff Tartakov, owner of the Austin, Texas based Stress Records is responsible for releasing all of the early lo-fi home made cassettes of Johnston. For years Tartakov, worked very close with Johnston and recently he was nice enough to answer a few questions I had, take a peek if you'd like.

So, Jeff,how old are you now & what's your hometown?
"I was Born in Houston, but I have lived in Austin for most of my life, I am now 49 years old."

How long have you known Daniel for & where did you meet him?
"I first met Daniel on my front porch in 1985. My housemate at the time was Bill Anderson who played in the band Poison
13 and currently plays in a great band called The Meat Purveyors and he was good friends with Daniel. One day I heard a racket out on the front porch and it was Daniel and Bill. He had already made quite a name for himself locally so it was exciting to finally meet him."

How did Stress Records get started?
"Stress Records started in 1981. The first release was a 7" single by another housemate's band called The Reactors. At the time there were very few local or even regional labels putting out stuff by new bands so Stress Records was born out of necessity. I put out a couple of singles by The Reactors and Mike Runnels then a cassette by The Kamikaze Refrigerators in the early 80s."

What Daniel album is your favorite and why?
"That's hard to say, I love them all. If I HAD to pick just one it would be "More Songs of Pain" although that changes from time to time. More Songs is my current favorite because I recently saw the Infernal Bridegroom production of Speeding Motorcycle in Houston and was blown away by it. It's a rock opera based on Daniel's songs about a guy who goes crazy after falling in love with a woman who married an undertaker."

How would you describe your relationship with Daniel currently?
"Daniel is a good friend and I always enjoy hearing from him. I consider it a privilege to have been able to work with an artist of that magnitude and the troubles between us that are portrayed in the film are ancient history."

Does the new documentary show an accurate portrayal of Daniel?
"The Devil and Daniel Johnston is a very accurate portrayal of both Daniel and everyone around him. Jeff Feuerzeig (the director) and Henry Rosenthal (the producer) spent over four years making sure every detail was just right and I think they did an amazing job."

Any last words?
"Daniel is one of the greatest and most influential artists of his generation and it's good to see him getting his due. I hope everyone enjoys the movie."

Jeff Tartakov (left), his girlfriend Jaimi McAllister
and Daniel Johnston, posing for a recent



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too bad Daniel's greedy brother had to put an end to the cassettes. Wasn't he the guy in the film who said that Daniel would never make a living from his music or his art? It's sad how the Stress Records guy got screwed over again.

1:40 PM  

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