Tag Archives: Not Normal Tapes

Not Normal Tapes Illuminates, and Complicates, Hardcore

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Those who have their fingers on the rapid pulse of hardcore already know about Not Normal Tapes. Those who don’t—but who find particular refuge in urgent noise—should. For nearly 10 years, Not Normal, an operation helmed by Ralph Rivera (The Bug, Raw Nerve, Cold Shoulder), has been releasing music by some of the best bands the international hardcore punk scene has to offer.

Now headquartered out of the spare room of Rivera’s Chicago apartment, Not Normal began in Northwest Indiana (NWI). In keeping with the time-honored tradition of many DIY watermark labels like Dischord, SST, and Touch & Go, the imprint started with two releases from Rivera’s bands, and then set out to document the active, but underappreciated punk scene in NWI. “We tracked some [tape duplicators] down on eBay and bought them off a church that used them to tape their sermons,” Rivera remembers. Why tapes? “It’s easy and cheap and fast. I know that on a widespread level, maybe tape decks aren’t as ubiquitous as CD players or computers, but at that time there wasn’t a Bandcamp–or really any good way–to disseminate things cheaply and easily on a digital level.”

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From that point, Not Normal expanded beyond tapes, releasing and distributing LPs, 7”s, zines and other merch staples. The scope of the label expanded beyond just the Midwest, too, as Not Normal began to release music by bands from all over the world. Despite the expansion, Rivera still thinks of Not Normal as primarily a tape label. “I still try to approach the way I do records and do zines and the way I approach future plans in the same way I did those tapes,” he explains, “Like, ‘How can I make this the highest quality, and how can I make this cheap and easy and accessible for everybody, and how can I do that for bands that maybe don’t have that?’ So I feel like, even though it’s not only tapes, I still apply the principles I had when I started to everything I do.”

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