Pete Astor Discusses the C86 Tape Reissue

We asked Pete Astor of The Weather Prophets and The Loft a few questions about the Cherry Red reissue of the infamous C86 mixtape. Pete has just handed in his complete manuscript for the forthcoming 33 1/3 on “Blank Generation” by Richard Hell and the Voidoids. We interviewed Pete about that book a while ago…read the full interview here.

Blank Generation

Pete’s early band, The Weather Prophets, were selected as one of the first bonus tracks on the c86 reissue so we thought he might have some interesting insights to share.

33 1/3: Can you describe where you were and what you were up to when you first heard the NME’s C86 tape?

Pete Astor: Probably mooching around, living the life of hardcore aimlessness of the working musician, which involved watching a lot of daytime TV, slouching round the charity shops, buying second hand records, occasionally playing the guitar and writing songs, as well as dreaming of glory, all the time.

33 1/3: C86 was so important because Rough Trade gave independent music from labels like Sarah Records a much wider audience.  Now that music blogs and streaming sites make independent music instantly available, is there a modern equivalent of curated tapes like c86?

Pete Astor: The idea of things being chosen and curated is always there; there are always gatekeepers of taste, I just think they exist in new places and spaces and look (slightly) different.

33 1/3: The planned release of the reissue is May 2014 by Cherry Red. That’s 28 years after the tape first appeared. So much has changed. Not just the music itself and the industry surrounding it…but the fans, the concerts, the technology, the critics, etc. We could talk all day about what has changed in music since 1986. For you, what remains the same?

Pete Astor: Yes, a lot has changed, but I can’t help seeing the ways in which the best stuff in the world, although changing shape and appearance, still runs on the same fuel: the smart people find each other and then make stuff.

33 1/3: The song “Like Frankie Lymon” by your band The Weather Prophets was selected as the first confirmed bonus track on the C86 reissue. Can you describe how this came about?

Pete Astor: I fist got to know Neil Taylor when we both started at the NME at the same time as stringers, coming into the office and dropping off our copy and hoping to hang out for a bit. For me, the bands I was in started getting busy, so I stopped doing the NME, but Neil carried on and established himself there. He got in contact recently about using a track, although I think the song on the reissue now may be “Worm in My Brain.”

33 1/3: What do think this reissue means for younger fans who now may have the chance to encounter this music for the first time?

Pete Astor: I think it looks better now than it did then: there’s something like coherence of purpose and approach, which it was hard for us to see at the time. Time does funny things: the meanings of C86 have ended up pretty potent for some people now. It stands for a certain kind of ‘indie’ way of doing things that seems relevant in some way to 2013. But for us, we were far more ambivalent about what we thought it stood for; that ‘indie’ way of doing things was something that we saw as somewhat reductionist and conservative. We always (arrogantly) wanted what we did to exist as part of the bigger music world, rather than what we felt was a scene that felt a little bit safe and comfortable. Didn’t get us very far though!

33 1/3: What bands from the c86 tape were important to you?

Pete Astor: Luckily, or perhaps by design, we liked the bands we knew and knew the bands we liked: Primal Scream; The Servants; The Wolfhounds; The Bodines; The Pastels; Maiow and MacCarthy. It’s good to be back in their company again.

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