When we premiered Books On Tape's “Super Dr”, we called it a “cartoonish joy ride at warp speed”. While that was merely track one, the duration of Retired Numbers rarely strays from that description.
Todd Drootin, pka Books On Tape, thought he'd lost these songs from a computer crash. But as luck would have it, they were catalogued on a DVD, labeled “BoT ARCHIVES”. Upon revisiting the music, he discovered the songs held up, far from cutting-room floor demos or half-cooked snippets. On “Johnny On The Rocks” he's somewhere between glitch hop and 90s Jock Jams dance records, while “Big League Animal” stutters briefly before blowing out the woofers with a heavy metal riff drone. Not only does Retired Numbers hold up in a six-year hiatus, it proves Drootin was years ahead of his time, as he rests comfortably among modern beatmakers and bedroom artists.
For those that don't know, after you retired the Books On Tape moniker, what did you spend the past 6 years doing?
Basically old man stuff — working full-time and, for the last 15 months or so, being a dad to an amazing little girl. Rode bikes a ton and got hit by a car or two. I got involved with a crazy job in the audiophile world shortly after my last tour in 2006 and it — shockingly — pays the bills better than being a weirdo producer. I played a handful of shows since the retirement, including a couple with my wife Kerri (ex-Bipolar Bear and Rose For Bohdan) on drums and percussion, something I hope to do again some time. We called it the Books on Tape Family Band, and maybe by the next time it happens we'll have the kiddo out there with us — she's a maniac on shaker eggs.
How did you find the songs that became Retired Numbers? Were these technically “lost” songs?
When my wife was pregnant we needed to clear out our music / record room and make it a nursery. That meant cleaning out the garage, and in one of the last boxes out there I went through I found a DVD-R with five of the six songs that became the record. The sixth was “Super Dr.”, which was from the same era (2005-ish) but didn't get recorded until 2011. “Super Dr.” got recorded after I broke my collarbone last year and had to stay off my bike for a few months — I needed to do something to keep from going stir crazy and figured that doing some recording might keep me from losing my mind. I had no idea it was going to be the beginning steps of this insane journey of self-releasing a record all this time later.
In revisiting the tracks, what was your initial reaction? Did you get that bug to re-up Books On Tape?
I remembered being very excited about the direction of the new material when it was still new, and when I heard the recordings again I thought they had held up well. Bedroom producing has obviously come a long way since 2006 — so much more is possible now — but I wanted to keep these songs true to what made me feel good about them in the first place, so I resisted the idea of updating them too much.
I definitely got the bug to get things going again and to that end I've completely revamped my live set / setup and made updated versions of the Retired Numbers material and other old favorites for live performance. A little distance from the project over these years gave me the chance to tear everything down and completely rebuild in terms of my approach to playing live. I debuted the new setup at the release party earlier this month and I'm hoping to take it on the road at least a little bit next year.
Do you recall the sessions these tracks were first made? Were some of them cutting room floor of previous records?
On that last tour, once I decided I was done with the BoT lifestyle I had started making plans for a final album with these songs and a few more. I really wanted to go all-out with it and have someone help me with recording rather than do it myself and I also wanted to bring in a lot of guests. Work life got demanding real quick and I just didn't think I'd ever get a chance to pull an album together. I vaguely remember recording demo versions of the tracks that became Retired Numbers but I thought I lost everything in a one-two punch of moving and a bad computer crash. When I found the files I was pleasantly surprised how complete the tracks sounded.
Is the jersey coming down from the rafters? Will there be another BOT record of new material?
I am working hard on new music and new ideas and am very excited about what comes next. Whether it will end up in the form of a new BoT record or something different, I'm not sure yet, but I'm definitely hoping not to disappear for another six years this time.
Books on Tape's Retired Numbers is out now on Sorry Juniper.