10,000 Maniacs Launch Expansive Digital Archive Project
Jamestown’s 10,000 Maniacs is launching a new effort to create digital archives that will preserve the band’s legacy for years to come.
Dennis Drew, the band’s keyboard player, said he was watching a documentary about a comedian with his daughter and pointed out that the National Comedy Center had archives of the comedian’s notes. Drew said his daughter asked him, “Where are your archives?”
“A light bulb went off there,” Drew said. “We had just done a 40th anniversary show and we realized maybe it’s time to gather some of this stuff up.”
10,000 Maniacs contacted the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to see if the museum had any interest in preserving some of its legacy. While the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame expressed interest, the band quickly realized the process would be quite difficult and time-consuming.
Drew said representatives from the museum will come to Jamestown and look at the band’s collection when the band gathers and begins the process of cataloging everything.
“The first thing we needed to do was get it all together and do somewhat of an inventory,” Drew said. “I knew we had some cassette tapes and some video tapes, but every time we look, we find more interesting stuff. We’re just trying to get an idea of what we have now.”
After 40 years of playing together as a band and touring the world, 10,000 Maniacs has an enormous amount of tape recordings, paperwork and memorabilia to archive.
“We realized that this is not an easy task,” Drew said. “It’s real work. For us to try to do the whole thing, it’s not possible. We need to hire some help.”
Aaron Perez is heading up the digital archive process, in conjunction with Drew and Steven Gustafson, the band’s bassist.
The band is planning on hiring some people to assist in the archival process. Additionally, 10,000 Maniacs has been talking with SUNY Jamestown Community College about the idea of college interns helping with the digital archive endeavor.
“JCC is on board and we’re trying to put some funding together through some of the local foundations and pay Aaron and other people,” Drew said. “We’re going to try and get people and actually do a serious inventory.”
The process of taking inventory and cataloging all of the band’s recordings, papers and memorabilia is expected to take at least several months. Drew explained the first step in the process is gathering all of the materials in one place.
Perez said with some of the band members living in Buffalo, it is a challenge to gather everything together, especially given that the band is not sure what condition some of its items will be in after sitting in storage for decades.
“It’s just getting it all together,” Perez said. “That is not even getting to the ultimate goal, which is to archive everything, so we have a lot to do.”
After the first step is competed, the next step will be to take inventory of all the band’s items, followed by the actual archive process.
One of the challenges the band faces is the massive amount of tape recordings that have to be played in real time in order to create digital archives of each concert the band has recorded.
“In order to digitize it, it has to run at real time,” Perez said. “It’s kind of a daunting task but we want to do it now. It’s the best time to do it.”
As the band reviews the tapes and records of its 40-year history, members have been surprised at some of their findings.
“We actually found a tape from before we were 10,000 Maniacs,” Drew said. “The tape is marked 100% Human Hair.”
Gustafson said listening to the development of their songs throughout the different tapes has been fascinating. However, he also said the process of organizing and cataloging everything will be difficult.
“It’s like being a detective,” Gustafson said.
PRESERVING A LEGACY
The band believes developing a comprehensive archive will go a long way in preserving the band’s legacy for generations. Additionally, the band expects that an archive would cement the city of Jamestown’s historical importance.
“It will literally preserve our legacy,” Drew said. “I think it will also give Jamestown national prominence for a prolonged time because people won’t forget if there is this archive. If it’s available at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, it’s available through the Fenton, future generations will understand that this little band from Jamestown fit into the history of modern music in a significant way.”
The Jamestown community is important to Drew and Gustafson. Both band members indicated a desire to have the band’s archives benefit not only 10,000 Maniacs but also the city of Jamestown.
“By having this, it will be infinite,” Drew said. “It will live forever, and people will know we’re from Jamestown. We talk about Jamestown all the time in our interviews.”
In addition to having an archive established at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Drew said he would like to see a place in Jamestown for the band’s archive to be displayed and for people to learn about the history of the band.
The band believes an archive featuring their legacy could inspire future generations of musicians in the same way the members of 10,000 Maniacs were inspired by other musicians.
“This is our story but it’s the same story many many bands have had,” Drew said.
However, while Gustafson and Drew said the formation of their band may have been similar to other bands, they believe their band is special considering the length of time the majority of the band’s members have stayed together.
“A lot of bands don’t stay together like we’ve done,” Drew said. “In September, the band will have been together 41 years. It’s a human story, because there’s a lot of perseverance. We had members quit the band, members die, and we’ve just kept chugging along. It’s a story of a little family that we have.”
Drew and Gustafson have enjoyed reflecting on the band’s history and countless memories of touring together.
“You remember bright spots and not so bright spots,” Gustafson said. “Most of it was laughter. We were having fun.”
As 10,000 Maniacs continues the process of archiving everything, the band members looks forward to having help from the community they have inspired for 40 years.
“It’s daunting but there’s definitely passion behind it and love, which I think goes a long way,” Perez said. “It is a legacy, and it deserves to be enshrined and kept somewhere nice. We’re just going to need a lot of help.”