Sunday, November 29, 2009

Perimeter Records - Christmas '87 Compilation

Here is the track listing:
1. Merry Christmas, Dammit by Jon Kincaid, Bryan Lilje, Todd Ploharski, Melinda Spratt, Christopher Swartz and Doug Hughes
2. Chimes by Christopher Swartz
3. I'm Dreaming by Todd Ploharski
4. Arctic Christmas by Doug Hughes

I was originally approached way back in February through this blog by Steve Kilbride who writes for the Decatur Dispatch/Ponce Press paper asking about an old Atlanta record label called Perimeter Records. He remembered a set of Christmas cassettes that Perimeter produced back in the late 80's and early 90's, and wanted to know more about the label and these special cassettes that were circulated. This led me to a year long search (off and on) trying to find people who knew about the label and eventually got in touch with Doug Hughes, one of the guys who helped put together these compilations and a member of several bands including Broken Symmetry and Tenth to the Moon. He was able to provide me a complete history of the label and these releases, as well as remastered copies of all the compilations. I am posting the first here, and will post more as we get closer to Christmas Day. Additionally, Steve wrote a small article on this blog and the Christmas compilations in the Decatur Dispatch, so thanks Steve for all the extra promotion! I would also like to thank Kim Chee from Pineal Ventana for putting me in touch with Doug Hughes, and especially Doug for sending me all these great compilations, and for producing them in the first place. Here is the history lesson:

Perimeter Records Christmas Compilations
1987-1993 A brief history

The first Perimeter Records Christmas Compilation was conceived as a way to promote the new independent record label that was formed in the mid 80’s by Chris Swartz and Robert Hollis. These two gentlemen worked for the same company then and discovered they had a shared musical interest and began recording what would be their first LP Iso.

From this beginning, Perimeter Records released 3 vinyl LP’s by Hollis/Swartz, an LP compilation called Nine Underground, and several cassette only releases by many 80’s era Atlanta artists and noisemakers.

The first Christmas cassette was a 4 song, 23 minute collection featuring Chris on one track solo, and with St. Nick and the Morons on the opening track- “Merry Christmas, Dammit”. Hours prior to the session for this song, Todd Ploharski called Doug Hughes with instructions to ‘bring your guitar and amp down to WREK’, with no other details given. Doug was introduced to Chris Swartz, Brian Lilje, Jon Kincaid and Melinda Spratt who were assembled in the air studio to record the song. Lyrics were written by Jon Kincaid, sung by Brian, with Jon in the background and also a brief vocal from Doug, leaning into his amp mic; the session was engineered by Mike Mitton. It was a bit sloppy and largely improvised but it set the stage for what would come.

Chris asked Doug to contribute a song to close side two, which was quickly assembled from Doug’s existing guitar-effected multi-track tape mixes, married to a crude digital sample from a cassette recording off the radio of Santa Baby, for the rhythm track, while Chris patiently waited. He was trying to meet a deadline and had to have it that night. The track which preceded this one was contributed by Chris’ friend - Todd Ploharski, which featured a unique sound manipulation process involving massive CD destruction, played back through an early player without error correction circuitry.

The cassettes were given away free through Wax ’N Fax Records in Little 5 Points as well as Book-Nook on Clairmont; both in Atlanta. It was mailed out to ‘cool’ college stations across the country, many of whom were already listing Perimeter Records products on their play lists. No exact number of cassettes produced was ever made, but estimates of 125-150 each year are roughly accurate.

Chris continued this holiday tradition for the next 6 years, asking friends and acquaintances to contribute tracks for inclusion. The music tended be in the vein of ‘Nine Underground‘, but was also largely inspired by the weekly WREK show “Destroy All Music”. Emphasis was on creating art and less on technical sophistication.

Chris generated the cover art, and his skills as a draughtsman allowed him to neatly write the track list and credits by hand. Chris decided to include festive napkins, candy canes and most memorably, a Lego ‘build-a-Santa’ one year (that everyone commented on), enclosed in a large zip-lock bag, with additional notes and contributing musician credits.

Doug Hughes gradually offered his services in compiling the master tapes and making the cassette copies, using his growing Solar Wind studio, which initially consisted of several Nakamichi cassette decks, an old Teac ¼” 4-track reel to reel deck (w/o simul-sync), a Lexicon digital delay and other assorted effects. Solar Wind gradually became the recording arm for the label and was used by the Morons, who later became My Evil Twin, and other contributors who recorded there, into the Outer Loop daze.

By 1993, the last official year the Perimeter Christmas tape was produced, a rift developed between the founding members, and it was agreed to dissolve the business and cease operations. From 1994 through 1995, Doug resided in Dallas, Tx. but he returned to Atlanta in early 1996. He decided to resume the tradition by forming Outer Loop Productions, and was able to release two more Christmas tapes under the Outer Loop banner.

The final tape, released in 1997 - marking the 10th anniversary of the first Perimeter cassette; opens with a re-make of Merry Christmas Dammit, by Saint Nick’s Evil Moronic Twin. This track featured Jon Kincaid on words and vocals with Doug Hughes and Robert Hollis on guitars, plus drums and bass by Doug.

Of course by 1997, cassettes were already dead and Doug gradually became involved in Broken Symmetry with Chris Swartz and Gene Thompson and later with Keith Lee in Liar’s Club then Tenth to the Moon with Mitchell Foy, all of whom had contributed to the Christmas releases.

In 2005, Chris Swartz compiled a two CD retrospective of the Christmas tapes, which he again mailed out to the same college stations who had received the original tapes. These were also given out to friends, but it was very limited in production numbers and lacked modern mastering..

In 2009, Doug Hughes re-mastered the original master tapes, with tape hiss edits and a few other refinements, and is now making them available to anyone who wants them. If you are a such a person please contact:

Doug Hughes
Here is the complete artwork for the first cassette (click image to enlarge).

I will be posting all of these Perimeter Christmas compilations over the next few weeks as well as other Atlanta/Athens related Christmas comps, so keep in touch!


  1. I am greatly amused, and I am happy to hear this. Kincaid is a friend to all the old WREK crew, and Lilje fixed my guitars on many occasions way back - one of the best luthiers in the metro area for sure.

  2. Luckily, KEOL-FM in La Grande, Oregon was shipped every Christmas one of these marvelous tapes...along with a candy cane and a holiday napkin. The whole series! And the Outer Loop tapes as well!