When we called recent Philadelphia/New York crew Cold Cave a Band To Watch last December, we mentioned Heartworm Press, which frontman Wesley Eisold runs with the writer, curator, and now-again Cold Cave member Max G. Morton (who shows up candleside in the video for “Love Comes Close“). Heartworm released the first Cold Cave collection Coma Potion, the Electronic Dreams cassette, and eventually Loves Comes Close before Matador reissued it, along with books by Mark McCoy, Boyd Rice, Jonathan Shaw, Chris Leo, Morton, Dominick Fernow, etc. Speaking of Fernow, currently 1/3 of Cold Cave, he runs Hospital Productions, the great metal/noise record store/label in Manhattan, but I’ve spoken with him about that already, so I decided to focus on Wes.
STEREOGUM: How did you decide to start Heartworm?
WESLEY EISOLD: I guess it started with zines that I’d have available at shows a few years ago. After a few of them I wanted to flag them with a name, and everything else in the future that’d be related. It was meant to be zines and tapes in limited quantities, a past time really. I had ideas to publish a book of poems by lyricists I admired. I had seen these kind of underground books of poems and writings by music related people that left a lot to be desired for me and I felt an urge to make something I would like to read.
STEREOGUM: When did it officially begin?
WE: I can hardly remember. 2005 or 2006.
STEREOGUM: What was needed to get it going?
WE: Only intent really. It’s free to make a xeroxed zine. Tapes are cheap. I had a book of older lyrics and writings of mine that was meant to come out a few times and I kept not pursuing it. Releasing that years later myself made sense for me and allowed me to release the next two books, Eric Paul’s and Max’s.
STEREOGUM: Before the press expanded to books, etc., what sort of jobs did you have?
WE: I never had too many real jobs. Friends with jobs would let me work with them in stockrooms or something here and there. I didn’t have a need for money really and touring disabled me from having time for a more stable life. I would sell bootleg shirts outside of Fenway Park when I needed cash. Part time hookups. One summer I worked both a construction job laying concrete and at Victoria’s Secret. Just, anything quick and temporary to keep me from having to deal with anxiety verses working with or for other people on someone else’s schedule. I’m not putting that lifetsyle down, I just can’t function that way. Through friends I learned that money is one of the easiest things in the world to get if you really need it.
STEREOGUM: As far as the present: Can you take me through a “typical” day?
WE: It varies from day to day. We go to the post office everyday. At night we watch movies and do the mail. So it’s Max and I doing these sort of things, then Tony Smyrski (of Megawords) does the design on all of the books. The day really varies on what project we are working on.
STEREOGUM: What’s your take on the rock-celebrity memoir? Or even smaller names — like Dean Wareham’s book, etc.
WE: I don’t know what that is but like any genre, its hit or miss. I’m generally disinterested in rock-tour stories. I understand the appeal but it doesn’t move us much. They tend to venture too close into shock, almost transgressive literature, and often feel like a musician wrote a book, instead of a writer writing a book. To each their own. I am interested in the crossover though. One we both really like is Joe Cole’s Planet Joe.
STEREOGUM: As far as musicians running book companies, Damon & Naomi immediately come to mind. Were they ever an inspiration? Or, Richard Hell’s CUZ. A lot of that went on in the late ’70, early ’80s. Other presses you admire?
WE: I really admire Exact Change and they are an inspiration in content and often design. Others we think of are Black Sparrow, 2.13.61, Temple, VOID, Grove, and maybe my favorite, Hanuman.
STEREOGUM: I spoke quite a bit with Raymond Foye when I did my Downtown anthology. What is it you admired about Hanuman?
WE: I love the format and the authors they chose… Jean Genet and Candy Darling on the same press is kind of the dream.
STEREOGUM: To go back to R. Hell … he was always a multi-tasker … moving to NYC to be a poet, etc. It felt very natural. It’s a different thing than the aforementioned celeb memoir idea. Just a thought. David Wojnarowicz also naturally wore so many hats.
WE: Of course — Growing up we were heavily influenced by the artists who were musicians and writers, or anyone of multi-faceted outlets. There are a lot of inspiring musicians/artists like this. I think this is a trait in the authors we work with. And then anyone from Peter Zumthor to Sonic Youth to JG Thirlwell, as more modern influences.
STEREOGUM: In our current “digital” economy, book sellers are facing an uphill battle. How was Twitter affected book publishing? Blogs?
WE: Perhaps the only connection is that these sites continue to lower the public’s attention spans, like anything else today. I feel pretty removed from this.
STEREOGUM: You’ve had pretty hands-on control of Cold Cave via Heartworm and Dom’s Hospital and other smaller labels to this point … How does signing to Matador change that?
WE: I think any change within a band when they sign to a label is often the band’s doing. We are almost to a fault so self-aware and clear about our intentions that there is not much any outside force could influence.
STEREOGUM: How does Cold Cave’s aesthetic tie into the aesthetic of the press? I find myself linking the two things in my head … seems like they feed off/influence each other. This is one of the reasons Cold Cave’s interesting to me — feels more like a lifestyle choice than just a band. Same thing with certain authors you publish. it makes me think of “community.”
WE: There’s something communal about all of this. There is to an extent though I don’t like to think of it that way. A community has weak links and the artists we are interested in working with only have individualism in common. It made sense for us to release the Cold Cave album ourselves initially. It’s part of our world, as is Heartworm, so the two are our major arteries. The only writing I had done between my book and this record was the lyrical content of the LP, so I wanted to release it for that reason, too. Thematically the press and the band intersect in the underworld that we are familiar with and comfortable in.
STEREOGUM: Can you talk about some future/upcoming Heartworm events/releases?
WE: Our next release is a collection of poetry by Jonathan Shaw from the early ’70s called Love Songs to the Dead. We have some events too. Jonathan Shaw and Max will be reading at Powerhouse with John Joseph on November 3.
STEROGUM: Oh… Were you a fan of [Matador co-owner Gerard Cosloy’s ’80s/early ’90s zine] Conflict?
WE: Yes, we’ve come full circle!
The reissued Love Comes Close is out 11/3 via Matador. You can stream it all here:
Take this one home:
[That’s Wes in the middle]