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Panic Records & Tapes (1984-1990) was founded by Scott Marshall, who also headed Burden of Friendship, arguably Chicago's first noise ensemble. Many releases on the Panic label reflected the work of a collective largely anchored around their involvement with freeform radio station WZRD-Chicago. The WZRD control room was situated within the cavernous bowels of Northeastern Illinois University, and there were often longform sound collages from multiple staff members being bounced between studio A and studio B.


During these radio events, which came to be known as "Voidwatches", live instrumentation collided with other sources for four to six hours at a time, which sometimes included fireworks, power tools, or scrap metal boring holes into the floor and ceiling, not to mention different areas of the campus being patched into the on-air mix. Marshall was initially inspired by the childhood experience of watching avant-garde composer John Cage, with David Tudor, integrate a live "toilet feed" from a nearby saloon, into his performance on television's That Was The Week That Was show. This, Marshall says, was a main influence in instigating these unscripted cacaphonies on the radio.


He likens the WZRD environment at the time to that of a "1950s theatre happening", which may or may not have involved, at any given time, a rotating cast of Bill Meehan, Bob St. Clair, Doug Brown, Mark Giangrande, Jim Koehnline, Paul Rosen, Scott Sanders, Andy Jacobson, Kevin Coffey, Paul Silver, Jim Kube, Pete Wesley, Dave Purdie, Clay Grossman, Richard Theodore, and other guests. Passersby, staff members or not, would also drop in and out, to be mixed into the performances.


Compiled by Michael Krause & Arvo Zylo.

Art by James Koehnline.

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