Music / Features
A Long Time Alone -
A chat with Christina Pap
Words and interview by James Lynch
Thursday 3rd March, 2022
For the past two years, Christina Pap of Blow Blood Records has been working on A Long Time Alone, a series of compilation tapes that have captured the sounds, thoughts and feelings of Australian musicians amidst the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. Extending beyond the local punk community that Blow Blood is closely tied to, ALTA features acts from all around the country, covering everything from garage and indie-rock, to synth experiments and electronica, to chaotic hardcore.

It’s been a mammoth undertaking but one that hasn’t gone unnoticed - now seemingly on the other side, ALTA plays as a unique documentation of what life was like, and how it transitioned over time, for local musicians living within a pandemic. With the fourth and final instalment of the series just released this week, we sat down with Christina to find out about her experiences with A Long Time Alone, isolation and music communities.
TJ: I was reading back on some of the other interviews you've done over the years about A Long Time Alone, and in a Weirdo Wasteland article they asked if you thought there’d been a silver lining to lockdown - and this is like June 2020 - and you said something like, ‘I think that'll be more obvious in hindsight’. I want to know if you think there's been a silver lining at this point, or what your whole take on the last few years has been?

CP: I think it's hard to have an all round perspective on it because I know there's a lot of people in the music industry that are still struggling with a lot of things. I feel like I was getting really frustrated with trying to book shows and them being cancelled constantly and having to rebook them, but I'm not even a booker at an actual venue. I feel like that would just be completely heartbreaking to work in that sort of industry and do that, because being a booker is a thankless enough job as it is.

But everything's just popping up again now. If anything, I feel like Covid gave everybody a chance to just take a step back and reflect on things that they actually want to do - like, get out of projects and get into shit that they're actually excited about. In Melbourne, everything is just go, go, go constantly, you never actually get to stop and think. So I feel like things that are coming out now, bands and stuff, are actual real passion projects and people are really excited about it. Because it's things that they've actually wanted to do as opposed to just like running and trying to be a part of anything, and just doing anything.

People are actually excited and maybe things feel a bit more genuine but yeah, I mean things just opened up so I still feel like we're partially in the midst of still seeing what's to come.

Also, of course we were in 2020 being like ‘what's the silver lining’, only three months into this thing?

Yeah, I mean at that point we were still in shock, and then 2021 was even worse because we thought things were okay and then we went back into it. I don't think there's any going back at this point, just getting more boosters. But I think the silver lining is people just taking a break from going out constantly and actually having time for themselves to actually do stuff. But it's hard to say that there's a silver lining for something that's been so traumatic for so many people. In the end, every shit thing has a silver lining.

I think that's a pretty good answer. The amount of new bands that have formed is so good.

Yeah and that's the thing, the pandemic definitely threw a curveball. No one knew what was going to happen, but I think a lot of good stuff has come out of it, as much as there’s been a tonne of shit stuff.

Big time. On that note, I'm guessing that when it came to the first and second compilations, it was probably quite inspiring and exciting. And then I can imagine when you got around to the third and fourth ones, it probably was a bit rougher.


How are you feeling? Now that we're on the home stretch of this massive project.

I'm glad that it's at an end. I feel like the third and fourth were a lot harder just because, I feel like I was really depressed last year after everything and a bunch of personal shit as well. And in the midst of that, I was just trying to be like, ‘yeah, these compilations' and trying to reply to people, but trying to organise shit when you're depressed… it’s just hard.

If anything, my regrets are - especially with the third one - that I feel like I didn't do anything with it and I just feel bad about that because all these people were on the cassette and it's my job to sell it. I feel like I didn't do them justice. I think the third and fourth ones were definitely harder and I am glad that it's over, but I also am really inspired by everyone that was a part of it. There’s so much great music and everyone did that by themselves, trying to work it out while in lockdown. It means that these people, as much as everything was depressing, they didn't give up hope either. They still found a way to get through it and yeah, I'm blown away by all the people that wanted to submit stuff and trusted me with their music. And yes, I apologise for it not being better (laughs).

I guess when it comes to actually promoting shit, whatever. But I feel like they will be something people keep going back to because it's like, this weird document of the craziest time.

Yeah, and I like that. I like that there wasn't this void in time when there was no music, there were still things going on. It's just people couldn't get out and promote their music, couldn't play gigs, couldn't tour.

I feel bad for young people. Like, I spent my 20 years traveling and doing music stuff and I know people that are like 20/21 and I feel bad for them because in the time that they should be thriving and experiencing all this stuff, but they had to stay in lockdown for two years. The fact that you can try and do something when everything is terrible, it's great.

Yeah, it really is. I feel like just being on one of the compilations gave me that sense of community I wouldn't have had otherwise. Well, you might have a normal life, but was missing the past few years.

I feel like we're so used to having some sort of purpose as well. We’re used to being so busy and when lockdown happened, all of a sudden we had nothing. I felt like the ALTA cassette gave me something to do and for anyone that contributed a song, it gave them a deadline.

It sucks that we're stuck in that sort of capitalist mentality, but really we were like running, running, running. And all of a sudden we just had nothing. We just stopped. I feel like because I worked in events, I was used to that seasonal work where I was doing a shit tonne and then I had nothing. So, like doing the label and doing a fanzine and doing all this different shit was a way of me being able to still do stuff while I had nothing. I kind of feel like I know what that's like, so then when we all had nothing, I was like, it's a terrible thing to try and deal with, having nothing.

So if you have one goal. It's hard to teach yourself just right off the rip how to be able to give yourself projects, so if someone else is like ‘hey, put a song in’, then you've got one thing to do.

You became everyone’s boss.

And you're not getting paid. (laughs) You’re getting paid in one cassette.

This feels like a lifetime ago anyway, but when [my band] Delivery put a song on the first one and ended up alongside all those bands - it was fun to be next to some bands you actually know personally, some names you know and then some I guess were just random projects that existed for the compilation. It’s cool, so many different people listening to this thing now because we've got nothing else to do.

Well, on the first one I had reached out to people asking if they wanted to put a song on my comp. And then when I announced the third one, I had too many songs. So I had to do the fourth one.

From the bands and artists that were coming in, did it feel like ‘I’ve got these 20 friends who are on this thing’, or were you like, ‘oh, I've just got a handful of friends and a handful of strangers’. A band I really love and then a band I've never heard of.

I kind of didn't mind. I kind of felt like it wasn't up to me to be the person that says ‘well, they're not cool, I'm not going to put them on’. Literally, out of all four of them, I think there was like, two songs that I never put on.

Which is sort of amazing.

I felt like it was just about listening to all the songs, and if you put them in the right order, then it flows. If you mix it up then it's not going to sound as good, but everyone can have a chance if it flows well together.

I've been doing stuff for so long that I feel like I have the community, but I know that a lot of people don't know how to get started in the community. So it was just like an opportunity for them to feel like they could try and be a part of something, and get to know people. Because I know what it’s like to be young and not know anyone. None of my high school friends were in the punk scene, and you literally go to shows for years before you start making friends. I have younger people hit me up now and be like,’ how do you do this? How do you do that?’ And it's like literally years and just fighting for it because you want it.

And then you're like, why the fuck am I punishing myself? But, yeah, in the end, I guess I like the music. I like people being able to express themselves through music and… sorry, I feel like this is really corny. (laughs)

Nah I haven't thought about it like that. I’m sure there were probably another 50 bands who were like ‘maybe I should send a song in’, but didn’t. Which is kind of sick too, because the next time something comes around like that, they're going to just do it.

Yeah, totally. And that's another reason why I'm like, I don't want to turn anybody away just because I don't know them. It's like they should have a chance to have their music out just because they don't know anybody or know any labels. It's like people make music, but I feel like we're lucky enough to have a network.

Lockdown was shitty enough not to have to feel like you're not cool enough for the punks.

Yeah, totally. And I’ve spent so much of my life feeling like that. I know that everyone accidentally is shitty to someone, but for the most part, I try to be okay I guess.

That's the headline of the article. I remember at the time thinking ‘oh cool, you're part of a crew’ even if you're not really. I'm sure so many bands had that same feeling from the ALTA comps.

Yeah, totally. And that's why I'm kind of glad Lulus were like ‘are you going to do something for the last one?’ I'm like, ‘I guess so’. And I literally just organised it in a day, but I hope people come to it. I think it'll just be nice to be able to see people and talk to people, and the thing that we all have in common is the comp. There’s 142 songs all up and just as many contributors.

Yeah, crazy.

I think there's maybe like one or two people that have been on all of them. Billy from Research Reactor Corp, he's just chucked one of his many projects on all of them.

That’s sick, you weren't cutting them off? (laughs)

He's great. I'm just like, yeah whatever.

What’s great about the launch party is that, I’m imagining there’ll be people who you’ve never met before or don’t know anyone, who’ll feel comfortable coming along.

I'm terrified about having to remember people (laughs). I have the memory of a bucket that has no bottom in it. People are like, can you keep a secret? And I'm like, I will forget it as soon as I walk out that door.

Friday March 4th, right?

It is March the fourth. At Ballard's, four to eight. If it's Friday night I'm like people will go to stuff afterwards. Just like come with the free drinks, come say hi. I'm planning to buy hot chips, and then just eat chips, chill and have a drink, talk to people, have a smoke and then you can go do whatever you want. And there’s DJs - Billy from Anti Fade, Bec from Syzygy and Vampire and Spotting, and Permits.

Something I really wanted to ask… quite early on during lockdown, Trouble Juice started getting emails that were like ‘quarantine song’ or ‘isolation anthem’, and I immediately was like, fuck this shit. The last thing I want to do is listen to music that’s telling me how bad your isolation is because we’re all doing it too.

Yeah, right.

It became this wave of bands acting as if they had an angle for their song. And I felt like ‘yeah, dude, I’m doing it too’ (laughs). But I think somehow with the compilation songs it didn’t give that impression.

Maybe it's because it's a bunch of people talking about it together. It makes it different than one person being like, here's my isolation song. When there's like 30 different songs talking about isolation, you feel like you could be more involved because it's already a group when you're going in.

I haven't thought about that, how it changes in that context.

It's like this traumatic thing that everyone's got. We've all experienced it, but I guess it's the way that you talk about it. It’s just like you're not special.

And there’s been other comps as well, and heaps of ambient music. Like, what sort of music can you make alone in your room? There were a lot of email bands that came out of it, like international bands that will never play together.

Another question, are you taking credit for starting any new bands?

Yeah, Delivery (laughs). Nah I'm not taking credit but I am excited that stuff has come out of it. I think that stuff would have happened anyway but I feel like maybe the cassette was just like a stepping stone.

You sped up the process.

You put one out and then you're just like, now you have the confidence to do more. But I definitely wouldn't say I take credit.

They can credit you later.

Yeah when those big Delivery royalties come in.

Of the 140 bands, would a quarter of them been new projects? I remember that first one being like ‘I don't know any of the bands on this!’

I listened back to all of the compilations the other day and I really liked the first one. But the first one was just like… they changed. I feel like they changed with the moods of what was going on, and also by the end, people knew I was doing them so I just got a lot more submissions.

I will definitely say that on the last two, there are definitely a lot more people on them that I don't know.


A lot of younger people, a lot of people that are not a part of Melbourne or they're not a part of the scene in their own isolated pockets.

I guess by 2021, isolation was less of a novelty by then. By then they were real songs, they weren't just made for the comp.

Yeah, it went from being in shock to just being tortured. I don’t think I can take credit for new bands though.

I reckon maybe I can give you credit, because I reckon there will be a few new bands that maybe wouldn’t have bothered if they weren’t pushed.

That’s what I wanted for people. I want people to feel like, even when everything’s shit, there’s still opportunities. It’s just you’ve got to look at something else, and think about your different situation and how you can deal with it. Door closes, window opens.

I think things just happen organically. Like with these compilations, it was just a project. But it’s just a matter of just doing stuff and shit happening. Something I got out of lockdown was drawing, I draw a lot now and I really enjoy that, I kind of want to stop the label so I can pursue drawing more and art. And whatever comes with that would be cool, but I think it's just taking things as they come and trying to roll with them in the best way that you can because you never know what's going to happen in life.

Even if something's good, change always happens. You’ve just kind of got to deal with it.

I like how optimistic that sort of was, but delivered in the most sad way (laughs).

Well I mean life’s not easy. From traveling and just like different shit that I've been through, you either live or you fucking die and in the end, it's your life.

You don't have anything, so you're just going to make the most of it if that's what you want to do.

So I feel like I just try and do stuff because I'm like, what else am I going to do? I don't have anything else, so I might as well just like, do stuff. And I've been through a shit time, so why would I want to do that to someone else? You just try and make it as positive as possible or try to.

I've got one last question that is less related to isolation and more about all the stuff that you do. I feel like a big theme through all of your stuff is documenting what is going on at any given time, which I feel like even that last answer touched on a bit. Now that ALTA's out of the way, how valuable do you think documenting these things are for music communities or people on the outside? Like, ‘let me record this because people are going to care’.

I don't know why I do the stuff that I do. I think I like community and I guess just observing stuff is a way of me being able to remember things that I've been through and the things that I'm doing. And also just recognising other people that are involved and letting them know that the stuff that they do is important because… there are so many people who are doing things that will never be big, but they deserve some sort of recognition, even if it’s just like some small thing, like an interview in a fanzine or being on a cassette.

The reason why I like drawing is because I feel like it's something that's more for me, and I kind of want to do stuff that's more for me as opposed to trying to help other people out. But I'm not saying that in a way where I am upset at the things that I've done.

I remember doing the Babes Of The Melbourne Underground calendar, and then other girls and people would meet each other and then they'd start a band. It's just exciting to be able to bring people together and they can create new things. I think that's just awesome. I don't know, I don't know why I do what I do.

That's a pretty good answer.

Yeah but I sound like a fucking martyr (laughs). Life’s just hard, and it's just like, it's nice to feel like someone cares about you. I forgot what the question was.
The fourth A Long Time Alone tape is out now, and all four compilations are available to listen and purchase on limited cassette at Christina/Blow Blood Records are celebrating with a launch of the full ALTA series tomorrow night, Friday March 4th, at Ballard's in Thornbury.