Mailbox Friends

Keith Bates's Postal Art Site

Words and Music

Audio Art is frequently created by mailartists. The exchange of sound montages, and the use of tape, CD and DVD for documentation, is commonplace. In addition to abstract sound sculptures, many mailartists make music. Hearing the song 'Mail Art Dada Skank' by Rod Summers/VEC in 1983 was an ear-opening experience. Mail Art could clearly cross more boundaries than just the geographical.


Doing Mail Art has often incorporated my interest in songwriting and recording. In 1984 I made up the song Mail Box Friends simply about the thrill of discovering mail art.

Mail Box Friends

I get cards from Denmark, cards from Spain
Don't ever call me independent again
I get letters from America, letters galore
Sometimes I wonder what these letters are for, with my mail box friends

I get mail art that's happy, mail art that's sad
mail art that's good and mail art that's bad, mail art dada, mail art pop,
mail art from the gutter, mail art from the top, with my mail box friends

What am I doing this for? Money or glory or the knock at the door?
Late at night everybody's in bed,
but mail art's in my heart and in my head.
Hello can you hear me, hear me from the past
hear me in the future, will the future last?

Got cassettes from Holland and cassettes from Japan,
I'm on record as a networking man,
I've got mail art you wouldn't believe from Greece
I must be known to the secret police, like my mail box friends

I've got comics from Belgium and from the UK
Stamps from many planets in the Milky Way
Tickets through time, tickets through space,
the state of the Art with a human face, from my mail box friends


From time to time, my contributions to Mail Art projects are audio ones. Birds and Borders for instance was written for Rod Summers' project of that name, and I wrote the song Incongruous Rendezvous for Vittore Baroni's Incongruous Meetings project. If a Martian is a collaboration with the mailartist and writer, Roger Stevens.


Scum Boat Gate was inspired by the newspaper collages of the mailartist Damaso Ogaz. Using his work as a starting point, I was teaching some 14 year olds who were making their own cut-up distortions and one of the class came up with the phrase 'Scum Boat Gate'. The name haunted me for a while, it sounded like one of those magical places from childhood memory.