I was having a conversation with someone last night about music and they asked me: “what do you listen for in music?” The short of my answer was it has to move me. I learned this from a wise soul a bit of the ways back, and it still holds true for me today. I don’t care what genre it is. I don’t care if its hot or no one even know who the hell the cat who made it is. It just has to move me. That sort of movement you feel deep down when everything just clicks and for one short moment the world just makes sense. Those moments for me are what makes music worthwhile and why I share the stories of people from our community and from people abroad.
Walleye‘s music is a great example of the type of sounds that grip me and help me see new facets of the reality I live. He is a guy who used to live in Columbus, but has since moved to another locale. However, his music is steeped in the influence of our city. From the minute I heard his first ep “Everything is Black”, I was hooked. Beautiful, atmospheric tracks like “Creepers” are perfect music to help you get lost in the middle of the loud world we live in.
The Four bonus tracks accompanied the re-release of the EP on Halsteads this past May added some really interesting elements as well. The track that really stuck out was “Hell is Heaven”. It is a eighteen minute journey that successfully shows how beats can ripple and vibrate in the same slow-burning fashion as the tones in the first three tracks. The affect is both comforting and disorienting at the same time, as you never have any firm ground to stand on while listening. As soon as you get comfortable with a ripple, its ripped out from under you and he is onto another beat meditation.
Over the past few months he has released a number of other EPs on his bandcamp that really show his exploration of all forms of beatless and beat-driven sound. One of my favorite of these releases is an incredibly honest and beautiful EP of music called “Alive For No One”. The track “This is Your heart, This is my House” is my favorite piece of music he has created. In the track, he fuses the playing of a few chords on a guitar, some sounds I cannot really identify, and his voice to make an incredibly emotionally-moving piece of music. You can hear him breath and singing. You can hear him playing for no one, but for the whole world at the same time. Just strumming and living, as if the guitar was an extension of his being. I can feel these sounds. They aren’t just data particles on my hard-drive. They are a living thing.
Lucky for me, he was willing to sit down with me and talk about his music and share a mix he just created with our community. He is such a generous guy. Hope you enjoy the mix and his interview below. Don’t sleep on his mix making. His track selection is always on point and moves through the same beat-driven and beatless meditations as his music. I think it will help you work through some interesting ideas and sounds.
LA: What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?
WALL: I think music and sound is the key to living and experiencing the life you live in. Even silence is music. Everything you hear in every place you go creates an atmosphere. Sound is so strongly linked to memory and feeling, and the atmosphere natural sounds create help form how you remember particular moments in your life. It’s important, I think, to pay attention to the way our environment is formed, because the one thing you will always take with you is your memory of an experience. Money comes and goes, things come and go… clothes, people, etc. move in and out of our life all the time. But listening to rain hit your window while you’re trying to fall asleep in a foreign city stays with you, also the sound of trains coming and going as you sip on a coffee in a station waiting for yours to come and take you away to see a loved one. These are the sounds we sometimes take for granted in our life.
LA: You had a successful mixtape series called SayNoToTrack before you started releasing your own music. What prompted you to make the move from mix-making to original compositions?
WALL: Well, I was making music long before SNtT even started. I started the mixtape series because growing up it was a passion of mine. I remember sitting in my room with my CD’s and tapes strewn all over the place, hitting play and record on my parent’s stereo for hours at a time, listening and carefully selecting songs I wanted to put together. When I was in elementary school my bus driver was one of the only ones that had a tape deck on his bus, and I would bring in mixtapes all the time for him to play on the stereo. I would also make tapes for my family and friends, and then eventually I started making mix CD’s for girlfriends and friends in high school and later. I always had a good response from them, and it made me feel pretty good to introduce people to stuff I liked. I liked that people liked what I liked. It was sort of the first thing I ever felt like I was “good” at. After some time of not doing anything I started having friends ask me if I recommended anything for them to listen to. I decided I’d start a blog where I’d just make mixes a la mixtape-style for people to download, enjoy, discover something new, etc., and I chose this format as an ode to my mixtape days.
As for the music, I’ve been making experimental music since I was in high school, off and on since then whenever the inspiration struck. Each time inspiration WOULD strike, I had already passed some phase in my life where I had to have sold all my gear, and I was stuck with a whole new arsenal of equipment. If you listen to stuff I did back in high school, and then a few years later, and then a few years after that, and then up to what is now the “Walleye” era (and even within it to an extent), you’ll hear different styles and experimentations. This is due to the fact that almost every album I’ve released is made with different equipment, so my thought process and experimentation has had to evolve to utilize whatever I’ve been able to get my hands on. I’m not complaining, it keeps things interesting and fresh for me. Keeps me on my toes.
LA: What are some of the musical influences that helped shape your sound?
WALL: Oh jeez… when I was young I really loved Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, Autechre, Squarepusher, Plaid, Luke Vibert, Mouse on Mars, etc. It was a big change to what I was normally listening to at the time, and I really liked how different it sounded. At the same time I also discovered Ambient music and instantly fell in love. I realized that there was a time and place to listen to aggressive music, but overall I just wasn’t feeling fulfilled by harsh stuff all the time. Sure I was an angsty kid, but more than anything I just wanted to feel peace, and Ambient music helped me find it. Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Vol. 2 was my first leap, and then it moved to Brian Eno, Harold Budd, Laraaji, and so forth. With the help of the internet I was able to discover even more Ambient artists like Stars of the Lid, and eventually bands such as Grouper, Aidan Baker, Tim Hecker, Thomas Köner, Shuttle358, and etc.
LA: Your sound moves gracefully through elements of beatless drone, noise, and more beat driven compositions. What are you thinking about as you are creating music and trying to synthesize all these musical forms?
WALL: To be honest, most of my music doesn’t begin with a plan. I’m used to setting up all possible equipment (keyboards, synthesizers, guitar pedals [I’m a huge pedal head], guitars, drums, microphones, amps, really whatever I can get my hands on) and then having at it. I’ll begin my strumming a chord on the guitar, tweaking all the pedals it runs through, moving to a drum machine (or just drums) and starting a beat, go to the keyboard and play a couple chords on there, tweak something else on a pedal or two, and keep going until it feels like it’s time to stop. I try to immerse myself into it as much as possible, because each time I begin to work or create something it becomes a whole experience for me. I become so focused on what I’m doing I lose track of time, where I am, everything. At the end of it I don’t even remember what happened most of the time. It’s as if I blacked out. For me, this is what making music is about. It doesn’t matter if people like it or not, it just matters if I like it or not, and most of the time I do. I just sort of let go, and if I was thoughtful enough to hit the record button at the beginning of the session, I’m able to go back and hear it. There are so many incredible sessions lost because I forgot to hit one little button, and alternately, there are an incredible amount of sessions that will never see the light of day because I just wasn’t feeling it.
LA: You recently left the confines of Columbus to move overseas. I know you haven’t been there long, but what has that experience been like? Have you found new sources of inspiration?
WALL: Moving overseas was a big decision for me. When I left I was actually very productive with my music making, and in fact I finished Promise and SUM DRONE within the month before I departed. I was trying to envelope myself in as much creative output as possible before leaving because I was selling my gear and I wasn’t sure when I was going to be able to get my hands on anything again for a while. The itch is still there, and I find plenty of inspiration being here for sure, but I haven’t found a good way to really let it out yet. Money is a problem, and the resources for equipment aren’t nearly as available to me as they were in America. But, like I said earlier, it’s about adapting, and I’m exploring every possible avenue to get my hands on what I need to do what I want. I have found a semi-regular gig DJing, however, at a bar just a few minutes away. That experience has been nice, because even though I stopped doing SNtT, I still kind of get to do it live for a whole new mess of people. Sometimes I go for five hours straight, just mixing and mashing together all different kinds of music for the sake of creating an atmosphere for people hanging out and relaxing on a Saturday night. It’s nice, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.
LA: Though you are now overseas, I am sure Columbus did shape your artistic approach in some ways. Can you think of any ideas, places, or events in Columbus that inspire you as a musician?
WALL: The Dube, which was not only my home away from home, but was also part of a family in Columbus which I held very close to me. I had good friends that I collaborated with, like Justin Burkett (of Cat Swallower) and Josh Ganzberg (of dollchimes), that helped me realize some of my musical path. They were an excellent source of support and inspiration for me. Columbus in general is a strange place to make music though… there are all different kinds of people, “scenes”, etc., and every one of them is supportive in their own way. I liked seeing my friends be successful, and whether or not I was on any level is moot, but I liked creating alongside with them in any capacity. It was like being apart of a club, where we got to create and share with each other and the public and it didn’t matter if you liked it or didn’t, you still got props. I remember, however, a friend of mine told me something that stuck with me and I would pass on to anyone else who asked the same question… I had gone through a moment of crisis one time and asked why no one took me serious, and she replied to me saying “because you don’t take yourself seriously”. From that moment on I began to, and I saw the change in attitude from myself and from my peers. It was a great feeling to take pride in what I did, and it might have been the biggest turning point in my creative “career”.