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Interview

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I don’t talk much about ambient music in this project, but it is such a big part of my everyday life. This omission makes sense. I have spent a lot of my life over the past two years discussing the artists, events, and spaces where we have been united by volume, propulsive beats and anthemic chords. Our community was brought to life on the alter of the dancefloor where we all sought to celebrate life and I was there to document it. However, my experience of electronic music and my path to that sacred space of celebration did not come through techno, house, or any other traditional genre of dance music. It came through countless hours appreciating the slow beauty of Brian Eno, Steve Roach, and numerous other ambient artists. Every since listening to Eno’s “Music For Airports” and Roach’s “Structures of Silence”, my DNA has slowly mutated to give me feelings of profound calm and restfulness when I let those waves of soft, reoccurring loops wash over me. Even today, I spend the vast majority of my time in my listening chair exploring the dense sonic landscapes of Brock Van Wey and Tim Hecker or the beautiful ambience of Miles Davis rather than venture out into crowds and noise. So it seems fitting to return to where it all started. It seems fitting to complete the circle and end with an a local artist named Forest Management who has walked this path as well and has created beautiful ambient music.

I still remember when I saw Forest Management (John Daniel) perform live for the first time. It was a year or two back in the Frequency Friday series. He was playing tracks from his most recent album “Transparent” and had a reel-to-reel project set up playing stock footage of an old black and white movie.

The whole experience gave me a feeling of timelessness. Despite their date of creation being separated by vast expanses of time, it was as if all these images and sounds were meant to co-exist together in the same space. It was as if this music had been echoing through our forests, oceans, and atmosphere for all of time and John had somehow decoded the sonic vibrations that connect us to those people of so long ago. I couldn’t help but feel a profound sense of the immense, but still finite, span of human history. So many individual lives all living by the same cycles and routines. So many individuals hearing and responding to the same rhythms of life, but responding to them all in different ways. This is the power of the patient, gorgeous loops in Forest Management’s music. It is a musical rosetta stone that gives us the headspace to explore the unexamined facets of our reality and see the interconnection of all things and time.

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We need meaningful, powerful ambient music like Forest Management’s in these loud and chaotic times. We need music that helps us feel a range emotions. We need music that can offer us headspace and not just fill our empty moments with cacophony. We need music that can help us find ourselves and navigate the twists and turns of life in an intentional fashion and not just add in more statements about how we should be living. We need music that can quiet our fearful and nervous thoughts of the future and let us engage deeply with all the beauty going on around us. In short, we need music that can help us disengage and reconnect with all that it means to be human. Forest Management’s new album “The Contemplative Life” (out now on Cathedral Transmissions) is a perfect piece of ambient music to accompany your attempts to slow down and reflect on the world around you. It is one of his finest works to date and would be a fine accompaniment to any quiet moment that you hope to enjoy at a deeper level.

Interview:

Local Autonomy: What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?
Forest Management: I’ve always tried to live life through a reflective lens. There is too much meaning and purpose in every moment to just pass off as unimportant, or ignore all-together. In each day there are new things to learn, natural phenomena that we failed to notice the day before, and a freeing uncertainty for tomorrow. For me, music serves as a companion for those everyday moments. This companionship causes me to seek out music and sounds that resonate with my own unique self-reflection and daily life. It’s also a big part of my personal faith, as I see music as valid proof that I’m on this miracle of a planet for a reason.

LA: How did you get into making music?
FM: When it came to recording and listening to music I was kind of a late bloomer, though I had been in my school music program since the fifth grade. I started on the string bass, and didn’t appreciate it as much as I probably should have…I picked up percussion in high-school, and loved it…that’s when I began to call myself a musician. Drums will always be my first love. I started a band with three of my friends called Royal Waves towards the end of my sophomore year. We made post-rock, though it wasn’t extremely intentional – our recordings just came out of whatever was influencing us at the time. It was a nice feeling to stand for something that was different from what the other local bands at the time were putting out, though. I suppose that mode of creating kept developing, and I found myself attracted to the more ‘experimental’ elements of the music that we were into at the time. I kept pursuing that attraction, and it became more and more refined, even to this day. After I graduated high-school my youth pastor gave me a classical guitar, and I started to write songs on my own. I delved in the folk music scene a little bit, and was really into the personal, intimate aspects of independent songwriting. I really didn’t start making ambient music until later…I probably listened to ambient music for a good year or two before I attempted to create it on my own. The first ambient record I bought was Brian Eno’s Music For Airports. I got it on a Friday night at a Barnes & Noble when I was alone and had no real plans for the weekend (which was kind of the norm). I had no idea what to expect…I think the artwork just caught my attention. I still keep that CD in my car, and will only listen to it sparingly…it’s a very personal thing for me and sort of brings me back to that time of my life, a time that I cherish.

LA: What are some of the musical influences that helped shape your sound?
FM: My influences are pretty straight-forward…when I first stumbled upon ambient music I immediately knew it was going to be my niche. It’s that feeling you get when you find something, and you know it’s what you’ve been looking for, what you’ve been waiting to hear. It amazed me that there were musicians who solely focused on these minimal, pure sounds, with no particular ‘catch’ or need for much more. Stars of The Lid is still my all-time favorite collaboration. I’m also very inspired by ambient composers & artists like William Basinski, Scott Solter, David Tagg, Tim Hecker, Sean McCann, and Celer – there are almost too many to name. However, I don’t intend to re-create any of the sounds I am influenced by, and I do listen to a variety of other types of music.

LA: There is a patience and beauty in your music that I often hear coming out of the music of Brian Eno, Steve Roach, and other like musicians. I find profound senses of calm and clarity when listening to the repetitions and slow evolution of your music. What is your approach to recording? How do you find these melodies?
FM: The approach is pretty simple – I decide I want to record music, and I get my computer and synthesizer and find a quiet place where I can concentrate. It usually comes just as that – a natural impulse rather than a planned event. Music For Stargazing was an exception, as I had set a deadline for myself to be able to give the music to a local planetarium. I kind of see that CD-R as a completely different time and phase of writing though, and my friend Adam Miltner and I actually held writing sessions for most of the tracks. Because I use computer software to both compose and record, I end up with a lot of recordings that I don’t use. Usually I’ll try different angles of progressions and textures, and once I achieve a foundation that feels right I’ll start to build upon it. About 90% of my recordings are first-takes, and I just add layers on top. The end product is something that I could have never predicted, and each track really takes a life of its own, since I don’t go back to cut or edit anything. If there is anything I’ve been striving or trying to do lately, it’s having the discipline to keep things simple. When I first started playing out about 2 years ago I would have all of this gear, and it would just become too much…it would stress me out. Now I just use one instrument, and maybe two or three different sounds. It’s what you do with it that really brings everything to fruition.

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[The Contemplative Life Cover]

LA: Your new album is called The Contemplative Life. What were your thoughts behind the title to that work?
FM: One of my favorite parts of releasing instrumental music is being able to tie an idea, or some sort of underlying message along with it, in a way that is not always as overt as in most vocal music. Sometimes it is just one word. With The Contemplative Life, I again was looking through a reflective lens. I work a 9-5 office job, in a suburb that I grew up in and have since moved away from. The location of the office building I work in has always seemed like a very unique, surreal place to me. There is a sense of modern development, but not too much. There is plentiful vegetation and space. I always take a walk everyday from my building through these woods near the back of the parking lot. There is such a preserved peace – it’s as if the architects/investors/developers who were trying to make a ton of money off the property left in the early 1990’s and forgot about the place. Now it’s just there, totally functional but not swept up by the rapid development that takes place right down the street. The word “The Contemplative Life” just came to mind because as much as something like an office building can be a part of a person’s daily grind, there can still be a beauty and a peace within those places and moments. It’s up to us if we are willing to slow down enough to notice it. Usually we aren’t.

[A Running Stop from “The Contemplative Life”]

LA: You have a devotion to releasing your music physically and have a bandcamp to offer digital downloads as well. What are your thoughts on the interconnnection between physical and digital release formats? Do you have a preference of the two?
FM: If I had more resources from the start, I would have released all of my music physically. I first went the digital route because I had music that I wanted to share with others, and wasn’t quite yet turned onto the idea of cassettes and CD-R’s. Once I started hanging out with artists in the local underground scene, it became apparent that in many ways, physical can be a more rewarding and reciprocating way to share music. It’s definitely more personal. The one tape I’ve put out, Transparent, has been such a joy to be able to share with family and friends. I can just grab a couple and take them to shows. There is intentionality in it that is becoming scarcer in today’s music world…

LA: The Cleveland electronic music scene is always doing fun, forward-thinking events/releases/etc. What is it like to be a part of that community? Do you have any collaborators up there you like to work with?
FM: I love Cleveland and I’m here to stay. I owe a lot to the scene that I’m involved in here, as I find myself constantly challenged, inspired, and supported by the breadth of talent in this city. There are some great artists doing some great things. I think of guys like Sam Goldberg, who has made a ton of great music but then also turns around and supports other musicians by booking gigs and putting out tapes. When you say “forward-thinking” I immediately think of John Elliott and his label called Spectrum Spools – if you are not familiar with it you definitely need to check it out. It’s high-quality stuff. The community here may be small in some ways, but it’s tight-knit. My hope is that it won’t just survive, but that it will grow, and that a new generation of like-minded artists will step up to the plate. I’ve had a few jam sessions over the last year or so with some great artists up here, but no official collaboration as of yet. I also just recently began playing drums in a band called Infero – we just finished recording a new LP, and its sounding pretty awesome. Not ambient at all. It’s spectacular. It’s a ton of fun to hang out with those guys.

Links:

Forest Management Bandcamp

Purchase “The Contemplative Life” from Cathedral Transmissions

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KF Signing

[Failure performing with Pink Reason]

There is a street in the SUMMIT.3 sector called smt.1 that lies just off the main thoroughfare of our city. It runs parallel to the streams of people, transportation devices, and popular notions that populate the safety of GRID 1. However, spatially and socially, the sector of SUMMIT.3 could not be more far removed from GRID.1. Its boulevard smt.1 may run to the heart of the city just like the roads of GRID.1, but as one walks down the smt.1 it feels like the segregated zone that the cloud has labeled it to be. There is a quiet to the sector that comes from its social isolation. However, despite the tension that hangs in the air like the humidity on a hot summer day, the sector at least has fewer heat-lock cameras and you don’t have to deal with the pretensions of the folks out on GRID.1.

One thing is for sure, the people who have found there way to SUMMIT.3 don’t seek out the comfort of the orthodoxy. These folks may have found themselves in this sector by ascription or by choice, but the fact remains you can search for ideas, sounds, or object here. That’s why I live in SUMMIT.3. The sorts of things I am searching for aren’t found to be profitable for consumption by the nebulous cloud of global capital that controls 95% of what is produced and sold in GRID.1. If you ask me, things started going down hill when we let an A.I. decide what we needed to produce based on the aggregated yearnings of our social media ramblings. The cloud has created a mainstream culture that has become an endless mirror of itself. A cascading descent into simulation from which there is nothing but slight tweaks on past ideas. For many folks in SUMMIT.3, this is the reason we call this sector home. We are deep-sea divers dwelling in the heeps and mounds of “out-moded” styles, philosophies, and objects that have been cast off as the fat of the empire. We don’t need the cloud to produce for us and tell us what to consume. We don’t need to be spoonfed culture. We will decide what to produce and consume for themselves from the remains of the mainstream. Sure things ain’t as shiny as they are in GRID.1, but at least we have our own path to explore.  At least we have our autonomy from the cloud.

Future Maudit September Poster

[Flyer from September Future Maudit Show]

One of the most exciting developments to happen musically in the SUMMIT.3 sector recently is the work of Kevin Failure and his Future Maudit shows. With some of his contemporaries like Tyrant Manque, they have thrown out the manual on how to throw shows centered on synthesized sound. He and his associates have embraced an inclusivity and no-boundaries approach to shows that is celebrated widely around SUMMIT.3.  It makes sense his approach would resound with the locals. They don’t just give the audience what GRID.1 promoters and performers would give them. There is no polish or packaging. There is no pretense.  He gives them art. He gives them an experience that approximates the reality we all live. He gives them noise, experimental electronics, techno, improvised improvisation. He gives them the musical equivalent to the philosophy that guides their lives. He gives them a rough, unpackaged pieces of art that allows them to explore their own autonomy in a not-so-perfect world. This is all anyone in the SUMMIT.3 sector ever wanted: A haven where they could experience a soundscape that spoke to their lives. A place where all the bullshit of the manufactured simulation of GRID.1 fell away and we were left with the skeleton of human experience.

Savage Quality

In addition to the Future Maudit shows, Failure runs a record label called Savage Quality that releases EPs and LPs from his past band Pink Reason and other assorted projects of industrial and experimental music. Failure kindly passed on one of these records to me and it oozes that same boundary-defying qualities that all of his Future Maudit shows push. It is a sound born of another sector, but it is of and about the SUMMIT.3 sector all the same. It doesn’t try to fit into a niche. It boldly steps out of the niche and begs you to turn it off. It pushes your buttons and makes you bend your ears to understand what it is all about. It features a glitchy sound of technology gone haywire that forces you to confront the inevitable decay of that shiny GRID.1 reality. It forces one to confront the reality that in the age of the cloud all is not made to last.

Future Maudit Poster

Luckily, Failure, Tyrant Manque, and my compatriots THE FALLEN will be throwing another Future Maudit Show in the tonight in the  SUMMIT.3 Sector with glacial23, Kaptin Kirk, and Jacoti Sommes at Cafe Bourbon Street (DETAILS HERE). Next Door at the Summit the comrades CC & Dustin Knell will be playing with Nosferatu, Ethan Eschelon, and Shirtless Midnight at NIGHT MODE (DETAILS HERE). The SUMMIT.3 Sector will be bopping tonight with both of these crews exploring the far reaches of sound that we all want to hear. Hell, maybe even a portion of the GRID.1 element will explore these sonic outposts and convert to the teachings of our rhythmic bible. In the mean time, enjoy this interview I did with Failure in advance of the show:

Interview:

Local Autonomy: You have been in a band for over ten years, program music at Cafe Bourbon Street, and study the history of certain strains of music. What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?
Kevin Failure: Music is like oxygen, or language. It’s how I live and communicate. It’s my hustle. It’s been that way as long as I can remember. I’ve been in the band I’m in now over a decade, but I’ve been playing in bands for over twenty years now, and have been booking shows for eighteen.
Everything positive that’s ever happened to me has come from music, and music has literally saved my life many times over the years. It’s also probably indirectly responsible for plenty of the bad shit I’ve experienced too, but, what’re you gonna do?

Local Autonomy: What does the future maudit event mean to you (i.e. what is the name supposed to capture in the experience you are trying to create)?
Kevin Failure: Our policy makers, scientists and technology producers are inspired by the same dystopian science fiction that inspires us in the counter culture. While we largely read these books as warnings or prophecies, they read them as instruction manuals. We’re holding a shattered mirror up to our contemporary reality.

Local Autonomy: One of the most interesting parts of the future maudit parties is the open format approach to programming with diverse genres being represented. Why do you think its important to have spaces where noise, techno, experimental, industrial, and punk can be heard side to side?

Kevin Failure: With the exception of punk, I think that the boundaries between the other forms you mentioned were probably defined by media and marketing teams with no real connection or loyalty to the underground. During the 90’s, I’d read about Merzbow in Massive magazine, the midwest rave bible. I’ve seen plenty of Skinny Puppy references in the techno community, in interviews, on records, and a large percentage of the people I know who ended up into electronic dance music and going to parties fell into that through industrial dance music. Techno is an experimental musical form. Some of my favorite tracks are all of those things mentioned at once, and maybe that’s where the punk comes in, is in the attitude and the presentation – not giving a fuck about arbitrary rules and definitions. 

Local Autonomy: I really enjoyed thinking out loud with you about if it was still possible to create new paradigms of music in our world where many people say everything has been done or is a re-hashing of something old. Do you think creating new music, new revolutions in how music is heard and experienced is still possible today? How do you think we do it?
Kevin Failure: These things will happen organically, whether we appreciate the results or not. I just like to keep things fun and challenging, for the artists as well as the audience.

Local Autonomy: We talked at length about the role of dance in communities and cultures across the world. What role do you think dancing and music broadly defined as “dance music” plays for our communities?
Kevin Failure: It’s obviously a primal need shared by humans of all backgrounds. It’s simple: Free your ass… and your mind will follow.

In the Booth

[Photo Courtesy of Carlos Bell Photography]

Introduction:

We are lucky to have Atlanta based DJ, producer, ndatl label label founder Kai Alcé coming to Columbus to perform this Friday (8/2) at Big Bar alongside many other amazing artists (Event details HERE). Alcé has been in the thick of U.S. dance music for over twenty plus years and has used this pedigree to craft his own and Atlanta’s distinctive house sound. He has his roots sunk deep in numerous cultures and communities, as he came of age in what he termed the Golden Age of dance culture in New York, Detroit, and Chicago. Alcé talked about how he got his grassroots education in sound immersing himself in the dance cultures of these cities in a recent interview with Juno: “Well in New York I grew up in the midst of disco and the emergence of hip-hop, then in my pre-teen years I moved to Detroit and got into the high school party scene. I linked with Chez Damier, we were hangin’ out at the KMS/Transmat/Metroplex building and eventually worked at the Music Institute. I was also travelling back to New York and also checking out Chicago, so I saw the main three breeding grounds of this sound during their golden years. I was seeing Ron Hardy in Chicago one weekend, the heading back to Detroit and checking the MI, and going to New York places like MK’s Red Zone Mars.” It is evident from this statement that Alcé got much more than lessons in dance music. He garnered a PhD in the chemistry of sound, as from an early age he was influenced to synthesize diverse musical sounds and ideas. As he traveled from city to city, his was immersed in teachings on the fundamental elements that each city drew on to create his own distinctive voice and sound. These lessons would serve him well once he moved to Atlanta, as he was able to refashion these building blocks he learned across the country to help build a community and sound that would cement Atlanta’s reputation as a house music destination.

This deep appreciation for synthesizing diverse elements into his mixing and production has never left his work. All of Alcé’s mixes, that are readily available for listening, reveal this fact . Take the mix he did for vice magazine [more mixes of his are available connected to his Juno and Little White Ear Buds interviews]:

Thirty-five minutes or so in, Alcé weaves together tracks from Detroit’s past and present by playing Rhythm is Rhythm right alongside Kyle Hall. Such programming/selection creates a rich historical conversation between two records separated by decades of time. However, rather than showing some stark juxtaposition between the two records, this programming reveals the commonalities that Hall’s music still shares with the founders of the Detroit sound. Not content to end this strain of sound exploration right then, he tops it off with a sizzling track called “On It” from his new ep World Causes [previews here]. You can feel the same energy and ethos coming out of Alcé’s track. Just like Rhythm is Rhythm and Kyle Hall, Alcé lets the track run wild in a sort of controlled creative chaos that tips his hat to Detroit, but carves out propulsive properties all its own.

On the street

[Photo Courtesy of Carlos Bell Photography]

Above the nods to Detroit, his technical chops, his musical pedigree, the real magic I find in Alcé’s music is in his belief and use of the power of music to heal and uplift people. Throughout all his mixes, there are inspiring messages to help us get over in our daily lives. Let’s be honest, life is beautiful, but the obstacles we all face can at times feel insurmountable. When I listen to Alcé’s mixes, the sun starts to crack through the clouds, and I get back some courage to take that next step to just keep going. I can take refuge in his mixes and let them fill me back up with the love and patience I need to go back out in the world and try to make a difference.  However, this isn’t just secluded to his mix work. In his productions like “feeding” or “Willow,” he has created works of art that call on us to think deeply about how we can make ourselves and other people better. What a special quality! I am truly inspired by Alcé’s emphasis on taking the power he has as an artist to share a positive message with other people seriously. I think he  really prompts us to ask a few questions to ourselves: What messages are we sharing with the world? How are we treating one another? Are we a force for peace and love in the world or are we just continuing to perpetuate cycles of fear, hate, and greed?

I think a fitting way to close this introduction is to take an excerpt of the lyrics from the closing track in his Vice mix, Romanthony’s “Hold On”:


“So your thinking that its over. You coming off another put down. Your feeling life is on your shoulders, No love around. You say your in for stormy weather. The sun ducked away behind the clouds. Can’t seem to get your thing together. Can’t get turned around. There is a reason for the madness. Someone got to tell you “It seems all hope is Gone.” There is one thing you might miss “Hold On.” You never know what’s in store for you. You never know what dreams might come true. Hold on you’ll see a brighter day. Hold on and I will show you the way. Hold On.”

Hopefully, this message helps you get through your Wednesday. Just Hold On Ya’ll help is on the way. Friday will be here soon enough and we can all convene at Big Bar and recharge together with Kai Alcé, Jay Daniel, Seth Dedikate Carter, Craig Huckaby, Toby Tope, Aaron Austen, Tony Fairchild, True Skills, George Brazil, Ginsu, Bombay, Jenny Arcade, and Fran Fiction. All the details you need are available by clicking right HERE. In the mean time, check out Alcé’s exclusive interview below.

flyer

Interview:

Local Autonomy: How does sound and music influence the way you live and experience life?

Kai Alcé: It’s probably more the other way around, my life and experiences influence my sound. Hence the name of my label NDATL which stands for New York, Detroit & Atlanta the 3 places I’ve lived (with heavy influence from Chicago as well), have curated the sounds you’ll hear from me & the label.

Local Autonomy: Your track “Feeding” has this amazing spoken word poetry in it. I love the whole thing, but especially this section:
“Who’s feeding the children? Who’s feeding them? Who’s feeding them knowledge and freedom? Feeding them. Who’s feeding them that we are a part of the whole? Feeding them. Who’s feeding them purpose? Feeding them. Who’s feeding them that revolution revolves around itself and evolution is change? Feeding them. Who’s feeding them be yourself? Feeding them. Who’s Feeding them diversity? Feeding them. Who’s feeding them faith? Feeding them. Who’s feeding them spirituality? Feeding them. Who’s feeding them differences and preferences? Feeding them. Who’s feeding them culture? Feeding them. Who’s nurturing what they begin to feed themselves? Freedom. Feeding them. Seeding them as a root of their own.”
These sorts of questions seem so important in our day and age. Do you think House music and music more broadly can provide that sort of nourishment, insight, and courage the next generation needs to survive the world we live in?

[Kai Alcé’s “Feeding”]

Kai Alcé: Those great words are from Kemi Bennings a talented poet/activist here in Atlanta. Good House music by nature should make you feel better so when it’s also accompanied with inspiring lyrics it’s all the better. Something that I would like to see more of not only in dance but in commercial music in general, when you have a voice such as music you shouldn’t take that power & influence for granted.

Local Autonomy: You have been doing a lot of community building in Atlanta around house music with the House in the Park & Distinctive events and your NDATL label. In past interviews, you have discussed how it was special for you to help shape the Atlanta sound. I can only imagine how fun that was to be a part of that. What prompted you to want to help build the house music community and help shape its sound in Atlanta?

[Footage from House in the Park 7 from deephouseatl.]

Kai Alcé: It really came out of necessity, shortly after I moved to Atlanta the only two guys that were playing dance music Ron Pullman & Tedd Patterson moved away & so the an empty slot that need to be filled and so I did, & I also worked at Satellite records store for about 10 years furthering the deep sound.

Local Autonomy: In many of your interviews (Such as the ones with Juno,  We Dig and Little White Ear Buds), you discussed how vital it is for you to connect with the music you play and the crowd around you are playing for. Why is getting lost in the music and connecting with the crowd important to you when you play live?

Kai Alcé: It’s just what you’re supposed to do as DJ is to connect. U have to pay attention to the energy in the room, many DJ’s get caught up in the mix u have to be aware, one eye on your floor at all times. I usually take a stroll on dancefloor while I’m DJ’ng just to really feel what they feel.

Nob Level

[Photo Courtesy of Carlos Bell Photography]

Local Autonomy: You have been creating art with music for some time now with your DJ’ing, Producing, and community building. What do you think you have learned about living life from these artistic practices?

Kai Alcé: That nothing is given you must work for it all.

Lookout for the latest NDATL release “World Causes EP” by Kai “KZR” Alce OUT NOW!

World Causes EP

Photo Mixing q[photo courtesy of Ray of Hope Arts]

Much of how I judge my connection with an artist is based on the lessons Kevin Kennedy taught me about one’s musical compass. In a candid conversation we had on how we both relate to music, he shared with me an insight that has become a core idea to how I approach music. He said that one knows very quickly if a track or set speaks to them. If the music grabs you and leaves you bobbing your head then you know that you have a connection with that creation. I have carried this insight with me and it has helped me immensely in understanding and refining what I call my musical compass. This inner compass is pretty important in our time period of increased “connection,” screaming NOISE, and endless mounds of “news.” Like the magnetic forces of our north pole has provided a form of navigation through endless horizons of land and sea, our inner musical compasses now guide us through the mounds of information that we all have to move through to find the art and people we connect with most and want to learn from. It was this compass that has led me to a deep appreciation for Tony Fairchild’s work and his desire to take the long, scenic route through the valleys and mountains of skill building rather than the direct route of instant gratification.

Anyone present the the first time I heard Tony Fairchild spin could see how I instantly connected with his work. Prior to seeing Fairchild spin live, I had not heard much of his work. I knew from the little exposure I had with his mixes online that we had a common musical vocabulary and were interested in the same constellations of sound. However, it was not until that set that it really clicked for me. It was not until I turned off all the distractions and just opened myself up to that experience that my musical compass confirmed how much I connected with his vision of the world. From the minute that needle hit the first record, I could not stop bobbing my head and was soon propelled into strange, trance-like convulsions around the dancefloor. However, its not surprising that I connected with his work.

At that time, my musical compass had me exploring the darker spectrum of techno and house, which primed me to look deeply into the imagery behind Fairchild’s set. Fairchild spun a set that weaved together a string of sounds that evoked the dystopian soundscapes that seemed to really be capturing my imagination at the time. The set ebbed and flowed through an exploration of the space in-between precision and spastic syncopation. It moved from propulsive energy to the sort of deconstructed sputtering so characteristic of the music of the past 6-7 years. In this set, I saw the richness of our organized world revealed. I saw the “perfectly ordered universe” of our bureaucratic lives set against a backdrop of the contradictions and dysfunctions of the very human systems we have created. I saw past the rhetoric of how our world worked to see the simple realities of municipal bankruptcies, the convulsions of the world economy, and our inability to deal with simple social problems in a direct and non-partisan fashion. In his soundscape, I saw him revealing simple truths about the nature of our reality and the common space and organizations we share through the synthesis of sound. Quite pointedly, I saw that despite our best efforts to make things work the way we want them to we will always be human and have to adapt to the paths presented to us when life doesn’t go according to plan.

Aside from my connection to his music, it is quite obvious that Fairchild has embraced his own inner music compass and has let it guide him to construct his own path through the sound. His inner compass led him to not shy away from the challenge of embracing vinyl. He has embraced a deep respect for the music format and the lessons it can teach someone. His inner compass guided him to not shy away from making the transition from the “dubstep” that gripped him in the mid 2000s into “house”, “techno”, etc. He took the lessons he learned on how to focus on a single genre that he picked up listening to these artists and applied it to other constellations of sound he had yet to explore.  His inner compass led him to not shy away from the long, scenic route of attempting to master the craft of DJing. In our age of instant gratification, this is a powerful act. Fairchild rejected the seductive lure of building a social media following and its accompanying HYPE. Instead, he invested his time in building a toolkit of skills that would help him express his voice. He took on the never-ending task of mastering a skill, and in that act dropped out of the rat race of EDM. He just followed that inner compass and opened himself to what the experience will teach him. Is that not what all of us should do if we are truly paying attention to our collective soul and seeking to connect deeply with the sacredness of our community and the art we all love?

Photo mixing 2

[photo courtesy of Ray of Hope Arts]

Luckily, Fairchild was kind enough to do an interview and a mix for us all to share some of his art with our community. I hope you have the chance to check out the mix and interview. It really captures the deep respect and reverence Fairchild has for the artform we all love. I hope you too will show this same respect for this mix as more than just another 54 minutes and 6 seconds, but as an opportunity to see what Fairchild is trying to teach and reveal to us. Don’t come at it ready to judge. Come at it with no judgements at all.  Respect the music and the artist and amazing things can happen and you can allow the music to lift your mood, your spirits, and your heart. I know this mix he created has done that for me numerous times over the last two weeks as I let it float into my world. You can connect with Fairchild on his Soundcloud page and through his association with local dance organization Squared. He plays on a regular basis for Squared’s monthly at Victory’s.

Mix:

Interview:

Local Autonomy: How does sound and music influence the way you live and experience life?

Tony Fairchild: There are two sides to this coin. First, music inspires, stimulates and opens my mind to new ways of perceiving reality or giving shape and sound to a reality that may only exist in your head. Dance music, techno in particular, tends to either paint a picture of the reality in which the artist exists or create an alternate reality that the artist has dreamt up. Detroit techno is the textbook example of the first; guys writing tracks about the decaying, technology-driven city in which they lived. The whole minimal-Perlon-Ricardo Villalobos camp really exemplifies the second; guys writing tracks to give shape to some exotic alternate reality or future that exists in their head. Both approaches allow me to experience realities and aesthetics that aren’t my own and open my mind to a bigger world of ideas than the one I naturally inhabit. It’s a great experience to listen to a piece of music that conjures up the image of another time and place in your mind.

On the other hand, music distracts and consumes me. I have a very obsessive personality and the thought of the next record I buy, the next artist I discover, etc. can take up a bigger portion of my thoughts and attention than they should. I have to consciously temper this, otherwise I would have no friends and my only chance of getting a tan would be from the light coming off of my computer from the Discogs home page. It’s a double edged sword.

vinyl

LA: How did you get into dance music?

TF: Listening to a lot of electronic music in high school in and early college. Traditional music production (ie bands) lost its appeal and I sought anything that was produced electronically. At first I listened to a hodge podge of genres, trip hop, IDM, techno, it was all just electronic to me. Around 2007-8 I got really into dubstep coming out of the UK. The sound was so novel at the time. It all sounded like the music for a film noire score. In retrospect it was a good entrance into the dance music world because it was more cerebral than dance floor oriented and that’s the kind of stuff I had always been into. Guys like Skream, 2562, Hessle Audio and Digital Mystikz narrowed my focus to a single genre. Around 2009 as dubstep DJs started to slow their tempos and mix in house and techno, I followed suit and started exploring those genres. You’d heard a DJ mixing a 130-135 dubstep track with an Anthony Shakir cut for example. I loved those blending of genres. Basically I listened to Ben UFO mixes and played whatever he was!

LA: There has been much written about the resurgence of the popularity of people of our generation going back to vinyl. What got you into vinyl and what keeps you loving the medium?

TF: I had a really strong conviction when I decided to start spinning that I wanted to do it the hard way, the way all the old school guys did. I thought that if I took the hard road I would end up being much more skilled in the long run. There was also a gravitas I felt from the DJs I liked that spun vinyl. They had the dubplates and the super-rare old school jams. It showed commitment and I respected that.

Chain Reaction2

What keeps me at it now is the desire to master the craft. That and I am obsessed with buying and collecting records. I get sweaty hands every time I go to the records store. “What goodies will I find this time?” I was up in Toledo this past weekend and found some crazy shit on this German label, Chain Reaction. You can’t find those records anywhere, and here I got them for 50 cents from the back of a used record crate in Toledo! I used to think that you couldn’t find house or techno in Ohio, but its just a matter of digging hard enough and having the knowledge to recognize worthwhile artists and labels. Digs often end up fruitless but finding the occasional gem more than makes it worthwhile. I heard records referred to as the Black Crack lately. I’d say that’s a suitable description. If any of you readers want to unload, you know who to call!

LA: Each set I have heard you spin I hear the presentation of older house/techno tracks right alongside new, which I find extremely gratifying as I feel the music always holds up next to the “new”. What approach do you take to weaving together music of different eras?

TF: Its not really a conscious act for me. It might be a techno record that came out last week or an acid house tune that is older than me. If it complements the track that is playing or takes my set in the direction I want to go, I’ll mix it in. This is very much a Midwestern mentality that I’m proud to associate with. All the old school guys I look up to spin this way. They’ll mix a disco track into slamming techno back into a Kraftwerk tune. The contextualization is fun as a DJ and it usually makes for an engaging, diverse set.

LA: We are both from Toledo. I know that city influenced me in ways that shaped the type of music I listen to and who I am today. Did Toledo shape your tastes in music or your interest in music?

TF: If Toledo is responsible, its only because the Airport Hwy library branch had a copy of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works that I rented when I was 14! Much more is owed to the friends I had in high school. They were all in a band and I got to hang around while they wrote songs, practiced and shared other music they were into. They turned me onto a lot of the music that would have a large influence on my tastes. Radiohead, Four Tet, MF DOOM. I have them to thank.

Later in life, I have come to have an affinity with Detroit and its music. I actually used to live further up in Michigan, about 30 minute away from the city. It blows my mind that I grew up so close to such a powerful cultural revolution but only realized once I moved away. The Midwest is the birthplace of all the music I love so much and, despite its lack of popularity these days, I am very proud to be from the same fertile lands.

LA: You have begun dabbling in production doing what you term “Sketches”. What has been the most surprising thing you have found in that creative process?

TF: Its embarrassing to even talk about because of how undeveloped and uninspiring my stuff has turned out so far. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that loops are easy to make. Arranging them into dynamic, fleshed out tracks is hard as hell. Also, a lot of work goes into refining your overall sound. Just because you have 909 samples, a Juno and a 303 doesn’t mean its going to sound old school. Regardless, its been a fun experience and I look forward to learning how to use my gear in new and interesting ways. Also, big shout out to Kevin Parrish for all the knowledge he’s shared and patience he’s had showing me how to use my own equipment!

Musicality flyer

Stop. For real. Just hold up a second. Now Click HERE to go to Whodat’s Mixcloud and press play on her “No Requests Mix” from June 5th. After that, navigate back here and get the full experience of Whodat’s wonderful art. I want you to hear her mixing while you are reading her thoughts and words, because you got to feel her music if you want to feel her words

Whodat is a detroit-based DJ, producer, record store owner of Ya Digg Records that specializes in tapping into the heart of the rhythms and grooves that propel us all forward and give us a reason to live. Sure, that seems like a high billing, and I am sure you want me to tell you what “genres” she spins. But that does not matter. She spins music. She spins hope, love, and an assortment of all the emotions that we all experience in our lives. Just listen to this No Requests Mix I told you to listen to above. Like Jaco Pastorius with the fretless bass during the Jazz Fusion era, she steps right into the pocket and bends these disparate bits of vinyl into an ever-unfolding groove that just grips you and compels you to move, feel, and be human. Her production work is no different. This past March she got her first vinyl release on London based Uzuri Recordsand it shows her incorporating key elements from all those hours listening to and spinning vinyl into new works of art that show her finding her own way to speak to and build on those jazz, house, soul, disco, pop, etc. recordings.

I obviously feel her music is on point, but her art transcends it being just a musical experience. What oozes out of everything she does is a love and reverence for the dance music community, vinyl, and music in general. Now I am being purposeful in the use of the word reverence, because I feel she does more than just enjoy and live her art.  It goes deeper than that. She has a deep respect for the rituals of finding records, mixing vinyl, and creating music, which reveals how she thinks that all these practices are incredibly sacred and deserve to be respected and honored.  What an important and thought-provoking idea to think of all of the actions we take to build our dance communities, share our art, and create as sacred acts that get us in touch directly with what it means to be a living, breathing human on this planet. Are we treating our listening, dancing, mixing, community building as sacred? Are we protecting these practices and teaching others how to do them? These are important questions that whodat’s approach and thoughts bring up for me, and I was struck by how they got me to see the deep beauty in all that we do.

Whodat will be bringing all this goodness to Musicality this coming Friday (6/28) at Double Happiness and I hope you can attend. I know I will be there with everyone else trying to find a little bit about the world and myself in the sacred practices of dancing with others to the same beat. The show is $5 at the door. Support your scene, by paying for the artistic and musical experiences you go to! Event Details can be found on the Facebook. In the meantime, enjoy her thoughts and check out more of her mix work and her originals on Soundcloud.

Interview:

Local Autonomy: How does sound and music influence the way you live and experience life?

Whodat: Music and sound influences everything in my life. While I’m cooking, washing dishes, driving, walking, reading, resting, doing laundry, everything. (LOL) I can even hear sounds while I’m sleeping. I don’t dream much but there are a lot of soundscapes going on. It’s what keeps me going. I don’t know what I would do without it. Music has saved my life. I think music keeps me in sync. When I feel off balance or out of sorts, I just listen to something that will get me back on track.

On decks 2

LA: How did you get into “dance music” (house/techno/etc.)?

Whodat: The Electrifying Mojo, The Wizard and The Scene.

On the decks

LA: I have been listening to the products of your 303030 project on Mixcloud where you did one thirty minute mix a day for thirty days. How has that experience shaped your music production and mixing over the last 1-2 years?

Whodat: The 303030 project helped me learn my strengths and weaknesses. Showed me where I needed to expand my record collection. I found out what tracks I zone out to. I like most of the stuff I have but there are some that just make me lose it. The 303030 Project also let me know there are some tracks that I need to know more deeply because even if I’m not feeling it a certain way, I can hear them in certain way.I would like to understand those tracks better, which just means I need to study andlisten more closely. Also, how putting all of my records and feelings together is going to be lifelong process. (SMH, LOL) As far as production goes, I did not remember anything after I had surgery. So I had to start over. It was extremely frustrating at first because I could remember that I used to do it but could not remember how to do anything. Which turned out to be a good thing, cause I relearned what I use to know even better and picked up somenew things along the way.

Ya Digg

LA: You own a record store called Ya Digg. You spin records. What does vinyl mean to you and the art you create?

Whodat: Vinyl is a treasure. You are always on the hunt for it. It’s played with diamonds and made from petroleum. Vinyl is the longest existing medium for recordings. The frequencies and vibrations that come from the cut grooves of vinyl encompasses you when you hear it. The warmth of it is incredible. Being able to touch what you are hearing. Being able to see that break coming up. Sensing how much time is left on the track just by looking at the grooves. The challenge of mixing, blending or just bringing in a track at the right time every time you put on a record. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. (LOL) There is a ritual for everything that has to do with vinyl. The process of making vinyl is a sacred ritual. Digging, listening, selecting, carrying and playing vinyl are all sacred rituals. When creating art, you should consider your talent as a blessing and develop a sacred ritual for producing your art. Never take it for granted and don’t allow others to take it for granted either.

Personal collection

LA: You live in Detroit, a city steeped in musical history. Now the simple question would be to ask how that city has influenced you, but I want to ask a different question. How do you think the music you and your contemporaries make influences the city of Detroit?

Whodat: Honestly, I’m not sure if it is or how much it is. It’s not very visible in Detroit, you have to look for it. I can see our music influencing people on the outside of the city, state, country but not as much the in city. I see it influencing people that already know about our music. So I guess we have to work on changing that. There have been a lot changes over the years with the decline of radio, record stores and the pressing of vinyl. But I think artists from Detroit need to work more collectively to have our music influence people in Detroit. We need more record stores, venues, workshops and lectures that specialize in what we do. Not just events and parties. We still need those too but there needs to be more than just that.

live

Sam Harmon, aka glacial23, is a electronic music producer, instrument builder, noise explorer, record label head honcho, etc. from that sprawling settlement on the southern reaches of Lake Erie, Cleveland. I have not delved much into the people and sounds coming from this city, but I have been continually impressed by the quality of the events and forward-thinking folks that are up there. Whether it is the spiritual melodicism of Forest Management, the open format deconstructionism of TEXTBEAK, my favorite record store Experimedia (run by the amazing sound artist Jeremy Bible), or the 500 other amazing folks and venues up there (That radio station up at Oberlin seems to just churn out amazing events). Like his contemporaries, Harmon has pushed his own singular music vision and has explored the beats, sounds, and musical ideas that interest him most by splicing together elements of noise, house, techno into his productions. However, he is more than just a musician. He also runs a label called Glacial Communications releasing his own and other artists work digitally and in limited run special format releases that would interest any collector of hand made physical releases.

Acetic

I have been following the work of glacial23, ever since his amazing release Acetic in March of last year (Which is available for free for a limited time right now on his Glacial Communications Bandcamp). On that release, he deployed a menagerie of drum machines, synths, and other hardware to explore the sounds of acid. Yet, these experiments weren’t necessarily your run of the mill “acid trax”. His tracks on Acetic took you down the dark, claustrophobic hallways of our existence with the sort of menacing sounds you would envision accompanying a film rendition of Franz Kafka’s “The Trial.” The type of sounds that bring to life the sonic environment of the labyrinths that we all navigate in our complex, bureaucratic societies where we are at the whim of authorities and rules we vaguely know and never consented to. I feel this is perfectly captured in “The End Track” where you seem to be penned in on all sides by the methodical machinations of the drum machine and synth, as it chugs on and on creating a whole world before your ears.

Prior to listen to this release, I had only really connected elements of the acid sound with the club tracks of the 1990s acid house. On Acetic, glacial23 still retained some of the dance floor sensibility, but also brought in his penchant for damaged/deconstructed techno/experimental music. I guess thats what drew me to his sound, as he finds much creative fodder by playing sets of formulaic “genre” rules up against one another. Though not as abrasive in his embracing of deconstruction as say Pete Swanson’s recent work, glacial23 brings in just amount of the “damaged” sound and the dance sensibility to bring us to a new place with these sort of acid sounds. This is directly evident in his track “Sense” from the 9/09 EP where he utilizes these sort of crystalline sounds that  jut up against and fight for attention with the infectious acid melody he plays over the top of the track:

His two most recent releases, a compilation of noise-influence techno “Four on the Noise Floor” and “Chute”, explore similar territory and showcase the work of contemporaries up in Cleveland that orbit in similar musical territory. Such work highlights not only Harmon’s approach, but the vibrant creators he is surrounded by in Cleveland.

glacial23 was nice enough to answer some questions for me in advance of his performance at Frequency Friday this Friday, May 3 at Wild Goose Creative. He will be performing alongside Yanktronics, Jazz improv group Brett Burleson/Ryan Jewell/Aaron Quinn, and Sam Hoar. Should be a burner. Event details can be found by clicking HERE.

Interview:

Local Autonomy: What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?

glacial23: It’s pretty important. I’ve probably been fascinated by sound as long as I can remember, and interested in finding ways to reproduce what I hear, whether exactly through sampling, or in some kind of approximative way through synthesis.

set upLA: How did you get into making music and building your own instruments? Did one come before the other?

g: In school I played trumpet and euphonium from 5th-9th grade. By the time I got to college in 1993 I had a definite interest in electronic music, and had a friend in my freshman dorm who had a “real” synthesizer (a DX7) and drum machine he let me borrow for a little while. By the summer of 1995 I had started acquiring my first couple of pieces of gear- a Yamaha DX27, Realistic MG-1 (the so-called “Radio Shack Moog”, which I still own), and a Roland TR505 drum machine.

Building instruments happened a little later and followed a convoluted path- I tried building a little mixer in high school, but really had no idea what I was doing at the time and it didn’t work. After I had taken a real circuits class I decided I’d try my hand at putting some kits together. The first was a little bass drum synth called the ADV-Bass in 1998. By some miracle it worked correctly on the first try, so I got cocky and bought a couple more – a snare drum synth and a MIDI-CV converter. The snare synth never worked very well, and the MIDI-CV converter didn’t work at all (I finally fixed that a couple of years ago!). Frustrated by these second attempts, I put DIY gear on the backburner except for some very small projects (modding a morse code practice oscillator into a light theremin, for example)

At some point in the 2000s I received a Theremin kit as a gift which I eventually got working, and then in late 2006 I first read about this wondrous-looking microcontroller board called the Arduino(via this article: http://todbot.com/blog/spookyarduino/). By 2008 I knew enough of this electronics stuff to give introductory talks on it at the Notacon and Penguicon conferences. At Notacon that year, I met Pete Edwards (a well-known circuit bender and synth-DIY guy) who provided encouragement and chided me to up my game when he saw the terrible soldering iron I was using at the time.

Also in the summer of 2008, Bob Drake (aka Fluxmonkey, who has been doing this kind of stuff far longer than I have) did a summer workshop on building simple electronic music devices (you can find notes from those at http://fluxplayshop.blogspot.com and http://fluxmonkey.com/electronoize/). Some of the output from that workshop led to Ryan Kuehn offering to put out what became “DIY Volume I” on his label (Everyone Else Has A Record Label, So Why Can’t I?). I decided that the premise of that album should be a release where every instrument used would be either built, modified or repaired by me in order to be used (the “repaired” clause allowed for use of the MG-1 and my 4-track cassette recorder for multitracking), so I had to build the equipment I needed to make the sounds I wanted.

LA: When did you start Glacial Communications? Were you releasing music before this?

g: The label officially started around 2002. Before that I had put out a few things with The Button, a band/collective that had emerged out the radio show I did on WRUW from 1997-2010. Our first CDR came out in 1998- that group was more of the Negativland/ECC sample-heavy collage variety, so I decided to start my own little imprint for my solo synth-oriented material.

My earliest unreleased (or barely released- some were on mp3.com for a while but are now not online) date from late 1995/early 1996. At some point I’ll probably reissue some of them.

doodling

LA: Being an engineer and a musician, What does it mean to you to be able to make music on instruments you have built yourself?

g: Initially, some of the reason was cost- I wanted synths capable of certain things, but the commercial version was prohibitively expensive, and after trying software synths for a while(I really did!) those interfaces weren’t what I was looking for. DIY just seemed like the right way to go. It also provided me with a reason to use some of the hardware end of the Computer Engineering degree I have.

Nowadays, my day job doesn’t allow me to write code or things like that as much I’d like, so some of that creative urge to build has to come out in other ways such as building synths or working on projects at the hackerspace.

live2
LA: I was drawn to your work, because it trudges across the terrain of noise, experimental, and more traditional dance forms (like acid) and shows how they are all connected. What has prompted you to explore the interconnections between these music forms people often try to separate?

g: That’s been a weird journey. Some of that has come from being influenced by the intersection of the “industrial dance” scene and the techno scene of the early 90s, and by my own research into the history of what came before those (i.e. learning about the industrial scene of the 1970s, or the history of techno & house in the 1980s)

I started off making sort of off-kilter techno & industrial, as that was what I wanted to make and was sort of dictated by the gear I could afford at the time.

Since I was friends with a lot of people in the Cleveland experimental/noise scene, I decided I’d give “the noise thing” a try for a little while and put the more straight-ahead dance stuff on the backburner- so I’d be doing things like playing a x0xb0x (TB-303 clone) and modular synth together in an odd way- sort of acid house without beats. In November of 2010 I went to see Oneohtrix Point Never and Laurel Halo at a house show here, and was utterly blown away by Laurel Halo’s performance, which was straight-ahead techno, and the crowd seemed to at least be digging it a little bit. I had a show of my own a week or so later on a noise night at the now-gone Bela Dubby and whatever I had been planning wasn’t working in my head, so I decided to try adding the drums back in. It got kind of a mixed response at the time, but it did lead to my getting suggested to open for a huge show at the Grog Shop a few months later.

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LA: You, like myself, have been an Ohioan for some time and have picked through many of the same bins in record stores I now go through, gone to the same venues, etc.. I am incredibly inspired by our state. Does the landscape, architecture, and terrain of Cleveland and Ohio more broadly influence your work? How?

g:  I’ve been a lifelong Ohioan- the first half or so in greater Columbus, and then I came to Cleveland for college and liked it here enough to stay.

There are definitely some Cleveland landmarks I consider influential- some of the interesting terrain you pass by when taking the RTA trains, the Sidaway Avenue suspension footbridge (it’s been closed since the 60s, but you can still see it as you’re driving down Kinsman), the area underneath the Detroit-Superior bridge where the Ingenuity Festival was held for a couple of years, and certainly some of the terrain just on either side of the Cuyahoga River- the so-called “Industrial Flats”. There is something about the look of decayed infrastructure- not necessarily the “ruin porn” you see in stories about Detroit, but more of a mild unkemptness with just a little rust on the girders.

 

Glacial Communications & glacial23 on the Web:

Glacial Communications Facebook

Glacial Communications Bandcamp

Glacial Communications Website

glacial23 Soundcloud

Post 90--Tactil Vision

I was talking to the person behind tactil vision, Stevey7, last night at a show. We were having the type of conversation that him and I usually have. One that explores the oddities of being a human being enmeshed in a society, in vast complex systems, that one got enrolled in upon birth.  I have really grown to love these random conversations I have with him.  They have given me a viewpoint into his perspective on life. Not surprisingly, him and I both seem to be observers of the world and are quite interested in paying attention to the vast amounts of data that seem to flow by everyday and how technology has changed the world we live in. These conversations have greatly enhanced my appreciation of his art and his approach to sound and visual media. I can tell his art really allows him to work out his place in these system just as much as my sociology work and this media project help me find my place.

When one sits down to take in the music and art of tactil vision, bentwithlight, or any of his other names he releases under, you are stepping into his universe, his thought process, his interrogation with sound. This is obviously true with any artist whose work you pay attention too, but with stevey7 that world you to step into has been carefully and meticulously set out for you. He has an attention to detail in his music and packaging that shows his deep engagement with the post-industrial world we live in.  As in most of his work, his recent tremors live mix features an array of his original productions that demonstrate his characteristic glitched, multi-layered sound that drives forward, sputters, and always keeps moving into the horizon like the machine-like society that we are all a part of.

TV2

One of my favorite parts of the trermors live mix is the last track “kemwar” where he allows some of the distorted, ghost-like voices that hang in the background of his tracks to come forward.  These voices speak like a choir of crisis, as the cacophony of voices lists the numerous population, political, climate, and economic problems we all face today. I really appreciate how the drum and synth play off of these vocal samples. Sometimes stevey7 allows the drums and keys to wash over the voices and obstruct them from audibility, but there are moments when the voices cry out from the track and overtake your sensory perception.  Just like in life, sometimes the crisis comes to a fever pitch and no amount of “noise” can prevent us from seeing it clearly.

TV5

This one mix is just the tip of the iceberg. The back catalogue of 5am Conductions (stevey7’s label for tactil vision, bentwithlight, and other side projects) is extensive and impressive. Like his music and artwork, the catalogue reveals the multiple layers and explorations of stevey7. I highly suggest you step into his world and walk around for a bit. It is replete with physical, sonic, and video media for you to experience the vision that Stevey has of the world around him. Make sure to check out his mixcloudbandcamp, Youtube Channel, and facebook to stay up to date with all the releases and art work. I hope you enjoy this really in-depth interview with him, as it is full of interesting ideas.

LA: What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?

TV: Recently i have been trying to get into more of the subconscious; i was just watching a movie recently and noted the soundtrack is most effective when you don’t notice it. Of course, there is the power of the story/filmmaking itself, but the idea, anyway….So i guess i see music as a soundtrack and i suppose that goes well with the name “Tactil Vision”, (ha ha). Also, as a producer i have learned to not take popularity or unpopularity too personally- it really has to do with timing when we experience art regarding how we perceive it, i suppose. Like reading a book- you may have read it a thousand times but pick it up once more and notice something for the first time. When was young, i noticed a sort-of inner clock in my brain that either sped up or slowed down, so i first became naturally attuned to percussion. I actually used to clack my teeth together, (not long ago i found out i wasn’t the only one), maybe it was a nervous disorder, but it has to do with the pulse of “being”- like the heart, or the solar cycles. Music is very primal to me and as they say, the Universal Language.

TV Eres

LA: How did you get into making music?

TV: Well, i dabbled as a kid, the first thing i really was excited about was drums, but didn’t really pursue an instrument until i was really inspired by what i had been listening to and was in early adulthood. It actually started from cassette recordings of noise and whatever i sounds could dub and then overdub them as much as i could without the layers getting lost, through a Radio Shack mixer. I believe it was Einsteurzende Neubauten that really hooked me. A person could just bang on some metal or whatever and make music with it. It was liberating. Eventually, several pawn shop visits later, it was get an old keyboard here, buy a drum machine, hook up a cheap mic…

LA: I know your output has ranged between more instrumental works and ones with vocals, but can you think of a common set of music and and ideas that helped shape your music?

TV: Well, i didn’t come from a musical background, and as a kid you think the only relevant music is pop music- with Baby Boomer parents that grew up with American Bandstand and records and such…i think culture has really shaped my music, actually..looking back in a hundred or so years, i am sure i would probably be a fairly common example of the times; where technology, commerce, culture is all fusing at a rapid pace and that anything has an audience, you just need to connect. I actually had a crisis with my own duality for a time and i suppose that explains some of it. Now, i learned a bit more balance, but the opposites are always there- between doing and thinking, or speaking or listening. So things with vocals seemed more related to outward, the yang- and instrumental is more yin, where the left-brained (words) are gone, meter and whatnot is open and is more observant, i guess. But this duality is only at the surface- both interchange, where the further i go in one direction, the elements of the other are more apparent. So what shapes it is really letting go as much as possible of control, or for me, being centered- doing, but still being aware and receptive. Observing, but still interacting. Mostly, it a need for some kind of beauty, as in Nature, i guess. Like some mad painter working feverishly on the “perfect” still, never ceasing, because they are all flawed; “flaws being the essential requirement for beauty.”

LA: You spoke to me about feeling like you are at a cross-roads in terms of your music. Where do you think you have been with your music and where do you think you will go next?

TV: Well, at first, a person thinks that the work is going through change, when in fact, it is the worker. I guess that is what that is about. The internet has it’s advantages, with the ability to reach across time or space, but inversely, the need to engage and effect those closest to me is coming about. I guess it’s like that digital versus physical argument-most people need balance in their lives…like the saying, “Live locally, think globally”. Giving something that you have made with your own hands carries with it all the energies- conversing face to face, with the nuances involved. It has to do with experience and expression of the self. I have not consciously made the decision, but overall, the music i buy and experience fully more often than not, is live performances. I get to meet the person behind the art. I learn about them and not just some image they are projecting for a time. It means a great deal to meet in person those whose work i admire. Usually, that image i project dissolves into the reality that they are human, too and perhaps ordinary, yet doing extraordinary things. So for me, that reminds me people are more similar than different. That it’s okay to be “ordinary”, one person among many, simply trying to create something with the time they have…

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LA: What sorts of equipment do you use to make your music? Do you feel as though you have built a relationship with these machines?

TV: A chuckle there, James…”relationship” is a good word! Never been too good at those, ha ha…but yes, they certainly are. Each piece has it’s own character and quirks…basically, i have used the same gear for the last 15 years or so. Some stuff, actually, abandoned children i guess. But if you know how to utilize them….a lot of stuff that records- basically everything that records. Everything is put together on the ASR10 sampler. It took me a long time to master that one. I still use MIDI, outboard keys, effects, and the same 1202. Basically, it is a lot of pre-production -finding/editing/making the sounds. When things get strung out, you go back to the basics and build up again. But for a time, your process gets down and you’re at the factory. Whatever goes down, if you weren’t all there that night, you can always resample and rework it into something else…so everything basically is a remix, as they say. You use limits to your advantage.

LA: I like your focus on physical items. Is there a reason you have been going back to mail order limited editions?

TV: For most of my time producing, i didn’t have a web presence, so the only way people heard what i was doing was if i gave them a CD, which usually were burnt in real time and had different tracks on them. I like putting things together, painting/assembling stuff.. it’s a way to sort of capitalize on the roughness of handmade releases as opposed to pre-packaged. It seems to work design-wise, since the art is abstract and usually there is left-field sense to the music ..the latest is cut-up art, which i put together for performance swag. The runs are only as large as the material available. In this case, i had some large paintings done on corrugated plastic cigarette and soda signs lifted from a carry-out. These work well since they are water-resistant and basically indestructible. The large paintings came out too busy, but cut into smaller CD-sized they worked. So if i can attach a CD to it somehow and paint it…I much rather prefer individual pieces, so even if they don’t care too much for the music at least they have something interesting to put with all their other collections! So every one has a character of it’s own- it has a sense of honesty, maybe: so the image fits with the process and attitude. Things are so transient now and the production is constant, so an item is sort of a snapshot in time.

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LA: A lot of your thought pieces on your 5AM Conductions blog find you analyzing the musical and societal systems that you are trying to inhabit/navigate as one person. I myself, also find myself continually trying to navigate these systems as a writer. What difficulties do you see artists having in our age of post-industrial media saturation?

TV: It’s pretty scary you subjected yourself to that…mostly, it’s the demands or duality (again) of the individual and the whole. I am not trying to critique as much as work things out- where do i put up limits? Where should i be more flexible? I started out writing poetry, so things are in that context- where i am trying to resolve a conflict, or just see things as they are. It’s more of “this is my thought process”. Usually things work out and i realize where the errors in perception are and if i am just owning more than i should. As in my reply, you get older and more discerning. You realize every scream and holler isn’t for you. I can’t even watch the news anymore- everything has become entertainment. It seems the average person would rather die of anything than boredom. Whatever happened to that television commercial volume legislation? So, we’re forced on the internet- not only that, but to be hooked into it all the time. People don’t want to know what color underpants i am wearing, or if i am at the coffee shop…because everyone already knows i don’t wear underpants and home-brew anyway. They Googled it. I hope people really don’t do background checks as much as i hear, because people with shady histories are a lot more fun, anyway. So i’ll just let it all hang out on the interwebs, kind of play with it, like everyone else sometimes. I suppose it’s like that prophecy: “Shouted from the rooftops.” Everyone is going to know everything about everyone and when it’s all finished, wished they hadn’t. In short: Me? crazy- yes, dangerous? You got to be kidding. And we have already bought everything, sometimes, the same things over and over again- i am personally really perturbed about all the car commercials you see- like we need 9 billion cars on the planet, all humming 24 hours a day. So, don’t get me too far off an a tangent; it’s a program, like it always was, but now it’s like everyone buying a bottle for the village drunk and not expecting him to misbehave.

LA: When listening to your catalogue and reading your discussions of your work, I keep thinking about ideas of freedom and power. Do you think music and art has a freeing capacity or the ability to empower individuals and groups of people?

TV: Oh, certainly- without getting political, although politics is everywhere, i am most interested in the individual’s personal freedom- not just in the context of their society, but the inner psychic life-breaking down barriers in themselves first before “wanting to change the world”. One person changes, the whole world can change. It may sound idealistic, but i am convinced of the inter-connectivity..much of the world’s problems, individual’s problems, after all, can be distilled down and attributed to lack of love. Now, me, i am not some old hippie, but i do have a strong sense of self-preservation. Primary mission: survival. Not just the basic needs being or not being met, but the way it is set up that an organism has to evolve or die. This does not mean just physical death, but powerlessness. To evolve, to an extent, one has to face adversity. So we do not demonize adversity, necessarily- but we do see that when people fear change, when they cut themselves off from opportunity and each other, decay ensues. So, in my past of being quite isolated, i realize the fact that man is a social creature- even that one’s personality may not be self-created, but a product of experience and those he/she experienced. This opens up a new way of seeing things, that, especially in the West, individualism has sort of run amuck, that instincts have become distorted and things are swinging back to more social-centered programs. Like the self-centered program insisted in a way that if we build a modern and successful society, the individual would prosper; now, it seems, for me the focus on individual progress can also build a society from the bottom-up. And we see this with break downs in institutions and paradigm shifts from sex to drug use and so on. If the United States, as a prototype for the rest of the world, was founded on the philosophy of self-governing- that change cannot be legislated from the top down, then individuals need to develop themselves; which is only personal responsibility. But individuals cannot develop themselves when their basic needs are not being met. We cannot say “it is progress” if we have 30 different brands of soda to choose from, but not altogether sure what’s in the water. I do not call myself an “environmentalist”, because that suggests i am separate from my environment. I just love Nature. It is simply self-preservation.

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