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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
Lucky me, I look in my inbox and I see Single Action is feeling quite generous and has shared another of his wonderful, thoughtful mixes. Now this guy doesn’t get a lot of attention around town (Save for Hawstyle who runs the Bus Bass Show on WCRS), which really sucks because he has a lot of talent. I really like his his mix work, which is chock full of his own productions. As I said in my first write up on him around a year ago:
“He weaves a careful web of drum n bass, jungle, and ambient influences into a careful sound tapestry that explores many emotions and themes. He takes you to the highest of highs taking you floating above the clouds and pummels you with barrages of bass that take you crashing back to earth. This is quite the feat with the genres he is playing with, because it is easy to just say I am going to come after you 100% without stopping. I love a good throw down, but I really appreciate the nuance that Single Action’s quiet moments bring in a mix. The result is a beautiful juxtaposition of styles and sounds that really work well together in my opinion and keep you guessing where the mix will go next.”
Above the crafting of the music and mixes, I like to listen to his work, because he makes me think. Its not all just pop and drop. Its expansive enough to open up head space to think about the nature of the world we live in, but intricate enough to just lose yourself in the sound. It grips your attention and demonstrates he has been digging around for his own distinctive sound for some time. I appreciate this in an age where many people will not look to the back stories of the recently created genre. Consequently, when I hear someone going off in their own direction I just breath a sigh of relief. Anyways. I reposted up his first mix and the new one (Mix 2) on my soundcloud for you all to listen to. Make sure to check out my interview with him from last July HERE to hear him speak about his work more in depth. Embeds are available below: Enjoy.
I could not be more excited to share this interview with the two musicians, Mollie Wells and Casey Immel-Brown, that form the Columbus, OH based electronic music outfit FUNERALS. It comes on the heels of these two musicians continuing their consistent production and mix work in town and around the United States. In the past few years, they have garnered a great deal of respect around the country and world for their ability to breath life into the areas in-between genre formulas. I know I enjoy their production and mix work for its ability to put together diverse strands of music thought into a new concoction. When I started my project a year ago, I held it as one of my goals to have a conversation with them to share it with you all. I couldn’t imagine that I would be in a position to share an interview with you all and have them playing the BLUR benefit show this weekend at 400 W Rich with all proceeds from the door going to the Columbus, Oh based experimental art/music non-profit The Fuse Factory (More Info on logistics and artist line up HERE). Call me sentimental, but my dreams with the Local Autonomy project are centered around sharing ideas, music, and a space we all can call our own. I feel this interview definitely contributes to these goals and our common dialogue by delving into issues of social justice, social media, and their creative process. Specifically, I think its so important to think about what Mollie and Casey had to say about the role our community can play in pushing a more equitable space for all genders, races, sexualities, religions, ages to find common ground. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I enjoyed the conversation I had with them.
LA: What role did music play in each of your lives growing up? How did each of you become musicians?
MOLLIE: Music has always been a huge part of my life. I started singing at a really early age, used to put on these performances for my mom where I’d dance and sing along to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I can remember making these tapes in early grade school, with one of those Playskool tape recorders, do you remember those? I’d make up songs, or sing parts of Disney songs I liked, and beat the ground with a baton for percussion. My biggest dream back then was to play Ariel in a stage adaptation of The Little Mermaid. Actually, I’m not totally positive that’s not still my dream…I often spend hours at a stretch squealing “Part of Your World” at our cat. No shame.
Anyway, I did all the usual music stuff in school: Choir, band, jazz band, some silly musical theatre. At some point around 7th grade, when I started getting into punk and grunge, whatever the hell was happening then, I had this sudden realization that I could actually be in a band. So I started forming them, one little thing after another, until finally they became increasingly more…real, I guess? I moved to New York for a bit, spent most of my early 20s touring, then shifted into writing about music and teaching myself electronic stuff. So it’s been a pretty constant and well-defined path for me.
CASEY: It was one of those things that was always around when I was growing up. My parents never had like a crazy encyclopedic music collection or anything. They had really specific, strong, but varied musical tastes. So I was exposed to a lot of music growing up, but not a ton of the really, really classic things that a lot of people of our generation would’ve had their parents listen to. When I was really young my parents got into Windam Hill records stuff, so I had a lot of exposure to early New Age. Kind of the pre-Yanni era, when it was all acoustic guitar and piano, with occasional chamber groups. I’ve never really thought about it, but I’m sure some of the minimalism of that stuck with me. Other than that they listened to a lot of somewhat obscure folk and classical stuff, with kind of a weird smattering of contemporary stuff that they latched onto for whatever reason. Particularly Dire Straits and Tears for Fears, which I can’t really blame them for I suppose… There were also always instruments around, and I was always messing around with them. Eventually I started trying to learn my mom’s guitar, and I became obsessed enough with it that they bought me a cheap Aria Pro-II strat copy. From then on I was just always working on playing and writing music. From the age of like 11 or 12 it was just the only thing I ever wanted to do. Oddly enough, both Mollie and I played French Horn in school. We probably both had the inclination to choose the most unusual instrument that was available to us in that context. Though I don’t think I ever did as much with it as I wish I did, simply because those things are annoying as hell to walk home with.
LA: What music scenes did each of you grow up in? How did these scenes influence how you look at music communities and the art of making music?
MOLLIE: For me, the scenes I grew up in are divided into distinct phases. There was the early-mid high school phase where I was sort of constructing a reality; I grew up in a miniscule town, so there wasn’t much in the way of underground culture. I was a weird kid, chronically haunted by what I know now is OCD and anxiety, but back then, I just thought I was a misfit. I didn’t relate to the normal kids, I guess, so I ended up hanging out with the only punks that existed there, who were really just goths, and really just mall-goths. So anything I knew about underground culture, I knew only from those kids, whatever magazines I could get my hands on and 120 Minutes. I saw 1991: The Year Punk Broke when I was 14, and I wanted desperately to live in that world, so I spent a lot of time listening to Sonic Youth, Hole, Babes in Toyland, then stuff like Portishead and Elastica and Cibo Matto later. It was just what managed to trickle into my limited purview at the time.
But around 17 or 18, once I left that town, moved to New York then back to Columbus, I was exposed to the reality of all that. I dated this guy who went to Bard College, and he got me into riot grrrl, which filtered into hardcore and eventually the sort of early 2000s synth-punk/post-hardcore stuff. That’s where I feel like I really grew up, because that’s where I learned to be not only a musician but a thoughtful, politically minded, community-oriented person. It was from those scenes that I started touring and really making music on a larger public scale, and those years definitely set the stage for who I am now. And I think that, combined with the experience of being a kid cobbling together pieces of culture in a small town, has really influenced my perspective more than anything. On one hand, I still combine my personal affinities in ways that make sense to me, regardless of what makes sense to anyone else. It’s that small-town individualism. But on the other, I put a huge impetus on community and collaboration, because none of what we do — or what I’ve ever done — would be possible without it. None of us creates in a vacuum, and it’s just folly to play that game of keeping up with the Joneses. If we can’t honestly support our friends — and I mean, doing so with no benefit to us, completely selflessly — then I just feel like we’re all sort of working in vain. It becomes egoism, navel-gazing. It happens a lot right now. And it misses the point entirely.
CASEY: I grew up pretty solidly in the mid to late 90s hardcore scene in Columbus. At the time Columbus was actually one of the more major centers for DIY punk and hardcore, and was hugely involved in the merging of music and political activism. It probably can’t be overstated how much that framed how I look at things now, though I think lots of the lessons have really only started to become clear to me in retrospect as I’ve come into contact with people who didn’t grow up in an environment where everything was viewed as so naturally accessible. I don’t think it ever really occurred to me to view making music, putting out records, or putting on shows as something that was somehow done by a group of people separate from those who listen to the music, buy the records or go to the shows. It’s always seemed very clear to me that whatever it is you’re into, the people who are doing it can’t really be that much smarter or better than you are. And they certainly started out no less clueless than you might be. There was always just a very direct line for me from consuming art to making it, and I’m sure that came out of being so close to so many people who were not only doing both, but showing other people what they were doing. As much as we talk about the oversaturation of music now, like the idea that anyone can watch an Ableton tutorial and call themselves a producer, and as much as that’s true for sure, I still find myself shocked by just how many people really think of music as a hierarchical thing. So many people still have this weird view that there’s some singular “music business” to be broken into, and that there’s thing huge world that musicians, show promoters and labels are a part of that’s somehow separate and above them. And at the same time there’s this weird view that goes with that on the other side that if they just break into it, they’re instantly going to be making a great living off of the tracks they sell. I guess I was fortunate enough to have had that narrative completely dissected before I was old enough for it to have really sunk in with me on any level. Also, when it comes to politics and general social outlook, it was just always so natural for it to go hand in hand with music for me that I don’t think it ever occurred to me for it to be any other way. It always just made sense that you’d gravitate towards art and communities with shared values, and that if people are making art about the things that matter to them, then you’re going to be attracted to art produced by the people who care about the same things as you. There really is this huge divide for a lot of people when it comes to politics and music that never made sense to me at all. It’s something that affects your life just the same as romance or sex or aging or mental illness affects your life. Why in the world would one thing that you’re affected by and care about be somehow off the table for art? And obviously when you have a community of people who care about things, they’re going to what to act on the things they care about. But that attitude definitely came out of coming up in a time and place where there were as many ‘zines about politics as about music, and as many shows were benefits for some cause as weren’t.
LA: Why do you think it is important to build a music community where you are able to trust the person next to you at a show?
MOLLIE: Well, it’s kinda what I was saying earlier: None of us could do anything without a group of people getting our backs. I think the trouble you get into now is that as local scenes are broken down in favor of the internet and that sort of externally focused, constant self-branding and -curating, you don’t always know the specific politics or personal values of any person interacting with you. With both Casey and I being so political and coming from riot grrrl and hardcore, that can be sort of tough to reconcile. Not to get all Baudrillard or Unabomber on you, but technology and social media have essentially turned us all into constructs. I don’t know what you believe. I don’t your values. I only know what you’ve chosen to select as your particular brand. And in some cases, that’s totally fine. I mean, education and understanding starts with allowing multiple voices to speak their own truths. But when those truths stop being truths and start being branding messages, that’s when it gets tricky. That’s when it’s complicated knowing whether to trust someone. And I think that trust is really important; if you spent your high school years calling girls like me a slut and guys like Casey a faggot, and identify with electronic music now because it’s an extension of that bro-culture — even if we like the same producers, man, I’m sorry, I just can’t relate to you. Your shit has nothing to do with me. And I’m not so egotistical and ambitious that I’ll play a party founded on a basis of, like, rape jokes and cultural homogeny just because I want someone to see my name or respect me as a DJ. I just can’t get down with it.
LA: It seems to me that some groups of people are able to trust each other in our scene, but people in marginalized positions are left out. Do you think minority groups inadvertently become collateral damage in how we organize and promote shows in Columbus?
CASEY: I’m not sure how much as a straight, white dude I want to speak for any of those groups, cause obviously, that’s just as problematic some ways. Or at least, I don’t want to address this in such a way that it seems like I’m trying to speak for anyone who’s experience I haven’t had directly. But there are definitely areas where things can seem a bit alienating. I don’t wanna say it’s down to how some giant collective “we” organize across the board, because I feel like there are people out there, Scotty Niemet for instance, who are super conscious about access and inclusiveness. In general of course, that’s less of the rule than the exception. I still see tons of events promoted from this ridiculous kinda bro-centric standpoint, from ridiculous bikini girl flyers, to event descriptions that are directly addressing only straight dudes, or even big room events that push very specific themes of class and economic status. In some ways you can look at it as a function of not so much marketing towards specific demographics but as a part of the fantasy that someone is intending to create with an event. I’m not saying I have any problem at all with elements of fantasy or escapism either in event promotion, or in the actual events themselves. Not only is that something we personally use quite freely, but I think it’s an integral part of dance music creation and of the events themselves. And that includes the creation of an atmosphere that can be strongly sexual at times. However, I think it gets difficult when the world one is trying to create gets either exclusionary or downright threatening to substantial portions of your potential audience. This can get hard to discuss without an endless litany of caveats, but at the end of the day, it shouldn’t even come down to having to go out of your way to being open and inclusive, it should just be a matter of being responsive to the perspectives and reactions you’re garnering. In other words, you can have an event where the promotion, or even the atmosphere is in some ways straight up sexual, but if you’re doing it in such a way that there are people who are generally open and comfortable with sexuality who find what you’re doing threatening or uncomfortable, then you either have to start questioning your own concepts of what “sexual” mean, or you gotta start looking at your own ability to execute your vision successfully. Likewise, if the only way you can think to create a “professional” or “exotic” atmosphere is to put up a bunch of Louis Vuitton monographs, then you gotta either look at how you view fashion in relation to economic class, or you need to realize that you have fucking terrible, boring taste in fashion and don’t understand that there does in fact exist things that are stylish that aren’t also symbols of crass consumerism and status symbols for the ostentatiously wealthy. You can say the same for a myriad of other things, not just related to gender, sexuality or class, but racism, xenophobia, imperialism, etc… Humans have a pretty unlimited capacity when it comes to being dickheads.
Let’s look at all of that far more directly. First off, the electronic and dance music scenes in Columbus have been relatively small for a while. If you’re into that stuff, chances are you’re actively looking for events to go to, and get pretty excited when you see something that is at all related to that universe. Anyone promoting events is fundamentally doing it to a crowd that’s overwhelmingly friendly, open and eager to give the benefit of the doubt (well unless you’re talking about cover charges, but that’s a whole other enormous issue, and I’m on the side of most promoters with that one). No one is demanding that you meet a set of criteria written out by Andrea Dworkin working on the most pedantic day of her life. We want to find places where we can go and have a really good time without worrying about the shit we carry around the rest of our lives, and we’re really, really ready to assume that’s what your intentions are to create. Secondly, threat, discomfort and the general sense of being grossed the fuck out by something all come from prior experience. It’s a pretty Pavlovian set of reactions. And if you were to plot it out on a graph, you’d find that it’s directly proportional to, on one axis, intensity of the previous experience, and on the other axis, strength of association with things previously seen or lived. Humans are pretty simple that way. So it’s actually a pretty fucking specific kind of test you have to be failing to be alienating or offending anyone, or otherwise getting a strong negative reaction from multiple people in the way you promote or create events. First of all, you’ve got to be putting off something related to people’s prior experience. I mean, right there, you’re doing it fucking all wrong already. You’re already using some pretty trite, completely boring, uncreative reference points to begin with. Then, if those reference points people have seen a thousand times before are eliciting a strong negative response from multiple people, not only is it something that people have had less than positive experiences with, but they’re something that some people have had a really, really unpleasant history with. And in that case, then anyone who is reacting positively to it, is either completely oblivious to the lives of other people, or actively gets enjoyment from shit that makes other people suffer. In either case, the only people you’re pleasing are assholes. Not only do you have to be particularly uncreative, but you also have to not have the good sense to realize not to attempt to compensate for your lack of inventiveness by choosing super charged imagery. In any event I have zero sympathy for your boring, offensive ass.
LA: How do you think we can foster trust between all races, genders, sexualities, classes, and other divisions at shows and in our scene?
CASEY: Again, like I said, 99% of the time it’s not really that hard. People want to have a positive experience. Listen, we’ve all been dumbasses. Especially someone like me, who grew up a straight white male, in a seriously misogynistic, homophobic religious environment. Even meaning well, I had (and certainly still have) some pretty internalized fucked up viewpoints and reactions to things. Privilege and isolation make you pretty oblivious to other’s experiences… And to be totally fair, it’s hard to completely fault someone for being less immediately aware of suffering that doesn’t directly affect them then someone else who has to live that every day. And to some extent, in this society there are few, if any, of us who can really say that we’re not owners of some sort of privilege, even if we can consider ourselves oppressed on another level. In other words, our personal experiences and observations all contain some knowledge that a lot of other people may not have, and we are all ignorant to the experiences of others. With that in mind, so much comes down to basic interpersonal dialogue, and willingness on every side to make that dialogue happen. Most people who have gotten over biases, internalized prejudices, etc… have done so largely by being in situations where they said or did something problematic and had someone close to them there to say “yeah, that’s not ok, and here’s why”. For that to work though both sides have to be willing to not only have that conversation, but to have it on even terms. I think one of the other lessons I learned from growing up in hardcore was that a serious backlash against “PC” or whatever (though I hate that term so much), only really happened when things became about public “call outs” and using ideals for interpersonal and scene power plays, instead of as a means of further fostering learning and comfort for everyone. Being willing to listen with respect requires a loss of personal ego, and so does being willing to educate with respect. I think there is a difference now in that ego is almost taken for granted, and people aren’t as willing to admit ignorance to ANYTHING when they can jump online and feel like experts by reading the first sentence of each paragraph of a Wikipedia article, but I do also feel like once your ego gets you in trouble a couple of times you learn pretty quickly to actually listen. It’s like any other activism, you can try to win people over issue by issue as much as you want, but once you really start focusing on getting people to see each other as valid individuals, then the other stuff falls together way more easily.
NVR MND FUN FUN FUN Mix
Over the summer we did a t-shirt collab with NVR MND, and to go along with it we did a mix of techno, house and dance tracks from 1989-1994. Lots of classic tracks that anymore I tend to listen to here and there, but rarely all together in one group. But pulling all these tracks at once, I was reminded of just how focused on politics and social issues the early rave scene really was. The past two or three years there’s been a revival of lots of the aesthetics of that era, and along with baggy tie-dye and yin-yangs, you’ve suddenly started seeing people talk about “PLUR-vibes” all over the place, but so far only as a callback to that era. It is important to remember that so much of what we do really was based on that notion of “peace, love, unity and respect”, and that if we want these parties and events to be really free and without all sorts of constraints, you really have to start with that attitude of mutual respect for everyone around you. It’s actually a very natural place for dance music to be. I mean, the music itself is a combination of so many diverse elements and cultural reference points, and the paths that find people getting into the culture of dance music are so insanely varied, that it’s only natural that once we start paying attention to each other we can’t help but be confronted with experiences and ideas that are truly new to all of us. It’s just a matter of letting go of your ego enough to learn from it.
LA: Switching gears to explore your views on your art, what is your definition of success for your music? Put another way, what do each of you hope to achieve with your art?
CASEY: For me it’s really nothing more complicated than just making something I actually like. Something I’d want to listen to. At any given moment there might be a detailed answer, but ultimately that’s what it comes down to, and it’s honestly a tall enough order to keep me working hard pretty constantly. When it comes to individual things there might be some more explicit goal, but there’s not one giant sweeping agenda, or even career path that I ever have in mind for anything. I think that music is too all encompassing for something like that. It’s just a matter of at any given moment taking whatever I’m inspired by, interested in or feeling strongly about otherwise and responding to that in a way that produces something I like. For better or worse, I’m not one of those people who babies their work once they’re done with it. I never really feel that, no matter how much I might like something I do, I have to accomplish XYZ with it, and it has to be then put in glass to be gazed upon for all time. Sure I want people to hear our stuff, and I’d love to be at the point where we’re doing enough with our work that I don’t have to have a day job to support making music, but beyond that, when something is done I’m almost always just interested in whatever I’m going to make next. So I guess that’s the best answer, success is whatever keeps me making things I like for as long as possible. In a weird way, now that there’s no longer a really solid model for revenue generation without music, it’s almost easier to keep that at front and center. We all know that in terms of business we have to make it up as we go anyway, and that actually gives you a freedom to focus on doing things in a way that keeps you inspired.
LA: This raises an interesting issue I have thought a lot about. Today, we have so many platforms for DIY music sharing and scene building. Yet, it seems harder to break through the white noise of hype and find a meaningful metric of success for music projects. Do you think we have lost anything in the social media revolution? Was easier to create and share music before?
MOLLIE: I think we’ve both lost and gained. I did an interview probably 10 years ago, and a similar question came up: How has the internet affected your ability to not only make music, but be a musician? And my answer then was only slightly different than it will be now: It’s been, and always will be, both blessing and curse.
On the one hand, music sharing and scene building are soulmates with current technology. From the early 2000s to now, some of the most valuable connections I’ve made have been internet-based. We’re able to create almost labyrinthine communities of people all over the world, and stay in constant contact with them. We can stream live shows from our bedroom. We can make a song and get it to you 20 minutes. We can interact and react, real time, every day. Our closest friends can dot the continents, but we’re as close as if they were right here. The discovery is endless, and that idea is incredibly exciting.
The trouble, of course, is that it’s too much. Being able to interact and disseminate content on a minute-to-minute basis isn’t necessarily good for art. Since everyone else is creating new stuff on the constant — and, consequently, choking up social media to the point that we don’t notice anything — there’s this social pressure to always have fresh material, always have something share, always be on the cusp of whatever is happening. And in order to make solid, inspired music, you need time to think. You need time to try things. You need time to be. The constant Herculean force of social media doesn’t allow for that, if you get yourself too deep into it, because the minute you stop publicly moving forward, the minute people forget. Thank Facebook algorithms for that.
The other issue goes back to my whole thing with external perception and branding. For one, when you’re constantly sharing new content, you’re constantly getting feedback. Sometimes that’s great; it can help you define what you’re trying to do or hear things through another set of ears. But think of it in terms of, like, a Creative Writing MFA. One of the greatest complaints about those programs is that the workshops, however valuable, cajole the art out of artists and streamline unique voices into one big mass of same-sounding literary fiction. This happens with music too. It’s not malicious, it just…happens. What gets chosen by any tastemaker is almost always what feels familiar to them, or in the case of music blogs, what’ll boost page views. Publications have always been that way, but now those judgments are instant. You’re judged before you’ve even had a chance to judge yourself. So when you’re sharing new things and getting into this endless feedback loop, you stop hearing your songs through your ears — you hear them through everyone else’s, simply because it’s seems like the only way to get enough people to notice that it cuts through the white noise. The medium becomes the message. And that’s no way to make song. It’s miserable. It’s impossible.
And similarly, because of this, we’re all marketing experts now. Various sharing platforms and social media sites have allowed us access to metrics so we can deepen that expertise. So we’re not just judging that work based on literal feedback we’re getting — we’re judging it based on a set of metrics that, to be honest, any legit marketing professional will tell you are complete folly when it comes to art. You stop creating based on what you like and focus on how many Soundcloud plays a certain type of track gets, what your CTR is for an ad on Facebook, how many likes a particular post generates, how much engagement you can force through Twitter. While that can all be helpful for people eventually, it’s simply not helpful when you’re trying to figure yourself out as an artist. It’s not reality. It does not, in almost every case, accurately display public engagement or future sales. There’s just too many variables at play, not least of which is how people are getting your music in the first place. 5,000 Soundcloud plays doesn’t translate to true real-world interest always; it translates to your efficacy with that particular platform. And I don’t know what the solution to any of this is…only that it keeps too many solid artists concerned with arbitrary metrics that somehow convince them that they’re not good enough…or worse, that they can tour on those 5,000 Soundcloud plays and see a similar real-world response. It just doesn’t always translate that way. But then we get into a question of, what is the current reality: real world or internet metrics? How do we define success: money or plays? What does anything mean? And I can’t even begin to answer that.
There’s also something to be said for the self-serving nature of all of this. How many people comment on someone’s Soundcloud track not because they legitimately like it, but because they want other people to notice their page? How many artists share another artist’s track in hopes the original artist will notice them? Certainly we’ve all done those things. Certainly we’re all strategic and savvy in that way. Hopefully, more often than not it comes from a genuine place and can forge genuine connections. But…how can we be sure? Social media ultimately serves no one but ourselves. I can’t remember who said it, but I read some pithy little observation that the most interesting word to every human is ‘I’. If you break it down, get real honest about it — in terms of yourself, too, because none of us escape this tendency, not really — then it leads to a lot of skepticism with social media. Why are you throwing shit into the Twitter ether, if not to have the mirror shone back at you, if not to be validated by other people’s interest in you? I’m no better. We all do it. I’m just trying to be real fucking honest about it and wish more people would.
I’m getting particularly verbose with this question, but I can tell you this: I liked it better when I had only Myspace plays and show attendance to guide me. I liked it better when the numbers were secondary to the artists, at least at first. You didn’t worry as much, and people were generally more willing to take a chance on new bands because they weren’t deterred by their only having, like, 250 Facebook likes. You just made your stuff and hoped for the best. You interacted with people with slightly less self-consciousness. Or maybe that was just me. I don’t know. But if you don’t think Baudrillard, Foucault and McLuhan had it right all along…well, I’d like to live in your world for awhile, because I can’t stop thinking this is all about to explode into some epic demise wherein art and inspiration is so devalued, the best of us just give up trying.
LA: Your most recent Hypermotion EP is the first extended release that showcases the most recent articulation of the FUNERALS sound. How did you get to this point creatively with the FUNERALS sound?
Casey: Really just letting go. We’ve been at this long enough on various levels that when we sit down with a project it’s really automatic to go at it from the standpoint that we’re doing this as part of a predefined concept. When you’re just starting making music, it’s really easy to let it happen and have whatever you’re putting out be your sound, I think because you look at your abilities and goals in a much more narrow sort of way. When you learn what you’re doing more and more, and start to see music as the thing you’re going to be doing, it’s easy to get into a thing where ironically the expansion of possibilities puts limits on each new project or work you attempt. It becomes a thing where “this is my dark electronic project.” Or “this is my deep house project” or “my gamelan inspired minimal project”. I mean, it’s really, really easy to think in those terms, and to then be working from the idea that every track has to sound a certain way to fit in with what you’re attempting, and everything else is just for some future project or release. Those limitations can definitely be healthy and helpful at times, but it’s very easy to get so focused on them that you’re not really just getting excited by sound and reacting. The biggest change with this last release, and with a lot of the remixes and mixes we’ve been doing lately, is that we’ve really taken a step back and said “fuck it, let’s just have fun”. We don’t want to be all over the place in terms of sound, but we’re just letting the cohesion come out a lot more instinctively from the natural tendencies we have as musicians, and from what is musically and creatively exciting us at the moment. Some of that definitely comes from a certain level of confidence in the production as well. It’s easy with electronic music to get very intimidated by the pressures of producing something that’s really accomplished technically speaking, and again, that I think can make you afraid to fully let go and just let things happen as they want to. I think there have been times in the past where you could hear the struggle coming through in tracks. Maybe other people couldn’t hear it, but I know we certainly could anyway, and I think that we’re at a point right now where the fluidity that comes from really enjoying what you’re doing is back in the sound, and I think it’s shaped where we are more than any other element.
LA: You often discuss how your recordings and live sets are able to provide an escape for listeners to another place. Where do you think your most recent sound takes listeners?
CASEY: Our standard joke answer is usually “to the place where all their drugs have just started to kick in”. That said, I think it’s actually hard to describe a singular place. We prefer the vague notion of “somewhere else”. I mean, if we’re trying to make a track with 4am in Beirut in mind, that really does nothing for someone that actually IS at a club in Beirut at 4am. Not to mention, when you try and get too detailed with evoking a singular place, the only place that usually gets evoked is the Starbucks in your local Barnes & Noble. Besides, we tend to use tons of reference points all over the place, almost as shortcuts to certain atmospheres and feelings. That said, I think we were thinking a lot about an almost cartoon version of 90s house and techno with a lot of Hypermotion. But that almost worked more like a more literal version of Eno’s Oblique Strategies. Kind of an arbitrary point for starting off or switching gears. Like, there’s a spot on the record where we go from beats built around samples from Polynesian drums into a sudden amen break, and it’s such a 90s thing to do, but the effect I think is way fuzzier than that. You get a hint of it, but it’s vague enough for someone to put onto it whatever they want it to be at that moment. There’s a lot of sonic density in parts of Hypermotion that really has to do with wanting to blur atmospheres together without making anything so totally overt. In it’s way that’s one of the really, really nice things about working for the dancefloor, because those atmosphere’s and environments get superimposed on so many arbitrary contexts, and do so in such real time that it’s really about taking wherever you are, and just twisting it into something else. Making a warehouse feel a bit greyer and smokier. Making you a little less aware of what time it is or the fact that you’re going to have to go home eventually. Differences in rooms alone make certain things pop and mute other elements. Add in specifics of place, and potentially altered states of consciousness, and the result is maybe more of a momentary Rorschach Test than anything else. For me personally, it’s also a little hard to answer that question once something is finished, because I’m so instantly on to whatever we’re working on next, so things become really colored in my mind by how my perspective has shifted. I feel like we’ve thought a lot more about warehouse reverb and tribal beats lately, but that’s not really as prominent in where we were a few months ago as I might think now, so I don’t know.
LA: Mollie, how has the Hemingway Quote, “All you have to do is write one true sentence” influenced your creation of music?
MOLLIE: Oh man. I love this. Can you call this piece The Local Autonomy Interview Wherein Mollie Wells Gets To Be A Pedantic Intellectual? Please? Ha!
I feel like I need to preface this by saying I’m not a Hemingway devotee. There’s a connotation to that cliche that just doesn’t jibe with my worldview, but I recently read the original A Moveable Feast (before the newer, more fiercely edited version) and was really struck by this idea. That all art starts with one true thing. Truth, for me, in this context, is work that isn’t externally focused or compromised. Something in which you don’t notice the presence of the artist; you’re not paying to the man behind the curtain. You’re experiencing the thing for the thing, completely unaware of how the thing came to be.
The idea, basically, is this: If art both forces you into and takes you out of yourself, you (as the consumer, not the artist) need to be the only person present in the exchange for that moment. Do you know what I mean? The reason I hate Philip Roth is that he Philip Roths all over everything. I’m always aware that I’m reading him; he never steps away long enough for me to relate to what he’s trying to say. Musically, I feel the same way about commercial American dubstep. So many of those producers are too self-obsessed to do anything but throw a dozen signature markers on one track, so all I hear is the effort they made, not the song itself.
Anyway, it’s a weird impetus to put on dance music, but I think it’s valid. When you think of your favorite producer, of the first experience you had with them, it’s never that you thought “God, I love how much I can tell this is Dubbel Dutch!” Maybe later you think that, on your fourth or fifth listen, you start catching those cues and hearing how the song works on a technical level. But your first reaction to your favorite song is always visceral. You react to the inherent something about it, whatever that something is. It’s like the artist said “Here, you listen to this, I’m gonna grab a drink, I’ll come back when you’re through and we’ll chat.” You know? I mention Dubbel Dutch specifically, because I had that experience with “Throwback”. It’s a very Dubbel Dutch track, I mean the thing sounds so much like him, but when I first heard it, all I could think about was how I wanted to hear it again. It made me purely, unequivocally happy, and in that moment, I didn’t give a fuck who wrote it or how it worked. I just wanted to hear it one more.
And all of that, I think, starts with one true thing. It’s making a beat or melody or sound or whatever that feels so utterly right by no one’s standards but your own. It’s creating something that forges an emotional connection but does do by earning it, not by tugging at sentimentality or some preconceived emotional idea. I try really hard to erase the effort from everything I create. I’m not always successful. In fact, to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve successfully started with the one true “sentence” — or if I have, I’ve fucked up the authenticity by the time the song is done. But if I wake up every morning with that goal, to just get one true whatever out of my head, then I’ve at least succeeded in that moment. The next goal becomes keeping it true. I’ll let you know when I get there.
(For the record, I now have Amerie’s “One Thing” in my head, and the sudden urge to watch that shitty Meryl Streep movie.)
LA: Casey, are there any artists or ideas that have shaped your views on the creation of music? Who or what are they and what affect do they have?
CASEY: I’ll try to answer this really, really quickly without thinking too much, because anytime you start thinking in terms of influences, it’s gonna open the floodgates. Going with whatever pops into my head first is probably gonna be most accurate anyway. My whole life I’ve loved Erik Satie, and a lot of the themes of both his work, and how he actually worked, seem to carry through to everything else I like. Like pretty much everyone else on earth, I gravitate towards his early piano stuff. Aside from how obviously atmospheric his work was, there’s something that’s always gotten me about how he combines simple repetition with these elongated melodic lines that manage create this incredible movement without you being able to pin down what exactly it is that’s causing things to shift. It’s only when you really sit down and try to play it that you realize how much every single note is actually doing, and how much you can accomplish simply by occasionally having a note or chord be just a tiny bit off. Joy Division were another huge, huge one for me when I was younger for a lot of the same reasons. The first time I heard Unknown Pleasures when I was 13 they became my favorite band instantly. A few months later I heard Closer for the first time, and whereas Unknown Pleasures had appealed to me because it sounded like a lot of what was already in my head, Closer really shocked me. I remember thinking at the time that it sounded like someone wrote these fully formed songs based around standard chord progressions and bass parts, added a bunch of accents and fills and things, and then removed the original chord progression and bass line, and just left you with all those extra bits standing on their own. Just accents and atmosphere with no skeleton to support them. That’s actually a huge thing that’s really had a massive effect on the way I’ve viewed making music ever since. I just really love that concept of taking out the backbone of a song, and letting everything just hang on the remaining scraps.
If you need more FUNERALS you can hook up with them on these fine social media outlets:
I have enjoyed Burgle’s music for some time. He was one of the first people to open me up to other variants of bass music during his high-energy live shows. I have also been quick to keep up with his top-notch production work and the tracks from other artists he posts on facebook. I think he is a great taste-maker, so I wanted to give him 1 hour to showcase his skills at mix-making and track selection. The mission I gave him was make a mix of whatever you want. I don’t care how weird it gets. Just play the tracks you want to get out there. He surely didn’t disappoint. Enjoy everyone!
Kuedo – Work Live Sleep in Collapsing Space
Mele – Beamer
Mike G – Dessert First
Acre – I Don’t Waste Stepz
Elefo – All I Know (I Can’t Help It)
Tyler Kelly – OH SHIT
EAN – Aulderkincher
Burgle – Hoodrat
Cedaa Ft. Slick Shoota – Windbreaker
DJ Tylermania – Playing Xlyophone on a Dinosaur’s Ribcage
Faux No – Velma Kelly (Slick Shoota Remix)
Deft – The Count (Bounce)
H-Sik – Shortcut 2 SHTRAK
Booma – Turn The Corner
Skeugh – Unphazed Taze
Annunakii – Curiosity (Burgle Remix)
Wooferface – Stangarang
Burgle – Pregame
Benito – I’m Busy
Burgle – Burgled
Side9000 – Jungle
Leatherface – Don’t Be Mad at Me
Cedaa – Sapphire (Self Evident Remix)
DJ Rashad – Walk For Me
Distal – Boca Ratawn
Addison Groove Ft. Mark Pritchard – Dance Of The Women
Burgle – Raguke
ṪHE ƦξVЁR∑NƉ BLEEⱣ BLOO₱ – VWLLSS CRUNK – (Burgle Remix)
VWLLSS CRUNK – (Burgle Remix) (Forthcoming STYLLSS)
Also, make sure to check him out at Circus tonight with Solace, Tumms, & Bakerster for night one of a two night Move dance party hosted byNetworkEDM. More info on tonight’s Move dance party can be found HERE. Info on Saturday’s Move dance party can be found HERE.
SO I am back. Yes I know two times in one week. Its like the golden age of Local Autonomy all over again when I didn’t do anything but bother people to make mixes for me and write about the scene. Well, I guess that hasn’t changed much. I still bother people to answer questions and make music, but just less frequently so I don’t get kicked outta town. Today, I renew the Our Scene | Our CIty | Our Sound mix series after a brief hiatus with a mix from Central Ohio producer Single Action.
I am a big fan of Single Action’s productions and mix work because of the menacing and melodic character of the work. He weaves a careful web of drum n bass, jungle, and ambient influences into a careful sound tapestry that explores many emotions and themes. He takes you to the highest of highs taking you floating above the clouds and pummels you with barrages of bass that take you crashing back to earth. This is quite the feat with the genres he is playing with, because it is easy to just say I am going to come after you 100% without stopping. I love a good throw down, but I really appreciate the nuance that Single Action’s quiet moments bring in a mix. The result is a beautiful juxtaposition of styles and sounds that really work well together in my opinion and keep you guessing where the mix will go next.
To shed some more light on this mix and Single Action’s approach, I asked him a few questions about what being a musician is about to him, what emotions/ideas he was exploring, and why he likes to synthesize music and vocals in his mixes:
Local Autonomy: What does the act of creating music mean to you?
Single Action: Its art and expression. The beautiful thing about being an artist in any media is that sometimes your building on the emotions and sometimes you purge. With so many things pulling people apart these days, music is one of the things that proves we are together in this.
LA: What ideas/emotions/sounds were you exploring in this mix?
SA: This was an exploration of some of my most simplistic tracks and some of my more extreme tracks. I’m always exploring atmosphere and pads with hard hitting bass and grime. Love it. : ) I wanted to take people through the black hole. A lot of these tracks were darker and or more aggressive. Taping into the feeling of loneliness and the pains of being human. But these are the things that ultimately make us stronger. Sugar only taste better with salt. ; )
LA: From listening to a bit of your mix work, I have seen how important vocal samples are to your mix-making approach. What do you hope to achieve by synthesizing music and vocals?
SA: I want to be more poetic in my use of words. Not just telling people to get down and dance. I also love it when words are used as a sound in the beat like an atmospheric note. When using so much vocal inlay, you half to be careful not to smash words together. So at times it governs how and when you drop your track for the mix, but 9 of 10 times it works great. I didn’t want to just rinse out everything with the samples. I wanted to almost confuse and then bring the pain with certain tracks. Trying to give foreshadowing of the next track or remnants of the previous tune. Vocals are what give a little more meaning and are another part of what makes DJing fun to me.
I am back with an exclusive transmission from sKewn this week for the Our Scene | Our Sound | Our City Mix Series. You all know much about sKewn due to his interview with me a month or two ago.(READ THAT HERE). Yet, I don’t think you have heard this version of sKewn. He can throw down a hard mix like the best of them with smatterings of jungle, drum n’ bass, and other bass sounds, but have you been listening to his recent mix work? It certainly goes in a very patient, somber direction with some very beautiful moments and careful track selection that makes for wonderful listening. I could make this out to be some big shift that marks the dawning of a new epoch in his work, but that wouldn’t make any sense. sKewn has been listening to the wide gamut of tracks coming from all styles of music since he was young. It just so happens that now he wants to play it in his mix work more.
Isn’t that true for all of us? I mean its not like we were born and then our parents had us listening to Detroit techno, Chicago House, etc. No, we all had a distinct musical trajectory that brought us to this place we are at now. We all had to discover electronic music. On sKewn’s recent mixtape done for the Push Productions Just For Me Mix Project he adroitly fused techno and dub sounds to achieve a smooth, subtly mutating mix that slowly washes over you. (Download that Mix HERE). Like that mix, The sounds in the Transmission mix aren’t usually spun on dance floors, but nonetheless still hold much power to take you to a different place.
Yet, I cannot do justice to the sounds in this mix with words. To do so would only be to force my opinion on you, which I already do on a regular basis. I would rather you just take my word that this is a pretty amazing piece of mix work. I have listened to it over 25 times (not an exaggeration) since sKewn placed it in my possession. Why not just press play and listen with an open mind.
Before I get into what I took away from this amazing mix from Textbeak for the Our Scene | Our City | Our Sound Mix Series, I wanted to offer a few words on why it is important to look to foundational artists from the ele_mental crew and Body Release.
This post begins my in-depth exploration into the foundational members of Body Release. Looking to the members of this creative group of sound manipulators can teach us key lessons on how to push our scene to the next level, as these wide-listening artists absorbed the sonic landscape around them, chopped it, screwed it, and then spit it back out in an exciting new way. Such a creative act was not just important to Columbus, but the pushing of dance music throughout the Midwest. Thus, I feel it important to delve into their stories and listen to their mixes so that we can understand what drove them to create something new so that we too can continue to push ourselves to keep creating. I start with Textbeak, but will be providing interviews with Ed Luna, Todd Sines, Charles Noel (Archtyp), & Titonton Duvante over these next few months. But for today, lets start with Textbeak.
Textbeak was there at the beginning of everything and was a key early member of Body Release along with other musical artists Todd Sines, Charles Noel, Titonton Duvante, and Ed Luna on visuals. These guys all wanted to raise the level of dialogue in our city and advance artistic creativity as a key element to an enriching life. Though Textbeak left the group to continue exploring his darker, textured sound, it did not end his artistic journey. A quick look to his page on Discogs reveals that with his group Bath and as Textbeakhe continued work on exploring the sounds he felt expressed his artistic vision. I feel he has truly come to express this sound over the past few years in a very nuanced and beautiful manner.
One look to his performance at What Next Ohio reveals this very fact. Do you remember it? I have those 45 minutes indelibly imprinted upon my brain. I am hard pressed to try and forget such a performance.Memories of that show will randomly overtake me during my day. The haunting blue lights that Textbeak was bathed in will begin to reach through my brain illuminating the darkest corners of my subconscious. Then Textbeak’s trademark genre blurring sound begins to creep in and the mixture of slowly mutating textures with pumping, pounding bass is all I can hear. This same energy is found in his “Everything is Possible” mix and if we listen closely enough we can take away two key lessons from his contribution to the Our Scene |Our City |Our Sound Mix series. Namely, Textbeak’s trademark genre-bending style can show us how expansive listening and Recycling are important practices for any artist serious about find new ways to express their sonic vision or building a scene.
Lesson: Expansive Listening & Recycling
One look to the tracklisting of this mix is bound to get confused looks from some people, as the idea of dance or electronic music is supposed to touch on certain artists or genres of music. Yet, much of the foundational tracks that led Textbeak to become a electronic music artist fall outside the “established canon” that we think of today that constitutes the artist one should listen to. Sure, Textbeak was listening to early industrial music, but he was also deeply influenced by Joy Division, Cabaret Voltaire, and numerous others playing with blurring the boundaries between post punk and new wave music. I am sure we all have such stories, as most artists have listened widely before they came to start creating or listening to electronic music. I think this wide listening is so important for all of us to consider, as it is this listening that allows us to understand the act of artistic creation in a deeper fashion for the artist and the listener. For one, I think wide listening across the entire spectrum of music creation allows us to see, as Textbeak always says, the natural connections between seemingly different genres of music. No doubt, such a realization allows us to move passed dogmatic adherence to any one genre to understand the benefits of all forms of dance music.
One look to electronic and dance music history shows ample examples of artists that listened to music across the spectrum of jazz, blues, soul, funk, ambient and recycled elements they found meaningful into their own work to express the sounds they heard in their head. Textbeak’s mix thus represents a map of the tracks that proved influential to the development of his toolbox of sound that he goes back to when creating. We all possess this toolbox, but are we actively drawing on it or thinking about it when creating tracks, or are we trying to create tracks within the genres already established by other scenes and cities? Are we trying to push the envelope even if people don’t get it? As listeners, are we open to tracks or parties outside the mainstream of established genres/party types of our time period, or do we disregard the different as weird or bad?
I think these questions are important because they get at key underlying values to why its important to build a scene, create music, or write. Are we doing this for the money? Are we doing this for recognition? Are we doing this for the parties? For me, I write because I believe in the power of artistic creation and improvisation. I believe in expressing and sharing my thoughts with the people around me. I also believe in our community and what we can get out of it if we try to make it better. We all create, listen, and go to shows because at the end of the day we want people to be as proud of Columbus and its dance music scene as we are. Who cares if the rest of the world ignores us. Does it really matter? Columbus dance music history attests to the fact that when we put up the middle finger and did it our own way crazy things happened. Let’s continue to embrace the guerrilla character of our resistance to the mainstream of dance music culture. Let’s push the envelope of our events and music and find a way to be better the everyone else. This doesn’t mean we can’t have crazy parties or embrace the sounds around us. Quite the contrary, I hope we can absorb all the music and parties types in scenes all over the world and find a way to chop and screw it to make our scene distinctively Columbus. I consider this an act of systemic synthesis where we can be better than everyone else because we aren’t just trying to mimic other scenes or get big for the sake of getting big. This is how all great scenes began. Yet, it all starts with our choices on what events we will put on, what music we will create, and what parties we support.
Make sure to look out on friday for an extensive interview with Textbeak that delves into all these issues much more in depth. It is a MUST READ.