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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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I was having a conversation with someone last night about music and they asked me: “what do you listen for in music?” The short of my answer was it has to move me. I learned this from a wise soul a bit of the ways back, and it still holds true for me today. I don’t care what genre it is. I don’t care if its hot or no one even know who the hell the cat who made it is. It just has to move me. That sort of movement you feel deep down when everything just clicks and for one short moment the world just makes sense. Those moments for me are what makes music worthwhile and why I share the stories of people from our community and from people abroad.

Walleye‘s music is a great example of the type of sounds that grip me and help me see new facets of the reality I live. He is a guy who used to live in Columbus, but has since moved to another locale. However, his music is steeped in the influence of our city. From the minute I heard his first ep “Everything is Black”,  I was hooked. Beautiful, atmospheric tracks like “Creepers” are perfect music to help you get lost in the middle of the loud world we live in.

 

The Four bonus tracks accompanied the re-release of the EP on Halsteads this past May added some really interesting elements as well. The track that really stuck out was “Hell is Heaven”. It is a eighteen minute journey that successfully shows how beats can ripple and vibrate in the same slow-burning fashion as the tones in the first three tracks. The affect is both comforting and disorienting at the same time, as you never have any firm ground to stand on while listening. As soon as you get comfortable with a ripple, its ripped out from under you and he is onto another beat meditation.

 

Over the past few months he has released a number of other EPs on his bandcamp that really show his exploration of all forms of beatless and beat-driven sound. One of my favorite of these releases is an incredibly honest and beautiful EP of music called “Alive For No One”. The track “This is Your heart, This is my House” is my favorite piece of music he has created. In the track, he fuses the playing of a few chords on a guitar, some sounds I cannot really identify, and his voice to make an incredibly emotionally-moving piece of music. You can hear him breath and singing. You can hear him playing for no one, but for the whole world at the same time. Just strumming and living, as if the guitar was an extension of his being. I can feel these sounds. They aren’t just data particles on my hard-drive. They are a living thing.

 

Lucky for me, he was willing to sit down with me and talk about his music and share a mix he just created with our community. He is such a generous guy. Hope you enjoy the mix and his interview below. Don’t sleep on his mix making. His track selection is always on point and moves through the same beat-driven and beatless meditations as his music. I think it will help you work through some interesting ideas and sounds.

Mix:

Interview:

LA: What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?
WALL: I think music and sound is the key to living and experiencing the life you live in. Even silence is music. Everything you hear in every place you go creates an atmosphere. Sound is so strongly linked to memory and feeling, and the atmosphere natural sounds create help form how you remember particular moments in your life. It’s important, I think, to pay attention to the way our environment is formed, because the one thing you will always take with you is your memory of an experience. Money comes and goes, things come and go… clothes, people, etc. move in and out of our life all the time. But listening to rain hit your window while you’re trying to fall asleep in a foreign city stays with you, also the sound of trains coming and going as you sip on a coffee in a station waiting for yours to come and take you away to see a loved one. These are the sounds we sometimes take for granted in our life.

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LA: You had a successful mixtape series called SayNoToTrack before you started releasing your own music. What prompted you to make the move from mix-making to original compositions?
WALL: Well, I was making music long before SNtT even started. I started the mixtape series because growing up it was a passion of mine. I remember sitting in my room with my CD’s and tapes strewn all over the place, hitting play and record on my parent’s stereo for hours at a time, listening and carefully selecting songs I wanted to put together. When I was in elementary school my bus driver was one of the only ones that had a tape deck on his bus, and I would bring in mixtapes all the time for him to play on the stereo. I would also make tapes for my family and friends, and then eventually I started making mix CD’s for girlfriends and friends in high school and later. I always had a good response from them, and it made me feel pretty good to introduce people to stuff I liked. I liked that people liked what I liked. It was sort of the first thing I ever felt like I was “good” at. After some time of not doing anything I started having friends ask me if I recommended anything for them to listen to. I decided I’d start a blog where I’d just make mixes a la mixtape-style for people to download, enjoy, discover something new, etc., and I chose this format as an ode to my mixtape days.

As for the music, I’ve been making experimental music since I was in high school, off and on since then whenever the inspiration struck. Each time inspiration WOULD strike, I had already passed some phase in my life where I had to have sold all my gear, and I was stuck with a whole new arsenal of equipment. If you listen to stuff I did back in high school, and then a few years later, and then a few years after that, and then up to what is now the “Walleye” era (and even within it to an extent), you’ll hear different styles and experimentations. This is due to the fact that almost every album I’ve released is made with different equipment, so my thought process and experimentation has had to evolve to utilize whatever I’ve been able to get my hands on. I’m not complaining, it keeps things interesting and fresh for me. Keeps me on my toes.

LA: What are some of the musical influences that helped shape your sound?
WALL: Oh jeez… when I was young I really loved Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, Autechre, Squarepusher, Plaid, Luke Vibert, Mouse on Mars, etc. It was a big change to what I was normally listening to at the time, and I really liked how different it sounded. At the same time I also discovered Ambient music and instantly fell in love. I realized that there was a time and place to listen to aggressive music, but overall I just wasn’t feeling fulfilled by harsh stuff all the time. Sure I was an angsty kid, but more than anything I just wanted to feel peace, and Ambient music helped me find it. Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Vol. 2 was my first leap, and then it moved to Brian Eno, Harold Budd, Laraaji, and so forth. With the help of the internet I was able to discover even more Ambient artists like Stars of the Lid, and eventually bands such as Grouper, Aidan Baker, Tim Hecker, Thomas Köner, Shuttle358, and etc.

LA: Your sound moves gracefully through elements of beatless drone, noise, and more beat driven compositions. What are you thinking about as you are creating music and trying to synthesize all these musical forms?
WALL: To be honest, most of my music doesn’t begin with a plan. I’m used to setting up all possible equipment (keyboards, synthesizers, guitar pedals [I’m a huge pedal head], guitars, drums, microphones, amps, really whatever I can get my hands on) and then having at it. I’ll begin my strumming a chord on the guitar, tweaking all the pedals it runs through, moving to a drum machine (or just drums) and starting a beat, go to the keyboard and play a couple chords on there, tweak something else on a pedal or two, and keep going until it feels like it’s time to stop. I try to immerse myself into it as much as possible, because each time I begin to work or create something it becomes a whole experience for me. I become so focused on what I’m doing I lose track of time, where I am, everything. At the end of it I don’t even remember what happened most of the time. It’s as if I blacked out. For me, this is what making music is about. It doesn’t matter if people like it or not, it just matters if I like it or not, and most of the time I do. I just sort of let go, and if I was thoughtful enough to hit the record button at the beginning of the session, I’m able to go back and hear it. There are so many incredible sessions lost because I forgot to hit one little button, and alternately, there are an incredible amount of sessions that will never see the light of day because I just wasn’t feeling it.

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LA: You recently left the confines of Columbus to move overseas. I know you haven’t been there long, but what has that experience been like? Have you found new sources of inspiration?
WALL: Moving overseas was a big decision for me. When I left I was actually very productive with my music making, and in fact I finished Promise and SUM DRONE within the month before I departed. I was trying to envelope myself in as much creative output as possible before leaving because I was selling my gear and I wasn’t sure when I was going to be able to get my hands on anything again for a while. The itch is still there, and I find plenty of inspiration being here for sure, but I haven’t found a good way to really let it out yet. Money is a problem, and the resources for equipment aren’t nearly as available to me as they were in America. But, like I said earlier, it’s about adapting, and I’m exploring every possible avenue to get my hands on what I need to do what I want. I have found a semi-regular gig DJing, however, at a bar just a few minutes away. That experience has been nice, because even though I stopped doing SNtT, I still kind of get to do it live for a whole new mess of people. Sometimes I go for five hours straight, just mixing and mashing together all different kinds of music for the sake of creating an atmosphere for people hanging out and relaxing on a Saturday night. It’s nice, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

LA: Though you are now overseas, I am sure Columbus did shape your artistic approach in some ways. Can you think of any ideas, places, or events in Columbus that inspire you as a musician?
WALL: The Dube, which was not only my home away from home, but was also part of a family in Columbus which I held very close to me. I had good friends that I collaborated with, like Justin Burkett (of Cat Swallower) and Josh Ganzberg (of dollchimes), that helped me realize some of my musical path. They were an excellent source of support and inspiration for me. Columbus in general is a strange place to make music though… there are all different kinds of people, “scenes”, etc., and every one of them is supportive in their own way. I liked seeing my friends be successful, and whether or not I was on any level is moot, but I liked creating alongside with them in any capacity. It was like being apart of a club, where we got to create and share with each other and the public and it didn’t matter if you liked it or didn’t, you still got props. I remember, however, a friend of mine told me something that stuck with me and I would pass on to anyone else who asked the same question… I had gone through a moment of crisis one time and asked why no one took me serious, and she replied to me saying “because you don’t take yourself seriously”. From that moment on I began to, and I saw the change in attitude from myself and from my peers. It was a great feeling to take pride in what I did, and it might have been the biggest turning point in my creative “career”.

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I did my second spot on Trademark Gunderson & Frillypant’s Sound of Plaid Radio Show two weeks back. You may remember my first spot on the show in November. You can listen to that HERE. This time around we played some local music, some old & new music, talked big ideas, and had a great time. Take a listen when you get a chance.

Tracklisting: Click on Artist Name for more info
(Band — Song)
Jay Dee — Airworks
Elizabeth Waldo — Balsa Boat
A Tribe Called Red — The Road
The Fallen — Raw Times
sKewn — Circling
Jeff Central — The Day Of Attack
Druid Cloak — Sun Elf
Glass Teeth —BB EYEZ (FUNERALS Remix)
tactil vision — illusion
Glacier 23 — The End Track
Walleye — Burn 4u
Mike Shiflet —1917
Mike Shiflet — Zahlentheorie
The Evolution Control Committee — The Fool On The Hill (Major-Minor Swap, incomplete)

I was milling around on the internet and compiling links for the multitude of work that has come out of our city over the past few months. Man, I was seriously impressed. There were a multitude of mixes, original production, and live events that just blew me away. I figure I would do the community a solid and put together a rough list of some of the recordings that have been posted online from people in our community. This is obviously not exhaustive, but consider this a first attempt to update the sorely outdated archive. All the listing are in alphabetical order and numbered so you can see that there are 27 unique pieces of music to explore. These numbers do not correspond with a ranking. They are given more so you can see each piece of music as a unique entity and to give you a sense for our overall aggregate output over the course of 2-4 months as an artistic community. If you like someone’s work try to look more deeply into their other releases and go see them live! (Note:  If I have missed you send me a link and I will put you up here. Also, feel free to point anyone in this direction if they are saying that Columbus doesn’t have a thriving “electronic” music community.)

1.) 9star: “Tangible Thoughts”

2.) Aaron Austen: Promo Mix

3.) The Beat Oracle Radio Show: “Saturated”

4.) Ben Bennett: Spoilage (New LP out on Jeremy Bible’s Excellent Experimedia Records)

5.) B-Funk: Thump Show

6.)  Bohno: Sink Deep

7.) Burgle: Jack Shack TV Mix

Burgle 53 Min Jack Shack DJ Set by Jackshacktv on Mixcloud

8.) Conner Campassi: GRVTY

9.) Creamz: Basement Sessions 002

10.) Crucial Taunt: Frito Flip

11.) Dave Espionage: Jack Shack TV Mix

Dave Espionage 51 min Jack Shack DJ Set by Jackshacktv on Mixcloud

12.) DJ Push: There Was Sun

13.) Doctor Zapata: Promo Mix Enero 2013

14.) Doctor X — His latest mix “Ambient Evening” on his Perscriptions Radio Show

15.) Druid Cloak: The Groove EP

16.) Dustin Knell:BACK & FORTH: A LOVE/HATE Mix

17.) The Fallen: “Live at BLUR”

18.) FBK: “Where Their Love Still Exists”

19.) FBK: “In This Deadly Light”

20.) FUNERALS, Druid Cloak, and Others (BOO SRA Remixes):

21.) FUNERALS: Vessel Mix 2012

22.) George Brazil: Jack Shack TV Mix

George Brazil 59 min Jack Shack DJ Set by Jackshacktv on Mixcloud

23.) Hawstyle’s Most recent mix on his Bus Bass Show:

24.) jMac: January Promo Mix

25.) Kevin Parrish: Squared Online Podcast

26.) Lower Frequency: Squared Online Podcast

27.) Midislut:

28.) Mike Shiflet: “Secret Thirteen Mix”

29.) Mike Shiflet: Three Tracks from new LP “The Choir, The Army” 

30.) NetworkEDM: Post Day-Glow Hangover Mix

31.) Ohioan: “Buoy”

32.) Plural: “The Beatings Continue”

33.) Quality: February Live Recording

34.) roeVy: PROXY – Raw (roeVy remix)

35.) Self Help: Jack Shack TV Mix

Self Help 50 Min Jack Shack DJ Set by Jackshacktv on Mixcloud

36.) Single Action: Bus Bass Mix 55

37.) Sybling Q’s most recent mix on his Q Factor Radio Show

38.) Tactil Vision: “savage”

39.) Titonton Duvanté: Live Mix 2012

40.) Todd Sines: Live at Mister H

41.) Tony Fairchild: February Jack Trax

Jack Shack TV is a boiler room-esq video mix show that our own local (I count Athens as part of our broader scene even though they have their own distinct community) jack-of-all genre’s DJ Barticus runs out of his basement in Athens, Ohio. You may recognize the name. DJ Barticus was one half of the duo (With DJ Self Help) that ran the widely popular Athens & Columbus Dance or Die party that ran for 6-8 years.Just like in the Dance or Die Parties, DJ Barticus has used Jack Shack TV to push an open format approach to music that place hip-hop, dance, and pop styles of music on an equal pedestal. Just take a quick listen to the show he did with George Hertzel. Look at that Keytar! Man.

What Barticus did with the whole concept really impressed me, because he was not scared to take a really popular model and bring in his own flavor to make it his own.  Watching just one of the episodes, you can see how Barticus and his friends have taken the Boiler Room model and twisted it to their own purposes.  The show presents their own unique perspective on music and is devoid of the hype machine-esq trappings of so many other video mix shows. Instead, it is injected with a sort of public access TV vibe that is rooted in notions of their local Athens community.

DJ Pro Bono 63 min Jack Shack DJ Set from Jack Shack TV on Vimeo.

Most importantly, I think it also reaffirms how much people in our community can do with very little. Barticus decided one day, “Hey, I want to do that.” And so he did. This is the story I hear again and again in our scene. He didn’t wait until he had the right equipment, the right premium accounts on youtube or vimeo, or a complete online identity. He created a name, got his VHS camera ready (He has since upgraded), contacted musicians, and started filming. Then all of a sudden a new video mix show was born. If you take away anything from this story, I hope you feel inspired today to do something creatively you have always wanted to do. You can do a lot with the cheap or free tools you already have at your disposal. Anyways, I hope you enjoy the interview and my collection of some of the Jack Shack TV shows. See there accounts on YouTube and Vimeo for the complete video catalogues and listen to audio of all the shows on their mixcloud :

Thunder St. Clair 60 min Jack Shack DJ Set from Jack Shack TV on Vimeo.

Local Autonomy:  It is obvious from listening and following your eclectic output that you are a big proponent of staying open to a diverse range of influences and sounds. Why are you such a big proponent of an open format approach to music?

DJ Self Help

BARTICUS: It all comes down to 2 things: Hiphop and ADD. Being a hiphop DJ got me open to all kinds of music, because hiphop takes its samples and influences from everywhere. The ADD part means that I don’t want to hear the same thing for an entire night.

LA: How did the idea for Jack Shack come about?

BART: Jack Shack is a combination of many ideas that have been floating around my head. I was inspired by the Talking Heads song, “Found A Job” and Mission Man’s “Do What You Love”. The format for the show was obviously stolen/borrowed from Boiler Room. I would watch episodes of Boiler Room full screen while i was on the other side of the room doing dishes. I just loved the whole setup, the people behind the DJ were just there hanging out in the DJ booth, and the person on the other side of the screen was the audience. Like hearing the Ramones and starting a punk band the next day, that’s how i felt about the Boiler Room.

I made a list of 30 people that I would want to book for Jack Shack. Everyone who I told about the idea was very excited. it felt like such a good idea. It didn’t take long for me to get the idea to want to record and share my friends DJ sets. The more I thought of it the more up sides i saw to it. I still can’t see any downsides.

I also wanted to capture the vibe of what it was like when i first started DJaying. I would go to a friends basement and we would take turns working on our skratches. I was hoping some one just getting started could find some inspiration in these videos.

LA: Youtube is your prime medium. Why did you choose the video sharing site to release your shows?

BART: Youtube is the spot people go to quickly share music. Something on youtube will reach more people than any other video sharing site. The problem with youtube is we have different interpretations of what is fair use and what should fall under Internet Radio Equality Act. I’ve had to move some of the content over to vimeo and not as many people see those videos.
At this point if i want to keep using youtube i am going to have to switch the format to original music, and i really hate being forced into that. I really don’t value originality in music that much. i think the best things in music come from freely building on each others ideas.

LA: As a fan of what many people consider obsolete technologies, I loved your use of VHS recording for the first few episodes. What made you turn to the VHS?

Burgle

BART: I turned to VHS because i wanted it to look crappy, but sound amazing. I’m not a very visual person and for most things VHS is really ‘good enough’ for me. I have a collection of VHS tapes (and VCRs) because i sometimes project VHS behind me whlie i DJ. I like how VHS movies have no menu, i like how the flicker when paused. i like how it looks when you play them in fast forward or rewind. I like how a tape looks after you re-use it too many times.
The only reason i’ve started to go with the webcam is because of how much time it saves me in the editing stage.

LA: What do you hope to achieve with the Jack Shack concept?
BART: I would like to start doing more episodes at different venues, keep it as different as possible. I would like to see more people make their own version of jack shack. realistically the shows I produce are going to not happen as often. I just started to run for public office and that is going to keep me busy.

Mission Man

There has been much written about the boom and bust cycles of dance music ( i.e. when is the edm bubble going to burst?). The boom happens when certain strands of dance music attract wider “pop” audiences and bring new listeners into dance communities. During this time, audiences swell, more records are sold, and it is “cool” to be associated with that music community. Much like other “pop” fads, these boom-time periods always come to an end. The bust of a cycle results when the luster of dance music fades and many of those new listeners abandoning dance communities. We are entering what appears to be the tail end of one of these boom periods (Its debatable I suppose), and a lot of keystrokes have been spent trying to decide what is going to happen. The resounding answer people give is that it is natural that dance scenes ebb and flow in popularity, but their survival is not in jeopardy.  The problem is that writers often stop there and don’t explain why dance scenes will survive. Looking to how our Columbus scene has weathered these boom/bust cycles in the past provides one way to provide an answer to this question. By drawing on my conversations about our local scene’s recent history, I want to argue that dance music persists in columbus because there is an underlying infrastructure that is kept alive by the people who continue to use the music, ideas, and traditions we all share even when dance music culture is not popular.

Rewind 6-8 years ago. The underground ele_mental parties had ended, other crews associated with the underground had slowed their activities, and many of the clubs across the city had closed. Both the underground and more obvious club oriented activities had slowed from their once feverish pace. Local dance and experimental record labels like 21/22 and Exoteque Music went into disuse. A whole generation of fans seemed to disengage from dance music as its popularity reached a low point in Columbus and across the nation.  At the surface, it appeared as if the scene in Columbus had died.

Yet, I question whether the scene actually “died”. Did all the people so instrumental to dance music flourishing in our city in the 90s and early 00s leave the scene?  Did all the fans “grow up” and stop liking dance music? Sure some people did leave and others “grew up”, but the vast majority of people that held dance music so central to their lives never left. Consequently, all the know-how of how to build record labels, dance music crews, clubs, and build a scene from the ground up was still in the city. The rich traditions of how a scene is supposed to operate were not lost. The love of the music and the artists need to express themselves never waned.

The scene didn’t die in the early 2000s. The infrastructure of the scene just went into a period of dormancy. Dormancy is very different from death. A state of dormancy is characterized by re-grouping and contemplation that naturally comes about after a common routine has resulted in stagnancy. Activities continue, but in a much less pronounced way.  Death is, well, its death. An end of a form of expression or life. Culture doesn’t die. It carries on in the cracks of the system. After some 10-15 years of doing dance hard in Columbus, it was natural for the scene to shift into a slower, more underground phase as the popularity of dance music waned. However, expressing oneself through dance music did not die. The most visible organizations throwing parties became less active and many of the recognized venues had closed, but the infrastructure of the scene was still intact.  All the rhythms, know-how, and traditions were still used by people, but the scene had receded back into the cracks of the city.

Quickly after the disbanding of many of the most visible crews and clubs, other events and crews took their place. By 2006, Sweatin’, Squared nights at Bristol, Restart House, and other underground parties were regular events that gave DJs and fans a space to express themselves. The scene wasn’t filling the newport, Skully’s, or BOMA, but it certainly couldn’t be pronounced dead. A core group of new and older scene members took the lead and brought dance music back to a prominent place in Columbus nightlife. In the short period of 5 years, the Columbus scene went from dormancy to again having 5-10 dance events a week. Our scene is again pushing out in a multitude of directions. New routines have replaced the old. New crews have replaced the old. The dance and experimental electronic music community is again thriving and sharing their music with Columbus and the rest of the world. We have new events, radio shows, record labels that offer you the opportunity to get exposed to new sounds. We have a multitude of innovative, dedicated people still pushing the scene forward into new spaces and concepts. (Check out the links on sidebar to see all the different people working to make our scene great with video projects, record labels, record stores, and events).

What we can take away from this short history?

1.) Well, It is quite evident that dance music persists in Columbus because it matters to us and we want to share it with one another. We are the core elements of the infrastructure that give life to something bigger than our selves: a dance music community.  The boom/bust cycle may affect how many people show up, how many records one sells, or how cool someone may think you are, but there will always be a scene as long as people come together and use the music, ideas, and traditions we share.

2.) Having a scene go into a state of dormancy is not necessarily a bad thing.  Dormancy is vital for weathering those periods when dance music is unpopular in the mainstream and growth is hard to come by.  By receding back into the cracks of the city, we can regroup and find a ways to keep our community together when there is less support in the mainstream. Gauging back the frequency of events can also be really healthy and important for a scene to shed old routines and think about new ways to innovate. It can also help foster community and build the type of committment that is needed to push the scene out of dormancy and back into a prominent part in a cities night life.

I feel these two lessons are important, because they remind us that the scene is in our hands. Its not in the hands of abstract economic, political, and cultural forces. Sure, these influences shape what our scene looks like, but in the end its all on us. These lessons also prod us to have a more realistic assessment of our scene’s development. We do not need to be New York, LA, Las Vegas, Berlin, or London. We need to be the best version of Columbus that our city has ever scene. I for one feel lucky to be a part of our scene. Our community is constructed of a teflon-tough DIY fabric that has endured the tests of the Boom/Bust cycle.  We have done more with nothing than all those many market cities have done with immense financial resources.  Just look at all the dance music related record labels, radio shows, events, and organizations that are now active in our city. If that doesn’t give you faith in our community then I do not know what will.

Trademark G. & Frilly of Columbus based Evolution Control Committee have their own weekly radio show called The Sound of Plaid that airs every thursday. This week they had me on the show to talk Columbus electronic music history and to show a selection of some local Ohio artists I had been enjoying. I think the show is a great saturday morning listen to get you ready for the benefit show BLUR this Evening (For More Info CLICK HERE). We got a great line-up of artists for you including Mike Shiflet & Jeff Chenault, Trademark G., Textbeak, Aaron Austen & DJ Push, The Fallen (FBK & Plural), and FUNERALSEach artist gets around an hour. Each artist is given complete freedom to do what they want. That same spirit also pervades the guest spot I did on The Sound of Plaid. I brought a smattering of experimental, ambient, and dance tracks by local musicians that blur the boundaries of genre to show you and the rest of the world that our city does push musical boundaries.

Tracklisting:

1.) Evolution Control Comittee — Jessiematic
2.) Synek – Paradiba — Rano Records
3.) FBK – Nanofonque — Absoloop Records
4.) Plural – F*** It — Audio Textures Recordings
5.) Burgle – Pounder — Self-Released
6.) Mike Shiflet — Web Over Glen Echo — Self-Released
7.) Forest Management — A Sketch Of The Historical Pattern Of Blue Ocean Creation 
8.) Walleye – This Is Your Heart, This Is My House — Self Released
9.) Jeff Central/Chris Phinney — Thermal Blooming — World Records
10.) The Weird Lovemakers — Quiet Spillage
11.) FUNERALS — Boo Sra — Mishka
12.) OHIOAN — Microscopist — Self-Released
13.) Dirty Current — Anubis — Self-Released

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