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

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

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

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

Interview:

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

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

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

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

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[The Contemplative Life Cover]

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

[A Running Stop from “The Contemplative Life”]

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

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

Links:

Forest Management Bandcamp

Purchase “The Contemplative Life” from Cathedral Transmissions

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We can all see the patchwork of floorboards above our heads, as we carry on our lives outside and underneath of the mainsteam monoculture. Those rickety oak 2×4’s arrayed in a weathered blanket over our heads have become our only separation from that poisonous barrage of noise and inconsequential fears that so accompany life on the surface now. Used to be that we didn’t fear being on the surface at all, but that changed some time ago. The incessant ramblings of the decaying, post-industrial society obsessed with inconsequential simulation used to stay out on the edges of our community in Columbus. It was as if those sentient swarms of ideas, sounds, and desires were fearful of entering into a space in our city where its constituent knowledge had been rejected and left for dead. We did not have to hide as much then. The noise remained much like the white noise of electricity; a sort of comforting hum of harnessed power. On the fringes of the city, we did not see this cultural cloud unleash its power on the Columbus metropolitan area with its full force. We mistook that low hum as apprehension and fear when the cloud was just leaving our isolated space for later.

However, like all sentient beings in the age of speed, this swarm of commodified simulations used its intelligence and the vast information tools at its disposal to overrun the barricades of our community. No, it wasn’t the robots or artificial intelligence. It was the very culture we have created to entertain ourselves to death that overran our free zones and made commodities out of our every thought and mode of musical expression.  Its was an ugly swarm of noise and ideas. A yellow, spectral cloud that fed off our need to be visible and be heard. Like a jackal, it stalked across our bombed out backwater seeking the diffuse strivings of human emotion it needed to survive. Unable to move in the presence of this entity, we turned subterranean. We turned to the underground.

Sitting in the fractured light in a dirty, dark space, the sounds of this culture were no longer like white noise. They became a deafening drone of diffuse status updates. Never letting up, the wood ceiling above our heads shook with the information of the 24 hour cycle of self-expression. It was in this hopeless place that we found our remedy to the digital tidal wave. Seeking to clean out our new hallow, we came across a box of unknown records. The only information we had on the music was a strange, earthly iconography shown below, an email address for Labelless Records, and a statement that the label was based in Columbus, OH.

Labelless Logo

What was this unlabeled music from our community? Who was it from? How did it get here?  It was in those initial moments of curiosity that we learned the power of those records. We started to play the records on a tired tech 1200. The music gave us the power to drown out the noise of the information cycle and got us in touch with authentic artistic creation. The music helped us forget about the lost world above our tiny hollow. The music sent us messages about babylon and the promise of tomorrow. The music gave us the power to push back and fight for our space free of speed, noise, and fear. The music called itself jungle. IT WAS JUNGLE THAT CHANGED IT ALL.

Day and night, we played the records. We let the sounds that flowed from the needle of our old Tech 1200 wash over us. Finding a safe space outside of the droning monoculture, we were able to rest in the jungle. With each revolution, we grew more brave as the records sang directly into our hearts and minds. Pretty soon, we no longer felt the vibrations of the monoculture of the surface on the floorboard above. It was a special moment when we all placed our hands on the boards and didn’t feel the unique vibration signature of the spectral cloud. We had replaced it with a rhythm of our own–with the Jungle Rhythm. We found a way out of our nightmare, and wanted to reach out to the members of our Columbus community that helped deliver us from the menace of the cloud; the Labelless Records Crew.  We sent the labelless e-mail address a string of questions to learn more about the music they release in Columbus and its power for our community. Late one night, we received a powerful, inspiring transmission back from them. The answers taught us about jungle music, the labelless records ethos, and the power of vinyl. It spoke of the history of the label runners, their ties to the music, and its importance for Columbus.  I wanted to share this transmission in the hopes that these ideas too can help set you free from the speed, noise, and fear of the times we live in.

Interview:

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

Labelless: Music is a big center for me personally. I have been spinning jungle/ dnb since 1998 and that has encompassed half of my life now. Before I got turntables at the age of 14, I had an Aleis drum machine, a Boss Dr. Groove sequencer, a bass guitar and some foot-pedal effects… I eventually sold all of that for turntables and was forever on the path into the “dj” culture, especially Hip Hop influenced breaks and jungle primarily… Turntablism was a huge impact on me as well, and scratching became a passion I perfected for myself, and continue to push myself with up into this day. Around 2005-2006, I bought an MPC 2500 and began producing again. I haven’t looked back since. Now I own two more samplers, synths etc and try all the time to learn new methods to produce breakbeat dominated tunes ranging from hiphop, triphop/downtempo, jungle, dnb, hardcore breaks etc…. Music is very much a part of me, as well as my lovely fiancee and label mate Jah Killin, who also touches down on the production tip and has been spinning jungle/dnb for a decade plus as well. We even try to get our kids interested. Music is a core to our structure as a family.

Local Autonomy: I cannot help but be attracted to the legacy and continued relevance of jungle. Why do you think jungle is still important?

Labelless: I feel jungle is important and holds such a legacy worldwide and historically in EDM culture, because it is one of the purest forms of old school, loop oriented music. By this I refer especially to the fact it encompasses all of the same exact breaks made famous in early hiphop culture. Jungle just double times them to be faster paced, so as to be geared towards the hardcore raver heads. Therefore, I feel jungle’s affinity to hiphop culture is nearly unparalleled from one sub-genre to another. Not only all the old soul, funk, and jazz breaks made famous by hiphop, but huge amounts of riddims and vocals made big by Dancehall, Reggae, Dub etc. all are just as much a part of jungle as all other elements (and not to mention ALL the countless samples from R&B and HipHop included that jungle works in so extraordinarily well). BUT- this does not stop here, nor does it hardly even begin to elaborate either… The core behind jungle in my mind is essentially old skool UK hardcore breakbeats. This sound is what eventually emerged into Happy Hardcore / Gabber and early jungle / dnb in the early 1990’s. Without those hyper, pitched-up, female vocal tracks, the hardcore techno synth lines, and mentazm stabs, then the earliest sound of Darkside / Darkcore jungle would of never emerged (or whatever names people have referred to the earliest jungle sounds to when it was still in its prototype phases).

All of these factors combines to form the legacy that is Jungle. Because all of these forms of music touched and molded so many different people globally. And years later when they hear it all mashed so seamlessly and sporadically perfect in the form of syncopated beats and bass that is the sound of jungle, they remember that feeling they felt from the original vibes. And so the snake eats itself and the circle continues. Jungle is the natural recycling unit of ALL music! Just like hiphop and house before it.

And this is not to say jungle is reliant on other songs, and doesn’t have its slew of great and original tunes out there. On the contrary however. Because, in my opinion ALL of the best jungle tunes are original creations not reliant on a riddim or hiphop loop; just a phat chopped up break and some vision, style and precision. It is an unstoppable force and a culture that I envision will forever be followed,for I believe it produces a frequency that elevates the mind.

Logo Graf

Local Autonomy: You recently started a record label called Labelless Records devoted to jungle. What does Labelless stand for and what is your vision for the label?

Labelless: When one thinks of labels, it automatically puts a containment on a concept. To me, the jungle sound and culture is something that can never be contained. its constantly expanding, evolving, and recreating itself, synonymous with the ever changing universe. As well, Labels in society cause nothing but segregation, and to me Jungle has always stood for a unification. Its one of the only Genres that call the people who represent themselves in the jungle culture as “Junglists”…for example, you dont see people who rep house music call themselves “housers”…or trance ,trancers…lol… but junglists transcend from a ‘certain sound’ into a way of thinking…. So, in a way, my concept of a music label for the coveted jungle sound and culture surpasses that of just a music ‘label’- but a statement that it needs no label– it grows wild and roughly unconfined just like the depths of any natural jungle…

Labelless doesn’t necessarily stand for anything in the literal sense; it’s not even a legitimate word to be honest. It is a name I have been thinking up for quite some years, and it just sounded very catchy as a label name so it stuck. And after Jah started making all her designs that were so phat, I def had to keep with the name! Because, I know I couldn’t do the caliber of artwork she does, and her designs and creative ideas were so sound and cohesive with the concept of the all jungle label I was envisioning, that the name Labelless just fit. The anonymity of the things I liked about jungle music were all present in her designs, and more things I hadn’t even thought about, that the word Labelless really fit that meaning for jungle music as a whole in my mind. Then, she just went with it and like 20 different designs just poured out of her photoshop files and I gave all creative control of the labels designs up to her. Now I just sort of look over them and give any general ideas I may think of at that time. So, really it all came together like Voltron or something.. Haha, my Wu-Tang joke.. But Labelless is ultimately designed as a label to help ANYONE who makes dope jungle beats get heard. If you make phat jungle tunes that deserve to be on wax, then I would def be interested to hear that music. So, if an artist were to be “label-less”, per say, in the terms that they had good jungle music with seemingly no outlet for it to be distributed, then I suppose that would serve as a good meaning for the word!

Local Autonomy: Though vinyl has enjoyed a little bit of a resurgence of late, it seems that so much of music sales have gone digital. Why did you want your releases only pressed on vinyl?

Labelless: Labelless is a means for all the dope producers of jungle music to get heard and to have their music documented in the proper format. To me that is vinyl format. Music, good music anyhow, should always be cataloged and saved on shelves like books are in a library. Musical history owes a lot to the vinyl record. So, I feel jungle should never go away from that format, as that was its birth format and what made it nostalgic and appealing to begin with.
Back in the day, a dj was a labels proper outlet for the music to be heard. And djs back in the day were not a dime a dozen like they are today. I feel the digital era really opened the door for just anyone to be a “dj” (and in return it now also seems that most “dj”s nowadays have never touched vinyl to mix it, thus not technically being a Disc Jockey as the term DJ states). Therefore, labels that once ran the industry go defunct. It’s a shame in my opinion, as I owe much of my youth and happiness to jungle / drum and bass music; vinyl especially. In light of all that had came before me, and the similar path I was beginning to tread, I wanted to do it right and proper like all the great jungle labels of the golden era, so I had to keep Labelless all vinyl and no digital. For if no real definitive reason but nostalgia and respect for my cultures roots. I don’t verge towards vinyl because I feel this “outdated” vibe about it nowadays is catchy, more so, because I feel the best sound quality to be heard is on a vinyl record. It cannot be duplicated in my opinion, and many music connoisseurs feel the same in regards to this. Of course formats like DAT, reel-to-reel tape recorders, and being heard straight from the source equipment are both formats that parallel, and even excel vinyl a bit in terms of sound quality and that warm, analog feel; yet, those formats are not accessible by everyone and quite expensive. Lastly, and most importantly for this question, I am just here doing this with Labelless to prove that vinyl is important for jungle, and all dance music for that matter. Even if it falls on deaf ears.

Local Autonomy:Your label has been going for some time now. What has the experience been like? Do you have any favorite moments?

Labelless: Wow. Great question. So many different experiences and answers to give. Where to begin? Firstly, being able to get into contact and personally meeting some of the artists featured has been an experience in itself. That to me is one of the most satisfying feelings. I realize everyone is a person just the same as anyone else, but to be understood and even feel akin to some of these guys, people I have personally looked up to on a musical front, is a feeling of self-assurance that what i am doing is being done correctly, and how it is expected to be done. To a big degree I am certain there is much to be learned still as is a trait with any business, yet I still feel that my concept and dream for this music is also the same feeling, even up to the dudes who really run this scene with the music they are making. A big experience that stemmed from these contacts with certain artists was a trip that Jah Killin and I took to Toronto to meet up with sixteenarmedjack/16AJ to celebrate he and I’s birthdays, and all 3 of us played a show as well. It was a really fun trip and he took us in as fam and cooked for us, and showed us a nice time altogether. Big up Odie, one love bro. 😉 Also a big shout out to all the artists I’ve met / talked with / become friends with along the way: Bay B Kane, Default, Dub-Liner, Nickynutz, Dj L.A.B. and Junglord all you guys are my homies for sure. More shouts to the boys of Tactical Aspect, Vinny (Pastaman) @ Satta, Warped Dynamics/ Beat Lab Recs., Vocoda, RickyForce, and all others that I have crossed paths or talked with.

Another moment that has stood out among it all is just before everything was produced onto vinyl I had contacted one of my favorite mastering engineers and made my order. A few days later he personally called my telephone and we had a talk for quite a bit and for me it was like meeting/ talking to a rock star to a degree. He said he was interested in the label and thought the direction and the music involved was quite intriguing to him as he has mastered for the jungle/dnb culture since it has been mastered for vinyl. Those were definitely words of encouragement for the momentum of the label. It has really shaped the way I will approach getting my music manufactured. I will never cut corners, and will always opt for the quality over the quantity philosophy. Especially in terms of mastering.

And to add to this phone call experiences as well, I literally today, was just called by the new engineer whom I am a HUGE fan of his jungle work he used to do in the early nineties under some of the guises such as Intense & Babylon Timewarp. His wife and he run the new mastering studio 1087, and both say they are really interested and happy to hear the music on Labelless I just had mastered there. They called me personally to talk over a few details as well as let me know what they thought etc of the label. It is a great feeling to be reached out to in such ways by people that one admires so much. So i had to let it be known how much of a HUGE fan of his I am. For all others looking for vinyl mastering needs 1087 is a great place to start your search.

More experiences definitely include all the support through bookings, record sales, distribution companies , and especially all the positive feedback from an otherwise unknown fan base. And for that we thank all those people immensely, as they are on a worldwide front, and that means a lot in terms of why Jah & I want to pursue this. In my opinion without the worldwide jungle massive’s approval, interest and support, then a meaning of something like Labelless Records to the jungle community would be moot. That acceptance is key and I feel a sense of pride in knowing that. I am definitely a Junglist for life.

And as I mentioned before, the contacts made between the artists, to the supportive junglist massive as a whole, are all the defining moments as well as the continuing momentum to pursue this endeavor. But the people I have came up with in Columbus are who have intrigued me to go this far in the first place. 614 MASSIVE, we all have the same strive and go for the same feel. I appreciate that; and Columbus has an extraordinary underground scene. Its vibrant, has an extensive history, and tons of talented people within it. I say that humbly and with awe for the city that has bred me. Dj’s like Verge, Caedo, Hawstyle, Shinma, Arkova, Carma, Alina, Gl!tch, Aria, Titonton, Monochrome , Konkey Dong, R-Type, my old school retiree partner ADizzle my nizzle 😉 You helped me learn the scratch tactics for sure bro :), Drastic, Jeff Trasin, John Hammond, and Cliff LeFevre of TGP, Jed, KGB, Baynes, Revolver (or just old school Jimmy Gates as I recall it!!!), Shapeshifter/ Wraith/ or Mister Shifter you still killin it Jack, Rumble, Spastik, What the Bleep , foi oi oi, ALL the mid-late 90’s DNB / house party kids of the ‘BUS, that shit was unforgettable and will never be the same…. Be thankful we were there for it all. Fidgit, Cathexis, Andrew, Brian and the rest of the URU kids, you all keep a constant going, that is quality in its most underground sense. And all others in my hometown, Big up and keep it going for sure! 9Star & DX3 you two gave me and my homies our first taste of playing underground parties, as well as the rest of the Malfunction crew Ryan & Rory. Khaki and Sunnydaze @ All City Beats, you guys were the very first people to book me for an actual show / club event in Columbus and support me as resident for your weekly. And you also paid me for these gigs!!! Every time! In either merchandise from the record store or cash… great way to make the proper impression on how a performing dj should be treated. Dingo 8 & Aurora as well with the Restart night that has been on for a grip. And last but certainly not least… my lovely Jah Killin, I absolutely love rockin’ the decks with you at the shows, clubs, and home especially. I admire you infinitely and am beyond lucky to have you beside me.

Local Autonomy: It seems to me that having local record labels like yours is really important for our scene. What do you think your record label adds to our community?

Labelless: I suppose I am not sure what a record label adds to my community here in Columbus, Ohio. Labelless is certainly not the first or only vinyl jungle label to emerge from Columbus. First on the vinyl label front was the label 21/22 Corp. which had its first two releases in 1994 by Fuzzy Logic aka Monochrome from Columbus and part of the original CBUS raver crew, ELEMENTAL. Both releases were all jungle and the label later verged towards minimal techno, house, acid sounds. Then, for several years local DNB/Jungle – dj’s / producers, Aria & Makku-Da-Kutta operated Clandestine Audio Agents Records with 3 or 4 vinyl releases still available. All productions were by them, which is stellar in my opinion and deserves all sorts of recognition. This was nearly a decade ago. Random Movement is also from Columbus, and as a producer he is pretty huge in the liquid DNB scene worldwide, with releases on a ton of different labels. Also, around the same time as I began with Labelless in late 2011, early 2012, another local vinyl jungle label was starting called Dublinquents, which is operated/owned by local junglist, and a personal friend of mine, Arkova. I think he has an outstanding eye and ear for quality so I am a huge fan and supporter of all that Rick is currently doing! Big up Arkova!!!

As for Labelless’s impact locally, I would really have to say ask the general 614 public, especially the junglists of CBUS, I can only judge myself on how I am judged by my peers. As for the importance of Labelless to our scene as a whole, in terms of worldwide jungle music, then I sincerely hope the Labelless message has been received and accepted. Because like I said, that acceptance is what this is all about. I feel that my intentions are to make people (fans, supporters, customers) satisfied, and for the artists to feel respect from the massive they represent. Its all about the massive, that is what ALL of this EDM music has been about since its inception. A collective of people unified and uplifted by a love for music. I hope all who run record labels devoted to a sound like jungle feel a similar way in the way their label is absorbed by the general public. Just bring a quality sound and approach towards the music you endorse and I feel that is the right path. Thanks also to you Local Autonomy for this chance to express the labels stance.

Also, Labelless is due to release 7 more vinyls by Christmas 2013- New Years 2014 timeframe so be on the lookout for round 2!!! We are having them mastered as we speak by a new engineer to work with the label as well!!! I am extremely excited to announce that I went to Ten Eight Seven Mastering, and am having Beau Thomas engineer these cuts!!! He is a LEGEND in the jungle scene to anyone that cares and I am greatly anticipating to hear the recorded wavs of the masters off each lacquer !!!

Lastly ,if anyone is interested in ordering vinyl we have 7 Labelless vinyls for sale and the entire catalog of Jungle Cat Recordings as well. Also available soon will be a limited edition series of slip mats for all the junglist vinyl junkies!!! There are also stickers, patches, t-shirts, and even more hoodies in the works for the future in the Labelless sales department.

E-Mail contact@labellessrecords.com for orders.

and for my personal productions & dj mixes visit my soundcloud

and for mixes and productions from Jah Killin go to her Soundcloud

Thanks to all, and big love to all the junglists and junglettes worldwide! BOH!

 Labelless Soundcloud

Labelless Bandcamp

Labelless Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

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[photo courtesy of Ray of Hope Arts]

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

Mix:

Interview:

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

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

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

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LA: How did you get into dance music?

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

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

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

Chain Reaction2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

live

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

Acetic

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

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

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

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

Interview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

doodling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Glacial Communications & glacial23 on the Web:

Glacial Communications Facebook

Glacial Communications Bandcamp

Glacial Communications Website

glacial23 Soundcloud

Post 90--Tactil Vision

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

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

TV2

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

TV5

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

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

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

TV Eres

LA: How did you get into making music?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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A few wise individuals taught me that techno is supposed to have soul. The type of soul forged from an artist taking inanimate tools like analogue synthesizers, drum programmers, and computer interfaces and making them sing of the human experience. The type of soul built from creating when few are looking for no other purpose than to express oneself. The type of soul that makes a techno track more than just a collection of rhythm, pulses, and discordant sounds, but a living, breathing force of nature. Whenever I listen to techno, I go searching for the soul of the work.

At the core of Panel Trax 031, I found eleven remixes from ten different artists that not only pay tribute to the 15+ year career of Chance McDermott, but also breath new energy into the musical ideas he was playing with in those releases. If you are unfamiliar with McDermott’s work then you are missing out. He has carved out a unique approach to techno that harnesses multiple layers of drum patterning with skittish, synthesized loops to create dense, immersive techno. Columbus, OH based artists like FBK & Plural along with others from around the globe pay homage to this man’s style, but twist the originals to work within their own unique approaches. FBK‘s remix of “Blonde Xpress” marks a distinct departure from the original production. He brings a pounding rhythm to the front of the track in his characteristic style found on his recent releases on Diametric and Absoloop Records.

Plural reworks all the elements of McDermott’s original “Blackbird” and puts them together into an interpretation that ebbs and flows through periods of tense restraint and outright frenzy characteristic of his works on 6one6 and Audio Textures Records.

The hazier, ghost-like treatments deployed by Alexander Dniel, Synus0006 & Maks, Laslowb, and The Machinists are characteristic of the core aesthetic of the Panel Trax catalogue that highlights the darker side of the musical form.

While the works of Ozaka, Scott Fraser, Matt Saderlan, Francesco Bonora & Mirko provide funk-filled remixes that add in touches of acid, cacophony, and four to the floor rhythms to McDermott’s past tracks.

In all, these artists showcase an intricate understanding of soulful techno and skillfully deploy their hardware to sing hymns of praise or the blues.

Make sure to check it out if you get a chance. I know I have enjoyed listening to and living with these tracks over the past week. I was richly rewarded with works from artists I had not encountered before and others I am more familiar with. I was especially excited to see FBK & Plural on the release since they have continued to garner attention outside of our city for their excellent production work individual and collectively as the Fallen.  You can find the release on Beatport or JUNOdownloads.

Panel Trax Records

Chance McDermott and remember I Interviewed him too–Read that HERE

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