Name: Arthur King
Members: Aaron Espinoza, David Ralicke, Jason Lytle, Peter Walker
Interviewee: Peter Walker
Occupations: Sound artists, composers, improvisers, producers, songwriters
Recent release: Arthur King's Changing Landscapes (Mina Las Pintadas) is out via AKP.
Recommendations: I saw a series of paintings by Claude Monet when I was lucky enough to be visiting Paris a bunch of years ago. The series is La Cathédral de Rouen and is from the late 1800s. Monet painted the same painting in essence, the same view of a building, only at different times of the day and on different days. Although the structure of each painting is the same, the light and colors are drastically different. It highlights that the feeling of an object is dependent on the viewers position in time, and is a beautiful lesson in perspective.
A book I highly recommend is The Autobiography of Miles Davis, by Miles and Quincy Troupe. I first read it when I was in my early 20s and have enjoyed revisiting it a few times since. What an artist he was!
If you enjoyed this interview with Arthur King and would like to find out more about their music, visit their official website. The band is also on Instagram, Facebook, and twitter.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Something has stuck with me from when I first started playing piano in grade school. I had learned a few Scott Joplin songs, and was playing them often. At one point, I couldn’t remember a section of a song, and instead of consulting the sheet music, I made it up. I figured out something that worked, and inserted it.
I think that has stayed with me, the ability to engage with music in my own way, and the possibility that things could be played differently-than-expected, as I see fit. There’s a connection for me with that experience and the improvisational music that has become my main form of musical expression today.
Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colours or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how does it influence your approach to music?
Music is such a powerful medium in that it can occupy many different realms of experience depending on the context—on the listener, and the listening environment. It can be different things at the same time. It can both beckon you inward, and coax you outward.
It’s also so uniquely human, how we create sounds and sonic relationships that touch our inner selves in non-rational ways. Not to say that other animals like whales or birds might not enjoy their own sounds in some hard-to-understand way. But our music is so us.
My favorite listening experience is when I’m moved in a way that is non-verbal, non-rational. This happens when I’m able to focus on listening and just be with the music, let my mind wander and my body feel. This is also my preferred method of creating music.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
After writing, playing and performing music for almost two decades, I had a life-changing, transformational experience that completely redefined my creative self, and helped me discover the very rewarding artistic pursuits I am following presently. It came from an unlikely place--the educational system.
In my late 30s I went back to school to pursue a PhD in mythological studies with emphasis in depth psychology. Basically, an anthropology of the soul. I learned about the nature of creativity and the unconscious, different creative methodologies, and their resulting by-products. Through research and experimentation, an entirely new artistic universe opened in front of me, accessed by focusing on the process of creating, rather than the product.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
I’m an improviser at heart, and so I tend to accept and embrace chance and circumstance in art, and in life. I interpret things that happen naturally as tools for creativity. I enjoy random sounds. I enjoy pure silence, when I’m able to find it.
If I choose to put music on, the genre varies greatly, but I most-often lean toward rhythmic-based tracks, and genres like reggae, cumbia, krautrock, or jazz, to name a few.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
The central idea behind my approach to music and art is connection. Art is a tool for connection to our surroundings, to others, and to ourselves. And it is an essential, vital connection.
Today more than ever, we need connection, deep connection, to all three of those entities.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
I subscribe to the “both/and” concept when it comes to a lot of things in life and in art. This is the idea that opposing elements or ideas can both be held as truths, simultaneously. Something can be both original and timeless. Both bad and good. The best art, in my mind, holds the tension of the opposites.
And so, with this in mind, things can be both futuristic and traditional. When dealing with collective total improvisation, there is no question of originality, and yet any expression or combination of expressions has been made before, in some way, and will also be made again.
Nothing is unique in this sense—and yet, because it exists in a moment, it is unique, for the moment is both unique and eternal.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
The transformational development I mentioned earlier was ultimately about my mind as a creative tool. Focusing on how my mind is a part of my creativity has opened the way for process-based artistic approaches. This has been a most-important tool for me.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
An ideal day, which happens occasionally, goes like this: wake up, have a cup of coffee, breakfast, play tennis on one of the magnificent public courts of Los Angeles, and make my way to our studio in Silver Lake.
An ideal day at the studio would be a mix of immersing myself in my own work of editing / mixing / sequencing / listening, and engaging in the work of others, which means conversing and working with label personnel and/or artists on their various projects.
Then it’s home in time for dinner with my marvellous wife.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
Our latest release is one of a series called “Changing Landscapes.”
The series has a consistent artistic framework, which begins with field recordings. What we find at a given location, we record. In this particular case, it was at a working copper mine in Chile. These recordings eventually become samples in an instrument that we can use to creatively and collectively digest our experience, along with traditional instruments, or made sounds.
Playing the land back to the land, in a sense, and playing along with the land, is a very rewarding and enlightening experience. It connects me as an artist to a space, and to myself. I have a very intimate understanding of the places we’ve played, because I went on this unique sonic and visual journey, far beyond what my eyes / ears / rational mind might have offered.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
I love listening alone. I also like sharing experiences! In recent years, creating music has exclusively occurred in group settings, where each individual is having their own experience of the music, and at the same time, we are sharing an experience together.
The “both/and” formula is helpful, again, to understand this. Total improvisation is both private and collaborative. The group setting is key in order to be in both creative spaces (individual/collective) simultaneously. For me, this type of constellation is the most rewarding, and produces the best results to boot.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
For me, my work connects me to the world--the natural world around me, which includes people, plants, animals, land. My work is about listening, amplifying, and creating from what is happening around us and inside us, all the time. It is tapping into the process of the world, and seeing what’s there.
At this point, I’d say the world and our society at large is objectively pretty messed up and disconnected. Art can be a relieving connection, a reminder of connection, or a reconnection to what is larger than ourselves.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
There are certain pieces of music that have been seared into me through experiences, both good and bad. I love listening to some tracks because of this, and can’t stand listening to others.
In the moment, art can be a conduit to the unconscious. Looking at a painting, a sculpture, listening to music, feeling the art, puts you into a space of both inner and outer-experience and connection. What might we find inside ourselves because of the art? I love that art has this potential.
There seems to be increasing interest in a functional, “rational” and scientific approach to music. How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
When examining any phenomenon, it’s useful to have different interpretive lenses. A scientific lens can be useful to realize there is measurable complexity in something that might feel simple.
Yet, I think it’s foolish to get stuck in one lens, and therefore don’t believe a scientific lens is any sort of answer, or best approach. In the end, it’s interesting to know that there are different truths at play, and each truth is as valid as the next.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
This might sound absurd to some, but the magnificent happens all the time, if you choose to see it. If you choose to put the right lenses of perception on.
It’s not always appropriate to wear this lens, as some things might not deserve artistic elevation, like ignorance, or violence. But brewing a cup of coffee can be a pure and beautiful creative experience. The same goes for just stopping and listening.
For me and my work, we’re using tools that ensure a focused creative experience, and a certain depth of engagement.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
There’s so much we don’t and can’t understand. Arguably the most important things in life aren’t meant to be understood.
What I believe is that everything is a process. The natural world, our own psyches, we are all in constant process, and nothing is static. Your brain vibrations. Your heart, organs, blood and bones. These are all in flux, essentially.
Musical vibrations touch us and remind us of these processes, of hearing, listening, feeling, thinking, and ultimately of being in the moment and experiencing something.