Members: Christopher Royal King aka Symbol, Christopher Tignor
Occupations: Multi-instrumentalist, composer (Christopher Royal King), Violinist, composer (Christopher Tignor)
Current release: Disassembler's A Wave From A Shore is out via Western Vinyl.
CT: I still quite enjoy the paintings of Joan Mitchell.
CK: Manga: Domu at Archive.org
If you enjoyed this interview with Disassembler, visit the members' respective homepages for more information and music: Christopher Royal King; Christopher Tignor. We also recommend our previous Christopher Tignor interview.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
CK: I’ve been creating music since I was 12. Back then it was recording punk demos on a broken Tascam 4 track. Music from an early age brought about a sense of resolve and angst. My parents separated when I was 12, so it gave me an outlet to manifest my emotions, my drive to create and figure out my place on the world.
I was drawn to sound like any kid in the 90’s: I loved the idea of how visual media translated into sound like Liquid Tv, Heavy Metal, etc. I was drawn by the idea of expression and an escape reality.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
CK: I went through many phases like any artist does. When I was young I was figuring out my voice: I liked everything from Smashing Pumpkins to Sepultura to Blink 182. Continuing to acknowledge and mimic these sounds created it’s own unique sound palette that eventually morphed into my own creative identity as I continued to grow and learn.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
CK: I know it’s such a catch 22 (which is another band I loved as a kid) but when you are a teenager it’s all about finding yourself. It’s part of the process of truly becoming who you are and realizing what your potential can ultimately be. It’s so many times of falling on your face and getting back up.
Having a tough childhood gave me strength that I carry to this day. My only outlet and saving grace was music / being involved in music that gave me mentors and a support group who could lift me up and make me realize who I was as a creative person.
CT: I make music to channel personal expression with the attitude that personal experiences can speak to our shared human condition. My identity is my unique response to the world, philosophically and emotionally, and I put all this into the music.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
CK: I started off with an Ibanez RG series neon green guitar and a 10 watt gorilla practice amp. No tuner. When your resources are limited you make the best of it and I loved how my creativity flowed back then - no shame and willing to be receptive to any input from elders. My older life brother George Hickman gave me a huge leg up and let me join his band playing bass. I was 14 and had never played bass but this opportunity gave me the confidence and paved the way for the future ahead.
As I’ve gotten older with more experience and resources the main challenge has been to stay inspired. Getting the access to any and all music gear can become daunting and dialing back has been the key to snapping out of patterns. I have a cabin up north of LA and getting to go out there with just a few pieces of gear is like a breath of real creative air. Sometimes limiting what you have can create the best results and give you a perspective you wouldn’t have otherwise.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
CK: I started off with a insanely primitive setup: a tascam 4 track and a shit Ibanez guitar. When you have nothing it’s amazing how resourceful you can be. I used to make punk drum beats with spoons and I actually listened back to those recordings and used a bar of that for a new recording. My introduction to Ableton Live as I entered college completely changed the game for me as prior to that I became heavily influenced by Warp records / artists like AFX and Autechre along with upcoming local ambient artists like Stars of the Lid. It created an exciting new sonic palette for me and launched where I am at today.
CT: I’ve been playing the violin as early as I can remember. It’s always been my most expressive limb, even if I ignored it for a period while discovering composition and the electronic music studio. My desire to combine a ravenous intellectual curiosity with the ever present creative longing led me into software and its musical possibilities.
My focus always remained on performance, where music becomes most immersive and riskiest—where the adrenaline kicks in. So my electronic practice always focused on what can be done live, what can flip expectations there.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
CK: Getting my first electric piano (Fender Rhodes 88) & analogue synth (Realistic Concertmate MG-1) really changed how I went about looking at sound. The change in frequency, sonic dynamics, and musical options completely changed how I went about making tracks. I went from just dabbling in the middle of the spectrum to utilizing 20 HZ to 20K HZ. It made me interested in sound design and not just the standard set of “rock” band sounds. It gave me a new palette and created my appetite to become a producer.
CT: As someone who improvises a lot during the composition process, the various live processing methods I use that extend my violin require me to think differently about how to compose. My playing on the instrument can cause a fundamentally different reaction after the software gets a hold of it. These “second order” musical effects need to be felt as “first order” to truly internalise the complete instrumen and to be able to write well for it.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
CK: I have always thrived off of creating energies and connections with another individual I respect in a creative realm. There is nothing like the moment when you both just click on a sound or feeling that drives a track. It gives me chills to this day. The best way is to let it flow organically - let the other individual be them and send what they need to send unfiltered. Mistakes are what makes music beautiful, organic, and alive. It creates the moments people take away from recordings so just let it happen.
CT: This Disassembler LP was pretty one-directional. Chris King would send me recordings of his improvisations on analog synths. I would shape these into “songs”, layering on lots of orchestration, often processed, and structuring them into cohesive forms. It was a brilliant process of “disassembling” his original recordings into musical essences I could extend, respond to, and cut up to make complete pieces.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
CK: (Laughs) No fixed schedule here. I’m as emotional and impulsive as they get. When I get inspired I plug away relentlessly and when I’m down I can’t even lift a finger. It’s all part of the ebb and flow of being a creative person.
My goal everyday is to create something: whether it be a draft of a music idea or creating a piece of visual art. Being creative has been a life force to me. They exist and breathe independently of everything going on but I need the output to keep me going. It’s something I strive to everyday.
CT: Wake up at 7. Get Ella fed, teeth brushed, dressed, to school. Go home and clean up the cat piss. Get the laptop open and check in with my team at Google. Read / write design documents, do meetings, write code for the day. Hopefully get on the gymnastics rings. Get Ella back from sitter, make her dinner, bathe her, read her stories, pet the cat. Zoom with Rachelle. Make a whiskey. Head downstairs to the lab for the next shift. Compose or rehearse or tweak the system until 12:30 or so. Maybe watch something to kill remaining brain jitter till 1. Fall asleep repeating the music I haven’t solved yet in my head.