Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? 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?
As an independent freelancer “millennial” in the “creative gig” “economy” my routine varies from day to day, though less so from week to week. I try reserve Thursday afternoons and Fridays specifically as studio days, and the rest happens when I can and/or feel like it. I’m not a Marina Abramovic devotee by any means but I agree with her 13th manifesto point, specifically that artist should only go into the studio when they have been moved to do so. Being an artist is pointedly to NOT have a job, to have to treat it with the same attitude that jobby-work can engender. I find a lot of creativity in transit, so I take a lot of notes on my phone or in my notebook, make a little recording on my phone, or start a text with someone about an idea to see what their thoughts are. I keep them and come back to them later at will. Something eventually comes from most of these things, I just don’t really know when.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
I think this question is hard to answer because my working style is so circular. So many of my works feel like responses to other parts of other works. I’ll say that the two vocal-only tracks on A Parallel Array of Horses, the recent release I did with Room40, were a step forward in a direction I’d wanted to revisit, if that makes sense. Considering some of the earlier pieces I did were just voice, mic, distortion, delay, loop pedal, and bass amp, I was eager to try separating out those elements into discrete vocal lines and thoughts, though they wouldn’t sound like those tools. Instead, one vocal layer would function affectively as distortion; another affectively as the bass amp, etc. The loop remains important to me for its more conceptual implications, but processed and unprocessed voice can trigger unease and disorientation in a visceral mode I love.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I like it when I’m bored by everything and everyone else. Sometimes I get perversely lucky and this happens naturally––other times I have to make a drastic effort to turn everything and everyone off and down. Summers are good. There’s something about it being too hot to do much or use my analytical thinking. Better to just lie on the cool floor with some blueberries and a beer and tinker with a project.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
Playing live is how I test out material I’ve been working on in the studio. I don’t generally perform with material much after it’s been finalized as a recording––I see a recorded release as the final step in a long series of listening permutations. Audience, architecture, temperature, lighting, mood (mostly my own)––all these factors influence the way I perform work which I’ve been sitting with for some time. When I feel like I’ve had the chance to fully push the materials through the situational wringer, as it were, I know them better and know how they sit with each other best. I know what to get rid of from that pre-produced sample, and know what I kept introducing as an improvisatory gesture in live performance that I should add in to the final mix.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
My composition process is entirely reliant on listening to sounds and deciding how they fit together and flow. Rarely does a piece come together with all the materials created specifically for that piece––I’ll borrow from this folder, from that instrument, from another old tape run through a couple loops on the four-track, then digitize that, then bring in some other patch I built a few months ago which I just remembered works well with the mood and tone of what I’ve got cooking. But I fine-tune at every step of the process––nothing ever just gets dropped in without some close and tweaky editing.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
Sound is evocative in the same way that smell is evocative, so I think about the two in pairing often. Songs and sounds will trigger memories or deja vu in a potent but ethereal moment which slips past your grasp––notoriously, scents will do the same. This provokes a desire to tell the story, memory, or dream attached to the scent or sound. The ocular mode doesn’t work this way––it is presumed that what we see, if we have the privilege of sight, can be reproduced so that the knowledge is concretely transferable to others. Sound, when it subsumes your consciousness, incites a different, non-linear form of communication that is gestural, presence-oriented, webbed, and sensual in its invisibility.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I work at my politics by reading and listening and talking. I aim to have a lot of conversations with as many people with varying perspectives as I can handle, though sometimes my patience or tolerance fails (as maybe it should sometimes). All of this lived experience informs my own worldview, which I trust makes itself known through the work I make. And vice versa, making art and thinking about sound and listening as much as I do affects the way I converse and listen to others (I hope).
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
Music is a loaded word. Music is more complicated than it appears in a post-corporate music industry life under capitalism. I envision music pushing past genre, into something that doesn’t––or shouldn’t––make sense, but we can’t help but love it. I’m excited for music that comes out of augmented reality (not to be confused with music *for* augmented reality), for the ways in which hiphop continues to overtake pop music and appropriate country music and claim stake in emo, for women who take power electronics away from pigs.