Part 1

Name: PJ Dorsey aka Tarotplane

Nationality: American
Occupation: Producer, composer, radio presenter
Current Release: tarotplane's Aeonium is out via Constellation Tatsu.
Recommendations: The first one would be the unbelievably amazing environmental artork “City” by Michael Heizer. Located in Garden Valley, a desert valley in rural Lincoln County in the U.S. state of Nevada, it spans more than a mile in length and is the largest contemporary artwork ever built. The amount of time and perseverance he showed must be an inspiration to any artist.
The second would be an album from a group called “Towering Inferno”. They did an album in 1993 called Kaddish. Brian Eno called it one of the most terrifying pieces of music he ever heard. Considering the subject matter, its not completely surprising. It has moments of terror, wonder, beauty, heartbreak … quite amazing. Don't think it's ever been reissued either.

If you enjoyed this interview with tarotplane and would like to know more about the project, visit PJ Dorsey on Instagram, 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?

I started playing music when I was maybe 11 or 12 years old. I bought a guitar and tried to make the best out of it. I am mostly self taught.

My earliest passion / influence was Pink Floyd. I got my first record from them around the age of 9 or 10 and I was quite obsessed. What drew me to them initially was the cover art honestly. For some reason graphic design and music became an interest very early on.

My dad was a singer but we didnt really listen to music in the house and my sister doesnt really have a strong interest in music so im not sure exactly what happened!

When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?

Wow, I wish I saw what you saw! Honestly very little happens to me when I listen to music on a physical level at all except if it's really moving music. That can give me spine tingles or bring me to tears. That's very rare.

Most of the time when I listen, I either don't respond to the music at all, I like it but its background or in the best case, I engage and start actually listening. I worked in record shops for a long time and I tend to have the ability (for better or worse) to allow music to drift into the background. If I start actively listening, I know it's worthwhile for me. I'm very cut and dry about music a lot of the time. Things don't grow on me over time typically.

As far as how that affects my creativity, I would say that since I have a really strict sense of what I am interested in actively listening to, I try to create music that I am automatically engaged in. I say to my wife I'm a “sonic narcissist” because I love to listen to my own music because I find it calming and it always hits the right spot. I suppose I am drawn to making music to have more sound that's really tailored towards my ears. I just hope other people enjoy it as well.

How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?

I have had a really odd path to be honest. I am mostly self taught and I was always really oddly rigid about not learning other people's music. It was very important to me to make everything from scratch. The other huge issue for me is that I have a hard time actually recording music. The process itself I find really unsettling and distracting.

Because of these 2 unusual tendencies on my part, I have developed an individual style but it came at a cost. I completely gave up music for almost 12 years and I didnt put out my first album until I was 48! I got so frustrated because I couldnt play what I was hearing in my head. I got a few lessons and my teacher told me how important it was to learn other people's music. I went and learned how to do that on youtube and it suddenly opened up a whole world for me.

I also learned recording by using the program Audacity. My entire first album had no multitracking. I just collaged bits of other recordings together to make multiple layers rather than recording part by part. This idea still is a big part of what I do because I often collage things together that weren't made at the same time but they may be in the same key or have a quality that binds them together. I find that way of working very freeing.

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.

Well growing up as a white male in the United States, I don't feel a sense of identity very strongly.

I would say I often think about myself in terms of my age mostly. The music world is dominated by younger people. And even though I am older and I grew up in an analog world, I learned in a digital environment. So I'm lucky that I have some unusual perspectives.

Growing up I tended to gravitate to the British / European music world so a lot of my influences are from Europe rather than America and I think that has a lot of bearing in what I do oddly enough

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?

I would say that the idea of collage features into what I do very much. I love pulling things from different arenas and traditions and finding an aesthetic commonality.

A lot of artists like a really wide range of music. Younger people especially I have noticed. I think in the past, artists often did side projects to accommodate the different styles of music they were making. For me, the great challenge is to take all of the things I like and find a thread that binds it together and makes a Tarotplane sound. Often I feel like my popularity suffers because of the wide range of styles I put one one album, but to me, that's a really vital part of what I do.

The only good thing about Spotify I think is that younger people have this huge array of all of this music put in front of them and they just dig in. There doesnt seem to be this feeling that if I like Brazilian music, that I shouldn't be listening to death metal or hip hop or so on. Things used to be much more tribal. Your identity was tied into your subculture of choice. I feel like that era is over and I believe we are all better off by melding all of these various influences.

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 am concerned with both but to me the most important part is originality and innovation. I really love to know how people made certain music in the past. What gear they used, what the cultural environment was like. The idea of learning other people's music to me isn’t so much about copying the songs but of understanding the aesthetics of the sound and being able to emulate them and integrate that into what I do.

So when people listen to my music they often call it “Kosmische” musik. So obviously I am super interested in German and other European music of the 70s. But that's just a jumping off point. I try to use some of those sounds and styles and use them as ingredients to do something new. Typically, I'm not interested in revival. Sure, sometimes I will copy things precisely but that's often as an exercise to get the skill set down to use it in a wider context down the road.

The new album I did for Constellation Tatsu was more a fun technical exercise to see if I could accurately recreate sounds of the past. They still don't come out exactly like the original because I can't, and don't want to suppress my own self in my music. I am really interested in contemporary music and I don't want to copy music that's been done better by an earlier generation. It's fun but I need to constantly look for the new

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 three tools that mean the most to my work are Audacity, The digital delay and the filter.

Firstly I use Audacity so I can precisely edit and layer my work. Typically I do a lot of “jamming” and improvising and I cut it all up later and layer it as I need it. Often I use Ableton and I love it but it tends to push you in a certain grid based direction. Audacity allows me to create a big collage and frankly I really remove imperfections.

My music is really highly curated. It's not “free", or spur of the moment. I'm not concerned at all about my musicianship or preserving the moment. All I care about is the end result. I have been playing with echo or delay my whole life and I don't think there has ever been one piece on my guitar work that hasn't used it. It's just part of my DNA.

Lastly, I process a lot of stuff via filter. A big part of what I do is running my guitar through the filter section of various analog synths to create strange textures that are typically impossible to do with pedals and rack mounts. I learned this early on from people like Eno, Atemyev and David Vorhaus.

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