Name: Tashi Dorji
Current Release: Stateless on Drag City
As Black as Resistance: Finding the Conditions for Liberation by William Charles Anderson and Zoé Samudzi
Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women and Queer Radicals by Saidiya Hartman
Blood In My Eyes by George Jackson
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When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
In Bhutan we only heard Western music via bootlegged cassettes which kids were sharing and short wave radios. This was in the 90s.
Growing up in a landlocked country with very little outside influence I was very inquisitive and soaked up anything I heard. The passion of dialing the short wave radio everynight to stations from around the world filled my mind up with imagination and curiosity early on.
I have been based in the US for a while now and this curiosity & imagination about sound and of making sound has not changed. It is always new and most of the time I am not sure what's next.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you?
I learned to play guitar by listening to cassette tapes and radios and I had to figure out chords and finger positions on my own … maybe in some ways, I think, this was laying the foundation towards improvisation, learning broken tunes and incorrect chords.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
As an improviser I am constantly navigating and plotting not just the sound realm but everything around me … so things are always shifting … falling and reappearing. Life sort of becomes improvisation, the challenges of navigating this both via sound and living is a constant process.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
I think it was a cassette recorder and now I have moved up to a cheap Zoom recorder for home recordings. I also have a close friend who has a recording studio in his basement where I do most of my studio recordings.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
I play both acoustic and electric guitar. With the electric guitar I use a couple of pedals, mostly to boost the textural and timbral aspect of playing. I am not much of a gear person so my negotiations with technology in that context are basic and minimal. I am most interested in the physicality of playing and how that can translate into sound.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work?
Like I said before, I am interested in the physicality and volatility of playing and how that translates into sound. The tools in this context manifest themselves through your body, the movement of your fingers, the textures between notes, the scrapes, the sound of broken strings etc. But that doesn't mean that tools like the pedals aren't relevant when playing electric guitar. Rather, they become more of a facilitator towards the actualization of the sound goals.
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?
Collaborations are a vital part of my sound making as an improviser. I see them as providing for a radical space of infinite possibilities. Most of my engagements have happened spontaneously without much discussions or mapping of ideas.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work?
My routines change every day.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album thats particularly dear to you, please?
Blue Twelve was recorded in a large hallway that led up to a huge stairwell. I think the idea was to capture the vastness of the space? By letting the space and the sound interact unhinged, the record became a possibility.
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 do not know what that space is. Most of the time music happens and then we reach that state of balance and imbalances, it's in constant flux you know. The music I make is volatile and unstable, I really think it only helps my creative process if I just let it go.
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?
I think in both the contexts the outcomes are different. Improvised music to me in many ways is best actualized in a live setting. The interactive nature of performing for an audience compliments the music making process that is improvisation.
How do you see the relationship between the sound aspects of music and the compositional aspects?
I don't think sound and composition are mutually exclusive; it always seems like there is a constant process of disintegration and becoming.
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?
To me sound is transcendental, there is no way to control it. Our senses only become a vehicle of mutuality towards the rhizomatic terrains of possibility.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
To me, the art form and practice of improvisation is one of the most radical forces of expression with anarchic tendencies and that mutinous primordiality is in a sense what attracted me to improvisational practice in life and music.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21 st 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?
Current form (Western/White/ Colonial) needs to be disrupted and antagonised. White supremacy reigns in all forms of white western colonial musical practice, it's obsolete to me and the only path I see forward are the acts of dismantling it.