Here’s a Brooklyn Independent TV interview with Paul of our upcoming Softoft Techech release. He demonstrates some of his creations in his studio and raps on all things Slocum.
Archive for the ‘interviews’ Category
Eric breaks down some of the inspiration and meaning behind the songs on his steam gathering The Friend Is This Animal LP over at excellent site Indie Rock Reviews. These kinds of pieces can often be a bit boring and predictable (ie VH1 storytellers) but Eric manages to tie his world travels, academic and intellectual perspectives and unassuming musical and personal stories into something interesting, erudite and never trite. Of track “There’s So Much” he says “One night, I was walking home through Nezu, my neighborhood in Tokyo, and it suddenly struck me that there was some kind of odd, almost rhythmic logic to the world, and that it could be seen in the layout of the streets of that grand city, Tokyo. Not just the street grid, but the geometry of the streets, little square houses and tiny, plant-lined walkways of Nezu, as well as the topology between specific points that I knew and loved in the city: the public bathhouse, the big stone staircase in Ueno Koen, a gyoza shop in Ueno Station, the pond in Yoyogi Koen, the little French bistro down the street from Grapefruit Moon, the hilly street in Kamakura where Jack and Chie live, a karaoke booth near Omote Sando where Kenzo and I sang Beatles songs, the laundry mat, the zoo, and the smell of tatami mats in the bedroom. All of this served as the germ of a song, and eventually connected with the snowy streets of Highland Park, New Jersey…”. Read the rest here.
Here’s the second part of my recent interview with Eric in which we delve deeper into his recording and songwriting process, recent European travels and his research into alternative food systems and collectives.
I and I: How do you generally start a new song? Is it an intellectual process of thinking what you’d like to do or is more jamming and experimenting to get ideas and then embellishing and refining those? Did you try any new songwriting techniques or processes on this one?
Eric: i guess i don’t have seem to start a song the same way twice, really, but generally i seem to start with a germ of an idea, which i’ll record on keyboard or guitar, and start messing around with. i think most of the tracks on ‘the friend’ were pretty well fleshed out musically before i added vocals. in most cases, once voices are added, i tend to go back and change certain aspects of the music, usually carving out more space and minimizing parts. things that sound good when there aren’t vocals on a track seem to compete with voices once they’re added. a couple of the tracks on this album — ‘strange power’ and ‘we waited for nothing’, i remember writing on piano and wurlitzer. as for lyric-writing, like i said before, much of the lyrics just kind of came to me at various times, in contrast to the way i’ve often written in the past, which was often about writing a ton of stuff and then paring down to essential lines or something.
I and I: Can you say anything about the title ‘The Friend Is This Animal’?
Eric: the title, ‘the friend is this animal’ is a direct nod to the amazing philosopher elizabeth grosz. i took a class with her on feminism and the animal, which basically looked at how western philosophers have understood the animal, how those understandings have been and are enmeshed with how we see the human. more than that, the class attempted to look at and think animals as not just something we ‘project’ our human notions onto, or a kind of ‘outside’ or opposite to ‘society’ or ‘culture’ and such, but as beings with their own worlds, cultures, creativity, and so on. in her great book ‘chaos, territory, art’, liz grosz argues that what we tend to think of as ‘nature,’ a thing we generally oppose to our supposedly more elevated human ‘culture’, is actually the basis from which all art and culture emerges. getting back to my album, i was really moved, while working on this record, by nietzsche’s way of talking about animals and the human animal, especially the relationship between zarathustra and ‘his animals,’ who restore zarathustra to health when he enters his convalescent periods…these animals, an eagle and a snake, tell him that to get over his nausea caused by the wretched ways that humans often treat each other he should learn from animals, especially songbirds, who sing and dance and affirm life to the fullest extent. it’s hard to do justice to these concepts in this short interview, but i found these ways of thinking about the animal to be quite helpful in my own life, for a number of reasons related to the deep changes and rich experiences of my recent years that i talked about earlier.
It’s kind of funny that Eric and I are always talking about music and things but we don’t often get to step out side of our normal context and ask questions from a more objective viewpoint. So with that in mind I’ve been conducting an interview with Eric regarding his new record The Friend Is This Animal and tangentially related subjects. It’s an interesting way to get some perspective on his thoughts and experiences behind the music. So without further ado:
I and I: A lot has happened since 2008’s The Declaration of Interdependence. How have you changed and how did that effect the process and finished result of the new album The Friend Is This Animal?
Eric: yeah, it has been a very full several years since ‘the declaration’ came out. for one, i’ve been immersed in graduate school since 2008, and much of the stuff i’ve been reading and working with there — social theory, post-postmodernism, theories of space, the body and affect — has fed into the ways that i think about and write music. more personally, i experienced some major changes in regard to ‘relationships,’ health, and family stuff. finally, i haven’t been playing live much the past couple of years, focusing more on recording and writing. taken together, all of this stuff comes through on the new album in various ways, i think. lyrically, this record is a lot more ‘personal,’ i guess you could say. it deals with both the difficult parts of recent changes in my life and the ways i think i’ve changed for the better as a result of dealing with those challenges. musically, in some ways the album is more focused than the last one…there’s still a fair amount of variety in terms of style, but to me there’s a lot of elements or motifs that tie the songs together sonically and production-wise. one of the challenges of recording in one’s own studio, for me at least, is the never-ending list of possibilities in terms of sound and instrumentation. but with this album, although i did spend a lot of time messing around with ideas and sounds, it seemed to kind of dictate a fairly limited set of parameters. especially as the album developed…by the end it got to the point where i was waking up in the middle of the night knowing how to finish a song, and just getting up and doing it.
For our latest installment of Alchemist artist interviews I asked the somewhat mysterious man behind Local Winds, a couple of questions. He kindly peeled back the layers of hazy synth pads and atmosphere to reveal some of his thoughts behind the sound.
Do you have an album or song that you remember from childhood that sparked your interest in music?
I became very interested in psychedelic rock from the late 60’s at a pretty early age. I guess because it sounded so unique to me at the time. It was mainly just all those classic psych rock albums as a whole that really got me thinking about music more. If I had to name one that had a big impact on me, early on, it would probably be Piper at the Gates of Dawn. It was that perfect combination of pop and strange noises that interested me the most.
Do you have any training or education on any instruments or are you more of a “non musician” music maker?
I do not have any formal musical education. Never took guitar or piano lessons, I just kind of taught myself how to play, decently, on the piano. I still consider myself in the learning process though.
How would you describe the influence of your environment on the types of soundscapes you create? The wind in particular?
I’m a big nature person. I try to go hiking, camping, biking, etc. as much as I can. Just love being outdoors. I kind of see Local Winds as the sounds I hear and interpret from a natural setting. That doesn’t mean it’s always woodland inspired. It could be the distant, man-made sounds that I hear sitting in my backyard or something like that and I see the wind as what takes in those structureless noises and carries them to other places.
What things have you been into lately?
I have been in a Spacemen 3/BlackDice phase as of late. Oh and White Flight. That dude is ridiculously taletned. I’m biased though because he is from Lawrence, Kansas where I spend a lot of my time.
Analog, Digital, both?
Definitely both. I always like to get the best of both worlds.
It’s a bit early in the game but what are your next plans for Local Winds? Are there any live shows in the works?
With Local Winds I just plan to continue to write more songs and progress that formula of short soundscapes for the short attention spans of today. There are not any live shows in the works currently but I hope to get that going soon. I have never actually done a real live set before. I’ve just performed for close friends and such. When the time does come I’ll be looking to enlist more people to perform with me. I don’t want to be that guy all on his own with just his macbook. I’ve been to shows like that and they get rather dull after awhile. I want to put on live shows that I myself would look forward to going to.
The nice little french blog What Lovely Tea has recently conducted an interview with BAnanas Symphony man Yohuske Araki. Though the interview is in French it’s just as interesting and definitely more comedic to read a bad google translation. Here’s an excerpt:
“Araki Yohsuke whose real name hates bananas, making music alone or with his buddy and idolatrous Françoise Hardy. Following in the vein post-Animal Collective with talent, he accompanied me and was inaugurated by the end of autumn with its great new song “Held Up.” A guy you are told to follow.”
read and translate the rest here.
2010 has been a great year for us and it’s due in large part to the addition of the talents of Illus Ocean, Atlantic At Pacific and Local Winds to the Alchemist Collective family. Now as the year draws to a close we are excited to reveal another awesome new artist joining the team: BAnanas Symphony. Hailing from the “City of Brotherly Love” Philadelphia, BAnanas Symphony is the work of Yohsuke Araki whose gift for captivating melodies is equaled by a voice fit to deliver them and an experimental production bent that takes them to another plane. Yohsuke is also a member of the up and comers super-group Blackhawks comprised of people from Cough Cool and Nude Beach. We have a special debut release from BAnanas Symphony that will be up in time to add something to your holiday playlists. Check back soon on that. A more full length BAnanas debut is scheduled for early in the new year and it’s shaping up to be something really special!! For now we’ll let Yohsuke introduce himself via this little q+a session.
What are some of your earliest musical inspirations?
Some of my earliest musical inspirations…I guess my earliest would be bands like metallica and nirvana and radiohead because me and my close friend mike learned how to play instruments and record by covering them when we got a recorder at age thirteen. Then at fifteen I got into more indie rock kind of stuff like built to spill, modest mouse, demeberists, all that kind of popular indie stuff in the mid 2000’s, and luckily animal collective when feels had just come out. By the time i turned 17 I was really into them and getting into their whole sort of NYscene, which was like black dice, gang gang dance, white magic, excepter and stuff like that. At the same time my brother was DJing at WNYU and getting into a lot of really obscure stuff but more importantly a lot of dance music as well. So i was sort of getting into that kind of stuff slowly, but surely, throughout my latter teenage years.
What are the live BAnanas Symphony shows like?
I don’t do BAnanas shows too often. I had my first show without a band this weekend actually. I played a show in Baltimore where I did a solo set, my friend dan who is Cough Cool did a solo set, and then we joined into our band and played as Blackhawks. It was a lot of fun. My set was really short, just sort of dreamy and dance-y at certain points. I’d say it was like 10 minutes.
What are your favorite venues to play? Best shows lately?
We’ve been playing this place in Jersey called The Basement Gallery for a few months. It’s sort of where I’ve befriended a whole array of friends and have the most fun playing. But it recently got put down so now I have to find a new favorite spot to play. I like basements, and small venues, and warehouses. The very first BAnanas show was at Glasslands in Brooklyn. They were pretty sweet there because the sound guy was on top of our shit and the vibes there are cool. I’d like to play that place again.
some of your favorite things you’ve been listening to lately?
A lot of Moritz Von Oswald. It’s really inspiring when I listen to all his projects but at the same time I can’t help but think I will never make music as good as his so what’s the point? Other than that I’ve gotten really into Irma Thomas. I really like oldies. A lot of Francoise Hardy because she’s probably my favorite. My brother got me Architecture & Morality by OMD for my birthday so I’m digging that a lot.
What’s the significance of the name?
Well, it’s a reference to a certain band that inspired me a lot a couple years ago, but I’d rather people find out on their own, than revealing it myself. Good luck if you actually care!
It’s kind of strange to feel like you have deep connections with someone that you have never met in the flesh. Even more strange if you’re working closely together on the kind of soul expressing project that putting out an album is! This is one of the blessing and the curses of the age of the Internets. With this in mind, we find it informative to conduct interviews with the far flung members of this Alchemist Collective and from time to time we’ll share them with you.
This time out I asked Austin Wood of Atlantic At Pacific some stupid questions in hopes of getting some enlightening answers. The answers Austin provided fit the bill and also proved funny and entertaining! I particularly liked learning about the intricate and sophisticated process involved in getting the A@P sound.
1. Have you been to any weddings lately that inspired the track?
My sister had her wedding not too long ago. Her wedding was in Texas on her own property. It was my first time going to Texas since I was very young. The weather was hot and everything felt much different than in Cali. Everything felt very new at that point in my life. Her wedding was blissful and surreal. once returning to Santa Cruz the bliss continued and i tried to express that in my music. Thus came Weddings.
2. What is the scene like there in Santa Cruz? Are there other bands/artists in the area that you feel connected to?
Santa Cruz seems to breed music and most of it seems to be hit and miss. I’ve noticed most of the music is either electronica or really beach drenched music. I remember going to some of my first shows in Santa Cruz and thinking afterwards how i wanted to be in the SC music scene. I do feel a connection to most artists in Santa Cruz, it could be the way the town has been a huge inspiration to everyone and it shows in the music or because its such a “different” place.
3. Is there one piece of gear that you think was crucial to the making of “Weddings”?
My Yamaha PSS was a very important item used. I used my Technics Dolby cassette mixer, which is broken, to give it much more tape sounding definition. I used a really old computer for the original layout of the song and then recreated it using a new one. The Dolby cassette mixer defiantly added most of the crunchy sound to Weddings.
4. Do you go to the beach often?
I love the beach oh so much! I never go in the ocean and I don’t really like to go onto the sand unless i’m completely prepared; but i love knowing it’s there for me as a muse when ever i need him/her. I find it refreshing to look at it as often I can and admire just how majestic it really is.
5. How are the live show preparations coming?
So far very well! I’ve developed a very unstructured strange way to do things haha. But for the most part all i need is a little more money and thus a little more equipment. I do have some awesome changes to Weddings/50/ and Intentional pt.1 in stored for any live viewers!
6. What was it like growing up in Santa Cruz?
Growing up in Santa Cruz has completely made me who i am today. I lived in many of the different cities in Santa Cruz County and have gotten to luckily live a no more than a street away from the beach my whole life. Just recently i moved to the west side where most the gang violence is and have developed a different appreciation for the town. All in all i really feel most at home next to the Pacific ocean in the gulf of Santa Cruz, no matter what kind of people it carries. I have really enjoyed my youth here.
7. Can you tell us about the supposed vampires there?
Bwhaha! Well the movie Lost Boys put a curse on Santa Cruz. Many tourist come through and wonder the same thing. It seems like a great place for vampires, But i’m pretty sure it’s the homeless people and the punks that give it that creepy/mysterious edge. Though I wont lie, I’ve seen some pretty weird shit go down at the boardwalk around the witching hour.
8. Do you surf?
Bahh. Surfers here are pricks. They even have a their own stick they put on their cars that reads “surfing sucks don’t try it” in their poor attempt to sway people away from there set of waves. I would love to one day again soon, but here just isn’t the right place for that. Maybe if i go to Mexico or somewhere with warmer water and less beach bums i might pick it up as a ritual habit.
9. How do you usually start songs? do you have a concept or sound you’re going for or do you just kind of jam and experiment and then develop the song from there?
When I start a song I usually use a soft synth that duplicates the sound of strings or an organ, and then i just jam out to a slow break beat from my outdated dr. 202 till I find the right groove and put it in words on the music program for days till it sounds normal and complete. Sometimes i just letdown a beat and jam and it turns in to something I’m proud of, like 50.
10. What were some of your earliest musical inspirations?
I used to live in a little place called Capitola village in Santa Cruz and thats where i really started getting in to music. My first cassette was The Beach Boys singles! I remember rocking out so hard to that and walking to the beach with my mom, my boogie board, and my battery powered boombox with tape at hand and hanging out at the beach all day eating sandwiches and sitting in the sun. After that around my teen years i got into goth and new wave, like Su & The Banshees and Bau Haus. Definaly some of my all time favorites.
11. What were some of your inspirations for this record?
During the time I made this record I heard and loved the music that was coming out. Music that sounded like it was from a cassette, or maybe not a cassette but maybe a warped memory of what cassettes sound like. I was very interested and found something i love to make. I was hanging out with my girlfriend, Lia, nearly every waking hour and enjoying life, i still am. I know that the weather in Santa Cruz had a heavy influence on the album, I remember waking up looking outside from my window where my computer was on the 3rd floor of the apartment complex i lived in and making a song completely structured around how i was feeling and how it looked outside. I feel very attached to each song and their different approaches of creation and i feel a huge inspiration from where my life is right now and where it’s going.
Austin is currently cooking up some new tracks which will hopefully hear in the new year. For now you can pick up a copy of his debut ‘Weddings’ on tape, or cd here.
The blog Ash Tapes has a nice little interview with Atlantic at Pacific mastermind Austin Wood up on their “Fresh Blood” segment. It gives a little insight into how the man got such a saturated and distinct sound on his debut. Scope it here.
Stoked after getting to preview a couple of songs from the forthcoming OIAG record, I got to chat with Sebastian about making the album, what he’s been reading, listening to, and watching, and how to get over football disappointment in grand style, among other gems. Here’s how it went:
E: first of all, congratulations on what sounds like is going to be a brilliant new record, from the tracks i’ve heard. have you settled on a title yet? if so, do you want to talk about where the title comes from?
S: Thank you very much. The album’s title will be “The Dropout Cats”. There is a song on the album which is called the same. It’s about being tired of living in a society which is appealing and disturbing at once. It’s one of the rare rather pessimistic songs of the album. When I finished the song, i thought that the song’s name could as well suit as the whole album’s name. But that doesn’t mean that the whole album is pessimistic too. On the contrary!
E: your lyrics have always been quite thoughtful and smart — what do you draw inspiration from? i get the feeling that literature, philosophy and so on are influences — are there any particular writers, thinkers, film-makers, etc. that inspired this record?
S: There are quite a few literary influences. If i had to think of some specific names, there’d be philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, who wrote a brilliant book about the philosphy behind cosmopolitanism. One other author that comes to my mind is physicist Stephen Hawking, who wrote fascinating books about the universe and all the crazy stuff that is going on there.
As for film-makers, Wes Anderson, Richard Kelly and Hans Weingartner always manage to impress and inspire me with their works.
E: i sort of believe that all music, like all creative endeavors, is in some way autobiographical. to what extent is this a record about you and your life?
S: hmm.. i don’t think the lyrics tell stories of my life. Maybe in some cryptic way, i dont know. I usually write what i feel and what comes to my mind. But i think the mood in the particular songs reflects what i was feeling when writing the song. I also often find myself listening to my own lyrics already recorded, then suddenly realizing what i could have meant and wanted to say when writing these lines. Then i’m like: “Oh, now this absolutely makes sense!”
E: on a related note, i know you’ve moved to a new city in the past year or so. has that change of scene affected your creative process?
S: Yeah, i moved to Cologne last year. I think every move affects one’s life. I don’t know how exactly it has altered my creative process but it surely has somehow.
E: nick drake comes up often when people hear your singing voice, but you clearly have a wide range of musical influences. who else was really influential to you, music-wise? and what have you been listening to lately?
S: There are lots of influences. Nick Drake, Horse Feathers, The Acorn, Animal Collective, Radiohead, Dirty Projectors, At The Drive-In, Coldplay, Frederic Chopin and Felix Mendelssohn Bartoldy are just a few of them. Lately, i’ve been listening to Best Coast, The Morning Benders, Beach House’s “Teen Dream” and Wolf Parade’s “Expo 86”. Great bands and records.
E: brian eno is often talked about as the guy, or A guy at least, who really approached the studio as an instrument — your new record sounds to me like you’re continuing to move in that direction, experimenting with production approaches. can you talk about how your thinking about recording itself has changed over the past three records? what are you doing differently lately?
S: i think i just gained some knowledge over the past few years of how to record properly. lately, i took more care of frequency ranges of individual instruments, compression, smoothness of bass and clearness of treble and stuff like that. But i have to say that i feel that it is a pity for me having to put so much effort into the technical aspects of recording instead of focussing on writing and composing. Maybe i should talk to Brian Eno.
E: on the topic of playing live — are you performing much, or do you plan to do so?
S: I’m planning on doing some live shows in the near future. At this time, i haven’t fully sorted out how to do this. If i’m to do it alone, there has to be lots of stuff coming from a sampling machine, as there are often multiple instruments in the songs.
Another way is to seek help and rock the stage together. One way or another, i’d love to do some live shows.
E: finally, what was the best day you’ve had recently like?
S: That’s an easy one! I was watching the soccer world cup semi-finals with some friends. Germany went down to Spain and thus was kicked out of the match. After this defeat, we were frustrated, drank wine and listened to sad music. We soon began to sing for ourselves with me playing the guitar. In the end the frustration was fully gone and we were just celebrating. It was a very funny day.
E: anything else you want to add?
S: in vino veritas.