1. You have a new project just released, so first of all where can we experience & support it?
please link us to it
My first full-length album to bear my own name, Dissolver was just released
2. For people who may not know you, what are your primary fields of endeavour?
What do you do? creatively, professionally – link us to your work
I’m a career creative generalist. I’m a design director who designs interactive installations. I’ve done motion graphics and videography for personal projects and clients. I was trained as an illustrator, and for some reason keep designing logos for well known audio professionals. And, of course, I do a lot of field recording, sound design, and blogging on those topics. And I make music.
3. What was the genesis of the project? Its initial origins, inspiration, concept?
Despite always having played an instrument since middle school, I had been away from music for a while and decided to explore making something from the synthesis tools and field recordings I’d collected over the last several years. This coincided with a pretty stressful and chaotic period of my life. Lots of good patterns were disintegrating, and lots of bad patterns were building. This album comes from analyzing and expressing my anxieties, fears, and even fever visions of the future around the dissolution and reforming of life’s patterns.
4. In a practical sense, what was the timeline for the project? How long did it take from start to finish?
I’d say about nine months, loosely. I started recording tracks in late 2014, and about three months later, some themes started to emerge. Then the last two or three months, in the spring of 2015, were spent unifying, discarding, editing, and shaping not just tracks, but an end-to-end listening experience. Final track selection and ordering was probably the hardest part, in terms of constructing a theme-driven narrative that left most of the album open to the listener’s interpretation.
5. Who did you collaborate with? What did they contribute & how did you find them?
Did you direct them? Give them free rein? Link us to them
Almost none of my professional work is done alone, but this album really was done in isolation from almost anyone else, including my significant other, until two friends were allowed to hear the nearly final track list. That’s pretty unusual for me. From recording to imagery to mixing, it was all me, in a tiny and acoustically horrific home studio. However, the person who deserves the most credit for helping shape the album’s final sound was my mastering engineer (and an amazing musician in his own right), Rafael Anton Irisarri of Black Knoll Studio. He was the Yoda to my Luke. We didn’t collaborate for long in terms of calendar time, but the amount of knowledge and patience he exhibited was astounding.
6. The person who starts a long term project is different to the person who finishes it
How does it feel to have created something new? How has it changed you?
I think any artist worth his or her salt is instantly suspicious of his or her own work. A little self-paranoia goes a long way. For me, revisiting my own work is a mix of pride and shame: I hear and see things I like, but there are all those mistakes, those missed opportunities. But I’ve learned to release the work anyway if I think the work is reasonably resolved (which I always prefer to say instead of “done”). Otherwise you get on the treadmill of either endless tweaks and changes, or the downward spiral of “it’s not good enough,” and the work never impacts anyone. A work isn’t truly complete until the audience engages with it, for good or ill. Letting go of a work is my way of ending a lesson. I’ve accomplished a few things, screwed up a lot more, and now I’m better armed with knowledge and experience for the next time.
7. Completing a long term project can sometimes open the floodgates of new ideas
Do you have immediate plans for the next project/s?
I enjoy a wealth of tools, references, and techniques, and I used almost all of them on this album, and I have probably one or two more themes to explore with those techniques. But I may want to restrict my techniques and choices on future projects, which I think many creatives find inspiring. I’ve got amazingly rich conversations afoot with several people about the state, and possible future, of live performance of mostly electronic music, so we’ll see if that goes anywhere. I’ve got this whole other side of my career that’s about digital installations, and there’s always a lot of fun to be had there on the art/sound side as well.
8. Tell us about the evolution of your creative tools? What changed over the course of the project
This album, despite its dark tone, had a lot of joyous discovery in its making, especially from using new tools like modular synthesizers and Ciat Lonbarde instruments. Most tracks still have instruments played with keyboards or strings, even if they’re sonically mutated, but moving away from the traditional physical interface of the piano was a huge inspiration…which somehow makes me enjoy returning to the piano more. Over time, the compositions definitely got looser, and I started using production techniques that retained a fair amount of lovely analog and digital artifacts.
9. Tell us about the evolution of your creative ideas? Has your creative identity or sense of direction/clarity of vision evolved?
My first forays into music were totally genre-focused, probably more in search of peer respect than self-expression. This project was the first that didn’t really find me wondering where it fit in the gestalt of soundscape versus composition, or genre, or category. I just didn’t care. I had to let go in order to find something to hold on to. Nor was this a sudden epiphany: This was a multi-year journey that just, for the moment, culminated in a collection of work that’s being released.
Every project I complete lessens how tightly my self-worth is to its outcome; if it is unsuccessful, I allow that to serve as motivation rather than self-centered angst. And, like every other project I’ve ever done, I’m constantly reminded of how little I really know. I feel ready – even excited – to fail, learn, fail again in a different way, and repeat, for the rest of the time I have left in this world.
10. Do you work best in parallel, series? multiple projects? multi tasking? mono tasking?
Which aspects did you enjoy the most? the least?
I’m a serial multitasker: I can only ever do one thing at a time. But being able to flip between things is what keeps me motivated. That comes from being trained as an artist: being able to have multiple pieces going at once allows you to turn one painting against the wall for a while if you’re struggling with it. But you can turn around and start working on another one. I produced an entire post-rock/experimental guitar EP during the making of this album, just to keep from grinding down to a halt on a problem or struggle. You need space and distant to be objective. I can’t get that from working only on one thing at a time.
11. If you could skip back in time & offer yourself some sage advice during the project, what would it be?
Don’t ignore that meat sack that encloses your brain. It’s part of your mind and consciousness, too, and its state has a huge impact on your ability to create.
12. Creating order from chaos is a fundamental aspect of art. Do your best ideas or creative elements
come to you consciously? subconsciously? Is finding the balance primarily intuitive? intellectual?
What role did improvisation play in this project?
I’ve never relied much on improvisation before, but on this album, half of the pieces have original, totally unedited tracks that came directly from improvisation sessions. But over a period of time, some tracks need to be reigned in, assigned a key, and structured. Initial creations are usually pretty intuitive, but sometimes you have to take that weird melody and back it into a key in order to hang complementary parts around it. Some say that “the piece will tell you what it needs;” it does feel that way, that pieces take on a certain agency and their own life, but I suspect it’s your subconscious brain telling you what it needs from the piece.
13. Time based art requires both the use & manipulation of time
How did your perception of time change while working on this project?
consciously? unconsciously? is time elastic? are friends electric?
Time, being subjective, is totally elastic, especially when you’re in a flow state. I just counted over 230 musical sketches, snippets, and tracks from the last two years on my computer…that adds up to a gigantic amount of time. Only time will tell if that was a worthwhile investment on my part.
Tactically speaking, some tracks on the album barely have proper tempos, and a lot of improvisation was done without a clock source or tempo of any kind. For me, that was working without a net in a major way. I learned a lot from that process, and it made me a lot more confident, even if half of those experiments didn’t work.
Friends are indeed electric, in that they are fuel for the soul…but they also need to be recharged, too, and you have a big role in that. You can’t ever forget that.
16. What was the first music or sound you ever heard that sparked the motivation & desire to work & create in this field?
For this project specifically, I’d have to say the American experimental band Matmos. Their craft is beyond reproach, their interests are incredibly broad, their ability to balance accessibility and highly conceptual experimentation are unmatched. They still are a very inspiring duo to me, and continue to do amazing work.
17. Share a memory with us – a live music concert which was profoundly inspiring to you
Ornette Coleman, early 1990’s. Every member of his group had sheet music, and would start in sync. Then the sync would drift. It would descend into utter madness and complete atonality. Then, with no visible cue, they would all stop. At once. Wait. And then start again in perfect sync. That’s when I realized, sure, it’s free jazz, there’s improvisation, but there is structure. And musical structures, well, they can sound like anything, even noise. That was an epiphany.
18. Share a memory with us – a place which was profoundly inspiring to you
Near where I live, there are World War II gun emplacements that overlook the Pacific Ocean. Built out of fear, they were never used. They’re burrowed deep into the land. The sea air corrodes them constantly, graffiti artists tag them constantly, nature is constantly overwriting them, and they still stand watch over every sunrise and sunset, empty. They’re acoustically resonant spaces, visually rich with rust and decay while still being strong. But being open to the ocean and the sky, all you can hear is the ocean and your own footsteps.
19. Share a memory with us – a work of art you experienced that profoundly inspired you
Richard Diebenkorn started as a Bay Area figurative artist, and his work became more abstract over time; his late work is what I prefer. What I marvel over in his work is that you can see his decision making process. You can see where he abandoned a line or edge and moved it, the old decision buried under layers of paint. His process is laid bare in the end result, whereas most artists work towards a crisper ideal of perfection. I like seeing mistakes, barely covered. That takes a lot of courage.
20. Lastly, a meta question: please answer this question with a question about your project
What do you see when you close your eyes and listen to Dissolver?