Name: Jimmy LaValle
Additional Members: Dave LeBleu, Matt Resovich, Brad Lee
Current Release: Various re-issues on Eastern Glow Recordings
Recommendations: Will Samson - Welcome Oxygen; Vakoum - Home for Home
Website / Contact: If you enjoyed this interview with The Album Leaf, make sure to visit their facebook site or personal website to stay up to date with new developments as they happen.
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?
I wrote a piano piece when I was 7, charted it and everything. My wife had it framed for me as a birthday gift years ago, but after that I’d say it was in 9th grade the first time I wrote something that was a “I want write music” kind of thing. I was in school band and met a lot older musicians that were already playing in their own bands and recording on 4 track machines. I also taught myself guitar around that time so I started to write really basic songs then. I started recording myself when I was 16 or 17? I’d made a couple hardcore records in an actual studio so I learned the process of recording pretty early on. I borrowed a 4 track from a friend and made my first Album Leaf tape. A couple of years ago, a friend of the band found and bought one. It's a trip to listen back to it. I’ve always played music. I grew up in school band / orchestra programs so I was always around it.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I started playing bass in a bands when I was about 14, in high school.I didn’t write the music. The other two guitarist who wrote the music, one was really into Rage Against the Machine and the other Smashing Pumpkins. So you can gather what that band sounded like. This was in 1993 btw. I was in a couple other bands that were more in tune with punk. That was more me then. I started playing in hardcore bands after discovering the San Diego hardcore scene. Had a handful of different bands with Gabe Serbian (The Locust, Dead Cross, Holy Molar etc.) when we were 15/16. Then I started meeting kids from the scene and that's when I joined the Locust and other Hardcore bands. All along I was discovering other bands from the Chicago/Louisville scenes (Tortoise, Slint, Rodan, Rachels). So basically, I went through a lot of different angles before really falling into my own but I think the most ispirational time creating music came from my time in GoGoGo Airheart. The guys in that band were just way more musically versed and open and turned me on to so much that has inspired me to this day (Brian Eno, Can, Wire, Kraftwerk etc …). So I had a bag of influences that I pulled and borrowed from.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I really think my biggest challenge was confidence. I always second guessed what I wrote, that it was boring etc. The 4 track record I made was a songwriting mess I think. I’m completely self taught in terms of recording and production. I’ve learned a lot from many other people throughout the years obviously but I think that's the most important part of the process. Learning how to create electronics was a daunting task for me, too. I was a huge fan of electronic music but couldn’t afford a drum machine before programming became easy with software. Sequencing via a computer has come a LONG way.
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?
Well. I’ve always had a computer at the heart of every “studio” I’ve had (i.e. a bedroom in whatever house I’ve lived in) only in the last 8 years, have I had a studio in a converted garage :) I’ve always had a rhodes, guitar, couple fender amps and built my synth collection up over the last 20 years. Over the last handful of years I’ve gotten really into desktop synths and driving them via midi. My most important pieces of gear have changed a lot through the years but my Juno 60 has always played a part. Right now I’m using my Prophet 8 (desktop) JU06, JP08 Roland boutique modules, Elektron Analog Rytm & Machine Drum and I just got the Novation Peak that I’m really really enjoying. I also sample my synthesizer collection over and over again through different FX and any layering of synthesizers/sounds I create, I resample and turn into Ableton instruments. So midi/USB is very important in my studio, too.
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?
Like I said earlier, I do a lot of sampling and midi driving a synth, so I rely on technology quite a lot for it to control my synths, machines while I can freely manipulate sounds in real time. I guess the human comes in with the feel, sounds, tones and the end result.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
I rely on my tools for both inspiration and their reliability & unreliability. On one end, I love running into a mistake, a glitch, a machine acting up and capturing that moment and being able to create something from it. On the other, being able to use these tools to create something exciting to me is gratifying.
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?
I really am into all of the above and collaborating in any way that is easiest to make happen. Ideally, being together in a studio, mine preferably, is my favourite way. But I’ll take any and all of the above.
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?
Haaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!! Sure. It's pretty fixed. I wake up about 7am. Our son is normally in bed with us by that time in some crazy angle that is really uncomfortable for either my wife or I or both, normally both. Coffee is first thing, then breakfast for the kids (we have two), then make lunch or get him dressed for school. He’s gotta be at school by 7:58am, Then I normally take an hour to do whatever house errand needs to be done (grocery store, household stuff etc,.) I try to be working in my studio by 9am. I work through till about 2pm and go pick up the boy from school, or if my wife picks him up, I work through till about 3-5pm depending on what I’m working on, deadlines etc.