Part 2

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?

From the point I took a break from my solo project to form my band Quiet Friend and focus on more collaborative work, I found that the two ways of working seem to inform and complement each other once you arrive at a balance. One might internalize a lot when working alone, as I tend to, but introduce the ideas of others in a collective setting and suddenly you find what you might recognize as personal strengths to reinforce themselves and echo.

The circumstances can also vary drastically depending on your sparring partner in question. I am no stranger to unhinged email and text threads containing mix notes loaded with sonic references and personal anecdotes about lyrics; that’s how I’ve worked with Wendy Eisenberg and the record I’m currently in the process of making for Lucy Liyou.

[Read our Wendy Eisenberg interview]

On the other hand, when I was collaborating remotely with Mari of More Eaze on the Asemix record last year during the first wave of the pandemic, we almost never discussed the music as it was being worked on, and found the sonic exchange to be almost telepathic by the time we amassed all the material. With her, it had the feel of improvising with someone in the same room. I am still baffled that we have yet to meet in person as of now. Kindred spirits can be funny that way.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. 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?

I don’t keep a regimented schedule, but it has always involved a lot of multitasking. By and large, most weekdays are a balancing act of studio work and music supervision for retail and hospitality venues, which has been my primary source of income for a few years now—so more often than not, it’s all music all the time, which is at once so liberating and extremely exhausting.

As a consequence, I have learned to incorporate silence into the time outside work so as to give my ears a break; usually the day starts either with a long run or by reading in the bath and ends by cooking with Indian spices. Taking walks is important, as is seeing art regularly.

Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind It?

What immediately comes to mind is the album of songs I produced for guitarist Wendy Eisenberg, Auto, which came out last year on Ba Da Bing.

Wendy and I have known each other since we were kids attending a performing arts summer camp in the Catskills, so the overall process had the feel of a homecoming. It was the first time that I produced a record for another person, so it was important that I developed a deep understanding of their words and music to push the arrangements in the desired direction—they were extremely generous to allow me to enter their inner world and help facilitate such transparent and vulnerable songcraft. I am a firm believer that to make records for others is essentially to take a sad song and make it better, and the two years we spent on it was my first taste of working that way.

The record was constructed from a number of full-band studio sessions to which I added electronics and auxiliary instrumentation, as well as a few sessions we conducted one-on-one at my apartment in Queens and the house they were living in at the time in Western Massachusetts. Like most of the collaborations I’ve recently worked on, there was an element of fileshare exquisite corpse, but in the handful of times I’ve listened back since its release, I can also hear the thereness of the rooms in which it was recorded, which was one of our guiding principles during production.

A friend recently described it as an “open window album”, and I was so happy to hear that; on multiple fronts that was our intent.

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?

When it comes to producing solo projects, I try to only work when I am moved to and carve out a space that promotes creative equilibrium, even if that means travel. I’m not against prolificacy, but the expectation to constantly make work without end while the world crumbles around us feels like a myth of capital. I am far past the point of forcing the work to happen if it doesn’t feel
right; after all, so much of what inspires me stems from other disciplines, and from life outside production and performance.

Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?

I’ve come to find that both sides of the heal/hurt binary operate in tandem. At least in my experience, artists or labels that center their work around a promised premise of “healing” hardly practice what they preach outside the periphery of their productions, and instead deal in grift and gossip behind backs. In order for any art to effectively cultivate community or to embody relief or alleviation, thought must always precede action and homework must be done outside the service of promotion.

Siphoning one’s Bandcamp proceeds to certain organizations could be seen as a place to start, but when one considers the direction we are all collectively headed, it’s hard not to see that as the bare minimum.

There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?

As someone who formerly made sample-based music, this question was half the impetus to move away from the idiom in pursuit of something more ethical and organic. When reflecting in retrospect, I harbored a lot of guilt with regard to approximation at first—but the fact remains that within the ecosystem of early 2010s producer culture, everything was borrowed without thought or limit; though that doesn’t justify it, there's a lesson to be learned there. Like most things, it’s a matter of reading the room.

My advice at minimum: cite and compensate sample sources, acknowledge the land you stand on, and always remember the privilege of being a guest in someone else’s house.

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?

I’m a total sucker for a good film score or incidental music for other visual disciplines, and am eager to explore those intermediate states down the line with whoever will have me.

If I’m being honest though, my present interest is in acousmatic work—music that is only meant to be heard, and not seen. As COVID hit last year, a lot of nights were spent listening to music in the dark; there are no limits to what the ear can emphasize when deprived of eyes.

While live performances are still in limbo, my time is better spent completing work that encourages attentive deep listening. Everything else right now feels like factory fodder.

Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?

I’ll defer to my musical role model Mark Hollis for this one: “Before you play two notes, learn how to play one note, and don't play one note unless you've got a reason to play it.” Otherwise: show up, be kind, and disappear into the music.

What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?

I’m not sure that’s for me to say—the answer is entirely subjective. Instead, I’ll offer that I view what I make to be a mode of journaling, more accurately a constant process of documentation through each stage of life.

The history of recorded music is happily haunted by ghosts. Though we have no control over prospects of posterity, knowing that the work will likely still be there for those who might discover it when we’re gone is my strongest source of creative comfort.

Previous page:
Part 1  
2 / 2