With more and more musicians creating than ever and more and more of these creations being released, what does this mean for you as an artist in terms of originality? What are some of the areas where you currently see the greatest potential for originality and who are some of the artists and communities that you find inspiring in this regard?
I'm really not concerned with anyone else's definition of originality. I just need to blow my own mind and I haven't, and can't possibly ever, hear everything there is to hear. For me the bar is set where it's set, I have nothing to prove to anyone else. I've been doing this long enough to see through the perpetual illusion of 'there's a million bands now/it was easier in the past/everything has been done' etc.. This thinking is a trap and a cop out. In the domain of ART history, originality can't be defined in real time anyway so I don't waste my time. I've never felt connected to any artistic scene or community, other than the people I happen to be collaborating with.
How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
They are inextricable for me. One always leads to the other ad infinitum.
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition and what are some of your strategies and approaches of working with them?
I try to keep an awareness of positive and negative space in the music. I'm usually put off by any art that seems overly cluttered or decorative. When I'm mixing something I always want to keep a three dimensional balance between dynamics, frequency spectrum, and sonic density. I like contrasts, and for me, too much or too little of anything becomes tedium to my ears.
What's your perspective on the relationship between music and other forms of art – painting, video art and cinema, for example – and for you and your work, how does music relate to other senses than hearing alone?
I make or design all the videos, LP art, publicity shots etc. It's a holistic approach that is very fulfilling for me. It also makes for less regret and resentment when someone else's vision doesn't connect or translate. This isn't some DIY ethos, I would gladly pay someone to do something I thought needed to be done. I just want everything to connect and have an artistic, as well as personal, connection.
What's your view on the role and function of music as well as the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of artists today - and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
I'm pretty wary of political and social themes in music. I'm not from some underprivileged background so I don't have the authority to carry on about some kind of struggle. American politics are an inane joke. It is not in my nature to tell anyone else they should recycle or stop making ugly buildings. I can appreciate lots of music with a political aspect, but it seems easy for a political message to be exploited or perverted, especially in music because it is so wrapped up in ideas like pop culture, fashion, personal identity, etc.
I prefer art that deals in more timeless ideas. For me, music only needs to provide a space to move and be moved. Music, especially instrumental music, is the one form of abstract art that anyone can relate to. Everyone seems to trust their reaction to music, unlike visual art where someone might go into a gallery and feel like they don't 'get' abstract art or they don't have the proper education to know why they should like it or not. With music, most people know if they love it or hate it right away, like food. Injecting politics or a social responsibility into this equation sometimes muddies that magic for me.
Listening is also an active, rather than just a passive process. How do you see the role of the listener in the musical communication process?
I can't really say how anyone else should listen to music. I do think we should listen better though. Even though I think it's great that people trust their own opinions about what they like and don't like in music, I do wish people wouldn't just stop there. I think it's valuable to understand why you like some things and dislike other things. I also think it is valuable to try to like something that might not be your 'cup of tea'.
Acquired tastes are sometimes our most cherished flavors. Every couple years I try to like Frank Zappa. It has yet to stick, but the trying has made me a better listener for sure.
Reaching audiences usually involves reaching out to the press and possibly working with a PR company. What's your perspective on the promo system? In which way do music journalism and PR companies change the way music is perceived by the public?
I suppose there's always been tastemakers in the press. I don't think I'll ever understand how or why. It's really not that important to me. I have worked with the same PR company on the last few records and they are great. They do a good job. That's it. I don't really expect much. Music journalists are usually experts in neither field, especially the tastemaker variety. Much of the music-consuming public want to be lead by the nose, told what is cool or hip.
For better or worse, I'm just not on that plane. I hope to touch as many people as I can and I hope the music I release is profitable. I don't really have enough time or energy to consider it much after that.
Do you have a musical vision that you haven't been able to realise for technical or financial reasons – or an idea of what music itself could be beyond its current form?
I've never really had much in the way of technical or financial means from the start. My m.o. has always been to get the most out of what I have. As music has become harder and harder to sell, technology has become cheaper and more powerful. Adapting to technology and learning how to do every aspect of production myself has been the best way for me to continue as a performer and a recording artist. Oddly enough, adapting to technology and keeping an open mind to how I make music has given me more and more ways to make fresh sounds and sound better live. Take all this technology away though, and I would still have the means to do what I want. My musical vision has always started and ended with the drum and the string on a board.
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