Meet Your Anti-Label

It would not be hyperbole to say that I’m in awe of what Auris Apothecary does. Some of the most mind blowing packaging for an eclectic roster (Noise, Black Metal, Surfpop, Electronic Glitch) that never ceases to surprise. DAS of Auris Apothecary was nice enough to answer a few of my dumb questions for this web posting vehicle.

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“I’M NOT A MUSICIAN” – APRIL 2018 ANSWERED BY DAS

1. What got you interested in starting a record label? Were there any labels or artists that inspired you?

We (the founders of AA) had all been playing music in various bands since our early teen years. We started to have some different solo and collaborative projects we were working on, and wanted a way to share them. Our main inspiration was to make every release feel like a deluxe edition; in some way special or different than an average album. A small shout out to analog label Magnetic South as well, whose early brown-paper packaged cassettes definitely rekindled my love for the medium after a hiatus spent away.

2. Do you have a design/visual arts background?

Not really. As a child I was creative, but I’ve always been a terrible artist. My current drawings could legitimately be mistaken for children’s doodles. But I pirated a copy of Photoshop in 2003 and have been self-taught ever since, learning new techniques and mediums due to a desire to utilize them. The label has served as my design education as well as ever-expanding portfolio which allows me to play around with any aesthetic or style I want.

3. As someone who also plays music, which part of the process do you enjoy most? Playing? Recording? Designing? Other?

My favorite part of the process depends on the music I’m working with. I only enjoy performing live when it’s in loud metal bands. When I’m by myself, I prefer recording for the ability to produce compositions with multiple layers, instruments, effects, and other general sound exploration. But I truly love making designs and packaging for other people’s projects. I find myself infinitely more inspired to create when it’s within the bounds set forth by someone else’s art.

4. Where did the idea for releasing media that may be unplayable or potentially destroy the media player come from?

Auris Apothecary was initially born out of an idea to release music you couldn’t listen to or purchase. As impractical as the concept was, the humor of it kept nagging at us, until one day the sand-filled cassette was proposed. To this day, I believe it’s our most “perfect” release in attaining the initial principles we set out to achieve, and it started us down the absurd spiral of anti-releases that we’re now somewhat infamous for.

5. Did you ever have a concept for a release that you were unable to go through with?

There’s been a few ideas that haven’t panned out, either due to budget constraints, illegality, or impracticality. There was an idea involving rotten meat that was vetoed, a “pipe bomb” packaging concept that would probably land us in jail, a ridiculous sketch of an “ant farm” anti-cassette that makes no sense, etc. There’s no end to the “never going to happen” ideas.

6. Do you like pizza? If so, what kind of crust, topping, cheese, sauce?

Who doesn’t like pizza? I’m simple with my toppings but I make it from scratch a couple times a month. I have my go-to dough recipe memorized by heart, then top it with a decent smattering of savory (not sweet) sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese, and Boar’s Head brand pepperoni. You know what…fuck it. Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 packet of quick rise yeast
  • 2 tsp white sugar
  • 1 1⁄4 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp Jane’s Krazy Mixed-Up Salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 Tbl oil (half olive / half vegetable)
  • 2 – 21⁄2 cups of bread flour
  • 2 Tbl white corn meal
  • 1 Tbl melted butter

 

Mix warm water + yeast + white sugar in large glass bowl. Let proof for ~10 minutes. Mix in oil, then top with 2 cups of flour. Sprinkle mixed up salt and garlic powder on top of flour, then mix together. Knead dough for about 5 minutes, continually adding small amounts of flour until dough is smooth and doesn’t stick to bowl. Coat the dough ball in oil, cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and a towel, and let rise until your heart’s desire: 1-12 hours depending on how patient you are and how much yeast flavor you want to embed. After dough has risen, coat your cooking sheet or cast iron skillet in a thin layer of oil and sprinkle with white corn meal. Don’t roll the dough out! Simply flip the bowl over into your hand, then flip the crust down onto the sheet and spread out with your hands. Cover with your toppings, brush melted butter on the crust, and sprinkle mixed up salt and garlic powder around the crust. Bake at 515 degrees Fahrenheit on the bottom rack until the crust and cheese is golden brown. Brush crust with more melted butter. *Tastes best with some Ex Fauna-brand R.I.R.H.S. Hot Sauce

7. Your releases cover a wide variety of genres; what kind of music do you listen to in your spare time, if any? 

I’m an equal opportunity lover/hater of all genres, but spend most of the day in silence. When I do listen, it’s incredibly random and determined by my mood, the weather, what season it is, etc. The AA catalog is a fairly honest interpretation of my tastes, though. And I have an insane back-catalog of personal projects I’m always working on, so listening to mixes, rehearsal recordings, and other in-progress things also consumes a decent chunk of my listening.

8. You have been involved in hosting events in your local scene and releasing local artists. What’s the Bloomington, IN scene like nowadays?

Despite Bloomington, Indiana’s scene being unlike anything you’ll find in a lot of smaller Midwestern towns, with an unending stream of concerts nearly every night covering a ton of genres and a crazy number of local groups, unfortunately, it’s not really my cup of tea in terms of aesthetic & styles. I’ve been happy to support the community by attending, recording, and hosting shows of all varieties over the years, and have consistently tried to promote/book/release as many local friends and their projects as possible. But my love for metal and harsh experimental sounds is not a passion the town shares. And last year alone, 3 unique DIY venues closed, including our space The Artifex Guild, our neighbors down the road at Magnetic South, and the punk collective known as The Void. Perhaps coincidental, but we were all located within a half-mile of each other on the South Side. A sign of the times…?

9. Favorite animal of 2017?

Doesn’t matter what year it is: giant squid.

10. Any last words?

“glitterbomb”

Please visit Auris Apothecary at https://www.aurisapothecary.org

Meet Your Ethereal Noise Wrangler

An Interview With James Adkisson

I met James while living in Austin many moons ago and had the extreme pleasure of playing in the psychedelic instrumental band A Five and Dime Ship with him and other extremely talented folks. I have continued to follow his work since leaving and am always joyed to hear what he is coming up with. He has been a part of the legendary Austin psych-rock band 7% Solution, as well as projects such as Headshy, Were-Jaguars, and awesome solo ventures like Dirac C and Blindshore. He has the uncanny ability of turning the harshest guitar noise into something beautiful while maintaining a grasp of compelling composition. James was kind enough to answer a few questions for this here blog. Enjoy!

1. Tell me about your earliest musical influences and when you became interested in playing. What was your first instrument?

My Mom tried me out with acoustic guitar and piano lessons when I was in elementary school. But they didn’t go anywhere. Acoustic guitar was so hard with no reward. With piano I would barely practice the song I was supposed to learn and then just make stuff up. Hold down the sustain pedal and start putting things together. In high school one day I went over to a guy’s house that had an electric guitar an amp and some type of Roland tape delay. He would play the main chords to a song make a loop and then play the solo over the loop. He was playing songs I knew and they sounded like the records. After that I wanted an electric guitar. I wanted to play guitar but I didn’t read music and I had a hard time listening to songs and figuring out how to play them. I was not going to be a virtuoso. I really liked that you could alter electric guitars sound. I dove right into buying effects. I spent a lot of time just playing with sound. I started out listening to what’s classic rock now. Prog Rock. Art Rock. The first guitarists that I was attracted to were Brian May, Steve Howe, Alex Lifeson, Robert Fripp and a bit later Adrian Belew. He was really the spark that made me think maybe I could be a musician. Paying attention to Adrian Belew and actually seeing him play on a TV show called Fridays it struck me that he was using unconventional sounds and guitar effects as song parts. If I just worked at being able to replicate my sounds, pull them up when needed then maybe that was a useful skill.

2. Have your musical tastes changed much? Do you still like music that you listened to growing up?

Alot of the things I liked growing up I still listen to. It’s even fun to hear some of it the way I hear music now. You hear things differently after learning more about recording and mixing. I still listen to some of my old favorites like Queen and YES and Black Sabbath and Rush. Living through the 90s The Cure and Depeche Mode, Bauhaus, U2, NIN, Shoegaze stuff, affected me. Now it’s Radiohead and Portishead, DJ Shadow and Elbow, Spiritualized, Beachhouse, A Place to Bury Strangers, I listen to all kinds of things. Hip Hop. Really experimental stuff

3. What was your first band / musical project?

I tried to get in with a few people early on. Starting up bands. But they usually wanted to give me parts to play. And they were disappointed. I wasn’t good at that. My first songs came from getting a 4 track and doing everything myself. I knew there were solo artists like Brian Eno and Bill Nelson and David Sylvian. I thought maybe I could do something like that. My own singing and drum loops. Being able to mimic things with guitar came in handy. If I wanted cello or violin or bass, synth sounds I made them with guitar. I called it Hollow and made cassettes.

4. What is your favorite instrument / gear to use?

I still really enjoy guitar. Even though a lot of times the sounds I am striving for are very uncharacteristic of guitar. What I always like more about the guitar than a keyboard is the physicality of it. The bending and pulling of strings. Bending the neck of the guitar, leaning into the amp for feedback. I have all kinds of effects pedals. Ever since my first experience watching the guy in high school making loops I wanted to do that. So I have loop pedals. I think two things that really are part of my sound are the Digitech whammy pedal and the E-bow. The whammy pedal lets you change pitch and harmonize. And I use that a lot. I use it like it’s meant to be used but also I like to hold a note while toggling through pitches. That can be really pretty or glitchy and mechanical. The E-bow is hand held. You hold it over the guitar pick up with your right hand and it keeps the string its hovering over buzzing. Your left hand is free to fret. You can play quickly or by moving the E-bow slowly towards the pick up the notes can swell in. You can do really beautiful things with it or you can make a lot of noise with it. When I hand it to people a lot of times they have an awkward experience. Trying to get a nice sound with it. But right out of the box I don’t remember it ever being difficult. I loved it.

5. How did you get involved with 7% Solution? What was that experience
like?

I moved to Austin with a girlfriend. I knew it was a big music town. But I still just expected to make music on my own. One of my first jobs I became friends with a guy named Bob and we shared similar musical tastes. That job didn’t last. Later when I worked at Waterloo records Bob came in with a tape of his band. It was 7% Solution. I really liked it. To me it was sort of Hendrix meets the Cocteau Twins. He said that to play live they would need another guitarist. I did my best to learn parts and recreate tones from the songs on the tape. And tried out. Like usual. My playing someone else’s parts was nothing special. But the wonderful thing was Reese the singer, guitarist asked me to show them what I would play. If I was coming up with parts. That’s how I ended up in the band. Thankfully he saw that I was creative and liked what I did. Later after our first CD we had more attention than any of us would have imagined. It was hard to believe. It was my first band. First time really collaborating with others. First time playing live.

6. You’ve done a lot of solo recording; do you find it more/less rewarding?

I really enjoy recording with a band. Figuring out how to make a song work together and knowing that certain people have strengths you can rely on. Shared enthusiasm is great. When I work on solo songs most of the time there is some idea in my head. Maybe a combination of song types that I would like to hear combined. Let’s say, in my head I can hear a PJ Harvey song combined with Brian Eno. It’s hard to bring that to a group and try to explain it. Anyway it’s something I want to hear. My goal. It’s not that important to others. If I work on it myself then I know what I want to do with the drums and the atmosphere of the piano. How I want the elements to come together to hopefully sound like what I have in mind. So I guess that’s more rewarding. If the song turns out like I hoped.

7. Could you discuss musical projects you’ve done in the last 5 years? What are your plans for the next 5 years?

A few years ago Reese and his now ex-wife Lisa and I had a band called HeadShy. We recorded one CD. It has a lot of good songs. It ranges from trip hop to some very 7% Solution like songs and even some Nick Cave like songs. It’s on Bandcamp. Reese and I have re-mixed and mastered songs from some first 7% Solution tapes and made those available on Bandcamp. We have also worked on new songs. I think we will probably just post them as they are finished. He has been helping me work on my Blindshore songs. I asked him for vocal coaching. I find that’s the hardest thing to do alone. Going back and forth from the mic hitting record. Hard to make good decisions about your own voice. He’s ended up helping with much more. And he sang on one song. I posted three new songs as The Details EP. More songs should come out over the year. I also want to do a project called Jet Black Cat. The idea for that is to do shoegaze songs. Interesting covers plus a few originals. I have a lot of recordings of playing records through all of my effects as well. Messing around with the speed of the turntable and also looping segments. A bit like Christian Marclay. I think about doing something with those. I might do new Dirac C songs. Those are songs where every sound is made with guitar and guitar effects.

8. What is your favorite place to eat in Texas?

Since I am up all night I like a place where you can get breakfast at two in the morning or three in the afternoon. It’s not fancy but I like a diner called Jim’s. There are a few of them in Austin and San Antonio. It’s the kind of place you look for when you are on a trip and you need to pull in hoping they either have a good burger or breakfast. Sometimes I think I am my happiest with something good to read, coffee and breakfast in front of me.

9. How do you like performing live vs. writing and recording music?

I enjoy recording the most. Creating. Hearing something come together. There are many aspects to playing live. Being in a band where roadies had it all set up ready to go would be dream. I don’t enjoy the nervousness and all that goes into the set up before you actually play. Once I am playing it’s great. If everything is going well then it’s a hard feeling to describe. Revealing in a way. I always felt like if someone had seen a show then they knew me better. I have not played live in a few years. But usually when I see a live show it makes me want to again.

10. What are your 5 desert island albums?

My favorite music always inspires me. I would need some way to make music on the island or I wouldn’t last long.
Brain Eno – Another Green World
Radiohead – In Rainbows
Yes – The Yes Album
U2 – Achtung Baby
Sonic Youth – Dirty

11. Closing thoughts?

It may be hard to tell by the bands I’ve mentioned but I enjoy and I am interested in experimental, industrial, ambient, electronic, and just strange music as well. But what I generally take from that is I might be enjoying this ten minutes of feedback, or a recording of a broken turntable but not many people do. A smaller dose of it or combined with something else could make it a really wonderful part in a song. I would like to use something like this somewhere in a song. So I steal lots of ideas that way. Because (at least for me) it’s much harder to make a recognizable song with verses and a chorus than a fifteen minute atmospheric loop. I could churn out looped guitar albums. Maybe five a week. Someone might think they were genius but I would know they came pretty easy for me. And I think that’s the truth with alot of the “far out” things I hear. Song structure is an art. It’s not that easy to do a good job of it. And it’s really amazing when someone can bend it all to hell and keep it recognizable as a hummable song.

Check out some of James’ work at:

https://blindshore.bandcamp.com

https://dirac-c.bandcamp.com

https://were-jaguars.bandcamp.com

https://afiveanddimeship.bandcamp.com

https://sevenpercentsolution.bandcamp.com

Meet Your Sound Artist Extraordinaire

An Interview With Jay Bodley of Sun Hammer

I collaborated with Jay for the 2012 release Sujo + Sun Hammer “Fistula” on Inam / Music Ruins Lives. Since then, I’ve continued to follow his work including 2016’s “Mahamudra” on Full Spectrum Records. I am always impressed by an artist that is adept at a multitude of musical styles. In Jay’s case, this includes deep ambient, field recording manipulation, and hip hop / beat driven compositions. His new album, “s/t”, will be released by Full Spectrum Records on May 1, 2018. Here is a few words from Jay!

1. What were your earliest musical influences? Have you musical tastes changed much throughout the years?
The first music I remember really touching me was when I was very young, hearing Michael Jackson’s Thriller album and Pink Floyd The Wall, which my parents had on vinyl. Getting into rap music in the early 90s, that was the first explosion of music discovery I had outside of what my parents played at home and it really gave me the biggest thrill, so in a way that’s always been my favorite genre. But I have always liked a lot of different styles of music. Last year I got heavily into Negativland, Metallica’s albums from 84-91, and Miles Davis’s fusion period. This year I’ve been trying to listen to more music from women, because I noticed my tastes have mostly been dominated by male musicians. Some artists I’ve been really loving are Eartheater, Julia Holter, Marissa Nadler, Chelsea Wolfe, Dawn Richard, Susanne Sundfør and Katie Gately.

2. When did you first start making music? What style of music were you making? How did it evolve?
I played classical piano from five years old all throughout my childhood, and started forming bands when I was in middle school, but I really started creating and producing my own music when I was a senior in high school, in 1999. Some of my friends and I started a hip-hop crew, The Abolitionists, whom I produced beats for. So for several years I was doing that and at the same time getting interested in exploring IDM and other forms of electronic music. Mostly I was inspired by the stuff on Warp Records around that time, Squarepusher and Aphex Twin and Autechre. I got into doing mostly ambient stuff for awhile, and eventually came back to beat-driven music with my album MAHAMUDRA, and went more pop-leaning with the new one. At the same time this one is similar to a plunderphonics type album I made in 2007, San Lucifer II, where I exclusively used samples from hip-hop songs. I like lots of different music, and I tend to explore whatever I get interested in.

3. What is your recording set up? How often do you record? What inspires you to do it?
It’s very simple, and I like that. I just use a laptop and a mid-size MIDI controller keyboard. I have other MIDI controllers but I almost never use them.
I work on music every day. Nothing inspires me necessarily, it’s just become a practice that I engage with on a daily basis, sometimes in a very systematic way – like I’ll have a specific idea of some sound I want to create, or a chord progression or something – but sometimes not.

4. What are your interests / responsibilities outside of music?
Cooking, running, yoga/meditation, restaurants, eating/drinking, pets, friends.

5. What is the favorite place you’ve ever lived? Why?
I don’t really have a favorite but as far as fond memories, unsurprisingly they mostly come from the city where I grew up – Ann Arbor, Michigan.

6. Can you tell me about your newest release on Full Spectrum records?
Sure, it originated with my practice of creating a small piece of music every day, a loop of some kind usually. It was something I kept up for over three years. I have been interested in sound collage and musique concrete stuff for quite a long time, and had recently gotten very into the GRM stuff from Pierre Schaeffer and that whole crew, and also the plunderphonics stuff from John Oswald and Negativland, so I wanted to assemble my album in a way that was similar to all that. But the material I had accumulated, a lot of it was informed by modern rap and R&B, so I decided to make full songs out of some of my loops, and make lyrics and sing and everything. It’s the first time I’ve done lyrics or singing on a project since my high school band, Muzzle. My friends Andrew and Gretchen run Full Spectrum and they asked me if I wanted to release it with them. Of course I was excited to, but I was also surprised because it’ll definitely be the most pop thing they’ve done thus far, and also the first with rapping – I am super honored to have songs on there with Intricate Dialect, Kadence and Tenacity, three of my Abolitionists homies, so it kinda brings things full circle in a way.

7. What is your favorite format of releasing music? Digital? Cassette? Cd? Other?
Digital. It’s the only form of music I consume because it’s so convenient I don’t like to accumulate a lot of stuff. So I just don’t really care that much about other formats, to be honest.

8. What is best and worst haircut you’ve ever had?
A good hair person is crucial. I find I end up having to put a lot of trust in the people who are cutting my hair, so when I find someone I like I am incredibly loyal. I’ve got a guy now who’s just fantastic, maybe the best I’ve ever had – for anyone reading this in the LA area his name is Trevor, he’s at the Floyd’s on Melrose.

9. What are your future plans for Sun Hammer?
At the moment I’m doing a lot of miscellaneous projects that aren’t necessarily associated with my Sun Hammer music, like The Lum podcast with Intricate Dialect which I just love doing, also some composing, sound design and sound editing for film stuff. I’d like to continue to work on more weird pop songs, though at this time it may take me a few years before I have a new album ready. I will probably want to come up with a concept first – usually when that happens everything begins to fall into place.

Visit the Sun Hammer website at: http://sunhammer.com

Meet Your Dark Folk Ethnomusicologist

An Interview with Jon Rosenthal of Invisible Oranges / Footpaths

I first became aware of Jon when he covered Sujo for the indispensable and now defunct “The Inarguable” website. He was one of the few people who seemed to appreciate what was going on with the project and an excellent writer to boot! Jon is also a multi-faceted musician, lately of dark folk project “Footpaths.” He is currently the associate editor of “Invisible Oranges” which is pretty much the best metal website around. Jon was nice enough to answer a few of my questions for this here blog. -RH

1. What were your early musical influences; favorite bands growing up?
My parents were both musicians as children and wanted to instill an appreciation for music in both my sister and me as we grew up. We listened to a lot of different styles as a result — mostly what was on “oldies” stations (then ranging from 1940s to 1970s pop and rock) and classical music as there was (and is still) the pop psychology belief that listening to art music from eras past increases child cognition. It wasn’t until I got older that the element of taste began to manifest, resulting in my mom’s more overt favoring of American folk music, folk rock, and 80s pop, whereas my dad’s listening habits veered in a more progressive rock and psychedelic proto-metal direction. As an adult, I find myself sharing both my parents’ taste in music years after the fact. Funny how that happens.
It wasn’t until I was 13 that I really started to find music on my own. I was a frustrated, lonely kid living on the furthest reaches of Chicago suburbia, where farms and reclaimed prairie land separate densely packed subdivisions. Naturally, I turned to punk rock, and a chance recommendation from a friend (which I later learned to be a bit of a joke) exposed me to Bad Religion. I’d never really heard anything like it, and my young teenage brain couldn’t tell you why I liked it, but I did. I took the next opportunity I could to ride my bike to Record Breakers and buy a copy of their the-new “The Process of Belief”, which immediately started me on a rabbit hole into the depths of dark, extreme music. Years later, here I am, making quiet, textured music. Wonder what happened.

 

2. What instrument did you start with? First band? First show? First release?
Elementary school music classes aside (xylophone and recorder have made their way into music I’ve made, though), my first serious foray into learning an instrument was piano lessons with former Russian concert pianist Alexander Purim when I was nine or ten. He was… intense, but understandably so. He was renowned during his time in Russia, but escaped during the Pogroms and ended up delivering flowers in the United States.
My first band… I had to think about it for a second. Shortly after I first picked up the guitar at thirteen, I started an AC/DC ripoff band with a few friends, some of which I ended up making music with later on. We never really settled on a name, but the one we used for gigs (we played the talent show, the school dance, and a few neighborhood functions) was ODD (overdriven distortion).
My first release was a black metal demo I recorded with Douglas Shin, from the aforementioned band, a few years later. Bergtagen was in line with the neofolky dark metal which had taken a hold after Ulver’s 1995 debut. I loved all that stuff: Empyrium, Agalloch, Noltem, and so on. I only burned a couple CDrs and handed them out to friends. You can find the songs on YouTube — I guess we had a bit of a cult following, or so friends have told me. We eventually grew into a full lineup with about 70 minutes of material, but the band dissolved once we graduated from high school.

 

3. How did Footpaths come about?
I was really into the whole psychedelic/freak folk style in the 2000s and wanted to try and do it myself. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to record anything, so I used the pinhole microphone on my shitty HP Laptop. I ended up having to use a million effects in Audacity workshop to make it mildly listenable. As the years passed, I learned a little more about recording, but less about songwriting, and here we are.

 

4. What got you into writing about music?  Was it an easy thing for you to do or did it take some time to get comfortable? (I’m asking for a friend)
I just kind of… started writing one day. A friend was running a review blog and it seemed interesting. Now I have a degree in ethnomusicology, so it’s almost second nature. That being said, it takes a long time to figure out how to write about music accurately while finding your own voice. My writing when I was 17 was pretty awful.

 

5. What were some of your favorite music releases of the past few years?
This is a tough question. I listen to so much new music and almost none of it possesses the necessary staying power which would result in further listening and recollection. However, I’ve been haunted by the Connie Converse compilation “How Sad, How Lovely”. Already an enigma and someone not appreciated in her own time (all these songs were recorded in the 50s), the Spinning On Air podcast did a 3 part presentation on this complex, talented, intelligent, brazen, funny, troubled person, someone who people now proclaim to be the first singer/songwriter. I hope, if she’s still around (she disappeared in 1974 and would be 93 or 94 today), she knows she is appreciated and adored now.

 

6. What publications are you currently writing for?
I mostly write for Invisible Oranges now, for which I am the Associate Editor, with the occasional news piece or small feature for Brooklyn Vegan.

 

7. Is Chicago pizza really all that?
I’m lactose intolerant, so I guess I see this as a loaded question, but I’ll try! If you’re referring to deep dish pizza, it’s just kind of okay but I think of it more like a casserole than a pizza. People should go to the south side and get Chicago style thin crust, instead. It’s crunchy and wonderful. No one knows about it, especially people who live on the north side, who are generally terrified of going further south than the Loop (the place where the Sears Tower is). Or go to Riccobene’s and get the breaded steak sandwich.

 

8. What part of the creative process do you enjoy most? Preparation? Performance? Packaging? Another “P” word?
PRACTICE. I hated practicing guitar when I was a teenager, but it became a meditative process I picked up as part of getting my degree in classical guitar performance. Proper practicing means turning off all muscle tension, assuming a natural position, and completely ignoring the outside world. Practicing makes everything else second nature.

 

9. What are your upcoming plans as it relates to music or life in general?
Right now I’m working on getting my Master’s degree in Information Systems. It’s been hard, but I am fortunate enough to be in a position where I can totally devote myself to my studies. I don’t know how people are able to maintain their sanity while working full time, going to graduate school, and having a family. My dad managed to do that and it boggles my mind.
Musically, I’ve been very, very slowly writing a new Footpaths album. Since 2013, I’ve written and recorded thirteen and a half minutes of music. As opposed to the Philip Glass-meets-Lomax-meets-Fennesz approach of everything I recorded through 2012 (there really hasn’t been anything strictly “new” released since then), I am trying very hard to write my own songs. It takes me a long time.
Otherwise, I dedicate my creative time to writing and recording bass and vocal sounds to long-form black metal project Stellar Descent. We should have a new album out late this Summer on Sol y Nieve, who released the first Footpaths album on tape five years ago.
There are other things in the works, but some things take a long time.

 

10. Closing thoughts?
Do what makes you happy. Never settle. Capture every creative idea you have before it leaves you.

 

Please check out Jon’s work here: 

 
http://www.invisibleoranges.com

https://footpathsil.bandcamp.com

Meet Your Drone Raconteur

An interview with Justin Snow of Anti-Gravity Bunny

It would be hard for me to quantify how much Justin Snow has influenced my musical tastes and directions. I’ve been following his music review / interview / all around awesome Anti-Gravity Bunny site since around 2011. He has the ability to present interesting and challenging music with a sense of humor and charm that comes across as the nicest person in the room blowing’ ya mind with cool sounds. He also does a regular radio show “A Thick Mist” which airs on WMWM 91.7 Salem and BFF.fm. He has curated a huge compilation “You’re All The Fucking Best” and continues to be one of the most important figures in experimental music. I was pleased as piss to have Justin answer some questions for my humble blog! -RH

1. When did you first start writing about music? What got you interested in starting a website?
The first time I can remember writing about music is when I wrote about William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops for an intro to music theory class I was taking in college. Besides that one-off, I never wrote about music before I started Anti-Gravity Bunny. I started AGB on my birthday in February of 2008 (which I just realized means I missed its 10 year anniversary) mainly because I was aimless after finishing college, I was buying a ton of really niche limited run records, and I was reading Aquarius Records’ bi-weekly mailings religiously. I loved the way they talked about music; it really resonated with how I thought about music but I never expressed my opinions because I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. I had music friends but at the time they weren’t into super abstract stuff (noise, drone, etc.). I was so psyched about weird music that I had to share it with someone (anyone), so I started AGB thinking that maybe someone somewhere would see a record I talked about and get excited about it too. It seemed like a win-win-win where a random stranger could discover new music they liked, a musician could get a new fan, and I could help make that connection.

 

2. Growing up, what were your earliest musical / artistic influences?
The earliest music I remember having a strong impact on me was The Beach Boys and Roy Orbison, which I attribute to my love for vocal harmonies and over-the-top dramatic crescendos. This was music my parents listened to. I went through a period of listening to my older sister’s music (boy-bands like New Kids On The Block and Hanson) and then my own nu-metal phase in high school (the big players being Static-X and Taproot), none of which I would say affects my musical tastes now. However, I’ve been a huge Smashing Pumpkins fan from the first time I heard them in middle school. I credit “Starla” for getting me into post-rock because that was probably the longest and most instrumental song I’d heard at the time (I know it’s not actually instrumental but Billy stops singing like halfway through the song). Once I was in college/college radio, I listened to all the classic post-rock records. Then Explosions In The Sky’s The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place came out, which lead me to their label (Temporary Residence), and there I found Eluvium. Eluvium was my first drone love. I saw the weird wide world of experimental music and fell down the hole.

 

3. You’ve also put together compilation (You’re All The Fucking Best); what was that experience like?
It was cool. I wanted to do something special for AGB’s 5 year anniversary. I got the idea to put out a compilation of unreleased songs by some of my favorite artists that I discovered throughout those 5 years. So I contacted around 20 artists, hoping that enough would say yes so I would have enough songs to make something longer than an EP. 16 of them ended up contributing which was way more than I hoped for.
Around the same time, I was helping Dan Barrett (Have A Nice Life) and Thom Wasluck (Planning For Burial) play a show in Boston as part of a mini tour they were doing. I’d never booked a show before, so my pal John Kolodij (High aura’d) lent a hand and did all the heavy lifting that entailed. That show was the first (only) one AGB had officially presented, so I figured it would be cool to make a few special physical copies of the compilation for people who came to the show. My wife did the artwork for the CD and I burned around 20 copies. It was a pretty great way to celebrate 5 years.

 

4. How are your ears doing?
Forever fucked. I’ve always had messed up ears. My right ear is essentially deaf. I had two major mastoidectomies to remove cholesteatoma that was eating away at the bone in my skull along with a few other minor procedures. As of last year, I finally decided I would get a hearing aid. It turned out the best route was getting a hearing aid for my better ear (left side). I did that and now I can’t live without it. While figuring that out, I learned I was a candidate for a BAHA (bone attached hearing aid) which is basically a screw in your skull that a hearing aid attaches to and it will stimulate the auditory nerves directly by vibrating your skull instead of going through the ear canal. This works for me because my auditory nerves work almost normally, it’s just the space between the outside of my ear and my auditory nerves that’s fucked. I had the procedure done in the beginning of March. Now I have to wait until my skull fuses with the metal (about 3 months) before I can attach the hearing aid part to it. I’m expecting it to be literally life changing.

 

5. When did you first start doing radio shows? What got you interested in that?
I started my first radio show at WMWM (Salem State College) when I went there in 2003. It was called “If It Wasn’t For The Banana This Would Be Terrible.” One of the reasons I chose to go to SSC was because they had a radio station. I don’t know exactly why I wanted to do radio but it seemed like a good way to listen to music I like, share that music with people, and find out about new music. So, basically, kind of why I started AGB. Once I graduated, I wasn’t able to continue my show, so I stopped for a while. I eventually missed it so much that I thought doing a radio thing with AGB would be a good idea, especially because podcasts and stuff were becoming especially popular at the time.
“AGB Radio” was my show on BFF.fm, an internet-based radio station out of San Francisco that was started up by my friends who I met through WMWM (otherwise I wouldn’t have randomly joined a radio station 3000 miles away). That was a pre-recorded 2-hour show that took me at least 4-6 hours to complete. I got to be a huge burden and doing a pre-recorded show wasn’t nearly as fun as doing a live show. Then I started working at Salem State. I became the co-advisor for WMWM and started doing a show again. It felt different enough genre-wise from “AGB Radio” that I wanted to give it a new name, hence “A Thick Mist.” I didn’t want to entirely abandon BFF.fm though, so now “A Thick Mist” airs in “AGB Radio’s” old time slot.

 

6. What is drone?
What it sounds like when you’re drowning.

 

7. Have your musician tastes changed as you’ve aged and started a family?
They’re always changing. The only major thing I’ve noticed over the past decade or so is listening to way less normal music. Which to me just means the stuff I shelve under “rock/pop.” I’m certainly open to it when it comes my way but I just don’t put any effort into seeking it out. I guess in general since my daughter was born a couple years ago, I’ve spent way less time actively discovering new music. I try to pay attention to what comes through my inbox or what my friends are listening to, but I used to read lots of blogs/review sites/etc. Not anymore.

 

8. What’s the deal with Massachusetts?
I fuckin love this place. The coast on the east. Mountains in the west. It’s old by USA standards. Super liberal. Cool cities. Close to other cool cities. Vibrant music scene, especially for being tucked away in the corner of the country.

 

9. Do you think vinyl is the best musical medium? Please explain your answer.
I don’t think there is a best. Best for the moment, definitely, but not an overall best. But vinyl is definitely my favorite medium.
CDs are fine. I have nothing against them but I have no use for them. As an archivist, I kind of loathe cassettes. The magnetic tape will become unreadable in no time at all. I spend 75% of my time listening to music digitally which is 100% because of convenience & portability (I can’t have a turntable at work or on the go). The other 25% is spent spinning vinyl. I have no unique reasons why I love vinyl, all the tropes apply. Browsing through my shelves, pulling a record off, slipping the LP out of the sleeve, the hesitating second between flipping the receiver’s switch on to when it actually powers up, dropping the tonearm down… it’s just an exceptionally pleasing experience.

 

10. What book should I read this year? Do I need to read the whole thing?
Every Cradle Is A Grave: Rethinking The Ethics Of Birth And Suicide by Sarah Perry. If you enjoyed Thomas Ligotti’s The Conspiracy Against The Human Race, consider this an unofficial sequel. Everyone thinks suicide is bad and new babies are good. Perry just wants you to analyze those (typically unchallenged) beliefs.

 

11. Closing comments?
Be excellent to each other.

 

If you haven’t done so already, check out Justin’s site at: http://www.antigravitybunny.com

Meet Your DJ

An interview with Paul Simpson of WCBN 

I always wanted to be a DJ. Whether it was hijacking the stereo at a party or watching movies like “Airheads” with piqued curiosity (that had DJ’s in it, right?); bringing new music to random people on a regular basis is a noble and romantic pursuit. I was lucky enough to have disc jockey extraordinaire, Paul Simpson of The Answer is in the Beat radio program airing on WCBN, answer a few of my queries about what he does and who he is. -RH

1. What got you interested in becoming a DJ? Did you have a favorite station or DJ when you were growing up?
My dad used to be a DJ on a radio station in Connecticut (where I grew up) called WPKN, and hearing that station as a kid made me want to DJ there. That and a few college stations in the New Haven area were what I grew up listening to, then once I had internet access I started streaming WFMU online.

 

2. How long have you been working in radio? What was your first gig like?
I started doing radio in 2000 (also, I don’t work in radio, I just do this as a volunteer). I was 16 and still in high school. I just played a bunch of music I liked and sounded pretty awful on the mic.

 

3. What do you look for when you’re putting together your playlist?
For my freeform shows, I just put whatever music I’ve been listening to in my bag or on a thumb drive, then I grab whatever new releases at the radio station that I feel like playing. It’s all spontaneous and off the cuff. For my mix shows, I’m constantly putting tracks in my DJ folder, and then I set cue points in Serato and organize them by BPM. Then when I do my mixes, it’s still spontaneous, I just play whatever tracks fit my mood, or mix well with the others.

 

4. Favorite movie / tv show / book of 2017?
I don’t really keep up with these, but I saw most of the second season of Stranger Things, and the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu’s book 2023 was everything I hoped it would be.

 

5. What is your local music scene like?
I live near Detroit so to me local music means Detroit techno, space rock, noise, experimental/improv, soul, and so many other things. Plenty of newer house and techno labels such as Vanity Press and Fit Sound are doing wonderful things.

 

6. Do you do any other work on the side?
I work for AllMusic full time, radio is a hobby, but both are related.

 

7. Where do you see yourself in five years?  How can your skills benefit our company?
I dunno man, I could be working and doing radio in 5 years still, but I just can’t tell how anything is going right now.

 

8. With the rise of the inter web, what is the interest in terrestrial radio like today compared to when you first got involved? Where do you see it going?
People still generally listen to terrestrial radio in their cars, I don’t think that’s really going away. As far as college radio, there’s far less of an audience, stations are disappearing left and right, and CMJ is dead, but there’s still new people getting interested and getting involved and starting to do their own radio shows. I do worry that this is a dying breed, since there isn’t any money in it.

 

9. What is your favorite part of being a DJ?
Total freedom to play whatever I want.

 

10. Closing comments?
I still have no clue if I have an actual audience for anything I’m doing, but for some reason I keep doing it anyway.

 

Please visit Paul’s site at: http://theanswerisinthebeat.net