Tuesday, September 18, 2018

First listen: Gazelle Twin, Pastoral

Haven't had time or energy to post anything lately but since I have been looking forward to Gazelle Twin's new album, Pastoral, I decided to jot down a few notes with the first listen........

Production is amazing. Simple elements do not become tedious. Complex elements do not become overly fussy. 

Really liking 'Dieu Et Mon Droit' and don't think I have ever heard anything quite like it. 

It is really upsetting on 'Throne' when she says "depts, depts, depts". Ugh, tell me about it.

This album is full of venom. It could really reject you as a listener at first but then probably require you to return for more. 

Oh my god, Mongrel sounds amazing. 

Repetitive elements are very strong and original sounding.

Overall the lyrical messages are very effective. There is a danger when addressing social and political subject matter of too closely mirroring current headlines or Facebook feed. It could have easily become bogged down right out of the gate but never does. Also it seems to be coming from a personal place rather than a researched one which I find more effective. 

This is someone who understands anxiety for sure. Having struggled with anxiety and panic attacks I really connect with the music and even draw comfort from it. 

Hobby Horse is so great. This is the only song I have heard before and absolutely cant get enough of it. 

I wonder what sort of instruments she uses. It sounds like a lot of sampling. I can only imagine that it is a challenge to combine a lot of different elements in such a cohesive way. 

Glory stands out for sure although I am usually drawn more to her vocally abrupt style. The whole album is great actually. She can pretty much sing or yell or talk however she wants and I will tune in for it. 

Ends suddenly....love it. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Artist Interview: Namosh

photo: Melanie Magassa

The music of Namosh has a wobble that makes it difficult to set anywhere or define. The sound and presentation is highly refined, but there remains an unhampered raw creativity throughout. The pace and subject matter is immediately rewarding but still moves rapidly and expects you to keep up. While it never quite settles comfortably into place, it also never gets old. Like most good music and art, there seems to be a continual evolution as you get to know the songs, allowing room for the listener to interact and have a personal experience. Namosh now has three albums out and each is fully realized and unique. The danceable new Music Muscle is perhaps his most focused statement yet, but still retains the multifaceted quality that makes his work so relevant and enduring. Featuring his signature style beats, prominent bass lines and rhythmic, almost percussive vocal style. It is a funky, sexy, hilarious, uneasy, and brilliant record. I am so excited to share this interview with one of my all time favorites. Ladies and Gentlemen, Namosh:


When did Namosh originally take shape as a music project?

In 1999 when I moved to Berlin and borrowed my first Tascam 4-Track Tape Recorder. Before that I was actually painting. Especially painting to music or albums. At that time I also met this amazing painter called YAM. She had done 'Painted Pop Songs' but at the time we met she started painting huge mandalas.
Was there an artistic community that you felt connected to?

Yes, I think there were and are many communities. I couldn't tell you where to find them though, 'cause as it turns out I'm more the esoteric type. Like, I need to be alone to learn some things. Not always. I like the idea of an artistic community. But more importantly - there were and are deep friendships to other people who express themselves in creative 'sports' and you know you can be creative with a lot of things.

How has your gear setup changed over the years? 

In the beginning I only had a Tascam 4-track tape recorder, one microphone and a bongo. So I sang a lot and used anything to play rhythms or produce sounds. I think the best were two electric toothbrushes and a cinch cable plugged into the recorder. Basically touching the two ends of the cable to produce a buzz sound and a rhythm. The foundation of many songs on "Moccatongue" were made with a Jomox X-Base 09 and a MC303. The basic music on my first Mini-Album 'Namosh' from 2004 was actually recorded on Type 4 Music Cassettes. After that I used the Roland Digital 8-Track Studio. Before I used the laptop in 2004 as a recording and editing device there was no copy and paste or other editing afterwards. I had to mix it before I recorded it. And I had to play the instruments from start to end. For instance on Cold Cream you can hear that the percussions and claps are played live throughout the song, the bass line as well.

How did the new album, Music Muscle, take shape? It feels very much like a body of work, did you write all of these songs with the intention of them being released as an album? 

It started in the summer of 2010. I was working on the follow up to 'Keep It For Later' called 'Party Alone' which lays in the wine cellar and is yet to be released. So as working on one album came to the end, I started bringing in the next one. But it interested me more than having to deal with a label situation for 'Party Alone', which at that time seemed impossible for me to even think about. I avoided the whole thing by totally retreating into making another album that is called 'Music Muscle' now. I made many different versions and mixes along the way. With the arrangements on the album I wanted the rhythm to be telling a story that starts here and ends there. Less obvious repetition. Songs that include 'real' drums on the album used to be electronic beats. The drums were recorded pretty late in the process out of a fun idea with Daniel Raymond Gahn, who's the drummer on these songs. Yes, I made all these songs to be united on an album. 

Did you play the songs live while you were developing them or finalize everything first?

Yes, I did now and then play a few songs live. 

The song Soul Surviver has an especially funky sound. Does this reflect a change in the music you are listening to as well? Could you divulge any of the influences that might have pulled your sound in that direction?

For me it's been the other way around. I tap further into making music and go down this road or that and after I record something I get to know music that is related with what I just recorded. Like a family of music where a song is at home. And I feel like I'm not alone. In those seven years working on the album I had a lot of time to express my music more fully or sharper on different levels, also through the production. That's why at the end I realized mixing it myself was the only way. I really listen to all kinds of music. I love music. But usually the music I listen to is to take a break from making music. That can be classical music, kurdish music, and I still love Nico. I love how her music and singing became more and more middle-eastern.

Do you draw from artists outside of music as well?

I know it sounds cliche but I have to say Stanley Kubrik, Nikola Tesla, Bruce Lee.

I think there is a perception that dance music is sort of frivolous in general, but dancing is possibly the most basic and expressive fundamental response to music. What draws you to creating dance music?

Exactly that. It is as if something inside of you starts responding and you start breathing or moving to the music. Everybody does it as a child. It's like when you start moving with a song, you feel a certain unity. You would never do that to a song you don't like in the first place (well maybe a sarcastic dance). It's a way where your body lets your mind know something. Rhythm I noticed really early in my life and through it I came up with self-games like being spot on to the rhythm of the music. If it was walking to the beat or dancing to it, brushing my teeth. To magnify that element as a core in my music is I guess one reason why I love making music. I think that perception [of dance music being frivolous] is only a last echo of the generation of music critics etc. that grew up with the whole rock'n'roll thing is 'real music'. I'm so glad there is a whole new generation of music listeners who love what they love and won't let anything outside convince them if it is right or wrong to like it. 

What makes a good danceable beat? Are there some cliches that you try to avoid?

It's gotta be individual. And it has to make your belly move. Not thinking about the perception of others while you make it. We can feel it immediately as listeners. It makes us wanna give all our attention to it. Even if the whole song is produced to directly stimulate your genitals trying to make you feel as if you like it. Still - feeling that the music has individuality in it or feels 'real' or 'honest' can never be manipulated. 

You have a distinctive percussion style and prominent bass lines in your music. Is that the point of entry when you are writing a new song? At what point in the process do you write lyrics?

It really can be any way. It's my decision. I can grab lyrics I wrote and go from there. Or I'll take an instrumental and look for the right lyrics in my book. I love that actually. In the past when collaborating with other musicians, I would get an instrumental track, my job was to come up with lyrics and finding a singing melody and record that.

All of the songs on Music Muscle seem very complete without being overly glossy. How do you know when a song is finished? Do you ever have to back up and start removing elements or is it largely an additive process?

At the very end I throw out stuff or even mute whole tracks. It's like 'yes it would have been nice, but let's be honest'. A song really let's you know what it needs, how it wants to sound and when it's finished. Mixing is another story. I learned a lot about mixing. That was one field I wanted to master with this album.
What do you get out of being in front of an audience? What makes you feel good about a performance?

That I don't have to think throughout the time I'm performing. Just letting it happen and being dedicated. I get a sense of unity with the audience through what and how it's happening. What I really love is when the audience responds to what's happening in the music or performing wise. I think every musician or performer loves that feeling when a beat turns up, a bass-line kicks, a move is happening and the audience comes at you with a wave of 'woooo'. When the moment becomes totally fluent. 

What do you want the audience to get out of it?

Fearlessness, joy, inner strength for doing what they really wanna do. Feeling a sense of unity.

photo: Melanie Magassa
Do you go through any internal battles before or after a show?

I could if I would allow myself to. But through meditation I learned to bundle my energy for the gig. But you need to know your state of being. If I know I'm tired I jump around and wake myself. I have to adjust myself to the energy I have that given night or each show. I was surprised when I did a concert in Moscow in 2005 with high fever. It was possible to do the show. And I didn't feel more sick afterwards. 

It seems like if enough people get together to form an audience, at least one of them will be unstable and volatile. As a solo musician do you have to be more careful to avoid negative situations when you are touring?

That would have to do with one's own mood or signals you are sending out. If, for instance, I would only focus on the 5% that supposed to not function, for the sake of developing and learning, I could definitely find this one person in a crowed of 500 people who has the negative-fulfilling non functioning vibe. I think I never really had negative touring situations, also most of the organizers who booked me, kind of understood that I'm performing on stage and need a drum-riser in order for the audience to get me head to toe. 

Is performing and creating music in general a direct extension of yourself or do you have to flip a switch?

Yeah, an extension. It's my esoteric way. That's why I guess I need to do it all by myself. 'Cause it's not about: Does this work? Will people get it or like it? It became clear to me as key to use and when I do I feel synchronicity, simplicity and sometimes sexy.

While there is often a dark or uncomfortable element, Namosh albums are also very upbeat and funny. Is it important for you to cover a lot of emotional ground or at least strike a balance?

I think it reflects my personality more. Certain colors, moods... But also the album is a story or a film (to me). For instance on 'Moccatongue' I showed some kind of blueprint of what I'm all about. Many different emotions, moods. On 'Keep It For Later' I only focused on the non beat songs. Playing the rhythms through synthesizers. The songs were melancholy, soft. But With 'Music Muscle' I only focus on my version of dance music.

I read that Bjork chose your song Cold Cream as her favorite song of the year in 2005. Unless you are tired of talking about it, could you fill us in? Did you know that you were on her radar prior to that?

I didn't even think that a musician I really adored would get to listen to my song and let alone mention it. I always had a very close feeling to Björk as a music maker and music lover. I 'got' her on her first song 'Human Behavior'. So it was very enriching as a twelve year old to listen to Björk. And she was the next step to this superstar-system. As was Tricky and PJ Harvey. I 'got' her from her first song on. So it was crazy to get a signal with my first song from her. The label put a sticker on the 'Moccatongue' album "Including Björks favorite song of 2005". I didn't feel so good about that. Throughout the years I felt sad that I've never found a way to thank her. Ironically, in retrospect it seems as if I have already created my 'thank you' to her in form of an oil painting of her in 1999. The painting has yet to reach her. I would feel relief if it would.

It seems like you got your start right before a monumental shift in how people listen to music. What do you think about the current state of the music industry?
Fuck It! The whole mass tv-music casting decade has seriously fucked everything. Seems like no space for individual depth is regarded to an artist in the mainstream. But even that will change again.

Have you come under pressure to be more marketable or easier to catalogue?  

When  mainstream music goes to a certain direction or towards a sound, it's like as if it is the most normal thing in the world. I just happen to do things earlier than the general mainstream music industry is directing towards. That's why in the past I realized that mainstream labels would be to afraid to loose money and wouldn't know what to do with me. They wouldn't have anything to compare it with at the time being. I did have a few moments with people like that. Seeing them a few years later, after I played them songs for an album and being like 'See? Now even you can dig it'. But with that attitude you are easily come across as arrogant. When at the bottom line you just happen to realize, you are doing things earlier. I guess I wouldn't choose music if I wouldn't have the intention to create something that couldn't be there before. As everyone has got an individual fingerprint, why not translating that to creative sports. So with the new label Weltgast music, I was so thankful when they got it right away.

What is the role of an album today and the importance of continuing to release music in this format? 

It has to take me on a journey. With an album you are able to find a 'Moral of the story' for yourself. We love getting enchanted by stories. Not just chapters, scenes, songs or Giff's. 

How will the album be released? Is there anything else you would like to say about it? Where can people get it?

It will be released via the label Weltgast music as LP/CD/Digital and distributed via Indigo. UK release is June 8th. You can get it on all online stores or stream it on Spotify etc.

What is next for Namosh?

Finding the right booking agency or booker. Touring, more music-videos to songs off the album.  I'm already collecting the songs for the next album.

Thank you so much for the conversation, Namosh!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Live Liars

Liars frontman Angus Andrew could be described as having high art aspirations but also a natural gravitation toward pop music. In the latest album, TFCF, it is as if the two elements have broken apart into extremes to battle each other in a state of functioning discord. The bands creative choices through the years have all but guaranteed that their work will not be universally loved, but this is one of the things that I appreciate most about them. Often artistic creators will work on a project to the point where it seals off all points of entry. With Liars, give it a few listens and it is hard not to fall right in. Seeing them play live is an experience of its own with Andrew being one of the most visceral and perhaps best performers of his generation. He has an engrossing stage presence and expresses a broad range of emotions through his movements and voice. The vision that he offers is often vague and unsettling but still draws you in and conveys a sense of importance and human connection. When you go to a Liars show it is an ear-shattering good time that acts as an exorcism to all that is mundane, rigid and boring.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Artist Interview: HXXS

There seems to be a bubble of creativity that exists around Jeannie Colleene and Gavin Neves of Southern California's HXXS. Their new album Valley Fever draws you in right away but never allows you to get too comfortable. There are poppy and danceable elements throughout but also a thread of something darker and less accessible. Be sure to listen to (buy) the album and keep an eye out for shows in your area. Thank you for the interview, HXXS!


The new album, Valley Fever, turned out so good! What are the circumstances around its creation?  Did you record and mix the record yourselves?

Gavin: Yeah we recorded, mixed, produced and more or less mastered it ourselves. The first part of that question is a pretty loaded one for us. 

Jeannie: Yeah one of the reasons Valley Fever came into being was out of necessity to establish who we are sonically.

Gavin: We really wanted to give people access to where we are at artistically, what we want to make and a point to look back at as we grow. Like a sonic mile marker. It was also just from direct experience living near LA and in the desert. It's such a weird space and weird living. Things are so strange out here. Valley Fever is the dark side of the California experience, the stuff white suburbia tries to hide. I would advise googling valley fever.

How did you meet and start making music together? Were your influences and direction pretty much aligned from the start or are you drawing from a lot of different areas?

Gavin: We met in downtown Portland (OR). Jeannie was working and I was busking, and I sang some dumb Rolling Stones song to her.

Jeannie: We started making music together a few months before we moved from Portland. We were both at a weird point in our lives and Gavin had been trying to get me to sing on a few tracks he had been working on.

Gavin: Yeah, I was pretty insistent. We had a house out in St. Johns and I was using the garage as a hub to experiment with recording and production and started to move away from traditional rock/guitar stuff. That's where it really started and just continued to unfold from there as life threw us curveballs. Being in a relationship before making art together means we had a lot of time to learn what makes each other tick. So I think in that sense, whether we knew it or not our direction and influences were aligned from the start. I mean I think that. 

Jeannie: Yeah, I also think that we draw from different areas as well, like everything felt very aligned from the start but we also have things separately from our own paths that influence us that the other simply could not really know. So in that sense I think its a combination of both.

It seems like all of the tracks have a kick drum at the core of the beat. Is that usually a starting point?

Gavin: Yeah, we definitely build from the drums up. At least I like to start there. That's like my most common foundation. I love rhythm, even simple rhythm so its important to me to start there.

Jeannie: Yeah, its where we both like to start because we both love rhythm and recognize that the music we love shares that. It also make the times that we don't start with drums more challenging and sweeter to finish.

How do you go about producing new material for HXXS? Do you bounce ideas back and forth as you go?

Jeannie: We're constantly producing new material. Whether its recording or performing live. Ripping them apart, rebuilding them. We've probably played some of these songs 20 different ways in the last two years but someone would think its just another song. We bounce all of our ideas back and forth and make a very collaborative effort to get to where we're feeling with tracks, together.

Gavin: We never really stop producing new material. We're really restless with it. I don't sleep at all because my head is always buzzing with arrangements or production ideas. I bounce a lot of my ideas off Jeannie and whittle them down to how she reacts to different things. And I'd actually say she does the same with me. A good amount of material we start with is tracks that never saw the light of day in my previous projects. But I never wanted it to be "oh I wrote these songs", I wanted to deconstruct and construct ideas together with someone to see where they end up going.

Do you feel like you have to finish projects from the past and push them to their full potential? Is there ever a point when old projects expire and you don't want to use them any more?

Jeannie: I don't think they ever expire. Eventually they just take a new shape or become something different. I mean, we always push to finish past projects but we don't feel like we have to finish them. At least I don't.

Gavin: I think I feel like we have to. If an idea goes untouched for too long its starts to affect what we're working on. Like some piece of an old song will work its way into a new track because it was never resolved and I'll have a crisis as to whether I want to scrap the old project for the new one just because of that one defining piece or keep the old piece and completely re-imagine it. So I'm always driven to finish old material first. I cant say old projects expire because there will always be something to them that if they don't get finished initially they gestate the longer they're left dormant. Which is always an interesting thing. 

In my own creative projects there are a lot of ups and down and occasionally I crash pretty hard and fall apart emotionally. Do either of you go though this at all or are you both pretty level headed throughout?

Gavin: Haha, there's a lot of peaks and valleys in it. I think the crash is something special to draw from too so I try to absorb as much as I can from the process even if its emotionally taxing.

Jeannie: Yeah we definitely go through that. Like we mentioned we go through several different versions of songs before we reach a final so I think we're really stubborn about it too. We see everything through 'til its done even if there is a period of time where we hate everything and hate ourselves, we just push through. I think its challenging but I think the reward of getting through these emotionally challenging things is important to our music and it teaches me control. Its therapeutic in a way for my mental health so we never let ourselves give in. 

Are you both writing lyrics? Do you have notebooks of lyrics to draw from or do they form around the music?

Jeannie: We have a ton of notebooks, we'll attach a picture.

For a lot of writers lyrics can be pretty personal and maybe less collaborative than other aspects of a band. Do you work on lyrics for the same song together or is it one or the other?

Gavin: I'd say its both. We both have different personal experiences that intersect, so its only natural that we dissect and work together.

Jeannie: It's definitely personal but we experience a lot of things together and recognize what the other goes through. So its hard to say that we write lyrics independently from each other.

Gavin: Older tracks that existed before HXXS are about the only example of lyrics being written independent from each other, but we still approach that as an editorial force together. 

When I've seen HXXS live I thought it was interesting that you did not face the crowd a lot. It seems to create a greater divide between the performer and audience but also gives the impression that you are not "performing" for anyone. Is this a conscious approach or is it just because you have to face your gear a lot?

Jeannie: I think it's both, being honest. A lot of the times I do think, I'm not performing for anyone. I can't tell you how many dudes come up to me after a set and tell me specifically to face the crowd and it's like "fuck you dude, you get up there then. Ill do whatever the fuck I want, this is my thing". I had a man come up to me so entitled and say something along the lines of "how dare you play with your back to me". Fucking gross dude, get a life. Anyway, the way we perform is always changing too so I really think its a combination of both.

Gavin: It was never about facing gear for me unless the stage room demanded us to set up a certain way. I always loved live performances by the Talking Heads where David Byrne didn't face the audience. Same with Jim Morrison. I like something about it. I always have a specific thought since we're at the bottom of the food chain so to speak, that I'm a nobody. Y'all aren't here to see me or her necessarily but listen to new music at the core of it. Hang with friends and have an experience more or less. I don't know, I definitely think its situational.

It seems like every other show I see someone is being disruptive or confrontational. Any other characters out there that come to mind? How do you deal with it when it happens?

Jeannie: The most common things I'm confronted about at shows is drunk dudes asking if I'm "the merch girl", "a vocalist?" Or just drunk dudes in my personal space. It happens to me a lot. I don't know if its confrontational, but there are plenty of assumptions that are just baseless and unwarranted I guess.

Gavin: I cant keep track anymore, sometimes I wonder like, do we attract this or something? I have a different perspective. I also get a lot of rock/guitar traditionalists who make it a point to make sure you know they don't think what you're doing is music. I have a lot of push/pull relationships with sound guys. Sometimes shows are just a mess. They're incredible, but doing everything independently you run into a lot of messy situations. There was a show in New Orleans where this drunk old white guy who insisted it was a tragedy that he had to put his toy cars with confederate flags on them into storage boxes and that propane was safe to inhale, asserted himself onstage before the opener so he could play an actually good rendition of Madonna's "Into The Groove".

You guys are hitting the road right? What are your plans? 

Jeannie: Yes! We're hitting the road in June, the plan is coast to coast until about September. But who knows, it's tour. We're also planning and booking through our own network and friends so we will see what happens.

I had to laugh when I saw a picture of the all the gear in your van. It looks really well organized in one crate but there is definitely a sacrifice of sleeping space. Are you cut off from buying new synths for a while?

Gavin: Nothing can stop us from finding gear. Except for money I guess. We have enough sleeping space for the both of us.

Jeannie: Honestly we can never really afford to buy synths anyway sooo.....

What gear would you both buy if you had unlimited funds?

Jeannie: I don't know where to start if I had unlimited funds. I really like Arturia's new Drumbrute. Id like to get a violin pick up to be able to track live strings. Maybe a MIDI violin. A guitar, probably a Fender Duo-Sonic like Gavin's old one. A new looper because ours is dying a slow death. Definitely want that new Critter & Guitari visual synth. There's a lot of things. Its overwhelming.

Gavin: Wow, unlimited funds. Um, right now I have my eye on a modular rack unit that I have a specific use in mind but I don't want to get into details 'cause no one is really using modular for that use right now. At least I don't think so. Id really like that new compact mini mellotron being released this year. An MPC500 and an Elektron Rytm or Octotrack would be really tite as well.

It seems like now more than ever there are a lot of really interesting self released albums out there. It is obvious in the result of Valley Fever that you guys are really talented and put so much into your work. Do you think that people are putting enough effort into discovering new artists?

Jeannie: I don't even put enough effort in! It's so overwhelming. There is so much new music right now it's hard to fault anyone for not trying hard enough.

Gavin: At the same time, I feel like you have a group of friends who you share music with that shares music/art/influence with others and everything travels along its own path so I think in some sense not a lot of effort is needed. I also think human emotion and all its personal necessities play a part in "discovering" art and music especially as a medium. So its hard to chart what is the "trending" way people discover music coming out. So sometimes it fucks me up thinking about commercializing peoples emotions. Because who the f knows how people discover something. 

Will there be a break from writing new music for a while to play these songs live? Any plans for the next project?

Gavin: No we don't have a break right now. Even when we're performing something could happen in a song that will be later saved for a future song. We have a few projects already finished hopefully coming out soon with some well known people and have stuff planned to possibly work on with some friends while we're on the road so we have a lot of work in sight. But we will be playing all of this on the tour coming up as well as unreleased stuff.

Where can people pick up a copy of Valley Fever? Will there be a physical release?

Yes, you can currently pick up a digital copy of Valley Fever on our bandcamp wearehxxs.bandcamp.com or at our website wearehxxs.com. For the time being physicals will be available through us in the form of Cassette and CD while we're on tour. Any updates will follow about where physicals can be picked up.

live photos: Scissabob Photography
lyric books photo: HXXS

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Artist Interview: Dustin Swinney

Photo: Royce Jackson Wagner

There is an exciting polarity to Dustin Swinney's music that is both decadent and minimal. He is a talented singer and you can hear the focus and sincerity in his voice. I look forward to seeing what's next for him. Be sure to check out his Soundcloud page (http://soundcloud.com/swinneyswinney) and watch out for upcoming events. Thank you for the conversation Dustin!


To get things started could you tell us where you are from and what drew you to creating music?

I was born in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and I was raised in a small town an hour outside of Nashville, Tennessee called Waverly. My Dad was a tour manager and studio assistant in the late 70’s/early 80’s in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and he was obsessed with music. I can’t remember a time growing up where music wasn’t being played or listened to. I was certainly a weird attention starved little kid and singing was a way to get adults to notice me; once I realized that there was no turning back.

How do you go about writing a song? Do you write the lyrics first or does that come later?

I am always writing in my journal and sometimes I will pull lyrics from there. Other times I will record a melody on my phone and match lyrics to the melody at a later date. If I’m working with producers I am often sent a full/fleshed out track and the melody will be inspired by their music. When I’m producing I will come up with a simple beat, or synth line, and free style over it; fleshing out the details as I go along. I’ve learned there isn’t a method to my madness and I try to let songs form as naturally as possible.

Do you go through a period of frustration with each project or does it unfold pretty naturally?

For me, if a song or project doesn’t unfold naturally I know it’s time to walk away for a while. The songs I’ve written I love most have happened organically. Granted, some songs require a little more attention than others, but if the core of a song doesn’t happen naturally then I know it isn’t going to work. Some tracks sit on my computer for months before I revisit them. Often times my best work happens after I’ve spent some time away from the original idea.

What do you think of the music scene in Portland?

I think the music scene in Portland is a myth. There are a lot of cool bands and artists in Portland, but as far as a “scene” goes I don’t think there is one…

Does playing music effect how you listen to music? Do you ever get burnt out on listening after you spend a lot of time arranging your own music?

Definitely. Listening to music can be a bit overwhelming especially if I’m finishing up an idea; I get too caught up in the details of how things are mixed. Subconsciously I go through spells where I don’t listen to music for weeks on end in order to clear space in my head.

Do you have any pre-show rituals? 

Not really, I usually focus on not embarrassing myself.

Has anything crazy happened at your live shows?

I played an intimate show at a tea lounge with Sophont, and this couple sitting front and center kept offering their very rude opinions to us in between songs. It got to a point where I asked them to leave.  Recently, I was playing a house show and this very drunk “dude bro” asked me, in the middle of a song, if he could free style. Looking back I should have let him because I’m certain he would have embarrassed himself. It’s not easy getting up on stage and performing for strangers. I don’t expect everyone to like my music, but keep your opinions to yourself or leave.

It seems like you had a really productive collaboration with Gavin Neves of HXXS. Was that a one off, or is there more in the works?

Gavin is amazing and uber talented. Not only is he one of my dearest friends, he is one of my favorite collaborators. I hope to always work and collaborate with him in some capacity. There are still two or three songs I haven’t released yet. I plan on releasing everything we worked on as an EP before the end of the year and you will be able to download that via my bandcamp:http://swinney.bandcamp.com My ultimate goal is to do a small cassette release of the EP, but I’m not sure if that will come to fruition or not.

Is there going to be any new Sophont material as well?

Hopefully. Mike and I would like to release an album at some point. We’ve demoed around 20 songs over the past couple of years. We’ve recently narrowed down the list to 10 songs. Mike and I have had a crazy year personally and it’s been difficult to schedule a time to get those songs finished. I hope we get a chance to get the material completed because I think we’ve come up with some really cool and vibe-y songs.

What sort of electronic gear do you use? 

I’ve only recently begun producing my own music. I have a long list of things that I want to buy and learn how to use, but I’m currently using an Arturia key step and Studio One; I’m starting simple.

If you had your pick of any synthesizer or piece of gear that has ever been made, what would you chose? Would you keep it or sell it?

There are sooo many things I wish I had… Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer, Elektron Machinedrum SPS-1, Roland GAIA SH-01 Synthesizer, etc. etc. I would absolutely keep them and continue to add to the collection. When I was a kid, I had a Casio Rapman Keyboard with scratch disk, voice effector, and microphone; I would give anything to still have it.

For most of my life I have been pretty dismissive of mainstream pop music, but I find your appreciation of it to be really endearing. Do you like it for the glamour and surface appeal or is it something beyond that? What do you take away from pop music?

For me pop music goes far beyond the glamour and surface appeal… I get the dismissiveness of mainstream pop music because most of it is generic crap. However, I think pop music is an underrated art form that doesn’t get enough credit. It is extremely difficult to write and produce pop music and while there is a tried and true formula it’s what can be done with that formula that interests me. With that being said I think pop music has shifted so much over the years. Most of the time I’m not even sure what qualifies as pop music and what doesn’t. To me someone like Jessy Lanza writes and produces great pop music, but someone that listens to top 40 pop would completely disagree with me.

Could you share your expertise and give us five pop songs that are worth listening to?

I’m going to stick with 5 songs that have been released in 2016. I could get advanced and dive deep into the 80’s, 90’s, and early 00’s but that’s a whole other article.
1. Terror Jr. “Come First”
2. Ariana Grande “Touch It” or “Into You” (really anything on Dangerous Woman – it’s a really well done pop album)
3. Anhoni “Watch Me”
4. Beck “Wow”
5. ABRA “Pull Up”

What sort of role does playing music have in your life? Is there joy in it? Necessity? 

Music is everything to me. Music is something I try to work on every day in some form. I find myself getting very frustrated if I’m not working on music.

Do you work in other artistic mediums than music? If so does it give you some sort of balance?

I was a visual artist before I ever started making music and it’s very much an important aspect of my creative process. I usually listen to what my mind wants to do as far as creativity is concerned. Some days working on a painting or drawing appeals to me more than working on music. As long as I’m creating every day I usually feel pretty balanced.

Do you have any grand plans for the future or are you just going to see how it goes?

At this point I’m concentrating on producing my own music; I hope to evolve and become completely self-sufficient. Eventually I’d like to make art and music full time but what that means exactly I’m not sure. Like every artist/musician I want to reach as many people as possible through my work, but the tricky part is figuring out how to make that happen. In the meantime I’m going to stay focused and keep working.

Any upcoming projects or shows?

I have no shows planned currently. It was important for me to perform the material I worked on with Gavin, but I don’t see myself playing another show until I figure out how to play my new music live. I’d also like to incorporate more performance art into my set as well. I have a lot of ideas on how to improve my live show and I hope to work on those ideas over the next couple of months. As far as upcoming projects are concerned, I hope to release a collection of self-produced songs by the end of summer. In the meantime, I have a lot of collaborations in the works. I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of electronic, dance, and hip-hop producers and I’ll be featured on some of their tracks over the next couple of months.

Monday, July 18, 2016


Alan Vega was wild eyed, dangerous, and cool. He never pandered to the crowd or tried to win their affection. He was not Elvis Presley and he was not Iggy Pop, but he hollowed out a space that was all his own. His lyrics are fascinating and different than anything else. He knew the past and he knew the future. The music that he created remains a high water mark in an area that no one else even knew existed. The due of Suicide is often seen as a product of their environment in late 1970s New York, but they were more than just a snapshot of animals in their natural habitat. They were deliberate and original artists. Alan Vega and Suicide represent what can occur when you cease to let the expectations of others guide you creatively. He lived and died as we all will, but was not tethered to the same framework that guides most lives and artistic choices.

Monday, June 6, 2016

I keep returning to this video of Frank Tovey. I think that it is a very special performance and love how he responds to having to lip-sync the lyrics. His actions could easily be seen as a protest for being in the position in the first place, but maybe there is more to it. He seems tuned in to something in way that transforms a boring mimed performance into something powerful and hilarious. I'm sure that everyone involved were pissed off at him, but he carried the performance and made it real in the only way that he could. I think it is perfect.