Intro to folktronics
in the later part of 1996, i was producing, writing and recording the bad livers album hogs on the highway. there was quite an epiphany during the process of making the song Falling Down the Stairs with a Pistol in my Hand, and it felt really good, as though a whole new world of ideas was opening up to me.
prior to that, roughly the idea for me in regard to recording, was to try and get a good natural sound, as though the listener was hearing a real band playing. even though the tracks on most of the records i had worked on previously had been put together in layers (overdubs), usually, the goal was to try and create a band type sound.
with this track, i just started getting sounds down and chasing that around and seeing where that would lead. much like i envisioned Jackson Pollock, or other modern painters might have worked, throwing some stuff on there, and then developing it. this was the beginning of my Folktronics approach. the rough idea of Folktronics is to hear all of American music at once. it's a combination of scratchy old music from the beginning of the physically recorded medium, and contemporary editing techniques. the cool thing is with just a few parameters, like a binary code or the light and shade of chiaroscuro, there can be infinite variation.
many times in listening to modern "bluegrass" or "acoustic" music and the like, my feeling is that the production is kind of dry or bland. kind of like an old school documentary. it gets the point across but it's time to smash the mold. i just don't get the relevance of imitating bill monroe. himself an innovator. (i grew up with old country music in the house and didn't have to embrace it, or discover it later in life, the more usual story for much of the contemporary listeners... turning onto it later in life i think tends to make one more of a zealot. my mother said the other day, "people talk about how much they like country music now, when i was a kid they made fun of you for listening to country music." she heard the opry back in the day and listened to the light crust doughboys and stuff like that in the early morning. )
my Folktronic approach is an endeavor to bring sonic interest into these forms of music. i lost the relevance of making records that used the same blueprint as the stuff that came before. why try to make a song sound like an overdone copy, which is a copy of something else? why not bring contemporary editing and mixing procedures to this music? what if the aphex twin played banjo?
so Falling Down the Stairs was a song that saw that flower of an idea bloom in my mind. here are some things that set the stage for this concept in my brain at that point in time:
Lee Perry records. Butthole Surfer records. classic experimental music from the twenties (and on) from my history of recording classes. Charles Ives. riding around in vans for years with music freaks and listening to strange music. electronic music. punk rock. experimental music.
so from that song, sprouted the idea for Blood and Mood, a cd i worked on a couple of years later. (Falling Down the Stairs was strangely never really mentioned in the media reviews, however music freaks to this day write fan mail about that song....so it wasn't an economic or commercial prestige thing that got me excited about that piece, but the fact that i got away with it!) in the process of researching new stuff i came across this roni size vinyl record called Brown Paper Bag, and it had a phrase in there where the vocalist said, "new configuration, new riff and new structure." and that has been my catch-phrase since then really. from there, came my cd Oft Mended Raiment, which was entirely sample based and created on an MPC sampler.
around this time i had moved to the seattle area and came to know and work with bill frisell, wayne horvitz, buell neidlinger, and eyvind kang. all of these musicians opened my eyes to the possibilities of music. it is so far-out to be able to listen to these master musicians discuss the methodologies of cecil taylor, igor stravinsky, charles ives, captain beefheart, stockhausen, morton feldman, john zorn, autechre, and hundreds of other important figures in the development of this thing called music.
i became interested in contemporary composed music, freer forms, electronic music, philosophy, esoteric math, rosicrucianism, poetry (specifically william blake), noise music, plato's timaeus, george berkeley's treatise concerning the principles of human understanding, gnosticism, martin heidegger's introduction to metaphysics, symbolic logic, meteorology, ornithology, immanuel kant's introduction to logic, ......Folktronics is my attempt to meld my own style, combining these elements.
my recent cd is called Barnyard Electronics and it represents my latest efforts in this regard. i'm very interested in a Post Modern, Post Structuralist vision. i just got off the phone with my good friend Jim Woodring and described this idea to him and he said," well i think you nailed it." for me this is the greatest glory, to have another artist that you admire, let you know they appreciate what you are up to. i can work for years on a compliment like that.
the way that oscillators are used in synthesized music, as a basis for sound, is a way that the banjo can be used, or other folk instruments. as a waveform generator that can be used to make these epic pieces. and with sampling, we can re-contextualize sounds and make new configurations and architectures of music.
the old records have already been done. they were/are really cool, but i don't think i can compete with them, nor do i want to. no matter how old the music is, somebody thought it up. i'm more interested in that moment when someone said, "hey, what if we did this?"
another way to look at my work is as re-purposed obsolescence. i relate to visual artists, and also the type of artists who make things because they can't stop doing so. this era is so perfect for this type of endeavor. cheap plane tickets, cheap gear. people that are interested in music. places to play, computers. everything has really been leading up to this in my view. and it's a great thing. there exists more great music being done now than ever, and more great gear to work with. Yikes. welcome to my folktronics site.