Welcome to Magazine Sixty. Let’s begin with that black and white image of you sat alone at your keyboards on a rooftop, which feels strangely poignant given today’s unnatural climate. Can you tell us about the circumstances surrounding the photograph?
Why thank you! So that is my loft building in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where I record most of my music. Its a really unique space where artists can bang on drum kits or build art installations or whatever they fancy. I moved all the gear up onto the roof for some album artwork to go with an upcoming release.
Are you experiencing lockdown in your part of the world? Does the current situation offer you space in terms of creative possibilities? And how do you think life will change at the other end of this crisis?
Living in NYC, we have felt this thing both early and heavily. At the start, some friends and I fortunately got up to the Catskills to record for about ten days, but for all of April I’ve been shacked up at my girlfriend’s apartment, mini studio and all. On one hand, it can get a little maddening sitting down and hammering away at music every day, but on the other, it’s definitely a unique privilege and opportunity to have zero interruption like this. I’ve even finished a new EP since the lockdown started. I think when this is over, hopefully, everyone will know themselves a little better. I know I’ve spent lots of time asking myself what I really want to do with my life, and I’m excited to get out there and do it once this crisis passes.
Tell us something about how you create music – does it start with a single sound, or melody, or being inspired by something you have read or seen?
I try to switch up my approach to stay invigorated and excited. Sometimes a song can start with a drum recording I have, and other times it can be a weird sound that accidentally happens while toying with a certain guitar pedal. I think the approach heavily influences the end result however, so as I have progressed, I have started to learn how to go in with a certain “goal” in mind, and start a song that way. For example, recently a lot of my music has felt very slow. So recorded a super fast drum beat at 165BPM, and wrote around that. Now at least I have one fast song!
Where did you learn to play guitar and piano? Who taught you?
Piano was my first instrument. I had this amazing teacher when I was like 6 years old who recognized that while I was a little too young and immature to learn sheet music, I had a knack for memorizing pitches and whatnot. So she would teach me songs by memory kind of like Simon Says, and while it was a little less traditional, she understood that keeping me engaged and excited was the most important thing. Once she moved away, my new teacher was so mean and I couldn’t do it. So my parents suggested that I took my dad’s old guitar and started taking lessons on that instead.
The proceeds from your excellent single for Repopulate Mars: Brace Yourself is going to Earth Justice and Rainforest Alliance. Can you tell about what those particular charities mean to you?
Honestly, our planet is in really rough shape. I could go into so many issues like coral bleaching or ocean acidification or melting permafrost or clearcutting forests for mono-cropping and factory farming; the list of pressing crises can really be devastating to think about. A few years ago I realized that instead of getting crushed by the weight of our situation, I should do what I know how to do (make music), in hopes of one day gaining a platform to do something about it. Specifically, I hope to one day help re-work how the music industry affects the environment, both with touring and sustainability in general. Having the opportunity to contribute to both Earth Justice and Rainforest Alliance represents a small first step in this direction. Both groups do such outstanding work and have been for decades, so naturally it made sense to give all proceeds to these great foundations.
buy Brace Yourself https://lnk.to/RPM076
What is your favourite instrument? Do you own one?
This is a TOUGH one. My favorite instrument is probably a Wurlitzer electromechanical piano. I was lucky enough to finally get one off of craigslist this past September. What makes this instrument so special is that there are physical wooden hammers that strike metal bars to create a warm, electronic pitch. So it’s the perfect marriage of a real piano feel with a gooey buzzing sound. This is the sound of many Ray Charles classics, as well as the iconic intro to “You’re my Best Friend” by Queen.
(randon question) California Dreamin’ or America’s Ventura Highway? Which and why do you prefer?
Love this question. I would have to say that California Dreamin’ was a more directly influential song to me as a producer because of what I learned while recording the cover of it. Specifically, I was studying the interplay of a male and female vocalist trading lines like that. But that said, the very Buffalo Springfield-esque vocal harmonies on Ventura Highway are one of my all time favorite flavors of classic rock music. Keep an ear out for lots of vocal stacks on my forthcoming music 🙂
Tell us about the other musician’s you perform with? And the experience of playing live to an audience?
I have been on the road with several “live” electronic acts such as Elderbrook, Big Wild, and STS9. These people are all heroes to me, because I was able to see how each act applied their own method to bringing their productions to an audience in the most captivating, good-sounding way possible. For example, STS9’s live rig is honestly so mind-bending complicated, and the band was kind enough to explain how it has evolved over the years. Big Wild and Elderbrook both showed me the importance of a setup that sounds juicy and amazing, but also involves taking risks and doing things without too much computer assistance to give the audience a real, vulnerable experience. My newest tour setup involves just a MIDI keyboard and a guitar with everything else (keyboard patch changes, timed effects etc) being controlled by Ableton, allowing me to put on the most direct and interactive live performance yet. In the past there was too much button pushing and now I feel like I can just play.
And finally. What are forthcoming plans for producing music?
I’m currently sitting on a backlog of about 12 songs, spread out across a double single and two EPs. As soon as everything is done and set for release, I plan on spending the summer working on a full length LP for White Cliffs, as well as starting to produce music for a more dance music oriented side project.