A year ago, I posted in the blog asking for fan interview questions. As usual, I posted a link to the entry on facebook and twitter. I got a bunch of good (and bad) questions back. Some were in email but many on the blog and social media sites. It took me a year (honestly I kind of forgot) but for what it's worth, here you go. This stuff is way more fun than your typical interview. I'll definitely do it again after the next release. (also hope to interview a few other artists I respect and post them here too)
What advice would you give to guys just getting in to making electronic music right now? What is the best way to be heard and develop a fan base?
I think it's fairly given that you need to address some base fundamentals about an online presence. Get a web site, twitter, facebook, soundcloud, bandcamp, etc.. For details on what you should be thinking here, read the 20 Things You Must Know About Music Online.
However, IMHO, new artists normally focus too much time on the internet. Ultimately because fairly professional looking music players and profiles are so easy to use online, EVERYONE does it; making it actually harder to stand out and get heard. The phenomenon is related to what's often called the "Democratization" of the music industry. Because everyone can DIY their own distribution and promotion so easily, it means everyone does and hence it's a diminishing return. The more free music there is online, for example, the harder it is to find good music. This isn't just true for you, but more importantly, all your potential fans. A needle is much harder to find in hay stack than a sewing kit. So from a promotional perspective, why does everyone seem to focus on adding more hay?!?
You should have these fundamentals in place for when people already know about you, but don't rely on them to be discovered. For discovery, I believe, the most powerful way to get your needle back in the sewing kit is to focus on playing live. Play live as much as you can. In front of anybody. For free. For every hour you think to spend spamming people about your music on facebook, spend that our working on a unique and powerful live show instead. These don't have to be traditional gigs in real venues. They can be parties. In your friends back yard. Anywhere. I've seen people get 200 people at a party dancing and going crazy for their music where if they played in a bar there would be 15 people barely paying attention.
Use the internet, but don't' focus on it. Play live. Oh, and Don't Suck.
Straight up now, tell me - do you really want to love me forever?
Oh Jess. You crazy MILF. Forever? Perhaps a quote from renown U.S. love therapist, Prince, would help: "Forever. That's a mightily long time but I'm here 2 tell u. There's something else. The afterworld. A world of never ending happiness. U can always see the sun, day or night. So when u call up that shrink in Beverly Hills U know the one - Dr Everything'll Be Alright Instead of asking him how much of your time is left Ask him how much of your mind, baby 'Cuz in this life Things are much harder than in the afterworld. In this life You're on your own".
How did you feel starting this project and how do you feel now that it's completed?
Hrm. At the time this question was asked I think we had just finished the init.system DVD so I'll assume that's what we're talking about. I felt pretty good when it started. I feel pretty good it's completed. I wouldn't trade having done the init.system DVD for anything in the world but I'm not sure I have the stamina for such a project again. My interest these days is more on combining the video with synnack to create art installations. Behold my pontification about this on my blog at http://www.synnack.com/blog/post/25/0xf8-phase-2.
What piece of your soul did you find at the end of your journey?
Hi Nikki. Well I don't think I found anything new about my soul really. That's not to say I didn't learn a lot though. I believe this question was again related to the init.system DVD and I can tell you for sure I learned to respect well done music videos. Doing video properly takes an insane amount of time and dedication. I'm not talking about the typical YouTube collection of band members playing in a room or running through a forest stuff. Original, thematic, high quality video, even with todays technology is a shit ton of work. I also learned that not only do people not buy CDs anymore, but they don't really buy DVDs either! You could prove me wrong of course and buy the init.system DVD. :-D
Are you happy with the latest autechre release?
Hi Daniel. I love it but to be honest I never listen to it. It's just like going to a really good live show. Sometimes instead of inspiring me it depresses me that I will never be that good. The last few Autechre releases have that effect. I listen and go "holy shit i suck".
Where do you draw influence (ie music, books, art movements)?
Like most artists I think I�m influenced mostly by daily life. The experiences you have provide enough narrative for a life-time of work. The crap music you hear in an office building or grocery store. The idiot(s) at work. That guy you friended on Facebook but you�re not sure why because everything he says pisses you off. Lack of sleep. Having to wake up when you *can* sleep. The weird marking you saw on an abandoned building while traveling. It�s all an influence in some way. Though I don't live there now, New Orleans is still a big influence on me. Since moving from there, a storm destroyed all my families earthly possessions and an oil company poisoned the earth, and hence the economy of the region. I have no lack of influence.
In a narrative sense, beyond my own life story I get most of the inspiration fiction I�ve read. Lately i�ve been reading using the Kindle app a lot on the iPad. Every time something strikes me as particularly interesting or as a potential song title, i use the highlight feature. Then when I�m looking for this type of inspiration I can just pull up the list of everything i�ve highlighted. Pretty useful really. I've been traveling almost non-stop lately for work and I load up my iPad with documentaries. For narrative influence, documentaries are a goldmine.
In a technical sense, I find the tools you use are not only a means to an end, but an influence themselves. The way a particular application forces a certain workflow on you has a big influence on the result. Yep that's right. I am influenced by technology. Shocker!
Books, other peoples music, daily life, music and video software; all influencers. In terms of specific art movements, I think it's obvious I've been influenced by things the early 20th century Dada, Surrealist, and Futurist artists. Though cliche, I've both read and purchased many things by John Cage. In a more contemporary sense, the work of Chris Burden always interest me as to how these conceptual pieces could be applied to released audio. Lately I've mostly drawn influence from other artists looking to combine audio with video installation work like Frank Bretschneider and Alva Noto.
How much of your work comes from an idea formed in advance, vs. improvisation?
Hi Patrick. Of the dark ambient style I would say 90% of it starts as improv. I think that's true of most artists in this style. You might start with a question. Like "hrm what if I tried to change the attack over time using an envelope follower driven by blah blah". But outside of that jumping-off point, It's what happens in the moment. Of the more IDM stuff, 80% if you consider opening Ableton Live and clicking things to mess around improv (I do).
A more interesting fact is that if I think about ALL the music I've done in my career, 99% of the stuff I actually still like was done by improvisational live playing. At least the main elements of those songs.
What is the most important event in human history?
Hi Brad. I'm sure there's another Prince lyric that would work here. Oh what the hell this song rules: She took me 2 her castle And I just couldn't believe my eyes She had so many devices Everything that money could buy She said sign your name on the dotted line The lights went out And nikki started 2 grind.
Hrm. The lyrics to "Darlin Nikki" remind me of a story that did actually happen to me you may find funny. synnack+0xf8 was confirmed to play a "private loft party" in the Boston area. It was one of those things where you get access to an email address because you know someone involved, send an RSVP email and if they approve you, they send you the location.
So we get confirmed to play and the location information which was just the address to a loft building. Jennifer and I showed up and were in the parking lot trying to figure out which entrance, and which loft might be the right one. Coincidentally at the same time we saw a group of goth looking people in all black going in the building. So we naturally thought "oh they must be going to the same party. Let's follow them".
We follow the group of goths up several flights of stairs to a door marked by one of those beaded curtain things popular in the 1970s. Through the beads, the door guy logically asked for our names. This is a private party that was RSVP only. Makes sense so far right? We gave our names and the guys looks through his list and comes up empty. "But we're here to perform, we're the band", I say. "But you're not on the list, make sure you tell Derek to put you on the list next time". Now, I have no idea who "Derek" is but we just go "yeah yeah" and walk right in. Walking down the hallway everything seems normal. Random overweight goths in corsets standing around drinking. Then we turn the corner into the main living room space. Full on orgy. Some dude tied up. You can imagine the scene. I then look down the room and see an area with video being projected. So I think "Um. er.. um maybe the bands are playing back there by the video projection" and we walk towards it. Nope. A bunch of dudes sitting naked on a couch watching porn projected up on the wall.
I immediately picked up my phone and called the guy who booked us like "wtf". Turns out the party was actually in the basement loft. We ACCIDENTALLY went to a private sex orgy thing. True story.
What is the difference between interesting experimental music and experimental music that is self-absorbed and masturbatory ?
Well, what if I'm interested in myself? Would be the same thing then...
Roland TR-808 or 909?
808 for sure.
The most recent output (v2.5) has modular synthesis in two ways, hardware and software. With software you have to think about what you will be programming or connecting, while hardware is much more intuitive (read: "what does this button do"). Which one do you prefer and why?
Hi Bauke. I understand your question but I don't know how much I agree with the premise. In fact I am far more likely to know what a button does in hardware, than a button in software.
I find there is more experimentation for me in software than anything because the possibilities are endless and its actually more difficult to figure out a platform that where anything can be done than one defined by a hardware manufacturer.
However the main difference in the two methods is not for me so much in intuition but immediacy. With a hardware modular system the results are far more immediate. You could almost randomly connect things and get something interesting. Whereas with modular environments in software you might spend 30 minutes just trying to figure out how to make a sound at all.
As for my preference... since I travel all the time I normally prefer software for the portability of it. A full modular studio in my bag wherever I go is a big win. But when I"m actually in the studio, the immediately of modular hardware can't be beat.
Working out the demons, shining a light, both sides of the coin - why? Personal catharsis, subjective art, finding the soulmates?
I assume this question is something about why I do the art that i do. Many artists comment that they create their work to deal with things. As in, they have some problem or trauma and they do the work to somehow deal with it or "exorcise the demon", as they say. I've never really felt that way. In fact to me creating art about your problems seems to just force more dwelling on them. My catharsis happens by watching trashy reality TV. Real Housewives of anyone?
In terms of the "why" of my work, see the inspiration answer above. I would also add that in a very real sense what motivates me to create art is the human need of self awareness. If i'm not doing it, I don't feel like me.
Which reminds me, I should really be working on music right now.