Two and a Half Questions with Phylum Sinter

What does your name, “Phylum Sinter” mean?
Phylum Sinter is a name that i came up with after trying to define what the purpose of making music was for me. Making it was always a bit of a release, but i found the real objectives met — even if they were never really defined — after the music was heard by other people and whether it really moved them at all, like the songs were in some ways a log of recent internal processing that was spun into this audible tapestry easily validated by acknowledgment of rhythm or empathy somehow. Taking this into account, i also wanted a moniker that was generalized enough to be resistant to time. I was reading alot about taxonomy at the time, and just how science classifies different species. The decision to use ‘Phylum’ instead of ‘Kingdom’ or any of the other three rungs below it came about because i realized that this is where basic structures of biology begin to show commonalities of lifespan, even behavioral and bone structures and such begin to sit within ranks. In short, it is where purpose begins to emerge. ‘Sinter’ came to mind after searching for good words that meant to compress, to sigil-ize or basically make a compound of meanings and transmit it. To sinter something means to concentrate it, to distill it into its most base form. Together the name can be defined as a species that would make these things (in my case, songs) that hopefully have transmittable core elements. I’m very big into music as a language and means of communication.

Who are some of your influences?
Alot of romantic and baroque classical music, especially piano composers. Specifically Chopin, De Bussy and Lizst are probably ingrained in my hands down to muscle memory. I also have heard somewhere that Pachalbel’s Canon in D is the core of all modern music, that might be a joke but in any case it’s one of the first pieces i learned to play and alot of the basic chord structures i end up using are probably sitting somewhere in there. Then on the flip side i’ve got an incredible appreciation for chiptunes and videogame composers, alot of my first songs written inside a computer were done on tracker programs, so that aesthetic and limitation informed my approach to arrangement. Film scores are also a great influence to me, and an area i really want to get more involved in. Music is one of the greatest ways of transmitting a cross-sensory or synaesthetic idea, and i find it very visual, so creating visuals to match my sounds is a hobby of mine too — often inspired from geometric surrealists like Peter Gric and H.R. Giger, M.C. Escher, the dreamtime portraits of Gil Bruvel and stuff that implies there is more here than can be easily recognized.

What is some of the hardware/software that you use to produce?
I use a bunch of cheap circuitbent crap, most of which was bent by friends or myself as sound sources. You don’t hear much stuff going nuts on its’ own in my tracks because it’s all chopped and arranged in a pretty meticulous manner. Stochastic music isn’t my thing, if i want that i can just throw some bricks in my dryer and let it clank around, you know? Big fan of Yamaha FM synths, have two TX-81Z’s that are on just about every one of my songs somewhere. Also some other hardware, a Yamaha SK-30 which is one of those big wooden ended analogue synths, 4 voice; a Korg ms-2000r. Then we’ve got my main controller keyboard, a Yamaha CS1x, Behringer and Oxygen knob boxes. Tend to get alot of found sounds from my trusty minidisc recorder and stereo mini condenser mic. I’d like to make an album someday with absolutely no sequencing, so i’ll probably keep my Roland VS-1680 (which hardly gets used for anything more than live-takes these days) around. On the software side i run alot of rube-goldberg style modulation mazes in Max/MSP where i have midi generated between just about every sound-source and fed-back into something else. Alot of my synth sounds come from Reaktor and freeware vst’s (the Crystal and Synth1 are perfect for just about everything). Used to hunt for alot of effects and stuff, nowadays i tend to try to crossmodulate and layer the stuff i have in new ways.

There is a lot of harmony in your atmospherics and melodies. Do you play any instruments?
Yes, i play alot of instruments. Keyboards since age 6 or so, guitar since 12, clarinet since 14, drums since 16, dulcimer, marimba, kalimba, and just about anything else i get a handle on i tend to be able to play pretty well after awhile… save for stringed instruments, i can’t seem to get a handle on bow technique. Would love to get some training on the cello, but it would be the first time i’ve ever gotten lessons and i have a feeling they wouldn’t sit easy with me.

Tell us a bit about your upcoming album on Tympanik Audio.
The album is my prime focus, a bit of a cleansing ritual in and of itself. Over the past 5 years i’ve accumulated a whole lot of ideas, sketches, effects patches and atmospherics (field recordings, narration and such) that have somehow been growing without my knowledge. Tympanik approached me in 2007 i believe, and asked me for an album. At the time i was already at work on ‘From Unity to Segmentation’ and hadn’t realized how much my health was going to slow me down (i was later diagnosed with Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia and had to have my spleen removed in the summer of 07). So after ‘Unity’ was finished, i decided to take everything that has defined my current sound and give it a proper send-off with Tympanik — it’ll be called ‘Amongst Fauna and Wiring’ and i’m hoping to get it completed this year. Alot of what is going into the arrangement is a steampunk aesthetic, it won’t be overt but there should be some sense that the overall product was not made in this time, or even this world; it’s incorporating alot of pneumatic, clangerous and field recordings i’ve done walking around the once-great, now abandoned Detroit Train Station and thereabouts. There’s also a good chance that i’ll be bringing a few people in to do remixes — hopefully those details will get solidified soon and i can announce a release date.

Simultaneously i’m finishing up another EP that i had discussed a few years ago with MMR []. I’m really much closer to releasing this ep, it’ll be titled ‘Detroit Nocturnes’ and is a focus on music i’ve made in the wee hours of the night, usually after wandering through the city and coming home with too much energy for my body to let me sleep. It’s kind of a sonnet to the city i grew up in, with some subtle nods to my heroes here and some tracks that were started live and then finished in the studio. This EP will be 6 tracks long i’ll be finishing that up by the end of August, and it will be released by October of this year.

That pretty much covers it — i’m itchy to get back on the road too but there’s still a lot of stuff to finish first. |