Interview with bvdub

Both “Serenity” and “Don’t Say You Know” are very nostalgic records. Tell us how the “past” influences your work and what was your focus while making these albums?

Well as anyone who understands me or my music knows, it’s usually extremely nostalgic, and is nearly always heavily influenced by the past, but usually in a different way than those two, in the sense that it’s usually a specific single memory or emotion, whereas Serenity is about an entire and very specific span of time in my past (and I think that comes across very clearly), and Don’t Say You Know, though relying heavily on influence from my past to say what it needs to say, is very much about the present.

Serenity admittedly relies completely on nostalgia and the past, through a more literal interpretation than is my norm, to take you (and me) back to the much more positive and beautiful, utopian days of the old deep trance, chillout-room, and afterparty music that I was born and raised on (musically speaking). Don’t Say You Know really kind of takes the energy and feel, and feeling of freedom of that same past, but applies it to the present, in a kind of celebration of basically living your life the way you want to. It seems every day I have to deal with someone basically thinking they have me all figured out, and they’re going to tell me all about myself, apparently, while not finding it necessary to actually listen to anything I might want to interject on the matter – from the world of music, where I have to see and hear people apparently thinking they know not only what my intentions are, but what I should be doing with myself better than I do, but also to my life as a foreigner in China, where I have to hear every fucking day, pardon my French, about “who” I am, what “Americans” are like, and basically be told my own personal life and history by someone who not only doesn’t know me, but has never even seen one thing I’ve seen, and would never even be able to imagine the things I’ve seen and been through in my life in their wildest dreams. But, just like in the wonderful world of music, that certainly doesn’t stop them from opening their ignorant mouth anyway, to supposedly educate me on how to be me.

With Don’t Say You Know, I wanted to make something really liberating… something you could listen to and just feel really free, and feel that your path is the right one, no matter how many other people sitting on the sidelines want to tell you how to play the game. I think that’s why the album came out the way it did, really kind of unbridled and doing whatever the hell it wants, from ambient to breaks to borderline drum&bass… it just goes where it wants, and doesn’t feel any need to apologize – just like anyone should be able to live their life and do what they want to do without having to explain themselves to anyone.

I see a lot of people criticizing (shocker) music for being too nostalgic lately… but I think the only time nostalgia deserves critique is when it’s fake. If you weren’t even there for it, it’s not nostalgia. It’s just you trying to act like you were. And you have nothing to be nostalgic about. But I think to actually draw on your past in any walk of life, or any part of it, musical or otherwise, and use those influences in your music, is not only natural, but beautiful. As much as the infamous people who know better would love to tell you you’re supposed to always be looking forward, your past is what makes you who you are, and decides how you will face the future… so I think nostalgia is a celebration of yourself, and more importantly, shows that you’ve known love in your life – a love those who want to hate on you for it have never known.

To some extent I find, like you, that I think about the legacy someone leaves behind after they’re gone. I worry about how much time I waste that is not spent pursuing something bigger. What is it that drives you to be so productive?

What drives me to be so productive, quite simply, and at the risk of sounding trite, is that this music is what I live for. Without it, life for me literally would have no meaning… so (to the detriment of my poor girlfriend), pretty much the only thing I ever want to do is work on music. Though I still do enjoy a good all-day video game marathon, I must admit, really most anytime I’m doing anything besides working on music, I just feel like I’m wasting time that could be much better spent in the studio (before that makes me sound all big and official, it’s really just a room in my apartment I have all my music stuff in), and frankly there is really nothing I love more, or would rather do than work on music – and so that’s pretty much all I do.

I remember one time, I was with my girl in her hometown about an hour from where I live, and we were hanging out with her friends eating dinner. All of a sudden a wave came over me for a track, and I simply stood up and said, “I have to go. Now.” When she asked why, I just said “I have to make something,” and just walked out, found some way back, and worked on music all night. So yeah, I’m constantly building on my reputation as every woman’s dream.

Really though, in recent years, I find that pretty much every day all I want to do is work on music, and I have more ideas and creativity than ever before, which is ironic, considering I am more down and pessimistic about things (in music) overall than I’ve ever been before, really just because all the negativity and bashing is exhausting, and would drain any rational person… or even me. But like I said, this is what I live for, and I’ve given nearly half my life to it… so my relationship with it will never change, even as the rest of the world changes around it.

I think few people really realize just how much time I spend each day on music. I see people say I “make too much music,” and must be “rushing through it,” but they have zero idea the time that actually goes into it. They are also apparently painfully ignorant about the concept that if two albums come out a month apart, they weren’t made a month apart. Many albums sit with labels for a year, two, or even three before they see the light of day, and their release date has zero to do with when they were made, or how long it took to do so. But of course, why bother getting bogged down by facts or troublesome reality? That would only get in the way of them feeling like a big man on the internet, and we can’t have that.

Anyhoo… I literally spend anywhere between 8-12 hours a day… sometimes even more… every day… working on music. Of course there is the odd aforementioned video game marathon or day trip out of town, but in a month, pretty much at least 25 of 30 days has at least 8-12 hours of each one devoted to working on music. I’m extremely fortunate in that my girlfriend is somehow the most tolerant woman in the history of the world, and job as a professor allows me an insane amount of free time, and the flexibility to cater my schedule in a myriad of ways to accommodate however much time I want to work on music. Hell, all my bosses, deans, and heads of my department know that music is my life, and they are in full support, and let me do what I need to do – even to travel out of the country to do live shows – as long as I do what needs to be done for my classes, which I always do. They even all came out to a show I did here last year, though none of them made it past about 10 minutes haha…

So if you actually work that out in hours per track or album, I put an immense amount of time into each one, but am still able to always be creating, as I am fortunate to have a schedule that allows for both. But of course people wouldn’t bother to think about such a thing before opening their mouths in judgment, and why would they, in this beautiful age of the internet, and people somehow convincing themselves that their unsolicited opinions are important? And much more importantly (bit of a tangent here, forgive me), why the hell should I, or anyone, have to justify myself to anyone? If I want to spend every waking minute working on music, guess what? I can do that. If you don’t want to, or couldn’t bear to yourself, well then great for you. But don’t start telling people they make “too much music,” or cast completely erroneous aspersions on how much time they spend on it. For many of us, this is our life. This is what we love to do, and this is how we choose to spend every waking minute of our day. I don’t ask a single person in the world to explain themselves to me, and I owe no one in this world an explanation in return.

But getting back to the legacy one leaves, I think really we can all leave one in so many different ways, from simply how we treat those around us, to attempting to do something bigger that you hope will matter to someone, but I guess for me, I just do what music has always been supposed to do, in my eyes – say what’s in my heart, and hope to connect and communicate with another human being. If it ends up meaning something to even one person, and can help two people connect who until that moment had never crossed paths, then that’s all you can ask for.

My dad used to always say that all a man could ever do to be successful in life was to be good to the people in his little corner of the world… and really, I think that’s the legacy you leave behind. You don’t have to do grand, sweeping things or be known the world over. I think all you have to do is be a good person to the people who make up your life. It’s through them that your legacy will live, and in their hearts it will always be there.

Your work is a big narrative, both in terms of the concepts it expresses and the journey it takes the listener on. Do you think music is the best way to express these narratives or do you find that sometimes there are things you want to say that cannot easily be expressed in an aural medium?

For sure, but I am frustratingly also trapped in-between as well, in that although I find that much of the time I can’t say exactly everything I wanted to say, I wouldn’t know how else to say it either. In the end I still think music is the best way to express those narratives, because unlike so many other mediums, it changes every time you encounter it. This can also be true with a book or other mediums as well, in that when you read it again at another stage in life it means something totally different to you, and you see it in a new light, but nothing has the ability to do this like music.

For me I think it’s this ability to constantly change, even though it’s supposedly a constant (in that it’s already made by the time you hear it) that makes music the best way to at least attempt to express the things I do – because the stories I tell, borne from the memories I have, are constantly changing as well, and evolving, as new flashes of that time rise from my subconscious , triggered by some unknown stimulus, or even more importantly, as my own understanding of the world, myself, and life in general continue to evolve. To me this is the most beautiful thing about music… a track from years or even decades ago can still evolve with you… as you discover new things in your life, your memories, or your hopes for days to come, so too do you constantly find new things you never noticed before in that song, and even the things you always knew were there take on an entire new meaning. It’s always somehow right there with you on the journey, evolving by revealing more of itself to you over time, and growing with you.

But admittedly there are times I find the very amorphous nature of it – the same nature that makes it great – to also be very frustrating, as I know deep down that few if any will understand what I’m actually trying to say – I mean really, truly understand every word, because it is so abstract, and so subjective. But then again, who am I to think what I have to say is so earth-shattering? I’m already so fortunate to have people in the world who are willing to listen to what I say in the way I can… if they had to sit through me getting even more in detail about it, I think I’d be pushing my luck 😉

I know that “Don’t Say You Know” was supposed to be “just a bonus disc” to “Serenity”, yet, as I may proclaim, it’s a whole other album! How did the two works culminate? Were you working on both at the same time? Was one an extension of the other?

Actually they were originally separate albums (thus the fact that Don’t Say You Know is, indeed, a whole other album;), and actually Don’t Say You Know was made some time before Serenity. It was, however, strangely enough, the only other blatantly optimistic album I’ve ever made, so it really made sense that they be together. In fact, though they were made probably 6 months to a year apart from each other, they were really kind of born to be together.

Don’t Say You Know was actually made through quite special circumstances, as I made it while traveling throughout the countryside of China (and yes, lugging my stuff around through the whole thing was super non-fun). I was about to embark on some months of travel, going to a series of really remote mountain villages that housed distant relatives of friends, many of which took hours of climbing up… well, mountains, to get to. At the time, I was wrestling a lot with the issues surrounding the album, and was preparing to embark on making it, when it suddenly occurred to me to work on it while traveling, which made even more sense in fitting with the whole theme of liberation the album is about.

Originally I wasn’t sure if I could gather up the inspiration while I was out and about… until – and I don’t believe in this stuff at all, usually – I saw a sign. I was at the first destination, the first house we were staying in for some days, and unfortunately had just got the news that a good friend of mine had passed away right before I left, completely suddenly, and alone. Strangely enough, when I walked into the bedroom where I would be staying, I looked on a shelf, and there was this little crystal plaque, so small you would barely even notice it was there, and when I looked closer I saw it read:

Please Don’t Forget Me.

And mind you, it was written in English – and I was out in an area where no one knew how to speak English within a 100-mile radius. It definitely hit me really hard, and I sat down to make the first track, in memory of my friend, and the rest happened from there. Something else that is quite special about that album, each track contains field recordings from the specific place they were made, some blatant, some quite hidden, which was really cool because I was able to weave the recordings of the environment in while I was still there in it. It was really a quite unforgettable experience.

Ok, sorry, maybe a bit off topic there. How they came together was actually quite simple. James at Darla asked me if I would be willing to basically contribute another album to Serenity as a bonus for the first 500, as a way to thank fans who are so awesome in supporting properly. I’m always down for something like that… anyone who knows me knows that people who are kind enough to support my music mean everything to me, and I am always happy to show my gratitude in any way I can, so of course I said yes, and immediately thought that the two albums would be perfect together. Though they are so different in actual structure, their feelings of optimism and liberation go hand-in-hand, and they really speak as continuations of one another.

At the time I had no idea what I would ever do with Don’t Say You Know… to me it was kind of out-there, in that it wasn’t really like anything I had made before, and I thought maybe some people would be put off by the breakbeats or, frankly, the more elated nature of it, but I always believed in the album, and knew that if someone understood where Serenity was coming from, they would understand Don’t Say You Know. In the end, I was truly pretty shocked to see the amazing reaction people had to the ‘bonus’ album. It was beyond anything I had ever expected, and it really showed me once again how amazingly fortunate I am to have the family of people who support what I do. Their open minds and open hearts really have no bounds, and when you can surprise even a jaded, bitter old coot such as myself, that’s really something. It was really inspiring, and my deepest thanks goes out to everyone.

Talk about making an “optimistic” album? Was this a conscious decision on your part?

Absolutely. I’m not exactly the most optimistic person on the planet, so doing something optimistic takes a concerted effort haha… but yeah, with Serenity I wanted to make something that was pure, unadulterated love… the kind of old early morning deep trance/chillout room/afterparty music I was originally raised on, and DJed for years – the kind of music that just wanted to take you to a beautiful place, and let you drift off, and escape. There’s not any hidden meaning in the album, it’s very literal – which is very rare for me. It’s saying exactly what you think it is, and just wants to take you somewhere beautiful for a little while.

Nowadays so much electronic music is ego-driven… it’s all about showing off some random ‘technique’ or asserting your position in some random clique… but back then, it was just about escape from the bullshit in the world that frankly most of the music now is unfortunately encapsulating, not escaping. It didn’t matter how perfect your EQing was, what obscure piece of equipment you had that made you feel better than everyone else, or what supposed genius mastered your track. No one cared about any of that. They just cared about how it made them feel. I don’t know where those days went, but I miss them.

Hell, even most of my stuff, which is designed for super intense self-introspection, is really the opposite of an escape. It’s a plunge further inward, and usually forces you to address all kinds of things you maybe didn’t even want to, depending on your personality and mental constitution. So for once I wanted to make something that went in the opposite direction… outside… to just drift off, escape ourselves, and think about something beautiful… those utopias that the music of that time spoke about, and that we all believed in. It’s really a pretty literal reflection of the kind of music I used to DJ… really late morning stuff, the kind that came on like 7 or 8 (I usually played last), when only the headiest of all heads were still around, and to me, when the real beauty of those days shined. The craziness of the night was gone, and now those of us that were left could really have a conversation, and really talk about everything that meant something to us… the crowd through dance, and me through music. Half the time there was only like 10 people left… but those were the times I’ll never forget.

I think the titles express pretty overtly the positive message in the album… the overall feeling that music gave you, and what it was trying to achieve (the main title), and (through the track titles) the ideals those days, and that music, embodied. No matter how ‘depressing’ or introspective my music will ever get, and no matter how jaded, bitter, and angry I can become, those are my roots – that positivity, those dreams, and that love – and that is something I will never forget. I wish more people would do the same.

How do you feel about the repatriation of electronic music and digital production in recent years? With such a huge amount of attention paid to genres like dubstep amongst mainstream audiences do you think it’s become harder for electronic artists to truly follow a new course?

I think any artist that has their own vision and ideas that are truly their own can always plot and follow a new course, regardless of anything that’s going on around them. The main reason why so many artists have trouble following a new course is because, quite frankly, they never had a course in the first place.

Surprisingly, there is a lot of really nice, and at times, innovative music coming out nowadays, which is not easy considering the sheer volume of releases that rain down weekly, and even daily. But the vast majority of it just sounds like someone trying to be someone else, and doing so unsuccessfully, because they are failing to understand the key factor: experience. I don’t mean technical musical experience, I mean life experience. You can make a record that tries to emulate one of your heroes (which is what so much of what comes out nowadays is obviously doing), but while sure, you found all the sounds they used, and you figured out the basic template of how they put a track together, it still comes off as empty and contrived. Why? Because they were there, and you weren’t. They lived their life. You didn’t.

Their music was borne as a result of and reaction to their own lives, their surroundings, things that happened to them, and was a symbiotic product of the scene at that time. So now you’re trying to tell the same story, but x amount of years later, and having absolutely no idea why they made the track in the first place. So it’s missing the most important part – the emotion – and while you can hit all the same notes, they’ll never sound the same… because they’re empty.

This is where the problem lies with the rise in popularity and ease of production (and I think most anyone can tell you that, I’m not exactly Copernicus here)…in some ways it’s obviously great because it gives rise to a lot of new music, and voices that could lead to new revolutions… but as a result, many of their calls get drowned out by the fact that 10,000 people muttering together creates an unbearable roar.

But just like any facet of… well anything, really, those with what is truly their own vision, and the strength to see it through, will make their voices heard. And I think those who truly have their own thing to say will innately possess that strength… it’s what gave them their own voice in the first place. Everyone else will fall to the wayside after their first defeat, and who cares, really. If it’s that easy for them to get knocked down, they never belonged in the ring in the first place.

As far as the new rise of mainstream ‘EDM’ etc, to me it’s no different from the wannabe DJ plague of the late 90’s – early 00’s… but though on the surface the current ‘EDM’ or commercialization trend would seem worse as it’s on a much larger scale, I think it’s actually much less pernicious. Back when everyone wanted to be a DJ, those people were infiltrating nearly every scene, and, quite frankly, fucking it up by cheapening the whole thing – but the key factor there was that those people were actually in the underground scene as well. This mainstream commercialized stuff… what does it have to do with what we do or love? Nothing. It’s completely separate. No one who listens to that music or goes to those events are then going to put on a bvdub CD or come to something I’m playing at. So I see no reason why any of “us” should care.

I’m the first to admit, in the mid-90’s or so I was one of the biggest shit-talkers there was, both on and off the internet. I always had an opinion about this DJ, or that kind of music. Then one day I woke up and suddenly asked myself why on earth I cared, and, more importantly, why on earth I was finding it necessary to give people an opinion they never asked for. Who was I to think I was so almighty that they way I saw things in the music world was somehow gospel? Really I was just some dude who DJed, liked what I liked, and believed what I believed. But, just like with anything, just because I believed something didn’t make it ‘right,’ and everything else ‘wrong’ – or as the greatest mind of all time, Albert Camus, put it, there is no truth; only truths.

I will admit I have an unhealthy obsession with reading all this mainstream ‘EDM’ bashing online, I don’t know, it’s like a car crash, I just can’t look away. I see everyone hating on all these guys, and people who like what they make. To me it’s just a ridiculous waste of time. Newsflash: not everyone likes what you like. That doesn’t make them wrong, it just makes them different from you. I see all these people online hating on this or that for being too ‘mainstream’… so what’s your goal there, to somehow wish all these people would stop listening to that, and listen to what you like? When that happens, and everyone loves what you love… then, I hate to break it to you, but what you love is now the ‘mainstream.’ So then you’ll have to start hating on that, I guess.

These people that just spew hate all day, don’t think for a second they limit it to their hate of ‘EDM’ or that they’re some champions of what’s “right,” they are the same people who breed all the hate and negativity in their “own” scenes they supposedly love so much, and if only they put a fraction of the time into doing anything even remotely positive for their own scene as they do into hating on the whatever some other jackass is doing, maybe a hell of a lot more people in the world would know a stronger, better, more beautiful underground. There’s a reason why mainstream commercial crap took over in the late 90’s and early 00’s, and why it’s happening again – because the supposed ‘underground’ is so full of hate and venom, and so fragmented and cliqued out of its mind that all it does is turn on itself any chance it gets. What kind of underground is that, and why on earth would anyone want to be a part of it? I think scores of people could do with re-acquainting themselves with an old gem, a flier distributed throughout San Francisco in the early-mid 90’s by Ministry Of Love (which was Dubtribe Sound System), which really broke it down, through their attempt at the time to stave off the impending doom of the San Francisco underground, for reasons that basically epitomize why it unfortunately died and never came back:

I have the mangled (it went through a lot on those days) flier framed back in America, where it hangs on my wall as a constant reminder. Sure there are some things on there that applied more to those times, but its basic tenets still ring true, and so much of these ideals have been completely forgotten. Now the ‘underground’ is just full of sniping, attention-starved know-it-alls who care about nothing but their own ego and ridiculous delusions of grandeur. So what about that is supposed to attract good people, and good music? It’s no wonder the mainstream just gets bigger, while the underground broke into a million pieces eons ago, and never got put back together. Before you blame commercial artists and their jackassery, take a look at yourself and ask yourself if you’re doing anything that’s going to make anyone want to be around you instead.

To me none of that EDM stuff has any real effect. Sure there are a lot of douchebags acting like idiots while championing supposed ‘electronic music,’ just like the so-called ‘DJs’ were doing in the late 90’s, but when you really think about it, does that really matter? What does that really affect? None of those people are going to listen to what you listen to, or go to the ‘underground’ parties you go to, so who cares what they do?

And just as always, most of the people who talk shit spend all day online doing so about those artists, their fans, etc, championing the “real” electronic music they love, while doing nothing actually constructive toward advancing it. If it upsets you so greatly that these commercial artists are the new champions of electronic music in the public’s eyes, why don’t you get off your ass and do something to change that? Why don’t you do something to try to show all these people what ‘real’ electronic music is, and help an unenlightened public understand, if it’s something that upsets you so much? If that music sucks (don’t get me wrong, I don’t like it either), those people are all idiots, and everything about it is wrong, then why don’t you show everyone how it’s done?

But of course, with the exception of the maybe 1% of people talking shit who actually get off their ass and do something, all these people do is sit at home and bitch all day on a keyboard. Well guess what? As much as I also think a lot of that music is garbage, those guys are douchebags, and all the rest of the things everyone else thinks, there’s one thing I have to respect – at least they’re doing something. Whether I like what they’re doing or not, I have a hell of a lot more respect for them than I do for some keyboard warrior who spends all day telling them how much they suck, while they themselves are too afraid to do anything themselves, and open themselves up to the same kind of criticism they love to dish out.

If you can’t do it better yourself, or aren’t even willing to try, then I see absolutely zero point in why you need to bash other people for their efforts, no matter their motivation, and you forfeit all rights to open your mouth. If you don’t like how they’re doing it, and you know the right way, or can do it better – then do it. If not, then you really don’t have anything to say. Same with all these ‘EDM’ guys. So what, man, let them do what they wanna do. You do what you wanna do. To be fair, I don’t see them on your ‘underground’ message boards telling you you suck for being underground or liking some abstruse song that 4 people in the world understand, so why do you care what they’re doing? I can guarantee you they’re not spending a moment of their time thinking about you, so my advice is do the same, get off your ass, and do something you can look back on and be proud of… something that mattered. Because I have news for you… that “genius” insult you laid down on some message board isn’t going to be the thing you look back on in 10 years and realize that something you did “mattered.” And if it is, well then that’s so bone-crushingly sad I don’t really have anything else to say.

OK, I have to know… who is the girl on the cover art of the albums? I believe she made her first appearance on “Resistance Is Beautiful”.

Actually they are different girls, not that you could really tell that from the Resistance Is Beautiful cover, since you can’t see her face. Both of them were pictures I stumbled across online while listening to the respective albums, and they just hit me immediately. There was something about them, I don’t know, they said so much of what I was also trying to say, even though originally we were surely trying to say different things. I will hold off on saying their real names, as I’m not sure if they would want that or not, seeing as they both declined my offer to credit them on the album artwork, which I think says a lot. But I can tell you they were both amazingly kind and receptive to the idea, especially considering neither had ever even listened to electronic music at all, really, and, I was even more surprised to find out, both of them are still in high school. The girl who took the photos used for Serenity and Don’t Say You Know and I have stayed in touch afterward, and we have already talked about cooperating again in the future, where she will take some shots specifically for a project we’ll work on together, so I’m very excited about that. It’s always so nice to meet someone involved in any kind of art that is just a really nice, down to earth person.

I think there’s something so powerful about the fact that all three of those pictures are self-portraits (which surprised me for Don’t Say You Know, as it doesn’t exactly seem easy to take a self-portrait from that angle)… it’s such a powerful method of not only self-expression, but also self-examination, which obviously fits with exactly why I make music, so putting the two together seemed so natural, and was a really awesome experience. In the past, most of the photos for my covers were either taken by myself or good friends, but those three albums were the only ones where I ever reached out to a stranger like that. At first it was a strange sensation, and one I wasn’t sure how I felt about, but after meeting with the great kindness and receptiveness I did from them, I was really glad I did… and even more importantly, there was something so amazing and much deeper than I even expected about putting two people’s originally disparate works together like that, and creating something new that, at the risk of sounding cheesy, became something that was born to be together. Though they started off completely alone, now I can’t imagine one without the other. I don’t know, there’s just something really cool about that that I love.

As a bit of a production junkie I’d love to know how your tracks really germinate. Does a bvdub track start very organically, evolving gradually out of open-ended experimentations, or are you more pragmatic in your approach? Can you describe this process?

It’s a mix of both, I guess, but much more heavy on the former than the latter. For the most part it’s as I’ve described before… I sit down with a hyper-specific emotion or event in mind, which is why no track of mine ever even begins note one before the title is written. That’s what the song is about… the entire impetus for my sitting down to tell that story in the first place, and that specific emotion or event is the most important element. And since I have a specific emotion or event in mind, I do definitely already have a “feel” in mind for the track, purely from the sense that I know already in my head, albeit quite amorphously, the kind of feeling it needs to convey, and with that at least some of the feeling and tone I know it needs to convey, at least at its core. From there though it usually flows quite organically. I’ve said before that it’s kind of an out-of-body experience, where most of the time when a track is done I can’t even recall how any of it happened, that is to say, structure-wise… but the feeling, and moral of the story, if you will, is always there, firmly in place, and I always know exactly where it is.

But I think it’s natural that while you’re on the way, telling the story, there will be some twists and turns, and so I let them happen organically. Though a track always tells the story I sat down to tell (never let myself down yet on that end haha), how it tells it is sometimes a surprise even to me, but that’s what I love about it. Sometimes my subconscious decides to surprise me and bring up small details about what I’m recalling that even I had forgot, and they manifest themselves in ways even I hadn’t expected, and take things to a level of intensity even I couldn’t’ have predicted. I think if you are willing to surrender yourself to those twists and turns, and that always unpredictable subconscious swell, you can never get bored making music, because it’s a new adventure every time.

Serenity is the only exception to every album I’ve ever made, in that I sat down with a specific goal of making something 4/4, with the kind of slow but deliberate pace that it has. I’ve never sat down with a specific beat/beatless concept, tempo, or any other specific structure in mind, but that album was different because I wanted it to celebrate that very specific time, and it needed to be done in that way. That being said, I only sat down to make something of that structure and overall message… what happened from there was all organic, and full of my usual twists and turns… and I have to say very honestly that it came out far beyond what I had originally imagined, while doing so in a much simpler way than I ever had before, which was also intentional, in keeping with celebrating that time of my life.

Sometimes I feel like I should envy people who sit down in the studio with a much more set concept, to make a “this” or “that” track, or those on the other end who just start fiddling around with stuff and see what happens. Both seem so much less taxing, and maybe more enjoyable – but honestly, I don’t envy them at all. That’s not to say the way they’re doing it is wrong. I just wouldn’t want to do things any other way than the way I do them. I love every single thing I make, and every second doing so is the most valuable thing in my life. No matter what you make or how you make it, that’s what it’s all about – and that’s what I remember matters, when everyone else wants to tell me what matters more.

Read Headphone Commute reviews of Serenity and Don’t Say You Know |


Interview questions by Josh Russell and HC.