Interview with Brock Van Wey on Earth House Hold (Part Two)

[Editor’s Note: This is a continuation of Part One Interview with Brock Van Wey]

The titles of Never Forget Us read like a poem. Can you please share some thoughts behind those words?

I tend to not go into meanings behind titles, not because I don’t want to share what it all means – in fact, I’d like nothing more – but because I think trying to use more words to explain a few words you used to label something that’s basically beyond words in the first place is, basically, impossible. At the risk of sounding trite, the story is in the music. For me, that’s why I make music in the first place – to say all the stuff I can’t say with words, which is a hell of a lot.

Until you mentioned it, I never really thought of them reading like a poem. Nothing wrong with that (haha). I guess the reason for that is the fact they were written out at one time, before I made the album, but more importantly because they deal with a very specific couple years or so in my life, in a very chronological order – much like a poem often attempts to sum up its meaning in the same chronological way. Anyone who’s talked to me in person can attest I have to be the least poetic person on the planet unless you consider cursing to be a form of poetry (which it kind of is). How it all comes out so nicely when I write it down is beyond me (haha).

The album notes open up with a quote by Anselm Kiefer: “But I believe above all that I wanted to build the palace of my memory, because my memory is my only homeland.” How do you resonate with these words?

Good or bad, my memories are my home. Anyone who knows me knows of my eternal search for a home – or homeland… not just some piece of dirt you stand on, but where you feel you belong. Where you were somehow meant to be. Which maybe, quite honestly, is nowhere. But only through my memories can I ever feel at home – sadly, always in hindsight.

Last year I was diagnosed with obsessive rumination disorder – the kind in your head, not the one where babies spit up food (haha). I always knew I had problems dealing with the past, or more specifically, letting it go, but it had gotten to the point where it was becoming so overwhelming I was having trouble even performing basic functions in the present. My inability to escape literally being trapped in loops of the past had become as or more overpowering as my previous battles with depression or even OCD, I guess not surprisingly, as all three share the same root problem, at least for me, in that I have serious issues with control. That in itself wasn’t exactly a news flash, but I really hadn’t realized the extent to which they’d taken over everything in my life, forcing me into the corners they had. It was, admittedly, a pretty traumatic process facing a lot of that stuff as head on as I was forced to through the cold mirror of psychiatry and its oh so welcoming offices, but one I learned a lot from. And no matter how horrible, anything that helps you take yet another step toward truly knowing who you are is always worth it. Though I think you rarely feel that way ’till after it’s in your rear-view mirror.

So yeah, pretty much all I resonate with is memory. For better or worse. For me, it’s apparently the latter.

I wish I could look through those pin-hole photos displayed on the cover of the album. What are your thoughts on the relationship of photographs to memories and, most importantly music to memories?

Those photos have a very special meaning to both memory and the album, as they were taken by my very dear friend Mamii in Tokyo, on cameras she made herself, telling the story of her own life, and her own journey through it, both emotional and physical. It was a long process, between her travel to so many different locations that represented so much for her, to making different cameras for numerous different locations to ensure each photo truly represented her own memory, to developing each one by hand. The end result is a collection of images about as drenched in the concept of memory as you could possibly ever hope to get. She, like me, has an incredibly strong relationship to memory and the past, though in an infinitely more healthy manner (haha), and everything about the way she approaches seeing and investigating the world and her life around her has always been a thing of absolute beauty to me. It’s an honour she was willing to share so much of her life for the album, and the idea behind it. She is really one of the most beautiful human beings I will ever have the fortune of knowing.

I’m a big fan of everything that Ryan curates for A Strangely Isolated Place. Is there something that you look for in a label when choosing which one will represent your release?

Who isn’t? (haha). In answer to your question, no, not really. Obviously, I have my family of labels and friends I tend to work with and create especially for, but sometimes I’m already working on or have finished something and a label will happen to reach out, and if it fits both of our visions to put it out together, then awesome. If not, so be it. I don’t make anything specifically to try to fit any label (never have), nor will I change anything to fit their ideas – a concept that has gone over like a lead balloon on many occasions, and prevented numerous albums from getting released on this label or that. But for me, if it’s meant to be it’s meant to be. Either our planets align, or they don’t. If so, perfect. If not, plenty of planets out there, both discovered and otherwise.

For me, labels, like everything in life, are about the people behind them. Assholes running labels isn’t relegated purely to big ones. There is a surprisingly massive amount running ones barely anyone’s ever heard of as well. And some of the biggest ones are run by some of the kindest, sweetest, truest people you will ever meet. I would say it’s down to luck who you’ll come across, but surrounding yourself with good people brings more good people your way. And while I’ve had the misfortune of knowing some serious assholes in the world of music and labels, I’ve had much more fortune knowing some of the best people I’ve ever known, and the best friends I’ll ever have. I forget the bad ones a day later. The good ones I remember forever.

With Ryan, we had in fact spoken ahead of time about me doing an album for A Strangely Isolated Place – actually we’d spoken about it many times, but for one reason or another, it didn’t seem to happen, admittedly I think much more on my part than his. When the time was finally right and I sat down to make the album, I originally hadn’t thought of it being Earth House Hold – and I can tell you he expected it even less (haha). But for some reason, it just felt right. I had been wanting to do a second Earth House Hold album for years, but it had just never felt quite like the right time. So when the time finally came, I rolled with it. In fact, I couldn’t have been happier. Whether Ryan would share my joy was another issue (haha). Thankfully he did.

We have a lot of common history in our love of deep house, though at different points in its timeline, which actually makes for an even more interesting relationship on the subject, and more importantly, I know he gets behind what he loves. It doesn’t matter what it is, or how people want to label it. I knew it was a bit out there to say I’d do an album for him, purposely not telling him it was going to be under Earth House Hold, but I had faith he would get it and love it as much as I did. Actually, though he couldn’t help but admit his surprise on receiving what he assumed would be an ambient bvdub album, he also fell in love with it from note one. I couldn’t have been happier, and I knew it had the perfect home. Thankfully, as I did the whole thing just for him (haha).

Looking back at the last past years – what [musical] moment in your career stands out the most?

At the risk of sounding trite once again, I can’t think of any musical moment that hasn’t been important. They’ve all meant a lot to me in different ways. But I think what I would call “full-circle” moments have been the most amazing… playing shows with artists whose music I’ve been buying for decades, being part of labels I used to drive hours to buy releases from 25 years ago, getting to sit down and have dinner or beers with people who back in the day I would never in a million years imagine I would even meet, much less be counted among their ranks, it’s something that never ceases to amaze and humble. To somehow go from being a fan of people’s music to, decades later, being one of their peers, is really something I can never properly put into words. So I guess it’s one, long moment, really… the music I loved and love above all else – literally – for most of my life, I can say I was truly part of. I pledged my life to this music nearly three decades ago… and now, somehow, all these years later, I can say I’m part of its history, no matter how small. Even if I’m just a footnote, I’m there. And even that footnote will be there, long after I’m gone, as proof of my love. Proof that I kept my promise. I literally don’t know what more I could ask for.

What are you working on right now?

Earlier this year I completed two albums, Drowning in Daylight on Apollo (speaking of full-circle moments), and another I had been working on long before I moved that will be out early next year (tba), before music slipped away from me, quite honestly, as my whole life basically slipped out of my grasp in Poland. Depression can be your best friend or your worst enemy… and as anyone with such afflictions will tell you, there is a fine line between such states inspiring you to create, and overtaking you to the point where literally nothing matters.

Now back in China, I’ve completed a new album I will self-release through Bandcamp at some point in the near future for a charity endeavour very near and dear to my heart, and directly related to the album itself, which of course has a complex story behind it (shocker) that I’ll save for then. And no, this time it’s not about cats.

My mental erosion in Poland, while not exactly a barrel of monkeys at the time, gave me a lot to think about – my place in the world, my own life, and this music. There was a definite time I questioned if I had any place left in any of them anymore… anything left to give. It’s not exactly the first time I’ve wondered what it all means and how I can go on, only to remember once again that 28 years after pledging my life to this music, it’s a promise without an escape clause.

So with that realization imbued once again, my life begins yet again in the place it’s begun and ended so many times before, and, not for the first time, my further detachment from the world of music somehow only brings more inspiration… perhaps at the hands of more remembering that which is even farther away, now both in space and time. The same remembering that takes away as much as it gives. If not more.