Hello Gregory, can you tell us where you are right now and what have you been up to the last couple of weeks?
Currently living in Jacksonville, FL and haven’t really done much in the last couple of weeks other than working and drinking and playing a half-breed dragon girl in Final Fantasy XIV. You know, just like everyone else.
I don’t want to pry, but, if you’re able to talk about it, can you give us the background on the context of your latest album, Life is but an Empty Dream?
The context of the album is allowing myself to stray into the darkest spectrum of my thoughts and feelings. The writing was during a revelation I had, which was that no matter what I try to do for myself or for others, I always end up failing or feeling empty and unfulfilled in the end. The thrilling feel-good moments where I accomplish something I strongly believe in end up being far more ephemeral than I could have ever imagined. Personally, it almost feels like a disease because it’s been going on since my earliest memories. I can’t fill this hole in me, and I’m not even sure why it’s there, and it’s particularly soul-crushing because music can’t even fill it long enough. But at least for that small moment when writing, it truly does.
Wow. So is that what initiated the desire to compose something darker? Was there a need to build and then destroy something?
Not really, and it’s certainly not the first time. I’m just an emotionally sensitive and very impulsive person. I reacted on this darkening malaise when I finally felt I was at the end of my rope. All of my music is about how I feel because it’s all I really know and am completely sure about. And the music arrives because there’s this space of time where drinking and being a general hedonistic degenerate stop working. It’s the last resort at trying to bring myself back to baseline, and unfortunately, it shows. The music could stand to be a lot better than it is, and I know that. The problem is that I’m already exhausted when I start.
Can you share some of your production techniques? How are these ideas born and how are they developed?
In the beginning, I mess around a lot with ideas I haven’t really tried before or haven’t used in years. Or I’ll hear a new idea from other artists and see how I can spin that for myself. I try to erase the template of sound I used on the previous record and look at the big picture of what’s possible with sound and structure while still retaining some kind of familiarity with my music. I think that’s very apparent. For better or worse, my music is consistent in structure and movements. But I do think it’s fair to ask for some variety from artists. I try to pay attention to that – it’s just that I usually forget and end up writing whatever happens in front of me anyway. I think most of my records sound unique in the beginning but then drift back to familiar territory. It’s not an intentional hook; I think I just want to feel comfortable and surrounded by familiarity at the end of the process.
What do you want the listeners to hear?
Hopefully, something that gets them excited about my music in some way. Maybe something they’ve been waiting to hear and didn’t realize they’ve been waiting for it or wanting it. I think that’s the best feeling in the world when it comes to music. Hearing a song that hits all the right buttons and just totally catches you off guard. It’s absolutely euphoric and beautiful. I envy artists that can do that.
I can’t help but draw some parallels with the music by bvdub. Were you by any chance inspired by his works in the past?
I’ve actually talked to him about that — albeit briefly. I had mentioned how he inspired me to gather up the gumption to push my work out to a record label in the early days of OKADA. Back in 2009 – a good five years before I heard bvdub — I was living in LA, and during that time I wrote this sprawling epic of a record titled Anathema under my old project ZXYZXY. It was the first time I ever wrote songs in a long format. Songs pushing 10+ minutes and one over 20 minutes. Now this style was inspired by an artist I was deeply in love with. Like seriously infatuated on a level I had never experienced before. World’s end girlfriend was doing things in a way that floored me, and with his sprawling songs that kept going and going, I wanted to see if I could do something like that. So I did.
In 2012, I think I first came across bvdub’s music on what.cd, but didn’t think too much of it until I saw him pop up on what.cd’s charts again in 2014. I decided to check him out, and when I realized how big of a following he had, I thought to myself that maybe there was an actual market for music that was in this long form I first heard with world’s end girlfriend. And since I had done it years earlier, I figured I could probably do it again. So I did. That’s how OKADA started.
At first, I didn’t push my music to labels until I put out a couple of releases, which surprisingly happened very quickly. I wanted to see if it was even worth a damn for a label to listen to, and it turns out that n5MD was interested. I didn’t waste much time writing my third record for them, because I honestly felt like the window of time was going to disintegrate at any moment if I didn’t do something right then and there. I was elated to hear that n5MD wanted to release it when I finally sent it out to them. For once, a surge of real pride went through me, and it felt like a true honor to release my music through an actual label.
And how do you feel about this being your first vinyl release? Any particular thoughts on that media format?
I was excited, but then hesitant, because I had to cut the album down to 42 minutes from the original 68. But, it ended up being an excellent cut of the album, because it’s seamless and has its own journey and version of the album. I love both mixes, but it’s special to me, because I honestly thought I was going to have to forgo the vinyl option completely. I honestly didn’t think I could take that much time off the music without destroying it. I was very wrong. Both are awesome for their own reasons, and it’s so cool that it’s an exclusive mix to the vinyl… but that does mean one will have to purchase the vinyl in order to hear it. I’m going to pretend it was a stroke of evil marketing genius.
Reflecting on the releases that go back to 2014, what are your thoughts on your overall musical journey?
I think the musical journey makes me envious of its stability compared to my own life. Seriously. I can listen to it and think that it was crafted by an artist who works and makes a living as an artist. But that’s not the case, and was a personal choice of mine to not have it be that way in the end. I did try, mind you, but I was so uncomfortable doing live shows that it stressed me out to the point of not even showing up to what ended up being my last show. I was so ashamed that I hid myself away, even though I know in a lot of ways it does a disservice to myself and the label by not pursuing it as a full-time thing. Unfortunately, my mind doesn’t work that way. The moment music becomes work and a profession, it all falls apart for me and I start running far, far away from it all. I’m lucky n5MD is patient with me as much as they are. I was a real pain in the ass at times, and especially during the Love Telepathic phase, so I owe them absolute loyalty for having me as long as they have.
Back to the journey, though. It’s been an insanely fortunate one for OKADA, and one that reflects my emotions and dreams left unlived due to my cowardice. As much emotional weight as I tend to carry, somehow this outlet still calls to me to this day, and for that, I’ll always be grateful for it, because it’s the only consistent and constant thing in my life.