What is your name?
What is your genre of music?
Do-it-yourself post-rock dreampop. Garage-psych. Emo shoegaze. Art rock. I’ve also been in bands that got called “math rock.”
Give us a little bio about you.
I’m a multi-instrumentalist living in San Francisco. This is my first solo record. My previous projects from when I lived in Seattle were Terrene, a band I fronted, whose only album was produced by Phil Ek (Built to Spill, Fleet Foxes, The Shins). I toured North America for that album and the single “Unwelcome” was on HBO and MTV2, and won some award on Yahoo! Video Music Awards for “Best Indie Video.” I don’t think Yahoo! Video exists anymore. Then I was in Mars Accelerator, whose second album was produced by Steve Fisk
(Nirvana, Harvey Danger, Afghan Whigs – RIP to Dave Rosser who passed away today).
Tell us more about your music.
I play all the instruments and sing it myself. I record it at home. I write the songs. And I’m self-releasing it as well. I write about my mental health issues, I have lyrics written in the throes of panic attacks that exhibit weird OCD stuff that I kept. I write anarchist lyrics because I am one. I love dreamy sounds and layers of 70s-ish vocal harmonies. I also love ragingly ugly sounds. I used to make sound collages in the 90s that would be either “ugly” (e.g. expressionist distorted walls of rage) or “pretty” (e.g. chiming ethereal waves of slowed down, heavily reverb/delayed backwards guitars). I like longer songs with a lot of unusual elements and for people to be unable to tell what instrument I used to create the sounds. And if I can pull that all off while being melodic and musical, I’m happy.
Tell us more about ‘Get Beyond’
Get Beyond was written at one of the lowest points of my life. I had been laid off, my house was broken into and I was robbed, my car was stolen, my girlfriend’s car was broken into, I was filing for bankruptcy and the house was ultimately foreclosed on. You can go through all that and instead of thinking “this sucks,” you can think “*I* suck.” I would stay in bed and get high a lot… Having so much taken away from you can be an interesting moment – an opportunity to remember who you are. You don’t have your nice things anymore. You have the things that make you you, when you’re broken down. Like, your memories, your experiences, and your abilities.
In “Get Beyond” I am trying to remind myself of who that is. “On the floor, my feet belong.”
What was the writing process like?
It was two different songs I melded into one. “You Can Get Beyond” and “Kashmiri, Queen de la Sahara,” which later became “What’s Wrong?” I recorded a voice note on my phone humming “You Can Get Beyond” and dictating what the instruments would be.
Then I did a demo and was a little disappointed. But then I demoed this other song with a nonsense placeholder lyric: “Kashmiriiii, Queeeen de la Saharaaaaa.” Then, writing real lyrics, I was again confronting my depression: “What’s wrong my love? Wrong, wrong, wrong my love…” I thought it was funny to try to be comforting while shouting “wrong!” repeatedly. That became “Get beyond my love, beyond, beyond, beyond my love.” And I took what musical tidbits and lyrics were interesting from “You Can Get Beyond” and made the frankenstein that is the final result.
What was the recording process like?
I record at home. The process depends on the song… Oftentimes I’ll start with a loop or sequence from Fruity Loops. Other times, I start with a guide guitar track playing to a click. Then I do drums — electronic drums into the computer, capturing MIDI. Then I send the MIDI through either a hardware or software drum module and record the audio output. Maybe I’ll edit the MIDI to change the performance slightly, if I need to. That’s what you hear as the drums. The rest is all overdubs. I film every second of it. Then I mix it all in the box (on the computer) using Cubase.
You also released the music video, any memories to share from on set?
We basically just passed the camera around the rehearsal space and ran through the song about 7 or 8 times, each person getting a chance to add fun angles and do something interesting. Then I traced the output into vector art, similar to the process used to make the movies Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly.
You have a new album set to release ‘Peripheral Drift Illusion’ what can you tell us about it?
It comes out in October and it’s every good musical idea I have collected and still believe in from my entire life in music. It’s being released as an “open source project.” You can take the multitrack stems and remix/sample from them and sell whatever you make from them, and not pay me royalties. Go nuts. I did it myself, it took about 3 years. The artwork is being done by Klaus Voormann, John Lennon’s bandmate who also did the artwork for The Beatles’ Revolver. The metaphor of peripheral drift is interesting, but I’ll get into that another time.
Describe each track in two words.
If I Want You To: Drone groove
Get Beyond: Anti-depresso Dreamfunk
Wherever You Are: Rational Panic
Phobos: Damaged Robots
Tell Them: Anarchist Motown
Someone to Lose You: Post-punk Semi-nihilism
Riot Before it’s Too Late: Propaganda Collage
Tankies vs. Late Capitalism: Goodbye Letter
Aricebo: Post-rock Opera
There Must Be Something Wrong With You: Anarcho-Dreampop
And We Know: Aggressive Nodding
Pop Stars in Yr Head: Satirical Rock-out
Maybe Someday, We’ll See: Chiming waltz
I Can Feel Myself Getting Over It: Dream therapy
Third Strain: Hope altar
Will you be heading out on tour with the Album?
If it seems like the world wants me to go on tour, I will go on tour. I’m not one to do a vanity tour that nobody shows up to see. I’ll be able to tell if it’s a good idea, given some time.
If so where will you be heading?
Wherever it seems like people will show up.
what is your message you are trying to tell your fans?
You can do it yourself. You don’t need a record deal, you don’t need a studio, and we should let go of our ideas about making money because that is a trap for others to make money off of us. Be good, and honest, and work on having a deep connection to people.
And never let anyone speak for you who doesn’t, or let them sell you on the idea that you’re moving when you’re standing still.
What else can we expect from you?
The singles (as in the actual released record, with b-sides) are all album-length and numerous. The first one, for example, is 73 tracks, with a 60+ track montage covering my entire life in music. There is even more music in the fan-club with demos and rough mixes and my podcasty ruminations, live stuff, rehearsals, outtakes, and more. And each single will have an accompanying remix contest, where the winner gets $300, hosted over on Indaba, using the “open source” multitrack stems. You don’t have to enter to enjoy the stems and play with the multitracks, though, they’re on every single, as well.
Are you a signed?
No. I don’t think I could get a label to sign on with the open source idea or anarchist sentiments and I really must insist on those things.
Who are your influences?
My main influences are the musicians I’ve played with over the years, and the effects and recording techniques I explored while learning how to put music together. People answer this question with a list of records they like but ultimately it’s through playing and experimentation that your true voice comes out.
Where do you see yourself now in 5 Years?
I have no idea. I’ll be very humbled and grateful if it turns out that anyone relates to or is inspired by what I’m putting out into the world. Right now I’m just focused on connecting with people. That’s why I do all this.
When you’re not doing music, what do you do?
My day job is as a writer, but let’s not talk about that. Hm. I enjoy technology, I can code. I used to work on video games, which I enjoy playing, but it’s a nasty industry and a problematic culture, and to be honest I don’t have much time for games. I also enjoy working on films, though as you can see from my music videos, I have some way to go there.
Where would your dream venue to play in your hometown?
The Fillmore, of course. Easily.
Would you be up for collaborating with an unsigned artist or band? If so how can they contact you?
Of course, and they already can if they look up my name on Indaba. Take my music and make something, please. Or, grab the singles which have the same multitrack stems and make something. My stuff is open source, collaboration is the entire point. When you’re done, reach me on my site (john.audio) and I’ll post a link to it.
What was the song you listened to most that influenced you to go more in to the music scene?
I don’t think there is one. I wish life were that simple and deterministic. I do remember feeling invited to participate by the underground tape label scene and punk scene when I was a teenager. There was no barrier to entry, and yet there was such great work everywhere. Labels like Union Pole, Sing Eunuchs, Catsup Plate, Shrimper, and Cactus Gum (which I helped out with) all put out amazing work, much of it bands that you know today, like Beck, Lou Barlow, Mountain Goats, etc. The barrier to entry is even lower now, but without those curators there’s not much of a sense of community. Those tape compilations were my MTV. I’d get a sample of like 20 bands on a single hand-dubbed tape and then respond with an order, sending concealed cash through the mail. It’s crazy that it worked,but it did. I also got a ton of records when I was writing reviews for Punk Planet (RIP), and the punk scene is completely about “come as you are.” Acceptance. Communication. Connection. That is everything to me.
Where is your dream festival to perform?
I think the European festivals look a lot more fun than the American ones because Europeans sing along and band together and make it an event, where Americans want to take snapshots of themselves at that same artist’s show and share it on social media, like they’re starring in a reality TV show about how special their life is. I’m guilty of it, too, of course.
What made you go into music?
I don’t remember. I have tapes from when I was 4 or so where I would put on records and beat on a toy drumset along to the song. Then I’d plop down at this little portable harmonium and play a song I wrote. All in one rambling recording, just going around making noise. I never didn’t play music.
What’s the best advice you have ever been given?
Don’t bother with “pet ideas.” Don’t hold anything inside. Every time you do something, completely exhaust yourself, and have faith that in the future new ideas will come.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians not just about the industry also just as an artist/band?
Never make music that can be reduced to a formula. (“Metallica meets The Beach Boys”). Mimicry is the “first thought,” never the best. Don’t use references. Fly blind and ask yourself how to make the result not sound like mimicry. Record “out there” stuff, constantly — experiment, experiment, until you find sounds that you like, that you don’t hear anywhere else. Make up a new genre.
Create so that there is momentary coherence — one “idea” at each moment in the song that you should be focused on. Art is communication, and audio is a medium, like a person called a “medium” that bears messages from the dead. Except your messages are from your inner emotions, and if you can’t communicate them to others, you’re not making good art in that moment.
What quote or saying do you always stick by?
Breathe in: 1, 2, 3. Breathe out: 1, 2, 3, 4. It’s not a heart attack. You’re fine, just like all the other times.
When you are at a gig, what are 5 things you cannot forget?
Whisky, my MIDI rig that I use to control guitar effects, a sense of humor, a certain amount of rage that I have queued up to let
go of, and a message of thanks and hope for the audience.
You come off Tour
1/ Where is the first place you go?
2/Who is the first person you see?
3/What is the first thing you eat.
Home, my cat, and probably something that requires next to no effort to acquire/prepare.
You work with Quite Great PR, how did that come about?
I wrote them and we chatted and they said yes. I am also working with Sneak Attack Media in the US, and Planetary Group (who
Do you have social media accounts so your fans can follow you?
Bandcamp & fanclub
Mailing list signup
Open Source Music explanation
Bio (very long)