BEHIND THE TRACKS: INTERIORS
The main purpose of every one of these “behind the tracks” posts or interviews is to introduce new music to all of you along with getting to know the artists behind it just a bit more and see what’s in store for them. Every month I try to get in touch with two bands or musicians that I feel deserve to get some attention and what better place to get that then through the internet or better yet, tumblr. I happen across new artists just about every day or so, but this one in particular stuck out and grabbed a hold of my attention with a sound that’s both unique and mystifying. So for my second feature I decided to have a chat with Thomas Thorson, the man behind the future pop/ electronic sounds of Portland based project Interiors, and talk about upcoming releases, favorite albums of the year, The Dark Arts Festival held in Oregon earlier this year, and a little bit more. I can’t think of a proper way to end this, so like Mario says in Mario 64 “Heeere we goooo!!!”
CR: You’ve been creating music as Interiors since ’06. How would you say your style has changed from then and what has inspired you to keep during those years up until now?
INT: Interiors began as a kind of surreal exercise in genre-bending experimentation. It always been a deep passion of mine to record music and to search for the most intense and subtle emotions in my productions. As I was beginning to grow bored with my previous band—a kind of shoe-gazey spacerock band—I was able to reconnect with my deep passion for sonic experimentation. At that time, I began experimenting with an Akai s-3000 sampler and a Juno-106 and I discovered that my approach to the guitar—which had been growing increasingly experimental, textural and atmospheric—could be even better executed with electronic instruments. I was also deeply frustrated with the band dynamic and group decision-making process at that time and these instruments allowed me to make powerful and compelling arrangements all by myself—I was able to take much bigger risks. I was also using a Roland D-50, running through a Moog filter and I was starting to get this insanely heavy, kind of post-new-age sound in some of my recording experiments. These were sounds that I had been searching for on the guitar for literally years and I was able to execute them with a whole new power and subtlety.
Interiors as an idea emerged for me out of a deeply interior experience—a very private kind of ecstasy that I experience when, ironically, I am taken entirely outside of myself on the course of an inner exploration. For me, Interiors is a kind of inner voyage that is centered around musical experience but is also deeply embedded within a conceptual project—the dismantling of many basic oppositions that we experience: intention vs. accident, music vs. noise, emotion vs. concept, interior vs. exterior, popular music vs. esoteric and experimental music. For instance, I am in love with the pop music form, but usually I find it most attractive for the way that is can coax the listener (or performer) into a kind of hypnosis—a ratified and strange state. Similarly, I am deeply influenced by many of the most progressive 20th and 21st century avant-garde composers for precisely the same reason. I like to think that Interiors is a creative space where all of these influences can be brought to bare and encountered without prejudice or preconception—to me it is a genre-less music.
CR: So far 2012 has been a whirlwind of great music from genres of all kinds. What are a few of your favorite albums that’ve been put out this year?
INT: I really loved the Analog Industries compilation called “Unsuspected Sounds”. It marks a return to a headier and more ambitious mode of electronica. A lot of people called it a return to IDM—I’m not sure if I agree with that but I love it because it doesn’t seem to be a return to anything, really. Its a very futuristic, genre-less record and its packed with mind-blowing adventurous music. I have also been watching the ASAP crew and Clams Casino. There are parts of that music that I think are very futuristic and expansive. I was also listening to John Talabot's record for a while. I like the way that his music evokes the imagination. I can tell you what I'm most excited about: the upcoming Nathan Fake album. That definitely has my vote for best album of the year, based on the few tracks that he’s previewed so far. Nathan Fake is a true genius and a visionary musician. I’d like to make an album or two with him some time soon. I’ve also got my eyes on the upcoming Holy Other record—again, its the artists that operate at the margins of genre that give me the most hope for the future of music. I also really love Light Asylum and I’m eager to hear more from them. I’d love to produce their next record because I really want to see them explode their sound out using the kind of production that matches the level of their emotional intensity. They put on one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen. I also can’t wait for the new Crystal Castles record! Their 2010 album came like a bolt of lightening for me and I can’t wait for them to drop the new one this Fall. The releases on Progelectech—Kokum, Louie Devilhead,to name a couple—are awesome and progressive and I’m really happy to have a few releases coming out this year with them. I am also a huge fan of the STYLSS label here in Portland—Quarry is blowing up right now for good reason and I’d also really recommend anything that comes out from Cestlador and Photon! The West Coast bass music scene is definitely doing some big things—and lots of those guys aren’t even 21 yet so they will be delivering lots of great futuristic music for years, I hope. I’ve also got my eyes on Magic Fades—they are great folks and I really love their weird and unique vision.
On a sadder note—and I don’t want to seem overly negative here—I’ve been really disappointed with the output from a couple of really high-profile and celebrated Portland and ex-Portland retro-disco bands. They’ve created a brand of digital recordings that have fake record crackle added to sound vaguely old, as just an example—it is just such a cheesy idea to me. The way that they organize their creative process is incredibly authoritarian and I think it shows in their recordings and their liver performances, despite their producer’s efforts to make it look like an egalitarian and feminist music—it really deeply misogynistic and regressive in my opinion. To me, its basically the exact opposite of what’s really important in music today. There are a handful of Portland groups that have an innovative vision but they have to combat a widespread trend in this city to create an ironic or referential or nostalgic music. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t mind delving into the past to take inspiration or ideas, but I only believe that it should be done to address the problems of the present and the future, to propel us further into an encounter with our undiscovered selves. I think a lot of nostalgic music falls short for me because it simply aims to lull us into a comfortable and vaguely familiar space and doesn’t invite us to experience something new about ourselves and our worlds. In that way, I see nostalgic music as commensurate with the power structures which I actively oppose in my creative process and output. With bands like were involved in the Dark Arts 2012 festival, however, I am filled with hope that this city is growing out of this nostalgic mode and is ready to nurture some more fulfilling creative goals. You are going to see some killer new music coming out of Portland in the coming years.
CR: Earlier this month you performed and were behind Portland’s Dark Arts Festival with Magic Fades and various other groups. Was this your first time playing a festival and would you like to continue with Dark Arts as a yearly event?
INT: I’d love to think that we can make Dark Arts and annual event. The fact is that I’m just not sure at this time. With the festival, I wanted to catalyze a subtle shift in the musical landscape of the city of Portland, and the world to whatever extent that is possible. The problem inherent in this project, however, is that I am aiming for the creation of a kind of “negative culture”—a creative culture that is bound together by a dedication to experimentation and not to the ordinary principles that gather social “scenes.” Unlike most of the ways that music and music culture is marketed, Dark Arts isn’t intended to be based around a single static “identity” or “scene.” So basically, I want to make a sort of community that is defined by potentials, rather than by appearances—and this is a very difficult thing to achieve in this day and age. Consumerism always celebrates appearances and aims to strip away truly creative potentials as a tool for non-hierarchical empowerment. I will do my best to keep Dark Arts as an ongoing project!
I grew up in Portland in the DIY anarcho-crust and hardcore scene—I played in bands and made records and I had a mohawk and all that—and I still take a large part of that ethos with me as an adult. I am still disgusted with consumer culture and with normative and repressive culture. To me, a cliquish music scene that revolves around luxury activities like consuming a certain kind of clothing or a certain kind of niche style is just as preposterous as any other bourgeois consumer culture. Interiors and Dark Arts are both attempts on my part to generate space for non-normative and future-minded pursuits and for the general betterment of life on the planet. I would love to be able to host the festival in the future, I just don’t really know if it will be an annual event just yet. I’ll keep you posted on that. One thing I can say for sure is that I can use a lot of help from people who want to get involved. Seriously—please get in touch with me if you want to help.
CR: I’m sure there are many but what has been one of the most memorable moments for you as a musician?
INT: I remember getting chills the first time that I saw Light Asylum play live. It totally blew me away. That’s quite a memorable moment. I should also say that I’m deeply moved by my collaborations with contemporary dancers. I have a very rewarding ongoing collaboration with choreographer Tahni Holt—I have scored over 15 contemporary dance performances in the last 6 years which have been performed around the country. The first time I heard my music on the stage in that context was very moving for me and it opened up an whole new imagination for me about the potential in interdisciplinary collaboration. I feel the same way now about film scoring—I have several film scores in the works right now, including a couple feature films. I feel very optimistic about the future of these collaborations and I owe it all to these collaborative experiences that I have enjoyed.
CR: Name a few hobbies that you enjoy when you’re not doing stuff with Interiors?
INT: I run a recording studio called Underwater Studios and I’m also starting right now as the head producer at an amazing newly re-worked studio in Portland called Carson Labs. Just five years ago I was mixing records on weird stereo systems and headphones and an Mbox and now I’m mixing and mastering on Focal SM9s and Burl convertors. I guess its kind of cheesy to say it, but music is so completely my passion that I would choose to make songs and records over just about anything else in the world, besides spending time with my family and my close friends and my wonderful girlfriend. I have about 6 different records coming out this year, including the various experimental projects that I also do, in addition to Interiors. And I’m scoring films and dance performances, too.
CR: Right now you seem busy with the release of your Deep Caves EP along with some other material as well that’s coming in the future. Describe the concept behind these releases and if any, the concept or underlying philosophy of Interiors.
INT: The Deep Cave EP (due out on July 26th 2012, on Progelectech) is a very special little record. It is a challenging combination of genres, moving from club pop to progressive electro to surreal future bass music. That being said, I think its a really fun record that will be useful for people both on headphones and in the club. I don’t see any reason that I should limit myself to just one genre or mode. And this debut EP on Progelectech hopefully makes the case for Interiors to occupy many different musical niches at the same time. I just hope nobody calls me Witch House, lol.
I want to have the same sort of creative freedom with my releases as someone like Brian Eno or Psychic TV or Coil. While Interiors might gather some desperate conceptual and sonic influences and might transform with those influences, I can assure you that I will always pour my heart into every release and that I will never release anything that doesn’t meet my very high personal standards. You can expect a couple more Eps and an LP my the end of this year. All of that music is already recorded and mastered and I love it dearly and I’m very excited to be sharing it with you.
CR: Where would you like to see yourself at this same time next year?
INT: One year from now I would like to be touring in Europe and the UK. I’d also love to play in Japan. I’ve always had the intuition that my music will be greeted more warmly overseas. I’d love to be releasing my second LP in Fall 2013. Seriously, I’d love to cut a record with James Holden or Nathan Fake or both of them. I guess I’ll work on that. Can you forward them this interview, lol?
Interiors just dropped their incredible EP Deep Cave and it’s available for streaming or to purchase through itunes for $4 by following the link on their soundcloud page (tons of other material is available to hear as well) . A lot of good things are coming from this group in the future so be sure to like them on facebook for all of the latest updates and all of that jazz.