Wednesday, May 19, 2010


What are your influences?

It's a hard question. I suppose ever artist experiences the anxiety of influence. We like to think what we are doing is somehow singular, different from what's come before, and yet we know we are deeply impacted but those influences, either positively or negatively. I was slightly shocked when I played early versions of my songs to my friend/bandmate/music blogger Jay and he'd say things like, "That's your Deerhunter song," and I took it as a slight. I like that band, sure, but was I trying to ape that? No. But that's not what he meant. As someone who writes about music, he was doing what all music writers do: this song sounds like this but different…

I listen to music all the time and so it must have some deep impact. I certainly learned about how to make music by listening to it. I am not a musician. My piano playing skills are minimal at best and I can read a tiny but of music but if you ask me what key a song is in, well, I can't answer you. Since I have been making these electronic-based tracks for 9 years now, and now people are finally getting a chance to hear them, I figured I should answer this question.

Influences (in no order, subject to change)

1.) Enjoy Your Worries, You May Never Have Them Again, The Books

Taught me about the importance of the sample, letting the sample do its thing. It still makes me laugh and yet the song's density is so amazing to me.

2.) To Here Knows When, My Bloody Valentine

I have always thought I'd die by drowning and this song captures the possible bliss and horror of that imagined death. I used to listen to this song constantly my senior year in college when I was abusing my allergy medication and driving around really stoned in my Mom's Volvo.

3.) Doctor Who Theme Song

I have no idea why I love electronic music so much and why I have never wanted to play the guitar, which seems like way too much of a dude thing to do. And then it occurred to me: Doctor Who. I watched this show like a true fan nerd as a kid and those BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Even before I knew who Delia Derbyshire was, I listened to those soundscapes as a kid and I loved them even as much as the show.

4.) Scentless Apprentice, Nirvana

I like authenticity in my music. Like all trendy mofos, I hated Nirvana because everyone else liked them. I refused to buy NEVERMIND, but I did buy IN UTERO because Steve "big black" Albini recorded it. The pain of this song is authentic and the chorus captured the feeling of hating the world and wanting it to go away.

5.) I Could Show You How, Naked Eyes

My friend Paula said the other night at dinner, 80s pop music was great and grunge ruined everything. She has a point (Nirvana excepted). I loved this record when I was a kid and still I love this song and the Fairlight synth noises on it.

6.) Apistat Commander, Xiu Xiu

Music can do something that the other arts can't do. When I saw Jamie and Caralee do this at the Middle East in Cambridge back in 2005, it was so loud and honest it really blew me away. It's a memory I treasure.

7.) Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet, Gavin Bryars

The emotion of repetition. No offense to Tom Waits, but track down the version Brian Eno released on his Obscure record label. It's the superior recording of this track.

8.) Darling Nikki, Prince

Oh in grammar school, how I loved Prince. I owned every release on vinyl up to SIGN O' THE TIMES. But this one was always a big favorite. It taught me one of the most significant words to a teenager in the English language: masturbate. Thank you, Prince.

9.) Pet Shop Boys Live

I'm not really a huge fan of their music per se, though they've written some amazing pop songs (i'd be so lucky to write something as great as "Being Boring" or "So Hard"). But what I love about them is their live or rather "live" performances. I love how Chris Lowe just kind of hangs out in front of the keyboard, Neil Tennant often sits to sing, and often there are lots of dancers and/or hot gay dudes doing their thing. It's the opposite of authentic in a way but strangely I think if I was ever to play live, I want to do something like that. I can't really imagine sweating and running around, punching buttons on my sampler or laptop or whatever unless I was really drunk. But this shows you can play live gracefully. I should go see them before I die.

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