Can you describe your work for the people that haven't experienced it?
in my career, this is one of the hardest things for me. i often meet people who aren't at all in my line of work. people in town, friends of family members, etc, and it's very hard to explain what i do. i usually try to avoid the question because most people have a pretty limited idea of what being a "musician" is. i typically try to break it down into simplified terms such as "avant grade music"… even "experimental music" leaves people with blank stares, often
however, if i don't worry too much about what others will be thinking i can comfortably say that i make quiet, minimalist music with electronic and acoustic instruments. i'll often use the term "ambient." although this word has a bit of history and baggage attached to it, it still accurately sums up the slow and gentle nature of my music.
my music is quite inspired by nature and technology as well as imperfection, repetition and stillness.
How did you start working together with Sakamoto? Which element of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s music attracted you to collaborate with him?
a few years ago i was getting orders in the 12k online shop from a "ryuichi sakamoto" in new york city. of course, this raised my curiosity… but i figured it wasn't HIM.. that it was likely someone else with the same name. of course, when i found out it was actually him i was quite flattered. not long after that he approached me to do some remix work for him. i guess he had been listening to my music for a bit and took a liking to it. because we both live in new york opportunities arose for us to do other things together and back in april of 2012 we played a concert together in new york city. this really started our personal, one-on-one collaboration which lead to the album.
while working with sakamoto it became very clear very quickly how talented he is. i think what attracted me most to working with him was how well he listened. he's extremely patient and attentive musically. he listens and can show a tremendous amount of restraint. this is all key to successful collaborations i think. of course, inside i felt like i was in the presence of greatness and perhaps a bit intimidated, however, when the music flows we're absolutely on the same level and make wonderful mental and musical connections.
How do you approach collaboration ?
i guess that really depends on who i'm collaborating with but we usually try to come up with a concept, a system, a set of rules. something to help guide the creative process. it's also important for me to collaborate with people in person whenever possible. i think the music that gets made is so much more natural and special and really about a time and place. you just don't get that when working via file transfer over the internet. all of my recent collaborations have been in person and there are photographs and stories and all sorts of memories surrounding the recordings and visits, not just the music. all of this gets infused into the music for a deeper experience.
Why do you make music?
i'm not sure many artists could answer this.. or perhaps they'd have the same answer as i do.. which is… because i have to. because it's what i do. since i was 15 i knew i wanted to be a musician. i suppose i realized early that music is the best way for me to express myself and explore and appreciate the world around me. but it's so much more than that; it's a lifestyle. my music career guides my entire life, from the places i visit to the friends i have.
What is your guilty pleasure in music?
that would definitely be buying equipment for the studio. it's definitely an obsession. whether it's synthesizers, or recording equipment, exploring new (or old) ways of doing things is really a passion of mine. i'm not a collector and i don't believe my tools are sacred and i buy things to use them, not look at them. i'm quite good at researching the right tools and putting them to use. it's an endless obsession, though. there's always something new to try.
Where did you grow up?
i was born in ohio and lived there until i was 6-7, after which i moved to, and grew up in new england and from there i've been in new york ever since. i grew up on a farm and have spent a lot of time in the country as well as new york city. both of these types of places are really influential on what i do.
Do you still play hockey ?
i haven't played in a couple of years because of some injuries that kept me away, but i want to get back into it. it's very fun and great exercise, if a bit rough. and i'm not an aggressive person at all.
What about your relationship with nature, how does it influence your music ?
when i moved to the rural areas of new york state after brooklyn the surrounding nature had a profound effect on me. i really began to appreciate nature's resonances and the imperfect beauty of my surroundings. i spent a lot of time as a child in nature, canoeing in canada or backpacking in wyoming. growing up in a wooded area and always playing outside. it's always been a part of me.
my music began to take the shape of this nature, echoing the stillness and the organic beauty. there are such simple things that happen in nature, or seemingly so simple, like a dry plant blowing in the wind or the sound of the nighttime insects. these things are so easy to pass by or not pay attention to, but if you do stop and watch or listen and pay attention you realize how complex it can be. the world of variation in this seemingly small event. i find that i try to do the same thing with my music. repetitive on the surface, on a quick listen, but quite complex if you listen closely.
What do you consider to be your greatest success?
oh, this is too hard to answer. i've had many moments in my career that i'm proud of. though, I'm particularly proud of what i've built up with 12k as a label and as a family of artists. it's been going for almost 17 years now and has remained true to my goals and beliefs all the time. it's not a very big label and doesn't make much money or make anybody a superstar but it's gained respect around the world in our small, niche culture.
What does it feel like to perform solo?
i get quite nervous before i perform, leading up to the point that i begin to make sound. once everything starts going and i'm making music the nerves fade away and i try very hard to immerse myself in what i'm creating. because all of my shows are improvisations some are more successful than others. in each concert i do i attempt to build up from scratch a looping microcosm of sound that i get to a point where i can just let it go, step away from the equipment, and just let the music play in this infinitely changing sleepy, beautiful loop. it's difficult to get to this point, but when i do it makes me so happy.
What is your idea of happiness?
of course there are many things that make me happy. being with people i love, making music, being inspired artistically, eating great food, traveling to amazing places, being with my friends in my favorite places in japan, my family. all of these things make me happy. but to me happiness is when i feel no worries and even better if i feel no worries and as well feel excited and inspired. it's not often i'm not worrying about something, but when i'm not it's quite liberating.
Tell us something you dream of?
i dream of many things, too many things. i'm sort of the type of person who is always striving for the next level, for the next goal. i'm a dreamer at heart. i dream of my music reaching more people or of building a glass writing studio in the woods.
if you want to talk literally, something i dream of at night…. i often have recurring dreams of finding new rooms in my house. usually giant rooms that i never knew were there, discovering all of this new space. they're quite interesting dreams. i once dreamt i discovered an entirely new floor in my house that was on the roof with beautiful glassed in rooms and a deck that spanned two rooftops in a city. it's strange how, in these dreams, i live in these houses and didn't know these rooms existed.
How would you describe your politics?
i really don't pay attention to politics very much. the political situation in america is a complete, embarrassing joke. washington dc, for years, has been controlled by people who want nothing but to discredit the other political party. there are no decisions based on what is good for the people of america, only what is good for the political agenda. as a result i stay as far away from politics as i can. it has no bearing on what i do artistically. i've long given up on america having a government interested in the arts.
Do you vote?
i do vote in both local elections and national/presidential ones although, i should probably avoid the national ones.
What do you perceive to be the major political/social/economic issues of today, nationally and internationally?
there are so many. too many. but i feel that the true thing that prevents peace and separates humanity is religion. or, more specifically, religious intolerance. the fact that most people are so closed minded to think that their beliefs are the only true beliefs is what causes war, conflict, and the inability to work together as a species. humans have to become more open and creative, to embrace the diversity of our planet or else we'll become a tiny footnote in the history book of the next race to come across our charred planet. humans can't stand when something is different. such a simple problem that causes so much harm.
Why did you start this label ?
i started it in 1997 after a record deal i had a contract for went bad. i was quite frustrated with other labels at the time and decided to start one of my own. i felt there was a lack of small, artist-run labels in america and wanted to start one with my tastes and specific vision. this was just at the dawn of the internet being a viable promotional tool, it was all quite new. i had worked at an independent label in new york city for many years prior so i knew the basics of how and how not to run a label. but i basically jumped in and let it flow naturally.
Which releases are your favorites, which ones do you recommend?
of course i have too so many favorite releases but i can say two that i keep going back to are the first Seaworthy album "Map In Hand" and the MOSS cd. both so natural and real. and, while i don't ever really listen to my own music i'm really proud of the Between cd because it marks such a great memory and really sums up so much of what 12k is about now.
there are so many releases that mark important points in 12k's history and many that i listen to on a regular basis. it's difficult to play favorites!