OK Emoji reflexive interview

This is me interviewing myself about the emoji album.


When would you listen to this album? On a rainy day in the early morning or afternoon, while reading a book, probably fiction. Perhaps while napping. Most likely alone. It's an intimate album. 

Or perhaps late at night when you are pondering something. I imagine it on at low volume, providing a rich piano texture background. When you are wanting to slow down and rest, to find a little 30-40 minutes glen of peace.

When would you not listen to this? When you are driving, when you want to get hyped up about something. On a bright Saturday morning (John Wesley Harding is good for that). At a party with friends. When you want to jam out.

How will it be different from The Alaska Recordings? It probably won't be too different. The progression from the Austin album to the Alaska one was a move away from formula and trying to embrace the shape of each track, and just hone it. This album is still trying to do that. 

But you're going to be singing? Yes, the voice will be the biggest new element. Although when it's there, it will be the main element, I'm not building the tracks around the voice. I'm building the shape of the track around the piece, and the vocals are an element of that. They may be scattered in some tracks. They may not even be there in some tracks, who knows. 

The lyrics are islands in a sea of piano textures. It's not a song that also has some instrumental parts. It's a piece that happens to have lyrics in some parts. I think that will make the transition easier. I want to be OK with a small amount of lyrics if that's all I can come up with. 

Do you want to write normal songs, as in just piano and voice and not much processing? Something like Freewheelin' perhaps? Sure, yeah I've written a few of those, and I will continue to practice that. I've gotten lots of good practice learning Dylan and Young songs, and I can feel better than before what the shape of one of their songs feels like. I enjoy those kinds of songs, that's just not this album. Perhaps the internet album,  if that ever happens. 

OK, so what are the other elements of the tracks? There will be a main piano track as well, which with the voice will make up the heart of the track. I want to be able to play at least a version of it all at once. The piano will also be front and center, with the voice.

Another element will be piano pads, which are smooth recordings made from layers of piano echoes. I did some of these on the Alaska album. Those are meant to support and embellish the main voice and piano, which I call together the "performance" because it's the heart of the track and because it happens in one take played straight through.

Also field recordings. These I want to use even more sparingly than on the Alaska album,  maybe even only on a few tracks, but I think they have a place. It will just depend on if they belong. They will be a little more in the background though, just above a microphone hiss. They are also meant to contribute to the environment without drawing attention to themselves.

Any more? Yes. I think the last one, which I haven't figured out as much is more complex piano textures. This could be made up of stacked piano echoes, but I think they will also involve separate loops, either straight or stretched or reversed or otherwise processed.

Whereas the pads are going to be in a certain key, so they can be lined up with the performance track (which will not be on a metronome), the textures are also going to be arrhythmic and I think need to just play as one long section rather than being arranged in multiple sections.

I need to find a way to make these thin and light, so they don't overwhelm the performance track. For a lot of the performance tracks, I have loops that have space in them for another recording to fill in, but it needs to have a lightness so it doesn't overwhelm.

Also, I don't want it to sound too different from a normal piano, because that takes away from it feeling like a performance. When you start hearing obviously processed sounds, your imagination of a person playing the piece is ruined.

I'm not sure how important that is to me, but I like the idea of the textures almost being like magical echoes that are right on the line of "This feels complex, deep, and beautiful" but not "This doesn't feel like a person playing the piano anymore. It just sounds like ambient music." That may be an impossible line.

Have you figured out how to make those textures? I have some things I learned from the Alaska album, but I would like to have a better process. What I would really like is a custom processor (either in Ableton or Max/MSP) that I can just drop a piano loop into and it will give me a complex pad that is essentially that same recording with some parts carved out in a smooth way.

I also would like to use the looper if possible. I can line TASCAM recordings up with a clap and then layer them, but those are usually too thick and have too much attack because of piano percussive strikes and they sound too busy, not great for pads.

Perhaps my loop layers should be thinner and simpler. What sounds good as a single track is too busy to layer with a few others. Cicadas/backyard is a good one to look at for that. 

What in nature would you compare the album to? Like slow rolling hills. No large climaxes. I think sometimes I will want to add a climax, and maybe I should, but I think the overall feel I'm going for is unhurried.

Maybe the climax is necessary, though, because this album is also about honesty, being honest with myself about failures, and being honest about what I'm putting my hope in, and not doing that half-heartedly.

Also like a mountain brook, a complex texture that we hear as a single peaceful sound. Perhaps also a bit like birds chirping together, or rather birds and insects and a brook together. Three complex and arrhythmic sounds that we hear as one beautiful whole. Create a similar environment by combining different elements, along with some natural ones. 

It doesn't need to "go anywhere." Then I must answer the question of how does it begin and end. If you were to record that environment, how would you share it in the form of a track that has a beginning and an end? Because the beginning and end is much more blurred and drawn out (hours) and realistically tracks need to be between 2-10 minutes most likely, for this album at least.

Another thing I want to think about with this album is where do people feel like they are when they listen? I think for the most part the answer is alone out in nature, but I want to imagine that place more vividly and make sure the tracks and the parts of the tracks are serving that goal. 

Thanks for coming in today. Sure, I enjoyed it.