Tuesday, 1 June 2010
Daniel Lopatin is much more than 6ft tall, long hair, long beard, built like a block of flats, used to play in Noise bands and is totally silent and stern on stage. Yet despite this usually adding up to someone who hates talking, hates you and more specifically hates talking to you, he was completely lovely and easy going, with this infectious exuberance and passion for finding beauty in the simplest of things and how unforced art can pervade into everyday life. I spoke to him after his bank holiday Monday show at Cargo, the prince of Brixton Felix Lee also took an impromptu turn in the interview as well.
How’s the tour going?
It’s great, the UK is the best really, I enjoy playing here probably more than anywhere in the states at this point, people are more attentive, more receptive I guess. I don't know if they like it any more or less but it feels like people have invested more in the experience. In New York there's a lot of standing around and cynicism or whatever, but here it seems people are really into it.
When you initially started playing live what was your approach, do you feel like there's been a progression to where you are now?
Yeah, well I came up in the US Noise scene, so a lot of the time we were playing through shitty amps on the floor, we used to call it floorcore, it's still going on for sure, and at this point it's a little weird just because of the setup but I still think about structurally a set as an improvised noise performance although it's more progomatic now and samples are kinda used as buckets to improvise it in. it's sort of more thought out I guess, I used to be pretty sloppy and just a party zone. and now I feel I have to put on a good show, kinda of a proper show, and I don't think that's weird there's more people checking it out, I have a sound system that can actually handle detail and that makes me work harder, but it's still very new to me I still consider myself a veteran producer and playing live is really fun I never know what people expect or if they are ready for cause that kind of experience I’m used to playing with Noise kids.
Is fidelity important to you?
Not really, not compared to some nerds I know, I’m not like an audiophile really. I’m pretty simple guy I don't know that much; I just like sounds, I like textures.
I’ve got friends who are DJs and stuff and they refuse to touch anything that isn't either purest vinyl or flac files.
Yeah there's the DJ standard which is 256kbps or whatever, and I get it, I definitely get it. I sample from wav files and realise that I should be doing that, but at the end of the day I’m not a maniac about that stuff at all.
With your samples, the little vocal loops, taking them from pop songs, would you say you're influenced by that?
Totally, this is corny or whatever, but I’m just influenced by reality. What that means for me is that one vocal sample you're talking about is Paul van dyke and that's a trance anthem right, to me the interesting part is repurposing that and making it totally fucked pretty much. I think what's there, the providence of the track is this amazing amazing texture and beautiful vocal melody, divorced from the narrative of the whole song it's really interesting and it appeals to me. I don't think music has to be so horizontal all the time that it has to build and get more crazy. I don't even have really the attention span for pop music, I’m kinda like to slow it down I guess.
Felix Lee: Yeah just taking little phrases, slow it down and loop it.
Yeah and interesting things start emerging when you slow things down and really focus, it's like magic eye if you stare at one thing long enough it starts changing, so that's like a purely psychedelic experience for me.
I just feel like that with the internet, there's just so much music, you can take from any genre, any kind of music and do whatever you want with it, all these different bands and producers, like yourself, just working with the past and trying to redefine it.
Yeah totally, and it can be the immediate past or whatever, the whole argument about music is nostalgic, to me, is kinda bullshit. I’m not necessceserily nostalgic, I approach things kinda like an anthropologist, I’m not sitting in my room crying because I missed a fucking Paul Van Dyk hit from 1998.
It’s just history really.
Everything is though! Once you go to that level wouldn't you say everyone's nostalgic?
It's the same with your Sunsetcorp stuff as well, that's taking pop songs and putting them in a totally redefined state of mind and what I thought was interesting was the videos you put with them, and to me those are so associated with the music, was that your approach to have that visual side with it as well?
Yeah, it's a little riddle, I set up little riddles so for instance nobody here it worked out really well because I grabbed that Chris De Burg sample, divorcing it from the rest of that phrase suddenly it's a frightening concept. And I found this really amazing footage that made absolutely no sense.
It’s sort of like a video game, isn’t it?
It was just early vector graphics, it was just a test really, it wasn't really finished it doesn’t really do anything or resolve. It was just this rainbow road that's...
Kind of organic.
Yeah! Totally, you have the city on the horizon and you never really get there, and I made it and looked and it was a complete allegory, you know this is city life.
You would you call Sunset Corp a finished project I think for me what's there, it's in its purest form.
I think it's done, I feel like I’m participating in it just as much as everyone else, there's probably 14 year old kids that are slowing down footage that they think is worth staring at for 3 minutes in a row.
There’s a whole culture.
It’s pretty rad, when I setup the YouTube account, I didn’t associate it with anything at all. In fact I disassociated it completely because I thought it'd be fun to have this ubiquitous thing. Since then that's changed or whatever but I really just wanted to throw it out there.
That's the thing, me and Felix were discussing this last year and I was a bit wondering about the anonymity but then Felix said considering everything you've taken is essentially 'stolen', you can't put you're own name and call it your own.
I do and I don't I guess, I’m definitely not hiding anything I know exactly where I got all that stuff from and if they have a problem with it then that's cool. but generally speaking we live in a society where everything's up for grabs and I don't think there's anything wrong with jackin' stuff, I mean it gets a little sketchy if you don't credit people or try and make money from it, but it was never really about that. seriously I just was stuck in my parents house that summer and I was super bored and it just made sense to do it, I’m sure you guys you do the same thing.
When I’ve got a few hours spare I just download loads of stuff and just loop it
Lose a few hours on Ableton
I use Audacity too, I don't use Protools or anything like that I just use whatever's free, I’m don't know whether you guys grew up with the PC, but the flying toaster screen saver, I think that was really influential actually, cause you're just staring a toasters going across the fucking screen for a while.
The repetition makes you more receptive.
Yeah those shitty games, the Atari games, or even Mario 2 where you go off on the left hand side of the screen and come back on the right, isn't that a really beautiful poetic thing, it like a ouroboros, it's Buddhist.
It’s same thing with those old driving games, it'd feel like you've been driving for ages, driving for miles when it's just the same looped screen.
Completely, everybody has that memory of driving around in cards for hours as a kid and you're just staring out the window and blocked everything else out and you've got this repetition of lines or power lines or the trees, I’m really fascinated by that stuff, way more fascinated than just having something really spelled out. And it's all around you, it's free! Free drugs!
Were you trying to get projections working earlier?
It didn't work out, it's odd because it was working, I was gonna do a bunch of Sunsetcorp style stuff.
So what did we miss out on then?
Mostly like Japanese car commercial footage, but you know, no cars just women touching surfaces.
Like that video of that Japanese Rush fan?
Yeah exactly, she's like this virtuosic pianist and she loves Rush so she just performed the whole of that.
Everyone loves Rush
It’s hit or miss
Pretty sure I’ve never made it through a song
Exactly right, but yeah that one hook, its Susanne Vega singing on it too or Amy Van, one of those late 80's early 90's folk, but that one hook from Time Stands Still, it's beautiful, sounds like Kate Bush or something. The rest of the songs are garbage.
Did you take a meaning from these little tiny phrases when isolated?
Yeah it's like anathemas to me, little bits of wisdom and if you really consider it, you'll get something out it.
You also made that video for oOoOO, I don't know how to pronounce, not sure if anyone knows how to pronounce it, but what was your inspiration behind that?
He's tricky, because he's super enigmatic, his label set it up, a Swedish label Emotion, but he didn’t give me any directives, usually it's an e-mail and I’ll be 'hi give me some vibes' and if they know what that means they just write down a bunch of random ideas and that didn’t happen with oOoOO at all.
It’s hard to be left cold with a video project, because they're just... want you do it and don't give you anything else
I totally just did it, I felt like there was a super dark vibe to his music that was clear and I found some 80's infomercial, a what's it called, a public service announcement, an Australian PSA about aids. It was like 'don't get aids or else grim reapers will bowl you down, literally humans were getting bowled down like candle pins at the end of the alley. and I was like this is too good, and there was this strange red line, this red right angle that happened just because I was using shit house video editing software, it was an overlay and it was slightly at different percentages are co-ordinates on the map. And then Emotion were like 'we really like the video, we think you should get rid of the red the line'... I was like either we're keeping the red line or say goodbye to the project; you don't have to pay me. The red line stays!
So just stuff like that chance, operations, indeterminacy and having an eye for stuff.
Do you feel like that's the same with improv?
Yeah! You opportune or get fucked. Whenever I’m not doing that much up there, you know it's good because I’m just listening and that's because everything just works out the engine's moving the turbines are working. And when I’m really struggling for an answer and working hard a lot it might be because it's not quite there yet. You know I think the expectation for a performer is to get up there and do a fucking jig, and I’ll never be like that, again I’m just kinda creating a situation for sound and if it works it works if it doesn’t then people can fuck off.
Do you have bad shows then?
Of course, I totally have bad shows, yeah of course, because there is that chance element because there is that chance element. If I didn't sleep that well or things are a little off with my brain, there's such a precision thing with loops that if it's not right on it could easily go super sour. it's commonly accepted in the sort of shows I’m used to playing that kinda shit happens, big shows like this it's probably a little weird if something goes wrong or whatever but so be it.
But with that TOMUTONTTU guy (support for tonights show, along with Faroe Island Thief Goodiepal), I was listening and some of it felt a little bit off, and I kinda liked that.
Yeah well that's why I like TOMUTONTTU so much, we have this asymmetrical melodycyism, it's clearly pitched, it can be beautiful because of the melody, but there's always that asymmetry to it. some of the more, pinpoint accuracy acts that use loopers don't really interest me, that kinda Ash Ra Tempel rehash or something, it's a like a lot of delay or fancy or whatever, I dunno what is it that?
With loops it's very temperamental, you just hit something and it rephrases itself and you're fucked, maybe before with improvised music you didn't put it into something it's just out there and it's there.
Yeah and I’ve never hit an undo button during a live set, there's a few rules and that's one of them! It’s sort of punishment for fucking up but there you go.
Speaking of Ash Ra Tempel are you excited about this week? (Oneohtrix Point Never support Manuel Göttsching in Paris on 02/06)
Yeah Wednesday, it should be cool, Göttsching's a guy I’ve only started getting my head round lately, because of the show. but honestly I’m not a huge 80's Krautrock fan or whatever, I like the sentiment more than I like the music or whatever, I think they were really brilliant in terms of breaking convention but a lot of the music seems redundant to me. But I love E2-E4.
Yeah, I have a similar kind of opinion, I saw a couple of guys, or just one, from Neu play Primavera and I was like wow, this is really cool, this music is 30/40 years old or whatever but then again E2-E4 is just so much more than any Krautrock band could offer me.
Super futuristic for it's time, when the guitar solo kicks in I can kinda abort mission but
I love that guitar solo
You really? It’s strange some people really love it, others don't
I’m into that whole Balearic vibe and the sinewy guitar lines
I think My Bloody valentine are the masters of the pitch bender though, they're the most lushest, melismatic, curved music I’ve ever heard in my life and that's more of an influence to me than some of the more jammy can kinda stuff. And super ambient, I don't know how they do it!
I guess that they've come back and stuff as well, the thing about Primavera and ATP, they have all these old bands coming back and reforming, it's a little bit like do I really want to see this or am I just going to tick a box, cause Wire played and they were shit.
Really? Matt from Wire's here, he's around.
I interviewed Mark McGuire a few months ago, he was so into your Skyramps project, and I thought it was quite interesting how two people half way across a country can have such a connection.
Oh yeah, we did everything with e-mails, with files, and there was absolutely no conversation ever. You hear stories about jazz guys doing that in the same room, but files? To me that blew me away, we didn’t ever have to talk about it in depth. So that's a really mysterious collab for me, I can't even remember how that happened to be honest, it was amazing mark and I are definitely kindred spirits for sure.
I was just looking at your Roland Juno earlier, where I work we have one of those in an exhibition in a glass case, and there you are with those stickers all over and I heard you're dad was an early Synth musician back in the day?
He wasn't really, he was a rocker, he was in a nuggets band from Leningrad they sound like a garage band basically, like The Doors. That keyboard that I play is his and he bought in 1982, 83 for his Russian restaurant band and at some point I just took the Synth and started wallowing out.
It was quite lucky that you had that basis as a child growing up with all this music around you.
I’m really lucky, it's totally evolution, its makes me cry when I think I about it, my parents are such a big part of this, they really are. And my mother taught me some basic piano, she taught me harmony and circle of fifths and I use that stuff all the time. It was hard at the beginning because this was totally alien to them as it is probably to most people, but they're really super supportive and my dad is really proud that he's been able to pass on this keyboard.
It’s interesting, because even though it's the same instrument he had, he must have played in a completely different way.
I know what you mean, because that's the beautiful part of the whole thing, my dad had all these beautiful accordion sounds, he did exactly what I do with it, he had a vision, he wanted to emulate an accordion, an organ and electronic piano all these things he needed, and then I wiped all the presets and made fucked up sounds of whatever, but the beauty of Synths is that it's a whiteboard, and it's all about what you want to get out of it I guess.