Ryan Waldron/Talugung interview for his new release Folded Spring (Power Moves Library #6) available now.
hey ryan, so i count this as number 9 for the talugung project, as you’ve had a number of tapes and cdrs put out by a few different labels, including housecraft and sloow tapes and a bunch of other good-ones, how did you approach this collection of pieces versus the other works earlier in yr history and how has yr set-up/process evolved?
For some of my albums, especially the early ones, I overdubbed parts in real time; actually playing the instruments. With this new album I only did a little bit of live playing, mostly I’m working with short samples. The one thing that links the albums is the use of some favourite sounds.
i know that we talked before a little about how yr working these days, which is more computer-based and with samples and with layering/collaging, what are some of the instruments that yr recording or how are you getting the more organic/acoustic-sounding material?
I recorded some things at home – bowed wood paint sticks, bowed gongs, wine glasses, autoharp, cello, drums, glockenspiel, toys etc. Besides my own recordings, I also sampled some acoustic sounds from records – trumpets, violins, metallophones, flutes, and birds. I kept a lot of untreated acoustic sound in the final mixes.
i also hear quite a few sounds and ideas peppering throughout the entirety of the work, does this collection feel like one giant composition or are the segments/fragments purposeful and distinct to you?
The material I assembled was a bit modular, in that I put all the samples into the same tuning so that anything could fit with anything and still be in tune, so in that sense everything is like a big piece. I also used similar approaches with some of the songs, like the use of scattered drum sounds – but once I got working on the individual tracks, I wanted to give them an individual character.
when did time and rhythm become essential to talugung? yr a guitar player too and have always been tripped out by odder rhythms, i know that we always talk about charley patton and robert pete williams and joseph spence as being particularly complex and funky, and i know that you love african music and did a short-lived radio show at cfbu in st catharines, what is it about those elements that wow you? and do you try to hit at those types of ideas/movements? how would you describe that upbeat rhythmic thing that yr after?
I’m drawn to stuff that has fast interlocking rhythms, but with this album I’m trying to fake that feeling somewhat in that things are happening fast but without really lining up. I’m trying to make the mess of things happening sound a bit less like a mess – I think you can get part of the way there because our brains seem to want to find order in a sequence of sounds. A listener can supply their own sense of pulse to events happening that aren’t in strict metrical rhythms. An image I like is rain drops falling on water – it’s both random but highly patterned at the same time.
continuing with time, yr new stuff is getting freer and freer, it’s almost an insane computer free jazz, when you think of these pieces beforehand (if you do) are you structuring it or seeing it play out this way? or do you want to get in and work on the computer and let the pieces sort of dictate what flow they should take?
Once I start testing out sounds with other sounds, I’m looking for little sequences that seem to click – it’s almost like finding a riff that can be varied and expanded. I search for different textures that work together and then trying to arrange them into combinations where they sound like they’re interacting with each other; sounds colliding in the air and bouncing around.
it seems that the complexities and aural bulk is key to making the work for you, but you’ll find a way to have one sole instrument or sound or scrape stand alone for a brief second, is that contradiction or push-pull something yr going for? having a busy music fade out into simpler, more minimalistic tones?
One of the interesting things that happens when you start overdubbing sounds is as soon you add a sound to another sound, you’re subtracting part of what made the original sound interesting when it was standing by itself. I made a conscious effort to have the music swing back and forth from stacked sounds to silence. Hopefully this adds some interest; and you can’t beat a well-timed pause – http://www.vh1.com/news/54421/the-most-powerful-pauses-in-rock/
the sounds that all of yr releases have share a commonality with just intonation-type ideas, really neat and strange tunings and alien island sounds and more of a made-up language and system, and then when you think about music concrete and acousmatic musics, and computer and analogue editing and looping and manipulations, how do you find working on the computer with tuning systems versus playing around with stringed instruments? what are some of the ideas that yr after with tuning? dissonance? open strings?
I tuned instruments and samples to a simple just intonation scale that is pretty consonant but varies from standard tempered tuning. The computer allows you to pitch shift things around. Using a different pitch system makes the music sound different and creates different combinations of tones – everything vibrates differently. I like to use sliding pitches to add more variations as well. In the end, the just intonation ideas held up in some of the songs more than others. It’s hard not to get carried away in adding more noises and indeterminate pitches.
you’ve built several instruments over the years, can you tell me a bit about yr favourite ones and what kind of notions were at play for wanting to make them or create them? was it more of a function of finding different and newer raw sound? or did you want to make newer sounds with different tunings that you weren’t getting from the guitar, ideas in yr head that you weren’t able to get elsewhere?
One of my favourite sounds is bowed wood. It has a great vocal quality. If you use paint sticks cut to different lengths you can get a wobbly scale. Also bowed metal prongs have that similar vocal, moaning kind of sound. You can also bow metal things like coffee cans. One of the most interesting things I’ve done was adding stretched springs to an instrument to create a natural acoustic spring reverb that’s pretty similar to spring reverb in a guitar amp.
tying in with that, did you use any of the instruments you’ve built on this particular record? and what kind of instruments did you record/sample from yr stash and what kind of sounds were you looking for beyond yr collection/material?
I did use a few of my instruments I built on this album, mostly discussed in the questions above. For sampling other sounds, I tried to find some nice drum and synth sounds. I was favouring a pretty dry sound to keep everything defined and I didn’t worry about bass very much except I plunked bass drums here and there.
one theme i’m hearing on this tape and the one previous for power moves label proper, multiplying dead ends, is the use of children’s voices/cries? are you recording yr son and daughter?
Yes, my kids sing and vocalize on the tracks; just little snippets. It felt good to tie the music back to the specific time and place when it was created, plus my kids loved yelling into the microphone and then hearing the playback.
down the line, what kind of family band to you envision for the waldrons?
What’s the best example of a family-based band to aspire to? Maybe something like ESG?
what were some of the input sources that came along with the output recording and working on this record? what were you listening to/watching/reading/thinking about?
I’ve been taking out a lot of books from the library on 20th century artists. It’s interesting how my perception of artists has changed over the years – I think I appreciate everything more than I ever have but my taste is a bit different than when I was 20. I notice different things. For music, while I was making this album I was listening to some old and new electronic music. I was trying to tie this album into some of the ideas, approaches and sounds used in electronic music from the 50s and 60s and 70s.
I also can’t avoid a steady diet of West African music. I found out recently that the Syliphone Archive at the British Library is now available for streaming. There’s almost 8000 songs recorded in Guinea between the 50s and 90s; so much great music and with 8000 songs it feels almost endless.
yr art walks similar paths to yr music, do you view them as in parallel? does one reflect back on the other? are there ideas or themes that correlate?
I think with both drawing and music I want things to be a bit perplexing.
if you could have an ideal live gig or recording situation, what would be some of the tools that you would want for that? what are some of the dream instruments to play on? what are some of the historical computer or synthesizers or machines that you’d want a go at?
It might be interesting be able to play midi guitars where you can load your own samples and choose different non-tempered tunings. For historical stuff, Buchla Synths and mellotrons would be fun to have a look at.
and finally, back to this tape, do you let chance and randomness get involved in the work? and how much do you try to plan out or manage as yr recording and layering? meaning, do you have specific types of sounds or moves in mind when yr collaging and adding melody? and do you have specific outcomes or patterns that yr thinking about ahead of time or as yr going? how much improvisation plays a part?
There was a lot of initial work to set up a library of sounds for the whole album. Once that was ready to go, I just start putting things together to see what works. Once there are a few things working together, I’ll have ideas for additions and then slowly expand the time from a 10-20 second loop to something longer. Then I’ll change the different sections of things to try and find a balance between repetition and variation. These pieces don’t change that much from beginning to end except that the different sounds and motifs are playing in different combinations. For all the randomness, I was hoping I could stumble across some melody in a patchwork kind of way.
From the both of us, we sincerely hope you give it a listen and we hope you dig it.
Talk soon, more to come,