Layne Garrett interview for his new release Reportage (Power Moves Library #7) available now.
hey layne, it was great meeting you recently and i’d love to get a little more inside yr work and process so why not start with this new album, what tools were used for this recording and what kind of instruments are you playing? what am i hearing?
let’s see – side 1 is tapes and feedback recorded live. some of the tapes are 30-second loops, some of them are regular cassettes, some 4-track, all of them are stuff i recorded, me playing god knows what. and then played back through various players and speakers – it’s been awhile, but i think there’s feedback happening probably via contact mic’d speakers.
the first track on side 2 is prepared resonator guitar recorded live, with roommate kitchen sounds in the background (hi-fi stuff i know). and then the patsy cline cover, if you can call it that, it’s three layers of homemade electronics and a vocal track, recorded to 4-track.
how do you know when you feel you’ve got a good recording/take and do you have any flow or rhythm in mind when you are building the collages?
i like to think i can feel it when interesting things are happening, but sometimes ya know you can get sucked into something that feels good but that isn’t necessarily worth trying to get anyone else to sit through. i remember reading a william s burroughs essay where he talks about whenever he feels like he’s written something good, it’s invariably trash. i don’t agree with that sentiment, but i do kind of keep it in the back of my head to check myself, to remember to listen with an extra critical ear when i’m feeling particularly ebullient about something i’ve played.
are slice-of-life verite moments just as important as the musical elements and what kind of sounds do you have in mind before you start recording/archiving?
i try not to have too much in mind before i start. i think it’s possible that what you’re hearing as ‘verite’ are me attempting to make music, ha. i can’t think of any moments in these recordings where i’m using source material that wasn’t initially intended to be musical.
what were you listening to/reading/watching/thinking about when producing this album?
eesh i dunno it’s been 6 months to a year since i made these recordings. one thing is that i’ve been compiling a tragic song playlist in my head for some years now, and the patsy cline song is on that list. some personal drama was behind a convoluted impulse to make that recording and the emotions released therein. in general no matter how detached i may try to be, music for me is certainly a conduit for accessing and expressing certain emotional realms. i think there can be direct and indirect parallels to psychological processes.
tied with the question earlier, instead of saying what are yr influences, i like to think about it more in terms of what are some of the feelings/ideas/thoughts you have about other powerful music/art that sits with you as yr creating, what sort of things are seeping into what you do? and this can be anything, not necessarily music-related, if that’s the case.
think i answered this one above. i’ll add that for me any art or music i’m particularly engaged with at any time is on a continuum with lived life, with relationships, conversations, interactions with the world around me. i have a four-year-old, you met her, i imagine maybe you could sense that she is a major source of inspiration, fount of energy, producer of all sorts of powerful feelings. i’ve also been spending a bunch of time on my friend’s farm in recent months, which is a source of sounds (incredibly loud frogs, wow; glass bottle dumps in the woods; longform bird conversations,…) and of calm – the landscape is open in a way that frees up some of the knots in the brain…
do you have any preference when it comes to tape or digital? any go-to recording devices?
well, my tiny portable digital recorder is definitely convenient for live recording and field recording. i usually use tapes more as an intermediary.
do you distinguish between found or field recordings and musical sessions when you archive? or do you compile on the fly and know where yr headed?
i have some recordings that are well-labeled, date, source, etc, and then i have piles and piles of unlabeled tapes and files, years and years, piles and piles……
you build instruments, when did you start to play around with that and how has the process and progress changed, if at all? what are some of yr favourite builds? do you have a workshop to get lost in? have any advice for someone looking to start building musical objects?
i lived in phoenix for awhile forever ago, i was into music but hadn’t yet been turned on to anything really out there, certainly had no knowledge of the array of experimental instrument builders that exists scattered all around. one day someone tossed out a box of random metal debris, small stuff, machined parts of i dunno what – for whatever reason i was fascinated. grabbed it, built some wind chimes for some friends who were about to get married. i remember spending tons of time on them and being really happy with how they came out, and at some point realizing i was probably way more excited about them than my friends were going to be, but giving them anyway. (first in a long and continuing string of realizations that no matter how endlessly fascinated you and i may be by the drip of a certain water pipe or the hum of a certain bathroom fan, etc, that it ain’t always a translateable feeling. that’s one thing that’s been so refreshing about having a kid, is that you can see with a blank-ish slate how open a person is to being enthralled by just about anything….)
anyway – instruments – my process is intuitive. if i start with a plan, the plan changes along the way. i always work with found/reclaimed materials, so part of it is a function of that – opening to what i’ve got and seeing where it takes me. it’s kind of an opposite path to the current emphasis on ‘makers’ and the importance of the design process, all of that. i find that stuff a bit hard to take. fostering creativity ultimately in the service of capital. like, hey, let’s design our way out of this shit-show, who are we kidding.
mmhmm – instruments – i’ve made a few sets of hanging gongs out of found car metal, i really like those. each piece of metal has a tone/tones all its own, many with distinct pitches, lots of wild overtones. i’m really into random tunings, things that kind of impose a shape from the start that as a player you’re then working with(in). also let’s see, i made this thing called the hadron collider, it’s a board with about 12 or 14 strings on it, stretched across a 5-inch speaker, so the speaker acts as the bridge, and then there is an acoustic guitar pickup under the strings near the nut. so i can either play sound through the speaker and process it through the strings, or more recently i’ve been using it primarily as a feedback device, so the pickup goes into the mixer and straight back out through the speaker, it’s a very expressive way of manipulating feedback, by varying the tension of the strings by putting varying amounts of pressure on them behind the speaker-bridge.
what are yr ideal recording situations/environments? what about ideal gear? do you scout out locations for some of the recording or does it just come natural, more in the moment?
i’m not picky about this kind of thing.
yr interested in free gift culture, was there any thing or moment that helped push you into that philosophy? i’ve always been interested in offering things like a library would, archived and ready to listen to/share, and i’d rather have it all out there (even if under water). i think value can be defined in multiple ways and we sometimes get a little locked into how things have always been, and it’s interesting to me to bounce outside of that and to try out different ideas or options. how do you define value or artistic growth vs payment? can they be separated?
well politically i’m on the spectrum of communist-leaning-anarchist. if someone wants to hear something of mine i want them to hear it. surviving as an artist, well it’s not possible unless you teach etc. which, it’s great for artists to teach. the thing for me (and i imagine for many others) is that the whole system of value is just so fucked. i guess as an artist you have to choose to what degree you want/need to subject your art to a system of valuation you don’t believe in. for me just living life, making the smallest decisions can sometimes be paralyzing, the alienation just becomes so overwhelming. i guess the right thing to do is to push through that, which in art maybe means to create things/experiences that straddle the line, that are accessible within the current paradigm and that point to possibilities so much more interesting, more human.
yr heavy into prepared guitar/banjo, what are some tricks/treats that you employ and when did you mutate/modify away from ‘traditional’ playing? and are you looking for weird scales/tuning systems or is sound as natural raw material the idea yr after?
yeah, i used to do alot of fingerstyle playing in crazy tunings, i think i got bored with the timbral limitations, so now i shove lots of things between the strings and investigate the results. been playing with rubber bands alot lately, to sort of half-mute, bring out hidden harmonics.
you make sculptural/musical creations and invite others to play and share in them, do you have any new ones taking shape and whereabouts are some of the pieces you’ve built floating around? the large sculpture/wind-gongs in the backyard of rhizome dc is amazing!
thanks! most of the larger-scale stuff i’ve made was never meant to be permanent, and as such the components are currently ‘floating around’ in piles in my studio awaiting their next assignment.
what do you look for in collaborations? what makes a strong community? benefits of lonerism vs collectives?
in collaborations: connection, defined somewhat intuitively. alchemical potential – wherein what is produced is more than the sum of the parts. also, growth potential. will this person and i push each other in new directions?
you have a world of sounds/vision, completely to the side of other ‘noise/experimental’ acts/persons, when/how do you think that vision started to take shape? or do you view yrself as constantly evolving and trying new things/ideas? no time to take the temperature?
well thanks, yeah i think my vision is cultivated on the fly, i just try to keep things interesting.
when did dissonance and deep listening become crucial to what you do? did you have to learn to listen at all? have you always been curious with sound? would you rather know how to play an instrument or play it for the first time?
i’m getting fuzzy, going to skip this one.
do you have any other intensely-focused hobbies or avocations? anything that uses parts of the brain in the same way? what about totally differently?
well, for me sex / physical bodily connection reaches into realms of consciousness that can overlap with those accessed musically. also, focused awareness of strong physical stimuli of whatever kind – cold water, meditative listening in nature, overwhelming flavors,…
other than that, parenting can be an intensely focused activity, in ways that range across the spectrum.
thanks for doing this man, it’s always great to dig deeper, isn’t it?
thank you kevin!
The Reportage tape is in a small edition of 20 copies, dubbed and assembled at home. Digital is available as a free download on Free Music Archive and Bandcamp.
We hope you like this, from the both of us, thanks so much for reading/listening!