E.K. Wimmer is one of my top favorite artists to be featured here at AFIN, and also an all-around nice, cool, multi-talented fellow. His last album, What Was Once Veduta is Now Found was reviewed favorably here in January, as well as the single from this album “Puppets and Ninjas”. His incredible new album The Invisible Audience was just released and I got a chance to interview E.K. about it – read on below!A Future in Noise: What were the musical and non-musical inspirations behind the making of The Invisible Audience?
E.K: Musical: The usual suspects (The Cure, Bowie and Siouxsie). The real influences on this record were T-Rex – Electric Warrior, Brian Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy), Sparks – Angst In My Pants, John Frusciante –Curtains, Neko Case – Middle Cyclone, Christian Death – All the Love All the Hate Part 1, The Glove – Blue Sunshine, Kylie Minogue – X, Alice Cooper –Billion Dollar Babies, P.J. Harvey – White Chalk and a trillion more. I love discussing influences because I have a ton and any musician that says otherwise is full of it!
Non-Musical: Nature, the past, my wife, the Oregon coast, depression, phony people, playing shows, my daughter and more nature.
AFIN: Since you had done soundtrack music previously, do you use the same creative process for your recent solo albums? (keeping specific scenes in mind, etc.)
E.K.: Definitely. I tend to always write songs that are self-contained, but are somehow connected like scenes in a film. The actual creative process is very similar between film scores and my albums. I sit down with a guitar or piano and write the structure of the song. I then take that demo and decide how I want to record it. The first track on the album, All These Things, for example, was originally a rock opera demo with strings and whatnot that I was working on for a feature-length film. I decided to completely change the sound, add new vocals and make it into more of a radio-friendly pop song (at least it’s pop in my mind, ha!) I once read that Wes Anderson makes a mix tape of songs he wants on the soundtracks to his films and then sometimes writes scenes around them. I feel the same way. I’m a director at heart so all my songs usually have a video in my mind to accompany them.
AFIN: There seems to me to be a distinct difference in the vibe of The Invisible Audience as compared toWhat was once Veduta is now found, like a lighter, airier almost nostalgic feeling in the new album. Was this intentional? How did this come about?E.K.: Well the most obvious thing between the two is how they came about. What was once Veduta was a collection of songs recorded over several years. The Invisible Audience was written within a year. I releasedWhat was once Veduta in 2008, but the most recent song on the album was recorded around 2004-2005.The Invisible Audience is really four to five years removed from the sound of my last record. It’s also the first solo album I’ve ever released (including Veduta) that is not electronic. No drum machines or programming at all on the new record. It’s the first time I’ve released an album that has live drums throughout. It’s also the first album with someone other than me contributing and I think this gives it a dramatically different vibe. Each song is it’s own thing. I just wrote songs how I wanted, when I wanted rather than trying to fit into a genre like I had in the past. As far as the airier, more nostalgic vibe, I think it’s just not so depressing! My music usually makes people want to jump off a bridge; it’s so depressing, but this album is lighter (apart from the last track I guess). The production quality was very intentional. I’m influenced by people like John Frusciante. I think his solo work is insanely overlooked. He strips everything down and just presents a great song. You hear the shuffling of instruments, breathing, etc. I’ve always liked the lo-fi sound because it takes on a life of it’s own.AFIN: I enjoy the album as a whole, but I think the most interesting track isThe Drawers of Nature – what’s the story behind this song and it’s meaning?
E.K.: It’s funny that you singled out that track over the others because it probably has the most involved story, so brace yourself! It was written in 2004 when I was living in Missoula, MT. It’s the only song on the album that wasn’t written in this past year, but I knew it would fit. I was in a band called Binocular with Paul and Sarah Copoc of the band Two Year Touqe. I was also doing my solo stuff (under the name Veduta) at the time. I played bass and shared the lead vocal role in Binocular. We did really fun indie-rock songs that covered topics like financial aid vampires, my van named Grandpa Whiscuit and the actor Jack Nance. I wrote this one demo and showed it to the band. It was way too dark for Binocular, but we practiced it anyway. It became known as The Bass Song because our cello player switched to bass for the track. We recorded the song, which never had any vocals, and that was pretty much it for the next five years. We never used it because it was more Veduta than Binocuar; it didn’t fit. So five years later I was in Denver working on my new album and I came across the instrumental Bass Song on my computer. I decided to record live drums, re-record my guitar part and finally write some lyrics. Back when we practiced as Binocular the drummer and I used to hum vocal parts, but never wrote anything so I went off that. The lyrics are a story in and of themselves. They are based on a poem I wrote about a short film I did, ha ha, how pretentious! It’s about a stop-motion film depicting items from nature (leaves, rocks, etc.) appearing in each drawer of a triangle dresser (the same dresser that appears in many of my paintings). Anyway, I recorded my parts and then asked my wife Maria to do the back up vocals in the chorus. The end result was a collaboration with Paul Copoc on electric guitar, Sarah Copoc on Bass, Maria Rose doing back ups and myself performing acoustic guitar, drums and lead/back up vocals. I’m very pleased with the end result. I feel the song finally found it’s home and we can all move on. Wow, sorry for that long-winded answer!
AFIN: A new decade is coming: how do you feel the climate of the music industry might change in the 2010s? Any tips for independent musicians/artists out there?E.K.: I like the constant strain on big record companies to keep up with independent music. I love seeing strange new acts poping up on their own minor label and then watching the big guns try to copy it. It keeps things fresh. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. As far as tips, I always say just do what you feel you should be doing. Don’t let trends in sound or style dictate your direction. If you try and mimic what’s hot right now it’ll be cold by the time your stuff gets heard or seen. Be influenced, but use that inspiration to do your own thing. Don’t get caught up in record sales, painting sales, etc. Just create and let your artistic projects do the rest. Money might follow and it might not, but you can’t let that gauge your relevance in the artistic community.AFIN: Are there any new directions or plans you have in mind for taking your music in the future? How about art-wise?
E.K.: Well the plan with this new record from the beginning was for it to be the last for a while. I’ve been releasing albums for almost a decade. I’ve reached the Brian Eno phase in my career where I record what I want with no intention of touring, selling merchandise and boosting album sales. Just because I made the album doesn’t mean I have to play shows to support it. Maybe people will hear it, maybe they won’t. It’s just another project I finished, but I put everything I have into it. I’m ready to really focus in on film scores and other collaborations. I’m working on my first feature film as a director and I’ve also been directing a lot of music videos (yours included). I’ve been laying low art wise. I’ve been doing some photography, but not a lot of painting. I haven’t had any shows recently; I should get on that! I guess I consider film to be art so I maybe I haven’t been laying low. I’ve got a lot of stuff lined up and I’m really excited to see where it takes me.
Shok is an incredibly talented composer/producer/multi-instrumentalist based in Hollywood, California. Through his remix work (see the SoundCloud player at the bottom of the article), collaborations (including Daniel Ash and David J. (Bauhaus/Love And Rockets), Douglas McCarthy (Nitzer Ebb), Mark Caro (Technical Itch), Johnette Napolitano (Concrete Blonde), original compositions, and drumming for Mount Sims, Thrill Kill Kult and Zombie Girl), and seemingly never-ending side projects (Sisters of Mixing– take a listen to “New Cretia”!), Shok has displayed a versatility in his sound and approach with a dark-electro flair. Shok took time to answer some of my questions recently- check out the interview and exclusive track below!
AFIN: What’s your musical background? Shok: Well… let’s see…I have always enjoyed a wide spectrum of music. I grew up with a father who was into jazz and a mother into Motown, disco and soul. My aunt was into psychedelic/ progressive rock in the 70s. I grew up at a time when music was very exciting as NightFlight and Friday Midnight Special hit so huge with their music video clips, that MTV was born and, at that time, MTV was ALL about music, and the more experimental the video, often, the better.
Every Saturday night on MTV was a concert from a different band. These weren’t necessarily current performances, but it was exposure to something new and exciting. One week it could be Thomas Dolby, the next week Genesis (when Peter Gabriel was the singer), the following week could be Prince or Rainbow or even Styx. 120 Minutes surely influenced many folks as well, which was their weekly underground/ alternative Sunday night show. I had already, at that time, mainly been on my own hunt for new sounds. I was often spending my time in cramped record stores, shuffling through the dusty record sleeves or at various record conventions… I initially got into bands such as Clan of Xymox based on their album cover. (At one time, you sometimes *could* judge a book by its cover…)
AFIN: How did you get into producing and remixing? Shok: I had a space for my drums and began recording friends, and then friends of friends wanted to pay me to make them sound good. I kept doing that and when I went to get some of my own music edited/ mastered, I befriended the head of one of the first places in USA to have Protools. I eventually was there so much that I learned how to use it myself and became a partner in the company after some time of working there as an engineer. We worked on everything from cheese dance to rock and even worked on the original music that Ahmir from The Roots was putting together. He would come in and bring his samples on cassette. At the studio, we also did edits on Dr. Dre’s first album.As for remixes, it was word of mouth. Even though my style was more influenced by Wax Trax, 4AD and Mute Records, I was performing at festivals and raves since some of my music was on the original Techno compilations (This is Techno series). My first bigger remix was in ‘97, for Fun Lovin’ Criminals, who were on Capitol/EMI at the time. From there it kept progressing… through the years I have remixed the folk of Mirah to the industrial Haujobb. In the last few years it has been Juno Reactor, West Indian Girl, Traci Lords and even Isaac Hayes/Burt Bacharach. I am currently completing a Fischerspooner remix, a another one for Godhead, and after that is Lacuna Coil.*EXCLUSIVE TRACK!*:
Zeitmahl – Conscience Fades (demo snippet)Additional recommended remixes + download links:
Pink Floyd – “Run Like Hell” (Shok’s Dark Side of the Wall Remix)
Godhead – “Soldier (Shok’s Sold Your Mix)
West Indian – “Solar Eyes” (Solarized by Shok Mix)
Zombie Girl – “Creepy Crawler” (Shok’s Horror Pop Mix)
Covenant – “We Want Revolution” (Shok’s Revalation)
AFIN: What’s your process of making a remix?
Shok: Most often, I like to get a sense of the full song first. I like when a remix takes the song from one style and blends it into another. The best part of remixes is that a song can be transformed to hit different markets and open the ears of new listeners. There have been many examples of how powerful a remix can be… Sometimes, it is the remix that is remembered and not even the original song. For me, it is great when you can hear a remix and it sparks your interest and you find a new artist whose music you will follow. You may have never discovered them otherwise.
So I like to get a sense of the song, and then I choose the strongest hooks. These “hooks” are not limited to melodic lines, but may be drum fills, bizarre incidental noises… any sound that creates the signature of both the artist and the song. Being a producer and working to enhance artists puts me in that seat already, so my gears are already tuned in for this. I then decide a tempo. I use a variety of tools to change the chosen audio pieces to align in the new tempo from Melodyne to Reaper and dump everything into FL Studio or Ableton Live, where I can also change the tempo and or pitch as desired.
People ask me about the origin of many of the drum breaks and loops in my songs and remixes. Actually, these are most often me playing drums. Even though I have a wide variety of mics, pre amps and such in a great space, I tend to most often, record using odd mic choices and replacing some of the drums with items such as a futon frame, cardboard box, plastic paint tub lids…
In FL Studio, for example, I can choose a native vst instrument, called SLICEX, and can effect individual sections of a drum break, vocal section, piano or guitar riff. I take the pieces, get them aligned in time and build a basic structure for my version of the song. After that, I begin chopping snippets of sounds and vocals from the original. I tend to remove most of the sounds or parts provided in the session stems from the original song and often, create new bass lines with my bass guitar or detuned electric or even acoustic guitar. Sometimes the best bass is a detuned acoustic, with the nice warm jacket of fur aka filter and overdrive.
AFIN: What’s your recording/gear situation?
Shok: When I record people in my own studio or record my own vocals for Zeitmahl or Red Light District, I have a Neve/Focusrite Tone Factory, TL Audio and an Universal Audio 1176 (which is seldomly used). Once recorded, I use a chain of vsts including the URS Pro Channel Strip (Unique Recording Software) and the V-64 Vintage Channel by Kjaerhus Audio. I mainly just use my guitars, drums and FL studio with a slew of vsts. I have a proper studio space, however I tend to record from my home with hardwood floors and brick walls. These days, nearly all of my sounds are actually guitar, barely ever any synths, just filtered and effected guitar.
AFIN: That is really curious- I was having a heck of a time trying to tell what was synthetic and what was based off of instruments, when listening!
Shok: I love when the sound is a unique entity, when the listener is not always certain what it is that they are hearing; organic versus synthesized.
AFIN: How tricky is it to remix songs that haven’t been split into separate tracks?
Shok: I have only done this on the occasions when I was doing a bootleg remix, which there have only been a few, such as the Pink Floyd remix that has been floating around recently. For that, I rolled off some of the low end and added my own percussion and extra sounds. The new Melodyne, will supposedly be able to separate individual notes and sections of instruments… you should see the demo video online here. I saw this in person, this past year at NAMM, but something seemed a bit reminiscent of the bearded lady at the carnival.
Shok: These are totally unrelated actually. In 2001, my friend who was handling some of my publishing, also handled Daniel Ash. He called me and asked me if I would like to write with Daniel. I had been a long time fan and had actually known his band mates, Kevin and David for many years, so he and I already knew of each other. Anyhow, after I agreed to work with Daniel, I hung up the phone and moments later, got a call from Daniel. We wound up working together for a few years. We created music for KEEN EDDIE (Fox/Paramount) as well as music for a certain Newgrounds.com music video series.
David and I met through his brother, Kevin, who was the drummer of both Bauhaus and Love And Rockets. I then ran into David a few more times and then we wound up DJing together on the east coast in 2000. I was remixing a song called “Time Has Changed” for Codec & Flexor on Emperor Norton Records (Ladytron, Mount Sims) in 2003, and David came over and lent his bassfingers. We only recently rendezvoused again when I had gone to lunch/ dinner with our mutual friend, Johnette Napolitano, and she wanted to bring me on board to a duet album they were planning. After David came out to a Jill Tracy show where, I performed with my cabaret band, Red Light District, he expressed interest for me to collaborate. We are presently working on material and I am excited to have this opportunity. It is a great feeling to be working with those who’s art influenced you to actually write music in the first place!
Shok: If you want to be a DJ, listen to music and learn about the energy of a song and understand structure, even for each specific tune. Understand audiences, be a great listener. This will make you a better DJ. It is not all about the matching of the beats. You need to find the best sections in music to bring up the energy and drop em off (like a roller coaster), and that is not always at the same spot. It depends on the crowd, the venue, etc. It depends on what kind of a DJ you wish to become. This could be someone making a mix or download or for radio, versus a party in a club event or festival.
As for DJing equipment via software, Traktor is a great tool, as it is similar to mixing records or, better yet, CD mixers. It is very sturdy and I have never seen it crash in the years I have used it for radio gigs and a few one offs. Some folks prefer the vinyl approach with Scratch. In the 90s, your option was 12” vinyl or 7” vinyl or the more obscure 10” vinyl. CD mixers became prevalent toward the mid 90s. Today there many options. Ableton can do some neat tricks with manipulating songs on the fly, too. I prefer mixing with CDs.
For someone wanting to get involved with remixing, contact artists whose music you like, eventually, someone will ask you to do it. Perhaps you will get paid, perhaps not. But if you are doing it just for the business… well… that is another discussion. If you have something special with your sound, perhaps even a flawed style that catches on, you may find yourself with a career!
AFIN: How do you feel about the climate and direction of the music industry right now? Shok: The decline of sales due to downloading has lit the fire for creativity for artists in regard to exciting the fans to want to buy the music and support it. Downloading has spoiled many people… instant gratification has never been greater. I could go into my routine about instant this and that… but we can save that for the coffee shops 😉 I had dinner the other night with a friend from the label, Century Media. They have a great roster of primarily metal bands. The label has over 30 employees and they are going solidly. They have a niche market. The fans of the genre support the music! Electronic music, electro in particular, is interesting because you can locate and download the songs FREE via blogs, file sharing and Twitter links. So what will entice a listener to financially support this? LIVE PERFORMANCES.
I downloaded Depeche Mode’s current album “Sounds Of The Universe” for free, a few months before its release, but I still bought it and it was the BOX set, which was not just one CD, but 3, plus a DVD, 2 books, and other items including badges, postcards and a poster. Even though I have been given passes to one of their upcoming summer shows, I am paying to additional perfomances of theirs to support them directly. Apparently, the new Placebo box set has a slew of items and several of these box sets ship with pairs of tickets to be flown to London to see the band perform! The death of the larger labels has helped fasten a new habbit in true fans to once again pay for music. However, now the payments go directly to the artist or band and perhaps not only for a sale but a donation tip via Paypal, etc.Catch Shok spin music this Friday at his monthly LA party First Fridays @ Medusa Lounge and don’t forget to grab the exclusive track!
Related Projects:Zeitmahl (on Last.fm) – Shok’s baby, he plays all of the drums, bass, guitar, piano, trumpets and sings on this!
Red Light District – 1920s, 30s, Neo-Vaudeville, circus cabaret sent through a time machine to the future.Emit Peels – Soundscape, Ambient music, influenced by Indian raggas and exploration of sound (two albums coming for sale in the next two weeks via FIXT Music)TechItch & Shok – dark rock drum n bass hybrid, sung by various known individuals!
MyLiveTube – Shok’s blog with food, film and fun video