Floating between his Brother Blue & Tanuki House projects recently, Tim Gray has taken the time to record a rare mix under his ambient alias along with answering a few questions.
Following on from the momentum you had in 2013, 2014 was extremely productive; Tanuki Dreams on Gterma, the creation of Tanuki House & Brother Blue projects, along with a string of releases.
Tell us about the past few months & your start to 2015.
I played quite a few live shows in 2014, which is always exciting but takes away time and focus from recording new material in the studio. I now have a new Ethernet live setup that is conducive to long-form improvisation, so I’ve used that for my recent shows and have shifted my focus back to recording. I recorded a lot of Tanuki House and Brother Blue tracks last year, so there will be quite a few releases coming up…
Two Tanuki House tapes are in the works, with more in planning, and a Brother Blue full-length album on Recycled Plastics should be getting released within the next few weeks! I also have a new Ethernet album that I finished last Fall and found a label interested in releasing it, but it probably won’t get released until 2016.
I’ve been recording a lot of ambient drones and abstract minimal pieces in the past couple of months, often as an effort to calm and clear my mind at the end of my work days. I’ve compiled quite a few of them into sequences that I think would make good tapes; I’m hoping to connect with some tape labels this year to start getting them out. In the last week I have just released the first drone tape on my own Kenoma Tapes imprint, which I’ll be using to release some of this drone material as well as some Ethernet live set recordings from the past 5 or so years. That feels quite busy when I look back on it, but I am always feeling like I could and should be doing more! I work a full-time day job in medical IT, so I always have to creatively find “spare time” to work on music…
For the Virtual Reality EP you created 100 handmade CDs with silkscreened sleeves, why handmade CDs? Have you considered releasing on other formats?
I’ve always enjoyed the DIY self-release aesthetic. I released two tapes of.. let’s say “amateur” industrial/dark-wave music when I was in highschool, and have done other very-tiny-editions of 3” CDRs with hand-painted covers and that sort of thing. More recently, I did a small edition of 33 handmade CDRs for my “Temples” album.
The Virtual Reality EP was put together by Lifelike Family, a local Portland label. They did all the design and printing in-house, with just a little direction from me on concepts for the cover. They have great design on all of their releases, and I was really happy with how that release came out.
As I mentioned above, I also have just released a cassette of drones, and have several more tapes lined up for release in the next year. I am a big fan of the resurgence of tapes. They are very cheap to produce, especially if you are willing to DIY any part of the process, and they are great physical artifacts just to attach download codes to. I also love tape hiss.
I would love to release my music on vinyl someday. Unfortunately it is quite expensive to do a proper self-release, and I’m not confident that I could sell them on my own without the backing of a label. So, hopefully I will connect with a label that wants to release vinyl, and maybe one release will lead to another..
Did the move from Syracuse, New York to Portland have any influence on your production?
Probably, although it was over a long period of time. I moved from Syracuse to Oakland, CA in 2003, to do an MFA program at Mills College. That move was a huge change of scene for me in pretty much every sense. I started producing music under the name Ethernet in 2008, while living out in the middle of nowhere in Northern California, and moved to Portland in 2010. Moving to Portland felt like “returning to the real world” (in terms of responsibility, full-time employment and not living like a hermit), and I became much more active in producing and performing my music, attending lots of shows and networking.
After your first self released EP in 2008, the Orgonite EP was released on a non profit Japanese label Bump Foot, run by Japanese artist / composer Tatsu, how’d did that come up?
I had been following netlabels for quite a few years and Bump Foot by that time had put out a huge number of releases, so I think I kept seeing that name around and thought my music could be a good fit. At the time, I had been making sort of weird minimal techno tracks using a piece of free software called Jeskola Buzz. Buzz is a very cool program that is a cross between old “tracker”-style sequencing and modular environments like Reaktor, MaxMSP or the old Nord Modular editor… There are a lot of strange experimental modules with tons of controllable settings, which I would use to set up complex processing patches that would be constantly changing and morphing the sound… That has sort of been my approach to sound design for the past 15 years. Anyway I made this EP and it felt different enough from my previous efforts, which I’d produced under the name Oneironaut, that I felt like I should use a new name. So, I used Ethernet, but really the Orgonite EP is just barely similar to the rest of the Ethernet catalog… It is much more “techno” and not particularly ambient, although it does explore things like non-4/4 time signatures and combining experimental textures with rhythms. I kind of don’t consider the Orgonite EP to be a proper Ethernet release in retrospect, but it was great to work with Tatsu and I was extremely happy to have something of mine released on a net label!
Do you delve into any other art aside from music?
Every now and then I will get inspired to do some drawing or painting. I particularly enjoy painting but I never seem to make the time to do it consistently. I also love to cook!
Nintendo sounds were mentioned as some of your first musical memories, given the nature of your atmospheric production have you considered gaming production?
I would definitely be interested in getting into that realm, but it is not easy for me to intentionally set out to make a specific style or mood in my music, so I’m not sure how well I would handle being given a project like music for a game. If anyone is making a very hypnotic trance-inducing game, I would be happy to contribute some drones for that!
What is your interpretation of defining ambient music?
I guess I think of ambient music as music that can function as background for a space, but also has depth and can be listened to with full attention. I personally think the term “ambient music” is most appropriate for non-abrasive soundscapes on the soothing/calm side of the spectrum, but I imagine there is a lot of grey area nowadays.
You’ve cited David Lynch as an influential figure growing up, what do you think of his attempts at music?
I was a big fan of David Lynch’s films growing up, and have continued to enjoy his recent stuff, especially Inland Empire, but I have honestly not paid much attention to his music. I am not a big fan of vocals/lyrics in my music anymore, so I’m rarely in the mood for that sort of thing.. Of course I always dug the scores that Angelo Badalamenti did for his films. I went on youtube and listened to some clips from his “The Big Dream” album, and I can definitely hear the Lynch vibes in it.. The music is nice, I like the guitar, but I find myself thinking I’d like to hear the instrumental tracks without the vocals..
What records haven’t left your bag recently?
This is like the hardest question because I am constantly listening to new records and don’t tend to listen to the same thing over and over in heavy rotation. I have been keeping a listening journal on twitter for the past several years, where I post every album I listen to in its entirety for the first time. I also try to do my own “best of the year” lists every year, so go check those out if you want a big list of favorites!
Recently I have really enjoyed the new Robert Haigh CD “The Silence Of Ghosts”, he makes stunningly beautiful piano pieces. Carl Hultgren’s (of Windy & Carl) solo album “Tomorrow” from last year was fantastic and got a lot of play here. I recently discovered the Spekk label and really dig their releases, and I follow what 12k is doing, and Kranky of course.
The Deepchord reissues of DC10/11/12 and 13/14/16 from last year were fantastic. I’m always paying attention to the techno and house releases on M>O>S, Delsin, Rush Hour, Smallville, and a bunch of other little labels. And of course I am always going back to the many releases of Sun Ra (especially ‘60s era), Andrew Chalk, Harold Budd and Kawabata Makoto’s solo releases as a sort of “head cleaner” when I am feeling tired of everything else.
I’ve said it before, but I could probably just listen to the back catalogs of those four and be perfectly satisfied, but there is always so much new amazing music to hear!
Human Mesh Dance – Satellites (Ring The Sky) (Instinct Records, 1994)
Uzecht Plaush – Wetzone Rapture (Apollo, 1994)
A Positive Life – Aquasonic (Beyond, 1994)
Move D – Beyond The Machine (Source Records, 1995)
Tetsu Inoue – Karmic Light (Fax +49-69/450464, 1994)
Deep Space Network – Xplorexpandexperience (Source Records, 1993)
Cabaret Voltaire – Other World (Plastex, 1993)
Spacetime Continuum – String Of Pearls (Reflective, 1996)
Heavenly Music Corporation – Riding Windhorse (Buddhafields) (Silent, 1994)
Another Fine Day – Green Thought (In Green Shade) (Beyond, 1994)