INTERVIEW: TAYLOR DEUPREE: CHAIN DLK (2006)
INTERVIEW WITH TAYLOR DEUPREE
by Andrea Ferraris
Chain D.L.K.: Speaking about minimalism and pop, I've been positively surprised by the fact that your latest release has become more and more melodic without betraying your personal approach. But being so hyper-prolific, aren't you afraid of repetitions?
Taylor Deupree: I really make a conscious effort to continually explore new sounds and new approaches to writing because I want to avoid doing the same thing over and over again. I don't think anyone could honestly say I do the same thing on each album. In fact, in the '90s I felt like I was varying my sound TOO much and that I had lost focus. Now I try to push in new directions but at the same time work within the same mindset or with the same set of inspirations. Also, I like to do a lot of collaborative work. This is a really great way to learn new techniques from other artists and ideally creating a sound which is not so much a layering of myself and someone else, but a multiplication. 1 + 1 = 3, I like to term it.
Chain D.L.K.: "Northern" is full of acoustic or "non-electronic" instruments, since your production work with Eisi is relatively recent; has it influenced the way you worked on your solo records?
Taylor Deupree: Absolutely...the album with Eisi was easily the most challenging project I've ever done but I also picked up a lot of techniques and learned a lot from the process. Working with more traditional instrumentation and vocals brought on a lot of mixing challenges. For example, certain types of equalizers would work better for different instruments than others...things like that. I learned a lot about mixing. I've been interested in blending acoustic and digital sounds for a number of years, and really began working with guitarists back in 2003 with the release of the "E.A.D.G.B.E" compilation on 12k. "Northern" was the first time I incorporated the sounds on a solo album. It was all quite natural, though, as I was taking inspiration from my new natural surroundings as well as from my work in the '80s with my good friend Bryan Strniste which was quite pop and utilized many different instruments and vocals.
Chain D.L.K.: "Northern" is really filmic, have you ever considered composing the soundtrack for a movie? I've seen that your last work is accompanied by some nice black and white winter postcards, is that all of the visual influence you drew upon while working or have you been influenced by other images/movies/landscapes? I mean, obviously every musician/artist is influenced by whatever happens/is around him during the composition/recording process but is there a particular influence -- for example Sonic Youth always say their music is deeply influenced by New York City, Seefeel's "Ch-vox" by a bad period Marc Clifford was experiencing, etc.?
Taylor Deupree: As you said, Northern was influenced by everything around me as well as the themes that flow through a lot of my work such as stillness, the suspension of time, minimalism, etc. But, more specifically the black and white winter landscapes, which were all taken at our new house, and the move out of the city up into the country were big influences. My life has been at a very transitional time for the past couple of years, and I'd say also a difficult time. One thing that I really set out to do was create an album without too much force or direction. I wanted to create something that simply came naturally. I was in a brand new studio, my surroundings were new, I just wanted to see what flowed out naturally, to embrace my new surroundings and let the music come out.
Chain D.L.K.: You've said: "When I was 8 my favourite band was Kiss...when I was 10 my favourite band was the Beatles and later new wave." But can you remember when and how did you discover electronic music?
Taylor Deupree: The electronic music definitely came from '80s new wave. The bands I was listening to then were primarily electronic. When I was 13 my parents bought me Kraftwerk's "Autobahn" and I was also listening to a lot of Jean-Michel Jarre at the time. I was also a product of the video game generation. Our family had an early computer in the house (a TRS-80) that I would program and I spent many weekends in video arcades. I was sucked into this new digital wave and grew up as the personal computing industry grew up. Through high school I was quiet and tended to seek out lesser travelled paths and to specifically follow interests that others were not interested in. This led to listening to a lot of alternative music and even within that circle I would seek out more unknown bands, a lot of them ended up being electronic in nature.
Chain D.L.K.: I find interesting the fact you decided to start a label focused on "unconventional Japanese pop"; I also think there's a sort of continuity between that, the music you play and 12k. At last minimalism had been deeply influenced by Asiatic (and also by African) culture. Is it a matter of aesthetics or did they promise you loads of sushi?
Taylor Deupree: The sushi definitely plays a part...it's my favorite food! But, yes, I think there is starting to be a crossover with what Happy has been doing and what 12k has been doing. Happy really set out to be a non-electronic label, I wanted to take it far, far away from 12k -- even do indie rock. But I've found that to be beyond my means, really, and I often think about merging the two labels...basically allowing 12k to expand into more rhythmic territory if I wanted it to. Also a lot of 12k's artists are incorporating some more "pop" (for lack of a better term) elements. On the latest Sawako CD, for example, she used vocals, a first for 12k. The upcoming Fourcolor CD features piano on one track and is definitely a new sound for 12k. Back in 1997 I had a huge artist's revelation and began to merge all of my influences from art and music and focus my aesthetics into a more cohesive whole. I think now I am coming to one of those times in life again, to re-assess what I'm doing and collapse it into a new hybrid of aesthetics.
Chain D.L.K.: Many people criticize the fact that lots of Americans, when becoming fond of eastern philosophy/aesthetics, disfigure its original notion -- like they say happened with western Buddhism or western Hare Krishnas. What do you think of it?
Taylor Deupree: I try to stay safely away from a lot of the deep philosophy because these are very deep and ancient thoughts that I simply do not have the authority to debate. I do not want to speak of original notions, for fear of distorting them. Instead I will read books and take away thoughts and inspirations on whatever sort of level they reach me at. Take Wabi-Sabi for example. This philosophy is so ingrained in Japanese culture that they themselves don't even speak of it or know how to describe it. So how can I? What I know, on a simple level, is that it's the appreciation of imperfectness and a sense of ephemerality and non-permanence. Those ideas right there are enough to excite me and to get me thinking in ways that I can really parallel to my music. I don't need to intrude on the sensitive philosophies or claim to be an expert at something I'm not.
Chain D.L.K.: You've also said, "Graphic design takes up a lot of my time, but it allows me to work at home. It's allowed artists to really take back control of the recording process because everyone can afford to do it in their own homes." It sounds like you put a lot of stress on staying at home. Are you spending that much time at home? And which are the main occupations of Taylor Deupree when he's not working in graphic design, on music or on the label?
Taylor Deupree: I have a family now, a 3-year old son, who is the center of my life. So every moment that I can stay at home is precious to me. In terms of music, I am most interested in what the studio has to offer, as opposed to live performance, so I really prefer to work there. Also, 12k takes up a lot of time, managing releases, processing orders, etc. All that is done out of my home office. There is not much time in my life after being a busy musician, label owner, and graphic designer. So my occupation besides that is to play with my son, be a father, play ice-hockey, spend time with friends. And maybe if I have a spare hour, sit outside under the trees and try to relax.