I interviewed Pulse emitter for my Gridlords project recently! Read it!
Daryl, I have to say having you performing live music with Maia’s visual show is very exciting for me. I am a major lover of synthesizer music and have always been drawn to performing arts that involved such. I can remember watching dance pieces on TV that were set to improvised Vangelis performances, and of course, loads of over-the-top visual theatrics by Jean Michel Jarre, who ultimately ripped off another synthesizer musician and visual sculptor, Bernard Szajner, the inventor of the laser harp. The pairing of synthesizer composers with some element of experimental visual arts is now almost a modern tradition. Have you yourself worked with, or accompanied, other such visual artists for live performance in your work?
I’ve collaborated with Ashby Lee Collinson on her Princess Dies videos which were filmed live in a television studio. Those were a phenomenal creative experience. I’ve worked with Weird Fiction, a live video performance group. I generally love live video art but avoid playing to a DVD. Sometimes at a show there is random video playing behind all the sets; I always request that the projector be turned off when i play in those instances. Maybe someday I’ll make a DVD that is meant to be played behind me.
Are there other synthesists, contemporary or from the past, that you have seen perform with visual artists that are inspiring to you?
Le Révélateur with Sabrina Ratté, and Demons with Alivia Zivich.
Who are your influences? Did you grow up listening to music composed on synthesizers or did you get gatewayed into it listening to Phil Collins like me?
I grew up in the ‘80s also hearing synthesizers in pop music, not knowing what was making that sound but knowing that i loved it. It wasn’t until college that I got into electronic music that was happening at the time — Aphex Twin, The Orb, Future Sound of London, Steve Roach. And i was also exploring the older stuff like Tangerine Dream and Vangelis. I have a lot of influences outside electronic music as well, too many to get into really.
I was fortunate to see Laurie Anderson perform on my birthday last month, and her entire performance was set to gorgeous synthesized tones that were being triggered via one of her modified electric violins which was just making my mind explode imagining how that worked. She was triggering the most unnatural sounds from it! You appear to work with custom instruments yourself. Do you build synthesizers or electronics yourself, and what can you tell us about that? In the realm of music, many individuals’ stylistic approaches to music are audibly recognizable & can feel very distinct. But in the open arena of endless possibility that is electronic music, when I hear musicians that use home-built or personalized electronic instruments, I feel like that enables their sound palette to be more distinct, and in turn more synonymous with its builder/player. Do you feel that the equipment you use that is custom enables you to get a closer sound that feels more expressive of yourself as an individual?
My modular synthesizer is hand-built, but mostly from kits and DIY projects, I’m not a designer, I can solder things together and do modifications but in the end I am a music composer, not an electronics designer. I do enjoy that my synth is handmade though, because it makes a lot of crude sounds that, from my experience, the store-bought synth modules can’t make. Those ones are more stable and professional and have all the wrinkles ironed out. A DIY synth is much nastier and I appreciate that. I must say, the keyboard synths that I use are a greater part of my sound lately; the handmade modular synth is just one voice, it’s not my only instrument.
When I was sent a video by my friend Dunja of Maia performing, set to one of your compositions, I absolutely melted with excitement! I immediately recognized your song, but it immediately captivated me. It was a piece that she did in the Flink festival in Berlin. Your song in that video was like what the soundtrack to Close Encounters should have been! Im a big fan of the music the aliens in Close Encounters produced and I loved how the aliens made fun of John Williams in reprising many of his famous scores with bowel-shaking bass sounds, but that aside, I always felt like that film would have been better suited to a more experimental synthesized soundscape. In fact most of the time when I think of that movie, outside of its theme, I believe my imagination has replaced the music of that film with imaginary Harald Grosskopf.
Glad you liked that video, I did too, I’m excited to be playing with Maia live! In Close Encounters I love that the synth is the means of communicating with the aliens. I love a lot of older films that DO have synth scores, particularly when they are as well done as Blade Runner and Escape From New York. Tangerine Dream did some good ones too.
It is more than common that instrumental music compels people to desire a visual to accompany it. Why do you feel that the lack of lyrical content, which itself is not even directly visual, gives many the desire for a visual accompaniment, or that it even most often feels like there is a cinematic quality to most instrumental work?
I guess it makes sense that a lack of lyrical content would prompt more visuals. But I mostly just notice it in electronic music and I figure it’s because it’s often not that interesting to watch live. You know, someone up there with a table of boxes, turning knobs.
I most recently saw you perform at an album release party for another synthesizer contemporary, Golden Retriever. It appears that many other acts that are experimental synthesists like Bee Mask or Oneohtrix Point Never are gaining more attention. Do you feel like there is a renewed interest, similar to the new age boom, in synthesizer-composed music with the success of acts like Golden Retriever, who have been released by a larger label like Thrill Jockey?
I can only hope so!
You have worked a lot in noise music in your past, which has smoothed into this very beautiful sound you have now. I spoke once with Dirk of Schneider ™ and he was telling me about how he was doing music like the Velvet Underground for years and then was in a metal band and then suddenly had a harsh noise project that became synth pop and it was so funny for him to think back on it and be touring around the world playing much weirder music than his much more conventional beginnings. Did you ever do other different forms of music?
Yeah, I played bass in symphonic and jazz bands in school, as well as rock bands. On my own before starting Pulse Emitter, I was making an odd mix of electronic music with synths, sampler, computer and tape. Almost none of it ever made it out.
What is next for you? Are you touring or currently woking on something exciting that you can tell us about?
I have a new LP which I am very excited about, it’s called Crater Lake and it’s coming out on Immune Recordings by year’s end. Looks like I’m going to make it to the East Coast in the spring for a festival. And I’m slowly getting started on the next recording project. As the days get shorter i tend to spend more time in the studio.