Spinner talked to Doldrums about the music found on his latest six-song EP, 'Empire Sound,' touring, the beauty of imperfection and why Canadian musicians are so unique.
You're just off touring in England and the U.S. How was that?
It was nice in England. People get more excited about Canadian artists over there. I feel like my music makes more sense over there. Maybe it's because the audience lives in an insanely tabloided, saturated culture and my music is just like largely, referential. I don't sample weird obscure shit, and it's most effective for people who might be more attuned.
Why do you think they like Canadians so much?
People are just like, "Oh, I love Canadian bands," like Purity Ring and Braids, and the history of Broken Social Scene and Arcade Fire. Everyone's super stoked on that stuff. I remember seeing Noah "40" Shebib when I was 15 at a folk festival -- he was doing this turntablism thing and now he's working with Drake. Stuff like that is very Toronto; these random, very post-modern one-of-a-kind artists who aren't part of any scene. Like F---ed Up, Crystal Castles, even Drake, they're all kind of anomalies within their own genre. I think that defines Toronto artists. I mean, I love indie rock, I'm just over it.
So is the Doldrums stuff in reaction to being over indie rock?
It's kind of about being over music in general. Originally, I wanted it to be music created in a void, where this fictional character has never heard anything and has no basis of reference for what he's doing. It's this childlike creative impulse that I know every artist feels, where you're confronted with your materials and you have no history of what they're used for. That kind of led me to see Doldrums as, 'F--- you, I'm not going to use guitars or any instruments. I'm just going to sit in a room and play drums.' And from there I started using more found sounds and incorporating more explosions, which led me to sampling and then the whole project became less conceptual and more music-based.
Your music feels childlike, why is that so important to you?
Surely you remember these pivotal moments for yourself. When that first rush happens, it's in its purest, most altruistic state and the loss of that... I was in a rock band for so long and the fiction and reality start meeting in a very vague place where you're not sure what the culture means anymore. The childlike state is me sitting in a room with everything that's ever been made as materials and thinking how you can add to this huge pile of s--- that's built up. So what you do is you build a castle out of these pieces.
OK, so a fort, like when you were a kid.
Yeah! It's very playful. I listen to music all the time and I still like to reference stuff through melody, but I don't want to get together with my bros and jam out a new song on the guitar. I find it hard to remove that from the context of its historical past. You can see it with jazz now; it's not an expression, you're presenting your take on this form.
Going back to the pivotal childhood moments, do you remember yours?
My dad's a musician and he's part of a really strong Canadian folk festival circuit. I learned to play guitar in these huge backstage jams, which are like 50 singer-songwriters playing the Weight. But the things that instilled this sense of self and wonder were two albums, which were my dad's, Radiohead's 'Kid A' and Bjork's 'Vespertine.'
Are you a technophile?
I've always liked how you can break certain elements of technology as creation. Just by improperly using music gear you can usually make more emotive music than by programming it correctly. When I was making videos last year, I was running all these VHS tapes through some broken video gear. The first Doldrums project was kind of multimedia; that's the thing I hope to keep doing again, when I finish this next bunch of songs.
There's some Bollywood samples on your stuff. Tell me about that.
Yeah, I love Bollywood music. My friend brought back some comps from New York of like '70s psych s--- and since I heard that I've been going to record stores and writing down the name of every world music psych comp I can find and going home and downloading them. Since then I've expanded into Turkish, Singaporean stuff. But late '60s-'70s stuff for sure, because after that it starts getting more accurate at replicating Western music. At first they were kind of getting it wrong, which was beautiful because you get these decontextualized interpretations.
What's your next record going to sound like?
I improvise a lot when I play live and I record myself live and I've built up just so many loops and little ideas and skeletons of songs and stuff. I'll probably end up using that in the final.
Portishead were big believers in the perfection imperfection of those first takes...
Yeah, well that's what I was saying about happy accidents and breaking machines. These are both incidents where unpredictability and getting something wrong is what you like the most.
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