|I first discovered the music of Austin's Loren Dent last year, when I received a copy of his album as Lamella, Love Versus Dirt. The music was slow, slightly sad, and deeply atmospheric. Thus, I was quite happy to receive his latest album, Empires and Milk, which continues Lamella's music quite well. I was happy to meet up with him online on a snowy, gray Friday morning--a perfect time for enjoying his music, don't you think?I've really been digging the new album. Tell me a little bit about making it.
Well, I began working on the pieces last spring sometime, just spending my Sundays recording and messing around with what I had. Some of the tracks I literally finished in a day for the most part--maybe 1 or 2 of them. Others took me a couple of months to get where I wanted them. And over the course of those 8 months or so my life was kind of in disarray. I had a botched move to New York City, lost the person I was in love with because of that, and came back and had to start over. So the album in a way is a soundtrack to all of that.
To me, the record almost feels like a soundtrack.
Yeah. When I had all of the pieces finished to where I didn't want to work on them any longer, I spent a few days trying different track orders and such. Eventually I sort of found a story in it all and laid it out in the closest to a narrative form as I could. Of course, that isn't blatantly obvious to people other than myself, given that I know personally where this material came from, where I was at the time, what was going on in my life, and whether they came from pleasant moments or not-so pleasant moments. All I can hope for is that some of that comes across.
The last release you did was with Lamella. Is there a different aesthetic behind Lamella than your solo work?
Well, Lamella was just a moniker. There wasn't really any collaboration with anyone else. The pieces I released as lamella were a little less organic in a sense, more electronic and synthetic at times. At some point I decided I didn't want to hide behind a moniker and just release under my birth name. It seemed more honest.
When you perform live, what kind of setup do you use?
Funny you ask that. I played Wednesday night with some rock bands, and it was the first time I played solo in a rock venue. The shows I've done thus far have been in very controlled environments, where people sit down, it's quiet and very subdued. So I had to figure out what type of show I wanted this one to be. my solution was to play very, very loudly, just try to envelope people in sound while I projected video. it seemed to work pretty well, with the exception of a few minor technical difficulties. but in all cases, my setup is usually laptop, keys and guitar. I do a combination of looping from the laptop and live guitar looping. I'm working on getting string players to accompany me, but that's very much a work in progress.
Do you plan on incorporating more film into your live shows?
Absolutely. The goal right now is to start doing my own film as well as work with other creative types for future performances. I am really into the idea of not just playing shows, but being part of events that people will remember. it really helps just to have some visual element that works thematically with what you are doing. when it all ties together, the audience will remember the whole package, not just some guy on stage playing music. I saw Phill Niblock here in Austin a few years ago and it was a life changing experience, mostly because it was an 'event', not just a show. Austin is full of very talented people. The problem is getting folks together and actually collaborating. There is a certain comfort zone here that facilitates procrastination and flakiness I'm afraid.
I think it's called 'cheap weed.'
And cheap drinks! There's a place you get $1 drinks on Thursdays that makes Friday rather unproductive. Do you frequent Austin much?
Not really, no. I'm kind of a recluse.
I don't blame you; there are tons of reasons to never leave home.
With your desire to look into film, have you added any film to any of your previously recorded work?
Actually, on Wednesday I just showed Koyaniquatsi. I felt guilty in a way, but my intention was to keep a club full of people engaged while they awaited the rock n' roll, and it worked. If only I had been asked to score the music for that film! Who is this Phillip Glass guy anyhow?
Did people enjoy it?
I think so. There was clapping and some hooting, which is a good sign. Some people came up to me afterward to talk about it and I got some good feedback. It's always hard to tell what people think of music like that. I'm a firm believer that most people can appreciate a wide range of styles. And it doesn't help that I'm constantly struggling with self-confidence issues and doubt about what I'm doing. Maybe I'm saying too much. but drinking heavily before and after playing live gets me past a lot of that. But I was pretty nervous, I can't lie. There was a good number of people there, just standing there waiting to be entertained, and I'm sitting at a small table with my guitar, laptop, a micro Korg and a turntable, and they're all staring, wanting something.
Audiences can get surly sometimes w/laptop performers.
Yep. And I understand why. The way a laptop musician performs is very different from watching a band. There is really nothing to see, though I think its becoming more accepted by audiences, especially now that rock bands are incorporating that kind of gear into their live setups.
I remember seeing Oval at an instore in Austin several years ago , and Markus Popp was just sitting there, playing solitaire. It was quite funny.
Oh yeah? Personally, I like to check Myspace at least 3 times during any performance just in case someone commented on one of my pics! For me, it is about the whole package. And if the musician is responsible for what you're hearing during the performance, then you cannot question their integrity or their motivation or their authenticity.
Do people understand that, though?
Some do. Maybe not the rock venue crowd. But then again, after I played I had several people I had never met come up to me and ask what I was doing on the laptop. Some of them were just curious; others wanted me to talk about software, and so on. Either way, nobody was came up to me and accused me of not doing anything or being lazy, or wasting their time or whatever. Maybe they were just saying that to their friends! It is a risky thing though. There were a few moments during the show when the laptop was giving me some shit. And with my set up, if the laptop is giving you trouble, then it's like your drummer walking off stage. Laptops are the new moody drummers.
Do you ever think about putting together a live band?
Yeah, I do. I could have a few people doing sampling, maybe some string players and such. Honestly, I have reservations because of my previous work with bands. When you work by yourself, you are the first and last word on everything. You bypass that democratic impulse to get opinions and such. I know that sounds terrible, but unfortunately those collaborative dynamics slow the whole creative process down. And I'm not that comfortable getting 6 people together and telling them what to play either. Is that fair? Would you disagree?
I understand. Everyone has a little tyrant in them, and some people just don't want that to come out, or they are afraid of being thought of as 'difficult' when it's really just that they know what they want.
Sure. That having been said, I can imagine it working well if I'm patient and the folks I'm working with understand that there is only so much room for their own input on what's being played. I thought about putting together a live score that would be time synchronized and based on a series of chord progressions, then getting together 20 people or so who would all be able to improvise within that structure. Something like that would be either really amazing or unbelievably terrible.That actually might not be hard to find players for in Austin.
Probably not.So, with the album coming out, what are your most immediate goals?
Well, I hope to get some attention paid to it, which requires some patience. I'm working on putting together some out of town shows and constantly working on new stuff. I've always had a hard time not recording and sitting on my hands. I'm imagining another release later this year, but probably something smaller, like an EP or a CDR. I've been working with my friend Jacob Green on some collaborative material that I'm very, very excited about. Some of the best stuff I've been involved in ever. So Contract Killers will probably put that out this year at some point. And then there's getting competent with film. That is my biggest challenge at the moment, and hopefully something will come of it. Oh-- and the Bush administration have commissioned me to put music to their next invasion. I'm entitling it "From Iran with Love, Part 1"Loren Dent's debut, Empires & Milk, is available now on Contract Killers
Labels: Contract Kilers Records, Loren Dent