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  • Strategy
    Friday, September 7, 2007

    What is the, ahem, strategy of Strategy? From talking to Paul Dickow, the strategy seems to be record, record, record, followed by manipulate, rethink, reimagine, and rerecord. It's said a good writer should always rework a first draft, and a good writer must always edit. Why wouldn't this theory work with musicians? Well, Dickow highlights just why such work ethics are beneficial. For years, he's made music by himself and with others, and his latest work, Future Rock is a wonderful collection of intelligent instrumental music and, yes, dance music. Here, he tells us a little bit about his creative processes. It's an interesting read.

    Listen To: "I Have To Do This Thing (Fantastic Planet Mix)"

    Several of Future Rock's songs are built upon other songs you've composed in the past. Do you, as an artist, believe a song is ever really finished? When you compose, do you constantly reevaluate and revisit your songs after you've reached a point where you thought you've "finished" them?

    Yeah, I do. Once a song is officially released, I'll think, "Well, it is what it is." When I compose, I compose in stages, and I can endlessly recycle that idea, but I have to tell myself, "Stop! You have to finish the record!" And if I feel the song isn't really finished, I might take the most compelling part of that composition, strip it down to that element, and make a whole new composition out of it. So that song, had it gone into that other trajectory, and if I'd not had to finish it by a certain deadline, might be what the original idea would have evolved into had I had more time to work on it. Or, I'll have a song that's a really cool, really heavy track, and I'll redo it in an ambient version. There was even a time when every singe track I wrote would get two treatments: one that was really ambient, and one that was much fuller and compressed, or more beat-driven. I would let a song develop all of these different expressions. The way to satisfy that problem of nothing ever getting done was to do different versions of it and let it develop into something different, so that every song could play out the many different possibilities I knew I could pursue. Not every song is like that, though. A lot of songs start off hard, but they actually come to a logical conclusion, and aren't really that complex.

    What you describe sounds like it could be frustrating. Are you a perfectionist?

    I don't know if I'm a perfectionist. I think I just have a hard time knowing when to quit! (Laughs)

    You could wind up sitting in the studio for days...

    Sometimes it's hard to get anything accomplished in one sitting. I almost sometimes don't start working in the studio because it's so hard to stop. I know I don't have much time to devote to it, so I just don't get started. But there are times when I am not like that; I'll plug everything together, open up my work, and see where things are at; I'll listen to the things I've previously done and it'll inspire me to do something new rather quickly, and then I'll start to hone in on that creative zone.

    Do you find that the same applies to Nudge, or when you're working with other musicians in the room?

    When I'm working with Nudge, I give up my sense of leadership, to an extent. It's a lot more about letting the group do what it does, because what they do is a bit different than what I would do, so I'm able to contribute with that vision in mind, and I don't have to make it sound like it's completely my vision. Instead, I'll sit back and listen, and I'll contribute this little noise here, or I'll add what I see is a logical progression here and there. It's not completely selfless, but it's a much more self-effacing thing. With Nudge, I'm composing things that are a lot more minimal, and the music we make is a lot sparser. It's not often I work with them, though, and the "competition" I have in terms of songwriting isn't present with Strategy. When we get together, Brian and Honey have often developed the chord progressions or the melodies, and I add the embellishments. That's not to diminish my role at all, but a lot of times my part is collaborating on that, or I give them ideas on where things they've already done could go next. That's a different way of working, playing around with others, and it satisfies a different part of my brain.

    Is there a particular song that has vexed you, that you've yet to finally perfect in a way that satisfies you?

    Hmm...I'd have to think about that. (Pause) I feel like there is some material I've always wanted to pursue a little further. The last song on the record, "I Have to do this Thing," has already had two versions, and I still feel like I have to do another version of it. I find it interesting, though, that it keeps on wanting to grow and change. But that's not really vexing for me. What I find vexing is when I have a fully formed song or idea, and that one little idea is out of tune or out of sync with the rest of the song, and it just won't fit or be fixed. It'll leave me unsatisfied, a lack of conclusion on a tune.

    "I Have to Do This Thing"--ironic title, based on what you said.

    (Laughing) Yeah, it is ironic. I've never thought of it that way, but it seems funny now that you mention it.

    Strategy's Future Rock is available now on Kranky

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 5:20 PM  
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