EIGHTEEN: the year of release, 2018. EIGHTEEN: the age at which I first used a synthesizer.
In creating EIGHTEEN I worked independently in the studio, initially building up tracks with synthesizers and found sounds recorded in my daily comings and goings. After working with the tracks over a period of months,I shared them with a few musicians, who added their own instrumental layers. Though working independently, we all shared a similar working process: working in our personal recording spaces, as opposed to larger recording studios.
The musicians are: Gabe Gurnsey (drums) of Factory Floor, with whom I collaborated on the Beachcombing EP and performed live at London’s ICA. I appear on Gabe’s newly released album Physical;
Larry Saltzman (guitar) has played in my Love Of Life Orchestra since the 1970’s. Well-known for his work with Arthur Russell (“Kiss Me Again”, Flying Hearts), he is in high demand in NYC by acts such as Simon and Garfunkel;
Paul Nowinski, (bass) has played with LOLO since the 1980’s. Paul has an impressive list of credits, including Les Paul, Keith Richards, Bernard Purdie and the Boston Pops; Matt Mottel, (electric piano), is the newest addition to the Love Of Life Orchestra. He is half the duo Talibam!, a leading act in the noise jazz scene; Lewin Barringer, (guitar), is a talented guitarist and producer in Philadelphia.
After mixing the final tracks, I brought the mixes to Berlin. There I worked with the brilliant mastering engineer Mike Grinser who helped to give the album a unified sound.
I think of this album as electronic music. It was created in my home studio, using analog and digital synthesizers, found sounds recorded on my phone, and instrumental parts contributed by friends. Finely crafted melodies and harmonies are set against subway noises, street construction, and distant foghorns. Sometimes there are sustained clusters, generated by my leaning against the keyboard. Deliberateness paired with randomness: this is what guided the artistic process.
This album is atypical for me as I am not playing saxophone. (I do play one reed instrument – a harmonica.) I grew up with the sax as my primary instrument. Yet my father was a radio journalist so the reel-to-reel tape recorder was a ubiquitous presence in the family home. From an early age,
I experimented with the tape machine: recording, overdubbing and splicing tape. I learned about Varese from Frank Zappa liner notes; I read John Cage’s “Silence.” Electronic music was on my radar.
My first exposure to an actual synthesizer came when I recorded my first single at the fabled Sound City Studio in Van Nuys, CA. The studio had a custom Neve board, but it also had a firstgeneration Moog modular synthesizer sitting unused in the maintenance room. I asked and they kindly let me experiment with it. Soon, I enrolled at the University of California – San Diego after I discovered they had separate studios for their Moog and Buchla systems. These large modular synthesizers were affordable then only by institutions and rock stars. But these would be soon eclipsed by smaller, cheaper synths in the 70’s and early 80’s. In the same way, recording studio technology became accessible in the 90’s. . And thus the personal computer and digital audio allowed studio quality production in the home studio. Electronic music had become democratized.
Handmade music by way of digital technology: this is the music of EIGHTEEN