How are you? You recently released a new album, would you like to talk about that record and how it was created?
I’m doing well, thanks! Yeah, “Sunyata” came out at the beginning of the year. I’m pleased with how it turned out. I was going through a rough period in my life, and working on that record helped me stabilize. Structures was a bit of a “pop” record, and this was me getting back to my esoteric roots.
You’ve released many records before, what’s your musical background and when did you start releasing records?
My dad played music, so I grew up with it. I was in band in school, and learned to read sheet music, played sax and clarinet. You know, all that formal training and lessons. Blah! Then I was in bands through high school and college, all kinds of music. Then I stopped for a while, finished college and didn’t pick back up until 2005 when Hyoshi came out.
Simulacra Records has a talented catalog of artists. What’s your relationship like with them, the label and how has your career progressed alongside them?
I got signed onto Simulacra back in 2005, and I didn’t really know Todd Gautreau (Tapes and Topographies, Sonogram, Crushed Stars). Now we’re good friends. He mixed the last three Gentoo albums. I also know Jeff Ryan (Myopic). Jeff played drums on a couple of tracks on Structures. Great guy, insanely talented. Saw him play with Motorcade last month.
Who/what are your musical influences?
I get a lot of inspiration from books. I read any chance I get, perfect way to escape. I try and imagine characters or scenes as songs, which allows me to be really abstract. David Lynch is a big influence as well, his entire creative process. As far as music, Autechre, and Arovane were inspirations for me in the early days. I love all kinds of music, anything where you can tell the artists cares deeply about what they’re doing. Damien Jurado is wonderful. PJ Harvey. Tim Hecker. John Coltrane. After a project, I have to take a break from electronic music for a while. I’ll listen to something with a lot of guitar or vocals.
What’s the music scene like in Texas? Have you traveled to perform and/or collaborate?
The music scene in Texas (Dallas area in particular) is really great. The folks running DAMN (Dallas Ambient Music Nights) are great. They are doing some wonderful work promoting artists around here. Sadly, because of politics we get ignored a lot; but there is a huge art/music scene in Texas. I don’t travel to perform much. I’ve played a DAMN, and I played Absinthe Lounge a couple of times. I’d love to go to Tokyo and do a show. I’ll condense everything to a laptop for that. I played on a couple of Sonogram tracks. Diodes and Telescopic.
Can you describe the politics within the Dallas music scene? Is it promoters and clubs not looking to take a chance with newer acts and genres?
I think the club thing is a bit of business politics. Bar owners have to make a profit, and it’s risky to stray from the paradigm of traditional bands. Places like NYC, Berlin, and San Francisco can afford to take risks. They have a larger crowd from which to pull. That’s why Max’s Kansas City, The Hacienda, and CBGBs are legendary. They took risks, pushed beyond traditional thinking. Dallas has tried. RBC and Texas Theater try; Crown and Harp did before it closed. As patrons, we need to do a better job supporting artists.
How do you see Simulacra Records within the Texas music scene?
Simulacra is unique in that they have ambient, electronic, but also some indie rock stuff. Crushed Stars, of course, being the big one. Stanton Meadowdale’s album is great. They just released Future Children too, which is an homage to LaMonte Young. The thing with Simulacra is that Todd lets you be an artist. He believes in the importance of music, and how it enriches humanity. It’s very important that we not lose sight of the arts.
Where do you see yourself within the “electronic” music scene? Do you think you’re expanding on the genre or that your style has been always been around?
I like to pretend that I’m expanding on the genre, but I don’t know. That would be a question for the listener I suppose. It’s so easy to get pigeonholed with electronic music, instead of thinking “this is just a tool I use to make music.” If I could make the stuff I wanted to make using a kazoo, I’d use that..
What’s your studio look like? How do you go about creating a track? Any tips or tricks?
A mess. Lol Seriously, there are cables everywhere. I have never been a neat person. I do love that analog gear is having a type of Renaissance. I have several analog and digital synths, and a modular system (that I love!). There are a few plugins I can’t live without: Absynth is a go-to for me, and the Wavestation VST. I run everything through Ableton. Ableton fits my brain, it’s very immediate. I record audio straight in. I’ll record a lead or bass five or six times and keep the one I like best. So it’s like making a live record. Tips, eh I would say don’t be afraid to try something unorthodox. Just because a patch says “bass” doesn’t mean you can tweak it to be a pad just by changing the filter.
Do you have any advice for amateur artists/musicians?
Don’t get discouraged. It’s hard work, and things won’t always go the way you plan. As long as you’re honest with yourself in what you want to make creatively, you’ll be a lot happier. Stay away from forums and comment threads. There are some out there that have good advice on technique or gear, but most of them are people complaining or trolling. Music is for people who want to escape from day-to-day crap, not for folks to pick apart and tell you how they would have done it. Those guys aren’t why you’re making art.
What’s the future look like for Gentoo?
Every time I finish an album I say, “I’m done. I’m not doing another album,” then two months later I’m back at it. Each project takes its toll on me. When you do everything yourself, it gets pretty rough. I have to go out into the woods and recharge. Usually I try a different synth or pick up the bass or something and go at it from a new angle. So for the next month I’m retired. LOL!