INTERVIEW WITH JON LEIDECKER / WOBBLY
1. Let's start with "Playlist" - you said you were nervous about it - is it because of the 'sampling' issue or is there another reason?
No just always nervous before anything comes out, I'm still not sure if putting things out is a good idea.
2. "Playlist" plays like a 'concept album' - with the snippets about radio programming introducing each track - could you talk about the concept of "Playlist"? What ideas triggered you to put this together as a (3") CD?
The framework is sourced from the promotional materials for a company called 'Broadcast Programming', which sells playlists of hit songs to radio stations of various formats. It's filled with friendly voices saying things like 'free up your programming staff to focus on marketing' and so on. Nothing we all don't know about the way commercial radio works, but it's fun to hear it put so blatantly. I carved away all the examples of the actual pop music they're reselling and replaced them with my own music. I'd accumulated a number of pieces that had absolutely refused to have anything to do with each other, and this was the best way to graft everything together. It's certainly not a critique of commercial radio or anything, more like a personal critique of my own music.
3. Both "Playlist" and "Regards" were issued as 3" CDs - do you prefer this format?
The pieces on both albums are all minatures. Tiny discs made sense. I'd been working on this one album for two years, and thought it was about done, but while compiling it I began to realize it was going to be another year of intense micro-editing for it to work. In the meantime I'd been doing these little strict-tempo vertical stacks of loops, totally brain dead simple, just to relax. When Ana and Roc of Alku asked me to do a 3" CDR for them, these vacation pieces all came together, two eps worth. Several pieces on 'playlist' are remixes of things on 'regards'. 'playlist' came out as an okay comedy record. 'regards' just came together intact out of nowhere, it's the one I kind of actually like, which is rare.
4. The note on your CDs that says "sample sources provided upon request" - obviously you don't have a problem in admitting you're making sampled music - what is your attitude towards the idea of sample-based music as it applies to copyright issues? And, beyond copyright issues, some artists refuse to reveal their sampled sources - yet you don't seem to mind disclosing them, why is that?
Part of the reason for including the list on 'regards' was to underline just how little the sources had to do with the result, and on 'playlist' it's self-evident due to the heavyhanded conceptual sludge. To a degree, transpotting is pointless and gets in the way of listening. I think that if People Like Us, Blectum and Kid606 included sample lists, it'd be kind of a distraction; it's not like anyone's confused about the fact that many of the materials are being sourced from other places, they hear how it comes together. Let people ask if they want. I'm personally prone to trainspotting, I love to connect the dots, but I'm hesistant to force others down my path; you shouldn't need to know the sources to enjoy the result. But, when I feel I owe a particular debt to something, or if I just feel a sense of fun in listing the source, I'll list it. The one track where fragments of Coltrane are juxtaposed with David Tudor, it doesn't sound anything like either of them anymore, but it was fun to think about them doing a duet so it's fun to list them. Ethically, if something's been released, it's fair game. If you're sampling something obscure that few people have heard, and your piece is heavily reliant on it, it's good form to point people in the original's direction. I think more people should do this, but understand the very real fear of providing lawyers with a smoking gun. If someone provides you with (or if you come across) unreleased materials, or unreleased finished music, it's very important to both ask the creator and then be loud about where it comes from. I've had unreleased material that I've copied for friends turn up 'remixed' (i.e. blatantly looped intact) and released without a single mention and it makes you feel pretty messed up in the head, it's not nice. But, making music isn't always about being nice.
5. The track composed of "Yo" samples - could you talk about the ideas behind putting that together? Could you describe your working methods - from the initial idea, to choosing sound sources to making the track - using this track as an example?
'Wild Why' is that aforementioned project I've been working on for a few years, and it's a flat out plunderphonic piece after that Oswald guy. All the sounds are taped live off a local commercial rap/hip-hop station, and subjected to thousands of millions of manual edits, pulping the strict tempo into constantly shifting rhythms and reorganizing the lyrical content. As far as choosing the sources in this case: Mainstream pop music in the 80's was just dismal -- the only thing of any value in the pop domain was hip hop. Song structure and production was just being reinvented, it kept exploding and peaking with new highs every year, louder and louder. Then finally it crossed over in the early 90's, and there's been a long retrenchment, a transitional period, and now it's emerged as a bizarrely mutant mainstream, more glossed out than ever. There's no 'urban top 10' anymore, it's just 'top 10', overseas as well. There's a lot of criticism involved in me cutting into it, part of my growing up with it and seeing what a slick beast it's become, trying to figure out what the hell has happened to it. But I grew up with it, even with the criticism, it's about respect.
6. Let me ask you about "Clawing your eyes down to your own throat" - it's only a minute long - it has (to me) a country-meets-Miami-bass flavor - with that guitar pickin' loop and those funky handclaps - it's not as complex as some of your other tracks - but could you talk about this track - beginning with the title?
It's mostly johnny cash samples, with a bit of ritual chanting thrown in. Totally meaningless. The title just sort of seemed like a johnny cash kind of title, sort of.
7. What do you do when you play live? Do you have a gear setup that you are satisfied or are you constantly experimenting with how to get your pieces performed 'live'?
My gear setup has been consistent for about 4 years now; 2-3 dr. samples, 1402 mackie mixer, various effects, one or two keyboards, and a cassette or cd player. The idea is; take different sounds from finished studio pieces, break them back into unfinished fragments, then spread them across the samplers in a random fashion. Then livemix the parts back together hapazardly in real time, trying to find new combinations. No midi, no sequencers, no laptops, all wild sync. Different parts of different songs end up next to each other, and work better, you never know. It's an improvised mess, but ideally, when the audience is there too, hearing it all as you're arriving at a good idea for the first time, that's live music. I'm always bringing aspects of recordings of the live versions back into the finished studio pieces. There's a forthcoming live album on Phthalo documenting gigs from 1999 and 2000. It was supposed to be out a very long time ago, but it's still an okay representation of the live approach.
8. Could you talk about your involvement with the 'off the air' radio program and how that has influenced your music up to today? Do you still do any radio work?
I first heard Negativland's weekly live mix show "Over The Edge" in 1985, and it was just profound back then. It was my first encounter with live improvised electronic music, and it was on the radio, so for me, it's my first love. In many ways it's the best of both worlds, retaining the total technical control you can only achieve in a studio while still connecting with an audience in real time. Especially when you're mixing in the phone calls live, as is the Over The Edge custom.
9. You mentioned playing in Tijuana at the Nortec collective's club - how did that come about and how did it go?
My friend Jose of the band Pepito set it up, and invited me. Met some wonderful people, not just the Nortec guys. Ruben (Fax) and Fernando (Murcof) have great records out on the Static label, in general they're really up to something down there. My set was fun for me, though most everyone left soon after I started playing. It was friday night, people wanted to dance and relax, and got me instead.
10. 'Wild Why' will be released by Tigerbeat6 - considering it took you 3 (or more?) years to finish this piece, what are you working on right now and when would you expect to have new material released?
I keep one long term project going at all times, and procrastinate finishing it by working on many shorter projects, but now that 'wild why' is done I'm just fucked. Right now I have plans for the sequel to 'regards', a 12" single with remixes by friends for Boniato, and an album with Negativland's Weatherman. Working on an opera with Kevin Blechdom. A new People Like Us / Wobbly live album from radio shows we did last April, mp3 versions of 'wild why' live, and an mp3 companion album to the Phthalo live CD. Maybe.