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Imagined Lands:

An interview with Wayne H.W Wolfson

Based in California, Wayne H.W Wolfson has been a regular contributor to Winamop over the last few years with his short stories. A couple of years back he released a CD with Boston based producer-composer Grenadier which we featured in a review.
Now he is back in the studio, this time with Mars Syndicate, and a new CD is about to be completed for release around the end of May 2006.
We asked Wayne a few questions about the project:

Tell us about the album.

The Album is titled “Midnight Latitudes”. It is a collaboration between myself and Mars Syndicate. It is being released through Con Troppo Records and will be available through all the usual suspects.

The album is a sort of aural-noir movie revolving around a character known only as “The Detective”. It incorporates elements of spoken word/acting, music and ambient soundscapes to tell an open ended, non-linear story.

While there is a definite story, we left a lot opaque. If the story had been done in more of a traditional style, after you learn what happens to everyone it would sort of lose tension upon repeated listening. There are lots of things open to interpretation as far as the narrative goes. While, to some extent all the pieces are connected, they can be listened to individually without one getting the sense that they are only glimpsing the truncated part of a larger body of work.

Above all else, mood and a work of art which is compelling enough for repeated listening was our mission, our goal.

What inspired you to start this very different project?

I am always up for trying a collaboration. Under the ideal situation both artists give the other a new way of viewing and creating their art. The timing had been, by pure chance, perfect. I had just spent a year delving into the music and theories of some of the 20th Century composers (Schoenberg, Ligetti, Le Sixe et al), I had just started tinkering around (again) with instruments myself. I had made one other album and after that experience and what I am doing now and what I am into now, those experiences helped solidify in my head exactly what I wanted and the best way to go about it. Done a year or two ago, this album would be good but not as good.

How did you get together with Mars Syndicate?

There is a great online arts journal called Arts Revolutionaries. (http://artrevolutionaries.com/) Aside from their site, they have an online radio station too. The station had been featuring a single from my first CD. They heard that and dropped me a line. We met in a little no-name bar and over some Laphroig discussed the possibilities of doing this project. We come from very different places, but it very quickly became apparent that the project would work and be an experience.

What have you learned in the process?

To further evolve every artist must leave their comfort zone. There were times during recording I felt self conscious about singing or “acting” as opposed to doing just a dry reading which I often resorted to in the past, but I sucked it up and did it. As uncomfortable as I felt at the time, the album sounds all the better for it. I had a little mantra I would say sometimes before recording, concerning how no one could see the silly faces I would make while trying to hit the notes, and to just go for it.

A few of the pieces are based off of stories I had written way before the project had surfaced. I would never have thought they could be performed in any way orally, since they jumped from perspective and changed tenses, being too rhythmically complex for an audience to follow. At best, the audience would have walked away with an image from these stories which they enjoyed. Now the story is, without having been changed, understandable. Those types of limitations, the concept of the proper medium for me to get a story across, have drastically changed now.

What is the sound like?

Unlike my last project 95% of what you hear is real musicians playing. When we first started we had an idea of a noir-like feel and theme. We wanted to avoid any type of semblance towards nostalgia or any type of homage. We allowed for influences, but really, used those as starting point references.

We initially used some of my more recent stories which all were linked in some way. Very quickly I became inspired and wrote new stuff specifically for the album.

We solidified the plot which then introduced “rules”. We imagined the main character in some Latin American country, Argentina. I liked the idea that to some extant there is a European influence, so you can go to an opera, sit in a café, but the weather is different, the sky is different. It is alien without being too much so, to the point of distraction. We purposely kept it timeless, but since it was this imagined Argentina, we tried to use mainly acoustic instruments, jazz instruments. Now and then we did break our own rules, of course. There is one piece which is a dark, trancy Gamelan piece. This of course has nothing to do with the land the main character is living out his exile in, but it has such mood and power, it works anyways.

Josh “Mad-Chops” is a multi instrumentalist from a musical family. He is actually a double threat in that he is also a studio wizard. The album is full of layered little sonic candies, in many ways it is the return of the headphone album, a dying art.

When we were first planning this whole adventure out, I had expressed my wish to be closely involved, more so than just coming in and knocking out the vocals. We have actually written some of the music together. And were constantly brain storming on the over all feel and sonic lay of the land. Sonically it is very much a joint effort, which for me was an unexpected pleasure. From being more hands on in the music part it opened up new rhythmic possibilities in my writing.

He has some old and obscure equipment too, a sort of musical version of the island of forgotten toys. Aside from vocal aspects I appear on the album noodling around on E-Bowed guitar, electric sitar, and piano. My humble performances, instrument wise are on top of all the things he has going on. I think, for some of this equipment it is their last session and that crumbling beauty he managed to capture further adds depth to what we have done.

For the recording, I had turned the text into a sort of script, everybody got a copy. Each character had their own back story. The back stories do not actually appear on the CD, but when it was time for everybody to record their parts, it gave both their characters and performance more of an organic life/depth.

What kind of music do you listen to?

I have really big ears, but my main thing is classical and Jazz. John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Gustav Mahler and Stravinsky are the guys I listen to all the time. I like some eclectic stuff too. Long have I talked about my enjoyment of The Paris Combo and my crush on Belle Du Berry. Music is such an inspiration to me, I always have something on. What I have on depends upon my mood and what I am doing.

Future plans?

After the album is released we will promote that. We are looking into logistics of some type of small tour. Both of us being jazz fans, we are looking forward to doing some of the pieces live, in a completely different way than they appear on the album.

While we were doing this album we had other musical ideas, more electronic in nature, which did not fit with what we were doing. We will do an album, drastically different than this one, of that type of thing. That is down the road a ways though.

If you'd like to hear a track from Wayne and Mars Syndicate, we have an mp3 file as a free download. All rights reserved.

download Via Reggio This track is "Via Reggio"

© Winamop 2006