Michael Shank performing as Ike Shark at The Windup Space in Baltimore
Michael Shank performing as Ike Shark at The Windup Space in Baltimore
Editor’s Note: Greg here from the Hero Shores Transmission. One of the main ideas pushing this web page is for others to learn about the thought processes that go on behind the creative expression in people’s lives. A second idea driving this site is for the person that gets interviewed to then interview someone they find inspiring or interesting. Mat from Mobtown studios has been the first to take us up on this offer and we are very pleased with the result. Please enjoy Mat’s interview with the artist Michael Shank.
I first met Michael Shank while he was playing guitar in the post-rock band “We Used To Be Family”. I produced their record at Mobtown Studios. While we didn’t chat or bond that much during the recording, we’ve since had much more time to get to know each other.
He is the quiet articulate guy in the many bands he plays in now as well as playing solo sets from time to time. I always knew there was a spark of creativity that was endless in him. When he’s not playing with bands he makes incredible remixes for bands he likes.
Michael has a sense of when and where the guitars should be placed. One of the most important roles of a guitarist is often knowing when not to play and Michael has a great understanding of that mentality.
One of my favorite attributes of Michael is the ability to make his guitar sound nothing like a guitar. It’s that thing Eno does to guitars. I am not sure it’s intentional with Michael as he’s so comfortable changing the sounds he makes with the few pedals he has. At times it sounds like a machine or a wirey piece of metal. But at the same time it’s human, dense and with an intense warmth and subtlety.
I was lucky to have had the pleasure to interview him last month and get a greater insight to his background and thought process.
What is your first memory of music?
My earliest memories of music are tied to hazy feelings of deja vu I get when listening to albums that my parents played when I was very young, things like Neil Young and Bob Dylan. The first song I became obsessed with was probably either “Locomotion” or “You Can Call Me Al.” The first transcendental experience I had with music was with Cream’s Disreali Gears. I was in middle school and had recently switched allegiances from top 40 radio to classic rock. I liked Jimi Hendrix and the Doors but listening to Disreali Gears for the first time was different for some reason. I remember thinking it sounded like the Doors being beaten at their own game, which doesn’t make much sense to me now, but I think that was the moment my mind was first opened to the psychedelic experience.
Did music find you or did you find music?
My parents aren’t musicians, but they are fans of music, and I think that rubbed off on me. So in the beginning music found me, but by the time I reached high school I grew tired of classic rock radio’s repetitiveness, and I only really liked the music they played from the 60s anyway. Alternative radio was growing at that point but after a short while it grew to be just as generic and uninspiring as all other radio. Growing up in small-town Indiana I didn’t have cool record shops to go to learn about more obscure music and none of my friends were music heads so it felt like a revelation when I discovered the world of online music criticism in my senior year, but even so it was very difficult to find a lot of the music that was written about.
Are you formally trained? If so, who did you train with?
I started playing piano when I was 8 or so. I had lessons once a week and my parents also enrolled me in Goshen College’s preparatory piano program. There we learned how to read music, some basics of music theory and what not. But, importantly, we also learned about making our own music. Later I studied violin for a while, but in high school I grew bored with the material and impatient with violin’s technical demands so I picked up guitar. I started off taking lessons at the local guitar shop. My teacher taught me the basics of several different styles, mostly blues based stuff. But he also showed me some basics of classical guitar. I enjoyed the puzzle of using my fingers independently and also the ability to play music solo. I then started taking lessons with Matthias Stegmann, a classical guitar instructor at Goshen College. Eventually I decided to major in guitar performance at Goshen College. After my sophomore year I switched focus to composition under Lee Dengler. Most of my compositions was minimalist and dissonant.
When you create are you composing melodically or how the pedals and effects color the sound?
Color, rhythm and texture almost always come first for me. Melody is very important to me, but it isn’t something that comes naturally for me. I’ve had to force myself to learn how to write longer melodies. My instinct is to write in ostinatos or riffs. Lately with my looping project, Ike Shark, I’ve been really focusing on rhythm, especially as a starting point for the loops.
As a writer and performer in many bands how do you get your point across with out getting in the way?
Each band has its own way of working, but communication is usually an issue. It’s just plain difficult to talk about music, but it can be made more difficult when half of the band knows theory and the other half doesn’t. It can also be difficult when you think you’ve got a fantastic idea and no one else sees it that way. But compromise is essential to collaborating.
Is it easier or harder to exist as a solo performer or in a band?
They both have their good and bad points. As a solo performer I can work at my own pace, as much or as little as I want. There’s never any waiting for band members to show up or dealing with band drama, however there’s no built in system of feedback. A band, ideally, can act as its own editor, taking all the best ideas from individual members while getting rid of indulgent tendencies. Plus bands tend to connect people, they are micro communities. Splitting up show booking and promotion duties is also a huge benefit to being in a band. And as a full-time biker being in bands with car owners is pretty rad.
What are your thoughts on artists using Amplitube vs. using an amp for tone?
Despite relying on pedals for most of my music I’m not really a gear head. I’ve always used tube amps and while I can definitely appreciate the difference between tube distortion over solid state I don’t hold the tube or analog sacred. The Feelies recorded DI and it sounded great. However you can get the tone you want, go for it. I’ve used amp simulators for recording but never for performing, however in the next year I’d like to design my own Sansamp like effect so I can ditch the amp and be more portable.
I’ll probably be involved in fewer projects. Outside of that I’m not really sure, my musical plans are relatively short-term.
What do you feel is the most exciting part of the Baltimore music scene?
My favorite thing about the Baltimore music scene is the ease of finding collaborators. In Baltimore I’ve been in nine different bands with twenty or so different people. Previous to moving to Baltimore it was like pulling teeth trying to get music projects together. I also feel that people in the music scene are generally humble, cool people.
Which artist here in Baltimore would you love to work with?
There are so many great musicians in Baltimore and I already feel extraordinarily blessed to have been able to collaborate with the ones I work with. Working with Russell from Yeveto would be cool. I love how his playing works with Yeveto, very restrained, yet very integral to Yeveto’s sound. It would also be really cool to do production work for Mickey Free.
Is it easier or harder to find good music these days? And how do you find out about new bands?
It is so much easier to find good music. Usually I find too much good music. In the digital age there is no such thing as out of print. When I first started reading music criticism I would run across intriguing names, Gang Of Four, Talk Talk, etc. but they didn’t have those albums at the used CD store 40 minutes from my hometown and they certainly didn’t have them at Best Buy. As I said before I didn’t grow up anywhere near a hip record store so I don’t really have any nostalgia or ties to the idea of a brick and mortar music store. I’m very happy to have eMusic and the like to get music. Also the cost of music going down has been huge for me. It used to be that new cds could cost up to 20 bucks with used cds going for 8 to 10. Building a library of music was painstaking and slow. Now I can get new albums for 5 bucks, it’s surreal. I mostly find music through Pitchfork and Stereogum and occasionally through friends.
Please, visit and support this artist. Click the link.
Most artists constantly open themselves up to rejection. Once the creation is made public, it becomes open to criticism from outside of the artist’s own head. The artist is usually their own worst critic though it is possible for outside criticism to oppress the artist’s self-image. Some creators pay no mind to the critics, while others hang onto their every word. One way to avoid outside criticism is to never reveal your creation to others. Sometimes we find in the home of a deceased man or woman a treasure trove of incredible art, some of the best stuff in the whole wide world, and no one even knew this person was an artist. In these situations, even though they didn’t share their art when they were alive, I’m glad that we can enjoy it now.
Luckily, Christin Durham is not dead, so we can enjoy the music she currently creates with Silo Halo. Based in DC, the band plays intertwining stringed melodies gauzed with a dark wash of reverb. The relationships between the female and male vocals feel like they haunt the songs. The guitar effects can be dirty fuzz, overdrive with short delays, and jangly chorused reverbs all played with passion and bite. Christin supplies the driving bass and circus-like bass tightrope walks. She also provides an important layer to the band’s vocalizations. There is a level of maturity and songwriting that comes from years of experience.
I am most impressed with Christin’s desire to help touring out-of-town bands play decent shows in DC and Baltimore. Punk and hardcore music left a strong do-it-yourself-ethic impression on me. Not just do-it-yourself but also “do it right,” with respect, with common sense, and with only the best intentions. Christin was also imprinted with the same DIY ethic and has made many touring bands feel appreciated and motivated to keep playing by helping them set up fun and smart shows. She not only creates but takes the time and energy to help others share their art. This is a rare quality for all too often we see other musicians as some sort of competition. Christin sees other muscians as friends and family.
I started out by talking about rejection, and it usually doesn’t feel very good. When someone says that they don’t like or approve of your creation, it can give you a chance to grow and gain perspective. But when someone doesn’t respond at all, well all I can say is that it burns, it burns deep. With silence the reference point is lost and you look into a black hole of indifference. A strong DIY ethic may put the power back into the artists hands but it also has them juggling many different roles. To create the art is one thing but to promote, publicize, and act as a booking agent may be skill sets that go beyond the artists natural ability. When booking an independent tour for your own little band you probably send out hundreds of emails after spending hours researching bands and venues in the town you want to play. You are lucky if 1 percent of the people you contact respond at all. That’s 99 rejections wrapped in silence. So when that one person gets back to you, they seem like the greatest person in the whole town. Because they are the greatest person in that whole town. They are special, one out of a hundred who actually took the time to validate you as another human being. A human being that is reaching out, and looking for help to make their passions come alive. These 1 percenters are also wealthy - with compassion, not money. Christin is one of these rare and special people that makes respect for fellow artists a priority. Thank you, Christin, for being an artist who believes in taking care of other artists. I hope you will inspire the other 99 percent to be better people. Here’s the interview. Enjoy.
If there was one trait that you could eliminate from yourself, what would it be and why?
Being sensitive and emotional. I admire laid back people and introverts.
If time travel was possible, would you go forward or backward in time first and why?
I would go backward. I think about past eras and civilizations a lot and almost never think about the future. There are a lot of places now buried or bulldozed that would be amazing to see.
Do you think that taking psychedelic drugs as you transition from life to death would be useful and why?
Probably. Psychedelic drugs are useful for breaking problematic neurological patterns, such as fear of death, I suppose.
Over a long period of time eating cooked food allowed the simplification of the human digestive system so that more resources could be used for brain development. If using computers frees our brains of certain tasks, will brain function move into different activities? What brain changes do you think might occur next?
Human beings will no longer have the ability to truly engage their imaginations and will need computers to imagine for them. If this involves holodecks, I suppose it won’t be too awful.
What made the first Interpol record, Turn on the Bright Lights, so good?
A perfect trifecta of melancholy, smart lyrics, and dead sexy bass lines.
Do you really want to hear a new My Bloody Valentine record? I think it would have been better if I never saw the new Star Wars movies.
I did not get as excited about the new My Bloody Valentine record as many of my friends, and I didn’t feel pressed to listen to it right away, although I have now, and I think it’s great. I don’t think I ever feel the need to listen to something right when it comes out necessarily.
What are the best and worst things that happened to you in high school?
Breaking the law and falling in love. Getting arrested and getting my heart broken. Ya know, regular kid stuff. I still have a healthy fear of cops as well as intimacy with men.
What are the most effective social policies and why?
Effective social policies reduce suffering in society by guaranteeing everyone has a safe place to live, enough healthy food to eat, and access to adequate health care. Without poverty, there would be less frustration and decreased crime, thus ensuring that public spaces and life in general can be better enjoyed by everyone. It seems simple, but people, at least Americans, have difficulty getting past the notion that individuals should get nothing unless they work hard to earn it, and that those who are successful in life got there without the help of society.
Have you ever had a paranormal experience? If so please explain.
I was a latchkey kid, and when I was in fourth grade I came home after school and saw four things in my living room that looked sort of like the creatures at the end of the Dark Crystal when the mystics and the skeksis become one, except more shadowy. It scared the shit out of me and I ran across the street to a friend’s house even though I was grounded. I called my mom and she could hear the fear in my voice, so I didn’t end up getting in trouble.
Where is you favorite place to see/hear live music in DC? Why?
I have to go with the Black Cat. Great rooms, great sound, great staff, and a little restaurant inside that sells vegan grub.
When was the first time you heard a song that perfectly captured an emotion you were feeling? Explain.
Unfortunately I don’t have this memory, but I used to have nightmares that my Siouxsie and the Banshees Peepshow tape was possessed.
Check out Silo Halo here: https://www.facebook.com/silohalo
Jeffrey Ziga of Little Baby’s Ice Cream following Universal Precautions
Little Baby’s Ice Cream Interview with Jeffrey Ziga
The idea behind the Hero Shores Transmission was strongly influenced by the late, great Joseph Campbell. He was an American writer known for his work in comparative myths and religion. Joseph seemed to find an underlying storyline and symbolism that ran through almost every ancient culture and religion, even ones that would have not been in contact with each other. I can’t begin to scratch the surface of his very reader-friendly work but you can start by reading “The Hero With A Thousand Faces.”
Joseph’s personal philosophy has been summarized as “Follow your bliss.” To me this means finding something you are passionate about and dedicating your life to pursuing it. Sometimes the hardest part is finding something that you are passionate about. Just about one in every ten Americans is taking an anti-depressant. That seems counterintuitive considering we live in a wealthy and powerful country with technology, food and clean water. Some would argue this is the best place and time of all history to be alive. So why are so many of us depressed? Is it that the United States was partially founded on the ideas of endless opportunity and an over abundance of resources? Many people, even if it’s just subconscious, are well aware that everyone can’t always grow up to be whatever they want and that resources aren’t just limited but are decreasing.
In recognition of the harshness of reality, people still follow their bliss. Jeffrey Ziga started following his punk rock bliss by playing music in several top notch Philadelphia bands(most recently Armalite). He narrowly escaped death in a roadway accident while touring Europe with Gods and Queens. Now Jeffrey is co-owner and co-founder of Little Baby’s Ice Cream in Philadelphia, PA. You may have seen their commercial which became a viral video on Youtube this year with close to three million views. When you are part of something that connects with millions of people worldwide, and most of them can’t even get your product, then you know you are following your bliss. Sadly Little Baby’s Ice Cream hasn’t worked out how to maintain the quality and control over their handmade ice cream products for worldwide shipping yet. I am hopefull that human will and imagination will create a solution. Maybe we can just carpool up to Philly one day soon.
Check out these flavors: Bourbon Bourbon Vanilla, Earl Grey Sriracha, Balsamic Banana, Cantaloupe Creamsicle, Pizza and Peanut Butter Maple Tarragon just to name a few. My mouth is watering as I write this. These are unique and creative flavors driven by a desire to experiment. Not every imaginative creation works - apparently Lucky Charms Champagne was quite awful. Their commercial is equally creative, combining surrealistic images with childlike curiosity. Jeff is a musician, a dreamer, an entrepreneur and doing what he loves. He is not alone, there is room for all of us. Follow your bliss and you will be in good company.
1. What has been your best show experience and your worst show experience?
Hmm, I’ve been going to punk shows since I was 14, so I have so many great memories and also awful memories. How about the most recent: best recent is COCK SPARRER at Union Transfer for two nights in a row. Worst recent is, well, I end up hating a lot of music.
2. What ice cream flavor would you never create?
No rules on planet earth.
3. What ice cream flavor do you dream of creating?
4. Do you believe the human brain has the ability to truly understand and comprehend the universe?
I don’t know. Pondering questions like this often don’t lead to money, the most important substance on earth.
5. Do you think record labels are still relevant? What can bands do to stand out in a saturated internet that offers tons of free music?
Give it up. There are too many bands. And all the old ones are getting back together. I totally support the idea that anyone should be able to get up there and make art and music, but I also think that most people shouldn’t bother and do something else.
6. Will Little Baby’s Ice Cream ship ice cream around the world if someone was willing to cover the shipping?
Yes. Everyone wants to know the answer to this question. We’re trying to figure out a system.
7. We live in a country filled with overweight citizens. How do you sell ice cream yet stay so thin?
I work long hours on my feet and the only Ice Cream I eat anymore is whatever is left at the bottom of the pan / box when we’re done selling it. Also, I don’t think there’s anything wrong or right about being skinny or fat. Do whatever you want. But people have to be informed about what they’re doing, the choices they make and the potential risks involved. Information is so important. Also, I have fat around the middle and I like it and hate it at the same time.
8. If you could change any moment in history, what would it be?
If such a moment existed, I’d change the moment where the world began and make it not, leaving instead the thought: “Why bother?”
9. If you had a time machine, would you go forward or backwards first(why)?
Forwards, to see if I end up retired in Thailand like I intend to do.
10. Do you have a favorite Simpsons episode? Which one is it and why?
The one where Homer ruins his brother’s car manufacturing business by designing the funny car. I think Little Baby’s Ice Cream resembles that car, but somehow people like us and we’re still in business.
here’s the world famous Little Baby’s Ice Cream commercial. be the 3 million-th person to watch it.
Mat on the job, in a state of flow
For a few years before meeting Mat Leffler-Schulman in person, I knew of him by his reputation and work. In addition to his output as a producer and as a highly regarded recording, mixing, and mastering engineer, Mat’s Mobtown Studios hosts regular free“micro” shows featuring popular local acts, is instrumental (pun intended) in the annual NoVo festival held each year at the Windup Space, and releases excellent live recordings of both events at no charge through the studio’s website. When I finally met him at an Ottobar show two years ago, I was pleasantly surprised by his friendliness and approachability. A first conversation with Mat is like talking to a friend you’ve known for years.
Mat was kind enough to take time out of his busy work and family schedule to be interviewed for this week’s Transmission. While we’ve always had much to talk about on the technical side of music production, I knew that Mat is a thoughtful and well-read person who has much more to say about music and life than just the craft of turning sound waves into electrical signals. Accordingly, my questions generally stayed away from recording geek-speak. Mat makes it clear that, while technical knowledge is necessary as a tool, the producer is as much an artist as the musician, and the human interaction between engineer and performer can be more important than having the right gear. We also talked about the ugly side of music where money changes hands (or doesn’t). -Brian
HST: What are your earliest lasting memories of hearing music, and what do you feel today when you hear music from your childhood?
Mat: My earliest memories of hearing music was when John Lennon was shot. I remember laying on the bed with my father listening to his radio. It was a Sony with faux wood grain on it. It had this boxy silver snooze button on top. I remember hearing John’s music being played and thinking it was from the sky. It was heavenly. In retrospect that’s how I believe it to have felt. At the time, I obviously had no idea who this guy was or why my parents were so concerned. A few years later I was listening to my father’s old Beatles, Stones, ABBA, Joni Mitchell, Tchaikovsky, Three Dog Night, etc records religiously. Then after my father explained the cassette recorder to me, I’d run down the stairs in the morning on Sunday’s to listen to Kasey Kasem go through the hits and I’d record all the songs I liked. My first mix tape. When I listen to music from my childhood, it usually brings back smells and small acute images of where I was the first time I heard that particular song. It’s amazing how that still works. I can barely remember what I did yesterday, but I can tell you about the first time I opened the liner notes to Jane’s Addition’s Nothing’s Shocking while listening to Up The Beach.
HST: Do you think the music that we hear during our formative years affects how we subsequently live our lives? Or to put it another way, do you think we seek out music that suits our personalities or can music find us and shape our perspectives?
Mat: I think it has a lot to do with how our parents present it to us. I was exposed to a vast amount of music as a child. Be it a Wagner opera or The Beatles. I think I had a pretty wide musical vocabulary before the age of 10. My parents intentionally or unintentionally wanted me to be exposed to many things. Maybe I responded to music and they supported that. But it’s interesting my son who is a year and half is responding to music much more so than my five year old daughter did at that age. She’s much more visually artistic. That said, since my son is responding more towards music I am constantly singing to him. We do intervals, we dance and work rhythm all day long. He responds to that and it gets reinforced. If he didn’t initially respond, I might have tried other things with him. Either way, it’s amazing to see how my children respond to music. I feel like it was similar to the way I responded.
HST: Of all the ways to take part in the musical arts - performing, composing, or even being a collector of music or a journalist - was there something in particular about the art of recording and capturing musical performances that drew you in?
Mat: It was the magic. It was the art. It was making records sound better. It was that spark that happened when I was in a band. I recorded bands I was in in high school and I loved manipulating the sound in the crude methods I had at my disposal at the time. In college it got more sophisticated. It was easier and harder at the same time. Sometimes having limitations is a good thing. And while I do feel like there is an art to recording/engineering, I don’t feel like it’s rocket science. I don’t use levels to even out microphones. I put up mics and if they sound great, awesome. If not, I move them around or try a different mic. Engineering is the easy step. Getting bands comfortable in a new environment is the hard part. And that’s where amazing music comes from. It’s not the pre amp or compressor.
HST: Do you consider yourself a spiritual person, and does belief in any sort of larger purpose or hidden reality inform your perspective on life?
Mat: Of course. A very spiritual person. I am not a religious person, however I do identify with being Jewish. But then again, I think Zappa or Brian Eno had more an impact in my life than say Abraham or Moses.
HST: Among other things you’re a drummer. Do you still find time to express yourself as a performing musician?
Mat: I rarely perform anymore. It’s tough running a studio with my wife Emily, having a social life and then in turn being in a band. Being in a band is a full time job. It’s a girl friend. And I have all the girls I need under our roof right now. That said, I certainly express myself as a musician with the bands I produce. There are “Mat-isms” that happen more and more on records. Be it with percussive elements or synth treatments or production aspects. There are things that bands ask me to do that I’ve done before on other records. So no, I don’t perform live, but I certainly perform on the band’s records I work on. And that to me is just as rewarding.
HST: Many neuroscientists (wait, don’t leave - bear with me for a moment) fall into two general camps about the evolutionary “purpose,” if you can call it that, of music. Steven Pinker thinks that music, or any art, amounts to plumage and isn’t much more than a way to broadcast yourself to a potential mate. Daniel Levitin (producer turned neuroscientist and author of “This Is Your Brain on Music”) suggests that music serves much more important roles in human social interaction and communication. Do you believe that music has an essential function in the lives of humans? Does it matter whether it’s a necessity or just a luxury like junk food?
Mat: I think music and art is a necessity for musicians and artists. There is the saying, “Does the music makes the artist sad, or is it the sadness that makes the music?” That said, it’s completely essential. Life would be worthless with out music. Life would also be worthless with out food, water and shelter. But it’s certainly part of that equation. And yeah, that Levitin book is such a good read. I have it at the studio for the artists I work with to check it out between takes.
HST: This is getting a bit deep, maybe now is a good time to tell us what sort of projects you’re working on at the moment. Are there any artists or bands you’ve recently recorded that you’re especially excited about?
Mat: Just finished mixing a record with this band from Moscow. That was a trip. Super nice guys and ended up sounding great. I plan on recording The Shook’s 2nd record this fall. They are this great mix of dance music and straight forward rock instrumentation. Really clever guys… And in the winter I’ll be producing the Sun Club’s second record. These guys have so much amazing energy. It’s not too surprising only one guy in the band is in college. The rest in high school. Never was I ever in a band this good in high school nor did I know of any. These guys are amazingly good at what they do. And I am really excited to be working with them again.
HST: While your studio is state-of-the art in terms of digital hardware and software, you also have an impressive collection of older analog outboard gear, some of it apparently very old. Is there something about older and more “primitive” studio equipment that you prefer for certain applications?
Mat: State of the art? I kind of hate that word. It’s almost as bad as “warm” or “tube”. It’s just too subjective. But I get what you are saying and I thank you! Emily and I have been building this studio for almost a decade, so it’s nice to hear the positive compliments. So, yes, I have gear that I know how to use. It’s as simple as that. I really subscribe to the whole “Tape Op Method” in which it’s not the gear, per se, but it’s knowing how to use what you have. The grass is always greener and of course there’s always gear I’d love to own. But at the end of the day, I could go out and buy an API console, but then I’d have to charge 4x the rate and I’d never get to work with the bands I want to work with. As far as using outboard gear, it’s a preference. It’s no better or worse than a plugin. It’s different. Some people like the sound of the outboard gear. To me, it all comes down to what I know best and certainly being able to tweak knobs is more comfortable and efficient for me vs. mousing around finding the right compression ratio.
HST: There have been a few rather public debates on the interwebs in recent months about what sort of prices artists should place on their music, and whether the listener has an ethical obligation to pay for it. This disagreement between an NPR intern and David Lowery (Camper Von Beethoven, Cracker) really shows what a sensitive and complex issue it is. How do you feel about the treatment of music as a commodity? Does a listener have a moral obligation to pay an artist by downloading from iTunes instead of streaming on Spotify or acquiring from other places? Respond to both parts of the question in fifteen words or less, please.
Mat: Let me get something straight to begin with… I am a firm believer of copyrights that expire. Sadly Disney ruined this for everyone. The original copyright code was meant to allow copyrights to expire and allowed people to use it after a short period of time (I think it was 18 years + 18 year extension - sorry, my Copyright Law classes from college are a bit rusty) - and then it went in to the public domain for others to use and create more music or art or whatever from it. This was executed wonderfully in the 80s with hip hop sampling. Sadly they had to pay a huge price for licensing, which to me is sad. In my utopian socialist world, I feel like music should be free. I know musicians and bands need to make money from their recordings and performances and they do, but I feel like there should be a limit, if you want government protection. So yeah, this debate about stealing music is a tricky one. There is no single answer. I feel like people should support bands. And they do. The model is changing. It has changed. Larger labels are sort of getting it. Some smaller labels too. Bands are becoming more and more successful with out label support. The internet is as important as the printing press. Either way, I like to support music any way I can. It’s a symbiotic relationship. But if you take too much it will collapse. I think it all comes back to what I tell my daughter by treating others how you would want to be treated.
HST: Technological advances have allowed us to listen to any music we want to hear at practically any time, in any environment. At the same time, it the average listener is hearing lower-quality formats in noisy environments, while anything like the “ideal” of listening to vinyl in a quiet room on a good stereo has become antiquated. As a producer and engineer, is this something you consider while working towards the end product? How do you feel about the trend as someone devoted to creating an experience for the listener?
Mat: Absolutely. I listen to mixes and often make mix changes on iPod headphones. I listen in my car. Lowest common denominators are what we are working with for the most part. When I want to really listen to music, I go home and put on a record amplified by my dual mono amplifier. But for casual listens and for when we have people over, MP3s are great. Sure there is a quality difference, but for the convenience I am ok at 99%.
HST: Check out this song and share your thoughts. If you aren’t familiar with this act, take a guess at when this was recorded, and then look up the answer.
Mat: Yeah, I’ve done a bunch of these. Reminds me of that Lenny Kravitz record Are You Gonna Go My Way. Super vintage sound. Lots of distortions. Love it all. There’s amazing music everywhere and from all time periods. We really are a lucky bunch of music lovers…
Interview with James Klink from The Water
If I connect with certain music then I usually become interested in the people who created it. With most instrumental music you can only get glimpses of the creators’ character through an interpretation of the sounds that they generate. Music without words allows room for ambiguity. When they are not written and when they are not spoken then the usual framework for our understanding reverts back to an earlier time. A time when humans slowly wandered in small groups and before formal language was created. As early humans we produced sounds both verbally and through instruments. I must also mention how powerful sound and percussion were to the forming of social communities. Against all odds humans began working together and cooperating instead of constantly allowing fear to separate them. To create music without words allows the instruments to speak without distraction. If the instruments are just extensions of the player then we can make a connection through sound without the use of words.
The next step is to watch the players perform live. Their postures, their movements, their eyes, all of these details continue to add to the portait of the artist. The Water is a Baltimore band on Scenic Route Records, which is also located in Baltimore. Using the typical labels to describe them as an inspiring post rock looping power duo with an entertaining light show doesn’t seem quite right. A ton of bands could fit into those categories. The Water ooze an extra special quality because they are very strong songwriters. Dan Cohan usually covers the live drum looping, guitar loops and drives the vortex of light. When an instrumental band plays live, usually someone has to speak inbetween songs or at least announce who they are. Most bands today have someone representing them on social media, so that too counts as a voice. Dan is usually this voice for The Water and he does a great job - so good that I have asked him to contribute to the Hero Shores Transmission. We hope he will be inspired to do so.
I began to wonder what James Klink, the second creative pillar in the Water, was thinking. James plays guitar, keyboard and adds loops to the songs. He also appears to have the super power of altering their setlist at will. I already knew that James and Dan have been making music since before high school. Now I wanted to know what James thought about life after death, his high school musical influences and his favorite time in history. Plus, what is he going to be for Halloween? They might seem like random questions but there is symbolism locked into every concentrated answer. James says a lot with a few words. He has a similar effect producing walls of despair-crushing sound as half of the musical duo. Knowing James’ thoughts about space exploration and the finality of death adds new dimensions to understanding his deepest musical influences. Please take the time to read the interview and listen to the Water. Better yet, see them live.- greg
1) Have you ever had a supernatural experience(ghosts, dreams that came true, UFO’s etc.)? If not do you think paranormal or supernatural experiences are real?
2) What’s the greatest drug experience you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?
James: never really got into drugs. The best drug experience would probably be pain medication for my broken hand. They did the job.
3) If you could be any musician, in any band in history, who would it be and why?
James: Marc Ribot. It has to be pretty cool to be Marc Ribot.
4) What were you top 5 favorite albums in high school?
James:My tastes changed so often in high school. It progressed like this:
9th- Cypress Hill – Black Sunday
10th- Radiohead- OK Computer
11th- Aphex Twin- Richard D. James Album
12th- Hum-Downward is Heavenward
Wild Card- Rage Against the Machine – Evil Empire
5) When did you start seeing locals bands play and who did you used to see?
James: It started in 9thgrade with Jimmie’s Chicken Shack, Kelly Bell, Live Alien Broadcast, All mighty Senators, Laughing Colors…I was big into Fowl Records. They would play all-ages shows in the daytime, so it was easy for me as a 14 year old to see them.
6) Is there any event in history that you really connect with or resonate with? and why?
James: The space race. The astronauts were superstars. There aren’t many “firsts” as significant as those “firsts”. It would’ve been pretty cool to be around for the Apollo missions.
7) Where in Baltimore do you like to eat?
James:I like a lot of places in Hampden. Golden West, Rocket to Venus, Holy Frijoles. They are all vegetarian/vegan friendly.
8) What do you think happens after you die?
James: A whole lot of nothing.
9) What was your favorite/best Halloween costume?
James: I once went as Huey Lewis and the News. I just carried around a newspaper. It was a bit conceptual. I hate costumes. The thought of dressing up gives me anxiety. I like the idea of Halloween. I like spending the entire month watching horror movies, but when the day actually comes, I want nothing to do with it. I have good costume ideas though. I’d be better off giving my costume ideas to people who like dressing up.