August 20, 2005

Could this be "Pixel Revolt"?

Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck

When it comes to artistic endeavours and their creation, it would appear they are a lonely proposition and in most cases they are. Although there are the rare instances of an artist who will combine his skill with the knowledge and talents of another and as a result create something greater than the sum of their parts. In this case the parts include recording studio expertise, finely and artistically tuned ears and eyes, and a songwriting gift honed by years of practice. And also perhaps a pinch of self-doubt (one of the silent, but strong forces behind many artists' drive to create better work) and a generosity beyond what many of us are capable of. These are some of the qualities that musician John Vanderslice and renowned sound engineer, Scott Solter, bring to their fertile collaborations--the latest completed, and as of yet unreleased, being Pixel Revolt--an odd title which came from one of Vanderslice's favorite pastimes... movies. This is how he explained it to me...

"One very late night in February, I was watching Preston Sturges’s 1930’s farce “The Lady Eve”, when my satellite connection got strange. The screen froze, then stuttered, as Henry Fonda moved in stop motion, Barbara Stanwyck slowly came unglued, her face distorted by square wave digital artifacts. Entire scenes were lost somewhere in that winter sky.

When I woke up I had the title of the record."

Vanderslice's co-conspirator, Scott Solter, has also been an integral part in another musical collaboration with MC (Mike) Taylor, (The Court and Spark and EX-iGNOTA) called Boxharp. Boxharp's music being built upon field recordings gathered by Solter, music that is rich with atmosphere. I asked Scott Solter a couple of questions about his musical past and working with John Vanderslice.

Tell me how you came to be involved so heavily behind the board as opposed to behind the mic as a performer? You are obviously a very creative and talented musician.

Scott Solter: I would say that I’m more of a musical person rather than a musician. I’ve never really given a great deal of effort or time to playing instruments and I respect people who do. Having dabbled on and off for years with a myriad of instruments I just came to the conclusion that it’s the overall color and texture of records that I pay attention to. So about 6 years ago I decided I wanted to learn how to make records. From there I realized that my ‘jack-of-all-trade’ dabbling gave me the ability to speak the language of various instruments and thus better communicate with musicians about they are trying to achieve...both what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.

When it comes to working on a John Vanderslice record, is it a much different experience than working with other artists? From what John says you would appear to have a large say in how or what gets put down on tape--is this how it works in your recording relationship?

SS: Working on this and the last of John’s records has been very much a collaborative process. I think John allows me so much latitude because we come from different musical tastes (with the exception of classical) and the result is that I’m going to come up with ideas that he wouldn’t have thought of (and visa versa). For instance, he may reference something from pop music whereas I might reference something from film soundtracks but we are both very curious people and never say NO to any idea until it is executed. With this relationship we fall into our natural roles during the recording and the differences often are what pulls the effort together and makes it distinctive.

I’ve enjoyed this kind of working relationship with other artists when they seek it out. I’ve experienced everything from total enthusiasm to confusion to resistance in the process; it just depends on the artist.

Pixel Revolt will be released August 23rd on Barsuk Records. Vanderslice will hit the road with a full band beginning September 30th running through to November 5th. He recently enthused this way about the band and upcoming tour on his homepage...

"Okay, I have shored up a f-ing great band for the fall tour

Ian Bjornstad: Wurlitzer, Moog Source
Dave Douglas: Drums, Keyboards
David Broecker: Bass, Keyboards
Dan Brennan: Live Sound, Samples

Ian played in Denton, TX bands (The Dooms UK) and roomed with Matt Pence. Dave D. you know and love from many JV tours. We stole Mr. Broecker form the Prom, a lovely band on Barsuk. Dan has toured extensively with Cursive and Good Life. I am very excited about this line-up. We're already in rehearsals and hope to play a good bit of Pixel Revolt in October. Dates coming soon!

PS. We're trying to get Ian to change his name to Daniel."

Keep an eye, or two, on *Sixeyes for full tour details when they become available.

Listen to Solter, Boxharp, and Vanderslice...

John Vanderslice from Pixel Revolt
*This is a repost, to remind all that JV's PIXEL REVOLT will be unveiled August 23rd.

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