Brock Van Wey

An interview with bvdub and his Earth House Hold project - Headphone Commute

 
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This interview was originally held and posted in two parts on Headphone Commute, who kindly allowed us to republish here on ASIP.

Hey Brock, how are you? I heard you moved back to China. Can you talk about that decision?

Hey back at ya. I’m good. You are correct indeed, I have moved back. The decision came about, ironically, by the decision to move somewhere else. I’d had a weird obsession with living in Poland for some time, so after having enough of being crushed under the absurd weight of a mortgage in California for two years, in the first days of 2018 I sold my house and picked up and moved to Warsaw in the dead of winter (I’m not known for my sense of timing), knowing no one, speaking no Polish, having zero idea what it would be like to live there, and, quite frankly, having zero idea what I was actually planning to do. The abstract ideal was to live some romantic life of a musical vagabond, but, as with all ideals, instead of bringing me closer to music and basking in the inspiration and new lease on life I had envisioned, I battled the most isolated, soul-crushing, mentally destructive six months of my life. So yeah, I could say it didn’t go according to plan – but since I apparently never had a plan, maybe it did just that.

Let me be very clear. Poland is an awesome country, and a great place to live. In fact I would say it’s one of the best countries you could have the fortune of living in. But psychologically, to say it’s tough is the understatement of the century, and it held a level of isolation I never imagined in my wildest dreams. Actually I probably did imagine it, but thought it would be way cooler and more romantic than it was. Funny how it always works out that way.

I always thought of myself as someone who didn’t need other people. Prided myself on it. My friends and family are the most important things in the world to me, but I always thought I could also have them “in my life” without needing their physical presence, propped up by my lifelong sense of hubris over being someone who could spend more time alone than anyone else. That’s all fine and dandy when it’s by choice – but when isolation is literally the only option, day after day, week after week, month after month, it becomes a very different story. When you go days, even a week or more without literally ever opening your mouth to communicate with another human being, your mind eats itself alive. As I battled my own self-destruction on a daily basis with varying levels of success (i.e. very little), I began to look back on much of my life in an entirely different light, seeing the value in things I never realized before – and learned that I do, in fact, need people. People who care about me. People I care about. That I need to be loved. And love others. After 44 years of believing the complete opposite, the revelation itself was nearly as hard as the torment that brought it about. It’s never fun to realize you’re human I guess.

I couldn’t be more lucky to have so many amazing friends and family back in America who are, in fact, exactly those people. But besides the fact I’m not a self-made billionaire and thus basically can’t live in California anymore without sleeping in a ditch, years later, after the long-looming black bureaucratic cloud of the past decided to lift, I realized what – and who – I had truly left behind when I left this place the last time. People who had waited for me to come back, even when I said I never would. There’s a power in that I greatly underestimated before – one I finally realized it made more sense to fight for than against.

You could say it’s yet another time I ended up in the place I’d least expect. But with more than a third of my life lived here, I guess it all makes sense it’s a place that, in whatever weird or fucked up way, I can’t help but call home. After all these years, I realized it’s not about whether a place embraces you as its own. Hell, my own “home” never did that. It’s simply whether or not that place holds people who would miss you when you’re gone. Who would fight to have you in their life. And for whom you’d do the same. If you’re fortunate enough to have that, you’re home. Till you’re not (haha).

I want to ask about the name of this project. What does Earth House Hold mean?

It’s actually the name of an old invite-only party from back in the early mid-’90s, a really small event that only played true, raw, underground house – an ideal always in the shadows of the pervasive breaks and acid-heavy sound for which California was known.

The Bay Area, while having its share of massive events that will go down in history, was a scene largely comprised of a vast network of much smaller weeklies, monthlies, and just way more intimate, smaller parties focused on their own particular musical vision. By 1995 or so, when the scene had already gotten so commercialized that even so-called “underground” events were actually funded by sources about as “above ground” as you could get, such smaller gatherings had all but disappeared, either at the hands of people running them giving in to despair under the weight of the changing times, or simply being eaten up or destroyed by its money-hungry tactics, having their ability to throw events crippled by corrupt larger promoters calling the cops on any party within 50 miles they considered “competition,” using crooked government connections to literally shut off or rip locations down, and whatever else was at their disposal to ensure theirs was the only game in town – the latter of which happened to our parties more than once as well. Thanks, human race.

At one such large event, one of the last ones I ever went to, the guy who ran Earth House Hold was there, with his tiny stack of fliers as always, only handing them to the few people he knew were on the level. I saw him, he saw me, we nodded in each other’s direction, and he handed me a flier. And in that moment, I remembered not everyone had lost their way… at a time I needed it most, surrounded by a scene decaying by the day at the shallow hands of those who had no business being in its midst. On its last night it was, as it had always been, a super small party. A few dozen people tops. But it was still one of the best nights of my life. True. Real. How it was. How it was supposed to be. When so much else had become all it professed to rail against. There were a few other such events still fighting the good fight at the time (including ours haha), but for some reason that one always stood as a symbol for me. One I always held on to. I can’t really explain why, but I guess you never really can, right?

Lest someone accuse me of merely appropriating a name someone else created rather than taking it as the form of respect it intends, it’s also a book from 1969 by Gary Snyder (a native of San Francisco, and a lesser-known force in the beat poet movement), which features a collection of poems, anecdotes, and diary entries from a myriad of his travels throughout the world, cataloging the depth of the human experience through tribal life, connection with nature, and dance. This was, in fact, where the name of the party came from originally. Fitting on pretty much every level I’d say.

Is there a different aesthetic behind this project versus your other work?

Though some would argue my contention (and have), for me, yes. 100%. Earth House Hold is reserved purely for (what I define as) deep house. For me, the definition of deep house is very narrow – I won’t really get into that here – and the amount of people over the last near thirty years who mislabeled it has maddened me to distraction. There’s this whole supposed deep house revival lately, and while I couldn’t be happier that so many old-school cats who sacrificed everything to make it what it was are finally getting the worldwide recognition they deserve, half of what people still call “deep house” is anything but, while for the other arm of the “revival,” deep house is just about emulating (or literally just stealing) sounds you heard off a record from 1992. There’s a reason why that sound from 1992 still hits you today – because the person who hit that chord, with that synth, at that time, had a reason for doing so. They had something to say. A story to tell. Hitting the same chord again might sound the same, but it won’t mean the same thing. In fact, if you don’t have a reason for hitting it in the first place, it won’t mean anything.

Before I spiral off into an entire diatribe about that that will bore half who read it and piss off the rest, the reason I bring it up is because Earth House Hold is how I tell my story of those times, all my years in the trenches in California playing pure deep house that basically no one wanted to listen to (haha), and the path it took in changing my life forever. What true deep house meant to me. How much it was there for me. How much it taught me about life, and what it meant to be alive. Ambient (and its related forms) were always there, and as many know, I actually started (and ended) as an ambient DJ. But it was my years in deep house that truly formed who I was, and my place in music.

Though you can hear all my past in my music, Earth House Hold is reserved purely for telling very specific stories from that time through a very specific kind of music. No matter the tale, they are a very literal account of a single event from that finite period of time. It’s almost as much a travelogue through my personal history of those times as it is a way of encapsulating what true deep house was and still is to me, in my own way. I am very strict about the sounds, instruments, and even equipment I use on Earth House Hold tracks – they can only be from the period of time the tracks are describing, a big divergence from my work as bvdub, where anything goes. But rather than attempting to emulate the sounds of those times (I don’t need to, I was there), the goal is to keep that true spirit alive while still making it my own, glancing back while moving forward. So while I think it is clearly referencing those times, telling tales from those years, as that’s the whole point of the project, it’s not trying to sound like it was made then. Because it wasn’t. The point of deep house – of all this music – is and was to constantly move forward. As so much deep house of now purely looks back, I think its creators are forgetting that the music they’re emulating was doing the opposite. Maybe it’s easier to look back than face the future. I know it’s as hard for me as anyone.

When composing a piece, do you already know which project and which album it would fall under? Do you work in a particular mode with a beginning and end for each release with a purposeful theme?

I’ve said before that when working on music under bvdub, I never sit down with any predetermined idea. It might end up beatless, might be 4/4, might fly off into 160bpm breaks at the end. I never know, and I never want to know. Earth House Hold is different. As it’s so literally linked to something specific, it requires a bit of a different head space to create. It’s as much or more about a time than an emotion. If that makes sense, since obviously you can’t really separate the two.

So unlike my other work, yes, when I sit down to make an Earth House Hold track, I sit down to make an Earth House Hold track.

Like with all my work, everything is made from note one to the last, in order, and I already know the story I want to tell. Just like the rest of my work, the album name is written first, then the track names, in order, all before note one. So I already know what I want to say, and how many parts it will take for me to say it. How exactly it gets said, is, quite frankly, as much up to my heart as my other stuff, so I don’t have rigid guidelines of something having to be this tempo, this key, 4/4, broken, etc. What happens happens. In fact for the most recent album, many of those tracks are radically different from what I thought I was sitting down to make. But as always, that’s the beauty of it. And what ends up happening is what was meant to be. Your head may have had one idea, but your heart had another. The latter always beats the former.

At times it can prove quite a challenge, as I might start drifting off into something that wouldn’t fall under my own guidelines for the project, and have to rein myself back in. Which kind of negates what I just said about my heart always winning out over my head. So ignore that I guess (haha). But for me, Earth House Hold has to be made a certain way, and sound a certain way, in a sense, to do what it was intended to do. It’s not easy to work in a narrower scope when nowadays the world is basically your oyster, but in a way the restriction is also strangely liberating. Which makes about as much sense as the rest of my assessment.

The titles of Never Forget Us read like a poem. Can you please share some thoughts behind those words?

I tend to not go into meanings behind titles, not because I don’t want to share what it all means – in fact, I’d like nothing more – but because I think trying to use more words to explain a few words you used to label something that’s basically beyond words in the first place is, basically, impossible. At the risk of sounding trite, the story is in the music. For me, that’s why I make music in the first place – to say all the stuff I can’t say with words, which is a hell of a lot.

Until you mentioned it, I never really thought of them reading like a poem. Nothing wrong with that (haha). I guess the reason for that is the fact they were written out at one time, before I made the album, but more importantly because they deal with a very specific couple years or so in my life, in a very chronological order – much like a poem often attempts to sum up its meaning in the same chronological way. Anyone who’s talked to me in person can attest I have to be the least poetic person on the planet unless you consider cursing to be a form of poetry (which it kind of is). How it all comes out so nicely when I write it down is beyond me (haha).

The album notes open up with a quote by Anselm Kiefer: “But I believe above all that I wanted to build the palace of my memory, because my memory is my only homeland.” How do you resonate with these words?

Good or bad, my memories are my home. Anyone who knows me knows of my eternal search for a home – or homeland… not just some piece of dirt you stand on, but where you feel you belong. Where you were somehow meant to be. Which maybe, quite honestly, is nowhere. But only through my memories can I ever feel at home – sadly, always in hindsight.

Last year I was diagnosed with obsessive rumination disorder – the kind in your head, not the one where babies spit up food (haha). I always knew I had problems dealing with the past, or more specifically, letting it go, but it had gotten to the point where it was becoming so overwhelming I was having trouble even performing basic functions in the present. My inability to escape literally being trapped in loops of the past had become as or more overpowering as my previous battles with depression or even OCD, I guess not surprisingly, as all three share the same root problem, at least for me, in that I have serious issues with control. That in itself wasn’t exactly a news flash, but I really hadn’t realized the extent to which they’d taken over everything in my life, forcing me into the corners they had. It was, admittedly, a pretty traumatic process facing a lot of that stuff as head on as I was forced to through the cold mirror of psychiatry and its oh so welcoming offices, but one I learned a lot from. And no matter how horrible, anything that helps you take yet another step toward truly knowing who you are is always worth it. Though I think you rarely feel that way ’till after it’s in your rear-view mirror.

So yeah, pretty much all I resonate with is memory. For better or worse. For me, it’s apparently the latter.

I wish I could look through those pin-hole photos displayed on the cover of the album. What are your thoughts on the relationship of photographs to memories and, most importantly music to memories?

Those photos have a very special meaning to both memory and the album, as they were taken by my very dear friend Mamii in Tokyo, on cameras she made herself, telling the story of her own life, and her own journey through it, both emotional and physical. It was a long process, between her travel to so many different locations that represented so much for her, to making different cameras for numerous different locations to ensure each photo truly represented her own memory, to developing each one by hand. The end result is a collection of images about as drenched in the concept of memory as you could possibly ever hope to get. She, like me, has an incredibly strong relationship to memory and the past, though in an infinitely more healthy manner (haha), and everything about the way she approaches seeing and investigating the world and her life around her has always been a thing of absolute beauty to me. It’s an honour she was willing to share so much of her life for the album, and the idea behind it. She is really one of the most beautiful human beings I will ever have the fortune of knowing.

Mamii in Tokyo with the Earth House Hold record (taken by Ryan/ASIP)

Mamii in Tokyo with the Earth House Hold record (taken by Ryan/ASIP)

I’m a big fan of everything that Ryan curates for A Strangely Isolated Place. Is there something that you look for in a label when choosing which one will represent your release?

Who isn’t? (haha). In answer to your question, no, not really. Obviously, I have my family of labels and friends I tend to work with and create especially for, but sometimes I’m already working on or have finished something and a label will happen to reach out, and if it fits both of our visions to put it out together, then awesome. If not, so be it. I don’t make anything specifically to try to fit any label (never have), nor will I change anything to fit their ideas – a concept that has gone over like a lead balloon on many occasions, and prevented numerous albums from getting released on this label or that. But for me, if it’s meant to be it’s meant to be. Either our planets align, or they don’t. If so, perfect. If not, plenty of planets out there, both discovered and otherwise.

For me, labels, like everything in life, are about the people behind them. Assholes running labels isn’t relegated purely to big ones. There is a surprisingly massive amount running ones barely anyone’s ever heard of as well. And some of the biggest ones are run by some of the kindest, sweetest, truest people you will ever meet. I would say it’s down to luck who you’ll come across, but surrounding yourself with good people brings more good people your way. And while I’ve had the misfortune of knowing some serious assholes in the world of music and labels, I’ve had much more fortune knowing some of the best people I’ve ever known, and the best friends I’ll ever have. I forget the bad ones a day later. The good ones I remember forever.

With Ryan, we had in fact spoken ahead of time about me doing an album for A Strangely Isolated Place – actually we’d spoken about it many times, but for one reason or another, it didn’t seem to happen, admittedly I think much more on my part than his. When the time was finally right and I sat down to make the album, I originally hadn’t thought of it being Earth House Hold – and I can tell you he expected it even less (haha). But for some reason, it just felt right. I had been wanting to do a second Earth House Hold album for years, but it had just never felt quite like the right time. So when the time finally came, I rolled with it. In fact, I couldn’t have been happier. Whether Ryan would share my joy was another issue (haha). Thankfully he did.

We have a lot of common history in our love of deep house, though at different points in its timeline, which actually makes for an even more interesting relationship on the subject, and more importantly, I know he gets behind what he loves. It doesn’t matter what it is, or how people want to label it. I knew it was a bit out there to say I’d do an album for him, purposely not telling him it was going to be under Earth House Hold, but I had faith he would get it and love it as much as I did. Actually, though he couldn’t help but admit his surprise on receiving what he assumed would be an ambient bvdub album, he also fell in love with it from note one. I couldn’t have been happier, and I knew it had the perfect home. Thankfully, as I did the whole thing just for him (haha).

Looking back at the last past years – what [musical] moment in your career stands out the most?

At the risk of sounding trite once again, I can’t think of any musical moment that hasn’t been important. They’ve all meant a lot to me in different ways. But I think what I would call “full-circle” moments have been the most amazing… playing shows with artists whose music I’ve been buying for decades, being part of labels I used to drive hours to buy releases from 25 years ago, getting to sit down and have dinner or beers with people who back in the day I would never in a million years imagine I would even meet, much less be counted among their ranks, it’s something that never ceases to amaze and humble. To somehow go from being a fan of people’s music to, decades later, being one of their peers, is really something I can never properly put into words. So I guess it’s one, long moment, really… the music I loved and love above all else – literally – for most of my life, I can say I was truly part of. I pledged my life to this music nearly three decades ago… and now, somehow, all these years later, I can say I’m part of its history, no matter how small. Even if I’m just a footnote, I’m there. And even that footnote will be there, long after I’m gone, as proof of my love. Proof that I kept my promise. I literally don’t know what more I could ask for.

What are you working on right now?

Earlier this year I completed two albums, Drowning in Daylight on Apollo (speaking of full-circle moments), and another I had been working on long before I moved that will be out early next year (tba), before music slipped away from me, quite honestly, as my whole life basically slipped out of my grasp in Poland. Depression can be your best friend or your worst enemy… and as anyone with such afflictions will tell you, there is a fine line between such states inspiring you to create, and overtaking you to the point where literally nothing matters.

Now back in China, I’ve completed a new album I will self-release through Bandcamp at some point in the near future for a charity endeavor very near and dear to my heart, and directly related to the album itself, which of course has a complex story behind it (shocker) that I’ll save for then. And no, this time it’s not about cats.

My mental erosion in Poland, while not exactly a barrel of monkeys at the time, gave me a lot to think about – my place in the world, my own life, and this music. There was a definite time I questioned if I had any place left in any of them anymore… anything left to give. It’s not exactly the first time I’ve wondered what it all means and how I can go on, only to remember once again that 28 years after pledging my life to this music, it’s a promise without an escape clause.

So with that realization imbued once again, my life begins yet again in the place it’s begun and ended so many times before, and, not for the first time, my further detachment from the world of music somehow only brings more inspiration… perhaps at the hands of more remembering that which is even farther away, now both in space and time. The same remembering that takes away as much as it gives. If not more.

Earth House Hold / Never Forget Us is now available.

 

Markus Guentner / Empire - Preorder available

 
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From fiery remnants, a universal rhythm emerged.
An ebb and flow of force and fate,
creating worlds within worlds,
forever connected by an infinite empire.

We're back with Markus Guentner's second album here on ASIP, where he continues the journey he started on his first vinyl release, Theia.

This time, he's enlisted the skills of cellist Julia Kent, harpist Tom Moth (from Florence and the Machine) and ASIP favorite, bvdub to complete another deep and mesmorizing excursion into the unknown. Then we have the talented Black Knoll on mastering, and Noah M / Keep Adding on the beautiful artwork. 

Head over to the album's release page for full details, links to purchase and audio previews. 

We'll leave you with this video teaser featuring music from one of the tracks starring the beautiful work of Julia Kent. 

 

Earth House Hold / Never Forget Us - Preorder

 
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For those that know me and the origins of ASIP, I’ve been a massive fan of Brock’s for years now. Just being able to get him to make a mix for the blog was one of my biggest achievements! We bonded over some pink beer (don’t ask) in Seattle when he performed for Substrata festival a few years ago, and continued to discuss all things music over email as time went on.

We’re both DJs at heart, and it was fascinating to hear Brock’s many stories—him throwing raves in fields and DJ’ing in basements at a time when the classic ‘house’ sound was still relatively new to the west coast of America. With our mutual passion for that sound, and talk of a release one day coming to fruition, Brock surprised me by asking if I’d like an Earth House Hold album for ASIP. At first, I was a little taken back, as I had never imagined Brock releasing a record under this alias on ASIP. But it was a no brainer for me personally; his first album as EEH is one of my all-time favorites, a truly underrated gem that any house head would love.

Brock started to send me some of the first tracks on the album, and it was startling to hear the progression he had in mind as one track followed the next. The album starts slow and druggy—not quite ambient music, but the same kind of feeling, and more and more instruments and elements become apparent as the album progresses. It’s one of those full listening session albums that you look back on and ask yourself where the hell you were for the last hour…. Brock has that ability to take you places.

Never Forget Us will be available on April 9th, in both transparent-blue (300 copies) and black (200 copies) X2LP vinyl editions, housed in a gatefold sleeve, including digital download card.

More information and links to buy

Buy on Bandcamp (Black and Blue editions)
Sign up to be notified of release on Juno (UK/EU shipping - Black and Blue editions)

Note, more copies of both the Black and the Blue will be available at stores on release day, April 9th. 

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Wearing your heart on your sleeve: an interview with Brock Van Wey (bvdub)

 
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I missed out on a beer recently with long-time friends and label companions, Mike Cadoo and Brock Van Wey, but whilst I sat at home reminiscing about our crate-digging session in Seattle a few years back, Mike was a little more productive and took the opportunity to ask his good friend, Brock a few questions over a pint. We're lucky enough to host the candid and insightful conversation here on ASIP with mentions of Brock's latest album on n5MD, live performances, his biggest fans, beer and (until now) a secret upcoming project...

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My first interaction with Brock is something he often sites when we meet up and in the company of new people. In my usual protectively blunt style I tested what was possible in the selection of tracks for an album he submitted. We both stood our ground. I wanted to swap out some tracks. He said, “nope, album as is”. At that moment, from that first interaction, we had each other's respect. Fast forward to now. I have been lucky enough to release four of his albums via n5MD wth his latest album Heartless currently hitting the new release bins.  Since his move back to the east bay, where we both grew up and worked unknowingly a mere two blocks from one another, he has become family. I took the opportunity (and liberty) of hijacking one of our meet-ups, this time at 8 Bridges Brewing, to interview him for Ryan @ A Strangely Isolated Place, and of course have a few Reds - Mike Cadoo. 

Mike Cadoo: Let's start with your latest album Heartless. You've chosen to call it Heartless when in fact it might be your most heartfelt album yet. Why on earth did you choose Heartless as a title?

Brock Van Wey: I don't think you're the first person who's wondered that (laughs). In a lot of ways the album is me trying to face the fact that the world has taken away a lot of my heart. It's really beaten it out of me. And no I'm not talking about politics or world events or other things people mistakenly attach to the concept of the album, you know that's not my thing. I'm talking about just life itself, and a lot of shit that's happened to me in recent years. Life's stolen a lot of my heart away, and quite frankly made me a more heartless person. I always thought heartless people had it all wrong, you know? Now I wonder. When the world punishes you enough, you start to wonder if it's you who's been doing it wrong all along.

M: Yeah I don't think I could even classify you as remotely heartless. I've seen you do plenty of nice things and you have told me first hand how certain decisions or interactions have made you feel. But it could simply be the case that you and I were not interacting much or at all during the callous years?

B: Well we were far apart for a lot of years in the physical sense, as I was living on the other side of the world, but even if we were two doors down from each other, you wouldn't really know. It was a really internal struggle, and as good as I am at sharing my feelings, I'm also just as good at hiding them.

So the album takes heartlessness as an overall concept, and tells the story of a specific time in recent years when I really was... heartless. For once I acted with no heart, no regret, and with a total disregard for another person's feelings – basically the way most of the world seems to do just fine. But it didn't do what I thought it would. I didn't feel liberated... I felt like shit. But I wondered – and I still wonder – if it was actually “wrong.” Was I really being heartless, or was I actually letting someone else dictate how my heart was supposed to feel? I think we all give other people way too much power over our own emotions. It becomes hard to separate how you feel from how you're supposed to, you know?

I will say that fucked up or not, there is a real power in being heartless. Having a heart and sharing in the human experience is as profound as it gets – but having no heart, and no regard for that experience, is possibly equally profound in its own fucked up way. To somehow cast off guilt, regret, caring, empathy, and every other solely human emotion and to just “be” in a way that basically only sees you exist in the world – it may be horrible, but it's also very powerful. I don't think I do it well. But in the end, the whole thing taught me to revere – and fear – both.

M: Some of the reviews for Heartless have touched on it being a sign of the times and even somewhat political which you did mention. I think it's an album that is resonating with people due to how jacked-up things are right now.

B: Oh shit is jacked up, I don't think anyone's gonna argue that. I can't sit here and say that nothing influences my thought patterns subconsciously either, so who knows. I can only say I don't consciously try to deal with any of that in music. I don't even talk about it in life either. It seems every time I run into someone they want to talk about something political, how fucked up shit is, or whatever, it's just not my thing.

M: I think you and I are similar on this front. When the time comes for me to take the appropriate action I'll act for change that I believe in but I'm not going to constantly harp about it. I think making the music we do helps with dealing with the day to day for sure...

B: For sure. You're like me in that this is your therapy. It's not only how you deal with your own internal world, but also process the world around you. There seems to be a weird dogma lately that if you don't want to talk about something or don't have some polarizing opinion about it, you're either ignorant, or some terrible person. But being ignorant about something and simply choosing to talk about something else are two wholly disparate concepts, and you're not minimizing the gravity of one by choosing to discuss another. There are a lot of aspects to life. Not everything has to be an all-sum game. Anyway, let's not go down that rabbit hole...

At the end of the day, what matters is that art means something. It doesn't matter if it's a book, painting, song, or anything else – only the creator will ever really know what they meant. But even they forget over time, or it changes over time as their own life changes as well. So it's always changing, always evolving. And once it's released into the world, it takes on a life of its own, and you really have no control over it anymore. But that's the beauty of it. Think about how many albums you've heard, or books you've read, that meant one thing to you at one time, and something totally different down the road. It weaves itself into the fabric of your life, becomes part of who you are. And who you are changes. It will always mean something different to you every time you hear it, and will mean something to you it will never mean to another person... but it will also mean the same thing. If that makes sense.

So yeah I have zero problem with people interpreting it whatever way they do. If it can be a part of their lives in any way, through good or bad, I'm honored. There is no wrong way to interpret anything anyway, just different ways. I guess in a lot of ways, people's resonating with it in that way gives me something to think about myself, and really it kind of applies to the reasoning behind the album in the first place – which never occurred to me until now. So see, even I get to have a new realization about it now, and go back and listen to it with new perspective. That's crazy. But that's what's awesome about music. And really, all art.

M: I know that the making of Heartless originally started out as being inspired by your concept of a live set, to be as large and spacious. When we worked together on writing the album description you added a specific section of text sighting “painful impetus” to live performances. I'd like to know more about that specific line of text...

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B: Yeah continuing with my theme of being a complete mess, live shows are my therapy. Most people go to a therapist to talk things out in private, I decide to talk to a room full of people at an ear-bleeding volume.

M: (Laughs) I can attest to that...

B: Yeah you've been there for the punishment (laughs). It's part of the reason I do so few because they are so emotionally exhausting I'm basically a shell for weeks after. Though I am fortunate to have the most amazing family and friends I could ever dream of, the fact is I rarely leave the house, and have very little contact with the outside world. So the majority of my world is always internalized, building on top of itself into pretty unbearable intensities. Playing a live show is the time I finally get to let that all out, to say all I've wanted to say for weeks, months, even years – not only to the audience but to myself. It's kind of like hearing my own words said back to me. So it's as much a conversation with myself as it is the people there. It's cathartic, but also gutting. I'm not ashamed to say I've cried during most of 'em. So I guess it's no surprise they are usually “big”... and, as anyone who has been there knows, fucking loud. If you're gonna say something, say it.

M: I feel ya on the catharsis. Is this the main reason why don't allow your live sets to be recorded?

B: That's part of it. Would you want to bare your soul to a friend if you knew he was recording it to listen to later? And what good is it later, anyway? It was a conversation between us. Then. And that's where it should stay. It's also a matter of respect, honestly. It's just fucking disrespectful to assume you can record someone's performance for your own personal collection, to put their heart and soul on some shelf for you to show off at a dinner party. And if you don't have respect for an artist or their art, why would you ask them to share it?

That goes for everyone there. I get that you paid money, and I also get that recording things mostly comes from a good place. People just want to remember the evening, because it's important to them. Trust me, it's just as important to me. But put the phone down and be there. What's some crappy thirty-second distorted video going to do? Are you ever going to watch that later? Of course not. You're going to show it to one person to show where you were last night, then it will never see the light of day again. But to get that, you took yourself out of the whole experience. For what? All you accomplished is ruining things for people next to you that are trying to be there, besides the fact it's distracting as shit for the artist.

M: Oh hell yeah. It amazes me going to shows now how many phones are out. You can't experience the show through your phone screen and as you say the quality is horrid. I admit I have taken a pic or two.

B: Et tu, Mike? (laughs).

M: (laughs)

B: You've been there with me at shows. Before the show, after the show, let's take all the pics together you want. Even videos. Whatever. I've stayed at shows for literally hours after they're done to talk with people, take all the photos and videos they want. I actually enjoy it and it's an honor. It's fun. Hell, after the show I take pics too. But during the show, no. We're all there. Be there with us. The whole point is for us to share that night, for us to communicate our deepest thoughts to each other, and for those moments, come as close as we'll ever come to understanding life. You will remember that night for days, weeks, months, maybe years – and every time you do, the memory will change, distort, adapt to your own changing life. But it will still be in there somewhere. And it has truly become a part of your life, through its own evolving form. It happened. Now it's gone. And all you have is the memory. That's how it's supposed to be. It's fucking beautiful. Let it be beautiful. People need to stop their weird obsession with having to have some permanent record of everything. All they're doing is making their entire lives and every event in it all the more temporary.

Here's a good way to gauge it: Next time your friend starts to really open up to you about something in their life, something they probably couldn't tell anyone else in the world, tell them you're recording the conversation – or better yet, pull out your phone and just start recording. See how much longer they want to talk. Or wait until they finish, then tell them you just recorded everything for your own personal use. Why? Doesn't matter. You just wanted to. See how much longer you're friends.

And just so people know, I don't record either. For all the same reasons.

M: I'd like to know a bit more about your fan engagement. Unlike a large percentage of artists who have management and there is a bit of a buffer between fans and the artist you have and do have direct contact with your listeners. Probably hard to pick one but are there any favorite interactions you've had with fans (that you can actually talk about :)?

B: Well I do have management now (laughs) but yeah that doesn't change anything about how I interact with people. Nothing means more to me than communication and interaction with fans, you know that. The whole point of all of this is to share in each others' lives, to be part of each others' lives, and know we're not alone. Anytime someone takes the time to write an email or drop a message, I always answer, every time. And as anyone who has come to my shows knows, I really enjoy spending as much time with everyone as I can. I don't look at a show as some kind of ego-fest where people are there “for me,” to me it's all of us, we're all in it together, god help us (laughs). Every time someone has taken the time to communicate, be it through email or in person at a show, it is pretty much the most amazing and humbling thing that can ever happen to anyone. If it's not, you need to seriously look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself why you're doing this.

I have been super lucky to have some of the most amazing interactions over the years, both through email and in person, it's really beyond words, man. Some of the things people have shared about the deepest parts of their lives, and the lengths they have gone to in order to be at a show so we can share that time in person, it's fucking mind-boggling. I don't think I could ever even say how much I appreciate it, and appreciate them.

There are some, both in email and in person, been some absolutely mind-blowing ones that have literally restored my faith in humanity, which I didn't think possible. I'd love to tell you this one or that, but I think there's two problems with that: one, it's super hard to pick one (laughs), but also, because I think if I highlight one, it somehow makes another seem “less,” if that makes sense. I think everyone shares and loves in their own way. Some people may make bigger moves or have more to say than others – but that doesn't mean those who are less bold or expressive are diminished, they're just different. They do it and say it in their own way, on their own time, you know? Yeah there are some “bigger” ones over the years I will never forget as long as I live. But I remember them all, big or small. Hell, I probably remember a bunch of interactions that fans have already forgotten. They are all amazing in their own way, and I appreciate them all. They all mean something to me. They mean everything to me. For someone who has always been an antisocial misanthrope who is terrible at interacting with people, I am somehow lucky enough to have the most amazing friends and family, and fans, in the world.

M: It is quite funny as you do often speak of yourself as anti-social but I've seen almost the opposite. Even seeing first hand your fan interactions. You are humble, chill and even listen to and interact with what they have to say way beyond standard artist / fan interaction. I still to this day find your physical appearance and your true demeanor to be an interesting juxtaposition. Contrasting. I think your fan engagement, music and even your current black and white promo shot where you are holding your cat points to these contrasts.

B: Yeah I know a lot of artists who just play the show and bounce, but I'm there the whole time, from the sound check, through anyone who plays before or after me, and even after that. I'm there for the whole night – and the whole night isn't just me. I want to be a part of everything as much as possible, and that includes everyone who came. As long as anyone wants to talk or hang out, have a beer, or just shoot the shit, I'm always stoked. Until that moment, the music has been the thing abstractly connecting us. Now we get to meet each other face to face, and literally be a part of each others' lives for that time. For real. What the hell is more awesome than that? It's amazing.

It's kinda crazy because I feel like people I meet already know so much about me through the music. I feel like they already know everything about me, my whole life, but I'm meeting them for the first time. It's a weirdly vulnerable kind of feeling, there's a weird imbalance, it's almost scary sometimes. But in a good way. I don't know, the whole thing is just amazing.

I'm not a fan of people. Anyone who knows me can tell you that. You know that as well as anyone (laughs). But “people” and family are different. And fans are family.

(laughs) Yeah the cat picture. To this day I still laugh at the fact that when that went up on RA, the highest rated comment was someone saying That is not what I expected him to look like. Never judge a book by its cover (laughs). I think by now my obsession with cats far precedes me. But I guess just as a lot of people are surprised I love cats so much, they're also surprised I'm actually a nice guy. I just look really not-nice.

M: So we are now 10 years into bvdub. You gone from that first string of EPs and really never stopped. However, there was a fairly solid stylistic shift in there. What brought on the shift from the more techno style beat work to what has over time manifested into mostly beat-less works with beats as augmentation rather than propulsion?

B: I guess it has been 10 years. Wow, I'm old. Well so are you.

M: Thanks for the reminder (laughs)

B: No problem (laughs). I think the shift was definitely solid but gradual, I just followed what came naturally. The basis of my music has always been ambient (for lack of a better word), so I think it was only natural it would go more heavily in that direction overall. Even when I used to go to parties or DJ, beats weren't the main thing for me. They were a structure, a kind of thing that held tracks together or even caused us to move together, but the music surrounding them was the focal point. Besides the fact I started as an ambient DJ, later I was quite famous as the guy who played tracks with ridiculously long beatless breakdowns, or just veered off into no beats at all in the middle of a house set. Or maybe that's infamous (laughs).

M: Famous. Infamous. same shiz really (laughs)

B: (laughs) Pretty much. As my dad used to say, if no one hates you you're not doing it right.

M: I have to remember that one (laughs)

B: Yeah he knew his shit (laughs). What you say about augmentation is pretty true, but I still work with beats as propulsion in some bvdub stuff, and of course East of Oceans and to some extent Earth House Hold. But for the majority of my work, the beats and rhythm are there as a kind of ghost of the past, like when you remember a track hours or days after you heard it. I think that all comes back to my old obsession with being the last DJ of the night, at like 8 am, the last music you heard when you were walking to the car, that muffled sound after you shut the warehouse door. Not only was that time only for the real heads, but those moments as you were leaving,  the last track you heard as you were leaving and that door shut, that was going to be one of the most lasting impressions of the night, whether you realized it or not. It was always the most beautiful thing to me, and it's carried over into my own music, not surprisingly, I guess. I would say everything comes full circle, but that implies I went away and came back. I think I've always been there.

M: Since you brought up Earth House Hold, I happen to know that you have a forthcoming album on ASIP for the project, That I coincidentally had the honor of mastering @ 37n,122w. Can you fill us in on it a bit?

B: You did. I mean the mastering part, not the honor part (laughs).

M: (laughs)

B: I've been wanting to do a second Earth House Hold album forever, and people have been asking me forever as well, which always kinda surprised me, because when it came out it was so under the radar, but over the years I think it grew into what I originally hoped it would be, and the project too. Everything I do is important – well, to me (laughs) but while my work as bvdub deals with more of an emotional history, Earth House Hold is a more physical one, if that makes any sense, in that it's anchored to a more specific space and time, or spaces and times (wink-wink). But then all my work is in some way. I don't know, I'm explaining it fucking horribly. I guess only I know the difference (laughs). I'm clearly not good at explaining it, but I'm never good at explaining music with words. That's what the music's for, because I'm not good with words.

Ryan actually shares a lot of my history with the music and times that Earth House Hold kind of radiates from, and so although ASIP may seem an odd home for Earth House Hold, actually it's a perfect one. We had been talking about doing something for years, but for this reason or that it never came together, mostly because he was too busy putting stuff out from everyone else in the world and collecting bad pressings for dinner plates (laughs) but also because it had to be right for both of us. One day I emailed him out of the blue and said it was time for us to do something for ASIP, and waited until he already agreed to ambush him with the fact it was an Earth House Hold album. I will say with all certainty that was not what he was expecting, and I think it threw him off, but after it sunk in I think he totally got it. When the album was done, I sent it to him, and he loved it. Ryan is awesome, ASIP is awesome, and Earth House Hold is fuckin' awesome. So there you go (laughs). It will be out early next year on double vinyl, I can't wait, hopefully, everyone will dig it. I won't get into what it all means for now, I'll let people listen and figure it out for themselves.

M: Ryan wants to know what you have against pink beer?

I mean I know he's asking because of that time we went to that bar in Seattle and I lost my mind when he ordered that pink beer – but I think you could ask anyone that question who wasn't even there, and they could answer the question as well as I can. It's pink beer. Beer isn't pink. And pink isn't beer. But that's what you have to love about Ryan. He's the only person I know who would take a shot on a pink beer – in the company of two loudmouthed beer snobs – at ten in the morning. Were we already drinking at ten in the morning? Sounds about right (laughs). Too bad the whole endeavor turned out as badly as one might expect. Plus I'm a supposed “beer snob” who also drinks Coors Light every day. Soooo....

M: (shudders) Coors Light? I guess I'm the beer snob.

B: Yeah yeah I know your Coors Light hate (laughs). Hey, sometimes you want a fancy-schmancy IPA or a nice red, sometimes you want a Coors Light. Well, not you, but me (laughs). I spent half my life in a hick town, gimme a break.

M: I have been known to drink Tecate or Pacifico...so...

B: Yeah, I remember both of us drinking Tecate tall boys out of paper bags on that trip, so not sure how much snobbery you can really flex (laughs). I can't lie though, you are way more hardcore than me. Every time I see you I drink some crazy thing I've never had before. For me, if there's good beer I'll drink that. But any beer is gonna get drank. Or is it drunk? They both sound weird. Great, now everything sounds weird.

M: (Laughs)

B: Anyway, no pink beer.

~

bvdub's new album, Heartless is now available through n5MD.

 

bvdub - Yours are Stories of Sadness

 

What hasn't already been said about bvdub and is left to say?

He's a man of many words and expression, often through his relentless music output. Some, have wished for more departures from his sound over the years - a signature sound at that. In Yours are Stories of Sadness, Brock gives a glimpse of change, just enough for him to prove he is never done evolving and in fact, reflecting is just as powerful. 

Brock's releases often vary in intensity and emotion. From the harshness of static, to the rollercoaster of varying song structures, and the pull of the soaring melodies; there's perhaps one thing that Brock hasn't played with before to keep us guessing, and that's track length.

Not to make this entirely about how long a track is, but not only have I wondered what Brock would construct in such strict circumstances, but he's notorious for the progression in his ambient music - so much so they should start naming an approach to ambient music after him...

With each track on this release 1/4 of the normal bvdub length of around 12+ minutes, and each depicting a time in which he remembered a moment from 4-years ago, this is the purest distillation of Brock we've seen to date. 

Each track starts as if it was embarking on a typical bvdub journey, but quickly forms its shape and purpose - be it a unique sample in track 3, Pop Ambient sounding synthesizers in track 5, Helios style organic warmth in track 9, more familiar heart-wrenching chords in track 14 or soaring static and synthesizers in closer, track 19.

bvdub notoriously isn't the easiest introduction into his own music (let me explain that a little). His tracks are often intense and emotional, yet placed for positions of quiet and personal listening. Finding the right moment to listen to bvdub is one of the reasons I don't listen to his albums more - they become destined for very special occasions, intense emotional places, and I think that's why he manages to connect with so many people on a much deeper level than most. You don't listen to one track of his, you listen to an entire album, and you're his companion in time of need, stress, celebration or reflection. Be it a close death, a friendship, or in this instance, fragmented memories, Brock is brilliant at painting these vivid emotions. 

With Yours are Stories of Sadness, Brock not only made his music more accessible, but he's managed to distill the many parts that make up his sound over the years into tiny fragments. You can hear everything in here, with nods to the past and a glimpse into the potential future. He's not one to show off, but if you needed a resume from Brock, this is it - perfectly executed and a summation of his many unique styles. If this is the sound of bvdub recalling memories from the past 4 years, this is also the distilled sound of bvdub from the past 4 years, but with one clear difference.

Unlike his previous works, where the painting was finished, these memories are purposefully grainy and incomplete. Like a 12-minute bvdub track, the remaining 8 minutes or so, are left for you to wonder.  And what better music to wonder with. 

"Unlike all my other works which are meant to be in the foreground, these are meant to stay in the shadows... to be the quiet and subconscious soundtrack... each not a story, but just a moment... that moment you realize. Unlike the norm, when I elucidate every second to near unbearable levels ;), this time how that moment materializes or continues is up to you..." 

Available on Bandcamp.