Interview : Kyle Bobby Dunn
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Kyle Bobby Dunn, originally from Ontario Canada and now living in Brooklyn, New York, produces some of the most surrounding soundscapes you'll hear. His album 'A Young Person's Guide To...' released on Low Point in January this year is nearly two hours of minimal yet richly textured music. Critically acclaimed by the likes of Boomkat, Textura and more, this is album follows up the download only album 'Fervency' released on Moodgadget in 2009.
Why have you come to focus on minimal/soundscape/ambient music, have you progressed to this point and if so how?
I certainly haven't tried to focus on these terms... I suppose it's just how my ideas come out. I've never really intended to make a so called ambient album although everyone tells me that or applies that to the finished. I guess I can see why, but it's also lazy and probably ruins the music before others even give it a chance. I want to think I've progressed from albums I made 7 years ago - I am not catering to any kind of music or scene. It was after I finished my first legit album in 2002 that my friend Tim Nolan told me to check out 'ambient' music, like Eno and stuff. I did and was a little bit let down.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it?
Pretty quiet but deep, nostalgic hopefully, warm and cool - a music that makes you basically feel good and bad at the same time. The notes and general progressions are designed and unfold to integrate both good and bad feelings or ideas. A bit dull.
There is a serene yet haunting quality to many of the tracks on 'A Young Person’s Guide To...', what themes/concepts are you dealing with on this album?
Mostly young person elements. I found myself reflecting heavily on childhood memories, people and places and constructing compositions and sounds that made that transport more easy and lifelike. Kind of like soundtracking memories a bit. I kind of obsess and continue to be intrigued by my youth and childhood in Calgary, Alberta. It was where things and ideas really developed at an abnormal state for me and then sadly vanished when I moved from there in 2000 to the U.S. to start a life of daunting pain and confusion. But it's in the U.S. that the musical work came together and I was greatly inspired by certain places and people in North Carolina. The first track 'Butel' is about a sexy vegan ex-girlfriend and then songs like 'There is No End to Your Beauty' and 'Small Show of Hands' are about so many things I'd hate to bother you with them and analyze them to something probably very boring and uninteresting. I'm trying to wrap up general childhood themes and feelings still going on - but I don't know. The main concept is rather self-involved and that may be very alienating and difficult to the listener, even if the serene or haunting qualities stand out.
How much of your music is written/composed and how much comes through experimentation and evolution?
I think evolution is a great word for this work. They just come as they naturally can. I am doing some 'boring' writing and I really hate experimentation, but the work I am putting together, that I am content with usually has an evolution in both musical and non-musical / real life realms.
How long does it take to finish a track, do you discard many versions of tracks through the production process?
There can always be things taken in and out of a track, but I really enjoy working slowly and seeing where it goes on its own. I finished 'The Nightjar' in one evening. I finished 'Cozen' from Six Cognitive Works (Kning Disk) in one sitting. Sometimes it works like that and going back to tamper and mess with effects or elements just becomes artificial and stenches the work.
Have you ever stopped and started again on a track because you were unhappy with it?
Of course. Again that goes much nicer with the evolution term. If something's not ready, why force it? You get a premature piece of shit.
Can you explain some of the track titles on the album, do these come first or are they are response to the music?
Usually a response to the music. I am not sure I have ever named something prior to working on it. I think a lot of the track names are pretty personal. You'd have to ask me to explain a specific title or so...
You cite John Williams as a key influence, are you interested in producing music for film at all?
Growing up in Canada I started shooting films with video and hi8 tape. My first love. I did soundtracks to a lot of the films I did and got my first experience so to speak through that. I've done some more professional type ventures and short films, but nothing I am that proud of. John Williams isn't really an influence I just like his soundtracks a lot - really for just listening purposes. There's bits of the Jurassic Park soundtrack and The Long Goodbye that are truly compelling. Star Wars is great too.
What other artists working now do you rate, and is there anyone who particularly inspires you?
I usually don't play all the right shows or venues in New York but I like a lot of the people I've gotten to know and work with. Maybe not always musically, but whatever. Everyone does their shit for different reasons and has a weird projection of who they are and what they do in their own mind and it takes the music experience to an uncomfortable and irritable level sometimes. Inspiration is difficult. Especially New York. For me it just doesn't come the same way it does for others and certainly not in swampy ass live music settings in Brooklyn.
Is there anything other than music that inspires you?
I do like things like great meals, red wine, strong coffee, traveling to remote and interesting places, breathable air, certain places and architecture ... all that. Memories.
Are you working on anything new yet?
I am working on things intermittently as always. Lately a lot with academically schooled string players and classical instrument musicians.
Listen to Promenade from the album
Low Point: www.low-point.com/LP033.html