Interview - Strangeloop
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David Wexler is a 'live cinema artist', super-visual creative and musician. Having worked with and created live visuals for fellow Brainfeeder artists such as friend Flying Lotus, Samiyam, The Gaslamp Killer as well as artists like Amon Tobin, Wexler has become synonymous with the visual aesthetic of the scene. His creativity is not limited to visual channels though; his brand of hyper-lucid, multi-dimensional dream scenes see themselves manifest in his sonic output.
Although well versed in beat making, Wexler's EP 'Fields' due 25th July on Brainfeeder is an immersive slab of minimal ambient, intensely visual and absorbing - highly recommended listening. We talked to David about his creative roots, inspirations and 'Fields'.
Which came first for you - visual design ie. VJing/video or music?
They've always been of equal interest to me. more than anything specific, I'm interested in patterns ... musical, visual, synesthetic.
How did you get into VJing, and what kind of setup do you use?
I got into live-visuals out of frustration with the film industry. I come from a family of film-makers. I knew I always had an easy in if I wanted to work in film, but when I was working as an editor something seemed to be missing. I wanted something live, spontaneous, where I could speak through media in a more direct way.
I put some of my own animations together and got a bunch of samples from my favorite films and started cutting them up live with software. Steve ( Flying Lotus ) asked me if I'd like to perform at the first Brainfeeder show in LA, and something clicked for me that night. I thought, I'm meant to do this.
Do you distinguish between your visual and audio creative processes, do you approach them both differently?
Sometimes I wish I was one or the other, its a lot of work doing both! However, I'm so interested in different forms of media I can't stop myself. For awhile I was thinking about trying to really focus on one or the other, but Mary Anne Hobbs inspired me to keep up all the multi-media madness. She told me she hasn't seen anyone do BOTH at such a level, which gave me a boost and helped me continue despite the battle against the technological limits, and the workload.
I approach both from a basically cinematic standpoint. I want to see something, I want something to unfold that I don't have control over, something beyond me. I want awe, drama, sci-fi realms on the level of hollywood, but from a totally different angle.
Would you say that you have synaesthesia at all?
I don't have a true synesthesia, like some people have. I don't see the number 7 when I hear an D sharp. I have some sort of learned synesthesia, probably thanks to some hallucinogen use. I think we all have innate synesthesia, which is dampened by the limited linguistic models in which we function. To the mind, all sense information is patterns of energy that can be transposed into different forms, sights, sounds, tactile sensations.
Change the language and you can change the senses. Stretch the limits of a sense and it can become another sense. I love all these limits, and finding ways of hacking them.
You met Steven Ellison (Flying Lotus) when you were both studying at the Academy of Arts San Franscisco, can you tell us how you came to meet, and how you work together now?
Steve, as many people know now, is an incredible individual. We initially bonded over avant-garde sci-fi, anime, aphex twin, etc. and then, he basically saved me from the Resident Advisors at the dorm when I blacked out after a mega-dose of psilocybin. I hit my head and thought I was living with this beautiful woman in the woods for thousands of years.
We work together in many capacities, and usually are trying to learn from one another. We've discussed working on a larger film project in the near future, so I'm excited to see where that might go.
You've created visual shows for artists such as Kode9, Samiyam, Dorian Concept, and The Gaslamp Killer - how do you go about putting these together, how do they vary per show and whose sounds do you like working with the most?
Honestly, I love working with other Brainfeeder artists. They're family, and I know the most about their whole mythos. I can design a show for someone like Gaslamp and draw on what I know about him, try to make something really special that taps into that vibe. However, its always great when I get a chance to work with someone new and down for the vision, like John ( 12th Planet ) or Amon Tobin ... its a great challenge, and I love being pushed to keep developing the visuals and upping my game.
Even though these artists create predominently beat led work, your new album 'Fields' is quite different from that scene, and certainly has its own unique sound. Is it important for you just to be around other creative people?
I make lots of beats, and will release more of that for sure, lots of drill n' bassy stuff, but with FIELDS I stepped out of all that. Its minimal, its subliminal, its not about a big bang ... its vulnerable for me, and is about a very personal experience. Its an active listening kind of thing, the more you listen in, hopefully the bigger it will get.
Honestly, I got a little tired of so many beats ... I was burnt out on the beats, dubstep, everything. I still love all of it, but for that moment in time, I just wanted something beautiful and personal.
The album has a real cinematic quality to it, full of swirling ambient synths and keyboards - almost mesmerising at points . Can you tell us about how the album came together, how long did it take to complete, what your intention was with it?
I made it in three days in Portland, and added a few vocals later on before it was mastered by Daddy Kev. I wanted to get the kind of vulnerable heart of a lot of what I've been trying to do with my life, whether it be through blaring stroboscopic visuals, or psychedelic beat-scapes or anything.
I'm trying to share an experience, an unfolding experience, it doesn't have an end. It loops back on itself in many ways. Its in me, and its in history, and evolution. Its psychedelic, but totally natural. Its why I'm here, to share this thing ... and the funny part is I don't even know what it is, I'm discovering it as I go along. Its something larger then me, I only have a little window to it. I just want to honor it, be connected.
Could you hint at some visual artists and musicians that may have influenced/inspired the album and why?
Steve Reich is huge, I love the minimalist mind-set. I wanted something hypnotic, something constantly changing in a subtle enough way that you lose track of the parts ... it just becomes one swirling thing. Also Cliff Martinez, who did the new Solaris soundtrack, bizarrely I've listened to that soundtrack almost every night for the past 4 years, I don't really get tired of it.
Visually, FIELDS is obviously a direct rip from Gaspar Noes Enter the Void (which is a direct rip from many a DMT experience, haha). Enter the Void is very traumatic and phenomenal, I wanted to take some of those aesthetics, merge them with my own, and make an experience where the trauma was implicit, and the human elements were delegated to the viewer alone. I wanted a window into a psychedelic universe that was convincing and full, something you feel went on even after you stopped viewing it.
Will you be touring your new sounds, what's next for you?
I will be providing the visual-show for the upcoming Brainfeeder tour with Flying Lotus, Thundercat, Austin Peralta, and performing some of my beat experiments. I plan on having select performances of FIELDS in different theaters and untraditional venues. I'm working on an audio-visual project with Mono/Poly about alien archaeologists, continue to develop a visual show for 12th Planet, and am starting my own A/V Collective called TEACHING MACHINE.
Strangeloop's EP/Film 'Fields' is out 25th July on Brainfeeder