Gavin Russom answers the Questions of Doom
Gavin Russom is a modern day musical alchemist. Don't believe me? Check out the plethora of DFA related projects he has been involved in. His is the music within the machine. You don’t play Russom records but experience them, intensely (...and dance as well). This is sound transmuted into song and reborn as a brutal audio hallucination. Russom makes you realise that to make art rock, you have to be uncompromising, and to make successful art rock, you have to have more than one idea. Gavin Russom? He has many. And it redefines the notion of acid house and noise, and of hip hop and dubstep in his own technicolour cut’n'paste and samples set up. His new project The Crystal Ark encapsulates this and much more, as Russom puts it: 'By the feeling I have in my body when I'm dancing. I wanted to make music that would make people experience joy at being in their bodies.' It does. 'Nuff said.
Who is Gavin Russom?
A simple man with zero interest in bullshit.
Were you inspired by the BBC Collective (Delia Derbyshire, etc) to create and build your own machines, or did this come from a more primal need, and if so, what do you think that was?
Instrument building and creation was something I was interested in from childhood. Music was very important in my family and there were a lot of instruments around. I suppose I sensed that they had an energy or power to them and that was attractive. Making things yourself was also important in my home. My parents were, I think, a bit old fashioned in that way. My mother taught me how to make my own clothes and my father taught me how to do simple carpentry. So it was a natural thing to start constructing instruments as well when I became interested in them. It was intuitive. BBC radiophonic workshop certainly fostered an interest in electronic music in me when I was young because of the music in Doctor Who which I liked a lot. Of course learning about Delia Derbyshire later in life was also inspiring. Louis and Bebe Barron were probably much more influential though. I learned about them pretty early on and their work and approach very much inspired me.
What has been your favorite machine to build and what does it do?
I would probably say that the unit I did for Bjorn Copeland of Black Dice is my favorite thing I’ve ever built. It takes an audio input and chops it up rhythmically using filters to separate the sound out into several synced rhythms. It has many interesting ways of working with a simple analog sequence to make it very playable.
How much musical impact do you feel you’ve had on LCD Soundsystem and DFA Records?
A pretty large musical impact. Both LCD and DFA have had an impact on me as well.
You seem to be very much under the influence of tribal cultures and ritual - did your experience in punk originally set this off?
I think I was probably more drawn to punk because of this interest. Although at the time I was just doing what made sense to me. What originally got me interested in these subjects was hearing music from other cultures and seeing clearly that it had a powerful and specific purpose. Later I heard social philosophers like Cornell West and Joseph Campbell speak about the absence of ritual in our culture. And these things came together for me in a way. I wanted to make purposeful music.
You’ve mentioned that you feel you have an identity of a NYC musician, do you feel your music is distinctly New York? And if so,which song and why?
My music has definitely influenced by the experience of living in New York. Particularly because of the confluence of sounds, cultures and energies that exist here. The Crystal Ark is probably the most overtly New York music I’ve made, because it has been made during a time of coming back to the city and seeing it from another angle. Really appreciating it and honestly being in love with it and all its layers.
What is the greatest misconception of yourself, or your music, that you’ve read about or heard?
People seem to think the music I make is “left field”, “out there” or “weird” and I really can’t understand where they get this from.
You’ve have a well documented interest in magic and ritual, do you feel that the music that you compose captures a psychic undercurrent of NYC? And other cities you’ve been inspired by?
I would hope so. Channeling the energy that underlies a place, time or state is certainly one of my goals. Providence (where I grew up), Berlin, LA, Zurich, Melbourne, Ankara, Salvador and many other cities have inspired me and found their way into my work.
Was it that similar fascination towards ritual that inspired the Crystal Ark?
The Crystal Ark was primarily inspired by dancing. By the feeling I have in my body when I’m dancing. I wanted to make music that would make people experience joy at being in their bodies.
Do you feel Crystal Ark is the ‘Russom end statement’ of combining technology and nature?
I hope not, because I’d like to keep doing this for a while and, to be honest, I feel like with The Crystal Ark I’m just beginning to say what I want to say.
What new bands should we be checking out?
Blondes, Nancy Fortune, Escandalo, Nguzunguzu, enSUBTITLES, Lagartijeando, Bert on Beats, Aqua Nebula Oscillator, Discodeine, Hexawhorra, Midnight Magic…