Do you think that musicians must have a certain style, or is just a case of creativity and response to what is around you?
For a long time I looked down on the idea of making music within the framework of genre. I thought if that’s where your head was at that you were probably thinking too much about fame, fashion and other extra-musical things, and paying too little attention to the sounds themselves. But I’ve very slowly changed my mind. You can’t really shake external references to the larger world, it’s impossible to make non-idiomatic music. It seems to me that the more abstraction that’s involved in song-based music, the less meaning andmagic the music holds for most people because the less it’s referring to the things around us.
Working with more than 12 people on your latest album must have been an experience! Was it hard, and was the process collaborative or did you have to ensure control?
If you feel you have to work hard to maintain “control” than you probably aren’t in the right situation, and also know myself enough to know when it’s the right time to seek out collaboration and when it’s the right time to shut myself away for 3 months in my upstate studio and not talk to or share music with anyone. At the moment, collaboration feels natural and easy, and I’m working with the right people who give me the right amount of criticism, encouragement, feel good about contributing, and whose contributions make me excited about music. Leverage Models is still my baby, and everyone knows that, but there’s a lot of mutual respect and love with the people I choose to work with, that’s criteria #1 for me.
You love your gear don’t you?
I’m not really a studio geek. I work on intuition. I believe in the things now that I believed in as a teenage music fanatic. I never cared much for stuff that seemed like it was a put-on, or rehearsed, or like a fashion accessory. That’s what I feel a kinship for.
Why did you move from New York City to Cooperstown? Does location have an impact upon sound?
I do think location can have an impact on sound…I think location has a particularly heavy impact on performances in the studio, especially when any real level of improvisation is involved. When I produce other bands from NYC I often try to convince them to leave the city to do it. For me I’m not sure moving has had any obvious or direct impact on the sound of Leverage Models aside from removing some outside influences I didn’t really find helpful. The move to the country (we live on a working horse farm) was a joint decision with my wife and it had mostly to do with the quality of our lives…and some decisions we had to make about the kind of people we did and did not want to be. But my bandmates are based in Brooklyn and Queens and I’m in the city every few weeks, so that creative umbilical cord is still important and intact.
The Guardian describes your music as ‘worship of 1982’ and a desire to recreate the sound. Is this conscious? Is any of the music making process conscious?
I think, like a lot of these things a publicist threw up a reference to 1982 in a press release or an email and a writer decided to run with it. It’s a good press ‘hook’ for the story. I’m hyper-aware of the musical past I’m playing around with but I’m also not personally interested in pastiche. I’m not sure what MJ’s “Thriller”, ABC’s “Lexicon of Love”, The Associates “Sulk”, and Segun Adewale’s “Ase” (all made in 1982) have in common that could be picked out of a lineup of records spanning the late 70’s through the mid 80’s. They’re very different. A lot of records were made in 1982… I love records and, yes, I’m a bit of a music and music production nerd, but not so much that I could isolate the production techniques and fashions of 1982 (as opposed to 1981 or 1983) and claim to be an heir to them. There are also a lot of late 80s and 90s digital synths and guitar sounds on the Leverage Models record too. And a lot of auto-tune and current R&B rhythms and textures. What draws me to a lot of the records I love from the late 70’s and early 80’s, is the really blatant combination of studio slickness and post-punk amateurishness, especially in some of my favorite vocalists of that time. There is a kind of hysteria in some of these records, a reckless abandon that I connect with, a lot of really beautifully weird experimentation with early digital technologies sitting aside a very settled and perfected use of analog technology and that clash of traditions excites me. I want pop music to make the moment feel like it matters at the same time that I want to dance. I want to dance and shake around like my life depended on it…and to believe that. I don’t want to ever feel like I’m wiser than the things I’m dancing to, I don’t believe in guilty pleasure. I don’t believe that good art is timeless because we aren’t timeless – we’re on a very short timer, you and I.