Nel mondo della musica contemporanea e dell’arte digitale Taylor Deupree è considerato uno dei migliori interpreti della rivoluzione digitale a cui abbiamo assistito in questi ultimi anni.
Sound artist, fotografo, grafico, il poliedrico artista americano ha iniziato la propria carriera alla fine degli anni 80 incidendo musica techno, per l’etichetta americana Istinct Records. In seguito a quelle prime esperienze discografiche, e alle promesse non mantenute da parte dell’etichetta Silent che doveva pubblicare un suo disco, nel 97 decide di fondarne una tutta sue e orientata al minimalismo musicale, la 12k. A dieci anni dall’uscita del primo disco, la 12k è cresciuta tantissimo diventando un punto di riferimento per tutta la scena minimal ambient-sperimentale. Molti e importanti gli artisti all’interno dell’etichetta, a cavallo tra ambient sperimentale, techno e minimalismo: da Frank Bretschneider agli Skoltz Kolgen, dall’amico Richard Chartier a Sebastien Roux, da Kenneth Kirschner a Steinbruckel e molti altri ancora.
Infinite al contempo le collaborazioni a livello internzionale, al punto da intessere una vera e propria rete di musicisti e artisti visuali, sul confine tra minimalismo e contemporaneità artistica. Si colloca in questo discorso il rapporto costante con la label Raster-Noton, con musicisti come Kenneth Kirschner ma anche tutta l’attività della sub-label Line (gestita proprio da Richard Chartier) che vanta al suo interno molti artisti di punta di questa scena, dallo stesso Alva Noto a William Basinski, da Asmus Tietchens a Nibo, dai Matmos a Ivan Pavlov. Un musicista, Taylor Dupree, in grado di prestare la sua arte anche ad arte discipline che lavorano a contatto con il suono o con l’ambiente sonora in senso ampio: a imperitura memoria rimarrà quindi la sua collaborazione per la seminale Tower of Winds, installazione interattiva ambientale. progettata dall’architetto nipponico Toyo Ito per la città di Yokohama nell’ormai lontano 1998.
Abbiamo chiesto a Taylor un punto di vista sulla scena musicale contemporanea, di parlarci del suo lavoro, dei suoi progetti e dell’importanza che ha acquisito nell’attuale scena musicale.
Giuseppe Cordaro: You’re looked at as one of the best artists of the digital era we live in: sound artist, graphic, photographer, who exactly is Taylor Deupree?
Taylor Deupree: I’m very (very) busy. that’s the bottom line. i love what i do so i never stop working. the music, the labels, the design, the photography.. the family.. the only thing i lose out on is sleep. For me it’s very important to love what i do, it’s what drives me and makes me able to do everything that i set out to do. i’m very passionate about 12k and about my music. i studied photography at university and have always been taking photos, but even the last 3 or 4 years i have become even more interested in it, put up the website (taylordeupree.com) and become much more active as a photographer. i tend to stay away from things in life that i’m not totally passionate about and make time for the things i am. i live and breathe my music and my brain is always going, constantly thinking of new projects and how to complete what i have to do. i read a lot. i read photography magazines and music studio magazines, always learning and exploring tools. i am never bored. i forgot what that feels like… and i’m very happy about that!
Giuseppe Cordaro: How do you experience creative relationships in a world which is constantly more “digitalized” and where stimulations are always growing in number?
Taylor Deupree: Minimalism. simplify. those are my reactions to the over-stimulating world. i think it’s a very healthy way to live, to learn how to get through all of the crap that we are bombarded with every day, and to focus on the important things and the beautiful things. i apply these philosophies to my every day life. travelling around the world and meeting people, seeing other countries and places and understanding the way other cultures live. the world gets smaller and more homogenized every year so it has become ever more important to find identities as cultures and individuals.
Giuseppe Cordaro: When did you realize your career/life would have been being a musician?
Taylor Deupree: About 6 months after I turned 15 years old, I got my first synthesizer and from that moment on i knew i wanted to create electronic music. although i was totally naive about the technology and business i could sense the possibilities and knew it would be an endless source of inspiration for me.
Giuseppe Cordaro: In your latest works we can feel an evolution towards more solid and warmer sounds, also achieved by using acoustic instruments. Could you tell us more about it?
Taylor Deupree: It’s basically just a natural evolution into exploring more ways to express myself and my surroundings and play with an manipulate sound. i’m really fascinated by the random subtleties of acoustic sounds. there is a lot hidden in one simple pluck of an acoustic guitar or the ringing of a bell. also, a few short years ago computers and audio processing got powerful enough to start effecting sounds, in complex ways, in real time. i had obtained a sound design system a few years back called Kyma, which really excels at the processing of live inputs so i began exploring with that. natural and warm sounds create a nice balance against the electronics. my music lately has been about achieving a sense of peacefullness, but melancholy at the same time. i find warmer, softer sounds a good way to get there.
Giuseppe Cordaro: I know you recently moved to the countryside from Brooklyn. Has this had an effect (or will it) on your creative process?
Taylor Deupree: I think the nature that surrounds my studio has had a clear effect on my music. it’s quiet here, and i think the randomness of nature has made me more interested in exploring natural sounds. when i lived in Brooklyn i was creating soft, minimal music to escape the busy city and i thought maybe if i moved to the country i would create loud, busy music to escape the country! always keeping a balance. however, that was not the case, i find the nature brings out even more of the natural in what i do.
Giuseppe Cprdaro: Let’s talk about your record label, 12k. It has been alive for more than 10 years now; could you sum up its activity for us?
Taylor Deupree: I started it in 1997 after i realized there was no reliable source for experimental music in america. i had been working at a record label a few years building up to that and learned, more or less, how to run a label myself. i also learned how NOT to run a label so i really wanted to make sure that 12k was an artist-run label and that i would always related to my artists on an equal level. it started out without any real plan.. just to release my own music and music from my immediate friends in new york. but after a few releases things were going succesfully enough and i wanted to really get an established aesthetic both visually and audibly. using Factory Records as sort of a model for the “feel” of the label and my interest in minimalist art and architecture the “real” 12k was born around 1999 with a very calculated and specific style. i had realized over all of my years producing music that in a world of music that changes so much, where new genres are born every week and listeners have no attention span, that it was my goal to really focus on one particular aesthetic and fight the relentless buildup and oversaturation of media. so in 1999 12k became the “minimalist” “ambient” “experimental” label it is now and i still stick to my original goals while allowing the releases to slowly evolve and explore new sonic territory.
I am comfortable now how the label is. i don’t need it to be huge, i don’t need to be the biggest electronic music label. i don’t want to be Warp or anything like that. i want 12k to remain small and focused on a certain quality of listening. as the label continues to grow i will put the money not into MORE releases or MORE advertising or MORE promotion, but into things like packaging and special editions. i will continue my original mission statement which was to let listeners discover 12k, to not promote too heavily or be in-your-face about things. i think that people have a more positive and lasting relationship with something they have uncovered themselves, something they have sought out out of their own interest. Now with the death of the cd looming large i will have big decisions as to how to change the label and in what directions i go. it’s a very unsettling time for the music industry, but also an exciting time. we have to adapt to new technologies, no matter where they push us and whether we agree with them or not and to not only make the best of them but to mold them in our own ways to create something unique that will challenge people to think and listen.
Giuseppe Cordaro: When and how did you decide to start producing music with 12k?
Taylor Deupree: As i said above…. in 1997 12k started.. and my own music was the first few releases.
Giuseppe Cordaro: Tell us something more about the “Happy” and “L-ne” sections.
Taylor Deupree: LINE is a label that Richard Chartier A&Rs, and 12k does the manufacturing and distribution. It’s basically Richard’s label, creatively, and 12k handles the business stuff. Richard tends to concentrate on music that has been used for installations, or multi-media projects.. not always, but it’s been one of the focuses. LINE releases tend to be a more quiet and linear counterpart to 12k’s melodic and often granular sounds. LINE has a solid roster of artists such as Richard himself, Asmus Tietchens, Steinbrüchel, Mark Fell… Line was started in 1999, so it’s almost been 10 years. Happy is a label i started a few years ago to concentrate on alternative Japanese pop. There have been 3 successful releases, however, i think i’m going to stop the label because it did not work to my original plan. The idea was to make Happy not very electronic, to release music by more alternative and indie-rock bands, however, it didn’t work out that way and the sound i feel can work very well on 12k now… so, with the release of the Moskitoo cd on 12k last year, which had a lot of elements of the Happy sound, i decided i can release that sort of music on 12k so i think there is no need for Happy anymore. I’d rather concentrate on one label anyway.
Giuseppe Cordaro: As far as mp3s are concerned, what do you think of net-labels and all that gravitates around CC?
Taylor Deupree: We’ve recently started a discussion about this on the 12k forum. i believe that free music is really damaging artists and the music community. net labels are OK, but i don’t think it’s ok to give away too much free music (some is ok, for promotion!). and it is making me rethink the reasons for 12k’s own MP3 series, TERM. younger people today really think music is a cheap commodity and how are musicians supposed to compete with that? it costs money to make music, if you want to take it seriously, to take it beyond a hobby, and to support the instrument and software developers who make our tools. a LOT of hard work and passion goes into making music, producing it, manufacturing cds, running a label, printing… the more music that is given away for free or stolen means less time that great artists and labels will be around. it is a fact of life that people need to make money to survive. if you spend all of your time doing something else besides music to make your money you are left with very little time for music, and if you have very little time for music you produce music of lesser quality. artists need to spend time on their craft, whether it is music or photography or painting… and time means money, artists need money to sustain an evolving and interesting career. free art, free music undermines this. a few years ago i made a very conscious decision to never steal or copy music for free and to never used cracked or unlicensed software. it is good for me, good for the people who create the tools.
As for MP3s, i think they are a very convenient, but inferior way of listening to music. i love having my entire music library at my fingertips, it has changed the way i explore and listen to music, for the better. however, i hope people understand how inferior it is to higher quality audio. it is my hope that as bandwidths and download speeds increase we will see more high resolutions formats being offered online. i am not happy about the lack of artwork and liner notes involved with MP3’d music. there has been no successful way to connect those two worlds that i’ve seen yet.
Giuseppe Cordaro: What are the artists you’d like to see on 12k?
Taylor Deupree: All the ones that are there now! and ones i can’t imagine. obviously with 12k i like to have a consistent but constantly evolving sound. every year or two i like to release something that’s really different and often it leads to a bit change in the label. believe it or not, when the first Shuttle358 cd “optimal.lp” came out it was a radical departure for 12k although it seems to natural now. 12k was very synthetic and rhythmic at the time and then SHuttle358 comes along with a very warm and melodic album. also Christopher Willits’ “Folding, and the Tea” was completely different at the time… it was the first 12k cd with GUITAR, with a strong focus on acoustic instruments. both of these cds really changed the direction of the label. likewise, the recent releases by Moskitto and my cd with Savvas Ysatis really point at a more “pop” kind of sound. i like 12k to have a consistent sound, but it is also always changing, it’s easy to see how it evolves by just looking (listening) to all of the releases in order. But it’s also very important to throw in an odd and challenging release on a regular basis to remind listeners that things will not always be the same. the artists i’d like to see on 12k are not really “12k” artists. i’m doing some collaborations coming up with some interesting non-electronic artists, more in the indie-rock or atmospheric rock vein, maybe some of those will end up on 12k
Giuseppe Cordaro: Among the releases scheduled for 2008 there’s a live together with Solo Andata and Seaworthy; I’d like to know more about the way the collaboration with Solo Andata started out.
Taylor Deupree: I was unaware of Solo Andata until i met Kane (half of the band) in Melbourne during my Australian tour. He was playing with Cameron (Seaworthy) and i and i didn’t know his music at the time. He was a very cool and friendly guy and very young. Once he started playing i realized there was something very special here because his set was amazing and he is so young he’s got a massively important career in front of him. He gave me a copy of his cd “Fyris Swan” (Hefty) and it blew me away. definitely the best electronic music album i heard last year. I knew i wanted to work with him more so we all agreed and organized this spontaneous live release and i hope to release some new Solo Andata music in the future… whenever they want.
Giuseppe Cordaro: Next year will be 12k’s 12th birthday. Shall we expect something special?
Taylor Deupree: Yes… i was going to do something special for the 10-year anniversary but ran out of time and then realized the 12-year anniversary would be a bit more of a fitting time. i’m not sure yet, but something will definitely happen, something that combines music, visuals… maybe some sort of performance. we shall see. it will also be LINE’s 10th birthday so we will likely do a big project that combines both of those things.