Artist of the week

Monday, January 21, 2013

Bill Baird

Bill Baird

-Who are you?
Bill Baird.

-Why do you make Music and what does it mean for you?
Bob Dylan interview response:  Never stare a gift horse in the mouth.

But I'm not Bob Dylan.   Not even Bill Dylan.  So I gotta answer it my own way.

I like how you capitalized the word Music.   Seems appropriate.
I usually don't answer this question because it is a difficult one.   A quicksand question.   One might sound pretentious or, even worse, boring.
But I will be as honest with you as possible, at the risk of sounding new-agey or completely strange or saying the word 'vibration' too many times.

Everything is vibration.  Music is the most direct way to transmit vibration.    When my personal vibration resonates with the vibrations of my surroundings, I laugh or weep with joy.   I make music to transmit these moments to other people.  My personal self dissolves and I feel at peace.  It's as if I myself have dissolved into my surroundings.   This often happens when listening to music, or when I'm alone in nature, or when I'm staring into the eyes of my newborn daughter.

Whew.   I only had to say 'vibration' five times.

-Where and when did you start learn to play?
I first experimented with sound by placing my mouth over the speaker on my tv set and modulating tv theme songs by opening and closing my mouth, sort of like a no-fi talk box.   This would be around age 6.   I used to enjoy humming and feeling the vibration through my jaw.

I took guitar lessons in the 4th grade but quit when my teacher tried to teach me "Smooth Operator" , ya know, that Sade song.  She had learned it cuz she was a lounge singer at a nearby Holiday Inn.   I went to see one of her gigs.   That was really weird.

I took it up again in the 9th grade, but quit again when my teacher tried to teach me "Dust in the Wind."   I then started buying Guitar World magazine.   I started to hate guitar solos and then

-How would you describe your sound?
It changes constantly.   

Cosmic and earthly explorations of the American songbook, from tin pan alley to thrash to electronic.
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-Your Album “Career” is simply amazing. What’s the story behind it?
I recorded it in two weeks.   I was able to encapsulate a feeling I'd had inside me for a long time.   I tried to push things as far as I could in one direction.   All in the same direction.   I wanted the music to bleed a certain vibrant orange color.  I think it came out more electric blue.

I was listening to "Trout Mask Replica" and live Jimi Hendrix concerts to get inspired.   Those two went pretty far out.  They inspired me to go all the way in one direction, using a minimum number of instruments. 

The sound of that album is only possible on analog tape.   It cannot be done digitally.   Most of the distortion is the sound of overloading circuitry.   I did not use any amplifiers for the guitars.   I plugged the guitars straight into the tape machine.   

I had the feeling of that album inside of me for a long time before I could correctly articulate it.   I recorded and played everything myself, except for the drums.
It was also the first time I'd experimented with taking LSD in the studio.  I can definitely hear that in the music.   It was very creative and productive, actually.  I think it helped that I had my studio set-up completely dialed.

Being on LSD in a studio alone is pretty amazing, although a few times got inexplicably wrapped in guitar cables.

-Let’s talk about your new album “Spring Break of the Soul”?
It actually pre-dates 'Career.'   Since it's a double-album, I decided not to release it until somebody else would pay for it.   Thankfully, Pau Wau Records stepped in, so 'Spring Break of the Soul' will shortly greet the world.

The album explores an entirely different set of emotions and colors.  There is lots of cello, much of which I actually played.   It is not as intense a record.  It has lots of instrumental moments, and lots of moments with more subtlety than 'Career.'   'Career' demanded your attention.   This one has more nooks and crannies.   More weird moments.  Songs within songs.   Extremely varied instrumentation.

The album originated as an idea I had for a musical.   I wanted it to be like "Waiting for Godot" but taking place on a boat.   Stranded in the middle of the ocean, waiting for wind, waiting for motion, but nothing happens.   The characters get killed and nothing is learned.   A somewhat bleak premise.

I wrote the script while working in Big Sur at the Esalen Institute.   The theme changed due to my surroundings.   Esalen is an amazing place.    The script now sort-of makes fun of new age California rich hippies.  
The script is included with the record.   I illustrated it with photographs and warped the text.   I wanted people to see the script as a sequences of images rather than normal text.   I think I just made it harder to read.  Oh well.

-What's your favourite artist and song?
I love too many things to name just one.

-What genres and artists did influence your music?
I like Bill Hicks, Don Van Vliet, Terry Riley, Nam June Paik, Edward Abbey, Walt Whitman, Frank Lloyd Wright, Buckminster Fuller, George Gershwin, Miles Davis, Les Paul, Raymond Scott.... I could go on all day.
At some point I realized that everyday matters often influence my music more than anything.   What I ate for breakfast, for example.   Whether I've showered that week.  Things like that.   How recently I've been alone in nature.  
I would consider my music part of the American songbook.

-How much the live element matters in your Music?
It used to be everything to me but I am now deconstructing my live performance, up from nothing.   I use humor, improvisation, video triggers, costumes, and other weird stuff.  
But I have not played a normal live show in a year and a half.   So I guess live performance is not that important to me.

-What do you think about Music industry nowdays?
It's in the shitter.  But real artists always find a way.   That's part of the skill it takes to be an artist.   Finding a way.

It's just strange for me that I've spent a whole lot of time cultivating a skill that has basically been deemed worthless ---> being able to create albums.   

-How about physical formats? Plans for CDs  vinyls and cassette?
There are lots more albums that will be released.   Then people will have to sift through the piles and find the jewels.   I am too close to my own music and can't tell things apart.   I edit and scrutinize but in the end no album is ever good enough.  I can't stand to hear an album after it's finished.  
My attitude at this point is... I will make as many as I can sell.   So for my last few self-released records, I made around 100 copies.   This makes it much more expensive, but so be it.   I am committed to the physical format.  I enjoy the tactile.  I like the messiness of real life.   Real life is much more interesting to me than a tumblr.   I like messiness, decay, things that break.   The internet is too clean and controlled and boring, unless it is brought into the physical world.   

Not sure if I will make cassettes again.   They are kind of annoying to produce, although it's cool to hand duplicate each one.   It represents a level of commitment bordering on insanity.

-What is the message that you'd like to express at the people Who
listen to your Music?
Messages are boring.   What I try to embody is that old phrase 'carpe diem,' ya know, live like you will be dead tomorrow.   Either go completely nuts or retreat internally in meditation or maybe do both at the same time.

-What is your favourite book and movie?

Moby Dick.
2nd favorite book is probably Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut.   For a long time it was Gertrude by Herman Hesse and Portrait of the Artist by James Joyce, but I guess I'm much less literary now.

Favorite movie is probably Days of Heaven by Terence Malick, or The Holy Mountain by Jodorowsky, depending on my mood.   It's so weird that my favorite movie stars Richard Gere.   I consider him kind of boring most of the time.   I go back and forth between Days of Heaven and Badlands actually.   

-How and where do you see yourself in ten years from now?
Older, fatter, wrinklier, happier, poorer, more critically ignored, learning the banjo, living in a cabin somewhere, designing off-the-grid dome structures, trying to finally get through writing my book and not wimping out, learning to dance.

-Beatles or Rolling Stones?

Depends on the era.   After 1972 the Rolling Stones are a joke.   I really love "Their Satanic Majesties Request" and a lot of the early singles where Brian Jones is playing weird instruments.
By the same token, anything before the Beatles started taking LSD I find pretty boring.   And the ending stuff is pretty boring too.   I love Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt Peppers and the sound of the White album, but not all the songs.
So I can't say Beatles or Stones until you get more specific.

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