Growing up in the eighties I can vividly remember learning how use a computer for the first time, and the noisy printer that we loved to set off. My second grade class took a special trip to the newly assembled computer room. It was a whole new world full of green letters and strange new symbols. Of course true love met me when I got home from school, the Atari 2600, and I would play Spider-man for hours. It was 1985 and I was already fascinated by technology. One man who has remained fascinated with the technology of his childhood is Paul Slocum of Tree Wave.
Paul creates the complex bed of sound that allows the lovely Lauren Gray's voice to soar above the waves. His tools are wonderfully outlined here, but include a Commodore 64, Atari 2600, Compaq Portable II, and an Epson LQ500. He has the ability to create custom cartridges for this equipment which allow for such an intricate rhythmic output. It was back in 2004 that this duo released their debut EP, Cabana EP+, and received a lot of positive reviews. After the release, Paul and Lauren needed time to pursue other interests, but continued to perform occasionally. However, as you will hear in the interview new material is on its way.
Recently, Paul took some time out from deconstructing Christian music and setting up his lab to answer a few of my questions.
Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your sound?
Paul Slocum (PS): It's basically 8-bit + My Bloody Valentine
OA: The equipment that you use to make your sound is incredible. When did you first discover that you could use a Commodore 64 or an Atari to make music in this way? Are there plans to incorporate any other pieces of equipment along those lines?
PS: I started using the C64 and Atari with my old band in the 90's, The Science Club, a sort of Ween-like band. Although I actually even did a little music on the C64 in the 80's.
I previously used sampling a lot, and I've started using samples more in the some of the newer stuff. I use a Boss SP-303 phrase sampler when I play live.
I'm experimenting with a new concept where I'm remixing contemporary Christian music, with the intention of producing a result that is not Christian music and not anti-Christian music. It starts off with the original song, which degenerates into phased loops of the song, then I gradually mix in a wall of 8-bit tones on top of it.
Watch: Sleep (mp3)
OA: You also utilize the Atari to create videos to for your shows and for the songs themselves. How important are these videos to your overall live performance? What equipment do you bring to your live shows?
PS: When somebody goes to a live show they want to see something. Since youcan't see a that much of what I'm doing on stage, I think the video'spretty important.
I bring two Commodore 64s, an Atari, a printer, a 1987 portable PC, amixer, two Boss Heavy Metal pedals, and a sampler. And also backups ofmost of the gear
OA: With Lauren in school I've read you are performing alone, but is there any new material being recorded? When might we except to hear a new album from Tree Wave?
PS: In the next few months. I've been running a gallery for the last year and a half, and I haven't had much time. But things have stabilized and last week I set up my studio properly for the first time since I moved into the gallery space. Lauren is going to be recording new material.
OA: There has been a good amount of quality electronic music coming out Texas in recent years. What is your opinion of the current music scene in Dallas and in Texas in general?
PS: I don't keep up with the music scene that much, but the music scene in Texas seems healthy. Probably the strongest scene in Texas is its hiphop scene. Midlake is my favorite Dallas-area band. The band Mom is really nice too.
OA: The equipment that you utilize gives Tree Wave a very unique sound, but who would you say are some of your bigger musical influences?
PS: My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Ariel Pink, Steve Reich
OA: What's next for Tree Wave?
PS: New EP in the next few months, probably followed by an online release of the Christian remix stuff I was talking about (there's probably no way I can release a CD of that stuff without getting sued).
OA: Coffee? If yes what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?PS: There's this Ethiopian coffee I like from Whole Foods, but since I'm trying to save money right now I just get the best Colombian whole-bean coffee I can get at the regular grocery store. I don't go to coffee shops, but I everybody says that Murray Street in Deep Ellum is great.
OA: What was the last great book that you read?
PS: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie.
Tree Wave will be playing tomorrow (10/20) at And/or Gallery in Dallas, TX. This performance will be a part of the opening of the Kevin Bewersdorf + Guthrie Lonergan exhibit.
For more information on Tree Wave check out their website or visit their myspace page.