Friday, April 11, 2008

Band of the Week

Sam King

How do you define renaissance man? A creative person who has the ability to express him or herself through multiple mediums? As an artist who can paint vivid and fluid landscape and promotes the work of other artists, a musician who writes and records lush and thoughtful folk tunes, and writer of both lyrics and stories, these are the passions of Fayetteville's Sam King.

Sam King has released two full-length albums (The Baby & The Bathwater & Two) in the last three years through his website Painting Was a Dinosaur. He is currently working on a series of paintings based on the a stretch of Highway I-540. He also co-edits the website MW Capacity, an art blog that feature artists from around the midwest. Sam King is fully aware of what he needs to create, and he works in what ever medium he can to share his vision with the world.

Recently, Sam was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): Your release last year, Two, is beautiful, simple, and honestly rivals any of the current folk tunes out there today. Why is Two only available for download on your website? Can a physical copy be purchased?
Sam King (SK): That's quite a compliment, thank you. My approach to making this music is to do things on the cheap as much as possible. I self-record it, using one microphone, a computer, and not much else. It doesn't cost much for me to make it, and the result is essentially lo-fi. That is, I could send it to get mastered and pressed to CDs or vinyl, but the quality wouldn't improve much from the mp3 versions. So at that point, a hi-fi physical product is either for profit, added context, vanity, or some combination of the three.

I do have some physical copies of the releases. I make CD-Rs for tours and shows. Some people still like having the physical object, and also it's a way to get some gas money besides the door/donations. I'm happy to sell CD-Rs if I've got them (right now I do). Just email me or send a check to my PO Box.

Two and The baby & the bathwater are both available for free on Painting Was A Dinosaur (and also on the internet archive). I don't solicit a lot of help distributing my music because I like to feel like I have at least some control over how people can "officially" encounter it.

OA: With all of the media outlets available to musicians (i.e. blogs, youtube, myspace, etc), and the ease-of-use of services like paypal and cd baby is there a need for record labels?
SK: Record Labels do serve a purpose. I feel like many established independent labels each have a kind of point of view. They're almost curatorial. They lend the gravity of context to the artists whose work they release.

They create collective energy, the buzz of lots of individual enthusiasms, for which there is no replacement.

Also, when they're labels with money--well, they have money. If I were on one, I wouldn't have to pay up front for my merch. Also, a lot of music does benefit from being hi-fi and expensive to make.

But, to answer the question, no, I don't think that labels are a necessary part of a musician's career.

The massive networking sites like MySpace are great in some ways, but unsettling in others. Many of my friends more or less gave up TV a long time ago. I hated the barrage of advertising and the censorship. Being on those networking sites eventually starts to feel like signing up for more of what we quit before.

OA: What is the hardest part of touring as an independent artist?
SK: Well, to really tour DIY--to do it on the absolute cheap, the way that pretty much anyone who can find a car or a greyhound ticket or whatever can do it--is alternately heartbreaking and life-affirming. One day, you'll show up and be blown away by people's enthusiasm and goodness--their ability to make something out of nothing. Other days, the nothing stays nothing, or worse. Say you decide that you're going DIY--you're going to ignore all the usual justifying factors (how much product sold, who put out your record, what the reviewers said about your record, how many bodies are at your shows, etc). Then on the good days, you're a pure, trailblazing, do-it-for-the-love bad-ass, rubbing elbows with your eclectic brethren. On the bad days, you're just one more self-deluder. The reality is somewhere in between.

OA: I love the work you are doing with MW Capacity. Even with your blog, do you feel that artists in the Midwest are being overlooked in favor of New York or San Francisco based artists? What was the original goal of MW Capacity?
SK: Capacity serves a couple of purposes. One is to foster informed dialogue about art in places that don't have a natural support system for it (i.e., a major gallery and museum scene). Another is to foster a more open-minded discussion about art among people who might normally be very dismissive of it. And also, of course, to display work by midwest-based artists.

We try to be broad-eyed in our looking. Just because we're in the midwest doesn't mean we don't want to know about what's going on other places. Usually when we post coast-based artists, it's in conjunction with their work being shown somewhere near us.

OA: You are also a painter, and you're latest series pieces are focused on the I-540 Highway. What was it about that specific stretch of road that you found so fascinating?
SK: It's one of the major 'because-it's-there's of my life. I drive it all the time, for work, for friends, for family, for art/music stuff. It's a relatively new road, built to make the trip from Fort Smith to Northwest Arkansas more efficient. It interests me because it's one of those things you can think about or not. It's a beautiful drive, in its way.

OA: Departure 3 follows in a similar vein, but with digital photos put to song. Is there a larger project in store combining all things I-540?
SK: Actually Departure 3 is kind of a big reduction of things. Draws Departure was the first version of Two. I did two different sets of recordings for it, and was never happy with it. Two is a combination of some of those recordings and some later recordings. The music for Departure 3 was first intended for Draws Departure. One of the connecting threads between all the things I make is a sense of displacement, of in-between-ness.

OA: What's next for Sam King?
SK: Painting, mostly. I'm on the way out of I-540. Some rock and roll.

Bonus questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
SK: Yes, so much so I've been trying to cut back. Most of my business goes to the local places in Fayetteville.

OA: What was the last great book you have read?
SK: I just reread Masters of Atlantis by Charles Portis. Highly on-topic for question #3, incidentally.

For more information on Sam King the musician go here and for more from Sam King the Artist go here.

1 comment:

James Eric said...

Sam King is one of my favorite folk discoveries of the past year or so. Good pick for this week. Buy both of his records.