DALLAS TEXAS BASED GROOVE MAKER SPK TALKS UPCOMING RELEASES, COLLABORATIONS AND MUSIC PRODUCTION
IF: Can you tell us about your upcoming release and what we can expect to see?
SPK: My first record “In The Thick of it” which was released sometime in October on Bandcamp is getting a vinyl re-release on New Math Records, featuring artwork by a really amazing and talented guy named Ghostdrank.
IF: What is the importance of vinyl and tape to you? Why do you think that there is still an audience for these formats?
SPK: I definitely think there is an audience for physical formats like vinyl and cassette. I feel like the novelty aspect of the formats initially draws people into collecting tapes/LPs, but after the novelty wears off, you actually realize how different of an experience these formats offer in listening to music. If I’m going to seriously listen to music and give my undivided attention to it, I like to pull out an LP and do nothing but listen to it. There’s some aspect of sitting down to digest a record that is lost with mp3s for me.
IF: Can you tell us a little about how you originally connected with artist Ghostdrank and the collaborations that have followed?
SPK: Me and Ghostdrank went to high school together actually. I saw he was doing animations and they really turned me on, so I sent him some new recordings and he happened to have a real connection with the sounds I had made. It’s been a cool and healthy collaborative relationship, he’s a genius.
IF: What does your writing and recording process look like?
SPK: For SPK, it’s kind of a stream of consciousness sort of thing. I usually just start writing and playing melodies without a specific goal in mind and see where that takes me. I make a lot of things that I just end up throwing out or putting away on a hard-drive. I think that the whole point of writing songs is to spend a lot of time writing things, regardless of if you like them or not. I like to think of myself as a scientist trying every sort of angle I can think of. I have a keyboard and a few guitars and I program drums and some keys on my laptop, sometimes my friends will play live drums or I’ll also use a small drum machine.
IF: Are you doing most of these recordings in a particular space? If so, what is that space like?
SPK: I did the last two SPK records at my old house in Denton, TX. It was this converted garage space that was damp and had a lot of Junebugs and no windows haha. It was big though so I could set stuff up and have the record button on at all times if I wanted. I record wherever I’m living basically. I’ve recorded at studios in the past but I don’t really like it compared to this workflow.
IF: How did you first get into music production?
SPK: I got into recording when my dad bought a digital 8track recorder to mess around with. I took to the technology pretty fast and got really obsessed with recording my own songs on it. That was probably the moment that I realized I loved this process and began researching everything about recording and just obsessively listening to/dissecting records. In the 8th grade into the first part of highschool I really dug new wave, stuff like Brian Eno and Talking Heads and Bowie. Those records were my text books for years and taught me a lot about sounds.
IF: It seems we constantly hear about the music scene in Austin, but so rarely hear about any other cities in Texas. What is the music scene like in Dallas? Also, what is your opinion on the hype surrounding Austin?
SPK: Austin is cool but it’s so overcrowded. I’ve only been out there to play gigs and that’s it. I don’t like it too much, but there are a lot of great musicians and bands out there like Berkshire Hounds, Rotten Mangos, Hola Beach, Magic Rockers of Texas, and Bill Durham to name a few. I really dig San Marcos which is about 30 minutes from Austin, that town has a lot of cool art and people.
Dallas is sorely overlooked. There’s a high level of art being made here across the board. We’ve got harsh noise, hip-hop, rap, jazz fusion, punk, metal, funk… like anything you would want to hear. There’s a lot of interesting and ground-breaking stuff being made here, unfortunately there’s not a strong community of people willing to support up and coming acts. Fort Worth and Denton have cool scenes too, just outside of Dallas. Fort Worth has a great community, I’ve come to love that scene over the last few years.
IF: Can you tell us about your collaboration with Buffalo artist Jon Bap and how the two of you originally connected?
SPK: I met Jon Bap in Dallas through my friends Rache. I heard “Let it Happen” a year or so ago when he first put it up on Bandcamp and it was incredibly fresh and exciting to listen to. We eventually met on one of his trips to Dallas and that prompted me to send him some stuff I recorded and he kinda just did his thing on it. He’s a really cool artist and human and I’m thankful to have met him.
IF: Both of you seem to have a similar style, one that is very focused rhythmically yet gives plenty of room for experimentation and abstract additions. Without trying to fit yourself into a genre, how would you describe your music to someone you just met that had never heard your stuff before?
SPK: I don’t think about genre when I make music, but I think people like to know what to compare it to, which I get. Despite the fact that there are electronic elements I wouldn’t call it “electronic.” It’s influenced by jazz and funk and pop music at it’s core. I don’t think I can say it truly sounds like anything established. I’d tell folks to check it out and decide for themselves.
IF: You appear to use a few samples as well as found sounds throughout your music. How does this shape your music? Are these typically building blocks for a new song or do they serve more as accents along the way?
SPK: I like recording when I go out to places. Occasionally I collect audio of conversations or just outside noise on my phone but I never really go back to them. I went through some old stuff I field recorded and used a little bit on my album. Most of the clips you hear are like 1-3 year old experiments that just happened to work with the songs I had recorded. I sampled one piano part on this album but everything else is just sounds I made. There’s so much to explore with sound and I’m just now scratching the surface.