Driving fast through Indianapolis with Sedcairn Archives

IF: I first came across your music after seeing a post from Keith Rankin regarding the album artwork he did for OOBYDOOB. Can you tell me about how you originally connected with Keith as well as the ideas behind the artwork?

SA: I was a fan of Keith’s artwork, music as Giant Claw, and label Orange Milk. I put together a show that he played at the Joyful Noise performance space and kept in contact with him after that. We went back and forth a little about the artwork. I sent him some images that I liked of Breadwoman and Gary Wilson, but he pretty much just did his own thing. I knew he would do something awesome just based on his past work.

IF: You released OOBYDOOB on November 11th. What went into making this album? Were there any specific ideas that influenced it?

SA: This album took a while to put together. After recording some rough versions and performing some of them live with my friend Ostry, he and I went down to Magnetic South in Bloomington to record his drums. At the same time I was working on getting the guest vocalists on some tracks. And then the last step was to have it mastered at Postal Recording here in Indy. Coming off of the Mammoth Cave record I wanted to do something that was a little more fun and included more people. I tried to just go with my instincts and not exclude brighter textures or vocals.

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IF: The first track I heard off the album was “Ima Ned Hed” and it really stood out to me as something I couldn’t quite wrap my hands around.  What is this song about?

SA: It’s kind of hard to say what some of the songs are about. Some of the lyrics come more from rhythmic ideas, but I do have a vague sense of what I’m trying to say by the time a song is done. To me, “Ima Ned Hed” is about understanding that your friends, family, and community are sacred and rare, and believing that you don’t need approval from anyone else. It’s kind of a reaction to being on the internet a lot where there is a lot of information about people’s lives that don’t have anything to do with you.

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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.

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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.

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Artist Spotlight – Nicholas Bohac

IF: Tell us about how you originally connected with Son Step. How did the collaboration unfold?

NB: Son Step actually contacted me. I just looked back at my records to see if I could figure out how that all started, and I see that Joel actually sent me a text message last fall. At the time, I didn’t know who he was, but I have a public number that I keep online, just for this purpose. He sent over a few texts basically telling me about his band, how they liked my work, they were prepping an album and wanted to know if I worked with bands. And I do. Back when I was growing up and still living in Omaha, I played in a punk band. That was a really fruitful time for music in Omaha and the Midwest, no matter what type of music you were making. We were super active, went on tours and released more than a few records. At one point, my buddy Kevin & I actually started a small label that had these grand aspirations. Being involved in music at that time got me interested in all of the other stuff that goes into music – packaging, merch, trying to make the funds to tour. So before I ever moved out to San Francisco, I had designed more than a few album covers, silkscreened a few thousand t-shirts and all of that other stuff.

Joel texting me is a pretty common occurrence for me. Bands will see my stuff around the internet and send something over asking if ever do album covers. And I do, because I like music and I like having my work out there like that. Almost every time, the musicians I work with just end up wanting to license a painting or drawing that is already completed. These days, a lot of stuff is just released digitally, but sometimes the groups I work with release stuff on cd, or vinyl. Some do posters. There’s a fairly long history of musicians and visual artists working together, and yeah, I’m stoked to keep doing projects like that. I don’t have the time to play music really anymore and was really never that great to begin with, but it’s cool to stay involved with that stuff.

Aaron, the drummer I played with way back when, he’s in a group that just released their first album with Bridge Nine last week. That dude was and is the real deal, as far as music is involved. I’m content to just work on images that people feel illustrates what they’re talking about in their music.

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IF: What was your process during the initial creation of the piece that was used as the cover art?  What is the meaning of the piece to you, as its on entity, aside from an album art cover?

NB: So, the painting is titled “Others”. I just went back and looked to see when I made that painting, and I think I finished it around the end of 2013. Like, maybe closer to summer/fall? I keep awful records of this stuff and really need to get better.

Around this time, I was just painting and seeing what happened. I had been out of graduate school for about five or six years. In that time, I had my stuff represented by a few galleries that unfortunately ended up closing. So I was at this point where I had no representation, knew a lot of people, but could experiment a bit more. I started playing with some different processes that I hadn’t used before. The year or so before I had started to tape my canvases a lot more. Like, when I first came out of grad school, my work was almost entirely collage. Torn sheets of paper that were pasted onto a rigid support to build landscapes. A few years out of school I had started to paint a lot more.

This painting has a large aqueduct in the background that was painted in. I taped off the shape of the structure and then used a squeegee to pull paint over this, effectively creating a stencil. Then I pulled the tape up and the structure, made up of texture paint, remained. There’s also a stencil in the sky that references a Dyson sphere, or even maybe a Buckminster Fuller dome. Something that gives structure to the sky and reinforces that there’s something holding the surrounding landscape together. Up on the aqueduct are some figures that you can see, and in the foreground is a colorful structure with two figures looking up at the others on the bridge that connects the two sides of the crumbling aqueduct.

Naming it “Others”, I hoped to imply that the figures in the foreground maybe be weary of what they’re seeing on the bridge. People are weary when they don’t know things about the others around them. They exist in this psychedelic landscape, with a diamond mountain range in the background, implications of technology that’s crumbling. Maybe it’s a post nuclear landscape, maybe it’s somebody’s fantasies in a virtual reality world they’re experiencing in an Oculus Rift.

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INTERVIEW W/ KEITH RANKIN – the visionary behind Giant Claw and Orange Milk Records

IF: Tell us a little about your life leading up to the creation of Orange Milk Records. How did it all begin?

KR: I co-run Orange Milk with Seth Graham, we met each other in Dayton Ohio, and I think we were both starting to get into noise and synthesizer music being released on tape around 2008 or 09. I wanted to be involved with that music somehow, and we wanted a place to showcase our own music. Throughout my life I’ve been attracted to different communities or scenes, feeling the urge to be a part of something or to associate with likeminded people, but those communities have always left me feeling alienated after a while. The beginning of Orange Milk was probably at the start of one of those urges.

IF: What is your current role in OMR? What has changed since the beginning?

KR: There’s obviously more work involved now but our roles haven’t changed very much. We switch off shipping duties every year or so, Seth is handling that right now. I do most of the visual art, and we will both talk to artists and split other duties.

IF: How do you find the artist on the label? Is there anything in particular you are looking for?

KR: I do a lot of soundcloud searching, and we get a lot of great demos. There are extremely vague parameters stylistically that we look for, it’s easier to define as an ambition or work ethic that shines through in someones work. It’s exciting to me when experimentation mixes with an inner drive, the effect is almost like someone pushing beyond their limitations, like when a singer goes just above and outside their octave range. That’s usually an interesting place to be musically. We also obviously have our whole life’s worth of experiences that have built up into a continually refined aesthetic which is constantly being transposed over the music we’re considering, like “does this fit my idea of cool?”

IF: In a recent interview you said “A lot of response to the record so far have discarded the conceptual aspects in favor of the purely musical ones, which I think is perfectly fine and justifiable – that musical reality is a deep part of the work and is by far the easiest entry point into it” What are some of these more conceptual aspects you aim to reach in your music and art?

KR: I think there’s a dual stigma with intellectualizing art and also not being conceptual enough, you’re caricaturized in either scenario. But every action anyone takes has an entire history behind it, we just choose to access that history or conceptual backing in different ways. I find making music more enjoyable when I have a conceptual world brewing behind it, and that usually starts as a vague or general philosophy. For example, I’ve been thinking about how much taste and style is determined by the culture and class systems we’re born into and how that changes a lot of ideas about individuality in the arts. That’s obviously a topic with a lot of facets, so I’ll daydream about it while recording or working. Eventually I find that the recording process, or the simple act of relying on a skill set, merges with whatever my mind has been preoccupied with, and the act of creating music starts to refine and clarify those initially cloudy ideas. It’s difficult to explain exactly, but have you ever been in emotional turmoil and then felt better after verbalizing your thoughts to someone? I think making art is like using a non-verbal language to bring a similar clarity.

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IF: We first discovered you through Kate NV. We remember seeing the album cover artwork and being pulled in before ever hearing her music. What was your process in creating this particular album artwork?

KR: Kate had wanted some more abstract, Kandinsky-like art for her cover, and we both tried pieces like that that didn’t seem to work. Actually we both liked what the other had done but didn’t like our own attempts. I remember after that sitting down and thinking “I’m gonna try to really translate this music into a visual.” I’m not as skilled with that translation when it comes to visual art, but it worked for that one, in my opinion. There’s a clearness and calmness to Kate’s NV music and also a bittersweet joy that I latched onto.

IF: What role do you believe album artwork plays in the grand scheme of things?

KR: From my experience, people seem more in tune with their visual sense than other senses, like it’s a visual interface we consciously perceive the world through. Hearing might be more in the realm of subconscious detection, there’s always a lot of sound happening that isn’t considered unless it’s disruptive or specific. That’s all to say that when visuals are paired with any of the other senses the impact can’t be underestimated. Covers dictate our perception of the music, more popular artists use their entire persona and style in that way, to express an identity and a worldview, but for many smaller artists the album cover is all there is to set the scene.

IF: You’ve mentioned the importance of growing up with the internet and also the endless rabbit hole that it can lead to. What are some of positive aspects you see in this as well as any fears you may have?

KR: The internet is creating a more global culture, which also means it will eventually erase a lot of localized culture, or at least replace them with hyper specific internet niche cultures. I’m sure that’s good for some bad for others. Personally, the net let me escape or expand the local culture I was born into, and allowed for probably my first really in depth communication with people different from me which I saw as a blessing. I don’t know, it’s a very big subject. I think the increase of accessible data is creating more malleable and expansive identities, but probably a lot of mental dissonance as a byproduct of the rapid shift. Most aspects of globalization could be seen as good or bad depending on the context.

 

IF: What are you doing when you’re not creating music or running a record label? Any special interest or hobbies?

KR: Going to a movie theater helps me relax, so does talking to people I know. Sometimes when I’m taking a break from music or art I’ll get on facebook, twitter, tumblr, instagram, all social media and scroll through my feed endlessly.

IF: How did you come up with the names Giant Claw and Orange Milk?

KR: Giant Claw was something I picked on a whim, I didn’t think I would continue making music under the name but that’s how it worked out. When I think about that name I start to hate it sometimes, but that happens when I think about my real name too. Maybe I’ll change it soon? Orange Milk I can’t even remember, I think I just wanted something liquid related.

IF: The year is 2059, the internet has been forbidden for 30 years and all technological progress has been halted. Where are you?

KR: In a concentration camp I guess?

Keith Rankin