Remixing the Apple | Jason Richardson02.08.2013
In a fruit-growing region like the Western Riverina, it’s pretty hard to surprise the locals when it comes to the humble apple. Until Leeton resident, Jason Richardson, remixed one. The sound artist has been experimenting with recordings taken from his surroundings for a while now, and he recently produced a project to mark the town’s centenary year which included audio samples taken from a children’s playground. RANSW listens to the sound of Jason Richardson.
How do you remix a landscape… or an apple for that matter?
Remixing is a practise best known for producing 12″ records spun by DJs, where a song has been remixed for the dance floor with more emphasis on the drums and ensuring the tempo makes people want to shuffle their feet.
However, if you watch Kirby Ferguson‘s videos online there’s a terrific argument that remixing underscores all creative activity because very few inventions spring forth fully formed. Usually, creativity is a matter of adapting existing ideas.
My remixes take a postmodern approach in isolating a stylistic element, removing it from its context and adapting it for another setting. The result is electronic dance music, so I’ll approach a sound source looking for transient sounds that can be shaped to become drums and others that can be repitched to form a melody or chord progression.
There’s a lot that can be done to manipulate a sound within a computer. Ableton’s Live software, for example, lets me pitch it up or down four octaves and loop a fraction of a second to produce a constant tone. The challenge was demonstrating the origins of the sounds, which is why I started making videos rather than just audio tracks.
Do you often find the mainstream resists or misunderstands your creative practice? How do you convert them?
I think the concept of music was challenged in the 20th Century by the idea that noise and music overlap in sound. So, people might still be getting used to hearing noises sampled in popular music.
My project embraced the idea of noise being musical and drew on the Italian Futurist movement, in part because they were active at the time of Leeton’s construction. The centenary of Luigi Russolo’s Art of Noises manifesto actually coincides with the centenary of Leeton’s bastard sibling Canberra.
One of the best aspects of any art is having your perspective or preconceptions challenged. You’ve got to encourage people to keep an open mind but, yeah, you’ve also got to try to make them attend to experience it for themselves. Kids have less preconceptions as well as less self-consciousness, so I usually try to get them interested first.
How are you inspired by living regionally, or how does it help your work?
Living in regional Australia has shaped my work. When I first moved to Wagga in 2001 I started making electronic music and played a few gigs but found my tastes didn’t suit most venues.
Around the time I released my first album in 2004 I met Alan Lamb through the Wagga Space Program’s Unsound Festivals and spent a lot of time recording the installation he calls ‘The Wires’. These large-scale aeolian harps respond to the landscape, producing a variety of sounds and resonating birdsong and passing traffic as well. I was fascinated by the Wagga Space Program’s objective to promote the influence that living in regional Australia has on artists and how I’d represent that idea.
Soon after working with Lamb in 2006 I started experimenting with sampling field recordings for a remix I’d agreed to make for an online compilation called Ninja Trax, which was a project organised by the online forum for the Ninja Tune record label.
What challenges are you faced with as a regional artist?
Isolation is a blessing and a curse. It allows you to develop ideas and practises away from influences, which is important in terms of generating work that stands apart. However, it’s lonely if you don’t have someone to share your enthusiasm and provide constructive comments.
I was very lucky to be able to work with Alan and learn his contact microphone techniques. We had a conversation about recording a water tank where he mentioned how it’d have harmonics that got me interested in exploring those sounds for sampling.
A little bit of know-how can go a long way, which is why I termed the idea ‘digital capacity’ while working at Leeton Shire Council because I think it’s imperative for regional communities to develop skills in this new digital paradigm. It led me to argue that the best investment in art is training, not just for artists though because everyone has a perspective and ideas that can be shared.
I’ve run a few workshops since then in areas like digital photo editing, film making and recording playgrounds because I know that once you learn something you start seeing applications and before you know it you’re making art because you want to see your ideas realised.
Are you tuned into an international community with your practice?
My music, my videos and my blogs are all hosted for free and most of my audience seems to be in North America, so the internet has been vital in many ways. The Ninja Tune forum helped keep me sane when I didn’t know anyone in Wagga but it also had remix competitions that were a great introduction to making electronic music. People would post the parts of their tracks and it was really good to be able to hear how other producers manipulated the material.
That happens less frequently on there now but I’m getting an education through my involvement with the Disquiet Junto , a group formed around a blog that gives weekly assignments. It pushes me to try new techniques and regular deadlines mean I keep working on things even if I’m not in the mood.
What projects or plans do you have in store?
The park remix project is almost over, I’ve just got to finish a DVD but have been putting that off as I keep finding new ideas to explore. One of the tracks will be screening in Albury as part of their urban art program and more will be screened at the Burning Seed Festival in October. I’ve an idea to record an album using circuit bent instruments next.
Watch Jason’s audio-visual presentation which aired at the Leeton Visitor Information Centre last week, here. Or visit his blog at www.bassling.com .
Image credit: Photograph by Hannah Pianca of Jason Richardson (2013)
Interview by Estelle Pigot.