Sean Julian Thunder Mountain Music Easel

Interview with Sean Julian about his debut album release Sounds of the Birch Forest.

When and how did you get on the path of electronic music?

I would say my path of making music started with 2 turntables and a SP-1200 sampler. This is back in 1995, I was 18 years old and obsessed with hip-hop. I remember being drawn to the beats I was hearing from A Tribe Called Quest, Gangstarr, and Beastie Boys (just to name a few). Although I’m not sure if people would call hip hop beats electronic music… but I’m going to say that’s where i got started. If you were to ask me back then what is electronic music I would have said “Dance Music” (techno and house). But I do remember finding weird old records on a label called Nonsuch which was usually titled Electronic Music. This Electronic Music fascinated me, but I had no clue to what was making these strange sounds or any understanding of what the composition were about. Really just thought it was a bunch of noise and it puzzled me how someone was able to release this kind of music. Pan forward to about 2008 when I got my first synthesizer from a friend of mine, which was an old Oberheim 2 voice. I remember asking him what is in that black case sitting over there in your living room. “Oh that, some kind of keyboard, but I don’t think it works”. When I lifted the lid to take a peek I just saw a bunch of knobs, I remember plugging it in, and immediately hearing these bleeps and bloops sounds that reminded me of those Nonsuch records. Right then I knew that I had to have it! So I guess that’s when I would say my interested in making the kind of electronic music/sounds that I play today really began.

How did you end up on Thunder Mountain and in the Birch Forest?

This I feel it is a long story but to make a long story short I ended up on Thunder Mountain by getting to know the community who lives there, The Peaceweavers. I met them by attending a couple of their silent meditation retreats. At around the time of May 2016 I knew I wanted a change from the city lifestyle where i was living which was Ridgewood New York, so I started to look into how I could live closer to nature. I ended up writing them an email asking to do a live work stay for a year on their organic farm. They agreed and even had a cabin out in the woods that I could stay in. So now I’m living a more Walden life style, farming and tending to my cabin on Thunder Mountain which is not really a mountain, but more like a big hill in Bath New York.

Sean in the birch forest

What is a Music Easel and what makes it so special?

The BEMI music easel that I use is a reissue of Don Buchla’s Music Easel from the early 70s. Which is a portable suit case style synthesizer with semi modular capabilities. There are only a handful of the original ones made by Don out in the world. So I was excited when I found out that they were being made again. What makes it special to me is that it’s beautifully designed, basic, and simple but at the same time very complex. I have yet to run out of ideas with using it and in all actuality I am still finding my way with it. I think I read somewhere that Don’s original concept for the Easel was for it to be played in nature and I really like that! I have a rechargeable battery that I use to power the cabin and I also use it to power the Easel in the forest on nice days.

How is cabin life (as seen on the cover photo) and how does it affect your music?

All the recordings you hear on the album are a reflection of what I’ve experienced in the pass year living in the cabin. It has been an incredible journey so far and at times challenging. But every day when I step outside into the woods I give thanks for having this opportunity. There’s a quieting that the forest gives me not just in the physical but more in a spiritual sense. Which is what I was searching for when I decided I wanted to leave the congested city. Just walking around listening to the sounds in the forest is truly the main inspiration to my work. The slower paced lifestyle of being on the farm as also had a major affect on me. I’ve noticed that I feel more at ease when I go to make music in this peaceful setting. The simplicity of the cabin with its wood burning stove, my coat rack, some books and the Easel contributes to the minimalism in the music I record there. I like things simple, when I record I only use a Sony PCM recorder to record with. I’m not one to do any post production with a computer or anything. I look at it like a camera to a photo trying my best to capture a moment while being in the moment. If there are any mistakes I’ll either wait and try again later or keep it the way it is.

Sean’s cabin

Where can we hear you live in 2018?

I hope to play out more often in 2018 in places all around New York State and possibly San Francisco. Really down to play where ever and I’ll for sure continue to play in random places outside probably to no one 🙂 But a goal of mine will be to travel abroad to Norway or Japan. I guess the real answer is stay tuned!

More about Sean Julian here:
YouTube channel

Tenori-Are @ home

Halloi! Here is a fresh from the oven interview with Are Mokkelbost, about the album Rundhåndet, which will be released on TIEP December 8th 2017.

1. What is a Tenori-On and what does it do?

It’s a small sequencer that Yamaha launched about ten years ago. It is handheld and based on an interface consisting of 16 x 16 luminous buttons that work both as a display and as an interface for making audio. It is powered by battery and has built-in speakers and sounds – like a small sketchpad for music really.

There are some similar things that are more advanced, but I immediately liked these limitations when I saw it in a store in Denmark. I did not buy it, but that night I dreamed a lot about it. So then I got the day after.


2. Where and how were the songs for Rundhåndet made? 

I traveled a lot when I bought it, and in a time before smartphones I think it was magical to be able to make music at the airport or on the train. Later it was typically on the couch or the bed. A little like drawing doodles.

In the past, I had worked very linearly with audio, pasting and gluing directly into the timeline – so sequencing felt difficult. This became a gateway, and not being able to choose your own sounds was nice. It means that you can avoid thinking about genres, in a way.

Making many layers of simple shapes, which sum up to something else, that was more than enough for me. In addition, the Tenori-On has some fun, original angles on how to create arpeggios and sequences, such as bouncing balls and balls that fly between a note-constellation, which again can be rotated..!

Since this was pastime activity and playful exercises, expectations were none to zero – and so the music came pouring out. The songs have since have been on my hard drive until you guys asked if I had anything laying around.

3. What do you put in the term Rundhåndet?

It means to be generous, which fits since we are giving away this album for Christmas! And then it’s a very corny and literal picture of how the music is made; by pushing on and off round buttons with your hands…

4. How did you come up with the song titles? Why Norwegian titles? Could you imagine creating lyrics or libretto?

I think text and music is almost impossible to combine. I often perceive that vocals are a kind of shanghai’ing of music, a way to force the abstract into the literal language. But there are many exceptions to that, of course, but I don’t feel I can master anything like that.

The titles are inspired by the password generator of my internet banking. Each time you log in, it generates a random combination of an adjective and a noun, such as “Ivrig Bever” and “Snodig Elsker” – in Norwegian. It is like an intro course in poetry, and I find it always work on some level. You obviously understand the super-simple random algorithm while at the same time you can’t avoid imagining something. That is how it is with music and titles too; nothing is ever completely wrong, all combinations give a certain meaning. So then it is fun trying to hear the music for the first time and imagine what it IS, and forget how it came about.

5. What do you like best working with, music or art (if you were forced to choose)? Why? And what differences and similarities do you see in what you do as a visual artist and as a musician / composer?

I thought for a long time I had to choose, but gave it up. Today, I live off the visual arts strangely enough, so the music is automatically allocated to evenings and weekends. One of the great privileges of making art is to be able to listen to music at the studio all day. So I’m surrounded by music all the time, and since my music studio is in the same spot, everything is happening in close proximity.

At its best, one activity becomes time off from the other. Then you do not experience it as work anymore, but what can be called plus-energy activity. Or simply a great hobby. What serves this purpose depends on what you did during the daytime. If I have been sitting in front of my computer, I want to spend the evening away from the screen, so then it’s fitting to tweak physical sound boxes in the living room, do carpentry or something physical. Having worked at the workshop, it’s a luxury to sit down, open a sound project on my computer and edit last week’s improvisations – nice and clean.

This is one similarity between how I work with art and music: I like to change between periods of improvisation and editing – I rarely produce anything in one go. I guess most people work like this, it just seems I tend to repeat the process quite a few times. It is like I have to leave the material for a great while to be able to hear it freed from my original intentions. And then cut it into pieces and then try to repair it again, having changed it completely in the process.

Another hang up that I have had over the last couple of years is to use concepts and formalistic ideas more as starting points, often leaving them behind as the work comes into its own. If there was any relevance to the idea then it hopefully is present somehow, if not at least it gives the process a specific direction I can respond to. Simply stated I am more interested in concepts as temporary fixtures, not an aim in itself. An ideal to strive towards, at least.

6. Does it matter to you whether tools / materials are digital or analogue? What do you think of the new Eurorack enthusiasts? And how is the Tenori as a (relatively limited) digital box interesting, compared to advanced controllers for Ableton Live and alike?

With images and music, I increasingly like to base myself on very simple formal premises, and see how far I can get. I have previously worked with more complex systems with many rules at the same time, while now I try to reduce to fewer parameters at a time.

Often the formal premise lies in the technology itself, whether it is scissors and paper, stained glass, drum machines or image scanners. The simpler the starting point is, the easier it is to begin the process of getting to know a new technique, I find. Then you always go deeper later, as a consequence of having spent time with it.

So I really like both: I need tools that are high end and deep (usually more expensive) and more eclectic stuff that only does one thing (usually cheaper), where the fun lies in luring something interesting out of them. Be it digital or analogue. I’m just as fond of my small, roll out pocket organ with low-resolution sounds, as of my expensive, digital FM synthesizer.

Another example: I’ve created a large audio library based on the recording of feedback loops I’ve made with various low cost effect units. The feedback chains in effect become a form of synthesis that generates lots of strange sounds that I isolate and use when making other music. At this point it’s great to be able to use Ableton Live’s samplers and juicy plugins to wedge it well into the rest of the music.

I haven’t dared starting with Eurorack yet, because I’m still battling with what feels like endless possibilities in the rig I already have. And because of the limited space in my studio. After a period of knob tweaking in real-time, I’m also ready to go back into the editing process again, being more interested in having the music occur in the cutting and pasting itself, and less as a steady stream of sound from various sources. But if I find some productive limitations I can cultivate in the Eurorack format, I´m sure I will end up there too.

7. What do you think about the relationship between recorded music and live music? Are improvisation, coincidence and generative processes important to you, or do you want to compose / write music in a more classic sense?

Live music is a kind of fresh goods, a way to be together at a given moment, like a mix of a concentration exercise and collective daydreaming, gone when it´s over. And I love it for those qualities. And then I love composed music, as carefully organized sounds assembled by one human being, made for other people’s private experience, potentially to be enjoyed at various times in the endless future.

I have to say that over the years I have been going less and less to shows. There are so many things that I am wary of at concerts at this point, which tend to take over the whole experience, for a cranky, old man like myself. But in the right setting it’s amazing, of course. More daytime hours and food in combination with music, please!

I improvise just about every day – on the organ in the studio, on various gadgets I’m taking home from the studio, and so on. However, recordings as documentation of live music I rarely listen to. I remember, I had a heated discussion with Keith Rowe about this many years ago at the art academy – he thought it was something bourgeois and speculative with composed music, that free improvisation was more real and direct. He elevated that moment when the music occurs in real time, and put it in opposition to the organized sound. When I asked what he was thinking about when he was improvising music, he answered the “the struggle of the working class”. Wow! To me, there is nothing more generous and touching than carefully organized music that can be experienced by anyone regardless of time and space.

To me, improvisation is a prerequisite for composition. Just as when cutting in pictures, I like to manage sonic building blocks of information that has a defined energy and then see how they affect each other. These are completely unpredictable things that can hardly be hatched out in advance. The few times that I compose things from scratch from an idea, almost without exception it turns out totally different than I expected. Then the dilemma arises between harrowing on with the original intention, or trying to work more pragmatically from what have arisen and do something else. Any which way I have to cut and paste in the material until it starts to resemble something that I want to listen to again – which is the only relevant goal. I envy those who work in a linear way, but I can´t seem to do it like that.

As such, this album is untypical – it is more like a selection of more spontaneous sketches that I think have just enough to them to be spared a lifetime sentence on a hard drive.

8. Do you play concerts with the Rundhåndet material? If so where and how?

Sure, I will play some if asked! Like for example now when the album is to be released at Rett Ned (a concert series). Weirdly enough, last time I played with the Tenori-On was for the Norwegian King. I doubt that it will be stranger than that!

9. Do you have any other synths, sequencers, software etc. you like to work with?

Two favorites are the Tempest drum machine by Dave Smith Instruments and the Nord Lead 3 digital synthesizer by Clavia. They are both instruments where you can go deep and design your own sounds, and I use that a lot. They can make everything from very clean and pretty sounds to really mean sounding things. There are so many corny presets out there, so I find it a big challenge to make a palette of sounds that seem natural and simple enough, somehow.

I also have many of Elektron’s machines and love the parameter lock feature there. But it annoys me that they always have to vary where the buttons are located and that they do not have individual ADSR envelopes on all sounds, more LFOs and deeper synth engines.

10. Do you have any new music on time?

Thank you for asking! I have done lots of sketches over the last ten years on a lot of different gear, in a period where I have had to prioritize working on art commissions during the daytime. Now I finally have the time and studio space to work with music again and am seeing the contours of some albums. We’ll see!

More about Are:

Tiger Iguana Elephant Pelican

So 606

On Nov 2, 2016, at 3:52 PM, Christa Barlinn Korvald wrote:

Hello So,

You have made a cassette on the record label TIEP, do you want to give an interview about the songs? Then we can post it on the TIEP Blog!

1) What kind of animals or beast do you see in your music?

I see different kind of abstract creatures. Espen captured it pretty well on the artwork of cassette though ! 

2) What do they do?

They are mingling and dancing. 

3) Do you often see animals when you are making design?

Only when I make music with modular synth. 

4) You have not made music for 15 years, why is that you think?

I lost interest in making software based music during the 00’s until I discover Eurorack modular synth. Guess I was missing more tactile & organic experience in creating music. 

5) Did you see creatures in your music 15 years ago?

I saw computer screens 🙂 

6) How did you discover the modular synthesis?

I understood modular synthesis when I discovered Hosono Haruomi’s experimental “electro-exotica” album Cochin Moon which was also a collaboration with Tadanori Yokoo who is a well known artist/graphic designer.

7) Will you make more music in this way?

Modular synthesis will be the canvas of my musical expression for a long time to come.

8) Do you like TIEP?

We are so in tuned with understanding and appreciation on music and arts in general. 

9) If TIEP was an animal, what would it be?

Not just an animal but Tiger Iguana Elephant Pelican.

10) How will you spend the rest of the day?

I tame the creatures.

11) I hope you can answer! Thank you!

Thanks you, hope you enjoyed the answers! 

Cheers, So 

Conversation with Titus B


Titus B is back with a  new EP, we asked him some questions:

Hello Titus B.! Hope you’re fine! Here are some questions from Oslo:

1. Where are you and what are you doing right now?

Hi TIEP! I am in Stockholm and trying to survive.

2. How long have you been making music?

I have made music since i was about 12.

3. How / when did you discover electronic music?

My first encounter with techno was a playlist with DJ godfather and DJ assault.

4. You draw and paint as well. Does your art have any connection with the music? Or there are two (three) different worlds for you?

My drawing has nothing to do with my music, but the drawing in general has everything to do with music? It is a dance.

5. Are you a future man?

Absolutely. Compulsive future optimistic.

6. Where does your sounds come from?

My sounds mainly comes from a sampling cd from the 90s that I bought for 10 kronor in a music store.

7. Where does your song titles come from?

The titles comes from words that are related to sex and love.

8. Do you exercise?

I workout 2-3 times a week. Makes you bright and strong. Workout People are scary and have sexy bodies. LOL.

9. Do you dance?

I dance all the time.

10. What is the best club in Stockholm?

Haha, best club .. I think most of them are bad. I heard some good music at a rave this summer.. a portuguese 18 year old girl who played a nice set.

11. What was the best album in 2015?

“Formula 2” by Romeo Santos.

12. What is the best album ever?

Anita Baker “Giving you the best That I Got”

13. Where is your music most relevant?

My music is most relevant on the dance floor.

14. What is the Bassmusik?

Music where the bass is a shock.

15. Do you have an anecdote to share?

My computer crashed last night as I listened to Sade “You’re not the man”.

16. If you want to ask us in TIEP about something?

No, I have no questions .. I think you should get a medal, and I miss Oslo. Stockholm is OK, but … you know 😉

Interview with コッペン

Today we are releasing a new cassette with コ ッ ペ ン aka Koppen. It’s called Okinawa Adventure Team. Here is a little interview we did with him:

Are you tired of making ‘pop’? Have you started to make sound art now?

No, I have not made anything really. I’ve just pressed record on a tablet.

What is this project?

It´s sounds and songs I recorded during a holiday in Okinawa. It is almost completely untreated. Some minor editing only.

What does the title “Okinawa Adventure Team” mean? – What are we listening to?

The title is in English so I assume most people understand what it means. Or? The team is me, Moet and Sean, but with the exception of Moet you cannot hear us not on the recordings. There are some nature sounds, some kids, some people walking with geta shoes and som folk music from Okinawa. Some of the footage is from Kyoto, but most it is from Okinawa. All the songs are from Okinawa. Most were recorded while we sat on the roof of an old man, drinking. It is he and his cousins playing.

What did you do in / on Okinawa?

Swam in the ocean and drank awamori. Not much more to do there.

How did you do the recordings (did people know that you recorded etc.)?

I recorded on a phone and on a tablet. The old man and his cousins saw me hit record but forgot about it pretty soon I guess. It was quite “humid”.

How did you de the editing (is the unedited)?

I had Thomas cut and fix levels. I just sat there with my whip, like a dictator.

Where is the green fish from?

The photo was taken at the fish market Makishi in Naha. Think it’s a Toerka Fugu. The fish that is poisonous if you cut it wrong.

Would you like to make more of this type of publication?

Yes, I would love to. Was that a proposition?

Yes! Is there an ‘Oslo Adventure Team’?

Yes, but they only do parkour and urban exploration.

Anything you want to say to the kids?

Hey, hey, hey … smoke weed every day!

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