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.
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!