“A cloud fitted with an iron scaffold,” wrote Marc Weidenbaum of disquiet.com on hearing the opening track of my 2013 record transient lines. As with most spot-on descriptions, Weidenbaum’s analogy turns out to be a fractal, in this case of my overall approach to songwriting and composing. The “cloud” speaks to a tendency towards abstraction and flights of spaced-out fancy; the “iron scaffold” to a love and reverence for accessible, turn the radio up songs.
In the end, you get three chords and three changes in rock ‘n roll. These are healthy constraints, though, and I try to make the most of them.
I love a soaring melody and a big hook – but of late (you know, as a result of ‘maturity’), dissonant architecture and quiet contemplation trace arcs through my recent releases, where ambient, dance, shoegaze, field recordings, sound manipulations and spoken word intersperse my rock and pop tracks. All this to say, I’ll try on any hat, styles of the day be damned.
I know nothing of “genre.” Style isn’t a frame, but rather a framework. A physical process of creative focus, realized as composition – where what’s framed out often arises as more critical than what’s framed in. Music, writing, photography – even grilling an asparagus: all adventures in composition.
I wrote terrible songs for a long time (and, worse, shared them with folks who never grant second first-impressions), but I kept writing through the night. And then right around 2002, at the tender age of thirty-one, all of a sudden I had written a few tracks that signaled I’d been learning, and listening, and evolving all along in a decent direction. My first official release, Windfall, came two years later in 2004.
Twelve records later, you’ll find my releases scattered across all the usual suspect platforms (Spotify, iTunes, Bandcamp, Soundcloud…). Hover over “Links” in the menu above to spoke out into WestyNet. My latest record, cipher /e dreams is parked at Bandcamp and the FMA for now, but by mid 2018, it’ll be everywhere else, too.
I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to free-form radio station WFMU and their brilliant Free Music Archive, where a few curators invited me to post my recent records a few years ago. As of this writing, my tracks there have garnered a quarter million spins and over seventy thousand downloads. As a result, it’s now impossible for me to consider I write in a vacuum. Plenty of other creative meta-pitfalls to fall into, of course, but at least that one’s ruled out.
Also want to shout-out to the Disquiet Junto, into which intermittent deep dives over the last five years rejuvenated my love for sound, technology, songwriting, collaboration and, most important, listening. A little more about my experience with the Junto is here.
Suffice to say, slowing down is not an option. An urgency to make up lost time will do that to a person. Time never meditates; rivers never hesitate. My home base of New York City provides endless raw materials for lyrical and sonic adventures, but with determined regularity, I also leave behind the city’s relentless din, high culture and low squalor – to try to find the other side of the sun and true starry skies. Though I do get Orion, Polaris, Venus, Mars and even Jupiter on clear Gotham winter nights, so I’m not 100% disoriented and directionless if I can’t escape Brooklyn for a while.
Creativity’s blessing is to bring spirituality through expression.
Enjoy life, put faith in others only after extreme circumspection – and, most important, never lose faith in yourself.
“A cloud fitted with an iron scaffold…”
Marc Weidenbaum, disquiet.com
“A groovy intergalactic beach party…”
Josh Matthews, Blue Man Group / After School Special / The Tell
Drew Barrymore, Whip It / Grey Gardens / E.T.
“Really really fine…”
Liz Berg, WFMU
“…danceable and feelable tunes. Great guitar work and tight rhythm section underneath it all.”
Kees de Groot (aka, Roofhare)
Kurt Anderson, Studio360 / NPR
“Up my alley…”
Ellen Page, Whip It / Juno
“Soaring and atmospheric… I wish I lived in a world where PSAs sounded like this.”
Rob Walker, Unconsumption / New York Times
“So good, I just had to collaborate…”
Lee Rosevere, Happy Puppy Records / CBC
“Download the magic…”
K.L. Sealegs, CFRC
“Beautiful and imaginative tales to absorb.”
Charles Stepczyk, Insomnia Radio
Beat The Indie Drum
Fabien – 2015 Peekamoose Custom M2
Jolie – 2000 Gibson ES-335 DOT reissue
Uncle – 1934 Gibson L-1 acoustic
Ursula – 1985 Gibson Les Paul Studio
Ford – 1988 Ovation Custom Balladeer
It’s ridiculous that war can be “declared” whereas peace must be “negotiated.”
Florence, Italy, December 2013
Credit: Cat Thomas