Jeremy Young is a tape artist born in New York City and based in Montreal, Canada, who composes for solo guitar, oscillators, piezo mic'd surfaces and objects to create musique concrete and tape works. He is a curator and publisher of independent audio-literature and his creative work includes compositions for recording and live performance, reel-to-reel tape collage, sound-poetry and audio-visual scoring.
He has performed and released material throughout Europe, Asia, the US, UK and Canada. In 2014, he was awarded a Media Artists' Assistance Grant by Wave Farm (NYSCA) to create 125 unique artist edition double-sided loop pieces towards developing sustainable audience engagement with the sonic arts, housing all 250 total loops online in a freely streamable living archive.
He performs in the trio Sontag Shogun, as well as in projects with artists such as Aaron Martin, Shinya Sugimoto & Joel Schlemowitz, Daniel Merrill (Dead Rat Orchestra) and improvises with many others. His company Palaver Press, that he runs with his partner Catherine Métayer, publishes independent short fiction with commissioned musical scores composed by solo instrumentalists in audiobook format.
What’s your craziest project about?
Haha, I love this as a first question. Especially since I'm right in the middle of my craziest project! The Chants Beneath Project is a curatorial thing involving over 120 sound artists around the world, including people like John Chantler, Richard Chartier, Hanna Hartman, Rutger Zuydervelt, Yan Jun, Giuseppe Ielasi, Janek Schaefer, Chris Herbert, Julia Kent, Blevin Blectum, Daniel Menche, Yann Novak and over a hundred others. I have asked each artist to create a new audio work making use of one of these 120 cassette tape-loops I made with a helpful grant from Wave Farm.
All of those 120 tracks are being debuted in monthly batches via a podcast which you can hear via iTunes.
If you've ever curated anything you understand how much pressure and work it is. I am not sure how the asshole that lives inside my brain convinced me to curate a project with 120 artists, all in different timezones, all incredibly busy and professional humans, but the sheer administrative nightmare of it is a consistently maddening endeavour. Check it out!
How does the role of the guitar change in your music across your various projects?
So, Spokes was my first real attempt to create an identity as a solo guitarist, using of course, my trusty set of tools that I bring with me wherever I go, some dying tape players, already-dead tape and faulty contact mics to provide a depth of texture that automatically registers as sadness. (Dan Warburton once said, "this hi-fi lo-hi" about my work, exemplifying that its not that I don't care about sound quality, or fidelity, its that I seek out those oft edited-out frequencies, trying to find places they can fit back into the core of the music). So those sombre and cyclical guitar melodies were really written to seek narrative avenues through that sadness, aided by these perfect sine-tones which in a way, link everything together.
Spokes features some musical personalities that inspired me that year, like Aki Onda, Liam Singer and Ella Joyce Buckley reading excerpts from Baudelaire's Les Fleurs Du Mal, which itself was a concept I circulated around, and still do, the idea of "featuring" artists on your album but not in a way that makes any sense, like having composers narrate poems. They read and I recorded it to a particularly fragile reel of 1/4 " tape. Baudelaire reinforces the death angle.
A few years ago, I started a musical relationship with the Dead Rat Orchestra's bearded, barefoot-stomping violinist Daniel Merrill, which culminated in the project Foxout! (for acoustic guitar, violin and improvised acoustic sonic exploration). Immediately we realized we both had the Baudelaire concept album thing in common, so one of the first pieces we began digging into was a track from Spokes called "Spokes 33". That project otherwise took the form of recycling patterns and phrasing from Celtic or Anglo-Saxon music and germinated through it improvised, chaotic and sometimes deeply heartfelt melodic approaches to reinterpretation. "Spokes 33" was the only track we resurrected from the dead, we wrote most of the other material on a Belgian farm, in a German forest and in various rooms while looking very closely into each other's instruments. In this project, Daniel and I really stripped everything down to the guitar and violin in a way that I had never done before, it was scary, eye-opening and a courageous learning experience for me.
It varies but I would say that mostly in my solo work, my use of the guitar has predominantly been just as another melodic tool in my grasp. For example, on the Rust Parhelion pieces, I wrote 5 intertwining loop cycles in each work; 2 for guitar and 3 for field recordings, so after recording the loops it was just about jockeying them as the piece dictated.
And there's also some guitar mixed into the looping sets of melodies guiding us through the A Pulse Passes from Hand to Hand stuff with Aaron Martin.
Can you describe a sound experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a musician?
In Montreal as a teen, I would see lots of shows. Mostly rock shows, DIY noise and punk shows as well as some jamband and funk shows, all over town. The scene was really blossoming back then, but something seriously clicked when I saw the band Exhaust perform a set one night. Their music was a very simple cocktail of drones and a kind of slow-burn reggae dub, made only with drums, bass (and bass clarinet) and reel-to-reel tapes. Watching someone on stage perform an entire set of music on reel-to-reels, occupying the entire treble space and the role of the "soloist" in this deconstructed instrumental trio, was pretty fascinating. I was already playing music, but pretty soon after their performance, I got myself a tape player, and started learning how to splice loops together immediately.
Tell me one musical work which has provoked a change in your music.
Vicky Chow's performance of Surface Image by/with Tristan Perich's 40-channels of 1-bit electronics probably is the work that has had the biggest effect on my music in the last few years. I could talk about it for hours, but never have I been so captivated by an album-length work that makes use of those two, ostensibly very similar in pitch-range sound sources as piano and sinewaves. Its a lovely resonating dance that is led sometimes by the performer and sometimes the electronics, the beauty is watching that leadership go back and forth.
Given the above response I think its clear that what really affects me as both a performer and a listener is when artists can make truly unique and important work using simple means, with little tampering. I'm learning to be less complex, and especially with Sontag Shogun's recent touring, create as diverse a palette of sounds as possible using as little gear as possible.
What instruments and tools do you use?
Instruments are tools, well so too are tools instruments. I use quite a lot of kitchen equipment to create soundscapes of texture and rhythmic patterns, and melodic elements like my guitar and oscillators to create the music that sits atop it. Tape is important to me as well as I think of everything like a collage, so I'm never without lots of tape loops and reels. When I perform with solo instrumentalists like Ian Temple of Sontag Shogun, and Shinya Sugimoto, I tend to let their music stand on its own.
What special or strange techniques do you use?
This goes hand in hand with your last question, but in Sontag Shogun I tend to try to do everything the hard way, or the backwards way. For the sake of performance, and to make people think I guess... I'm not totally sure why I do this, but to make beats I use very tactile, surface-based sounds like chopsticks on slate, or ceramic, sand and sushi rice, bamboo brushes and paint brushes, a knife cutting across a carpet sample. These are all very percussive textures, so if sectioned off correctly, some interesting beat patterns may emerge. That's basically my role in Sontag.
What is the most recent musical experience that has attracted your attention?
My friend Liam Singer's recent mini-festival, which he do dubiously named Woodstock 2015 (since it actually did happen to be in Woodstock, NY) was pure insanity. This was an all-day music festival that he held at his mother's house in the woods of upstate New York that featured sets from Ultraam, Patrick Higgins, Delicate Steve, Indigo Street, Erik Friedlander & Scott Solter, Alexander Turnquist, Christopher Tignor, Half Waif, Yairms, and some others. Sontag had a blast playing and then just enjoying the good music and scenery for the rest of the weekend.
Which was the first and the last record you bought with your own money?
The last record I bought was this beautiful LP by Giovanni Di Domenico and Jim O'Rourke for strings & electronics (out on Die Schactel). Its such a wonderful listen start to finish, takes you out of your day completely. I have some catching up to do, though, as I'm incredibly interested to hear Christina Vantzou's new one, my friend Aaron's new record with his project From The Mouth of the Sun and some others like Joanna Newsome's and The Balustrade Ensemble.
One of the first albums I bought for myself that was really for my ears only was probably 2pac's All Eyez On Me, since it would've been a bit of a secret from my parents.
What projects are you working on now and what does the future hold?
Sontag Shogun has four albums coming out in the next 15 months. Look out for a Remix EP coming out on Folk Wisdom in 2016 featuring remixes by Radicalfashion, Schneider TM, Hakobune, Indian Wells, Perdurabo and Jake Chudnow. We'll also be working with some other labels in the near future to bring a suitcase full of new music to the world. Follow us for god's sakes!
I've basically stalled all my other projects in favor of spending as much time as possible on Sontag Shogun and the Chants Beneath Project, attempting to let those blossom as colorfully as possible. Sontag Shogun will also be on tour in Europe in March 2016, which I'm looking forward to, but its important to mention as well that one of my partners in Sontag, Ian Temple, has dreamt up and built this incredible company called Soundfly, aiming to teach music online in the most effective, fun, cheap and least time consuming ways possible. Aside from teaching a course on DIY Touring for emerging and aspiring bands, I have become the assistant editor of Soundfly's online publication Flypaper and firmly stand behind this company, believing it will change thousands of aspiring musicians' lives pretty darn soon. Check it out, it is a passion and needs your help to grow!
How's your musical routine practice?
I'll answer this according to my recent routine with the guitar, which has just basically become the only form of practice I've ever had. These days, I will tune the strings of my acoustic guitar into a new tuning every couple of months. In that time I attempt to improvise my way into a familiarity with the feel of that tuning, realize its strengths and weaknesses, its pitfalls and contours, and eventually record a few demos of some sketches for that tuning. Its how I name my own pieces now, since each tuning really seems to paint its own portrait. I can't argue with that! Here's one I did recently on the radio at WNYU.
What is some valuable advice that someone has given to you in the past?
I think it was William Parker that once basically told me anything can be a melody if you sculpt it like one. That combined with all the fabulous teachings of Bernie Krause regarding the pitch patterns of animals and natural occurances in the wild, has led me to attempt to envision what I do with texture patterns as melody. I really see the sounds of chopsticks, rice, leaves and sand as the basic building blocks of melody. And maybe its just me, but I have a ton of fun performing alongside instrumentalists and trying to follow them melodically with my arsenal of objects!
Where are your secret influences?
If I mention them, they're no longer secret, are they?
Tell me one impossible project do you like to realize?
Honestly, I've always wanted to curate an event and have every single band perform 1-2 of their songs entirely backwards. I have also had this running idea for a group that performs full scores to old WWF wrestling matches projected above. That group is called The Piledrive Orchestra, and if you're in, call me.
2016 NEXT PERFORMANCES
3.9.16 London, UK @ Cafe OTO, Jeremy Young + Janek Schaefer duo premier of "Grey/Canopy", support from Kit Wilmans Fegradoe
3-24-26.16 Geneva, CH @ Musée d'ethnographie de Genève
Sontag Shogun + Julia Kent | Spring 2016 Tour (Northern Europe)
3.3.16 Queens, NY @ Trans Pecos, with Max Alper, DJ John Fell Ryan (Excepter)
3.12.16 Copenhagen, DK @ Mayhem
3.15.16 Hamburg, DE @ MS Stubnitz, with Aidan Baker
3.16.16 Aalborg, DK @ Huset
3.17.16 Copenhagen, DK @ Stengade Avant Garde Night
3.18.16 Stockholm, SE @ Fylkingen, with Johannes Bergmark
3.19.16 Sandviken, SE @ Kulturcentrum
3.20.16 Eskilstuna, SE @ Klubb Memento
3.22.16 Halmstad, SE @ INES Series at Stadsbiblioteket Halmstad
3.23.16 Malmö, SE @ Inkonst, with Hans Appelqvist
[Unlocks] Six Silver Blankets (2012, 2014)