Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Inquisition: 052.Tyler Etters & The Northern Information Movement

1. How did you came up with the name of the band? 

I've been releasing photocopied communiques under the 'Northern Information' name for almost a decade now. It was based on the idea that one-way immutable communications can actually be more effective than bi or omni-directional (via the internet, for example), that in their isolation more meaning must be interpolated by the receiver, and more subjective importance can be placed on it. Northern Information specializes in this sort of thing. Since everywhere is 'north' of some other place, the name is ridiculously vague. The name brings up more questions than it answers. Where is 'Northern'? Presumably Northern Illinois. But why is the information there coming to me? Is music itself the information? Or...? It is absurd in its self-indulgence and I love it for that. So then, sometime in 2010 I founded a (doomed) post-rock band with David Kvistad, Adam Moore and Matthew Marx. That incarnation of the project never took off, but 'The Northern Information Movement' is the name we agreed on. It was attractive because it vaguely sounded like a rebellion or cult while retaining some austere sense of scientific authority. A few years later when I was writing music under my own name, I realized that 'Tyler Etters' doesn't leave much room for other musicians to contribute and play anything other than a subordinate roles in the project. I didn't want that. The band is mutable sure, and I'm the main force behind it, but I wanted to be able to go on bills as something other than 'Tyler Etters'. I asked the band for their blessing to use our old name and 'Tyler Etters & The Northern Information Movement' was born.

2. Do you have a standard procedure of creating a song? Do you just jam around or is there a main riff and the track is build up on it? 

My best work starts with a discrete piece of inspiration. A dream. An experience. A place. A word or phrase. I've kept journals almost my entire life and drain everything out of my head into them, partially for mental health and partially to create this psychic compost that I can go back and harvest for ideas. Rainbow Table was inspired by hacking. Four Mile Crib was inspired by the place in Chicago. Secret Symmetries of Oakwood Hills was inspired by one of the subdivisions I grew up in. Sonically, I used to be more concerned with structures and melody as foundational components of the song. Lately though I tend to start with timbres and samples and then build up various components and events around them. 

3. What are your influences and what kind of music do you hear when you are at home? 

Some of my earliest memories of music come from my father. Midnight Boulevard by Dancing Fantasy was the soundtrack to my early childhood. In grade school my uncle Timm Etters introduced me to Hip Hop. He was deeply immersed in the breakdancing, DJing & graffiti scene in the 80s. He really took me under his wing and showed me stuff like DJ Shadow, Afrika Bambaataa and David Lynch's "Dune" soundtrack when I was young and impressionable. Around the same time I was just getting into file sharing services like Limewire and Soulseek. It is from these that I discovered Constellation Records. David Firth's Salad Fingers is solely responsible for my Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin problems. Then I was in a metal band for a while and really got into that scene for a while. I'm really just an opportunist when it comes to music. I listen to whatever gives me 'that feeling' until one day it just doesn't. I actually don't listen to as much music at home as you might expect. When I do, it is a lot of drone and ambient, but when I'm home I'm usually either reading books or writing music. Lately, Adam and I have been getting a lot of inspiration from musicians like Träd, Gräs, Och Stenar, Parson Sound, John Carpenter, and Brad Fiedel. 

4. Which is the one album you can't live without? 

'All Systems Are Ghosts (Remnant)' by Sanchez Is Driven By Demons. Its actually a remix album and the band asks not to 'take it too seriously' but, "sorry guys!" it is just a fantastic album and I've based a lot of my aesthetics off of it. Actually, it is the key inspiration for the entire #shadow_fi thing I've been doing. Fun fact: I discovered the band because they were knighted on Godspeed's MySpace top eight. 

5. What's the first record you've ever bought? 

I can't remember. Something embarrassing I'm sure. Probably either a Trance Party album or some bad 90s pop. CD-Rs from my uncle and my cassette recordings rap and dance music off the radio predate any music purchase. If you're talking about actual vinyl records (in the states 'record' and 'album' are mostly synonymous) it was Lateralus by Tool. 

6. Name a band that you would like to share the stage or tour with? 

Brian Eno on a Music For Airports 40 Year Anniversary tour. 

7. Did the internet and specially the blogs helped to spread your music around the world? Name a place (country) that you were surprised to know your music has reached to? 

Absolutely. Try as I might to do the IRL/grassroots/word-of-mouth thing, the internet has broadcast my music far faster and to far stranger places and people than I ever could. Endless Field Studios plays a big part in that. Brazil was one of the first places outside of the states where I discovered that others were listening to my music. To be fair it wasn't just my music, it was work I wrote with Paul Petrosyan in the Ix project. 

8. Do you support the idea of Bandcamp where fans can decide the price or services like Spotify? 

The jury is out. I was an early adopter of Bandcamp and streaming services, but I don't know. I don't know what role music ought to play in our lives anymore and why it is inexorably linked to capitalism. On the one hand music itself is completely commoditized 'background noise' to many of our daily activities. Technology has democratized music production to the point where DAWs are 'throw ins' on operating systems. Anyone can make music, and because of Bandcamp and streaming services, anyone can publish music. This is great because I believe music is a human birthright, a type of communion. But on the other hand it sucks because everyone is yelling at the top of their lungs 'listen to me listen to me!'. It makes it hard to A.) find the good ones and B.) muster up the energy to add your voice to the collective popularity contest. 

9. Where do you see yourselves in 5 years? 

Hopefully even more obscure than we are now. I believe it is the duty of artists to sort of scrape the edges of the human experience and return with their findings. Other people can then relate to those findings and find meaning in them. Music has saved my life from both ends: it gives me a purpose and it reminds me that others have similar struggles and fears as I do. There aren't enough people staring down the existential abyss and coming back with their thoughts and feelings anymore. For this reason, the internet frustrates me with its superficial 'news' and click bait; musicians selling their souls to get likes. I hope my music can somehow circumvent that part of the game. I'm interested in deep connections with the few, rather than passing connections with the masses. Come to our shows. Talk to us. Let's collaborate on something, you know? 

10. Is the artwork of an album important nowadays in the digital era? 

The medium is the message. The artwork is a crucial signifier to what you're about to get yourself into. Your question made me think of a horrible Kafka-esque future where there is no album artwork and musicians are identified by their primary keys: "Now Playing Song 5738149 from Album 8194729874 by Artist 198371498" with a QR for an album cover. Yuck. Give me hand drawn artwork! Give me something human! Give me something I can visually associate with the music! 

11. What is you favorite album cover? 

Preemptive Strike by DJ Shadow. It is also one of my favorite albums.

12. It seems that a lot of people are turning on vinyl again. Why do you think that is and which is your preferable media format? 

Two things: our need to reject the ephemerality of the internet and because it is possibly the only medium that can survive a global EMP event. Have you ever read about the solar storm of 2012? Scary stuff... I do miss minidisks, though. 

13. What's the most vivid story or moment as a band? 

On February 27th 2015 we played Swing State for the last time. This is the venue where most Endless Field Studios artists had their first shows. The place is closed down now, so it was a big emotional event for all of us at EFS. A lot of special things happened that night and we hope to release all the video and audio in some format or another soon. It was our first time performing Northern Information material with analog gear and no laptops. It marks a new age for the project - the closing of one door, the opening of another.

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