Root Blog

Q&A – Keith Fullerton Whitman

1: Analog or Digital?

oh, both, always … never one or the other – that’s just madness !!! i will admit, as someone who pretty much grew up making music solely on computers (we’re talking commodore vic20 straight on through the powerbooks) that i honestly get less & less excited about using them every day ; the analogue synth is a really great antidote to that – using something that forces me to, you know, actually stand up to use it is nice … i love that it just makes sound instead of also providing email, facebook, etc … i feel like i sit in front of this damn computer for 5 seconds more each day, and when i’m not i’m playing with my phone ; in a few years i’m sure we’ll all be staring at lcd screens for our entire waking lives in one form or another and actually seeing & interacting with each other less & less, but i digress …

to recap ::

convenience and signal-to-noise ratios of digital audio technology – good
simulation of social interaction in digital form – bad
unique, impossible to accurately portray in numbers-alone aspects of analog audio technology – good
weight and size and cost of analog instruments – bad
using analog instruments to make music instead of pausing every 10 seconds to check my email – good

2: What time did you wake up today?

8:28 ; i know this as that’s what the microwave clock said when i went in to feed halbczcsoncz … he’s been getting more & more aggressive every morning, esp. now that the sun is out later suddenly due to daylight savings. it’s worth noting that today is sunday ; during the week if i can get out of bed by 9:45 to meet geoff @ the office @ 10, it’s a miracle … and it’s not like i’m staying up late ; i mean, shit, i’m in bed by midnight most nights. what can i say ? i’m depressed …

3: Last thing you read?

“the san francisco tape music center: 1960s counterculture and the avant-garde (hardcover)” … i would have loved to have dovetailed this right into “canyon cinema: the life and times of an independent film distributor (paperback)” but then i eyed the 2007 new directions “shiny metal” paperback of borges‘ “labyrinths” when i went to the bookstore to get coffee yesterday morning & had to give in … that’s next.

4: Whats your first memory?

sitting on the floor of the kitchen of my childhood home looking out the window as a cloud rolled by turning day into night … when you’re a kid you never think about transitions – you assume that the secret machinations of the world are always going to remain so – but then when you learn how it all works and it’s a let-down …

5: Tea Or Coffee?

i’m like 900% a coffee person, but then i had some moroccan mint tea w/ friends out in western mass a few weeks back & we’ve been rockin’ that pretty hard here in the office (it’s great if you over-steep it then add way too much honey) … but yeah, coffee – definitely coffee. right now it’s barismo’s linnaen street blend ; 65% brazil moreninha formosa, 24% costa rica las lajas, 10% kenya ichimara (peaberry ; this adds the perfect amount of tart sweetness to the finish) … that jaime from barismo can keep an arlington storefront afloat in this economy with just a small selection of blends & a few roasters is a testament to his product …

6: Last thing you cooked?

a jimmy dean sausage, egg & cheese biscuit sandwich. serving size: 1 sandwich (88g) amount per serving – calories: 360, calories from fat: 220 … vitamin a 0%. vitamin c 2%. calcium 8%. iron 6% (i love how they list all of this on their site !!! a great resource !!!) – we’re hardcore evangelists of the micro-bake method over straight micro-waving, but the down-side is that this tends to make your microbes ache …

7: If you’re reborn who or what would you like to be?

wow ; hadn’t really thought about that … i mean, of course, i’d love to still be some sort of sentient being, not an object per se, but what sort ? i do envy cats & their rugged individualism, but it’s a hard life, even in the city …

i know ; a waterfall – constant change, beauty, & raw natural power … that or pure energy …

8: What inspires you?

interacting with creative, open-minded, & forward-thinking humans in real, physical space in regular intervals. without that, i’m pretty much doomed …

9: Last record you played?

red horse “red horse” (rel 007) – honestly, if these guys aren’t on the cover of the wire within the year i’m going to cancel my subscription … and i don’t mean that in the staunch, hometown support kind of way (actually, eli’s pretty much a full-time providence resident these days) but more that it speaks to the machinations of the global music “press” pretty much entirely missing out on any interesting, non well-funded & marketed music these days, especially the stuff that’s fueled solely by enthusiasm & ambition & less by any need of financial recoup … it’s all here ; the bleak, reverb-wash of organum, the clattering caterwaul of free jazz, steve’s ludicrously original sound-art lineage instruments … it’s kind of the perfect record.

10: Favorite piece of musical equipment?

right now it’s the harvestman’s zorlon cannon ; at first i was all “wow, great, an atari 2600 module” – but then i started to see it more as a series of digital gates & it just opened up wide … i played at no fun last year pretty much using this module for everything ; clocking, gating, and even the 5-bit pitched digital noise as the audio source … thing screams. we’re at a point now with boutique eurorack modules that even surpasses the boutique guitar pedal movement of a few years back ; it’s beyond pure emulation of covetable era tech & into new realms … every week it seems there’s some new hot module on the ah site, but you always know that these companies are like one guy building maybe 20 of these things in a year …

11: Last movie you saw?

i watched “eli, eli lema sabatchtani” the other day & loved it (come on ; “there’s a virus that’s destroying japan & the only cure is harsh noise !!!”), but, i have to say ; we’re halfway through “life in cold blood” at home (attenborough is a personal hero – plus the chris watson sound-design is outrageous) … there’s something about an 80-year man looking on in utter child-like fascination as he, after almost 50 years of looking for them, finally finds a pygmy chameleon that’s just so … genuine … it kind of trumps any real “emotive” and/or poignant moment in any narrative film i’ve seen recently …

12: Who do you love?

who(m)ever will let me, really … i’m not picky.

13: Do you have any pets?

not really ; wu-halbcz has myself and robyn, to whom he affectionately refers as “pinkies” … when you get down to it he owns us inasmuchas we own him … we’re in league to augment his lifestyle with a feline co-habitant, but thusfar haven’t made anything but baby steps towards reaching this goal. now that nybz & i have left the communal living situation we were in for the past few years (myself for over a decade) we feel bad about leaving him alone with only the heating system for company all day … he’s as neurotic as they come ; i think having someone to bounce ideas off of during the day would help him stay sane …

14: Are you useful?

oh, absolutely, far more right now than i ever have been in the past ; it felt good to go from living solely off of the kindness of strangers to providing some sort of service in life, one that people that use it seem to care an awful lot about … i sleep much better at night than i ever have in the past, if that’s any indication …

15: Biggest fear?

routines, stasis …

16: What do you value the most?

freedom, and change.

17: Famous last words?

nah, you can’t dwell on stuff like that ; when the time comes i’m sure it won’t be very poignant …

Keith Fullerton Whitman (aka Hrvatski, ASCIII, Anonymous) lives in Cambridge, MA and has recorded many fine albums on labels such as Planet Mu, Kranky, Carpark Records. He also runs the fantastic mail-order music retailer Mimaroglu Music Sales.

Picture taken by Seth Tisue.

  1. CW on June 14th, 2009

    This man’s attention to detail never fails to amaze me!