Almost all interviews will be with persons that I met on Facebook. Therefore now you know how I discovered all those musicians! 😉 Christian is behind the bands Those Darn Gnomes and Mortal Bicycle.
1. Which was the first sound you heard?
My earliest musical memory is of sitting in my carseat in my mom’s old station wagon while she blasted Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” one of her favorites. Presumably I had heard other sounds prior to that point, but that experience definitely stands out as one of my clearest, earliest memories.
2. When did you begin playing and exploring music?
I began playing flute in my school band at the age of 8, though I can hardly say my heart was in it. Though I learned valuable skills from the experience, it wasn’t until my adolescence when the rebellious nature of rock music really spoke to me that I began to take music seriously as an outlet for expression. I certainly wouldn’t say I was doing much musical exploration though–I just wanted to play Black Flag riffs. It wasn’t until after I had begun to grasp the fundamentals of guitar that I really started to expand the boundaries of my listening and playing.
3. When did you form Those Darn Gnomes and Mortal Bicycle and do you have other projects or do you plan to have?
I first started playing with the other members of Those Darn Gnomes around 2010 when I started high school. They’re all older than me and I was eager to play with all the cool musician types in our little town. Our early years were the typical garage jams one might expect from a bunch of kids, but we started to get more serious and become a “real” band around 2013 when we played our first shows.
I can’t really take credit for Mortal Bicycle though; that project is really the brainchild of my brother Joe, though I’ve contributed to just about every release since the third album, Welcome Back. Joe is sort of Those Darn Gnomes’ fifth Beatle, as it were–he’s contributed to just about every Gnomes release in some fashion and has more or less joined us as an official live member playing additional bass as well as banjo.
As for other projects, Joe and I have a new band called Passing alongside our other brother Erik playing microtonal country music. I hope to release our debut album this year, alongside the debut of another project of mine called Carton, which is a sort of hip-hop/power electronics collaboration with San Diego MC SamRi.
4. What would you do if capitalism and money stopped existing?
Celebrate! Capitalism is nothing more than a delusion within the US and referring to our current laughably cruel and skewed system is nothing more than a joke. Such totemic abstractions (and with this I refer to any theoretical economic system) necessarily fail because they are fundamentally unfit to function in the real world, but their inevitable failures do not come quietly. Our world is undergoing an enormous transition and the resulting mid-period will not be pretty.
That said, I have tremendous hope for the future, though I have a feeling the world I wish to see won’t come around until well after I’m no longer around.
5. Do you believe that microtonality is necessary for musicians and listeners anymore?
I’d never call any creative technique “necessary” for all artists or audiences because I cannot claim to understand their personal visions for art. That said, microtonality represents to me the opening of limitless new doors to hitherto unparalleled creative expression within the realm of harmony and for that I cannot imagine living without it. While it may not be a tool every artist needs to utilize, for me it certainly allows for the expression of many musical ideas that would otherwise be impossible to translate.
6. Do you believe that free improv is fundamental?
“Fundamental” is the perfect word to describe free improvisation. Within my own practice, Those Darn Gnomes uses free improvisation as a means of direct communication between players without any preconceived notions of where a piece should go. Because I do all the composing for the band without any input from the other members, it’s important to me that they also have many opportunities to express themselves creatively and potentially guide the ultimate arcs of the songs.
7. What’s your opinion about John Cage?
I’m definitely a huge John Cage fan, and his unique worldview has certainly informed the way I think about art and sound. I’ve certainly lifted a few techniques and sounds from his pieces for prepared piano and percussion (specifically “Third Construction”). Though I don’t find myself listening to his work very frequently these days, his outlook definitely influenced my perception of what constitutes music as well as the listener’s role in turning objects from the mundane into art.
8. Tell me some of your fav expressors (from all arts).
That’s a tough one! My favorite artists tend to be those who I feel craft singular languages of creative expression free from referentiality. A few off the top of my head: Bach, Coltrane, John Fahey, Kubrick, Nick Blinko, Madge Gill, David Lynch, Eugenio Santoro, James Hampton–each of these artists has created a monumental, individualistic body of work unlike anyone else through their own means, and I feel able to perceive the entire extent of all their joy, suffering, happiness and pain just from observing their work.
9. What’s your main goal in your art/life? What message do you want to send through your art?
My ultimate goal in creating art is solely to express my own spirit in the truest manner possible. In writing music or creating visual art, I seek to divorce myself from any notions of what the art “should” be while still channeling all the art I’ve ever enjoyed (in spirit moreso than style). As I see it, no two people on the planet could possibly come from identical backgrounds with the same exact influences or relationships to art, so if their work is to be a true expression of who they are it should necessarily follow it would sound like nothing else, because it is fundamentally a reflection of a person who is not like anyone else. Just like there are no “genres” of people, it seems ludicrous to attempt to categorize one’s own artistic output for the sake of easy classification. If one is to attempt true openness and allow their art to act as a manifestation of who they are, they should create an end product as unique as their own personality. With all that said, I just want to say I am beyond grateful to have found the other musicians I play with who are gracious enough to help me realize my own vision in a band context.
10. What advice do you want to give to young/new musicians and listeners?
If I could instill one piece of advice within other artists or fans of art it would be to think critically not just about art on its own merits but also its place within your life. I talk to a lot of people, both musicians and “civilians,” who confess to having no understanding of why they gravitate toward certain art forms or stylistic indicators. I’d encourage anyone who places any sort of importance on art to make a concerted effort to understand what elements thereof speak to them at their core and, moreover, to attempt a deeper understanding of why they consume art and the purpose it has within their life.
11. Your future plan?
In the short term, I have quite a bit of new music waiting in my coffers. Aside from the aforementioned Passing and Carton debuts, Those Darn Gnomes has a new album nearly completed which I hope to release later this year. Once that’s done, we have another full-length written and a solid start on recording, plus collaborative albums with our dear friendsLucas Broyles and Gridfailure. We’d like to sandwich in some other short releases as well, be they EPs or splits or whatever else. We have a lot on the horizon!
Aside from new music, my only hope is to continue developing as an artist. With each new work I produce, be it a completed album or an unfinished idea scrapped early in the development process, I feel my creative vision is strengthened, even just as a filter. My primary goal is really just to continue on the path I’ve set for myself and see what creative doors open themselves for me.
12. End this interview however you want.
Thank you so, so much for the opportunity to rant on and on with regards to this stuff, and thanks to anyone reading who made it this far! Keep an open mind to what goes on around you!