Q&A with Walter Gross
Los Angeles multi-instrumentalist and producer Walter Gross is an artist who we highly respect at SCV. The setting of his music is beyond explanation and is something that is to be experienced for any fan of exploratory and new forms of modern music. There is a brash and harsh reality to his music that is achieved in the most glorious and harmonious manner. It’s controlled chaos that stretches the limitations of psyche, beat music, hip hop and much more. His music can be as dark and twisted as it is filled with beauty and a sublime way of being, something we cherish in modern music as the rules become more blurred and divided.
Walter Gross is an artist who is has found refuge in his own path and on his own terms, having produced and manufactured many of his releases himself. Experimental music is one of the loosest terms in genre labels and Walter Gross even stretches that concept inside out. Walter Gross went the extra mile for our online radio series with a special mix entitled Heavy Heart. It has everything that represents the mind and interests of a man trying to define something new in music. This year Walter has embarked on the newest phase of his career with a special split 7″ featuring the prophetic talents of Anticon Records alumni Sole and Mush Records lyricist k-the-i???. We caught up with Walter recently around his hectic schedule to dive into this release and many other areas of his music.
Walter Gross is an artist we feel is extremely underrated and it is with much pleasure that we bring to you an interview with one of LA’s most unique producers.
Sound Colour Vibration: What’s up Walter, I really appreciate you giving us a little bit of your time to talk about your new 7″ and other areas of your career. In your press notes, you explained a very lengthy process of finally getting the materials you created with Anticon’s Sole in a pressed format and onto the 7″ you are releasing this year. When did you first meet Sole and what type of working relationship have you both shared since meeting?
Walter Gross: I’ve known Sole for awhile now, through tours and also his forum through his website, “The Peoples Republic of Sole”, where I’ve met a ton of people through so there was this community that have stayed pretty tight knit over the years. And just through seeing him play live, hanging out with him, drinkin’ a beer shootin’ the shit, we became pretty good friends. Then my music started to attract his attention and he reached out to me, wanting to help me in someway to get on a bigger platform. Sole’s about the communal aspect of the art, and he’s got a vision and is super talented, so it’s great to be able to work with him. I generally don’t make beats for rappers, except him and k-the-i??? mostly, but I enjoy doin’ it, he’s always been a huge inspiration for me, gettin’ me through dark times, it’s a great combination because he’s always been one of the rawest voices out there and in a lot of ways a real life modern day prophet in my personal opinion. Everything going down right now he’s been rapping about for years. It’s wild.
SCV: You also mentioned the lengthy process it took to get this album pressed, having to save money through multiple releases and even a drug study program. There is a considerable amount of energy you had to put into this record with taking on most of the project yourself. How do you balance out a life of bills and the normal areas of life and find the resources to still press music?
WG: To put it simply, sacrifices and hustlin’ my ass off. I have never had a proper work space. I’ve lived most of my adult life without a bed to make room for a little studio. I’m just good at saving my money cuz’ I’m a cheap bastard. Bottom-line is you just gotta do what you gotta to do to make shit happen. I’m good at working with what I got, it’s been the foundation for my art since the beginning, to work within limitations, so it’s just become more of a lifestyle for me. Hopefully one day I can stretch out and work in a decent space, sleep on a bed, all that good shit.
SCV: This 7″ is your biggest release for you to date and contains material that jumps the board as far as origin of recording and conceptual design. For anyone just finding out who you are, how would you describe this release?
WG: I would say it’s my response to everything going on in America and the world and my way of offering something encouraging and hopefully inspiring. I’m tired of seeing my friends commit suicide. It’s been an epidemic it seems the past few years, so I hope this release, and it’s what I’ve always hoped for all my releases, that it reaches people where they’re at and gives them a sort of twisted smile and need to do something. Be it creative, or just the ability to do everyday things because I know how debilitating life can be and music offers up a chance to empower yourself. If I can do that with one person, I’m happy.
SCV: The 7″ will come with a 16 page booklet that you designed yourself, something I am very intrigued and excited to get my hands on. Without revealing too much, what’s inside the book and what types of processes do you partake in to complete these extra areas of your music releases?
WG: It’s a simple little thing I was able to make at my little part-time low-wage job. It’s got images I’ve spliced and collaged with, tongue-in-cheek kind of stuff with the overall message of encouragement. I went into it with an “anti-suicide” theme. For instance, the title sheet on the cover says, “Nobody Likes A Quitter”. I tried to make myself laugh.
SCV: You are releasing this split 7″ record on your own print WGREC. Do you plan to put out other artists on your imprint or will it solely by for your own releases?
WG: No. I created WGREC as something to put on all the releases I dish out myself. Probably should have started it from the start. And I’ve had a lot of help from I Had An Accident and a few other labels down the road, but WGREC was exclusively created for my own stuff.
SCV: To dive back into your history, what have been some of your most memorable releases and tours?
WG: Far as releases, each one has their own little story. The Death Of A Samplesman was a turning point for me that helped me spearhead the path of pursuing a more self-sufficient way. I’ve only been on a couple small tours, nothing big. Touring the west coast with Skrapez was fun, just to crack jokes and shit. Had some cool experiences in Europe, but towards the end there we got stranded a lot, cancelled shows and it was pretty fucking stressful. I find it hard to play shows in LA. I generally hit up San Diego for shows, the dude Mateo who runs Kava Lounge is a great friend he’s been really supportive and I always have a great time playing there, plus they have bomb ass alcoholic AND non-alcoholic drinks.
SCV: You have been a DIY artists since your conception into the arts. Why is the DIY approach very important to you?
WG: It’s not so much important as it is necessary. All this shit has always been pain-staking and super existential, so developing a DIY ethic is a way to combat the industry and my own surrender. And I’ve had some help along the way to further the approach, Vulgar really helped in the beginning and IHAA helped me get back on my feet after some disillusionment. But in the end, I just enjoy complete 100% control. From the art to the video to the music; everything. It feels good. Something about the monotony of it all I find liberating. I feel more connected with my audience.
SCV: I know that you have been collaborating with the Skrapez crew a lot in recent years. How did you meet them and what does their approach to sound mean to you?
WG: Vulgar Records who helped me with my first 2 releases put me onto Tenshun when I was living in Baltimore. He had just got out of jail for shit and I had just got my hearing back so we were both getting back into the swing of things. [I] hit him up on MySpace, traded music/art and became friends from there and he then introduced me into their Kilowattz crew and that’s when I came into contact with Psychopop and the rest of the clan. That was like in 2005, I think, and then we all finally met in person at this art show for their homies, which is captured in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFOFvnMxa-I . That was fun, we just said what’s up real quick and immediately started jamming. They’re definitely my good brothers.
SCV: Looking back at your releases, where do you see yourself going with your craft that you haven’t been able to reach yet but you see yourself reaching in the years to come?
WG: Bigger and better things. I definitely want to branch out more with film and hopefully get the opportunity to reach a broader audience. I do vocals now which is a new phase, continue to span the spectrum of sound even wider. I don’t care to prescribe to any one genre. I’m just happy the drive is still there and despite everything I’m still having fun and enjoy the evolution and development of my craft and see where it goes. I want to do a lot. I’m careful about describing things too much, I like to let the work speak for itself – watch it all unfold with careful guidance and proficiency.
SCV: As far as gear goes, what are the tools that will always be by your side in creation and what differences does the analog and digital formats afford you while creating?
WG: MPC 1000 has always and will always be my weapon of choice. I need to get another one if I do more shows though. Like I said I dont have much room, so whatever small bullshit I can find and whatever new recording processes I can experiment with, I’ll be happy. I like trying new things. I like tapes and tape players and tracking everything off the grid in my computer for mixing. Not into midi/software too much. Just not my thing, I don’t knock it, it’s just not my bag. I like the hands on, carving out the sounds, keeping it primitive and futurist at the same time. I embrace limitation and always will and the shit you can do in Ableton seems a little too much for me and my approach. Programs like Reason, etc never really appealed to me. I don’t like staring at my computer enough as it is to make music. I’m just a contrary bastard so whatever’s “hot” at the moment, my natural inclination is to go the other way. I do notice I’m becoming increasingly anal-retentive the older I get. No room for tom-foolery bullshit. If I had any sense though, considering my living space, I probably should opt for the software stuff, but in the words of a great friend, “OHH WELL!”.
SCV: Thanks for the insight and your time Walter, hope you are great man.
WG: Much love & respect to what you do homie. Thank you.
Walter has a new cassette coming out on Luana Records that is a very limited edition print of 40 copies. The following video is for this album Coward.
*All artwork by Walter Gross
*Questions compiled by Erik Otis