Q&A with Evan Caminiti
Bay area ambient and exploratory soundscape artist Evan Caminiti has been setting in stone his own imprint onto this world for many years now and it is through his solo recordings that we have found the music of his that has connected with us the most. As music expands constantly and bridges more tonal possibilities, there will always be those at the forefront of this change and wave of new creative growth. Evan Caminiti is among many who account for this wave and has really stunned us with the recent album release of Dreamless Sleep on Thrill Jockey Records. His approach to the guitar is singular, creating a voice that is remarkably fresh and recognizable and explores regions of a cosmic reality. We had the opportunity of exchanging emails with Evan about his new record and much more and have come to understand this artist a lot more. We hope you enjoy what Evan had to say and will check out his music if you have not already.
Sound Colour Vibration: Hello Evan, I wanted to first say that I am really enjoying your latest record Dreamless Sleep. I had heard your group Barn Owl but this was my first experience with your solo work and I fell in love immediately with what you have created. The album Dreamless Sleep is built largely around guitars and effects. What types of guitars or guitar did you use for this recording and what were some of the effects that allowed you to get the tones that you did?
Evan Caminiti: Thanks. I played a Telecaster 72′ Custom with various delays, fuzz pedals, reverbs, tube amps…
SCV: You have released solo albums on labels for a few years now and each one has been with a different label. How did a release with Thrill Jockey come about?
EC: It really made since this year we won’t be doing a Barn Owl record. Barn Owl has still performed pretty frequently this year in addition to writing a recording a new record, we wanted to take our time with this and work on it at home over an extended period of time rather than doing it all in the studio. So this freed up space to work on solo material with Thrill Jockey.
SCV: When I listen to Dreamless Sleep, I feel like the music speaks a very deep language, something that I connected to right away. Where were you at mentally and spiritually when constructing this record?
EC: This record began around December 2010 when a bunch of my friends had gone home to visit their families and I was stuck in San Francisco because I was working Christmas Eve. This gave me some pretty solitary time to get a start on the record. I found Alice Coltrane’s devotional tapes from just clicking around YouTube and they had a profound effect on me. I think I was also listening to a lot of Dead C so I was interested in this hybrid of healing energy and abrasive sounds. I want to explore a musical language beyond songwriting, focusing on immersion in sound, sound as experience.
SCV: What were you trying to achieve when making Dreamless Sleep and what does it mean to you in context of your other solo records?
EC: Dreamless evolved over a longer period of time than my past records, there was a big emphasis on the process and obscuring the source material. And there was a long time where I just completely took a break from listening to it or working in it at all because of touring. I deconstructed my own work more than I have done in the past, I wanted something different out of the music when I came back to it a year after it was recorded. ”Night Dust” definitely was the start of taking this approach, and the two records are like brother/sister. In context, I don’t know. I try not to repeat myself too much, just doing something that you’re excited an passionate about is always the main thing.
SCV: What have been the most important records, books and film in your life?
EC: That is a really serious question. Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II, Popol Vuh’s track “Vuh”, Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, Terry Riley, Werner Herzog, Keiji Haino, Journey in Satchidananda, David Lynch…
SCV: What type of perspectives into music do you see now that you didn’t when you were first releasing records?
EC: Well I’ve definitely gotten a better taste of the political and business aspects of the industry. Touring frequently you come across some of the most generous, welcoming people and also the occasional shady person who tries to take advantage of you.
SCV: What are the biggest non musical sources if inspiration to your creativity?
EC: Traveling and visual art.
SCV: I wanted to dive into the process of what you do. What have been your most rewarding methods and approaches to constructing music over the years?
EC: Spontaneous composition and improvisation is constantly one of the most satisfying approaches. Hermetic isolation is rewarding in a different way as well.
SCV: What type of lifestyle do you live to ensure that you have a focus for the life of a musician?
EC: I live in a tiny studio apartment and possess no financial security.
SCV: Making a record and performing are definitely different entities, requiring different states of focus and energy. Do you have specific preparation methods that you take place for both mediums and what are the most challenging aspects to both areas?
EC: Absolutely. The most challenging part of performing is generally touring, when you are jet lagged, can’t sleep at night even though you’re exhausted and you have to summon the energy to perform from somewhere deep inside yourself. You really push yourself in new ways. With both, you can’t really have an “off-day” and get away with it. You’ve always got to be on it and make it count.
SCV: In your pursuit to have your music connect to as many people as possible, what have been your favorite places in the world to perform?
EC: One of the most memorable performances we’ve ever done as Barn Owl was at the OFF festival in Katowice, Poland. The energy was just amazing. Maybe people think that for “ambient” or “experimental” music the artist/audience relationship is different than rock shows. But for me, the feedback loop of energy between performer and audience is really important. I’ve found myself enjoying festivals much more than I thought I would. Roadburn is another great example of this.
SCV: Now that Dreamless Sleep is in the world, what plans do you have for the next year or two for touring, recordings, special projects and so forth?
EC: I’m recording for Painted Caves (http://paintedcaves.tumblr.com/), and also just debuted that project live. Bay Area and New York solo dates with Vestals are coming up in September and October, and then more extensive Barn Owl touring. We’re playing the Goldrush festival in Denver in September and then going to Europe in October.
SCV: Thanks for your time Evan, I really love what you are doing with sound and I look forward to seeing you perform live.
EC: Thank you!
* Photo by Paul Ruben Mundthal