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
Psychopop of the Skrapez crew has been a producer I have been following works from over the last few years and I have yet to be disappointed in a single piece of work he has created. Based in San Diego and a part of a community that launched out the careers of The Gaslamp Killer, Gonjasufi and many others, Psychopop is one of the rawest producers around. Relying on technology dated ten to twenty years back for the doomsday outskirts of sound he achieves, Psychopop takes the meaning of raw to another level. The nastiest and dirtiest of drums are blanketed inside tyrannical sounds that stretch to everywhere in the spectrum of experimental electronic and hip hop production. The over shades of soul music and other oddly placed genres inside his framework pop out from time to time, showing his penchant for diversity with experimentalism always at the heart.
Psychopop’s work with Gonjasufi on his latest 10″ release MU.ZZ.LE is something that we are still in awe over. Psychopop has been touring around the world heavily with his Skrapez crew (Tenshun and Psychopop) in support of Gonajsufi and his newest Warp release. We caught up with Psychopop about his latest creative musings and this exclusive interview presented below is the results of this exchange. Psychopop is one of the best producers out there and we are overly enjoyed to present an interview with him at Sound Colour Vibration.
SCV: What’s up Psychopop, really excited to dive into these questions. First wanted to say thanks for the time on this interview. I wanted to first ask you about your crew Skrapez, how did you guys form it and what are some of the defining qualities that represent what you guys have created in your legacy?
Sup bro..My pleasure…Well Skrapez was formed in 2002..Me and Tenshun were already good friends bumping underground hip hop like Log Cabin, Orko and all that west coast classic raw shit. I think our qualities that define us would be we never saw anyone do the shit we were trying to do. We were just jamming out making straight harsh noises with heavy drums on top. I’m sure people were already doing that but not that we noticed. We were just fucking around, you know? Our first show was with Sumach aka Gonjasufi. We bumrushed a show we weren’t even on the flyer. Just showed up and started smashing out noise.
SCV: Who were some of the first cats outside of your circles you came to walk paths with where you said, this is it, this is exactly where we are going with things?
I think one of the first cats outside the circle was Bigg Jus. Met him and we started smashing out shows. Skrapez and NMS, also Walter Gross came into the picture too. We’re all on the same shit, trying to blow wigs back you can say.
SCV: It seems like you are releasing albums of various types all the time. What have been some of your last few releases and what is going to come out soon?
My last few releases have been some grindcore type shit called Holysangreciqleta. All live to tape deck shit and all in Spanish. Put out by I Had An Accident Records. A Skrapez beat tape and a new 7″ and that MU.ZZ.LE 10″ on Warp. The new shit I’m working on is finishing up this Psychopo and Scatterbrain album which is going to be brutal as fuck and this other project called Hauntvox with this dope Venezuelan girl Valentina Michealangelli. That’s where my focus is right now. Can’t wait to drop these two albums.
SCV: How did you meet Valentina Michealangelli and what kind of style does she bring to the table?
Me and Valentina were just into the same type of music. I always wanted do work with some female vocals and she’s perfect for what I envisioned. We’re inspired by the 60′s and Trish Keenen. Beth Gibbons type shit for sure.
SCV: I know that San Diego has been your base. Who have been your favorite artists to work with in the region and what collectives, crews or artists are up and coming that you think people should look out for?
I’ve had the privilege to grow up around Masters of the Universe Crew, Kilowatz, MRR ADM aka MHE, IMD, GLK. Shit, a hang of hard fools out of Daygo. I’d look out for all these crews. It’s a circle of fire man.
SCV: I’ve been wanting to ask you about the music you produced for Gonjasufi on his latest Warp LP MU.ZZ.LE. Did Gonjasufi selecte tracks you already had or did you guys build the songs from the ground up together?
We made those MU.ZZ.LE joints in like 2002 or 2003. We were just labbing out and smoking trees trying to get on some shit. It was before we had Pro Tools and even computers man. I had a 4 track and he had an 8 track. We made all tracks on that album around the same time.
SCV: Do you think its important for an artist to put down the computer driven technology and go back to basics or is that only for some people these days?
I don’t know if it’s important to put down the computer music programs. I’ve heard some amazing stuff coming from a computer but for me I like the MPC, actual drum sets, and real instruments. I like the buzzings and the air, it feels organic to me. It’s just what I know. People look at me crazy when we set up my old ass equipment.
SCV: I know you have mentioned Gonjasufi has been a mentor in your career so far. What are some of the most powerful things he has taught you and shown you?
Well, Gonjasufi pretty much manifested destiny. We were talking about all the things taking place way back then. It makes it more important. He believed in himself and me. So that’s rad. We were just some fools making shit in a small ass room. Everything that has happened he said it would while we were barely even having money to eat food once a day. It’s beautiful man and crazy how shit works.
SCV: Process is always different from artist to artist. Do you try to change up your process depending on the style of track you are trying to achieve or do you have a set in routine that let’s you dive into your creation more focused?
Every time I make music it’s pretty much a different process. I just dive in; sometimes nothing happens and sometimes it be really quick. Like it’s too easy or just meant to be.
SCV: I was really hyped when you told me you would be touring with Gonjasufi with your group Skrapez. Where have you guys travelled so far and how have the shows been?
So far we played the Moca in LA opening for Thom Yorke. Brazil and Chile. I think we were able to get loose and have at all the shows. Mixing Skrapez dirty ass sound along with Gonjasufi’s grime too. The first time me and Tenshun had a Skrapez show Gonjasufi played with us too. Full circle. Were trying to play these gigs like jamming out in the bedroom. Improv, live raw MPC shit. Back to the basics.
SCV: What kind of atmosphere do you generally experience off the stage being around your tour mates?
My tour mates are two of my closest friends so it’s to hang out with those fools. We go digging for wax pretty much everywhere we go. went to Brazil and came up at the dopest spot I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Pretty much if you’re into wax.
SCV: I always try to stay out of record stores when I travel or I will spend all my money. What kind of music did you come up on with this last touring trip you did with Gonasufi and Tenshun?
We went digging in Brazil and Chile. The store in Brazil was like that DJ Shadow cover and we got a bunch of everything really. Bossa nova to heavy rock shit. In Chile we got everything from Spanish folk to church records. It was fun, that’s what we do is dig for wax.
SCV: It’s always a challenge to truly define your purpose on this planet. The more you make music, does this purpose become more focused or more of a blur?
I love making music, it’s like I have too. I think my purpose is to give love to people man. I like when people are comfortable around me. Homeless crazy people to heads that are into the music. Anyone man, I like to do creative shit. Music to painting graffiti. I need all that shit all the time. Love, peace and dirty drums. If nobody even heard of me I’d still be doing the same shit in my bedroom.
SCV: That’s something a lot of people don’t consider, how far a person had to go to achieve their goals when they build everything from the ground up, something I struggle with daily in terms of having the financial security to eat right and all of that. When you look at those times, would you take back anything despite the hardship of not always having a meal?
I wouldn’t change anything. When I’m down I always have my friends, family and crews that will never let me suffer, seriously. I remember my OG’s Odessa Kane and Autopsy straight fill my fridge up with food and I’ll never forget that. We’re all in this shit together and I got made love and inspiration around me every day so it’s easier to keep it moving foward. It’s the only way pretty much. In our music, we didn’t change anything for anyone so to me that’s rad.
SCV: I wanted to say thanks again Psychopop, your time means a lot. To finish this interview, I wanted to ask you about the sacrifices that have to take place for you to have done what you have and to continue on. What have been some of the biggest sacrifices you have had to make in the long run for giving yourself to your creative processes and do you feel their is an art in mastering the balance of this sacrifice and maintaining a normal life?
Some of the sacrifices I’ve had to make would be quitting jobs for tours, driving hours and hours just to practice, putting all my money into dropping Skrapez wax… This is my life so it’s not even a big deal to us it’s just what we want. Gotta do things to make other things happen I guess. It’s all worth it to me. I feel like that job (9-5) doesn’t make me feel good at the end of the day so I really want to put all my time and energy into that. I like money but I gotta feed my soul at the same time. My mom told me to follow what I believe in, so here I am.
Shot, edited & mixed by Walter Gross.
Additional camerawork by Lumiere Soto.
21st Century American DIY: An impressionistic glimpse into the DIY worlds of Walter Gross & Skrapez (Tenshun & Psychopop).
To be perfectly honest, I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life. I remember being 7 or 8 years old walking around in my front yard daydreaming about making movies. Slang Yourself is a small step, but a step nevertheless. After everything that has happened, I am just glad I still have the desire to make something. I made the film for a class I’m taking at the Los Angeles City College. I’m 27 years old and have never been to college until now. I get some money through financial aid, supplemented with a minimum wage part-time job that pays under the table, I get by, I live according to a schedule and I’m able to expose different people beyond my friends to what I do. I found an SLR consumer-grade camera that shot in HD for a reasonable price, enrolled in my 3rd clinical drug study for 2 months enduring 2 spinal taps and some new pharmaceutical drug, got out, got paid and applied for a credit card with 400 dollars on it. I officially upgraded.
Six minutes is either way too short for a documentary or the perfect length to give you enough of a slice of our lives to want to know more. When I met Skrapez in 2005 through the small time French label, Vulgar Records, I felt a sense of tangible encouragement with what I was pursuing knowing that not only are there other like-minded artists I can personally relate to but they’re also scattered all across the globe. And then when I moved out west in 2008, they invited me to play with them at an art show in Santa Ana. I remember walking up the stairs to the gallery and they had already started, we briefly shook hands for the first time in person, said a few words and then I plugged in and we got lost in the session. These are the kinds of people that make such great friends, not much needs to be said, things are already understood and when the creative energies merge, very little is ever frustrating or an issue. The other important factor is that we’re just as formidable, defined and strong as solo artists, as we are when we collaborate or when Tenshun & Psychopop create as Skrapez. And that leads to a certain freedom, sense of security and an absence of any form of co-dependency that can arise in artists’ circles. We do our thing and when something needs to get done we know how to do it without any outside assistance. Collectively we’ve created close to 100 releases, Tenshun being the most prolific with over 40 albums under his belt.
I’d be lying if I said I never felt jealous, embittered, pathetic and wanting to quit. When you pour your heart and soul into something, carefully craft each one and then find it impossible to sell 15 copies of it, one starts to wonder, “What’s the fucking point?” The problem with that point is one doesn’t choose this life, I wholeheartedly believe it chooses us. The faith you must have in yourself to constantly be in mode, eyes open, ready to execute at any given hour is beyond anything of this world, in my honest opinion. There is something pressing in us that drives us to carry on despite the lack of support, major label help or even general approval & exposure. I’ll never forget those that have supported me from day one until now but at some point you have to ask yourself how long can I keep this up. And this is the driving spirit behind what we do. I know for me, it’s my language that won’t let me shut-up as well as self-therapy. Anger. Love. Inspiration. Gratitude. The ability and awareness to watch the world pass by and process it through your imagination onto some thing that a person I may never meet can hold in their hands, listen to and keep. What more could I ask for?
I’m discontent with my culture. I’m ashamed of what we’ve become and what we seek. Engaging in a creative process is the least I can do to have any form of positive impact on the world so that I don’t die as someone that just consumed and poisoned the earth. Whether or not we’ll have someone to help us along the way hasn’t been an issue for quite some time. I take heed to natural selection and remain faithful that what is sincere, powerful and with substance will live on and serve a real purpose to the people. You never know when life might get in the way, or when death may take you, so as anyone compelled to create something I believe it’s our duty to make as much as possible before the artistic clock stops ticking. It takes time to build a dimension, a mosaic for people to understand the larger picture of an artist’s aesthetic and a creative context in order to progress naturally and create without inhibition. Empires are falling apart, things are losing its meaning and life is as ambiguous as ever; we must carry on as only we know how.