with Andrew Weathers
Andrew Weathers is a minimalist ambient guitar player. Born in1988, heís one of the youngest people in this music scene & is quickly making a name for himself.
QRD Ė How do you describe your music to someone who is into pop music?
Andrew Ė My usual line is ďItís like Sigur Rós, only without drums or vocals.Ē Thatís really only sometimes true, but people know that band, so thereís some slight reference point for them.
QRD Ė You grew up listening to emo & stuff like that. How did you get into weirder music?
Andrew Ė It was really a natural progression. I would play shows with my rock bands at The Nightlight in Chapel Hill & they would put some noise group on the bill. It blew my mind that people were really making music like that. I remember friends not being all that into it, but I was always so impressed that people had the guts to do stuff like that on stage. I started searching around on the internet & learning about this noise stuff & gradually picking out what I really liked.
QRD Ė You use guitar as you main instruments for live performances & recordings, but youíre going to university for percussion. Why didnít you go to school for guitar?
Andrew Ė I taught myself guitar, so I never learned any kind of style, like classical or jazz, or how to read guitar music; but I did do percussion in band & drumline in high school, so I could read that music to some degree. & given my interest in percussion music like John Cage & Steve Reich, percussion just seemed like the right thing to study. I use guitar because itís very self-contained & has pitch. Pitched percussion instruments tend to be huge, expensive, & a total hassle to mic up. Given all of the different situations I perform in, percussion is just impractical. Iíve done shows treating the guitar as a percussion instrument through simple preparations, but those tend to be shows where Iím collaborating with another musician. I would like to do more percussion-based music & Iím looking around for vibraphone with a pick-up system, but itíll be a while before that appears.
QRD Ė Do you think you approach the guitar differently because of your interest in percussion?
Andrew Ė As I was learning, I definitely didnít. I learned chords, & wrote songs with them, before I knew anything about how the chords work with each other. Now Iím doing more prepared guitar, like mentioned before, & the guitar becomes a very different instrument. Itís more like a sounding board for different percussion sounds than an instrument in its own right.
QRD Ė Youíre one of the youngest people on the weird music scene. Do you feel out of place when the people into your music are old enough to be your father? Do you wish there were more people your age into what youíre doing?
Andrew Ė When I first started playing out, I was mostly confused & out of place. I didnít realize that experimental music is a scene of older people. Iím okay with pretty much always being the baby. I do wish there were more kids in it. There are a good amount of young people interested in this kind of music, but I think they just donít know what to do about it, & keep it in the bedroom, either listening to it or playing it. Thatís why Iím really thankful I was exposed to it in a live performance setting, rather than on the internet or from recordings.
QRD Ė You use a laptop for all of your guitar effects rather than pedals. What do you think makes the computer based effect system better than pedals?
Andrew Ė I use a computer for a lot of reasons. I like the control & flexibility it gives me, all in a package thatís much smaller than so many effects pedals. I can also incorporate samples from outside sources much more efficiently than I could if I used a guitar pedal rig.
QRD Ė I know you used to be in some more traditional bands. If you were to form a band now, what would it sound like?
Andrew Ė Iíve thought about doing the band thing again lately. I recently started a classical chamber group called Intermissions Ensemble, with myself playing percussion & electronics, & other composers playing clarinet, alto saxophone, cello, & guitar. Is that a band? I think if I were to play in a traditional rock band, it would probably sound like one of the several styles of instrumental rock that are going around. Hopefully it wouldnít end up being another Explosions in the Sky clone though.
QRD Ė You started your own cassette only label. Whatís the purpose of cassettes as the final product at this point in time?
Andrew Ė Itís actually not cassette only, but all DIY. At this point weíve released a photobook & CD-R set & a cassette of an improv group Iím in called Acid of All Ruins & weíre working on releasing our friend Corey Larkinís CD, all with handmade packaging. Music itself has become devalued, because anything you want can be found for free on the internet, if youíre willing to search for it enough. Weíre trying to make the packaging of the music an object that is interesting. Our idea is that by only doing limited edition releases, weíre not only making a product, which would be the music, but an art object of some nature. The people who buy music are generally collectors by nature, so weíre getting in on that aspect of it a little bit.
QRD Ė People often say things about how well your music would fit as film soundtrack & I know you do have some interest in this. Would you like to write music specifically for individual scenes in a film or rather just turn over a collection of potential transition music to a music supervisor?
Andrew Ė I think film would be a very appropriate place for my music, even if thatís not where my primary interest is. Iím working on a score for short film that my friend Drew Valenti is the director of photography on. Iíve read the script, & Iím writing short pieces that feel like what Iíve gotten out of it, leaving placement up to them. I have specific scenes in mind, but that might not quite line up with the directorís vision. Weíll see how it turns out; but for the way I work, thatís the way to go.
QRD Ė For live shows, it seems like people make pretty immediate connections with percussion or the human voice, do you think about adding these elements to have a better connection to the crowd?
Andrew Ė They absolutely do. Iíve done about four or five shows where I was processing my vocals, in addition to playing guitar. People seemed to like it a lot, or at least they remember it. Those shows are still brought up fairly regularly. But I just donít think it works for me. Iím not a good enough singer, & I end up singing the same two or three patterns that easily come up. Iíve never used voice in a typical sense, high in the mix & with lyrics. That wouldnít work at all. As for percussion, I take that to mean a beat. People always respond to a groove, which has been mostly absent from my music. Iíve never added electronic beats, but Iím experimenting with ways to add a rhythmic element to the guitar processing, to make my music a little bit easier to hold on to.
QRD Ė If you could find the appropriate like-minded people to work with so that you could try to replicate the sounds you make live using acoustic instruments, how many people would there be & what would the instrumentation be?
Andrew Ė Iíve often considered writing a piece for guitar orchestra, in the style of Rhys Chatham or Glenn Branca. They get some really beautiful sounds out of that group. Itís sonically similar to what I do, but in performance many times more engaging. Thereís nothing more powerful than an electric guitar, except if you multiply that by 400. Iíve wanted to do shows with a string quartet, which I think would be beautiful. I would expect them to be able to improvise to some degree, but classical musicians just arenít trained to, which is a real shame. If I could tour with a string quartet that would improvise according to guidelines I gave them, I would be absolutely happy.
QRD Ė Usually you just play one twenty-minute piece of music for your live performance. Whatís the shortest amount of time you think one of your songs could be to make sense & the longest it could be to not try the audienceís patience?
Andrew Ė I used to play three short pieces, each about ten minutes long, but I felt like that made for too long of a set. My music is all about extending time, but I donít think that necessitates extended lengths for every performance. It just depends on where I want to go with the material I have. Last week I did a set using contact micíed paper as the only sound source, & the set only went for about twelve minutes. If it were any longer, it wouldíve been excessive. There are not a lot of places to go with paper.
QRD Ė How much of your live performance is planned & how much is improvised?
Andrew Ė About 40-60. I have the structure & key mapped out, & sometimes certain chords & melodic ideas, but what I actually play is always totally improvised. I think improvising is an important part of being a musician.
QRD Ė I know you are into photography as well as music. How do you your aesthetic values as a musician & as a photographer relate to each other?
Andrew Ė The aesthetic is pretty closely related. My photography tends to be minimal, & sometimes abstract. I donít think of trying to take a picture of a certain object, but taking in shapes & patterns. I donít like photography thatís too busy.
QRD Ė You used to perform & record under the name Pacific Before Tiger. Why did you start working under your own name instead?
Andrew Ė I couldnít distinguish what was a Pacific Before Tiger piece, & what was an Andrew Weathers piece. I think using my name is just more appropriate for what I do, & it eases confusion about the band/solo thing, which used to come up a lot. Pacific Before Tiger was never a band, even though other people occasionally played with me.
QRD Ė Do you find performing under your own name makes it harder to separate your ďrealĒ life from your musical life?
Andrew Ė My musical life is my real life & I donít see any need to make a separation. I like when musicians make themselves available to be contacted & I think using my own name helps with that. Using a pseudonym adds a mysterious aspect to peopleís perception of a musician, which works in some cases, but not for what Iím trying to do.
QRD Ė As part of the younger generation, what do you think the music industry &/or bands could do to see higher value to music & to spend their money on buying music, merchandise, or attending shows?
Andrew Ė This is a hard one. I think a lot of bands try to reach the most people possible, without really caring who those people are. I think thatís a big problem. It overwhelms the people engaging in the music & devalues everyone elseís music.
QRD Ė You tour a lot, especially for someone so young. How did you make all the connections to be able to get so many shows to happen?
Andrew Ė I honestly have no idea. Obviously the internet & MySpace help. There are not a lot of people making this kind of music, which makes it fairly straightforward to find whoís most active in a particular city. Iím honestly surprised that Iíve been able to tour as much as I have & have it work as well as it does.
QRD Ė You do a lot of house shows, both at your own house & while on tour. Do you think thatís a better environment for your type of music than in a club?
Andrew Ė I love house shows. Itís great to play in someoneís living room, with people who actually care to listen. Itís not necessarily better than a show in a venue or a gallery, just different.
QRD Ė You do a lot of collaborative works with other musicians, whatís the secret to getting that to work?
Andrew Ė I like collaborating a lot, especially in an improv kind of context. Iíve found it works best when Iím familiar with the other personís work. I know what to expect & how to deal with it when it comes up.
QRD Ė Anything else?
Andrew Ė Well, thanks for interviewing me. Iíve got a CD called Anchors out right now, which you can pick up from Blondena Music, & a 3-inch CD out soon on Lo-Bango Sound, as well as a split album with Michael Vallera & ll (which is Eric Hall & Matt Dill) both from St. Louis on Echolocation Recordings. Both of those should be out in the next couple of months.