I’m always really hyperbolic when I talk about bands, but Adam Forkner is honestly one of my favorite people making music today. The warm tones of his albums are somehow both engaging and soothing and getting to experience his improvised, one-man live show was one of the most amazing musical experiences of my life. But, even more importantly, Adam is one of the nicest, most positive people I’ve ever met. Here is a short glimpse into the mind of the man behind White Rainbow.
The Porch: What inspires you?
Adam Forkner: The sky and how it changes from day to night. The slow shift of seasons and how they affect me. Also, flanger, phaser, Jon Hassell, Rob Walmart, my friends, colors, lights, the idea of hypnotic states, optical illusions, trippy videos, Youtube, the Internet, etc.
The Porch: How did you get started with music? What were your early bands like?
Adam Forkner: I started playing music when I was a little kid. Trumpet first, in like the 4th or 5th grade. My father was, and is, primarily a jazz musician and he turned me on to lots of amazing music and ideas and sounds at an early age. I played in jazz band in middle school and high school.
My first “bands” were extremely silly 4 track bands in middle school. In high school, I was in some Primus and/or grunge inspired jam groups. Also, more Ween inspired recording projects. In college, I started Yume Bitsu with Franz Prichard. Together, we started exploring our more “psychedelic” leanings. I took Javanese gamelan and sitar and electronic music classes.
The Porch: When did you start getting into long-form, improvisational music?
Adam Forkner: I’d say in college with Yume Bitsu, and beyond college as we started really getting our groove on. The whole basis of the band was long form improvisation within loose song structures. This would be from around 1996 on. But, I guess my jazz upbringing gave me an appreciation for improvisation at an early age. I’ve kinda felt since then that improvisation is the pinnacle of musical expression. Just expressing yourself in the very moment of creation. Yume Bitsu has been unactive since around 2002.
The Porch: What draws you to that kind of music?
Adam Forkner: Like I said, I think it’s rooted in my upbringing listening to jazz. I was early on attracted to the sort of long form, one-chord experimental stuff of 70’s era electric Miles Davis. My dad also introduced me to some cool ambient records early on, like Jon Hassell and Brian Eno’s Possible Musics, as well as Indian classical music and other stuff along those lines. From there, it was just connecting the dots and further investigating all sorts of different more experimental musics, from, like, noise to psychedelic rock to music from other parts of the world to the early minimalists like Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and La Monte Young. And in the 90’s there was a huge era of space rock with bands like Flying Saucer Attack, Windy and Carl, Stars of the Lid, and stuff like that.
I guess I’ve always liked listening to weird cool sounds and seeing how they affect me, and thinking about music as sound in time and space more than regular “songs” with people singing and all that sort of thing. Not that I don’t like songs or people singing, but it fits a different part of life. I believe that there is music for all types of times and uses. I use music maybe differently than someone who listens primarily to songs.
The Porch: What is your standard set-up for a White Rainbow gig?
Adam Forkner: Just me and some stuff making sounds. Microphone, keyboard and guitar, percussion, some FX and loop samplers.
The Porch: What was the premise behind the Vibrational Healing Center?
Adam Forkner: That was an audio/video performance installation I did for the Portland Institute for Contemorary Art’s Annual festival back in 2005. It was 10 days of me playing music for about 8 hours a day within a white comfortable room with one wall covered in video projections. It sprung from me thinking about what an ideal performative space would be at that time. It’s hard to play the sort of music I do at rock clubs or bars or even all ages punk places. It’s sometimes a bit fragile and delicate and needs time to grow. It was cool. People would just pop in and pop out at their leisure and I just kept on making sounds for hours and hours. Sort of like a chill-out room at a rave. Though I haven’t really been to a lot of raves or something. More what I’ve heard they are like, maybe. Another huge inspiration was La Monte Young’s Dream House, a long form drone installation that has been running for years in New York City which is basically a room with massive speakers playing a complex set of tones which, though un-changing, change as your perception of them does, and as your spacial relationship with the speakers changes.
The Porch: Have you thought of doing more installation-type events?
Adam Forkner: Yes! Though they are hard to get going, as I think maybe they are somewhere in between installations, live performance, sound art, etc. and I haven’t really had the chance to find good places to do something like that again. I have other ideas, but at this point they are mostly sketches in a notebook looking for time and money to get them started. I have done some pretty weird performances at music venues involving video, lights, dome constructions and the like. But, for now, I have been getting into just playing straight sets, as it is easier to do say, on a tour, or at a the sort of clubs and spaces I generally play.
The Porch: Are you working on any new music?
Adam Forkner: Yes! I have a new album almost done which should come out in the first half of 2009. It’s about 2 hours of music, probably spread over 3 LPs or 2 CDs. The title is New Clouds on Kranky soon. Also, some other recordings that should see release in some way shape or form soon.
The Porch: I really, really love the new Stag Hare album. What was your role on that release?
Adam Forkner: I just mastered it, which is basically making the final recordings sound as good as they can – not to be confused with mixing or recording or producing or anything like that. He did all of it himself. Mastering is just basically a fancy word for doing final EQ and compression stuff to the mixes so the songs sound good together on a CD or whatever. It’s a great record and he’s an awesome artist. I was excited to listen to it over and over again!
The Porch: Do you plan to do more of that?
Adam Forkner: I do a little mastering, but lately I’ve been too busy to do much of it. It’s fun, especially if i feel a connection to the music I’m working with. I’ve also been doing some other stuff like mixing and helping actually record some music with some friends like Adrian Orange, White Fang and Rob Walmart. I like working on my friend’s records when they let me and I can!
The Porch: What have you been listening to? Are there any other new bands you’re into?
Adam Forkner: Oh gee, I gotta rep for all the homies: White Fang, Rob Walmart, AOK aka Adrian Orange, Lucky Dragons, Valet, Nudge and the whole Marriage Records, States Rights Records and Kranky Records crewz, Lil’ Wayne, a lot of hyphy stuff from Oakland, Stars of the Lid… but mostly I don’t listen to many new bands.
The Porch: Do you have a favorite website?
Adam Forkner: I’ve been getting into Tumblr lately with a bunch of friends. There is also the urbanhonking.com community that I enjoy being involved with. Flickr is also a lot of fun. I like those sorts of websites where a group of people you know can share stuff and interact with each other and sometimes the community gets bigger with friends of friends. Web 3.0 stuff… Oh I know a good one: websiteofspoilers.com! I like looking at dealextreme.com even though I don’t really buy much of anything on there. It feels like being in an electronic junk shop in Hong Kong. Vimeo is awesome. Youtube is awesome.
The Porch: What is a perfect day for you?
Adam Forkner: Wake up with my lady and have some good food. Go on a lazy walk. Maybe make some music or talk with some cool dudes. Maybe a medium long drive with some good friends talking and listening to music. I’m somehow on the coast of Oregon or Big Sur, the sun sets and I’m listening to some music that fits my mood, either warm ambient tones or some crazy hyphy, depending on how I’m feeling. While I lounge in a comfortable chair, someone brings me some more warm good food and maybe some wine. Talking with good friends over a fire pit. Maybe a performance happens. Bed is comfortable, quiet, intimate, restful. Also pizza is probably involved.