Tree Wave a.k.a. Paul Slocum has been laying low, musically, for the past couple of years, but staying busy with other equally mind bending projects such as this neat-o video piece (play them all at the same time). Allow me to testify to Tree Wave’s allure; I’ve been listening to the Cabana EP, Tree Wave’s only official release made up of just seven songs, for nearly four years now, and it is (nearly) the only music I listen to from that time in my life. It still has the same ring today, as it did five years ago — time being the harshest test of beauty. Paul sat down on the Porch to discuss this and the future among many other things.
JD: In your mind, what makes your music last, and seem timeless?
P: Thanks, that’s a really nice compliment. My songs are typically arranged into non-repeating movements rather than a verse/chorus structure, so maybe there’s less repetition than other
similar music. Also I try to avoid static loops in songs. There may be loops, but there are always subtle changes occurring within the loops and around them.
JD: Who are some bands that more or less were an integral part in leading you to where you are at today musically? Or if you were not heavily influenced by other music, what did influence you?
P: I’m not sure if Tree Wave clearly reflects all of what I listen to, but some of the bands/musicians that really changed something about the way I thought of music (aside from My Bloody Valentine) are Beat Happening, Sonic Youth, Ariel Pink, Glenn Branca, Steve Reich, Alvin Lucier, and Rush. I also was into making house music for a long time, although I mostly only listened to it at raves — I never owned any records.
JD: Were there any bands then, in 2004, that influenced your music?
P: Probably a lot of Micromusic(.net) stuff, or stuff I found through Micromusic. Printed Circuit, dot tape dot, Text Adventure. That was when Myspace music really started to take off, and all of a sudden there were all these tiny cool bands from Europe that you never would have heard of otherwise.
JD: Are there any bands now that have caught your attention?
P: I had known a little about Peter Blasser/The Gongs, but I got a more formal introduction to his music recently. I’m really fascinated by Kevin Bewersdorf’s music, a friend of mine. It’s sort of like conceptual top 40 music. Brenden Adamson’s “Recital for Player Piano” blew me away.
JD: What about local bands in the DFW/Denton area?
P: There’s some good music here. Sleep Whale (formerly Mom) and Fight Bite. Midlake is great. A lot of good stuff comes out of Denton, a Dallas suburb/satellite because they have a substantial music college.
JD: On your website it says that you’re working on new music using all new equipment. When is this project going to be released, and under what name, and any other details you’d like to delve out?
P: It’s still Tree Wave. Tree Wave was a name I started using long before the Cabana EP for projects where I used an unusual process to make music. I’m hoping to release an album this year. The album is more than half finished but my schedule is always erratic, so I’m not certain when it’ll come out.
JD: How does this new version of Tree Wave compare to that of the Cabana era?
P: It’s less song-based. I’m not working with Lauren much on this album, so it will have fewer vocals. It will probably appeal to a slightly different set of people than the first record. The new stuff might be compared to Seefeel or The Field more than My Bloody Valentine. But I eventually want to find a new full-time singer and return to doing song-based work.
On the new music, I’m singing a little, and I have some other guest vocalists. I’ve used the Commodore 64 here and there, but I’m primarily using freeware soft-synths and some new sample-based music software that I wrote. I’m recreating the signal paths, distortions, and pitch tricks I was using before, but doing it all in software.
JD: What about live shows in the future?
P: I’m holding off on live shows until I have a completely new set together using my new equipment. I will probably be playing Krakow, Poland in June, and I may do a mini-performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver in May.
JD: Is there a sort of nostalgic feeling for you with Tree Wave since, as I understand it, you use old “out-dated” equipment to create something new and original, like a musical recycling of sorts.
P: With the last iteration of Tree Wave where I was using that stuff, but not so much for the new music or for the early Tree Wave stuff that I never released.
JD: Do you consider yourself a Renaissance man, for giving new life to things that would otherwise sink into obscurity, or at best become a passing subject on a trendy nerd message board?
P: I did feel that way when I was working on those projects. The beginning of the computer/videogame age kinda blind-sided us. It was so profound and swift that it took everyone a decade or two to come to terms with what had happened. Many artists began looking backward and exploring the possibilities of past technology with new eyes, noticing the worrying rate that technology pushes forward. But now that we’re in the middle of it, looking backwards seems less necessary. We now have a grasp of how the information age affects us, and we’re ready to dig into what’s happening right now and what will be coming in the future.
JD: In my mind, Tree Wave and Dallas are inseparable. This is probably due to the fact that I first heard Tree Wave in Dallas, and then finding out that it came from Dallas’ dirty asphalt-lined loins, and lastly because I have yet to find a better environment for listening to it than driving through Dallas at high speeds at night. It’s got those strong beats to it that beg for forward motion. With all of this being said, what effect does living in Dallas actually have on your music?
P: Probably exactly what you said. I always listen to my music in the car and I make a lot of decisions when I’m listening and driving. Many people envision Dallas as Hollywood portrays it, but it’s a very futuristic looking city. Zak Galifinakis said, “Your city looks like the movie Tron.”
JD: What do you think about the cross-cultural appeal of your music, from avid indie listener to high-art connoisseur? Whereas your music has been accepted by both, this makes it an interesting study-point since arguably all music is art, but yours seems to have actually been accepted to the next level, whereas art galleries aren’t asking today’s media-hyped “it” bands to play? Something should be said for this, will you say it?
P: Probably partly it’s just because I’m a working artist in addition to being a musician. Also, the “high-art” people are often more concerned with visual aesthetics, and my live show is highly visual. I compose a different visual sequence for each song, and a few things I do with the video border on performance art territory.
JD: Regretfully, I have yet to attend a Tree Wave show, but I understand that visual supplementation to the music plays an integral role. Would you like to expound on how one effects the other, and the relationship that runs between?
P: Watching somebody on stage play a keyboard just isn’t as exciting to me as watching somebody play guitar and drums. So I feel electronic performances really benefit from being augmented by some kind of video component. With my old set, I generated all my visuals using the Atari 2600, which I think gave it a unique aesthetic. For my new live show, all the video will come out of a PC in high-definition.
JD: What are your thoughts on exercising more senses in the name of musical experience, such as smell and taste and touch?
P: Haha, I don’t know. If I were going to affect one of those, I’d probably just make it really hot. Some of the best shows I’ve ever been to were somehow improved by it being way too hot.
JD: Even though I’m sure you went through some trouble to be able to make a CD that also had a loadable Commodore 64 computer program on it, how many people did you expect would exercise their right to jam out, old school style?
P: Not very many, I’d guess maybe 1 in 100. It’s much easier to just buy the cartridge from Atariage, but it was cool that you could do it from the CD. It was kind of an updated version of the 8 Bit Construction Set software.
JD: And a follow up to that, how many that you know of did?
P: I have talked to maybe 5 people that did it.