Michael Wood. The name might not enlighten you that much, but he’s the man behind the solo-project REDREDRED that garnered a lot of success through the label Function Operate. A widely appreciated artist that has been a rising star since they decided to completely disappear. After that event, he got on the roster of Dark Entries Records, whom is currently in the process of mastering – and then re-releasing his first release – on vinyl. Featuring it with tracks not heard before that he had in his repertoire, making his first move from “Pattern Completion” on cassette, to vinyl. Michael has since his rise towards the stars been interesting to me, with the warmth of his analogue electronics, his electronic body music approach and new beat-outfit blended together with general electronica – would make anyone whom like these genres, respect his ingenuity. I’ve interviewed him via mail, asking him about his first release, the deal with Function Operate, his future release, philosophy, individual tracks and much more. As I was going to post this interview, Michael said he would create a track for this occasion. So I waited until it was complete, and it was overwhelming to realize that he made that track just for this. Listen to it yourselves, the track is named “Dialog” and does in many ways represent the time which he spent being interviewed by me. Enjoy this.
First and foremost, I’m mostly interested in beginning this interview by asking you to elaborate the following: “the dissolve of a synesthethic body”? Is this the pillar that you’re standing on, and basing your music off? What does it mean?
– A lot of my work tends to focus on a dialogue within an inner landscape. The dissolve of a synthetic body refers to the decay of that landscape due to interactions of the modern experience. I suppose that concept is a jumping point…I’m definitely interested in the interactions between the innate natural experience of sound and color and how that translates into a manifested reality.
In what way does this experience that you’re describing affect your work? It feels like it’s the argument about the hen and the egg, which one comes first? Do you feel like it’s a natural experience you’ve developed, that translates into the realms of electronica which you’re working within?
– I don’t think one comes first or is more influential than the other. It’s definitely a circular relationship between various environments and creative output. When I look back on particular periods of work I always find these strong correlations between how a certain place made me feel, on a somewhat subconscious level, and it was reflected by certain textures within sound. I know this all subjective but it’s important to recognize when trying to interpret an exterior landscape. The fact that I use electronics as a tool to express certain visual textures re enforces the idea of struggle between innate natural environments and synthetic structures.
I know that you’ve only released an album on Function Operate as of now, but what kind of exterior landscapes influences the tracks you have on there? What do these tracks mean for you, and how were they created, when you had a shell of them to begin with?
– I’m no longer with Function Operate. The EP is set to re release as a full length vinyl in the coming months.
The material on Pattern Completion is strongly influenced by where my live/work studio space was at that time. I did a residency of sorts at Bay Area 51 in San Francisco, which is in the Bayview District. The space itself is surrounded by industrial parks, recycling facilities, water treatment plants and assorted machining shops. The constant barrage of sounds and physical reminders of an industrial presence created textures within my work that I really haven’t delved into before. This was also the first time I felt isolated in such a dense metropolis. I ended up spending far too much time linked to the lifeline that is the Muni train.
Pattern Completion is for me a reflection on my interactions with a modern city. There are far too many complications, complexities and norms that only exist in these places. Over time, they have a tendency to become ingrained and overlooked. When writing material for this album I spent a long time trying to imagine how one would interact within a metropolis without prior context of the city or any sort of imposed structure. It was my escapism…
I have a pretty linear approach to writing. For every song, I record a drum and bass track that’s derived from whatever configuration my set up is in at that time. I utilize a two track Revox for printing ideas and or improv recordings that eventually flow into songs. There is always an underlying emotive intention. The tracks eventually get filled in with vocals, strings, additional percussion etc. I stay in the analog realm of performance; it provides a more physically involved approach to writing electronic music.
Yeah, I’ve heard about that whole ordeal, and The Harrow were also involved with that. What really happened with Function Operate, and where is your EP going to be re-released?
– Basically, Function Operate dropped all forms of communication and wasn’t fulfilling tape orders. Seven months after the passing of release date and a handful of tapeless supporters…one has to cut ties. I really can’t get behind labels that treat their artist’s work like that; its pretty disappointing. The Harrow had a similar issue with their release. Beyond that I really can’t say much about the label; I’m in the dark with what actually went down on Function Operate’s end.
That’s a really interesting approach. Somehow, the first track “Contract/Dreams” feels like it’s some kind of “old meets the new”, by that I mean that you’re singing about those that laid the foundation for future generations to have comfort. The hard-working industrial workers whose work got funneled into building these metropolises in the first place. But that’s only one take of it which I myself interpret. I’m envisioning men with hammers, men with strength, men building something concrete – for once. What do you, yourself think about this industrial presence in contrast to the more natural environments like the forests, lakeside and the alike? Do you believe we’re going to see more urban decay? What’s your take on it?
There’s something really appealing about the juxtaposition urban and natural landscapes. Each environment induces such a distinct reaction. For me, the form of the city and modern life is to create functional anxiety through the means of a production monolith. Natural is somewhat the antithesis of that idea. The video Melissa Bernier shot for Enforcer revolved around that concept. We shot in an old military bunker in the Marin Headlands. The bunker itself is slowly sucomming to overgrowth yet still retains this pristine sense of an industrial past, present and reveals a glimpse of a potential future. Being in its presence, I just couldn’t help but imagine a future of slow decay and rebirth.
Considering your release, and since it’s going to be a full-length one, what other tracks are going to be featured? Also, why did Dark Entries Records appeal to you?
– The A side full length will include remixed and remastered versions of the tracks from the EP. The Bside will consist of four unreleased tracks, two of which are instrumental. Currently, RRR is in the preproduction phase for a video of “Concrete/Sand”, the first track off the Bside. While the content of the A side focuses on external environmental conflicts, the B side reflects on how those conflict affect an inner landscape. For instance, “Concrete/Sand” is a story of struggling to dream of a landscape that differs from tangible reality, or the idea of escaping to a place that is exactly the same… I’ve wanted to work Dark Entries ever since I met Josh Cheon, a few years back, after a show I played as Primary Colors. He’s been a great support to local acts and the electronic scene of San Francisco. Additionally, I feel that DE’s re-releases place a unique relevance to past and present electronic acts. I have nothing but admiration and praise for the other contemporary artists on the label like; Inhalt, Max and Mara and Bezier.
Since they barely can exist simultaneously, what would you say shall be your own future? Will you exist among the decaying urban world, or will you be closer to nature? What’s your position on that, besides liking the concept, but also the moment 22 of those two things actually existing together in “harmony”?
– As for my own future, I really can not say…under current circumstances, I am somewhat bound to existing in an urban environment. Every moment I see my environment becoming more and more saturated, which places overwhelming hardship on those maintaining within it. For harmony to exist between a mechanical and natural world, a certain level of deconstruction must occur…not only in physical sense, but a mental one as well. Without conscious deconstruction, urban environments will continue building up around their own definitions of functional anxiety.
Speaking of this philosophy of yours, do philosophers influence your work? Or isn’t this a specific philosophy as such, the one you’re conveying through your music?
– I suppose they indirectly do. During the writing process for this work, I think I was reading Nietzsche and Sartre in transit. If anything, their writing awakens critical thought of one’s surroundings and interactions. In my case, my environment is a swelling and over saturated tech nest surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty.
This question is kind of cliché, but what else does influence you besides what we’ve been talking about?
– For years now, I’ve religiously listened to the classics like Front 242, Einsturzende Neubauten, Throbbing Gristle, Tuxedomoon, VU, Suicide, DAF, Bowie/ENO, Dark Day, etc…I feel those come across to some degree. During the writing process for Pattern Completion, I tried to minimize direct influence from said artists…I tapped into music that was more directly related to my childhood. I ended up listening to the entire Neil Young disco repeat for most of the year.
In addition, the instruments I’ve acquired over time defiantly shape and influence the choices and sonic character I able to manipulate. I started experimenting with electronics when I was fifteen; at this point…I’m married to synths.
So when you began experimenting, did it turn into something before you got as far as REDRERED? Have you been involved in something else that has been this notable, or was it simply just “trying” your way ahead?
– For most part, I spent years tinkering with modular synths, drum machines and building small electronic sound devices. In that time, I played sound sets here and there, that were mostly improvisational. My first notable project was in 2011 with Primary Colors. That was the first time I explored set structure and vocal accompaniment with live percussion. We ended up recording two full lengths that were released to tape as well as several extensive tours. Unfortunately, due to internal differences the project eventually disintegrated. My experience with Primary Colors still resonates in my current work; I feel REDREDRED is an articulated voice from what was accomplished over that period of time.
Now I see why you feel at home with Dark Entries Records. Because Max Brotman was involved to a certain degree?
– Yeah, Max was our engineer for both Primary Colors’ albums and we also toured with Brotman and Short in the winter of 2011. At the time, we utilized the back-room at 21 Grand, an Oakland venue that no longer exists, as a community rehearsal/recording studio. A ridiculous amount of material from countless artists was turned out in a really short period of time. It was really a time of intensive collaboration and experimentation. During my stay at Bay Area 51, the studios were filled with the ongoing ambience of drum machines and bass synths. The material from Pattern Completion was recorded in close proximity to Max and Mara’s Less Ness; they both have been a great support to the finalization of this album. Releasing the material with Dark Entires reflects the shared creative process that we inevitably encountered.
Speaking about finalization, I saw that Dark Entries Records put up a video of George Horn mastering your album. Are you with him in that process, or does he do that “for the label”? What do you think about it?
– As far as I know, George Horn masters and cuts all of Dark Entries’ releases; I was fortunate enough to sit in on the session. This was my first experience with professional mastering/lacquer cutting and it was a pretty cathartic experience. Being able to watch Pattern Completion manifest in a physical form made last year of work totally worth it. George did an amazing job with session and his adjustments to the material were spot on. He’s been in the business for over forty years now and it was a real pleasure to talk shop with such an experienced engineer.
I saw that you had a track that wasn’t on your original release for Function Operate. Namely the track “Public Composure”. Will this track be made available, mastered, for your forthcoming release? Also, what will it feature, besides a re-mastering?
– Unfortunately, no. Public Composure was written, on the fly as a demo, alongside Enforcer. Right now, its release solely to Soundcloud. I ended up reworking Enforcer for Pattern Completion on 1/4 tape because the four track cassette deck I was using for initial recordings finally succumbed to age. I considered reworking PC for the full length but decided against itbecause I felt the subject matter might fit better in a separate work. The B side of Pattern Completion will feature four unreleased tracks, two of which are instrumentals. Rather than trying to go back over tracks I had written previously, I decided to treat the B side as a continuation of the A side subject matter.
Would you care to indulge us with the subject at hand? Are you thinking about another release, or is it too early yet?
– Public Composure addresses the all consuming and retrospectively entertaining aspects of enduring panic attacks on public transportation. It might go well with another release…not sure yet. I’m hoping for another full length by next year…though, I’m still in the experimentation and trial phase
Well, it was nice talking with you. I don’t have any other question to ask you. So tell me what’s going to be happening on your front the coming months?
– Currently, REDREDRED is set for two Bay Area shows, one with Circuit des Yeux, and the other with High Functioning Flesh. Post PC release, I’ll be heading out on a west coast tour with Pod Blotz. In mid July, RRR will accompany a Dark Entries showcase tour with Max and Mara, Bezier and Josh Cheon.
You can listen to an exclusive track by REDREDRED, created for the specific purpose of this interview. I bet you’ll hear why. The track is exclusively made for this interview and is titled “Dialog“.