Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Interview with Sound Artist Tanner Garza

The night I finished my year-end list was the night that I first heard Tanner Garza's album Lucid. I had actually been talking to him at the time, and told him that I was finishing the whole thing up. And then I started to feel really awful. The album clearly should have been not only on my list, but in the top five albums of the year. It's Basinski-esque with tape loops and lush ambient arrangements. I now listen to it almost every night when I read before going to bed. It's a hauntingly beautiful anti-anxiety pill.

Tanner Garza is a sound artist who has collaborated with a bunch of incredible noise artists, but is possibly best known as being a part of Texas harsh noise collective Black Leather Jesus, created by Richard Ramirez many moons ago. Tanner's music, though, covers the range of noise music from the harshest to the most soothing to everywhere in between. I have a bunch of his cassette releases and listen to them regularly.

You can check out his recordings on his BANDCAMP and I strongly suggest Lucid as a starting point. You will love it.

Jordan: When did you start making music? How did you know that you wanted to make music?

Tanner Garza: I started making music when I was about 13 years old, but became exposed to experimental music in 2008.
It was never a conscious decision to make music. Just something that came naturally. 

J: Do you do any other artistic activities?

TG: Oh yeah. I enjoy analog photography a whole lot. Especially with the older Polaroids. Something about the aesthetic of it relates to improvised music for me. 

J: How did you know that you wanted to make instrumental/noise music?

TG: Ha. I'm very uncomfortable with my voice even though some say I can sing. Kind of had to default to instrumental music early on because of that and because of a lot of the music I liked at that time in my life. Lot's of instrumental guitar-shred bullshit... I was a teenage metalhead. So, yeah. With experimental music, most of it is "instrumental" in nature.

J: Who all has influenced your work?

TG: Björk, King Crimson, The Marx Bros., Edwin Land, LIGHTS, Brian Eno, Oval (early 90's), Derek Bailey, DJ Screw, Martin Denny, Bruiser Brody, AMK, Damion Romero, MF DOOM, William Basinski, Venetian Snares, Kool Keith, Salvador Dali, Terry Funk, D'Angelo, and the city of Houston.

TG: Probably a lot I'm forgetting.

J: Your solo releases are so varied. You have some more ambient music as well as some harsher music. How do you know what you're going to make?

TG: Eh. It depends on my mood in that moment. In recent times I've gravitated more towards making weird ambient-minimal sort of music. Simply because it seems everyone has a "noise" project. I'd rather be the black sheep in a very cliquish scene. Also, with my involvement in Black Leather Jesus I feel there is very little for me to prove as far as being the most brutal. haha

J: What is the process for making music for you? Do you use any specific program or pieces of equipment?

TG: Early on it involved nothing more than my laptop. Now it revolves around my handbuilt loop cassette tapes, a tascam 4-track, and a few effect pedals. 

J: You’re in Black Leather Jesus, legendary harsh noise group. How did you get involved with that?

TG: Well, I had been attending the noise shows for quite awhile in Houston. Usually kept to myself. One day I approached Richard and asked him if I could play a show. What a nightmare of a performance that was. That was my introduction to a lot of the BLJ members, though. Not just Richard, but Zach, Sean, and Thomas. I became pretty good friends with them after awhile and one day in 2012 I was asked to join the band. Couldn't be happier. 

J: BLJ recently had a kickstarter for a European tour. Can you talk a little bit about that? How did you decide on kickstarter? Who all will go tour?

TG: Of course. It was decided that would be the easiest route to go instead of asking for straight donations. Simply put, all funds gained from the Kickstarter go towards us getting from city to city, meals, places to stay, etc. 

TG: At this moment it's still a bit in the air who all is going. All depends on who can afford it.

J: How often do you get to play live? Does your live set change up as often as your kind of music?

TG: At least once a month here in Houston. 

TG: I learned a long time ago that you don't need a mountain of constantly changing gear to make different sounds. If you can learn your set-up then you can usually pull any sound from it that you want.

J: A lot of your releases are put out on cassette. How did you decide to use that medium of release?

TG: It’s nostalgic, not digital, cheaper to do than vinyl, and it sells better than CD/CDr's. That's about all I can say about that. 

J: You also run a small label. Tell me a little bit about that? How do you know what you will put out on the label?

TG: I run the Bookend Recordings label. Between release I tend to take my time, and am very selective of what I put out. Usually it's invite only, which tends to make some people mad. 

TG: But it's something I do for myself. All funds just go back into making more releases. That's it. 

J: What are some of your favorite musicians/band?

TG: Lately I've been jamming a lot of LIGHTS, Brandi Carlile, BANKS, Poliça, UGK, Astromero, Scott Walker (60's), and Brian McKnight.

J: Are there any local musicians down in Texas that people should know about?

TG: B L A C K I E, Sandy Ewen, and Screwed Anthologies.
J: What are some of the best Mexican food restaurants near where you live?

TG: Lupe Tortilla, Pappasito's Cantina, Ninfa's, Chacho's (Tidwell), and Los Cucos (Spring Cypress). Chacho's has the best salsa selection! NOMNOMNOM

J: Anything else you'd like to say?

TG: Thanks for asking me to be a part of this. Much appreciated.

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