In the days leading up to NYC-based A/V project Prism House’s performance at our new music venue & arts space Elsewhere (opening for Kllo on Saturday in Zone One), we had a chance to ask a few questions + stream a premiere of his new video, “Solace in Silence.”
How did you come to be involved with the theater production “Stairway to Stardom”, and how did the creative process of scoring, and live visuals, in that context differ from how you approach your material and live shows?
I became involved in “Stairway to Stardom” three years ago. My visual collaborator Matt O’Hare knew the director Amanda previously. She had mentioned to Matt that she needed music and visuals for a new production she was working on and Matt sent her my way. I talked with Amanda and it seemed like a good fit to work on the show and integrate the Prism House aesthetic into a larger production. “Stairway to Stardom” is edgy and futuristic, but also humorous and approachable. It made perfect sense to collaborate.
The creative process of scoring the show wasn’t hugely different from how I approach writing an album. I’d write a lot of ideas that fit different sorts of moods and then send them to Amanda. The biggest thing was to not become too attached to any particular idea because it really comes down to whether or not it fits in the context of a larger show, not whether it’s a great singular piece of music. That was something I had to get used to. The goal of writing for this performance was to accentuate aspects of the dance and the dialogue, not to necessarily just make something that sounds cool. The live visuals by Matt were a bit more involved than the music and needed to fit well into the set design, coincide to the music and dance movement, and also integrate a storyline that runs throughout the show. This involved a lot of trial and error before the final videos were rendered. The visuals were a far more involved process with this show than during one of our performances. Our shows are more open and free, this was a production that required precision and a greater attention to overall detail for the messages to get across to the audience.
You recently teamed up with the video artist Justine Durand for your music video for “Steady”. Why do you feel visual art is an important component of or companion to your work? What do you hope this adds to the audience’s experience of your work?
Prism House was always intended to be a collaborative Audio/Visual project and I’ve worked with a few different visual artists over the year and intend to keep collaborating. Visual art seems to fit well with the music because what I’m making isn’t narrative. I’m not telling a story so much as trying to create an emotion. That leaves a lot of room for a visual artist to shine and do what makes them excited. Working with a visual artist isn’t much different than working with another musician. You need to try and create a conversation between the elements and hopefully make something that feels cohesive.
Adding visuals to the live performance makes a huge different for the audience in terms of their engagement and also how attached they feel to the overall show. It’s pretty in fashion to be doing the A/V thing at this point, but when we started there weren’t many people doing that in Brooklyn honestly. Electronic music can feel a little detached and sterile if it’s just a person standing up there with some MIDI gear. Adding visuals as another element to the show makes it feel a little more grand and a lot more complete. It goes from feeling like you’re watching someone play a glorified video game controller to an actual performance.
You’ve described your latest record as being more “meditative” than your previous releases – what inspired this tonal change?
This change happened because of a couple reasons. One reason was that I was really burnt out on trying to write hyper-structured and rhythmically complex music. I felt like I was going through the motions and the music I was making prior to the record “Momentum” just didn’t feel right. It felt boring in its complexity. The second reason was that I was going through a really rough period in New York and had turned to ambient music and contemporary-classical composition as a means of calming myself down. I thought it could be a good exercise to try my hand at writing a few ambient compositions. I never intended on releasing an entire record, but I was loving the process and the results felt good. The record is meditative but it’s still dense and dark. It’s by no means some beautiful, whimsical ride.
How would you describe the live experience of your show for someone who has never seen you before?
The live show is a combination of live electronic music and live visuals that are projected onto a screen behind the performers. There is no syncing between the two, each element is performed completely independent of one another. On-stage I am running an Ableton Live rig and have re-arranged and chopped up the compositions, and also play live keyboard parts. Matt, who will be performing with me at Elsewhere, has a custom Max/MSP patch he designed that allows him to manipulate video content on the fly. Matt has the freedom to change course quickly with the visuals because of how he renders his footage. The idea is to be able to keep the show flexible and open, but there is still some structure. We want the show to land somewhere between improvisation and a scripted performance that follows a logical pathway.
You’ve promised to play some unreleased new material at your upcoming show at Elsewhere. What can fans expect?
I will definitely be playing some unreleased new material. I have an EP written that will be coming out sometime next year and I want to debut a few of those tracks at this performance. People can expect to hear a lot of stuff off of the new record “Momentum” that I released in September. I’m also planning on playing a few older tracks that still seem to work in the live show context. Overall, it’s going to be mostly new and unreleased stuff with a few older tracks thrown in. I’ve also added some aspects to the live show to make it more interesting but people will have to show up to see what that is. Visual wise, Matt will be up to his usual technique of incorporating brand new visuals and themes into the show. I’m not entirely sure what he will be using as source material yet but I’m sure it’ll be weird and interesting.