#039 – Tuesday, March 8, 2016: with guest, Conor Walker (Obsolete Future)
Conor Walker works in the mediums of field recording, acoustic mapping, digital art, experimental music and as a writer. He runs Obsolete Future, an Austin/Denver based cassette label and produces Timelife Methrave, a weekly radio program on The Hague’s Intergalactic FM.
We’re pleased to welcome Conor to the program with a Q&A, followed by a set exploring the disintegration of home, downward mobility, and the bittersweet intimacies of transgressive sexuality. It’s an uplifting mix, which speaks to the aforementioned tones of experience and loss and overcomes them, or at least finds a way to maneuver through them.
Prologue: My mixes are deliberately untidy. I’m a terrible DJ. I barely beat match and welcome blemishes. Posh techno, singular styles and DJ etiquette completely disinterest me.
I attempt to scrub masculinity out of my mixes as much as possible. I want them to come across like a keyed lotto card without a single winning number; just metallic dandruff, messy marks and a lacerated facade. But it’s a difficult endeavor. The gender imbalance of dance music continues to hold the music back. A growing number of women producers; artists like Karen Gwyer, Laurel Halo, Beatrice Dillon, Mica Levi and Jlin are pushing the envelope off the fucking ledge. It’s long overdue. And yet my mix is overwhelmingly comprised of male musicians. I consider Gwyer’s “Lay Claim to My Grub” to be the mixes climax, but maybe I’m making excuses for the inherent gender imbalance of the mix itself. There are plenty of misogynistic Dance Mania tracks, but I included a classic cunnilingus banger, Paul Johnson’s “Take a Licking (And Keep on Ticking).”:
You’re traveling right now….what are you doing? Where are you?
I recently returned from the UK, a trip I’ve taken over and over since childhood. I’m working on a multimedia project about the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland. Their sonic and visual qualities are both harsh and gentle; such polarizing struggles are cathartic.
I recently left my post as a public library functionary and I’ve been shit off the shovel for months. I spent a few weeks in Colorado to work on a record with Charles Ballas; I soaked in snow-draped hot springs; and I drove to Oakland to visit my goddaughter and shudder at the proliferation of gentrification, which is just slightly less repulsive than that of Austin.
You moved from Colorado to Texas, correct? What inspired this move and how has it affected you?
I’m a Coloradan via Northern Ireland and England. Before relocating to Austin I lived in D.F., Chicago and Oakland. Distance, isolation, geography and assimilation have had an omnipresent sway on the course of my life, one which will continue.
What persuaded you to start a label?
When I moved to Austin in 2012 the electronic scene seemed dormant. Thankfully I found Bill Converse and Katrina Fairlee. They were DJing at the Broken Neck to a crowd of disinterested punks. Everyone was dancing ironically, which wasn’t sitting well with Bill and Katy. I requested Rob Hood and Cabaret Voltaire. From that moment on I developed and sustained a deep love for both of them. A few days after their set I played music with the two of them and a couple of our beloved Cleburne, TX friends. The result is the filthiest rave music we’ve ever made. Just thinking about it makes my teeth sore. I hope it never surfaces. If it does we’ll just have to debut at the Waco Convention Center.
From there I started digitizing and editing the tracks which became Bill’s Meditations/Industry. That tape solidified my desire to run a label as it paved an intimate relationship of working with people and music I love. With help from the now defunct Flood Collective’s Kristen Koenig, No Glykon and Christian Heidsieck — still three of my favorite artists in and now out of town — Obsolete Future came into being. Kristen’s tape designs, as with all of her work, continue to astonish me.
That is only the Austin side of the story. I co-run the label with one of my best friends in Denver, Charles Ballas. He’s a very adept artist, totally chameleonic. We’ve released a number of his own tapes, including Dyad’s Cyberia, which remains a touchstone for my own sense of the label and our friendship. Obsolete Future allows Charles and I to focus on micro-geographies and a mutual respect for peculiar sounds and visual art.
And Symbols + Translations is a musical project you do with Katrina Fairlee (DJ Trini). Are you still ‘Symbols + Translations’? Did you ever decide on a name? What’s happening with the project?
We’re slowly working on new material with a more experimental pull; incorporating field recording diffusions and exploring a subtractive approach to drum patterning. We’ll probably change our name. SYM_TRN comes from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. It’s one of their more ambiguous abbreviations within a taxonomy system designed to censor books mailed to the incarcerated. Any symbol or translation can be determined unsuitable and thus banned without further recourse.
We briefly went by Lower Colorado River Authority, but that was for a soundscape project. We’re also working on solo material and separate releases. We’re polyamorous. Katy has her NTTR project and I’ve teamed up with Charles for an ambient tape as Ouse. The entire release is sequenced with field recordings; drum machines built from splices of contact mics running through an Epson scanner, cockroach syntax, hail recorded to cassette, etc. I’m also working with Thor Harris and Lawrence English, but I won’t let the entire kitten out of the bag.
You also have a radio show, Timelife Methrave; Describe your mission….
As the name may suggest, the mission of Timelife Methrave is intentionally dicy. I started the show with Bill Converse; just two filthy friends playing filthy records. We started DJing out of a repulsively psychedelic hovel operated by People Will Radio — that space occupies a very romantic place in my heart. A year or so went by before I drunkenly contacted Intergalactic FM. I overindulged to them about the remote state of the Texas techno community. Within weeks we were broadcasting from The Hague. Around this time Katrina Fairlee came on board. The three of us have been at it ever since. Each show features a pair of mixes and occasionally live-sets from a pair of DJs. I design a different flyer for each show.
TLMR started as a platform for non-vanilla techno, but it’s more diffuse than ever. Most of my recent mixes are ambient, more abstract and all over the place. When Autechre sent us a mix earlier this year I realized shit is on. The borders are coming down.
Wow, what a compliment!
Walk us through an intimate day in your life….
Waking as early as possible, followed by a soft boiled egg, half a grapefruit and sour dough toast. Plenty of coffee and if I’m fortunate, a trip to the toilet after the last drop, not before the first cup is finished. Caffeine and defecation are imperative and fused pillars of my spirituality. I try to read in the morning before the day soils me and the internet latches on. I enjoy a good cry, but usually in my room, as crying in public can be too psychedelic. I’ve also fallen in love with field recording. It’s a poetic undertaking, yet not as entwined to ego as some of my other infatuations. It’s an emotive practice, which deepens my relationship to the visual world. It brings me closer to myself and the environment and distances me from depression, the mundane and the futile.
A record you never tire of?
I’m fickle, but not when it comes to my listening habits. Records instrumental to my sense of self, love, loss, melancholy, landscape and spirituality include the Cocteau Twin’s Heaven or Las Vegas, Richard Pinas’ Iceland, Björk’s Homegenic and now Vulnicura, which I find to be a pivotal breakup record and such a relief after so many canonized albums from the male perspective; Blood on the Tracks and Songs for Beginners to name a few. Jagged Little Pill is also a great breakup record, but you didn’t ask for guilty pleasures. I also need to include Yoko Ono’s Approximately Infinite Universe — “Looking Over from My Hotel Window” is flawless (sorry Beyonce); Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Vol. I; Sonny & Linda Sharrock’s Black Woman; Scott Walker’s Tilt; and Eliane Radigue’s Feedback Works. I’m neglected so much, but I’ll shut up.
What are you listening to?
Surprisingly I can’t stop listening to Grouper’s A | A: Alien Observer, especially the title track. I also put on Radiohead’s “Creep” at least once a day, but again, you didn’t ask for guilty pleasures. Jan Eerala’s field recordings in Finland are helping me contextualize my own work. If I pine for a good cry, Richard Skelton’s Landing is my current go-to. And I’m revisiting Actress’ earlier material, which is even more ahead of its time now then when it came out — quivering across a gravitational wave or something. As far as tapes go, Aught in Philadelphia is unstoppable.
What are you reading?
I’m reading a bilingual edition of Luis de Góngora’s Soledades. It’s an ornate Iberian Renaissance poem.
Last movie you watched?
Does the most recent episode of Broad City count? Todd Hayne’s Carol, adapted from the Patricia Highsmith novel. Its portrait of patriarchy is painfully honest and acutely realized.
If you could collaborate with any artist, past/present, who would it be?
For the pure sake of field recording and my own education, Jana Winderen. For a more multifaceted project, a rendition of Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape with Cindy Sherman and a Rebecca Horn body-suit as the tape player. Lastly, I would like to comb Yoko Ono’s hair, cut her nails (or sharpen them) and wash her feet, bruising my knees at her altar. Don Cherry and Arthur Russell will improvise a transcendental spa score for the occasion.
What’s in the works for Obsolete Future in 2016?
Our hiatus has gone on far too long, but we’re back working to deform and disfigure. Upcoming tapes include No Glykon’s ambient work as CLOTH, a Rick Reed/Smokey Emory split, the second volume of House of Mutes and an insane slab from Oakland’s Worker/Parasite. Additionally I’ve started the Abhainn Archive for phonography and landscape leaning work. In 2016 the archive will release tapes from Finland, Ireland, Texas and beyond.
01. TCF – d7 08 2a 8d 2a 37 fa fe 17 0e 62 39 06 81 c8 a1 49 30 6f ed 56 ad 5e 04 ………………. (415C47197F78E811FEEB7862288306ECFD4EC3DED8B, Liberation Technologies, 2014)
02. Actress – Actress Meets Shangaan Electro 1 ………………. (Actress Meets Shangaan Electro, Honest Jons, 2011)
03. KMFH – Measure to Measure ………………. (The Boat Party, Wild Oats, 2013)
04. Omar-S – Nelson County ………………. (Nelson County FXHE, 2013)
05. Joey Anderson – Sky’s Blessing ………………. (Fall Off Face, Dekmantel, 2013)
06. Micronism – Engaging Causeless Mercy ………………. (Steps to Recovery, Nurture, 1999)
07. Shed – 44A (Hard Wax Forever!) ………………. (The Traveller, Ostgut Ton, 2010)
08. Lee Gamble – Motor System ………………. (Koch, PAN, 2014)
09. Substance – Relish (Shed Remix) ………………. (Relish, Scion Versions, 2008)
10. Paul Johnson – Take a Lickin (And Keep On Ticking) ………………. (Ride Me Girl/Now Suck It 12″, Dance Mania, 1995)
11. Clark – Christo ………………. (Lofthouse, Planet E, 1995)
12. Karen Gwyer – Lay Claim to My Grub ………………. (New Roof, No Pain in Pop)
13. Skudge – Overture (Substance Remix) ………………. (Skudge Remixes Part 4, Skudge, 2011)
14. Reel By Reel – Surkit ………………. (Surkit, Interface Records, 1991)
15. Shinichi Atobe – Plug & Decay ………………. (Ship Scope, Chain Reaction, 2001)
16. Gigi Masin – The Word Love ………………. (Talk to the Sea, Music from Memory, 2014)
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