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SBH Podcast 004 - Walter Gross

My name is Walter Gross. I am from Maryland; a little town outside Baltimore called Glen Burnie, a kinda stoner, white-trash sorta town. They call the kids there Glenburnouts. And now I live in Los Angeles, which is pretty much the same thing. And now I’m in Berlin, with Small But Hard.

As far as musical education, and my start: I started actually digging records and scratching, and then I…well, then I was really big into film, so this collages, sample-based music appealed to me, and uh, freedom of turntablism and sampling. There’s no rules, which I thought the music and the film went sorta hand in hand; it’s more of a conceptual thing. But then I realised that I’m not very good at scratching! It’s kind of a difficult thing. And then it got really commercialised, and sort of lost its appeal, so I went into producing using strictly the MPC. I like the limitations of it, I like the transparency of it. The limitations of it are kind of what keeps me grounded to it; it’s like my main axe. And now I’m more venturing into more ambient and field recording, and always accumulating toys, and microphones, and all that shit.

Coming from a sample-based, hip hop background, I started experimenting more with field recordings, and then I became exposed to the freaky dirty noise scene in Baltimore. It kind of split my wig. Something blossomed inside my brain, I think, seeing people so free on stage, and the music itself so free, was this tangible inspiration that just left an indelible impression on me.

Yeah, I recorded Rotorcraft out there in my tiny little studio apartment. Making films, it sorta gave me this experience of capturing my actual life and turning it into art at a new level, and so, living in LA, facing downtown, there’s just helicopters flying down over my apartment all the time, that slicer,

All the time. And I live by a highway, so it’s just this constant drone, and helicopters, while I’m making music. So I make ambient music, and I make beats, and it would just…the sounds would filter through my ear, and I think, into the hardware. So it was just like an actual audio mirror of my environment, hence the Rotorcraft, and sorta this dystopian and futuristic belief-state society, but still super-psychedelic and hilarious. And I listened to the album while there’s helicopters flying over, and it’s sounds really good. If you listen to it with helicopters, it’s nice.

Does this translate to the live context? Absolutely. The live show is a way for me to…I try not to think about it too much cause it kind of makes me anxious, but it’s a way to throw yourself out there and break yourself down before an audience, and dial in. I always know…there’s moments sometimes when I’m screaming and all the blood rushes to my head and I almost pass out when I’m playing. Y’know, it’s kinda great in a way, but I’ve feel like, I dunno, there’s something liberating about just destroying your ego and just letting yourself go in front of people, in the hope that they might experience that with you in a way, that synergy.

Who’s your friend? Oh, I dunno. Beats me! He’s my guard, I think. He’s my angel. Um…pets? No, I don’t have any pets. I have pictures of puppies. That reminds me that I don’t have any pets.

Pain in the process…yeah, I think any good art is painstaking as hell. I mean, anything that’s, like, really cathartic is…there’s many comparisons: it’s like passing a kidney stone, or doing a giant shit or something. It’s draining, but it’s, there’s a dutifulness that’s important to it. I think what’s my main inspiration, and what sorta shifted my paradigm is Tarkowsky. He always said that if within Russian art, if you’re not going for absolutely the most high, then there’s really no point. It’s just sort of rubbish. So that changed my attitude, and made me take things a little more seriously. Hence, the art therapy and the kind of catharsis of it all, and also this sort of twisted humour to it, that’s sort of my self-indulgent way of finding a joke in life. It ain’t good if it ain’t painful.

Posted on April 2nd, 2014