Interview: James Ferraro

Do you think you make weird music? On a surface level, I think some of the things are definitely weird. But my approach is more painterly. I find the material to be weird or striking, but the concepts are pretty basic. If someone could latch onto that, then they can stand listening to the entire record, which has much more hard-to-listen-to stuff. They’ll understand it as a very accessible work of art because the concepts are there and the music is a very real part of it. But the concept, to me, is 50% of the record. Expressionism, which I love, is very important. If you have something conceptual that people can bite into, then they could understand the more obscure parts of your work and they can pause and be like, Oh I understand what he’s doing. It’s not my thing, I’m not going to listen to this on my iPod or whatever, but I understand this as a work of art. That’s how I’ve considered it for a long time, and each record to me was really this sonic abstract expressionism, like the CD being a canvas for this audio art. I still do, I really still do. The physicality of that, I’m still very interested in. But I am considering certain things…cause I want some of the ideas to be more accessible, to break through the underground. I find that very meaningful.

So it’s pop music from a very considered angle? It’s kind of a balancing act. Ultimately, it’s for other people to decide. Whatever they want to take from the record is cool. People still consume objects for a specific reason even when that object is multifaceted. One person might consider it more artful and someone [else] is just going to be into the music aspect of it.

Was this record influenced by early-’90s computer software? There is a distinct comfort inherent to that stuff if you’re of a certain age. People have actually said that. A lot of people have been like, Yo this is super ’90s CD-ROM, and that’s fine for people to understand it in that way. I was really inspired by current Google commercials and Virgin Mobile commercials and T-Mobile and ringtones and things that are happening in my environment now. It’s a surprise that people are relating it to that era, which is funny because if you listen to that music you see that not a lot has really changed. They sort of figured out the formula back then, it has become a little more modern, a little more slick.

It certainly doesn’t feel like a difficult record. It sounds comforting to me. I think the comforting sound comes from the fact that there is this sort of comfort or hope or something embedded in all these ring tones. It’s total sonic psychological behavior control. You get a text and the tone is very happy and optimistic. The infrastructure of that stuff is promoting this utopia—promising this world of hope. I think that when I was working with that and drawing inspiration from ringtones, the album came across as that because it was embedded in what I was mirroring.

The flip side of that is the paranoia that people are feeling as technology advances. I think anyone in the world is aware of that fear and paranoia. Some people decide to vocalize it and some people don’t. You might be a social outcast or a deviant if you don’t own a cell phone…an iPhone, specifically. It’s like, if you’re not on the grid, you might be this shadowy figure that is a weirdo. That makes sense, I think it’s ultimately like that because you’re not getting the same stream of information as everyone. I can see people being afraid of that. Is it this sort of mandatory thing?

I don’t think it’s mandatory, but by not participating you’re automatically casting yourself out. You seem to embrace this stuff, though. I’m very much in awe of it all. It’s hard for me to have a really solid opinion about anything really, especially in regards to stuff like this because it’s always changing. It’s so multifaceted that it’s hard for me to stand behind one idea.

So is Far Side Virtual your record about the way technology is? The idea was for it to be a still life. I really just wanted it to be an impression of the world, generating colors in my own mind. There’s no real criticism that’s embedded, because if people want to critique society, they will. If I’m successful in making a still life, then they can pull what they want from it. Everything is pretty augmented. I go on these hikes in LA, these really insane trails of like…the Hollywood outback, essentially. There will be all these modern hikers with augmented pulse monitors, and every conversation that you pass by, someone’s talking about the internet.

The album is out on vinyl, but that doesn’t seem like the way it’s meant to be heard, necessarily. The record sounds the best to me coming from iPhone speakers. That’s how I wanted it. That’s the most important thing, it’s meant to be consumed through these devices: laptops, headphones and cell phones. The titles of the songs are meant to be in ringtone form, like, you know how when you buy a ringtone it has a name? Some of them are deep, like…”Valley Girl,” “Paradise,” whatever. The synchronicity of these things creates this weird haiku, this picture of society. That’s what I was thinking of.

Do you make music entirely based on the world around you, or does it come from somewhere more internal? I’m very interested in the world. I love being creative, and I love hearing about the world so it just kind of comes out. There’s a sociological element to a lot of my music, and some things are internal, but mainly I think it’s just filtering the world and putting it into a canvas.

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POSTED December 14, 2011 12:30PM IN MP3 / STREAMS, MUSIC INTERVIEWS, MUSIC NEWS Comments (4) TAGS: ,

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  1. wayne says:

    nightdolls with* hairspray

    pretty sloppy…

  2. Sam Hockley-Smith says:

    Good catch Wayne, thanks for thinking it’s sloppy! I look forward to providing you with plenty more sloppy content in the future.

  3. on and ohn says:

    JF u shud know my outlook on life tends to improve when i listen to leather hi skool. thanks.

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