Sunday, December 2, 2012

Interview with Digital Natives

Jeff Astin of Digital Natives was nice enough to do a short interview with me.  While you read the interview, listen to an unreleased track "Now There" 
Hello and thanks for doing this interview.  Please introduce yourself.

I'm Jeff Astin. I've been intimately fascinated and involved with music/sound manipulation since I was very young. I got into Tampa's punk/hardcore scenario around 1995 and played extensively with various bands up until 2001, and started getting into field recordings around the same time. 

digital nativesEventually, I started working with the recordings I had collected over the years, and after establishing a particular method, made my first "experimental" release in 2002 as Om Rivur Yarrow. At the time, I had no idea there were similar projects going on, much less an entire movement developing.

I made several CDrs over the next few years, which were mainly given to friends. In 2055, I mean, 2005, I started using Xiphiidae as a moniker. My first two albums were self-released and then labels like Scumbag and Cloud Valley started to take an interest. In 2066, I mean, 2006, Housecraft was officially born.

Evan Galbicka (Church of Holy Colors), Josh Tippery (Royallen, Permanent Nostalgia), and psychedelic experimentation were huge inspirations in getting things going, in various ways. Evan's visual endeavors and boldness in the arts and social interactions, in general, were critical. Josh has always had a knack for being able to make magic from anything. The idea of turning shit to gold became a dominant theme.

After getting a feel for it, I was satisfied with the quaint, intimate dynamic. It allowed me to move quickly, not only as a label but with ideas in general. Housecraft became more of an explorative workshop for me than a label, and continues to be so.

As far as the development of Digital Natives; Alex Shulgin, Sean McDonald, Kaisha King, and Justin Kryzanauskas played key roles in all of it; from square one. 

How is California Treating you?

It depends on the day. I miss my cat...

You have released quite a bit of material since you began going under the moniker ‘Digital Natives’.  What piece do you feel has been your best so far?

The digital releases involve a more focused approach. 'YHWH CWBY' and 'Side Wise Open' set the bar for the project in my opinion, both in fidelity and content.

How do you decide whether a recording should be released under the ‘Digital Natives’ moniker or under your name like ‘Weird Wide World of Water Windows’ was? 

DN is very particular. It's strictly based on sampled, thrifted media that usually leans towards a more danceable aesthetic.

'Weird Wide World' is more ambient/drone-esque, though much of it was also taken from found media under "heavier" manipulation. 

The method is similar for just about every project but the outcome is different because of what's fed into it.

Do you have any planned shows in the future?  

Nothing right now.

How did the Action Research 84 event go?  What exactly is “live media manipulation”?

Ahh yeah, March 29, 2012. Funny you should ask! This particular show stirred the pot for me unlike any other in ways I can't even go into. Action Research is always interesting, but this one set a series of events in action that has, more or less, resulted in my moving from coast to coast.

As for the definition of "live media manipulation", I think Andrew Chadwick would be able to answer that better than me.

What gave you the idea for the Daily Roulette?  Do you have any plans to release them all in a group in the future, or are they to remain a limited time offer?

I've just about always been fascinated with chance operations/divination; William Burroughs' 'cut-ups' collaboration with Brion Gysin, the I Ching, and Jason Nicolaus; all are very inspirational. 

In the 90's, I would put together mix-tapes for friends and eventually came up with an idea: I'd lay all my records/tapes out in piles all over my bedroom and roll dice to determine which pile to choose from, and then again for which record, then which song, etc…

Digital Natives, in general, is a mutant evolved from this process. The rules are complex and build the foundation for every track as well as addition of every other layer and the effects involved. No computer applications are ever used, aside from equalization adjustments and basic final editing like fades, etc…

Daily Roulettes are also determined using a similar process, drawing from a collected unreleased track list in the hundreds.

I have no plans on releasing them in one volume but they do sometimes make their way onto tape releases.

How many 3 cassette box albums are you planning on releasing?

At least one more, another two if I can find the cases again.

On average, how long do you spend recording a day?

My studio is in a barn and lately it's been uncomfortably cold so time spent recording has gone down. As a result, I've been spending my time inside catching up on editing/mastering the 25+ hours collected over the past 9 months or so.

Generally though, I spend around 4-6 hours a day working on some aspect of the recording/mastering process, unless I'm out and about; sometimes more if the set and setting is accommodating. 

You also run HOUSECRAFT RECORDINGS.  Do you think that you will ever release anything on record, or will you stick to CDR’s and cassettes? 

I've done a couple records and they went fairly well but the money required up front is usually more than I can afford. There's one coming though, hopefully in the next month or so. It may be the last vinyl Housecraft puts together, at least for a while.

CDr's aren't out of question. I've had some requests for them and they seem to go over well. I may do more but probably won't do a CDr only edition.

There's a Digital Natives DVD coming as well, which is a first.

So much of the stuff on housecraft recordings has long been out of print.  Do you retain copies of it, or is it only in the wild at this point?  Also, would you ever be willing to upload albums to a bandcamp or mediafire once the sell out?  I would love to hear some of the older cdrs by various groups.

Yeah most of it is "in the wild" by now, especially as of late since I've had to purge a big chunk of my collection to get by out here.

Unfortunately, I've lost hard drives and computers over the years due to the elements, or damaged packages so a lot of the really early stuff is gone.

What's left though, I do plan on archiving one of these days. I've been slowly getting caught up with that idea.

What are some of your favorite albums from this year?

What Venn Rain has been up to is consistently blowing me away. That enormous Tuluum Shimmering data disc is also a constant go-to. Woset is great.. Euglossine, Crippling, Heat Sureens, G Sweems, Nag Dolly, etc..

I've gotta admit, I'm not much of a listener these days unless someone directly brings it to my attention. When I am it's usually because I haven't heard something in years --- been going through a lot of old records/tapes.

What is your favorite tattoo that you have?  

A drawing from 'Building The Earth' by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Do you plan on finishing the right sleeve, or are you going to leave it stopping at the elbow?

Maybe if I win the lottery Wednesday. Any Wednesday.

What is one artist that I should look into that I do not know about?

Gerda Taro. I'm biased because he's my roommate but the project is on point.

Any last words for our readers?

Adieu à la nuit, nous ne sommes pas seuls!

Thanks again Jeff for doing that interview.  If anyone hasn't yet,  go check out his bandcamp Here.

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