Last week, New York-based artist Joe Williams launched his Motion Graphics project with a self-titled album on Domino Records.
Motion Graphics will be Williams’ first solo LP since his lauded Smoke, which was released nine years ago under the White Williams moniker. Recorded over two years in New York and Los Angeles, the ambitious album pulls inspirations from societal issues with technology and social media, and oft forgotten and neglected everyday sounds (refrigerator hums, car menus etc.).
Across 10 mind-bending tracks, Williams weaves together a rich metaphor for our modern lives and the never-ending, fast-paced stream of information that greets us every day. Using an array of custom randomized software instruments, Williams has created one of the most interesting electronic albums in recent times; it’s wild pop manifesto for the tech generation.
With the album out now, we sent a handful of questions to Williams to dig a little deeper into the recording process and the thoughts behind the album. He also shared with us an exclusive 360° VR video, which you can watch via the player above (to watch this 360° VR video, you need the latest version of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, or Internet Explorer on your computer. On mobile devices, use the latest version of the YouTube app for Android or iOS). Click and grab the screen to move around.
The press release states that you were inspired by things like Twitter feeds, refrigerator hums, and menu systems on cars and video games, how did these inspirations affect or inform the recording process?
I guess I was thinking about attention span, my own attention span and how fragmented we experience media. To use Twitter, it's easy to parse through 1000 points of view in such a condensed amount of time and space. It's fun to think about how attention span affects listening, and I see this as an area to work out my ideas.
I made this instrument w/ Ableton Live that scrolls through 100 different instruments at random. When you hold the notes down it freezes the instruments in pitch/time. It's super chaotic, it never plays the same combination of instruments twice, and there are a lot of interruptions. In use, it sort of mimics that randomness we get from aggregated news or Twitter. You can hear the scrolling instrument used heavily in "Houzzfunction."
The album has a very futuristic and forward-thinking sound and aesthetic, what were some of the other instruments and recording processes used in the making of the album?
Besides the scrolling instrument described above, I was using a lot of Kontakt instruments. Instruments that are sort of designed to accompany scores for TV and video game music. It’s the type of instrumentation you might hear in the trailer to Game of Thrones.
They’re not very futuristic at all actually. The instruments are very ordinary, it's more just how they’re organized and sequenced that give them a life force. It made sense for the record to have these instruments that were made from the language of film and TV.
The Motion Graphics name, the album art, and the sound of the project all allude to a very visually-focused artist, were visuals integral in the creation of the album?
I’m working with this animation crew called CULTURESPORT on the art. Their artwork is on its way to becoming a television series. Again, I think it's cool to be collaborating with people who are working with the language of TV and animation, in whatever abstract way. It's difficult to imagine this record now without their amazing contributions to the LP. I think their work totally coexists with the sonics on the record and I see the visuals really enhancing the music.
We recently profiled some of the early VR adopters in regards to music, do you think that 360 video and VR is the next frontier for music?
I think there are a lot of possibilities in all of it, but I haven’t seen a lot of art or video that takes full advantage of what's possible. It might sound weird but a lot of tech related art is uninteresting to me. In a few years, it will probably be a different story. It seems like Mixed Reality is most likely the next frontier.
Do you have plans to tour the Motion Graphics project live and how will that be presented?
Definitely! I think I'll probably just use a keyboard and mouse. I’ve thought of using woodwinds and voice and my iPhone to process everything.
What else do you have coming up under Motion Graphics? Will there be more projects like the 360 video?
I recently collaborated on my friend Spencer Doran’s ( Visible Cloaks ) album. It should be out soon. Beyond that, I have some more mixes on the way and a few ideas for an EP.