Brooklyn-based Dan Lopatin had one of the quietest years he can remember in 2013. He was also probably the most influential musician in 2013's enourmously creative electronic underground. His label, Software, released a string of blinding albums, from Autre Ne Veut's tender soul and Pete Swanson's drastic noise-punk to Huerco S and Slava's grid-stretching takes on dance music. He released a career-best-contender in his October album, R Plus Seven. And he released perhaps the best music videos of the year, the Jon Rafman-directed, grotesque, hilarious "Still Life (Betamale)".
Jon and me are buddies and we’ve always wanted to do something together. He really liked that tune, and to me that tune is the nightmare on the record. There’s a whole bunch of undercurrent ideas of horror in that piece of music, it’s a bit sardonic. There’s a lot of hidden sardonic in the record as a whole – I just find humor in electronic horror music, the stuff that’s suppose to sound purposefully dark (laughs). Jon’s reaction was equally sort of sardonic, he was just like ‘yeah, I’ve been working on such and such stuff and I get it – here’s my answer to your nightmare’ and it was totally not what I expected at all and I had a completely different idea in my head about what might happen, but I was so pleased.
I just effectively let it wash over me and I think that’s what’s so good about it. You don’t need me to point out what it is, and what Jon works in is an internet medium a lot of the time so there’s that. It’s more the way he organizes his sources is poetic. Anyone who’s good has a personal poetry about the way that they organize their material. I’ve watched it so many times and I don’t know what I get from it. In a way (laughs) it’s not anybody’s business. I just think it’s beautiful. There’s a tenderness to his stuff and something very humane about it.
What guys like us are saying is there’s no authentic way to give yourself, we’re saying we all live in this world and we all share all of each other’s insights and resources and the most we can do really is describe something personal using that stuff. That’s why I relate to Jon here. Jon and I kind of work in the same way, a bit like surveyors - you sometimes see them standing with a hardhat and a weird thing on a tripod and they’re just checking out and they move ten feet over and they’re like ‘yep, it’s unequal here’. I don’t know why or how to describe Jon and me but I feel that we’re both doing some kind of work like that where we’re kind of walking around and checking the temperature or checking the structural qualities of the world and presenting them as such stuff.
How was recording R Plus Seven? I’m reading this book by Manuel De Landa, it’s called A Thousand Years Of Nonlinear History and he basically says, pretty early on, ‘just because I don’t believe in non-linear history, I think we can still basically deal with it in a structurally sound way, even though what we’re discussing is a lack of structure’ and that struck me so much because that’s how I kind of thought about composing. I believe in a lack of difference in modes of making music or styles of music: expectations vs. what you think you are internally, superficiality vs. spirituality, high culture vs low culture, all of these things I find to be really kind of boring ways of dealing with the world. But even though, I can really believe in this diverse plane of activity musically, it doesn’t mean I have to approach my music in a way that somehow has to be crazy. Strangeness is inevitable and it’s really not a big deal in a way. I was like ‘Wow, I can just stare at this one thing on the wall and that’s just enough for a very long time’ and that’s my realization of the past year. I’ll never feel like I have a complete understanding of reality from anything more than just a very simple idea about music.
Software just keeps growing, it just fascinates me, it’s so cool and I’m very lucky. I’m very humbled and surprised by the amazing things that I encounter when I’m talking to artists who don’t have a - - have not yet found that kind of thing of opportunity to put out music and stuff like that. One of the most valuable things to me is education, so if you can give yourself and the people around you that you’re working with an education in the way that music is made mechanically or reproduced in terms of manufacturing, in the way that the industry works like cogs and levers that make things work. On top of the guys at Mexican Summer [the underwriters of Software] being really cool and trusting, that they had this magically underused studio for many years and it was a few blocks away from where I was living. It’s the same way you need to go across the street to get the groceries or whatever, it’s very natural and it’s the wonderful thing about music – it can operate on its own like that.
I have a hard time remembering the last year, I’ve always been like that. When somebody asks ‘hey, what did you do this past year?’ I couldn’t tell you from March to April, I couldn’t tell you what made those two months different at all. I kind of settled down a bit. I have a home that has been warm and inviting. I have a space in that home which is dedicated to work. I have a really lovely relationship that I’m in that takes up most of my life. It should be mentioned that 2013, one of your country’s best sculptors past away, Sir Anthony Caro – he died in 2013. He was one of the biggest influences on mine and [frequent visual collaborator] Nate Boyce’s work. What else changed for me last year? I started wearing white sneakers because I hadn’t worn white sneakers since I was a kid and now I exclusively wear white sneakers. What was the impact of this on my music? It probably made it more optimistic.
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