Residency is a two-part journal entry brought to you by one of our favorite creatives.
This week, Celia Hollander, a.k.a. Los Angeles’ $3.33, lets us eavesdrop on a conversation with her friend Matt about recording, performance, and self representation.
Matt Doyle is a musician, performer, sound engineer and multimedia artist living and working in Los Angeles. He is also my good friend, collaborator, and a dance floor clearing DJ. This conversation was recorded on Friday the 13th, February 2015 around 9 p.m. PST.
Matt: Have you ever tried to compose for orchestra?
Matt: Or for a small ensemble? Anything?
Celia: No. I don’t think I really think in terms of, like, instruments in that way.
Celia: There was a moment where I was trying to figure out who I wanted to record with at Adam’s, and there was a moment where I was like, “Should I be composing for a small ensemble for this?” And I really thought about it and it’s just not how I approach these types of things. I don’t ever “compose” for piano or for myself, I don’t have that much design and intention. But yeah, there was a second where I was like okay, Matt, Georgia, Rosie and I are going to sit down together and there’s going to be a first movement, a second movement. And I thought about it and I was like, this is insane, and that’s not what I want from this at all. I feel like it would be a waste of time. Like I could do that in MIDI.
Celia: I feel like if I’m going to have the opportunity to work with people, I want to see what the people do and not what I, like, compose for them, and not what I tell them to do.
Matt: Yeah sure. Totally.
Celia: But then I’m going to take all those sounds and use them for my own purposes anyways.
Matt: Yeah. Well I’m really interested.
Celia: Me too.
Matt: Because it’s like, that was my first experience recording in the studio as you know [recording at Adam’s studio].
Celia: That was your first experience recording in the studio!?
Matt: I’ve never recorded in a studio. No.
Matt: Never. Never with that kind of, never with an engineer.
Celia: Attention and—
Matt: No, every recording I’ve ever made has been in a garage with one microphone. Like, I’ve never actually had an engineer position microphones to get a certain kind of sound from something, which as you know I was blown away by the quality of the bowed cymbal recording. I’ve always been just—I’ve always been very dismissive of recording. Usually I’ve recorded without the drum kit being miked as, like, one static object, like coming at the microphone from one position. And when you flatten the drum kit like that, you lose half of the reason why drum kits are—
Celia: Each limb has so much articulation.
Matt: Yeah totally. No, it’s really interesting to be able to separate those different channels out and push them in different ways. But, no it’s interesting because like that ensemble, like the three of us playing together, Georgia and I were talking about playing more. But what’s funny is the first thing that came to my mind is always like I want to hear you and Georgia play “Louange à l’Éternité de Jésus,” from Messiaen’s Quartet for The End of Time. It’s just for cello and piano.
Celia: Oh yeah. She talked to me about that.
Matt: And I was like, wouldn’t that be crazy if we played a show and you guys just like played that piece? Maybe it’s just something that I’m really interested in right now because nobody does that.
Celia: Nobody does what?
Matt: Nobody would play, like I’ve never seen a house show where people are playing another person’s piece. Like doing scores by somebody else, you know?
Celia: I mean how many house shows have we gone to anyways?
Matt: Sure. That’s a good point.
Celia: We went to, the only house show that I can remember was at Matt’s house, which was amazing. He texted me by the way saying, “I heard I made you and Doyle cry.” Did you tell him? [LAUGHTER]
Matt: I told him. Well, I told Ella.
Celia: You told him! [LAUGHTER].
Matt: [LAUGHTER] That is really funny.
Celia: It’s really embarrassing.
Matt: It is embarrassing. Sorry. I didn’t think she would tell anybody…
Celia: No, it’s hysterical.
Matt: It is hysterical. It was an effective performance. The further I get, I thought it was incredible.
Celia: It was really good.
Matt: Yeah. [LAUGHTER]
Celia: But yeah, no one’s playing that at house shows because no one’s playing house shows anyways.
Matt: Yeah, that’s a good point.
Celia: At least not here. At least I have no idea about it. Like people have so many alternative art spaces and art garage spaces. But the music scene, either I’m just not apart of it or it’s just not happening like that. But I thought that show was really inspiring too because it was just the best sound. Like the night before we were at Jewel’s.
Matt: Yeah, fucking shit show.
Celia: Like Alex Gray played at Jewels and he also played at his house and at Jewels it was just so busy, so chaotic, such a party, so many people, so much fog machine. And then at his house— that’s how that music should be listened to. Like a quadraphonic speaker system, huge subwoofer, everyone sits down and shuts up and then people can present different things. It’s like—
Matt: Well you can present more challenging work and you can take greater risks, which I think is, like, really, really cool.
Celia: And the audience can actually listen to it. They can actually absorb it and consider it.
Matt: Yeah. No totally. I mean it’s super, super different.
Celia: Yeah. I’ve been thinking a lot about, and this is an old thought for me but it’s, like, resurfaced, that just, like, how special performance is—
Matt: How special performance is?
Celia: Yeah, how right now specifically in a time where you can photograph and video and document everything. Performance is one of the only things that no matter how you try to document it, like it’s not tangible and it’s only going to exist once. And in that way it’s the most valuable thing to me.
Matt: Yeah. I mean it’s incredibly valuable to me for the same reasons. That’s also why I totally eschewed recording for so long. Because I was like, I only want to be a live performing musician.
Celia: Oh yeah. I totally forgot about that.
Matt: Yeah. I had, like, ideological opposition to any sort of recording and I would deliberately not turn a recorder on when I was playing music.
Celia: That’s so interesting.
Matt: “Does the world really need like another band that’s trying to get attention on MySpace?” “No.”
Celia: In a lot of ways I really admire that. Or I’m just starting to understand that right now.
Celia: I feel like in the last year that I’ve been friends with you I’ve really opened up to the idea of performance and maybe you’ve opened up to the idea of recording.
Matt: Yeah, absolutely.
Celia: I brought you into a recording studio for the first time.
Matt: No, absolutely.
Celia: And you got me to improvise for the first time on stage.
Matt: Yeah. No, absolutely.
Celia: So thank you.
Matt: You’re welcome. No, thank you. You’re welcome.
Celia: I mean maybe, I feel like opening up to performance might be more exciting than opening up to the tedium of recording. But I don’t know.
Matt: But it’s not about tedium it’s about structure and it’s about, like, when you start to reach the limits of how covert you can be because it’s just like at a certain point I realized that—
Celia: Hold that thought, I’m going to cut this lime.
Celia: What do you mean by how covert you can be? This is the first lime from—
Matt: From your lime tree?
Celia: My lime tree.
Matt: Well covert in the sense that like—thank you.
Celia: It’s very sour.
Matt: It’s this thing about publicity and self representation and branding and personal branding and stuff, which I think that you think about a lot more because from looking at even like your older videos.
Celia: I think about it all the time.
Matt: Yeah. You’ve always been like in touch with this stuff about brands and people and the interaction between brands and people. But for me—
Celia: Especially in music. Like people just become their brand.
Matt: I mean your observation in that video about how, like, the idea that an actor performs a multiplicity of different roles and that a rapper actually lives the brand.
Celia: Thanks for actually watching the video.
Matt: Yeah dude, duh. But this idea that, like, you know, there’s this one-to-one correspondence with a rapper as a performer and as a brand and as basically something that’s exchanged in an economy. And I mean just, I lived in Portland and then I lived in Boston with my parents, and I never had to really think about myself as a unit being exchanged in transaction, or at least I was rejecting that as much as possible.
Celia: Yeah. I mean that’s not location-based because like—
Matt: In Portland after I was done with school I really gravitated towards this group called The Creative Music Guild because I was running this freely improvised music night, and they were just totally open to that. I think that freely improvised music to me also represents a break with economics. And it’s weird because, like, Derek Bailey makes a big point about this that so quickly his music and his record label was transformed into, like, a boutique antique, like, people were like, “Oh my god do you have a copy of this record? Do you have a copy of that record? We’ve heard this music.” He’s like, “You guys are talking about this like an antique fair.” While it’s still in process and still happening.
Matt: I mean this as a scene-specific thing, a city-specific thing. I think that in LA between the way that private spaces function here and just the ethos of the city being so much about visibility and consumption and making yourself a—something to be transacted or consumed is, like, I think that seeing your recording practice has helped me think about ways that you can be both covert and be very methodical in the creation of those objects to be transacted, and let them kind of exist as text and contain things that are more complicated, or things that undermine the very economics. Especially this last album, like undermine the economics that they’re indexing or referring to.
Celia: Yeah. I think—I’m, like, hyperconscious of the transaction factor of it. But in terms of LA that might just also be, like, getting older and meeting more people than, like, when you’re in a school environment there isn’t the pressure to advertise your labor and skills and your services. And I think that, like, everyone right now, everyone you know is working somehow and most people have websites that’s usually a type of self-advertisement in one way or another.
Matt: Yeah absolutely, I do.
Celia: And whether that’s in the realm of fashion or music or anything there’s a transaction involved. I don’t know. I feel like I just get defensive when things get location-specific to LA. I don’t know why. Maybe because I just—
Matt: Well I think it’s because you have a complicated relationship to living here. Or not a complicated, you have a complex relationship to living here.
Celia: I think there are things that are specific to LA, but I don’t feel like that is.
Matt: Well yeah, because I never had to live in a place where this stuff would happen and whenever I would visit New York I would just go to The Stone. That doesn’t exist here. But coming here was the first time—I mean, I still fall on the side of saying that I don’t want to push my creative practice as the thing that wants to make money because it is still very much rooted in an ethos that’s against the economy. But maybe recording and presenting music in that way is a way of like working against and within.
Celia: Against and within. I definitely think of it that way.
Matt: Also recognizing the fact that I am always already within that. You know, that was the other thing, because I always believed that I wasn’t part of it and I was, like, on the “outside.”
Celia: Yeah. You can’t extricate yourself. You can’t extricate yourself if you’re participating in it.
Matt: I might go bring my drums underneath that bridge and test it out.
Read Celia’s first entry here.