Thursday, July 27, 2006

8 1/2 Questions with Tree Wave

The more I think about, the more I realize that despite only having seen them live twice, and only having heard a limited amount of their material, Tree Wave could easily be my favorite band from Dallas proper. Or to put it another way, there isn't any other band in Dallas that I'd be more excited about seeing live. Their recorded material sounds like absolutely nothing else being made around here, and their live shows are exciting and interesting in a way that most local bands really don't even touch. I wanted to ask Paul Slocum more about his band, and the process he goes through when writing songs. So I did. Some of the questions and answers run over from one to the next, but thats what happens when you do email interviews:

Could you give us a little background about the band, when it started, your goals, etc?

I guess we started about 3 years ago. The guy I was playing music with moved to Austin. We did a lot of sampling mixed with homemade 8bit stuff and traditional instruments, and after he moved I decided to try recording some of my own stuff using just 8bit instruments. I got my girlfriend to sing on it and it turned out great. A year after that we started playing shows. I don't know what's next. Right now I'm making videos and music using simple web design mechanisms (animated GIFs, audio loops, etc) and more conceptual stuff like a deep house song for symphonic band and choir.

I've found myself in discussions with people about the process that you guys engage in when writing and recording songs, only to realize that I don't in fact know very much about your process. I kind of have an idea of what the Commodore 64 is, but I know very little about it. Could you explain in as much detail as you're willing how you go about writing and recording songs with the equipment you use

The core of it is the OPL3 chip, which is a sound chip made by Yamaha and used on early DOS sound cards. It's similar to what was used in the Sega Genesis and produces that crunchy "Sega metal" sound. I run it through a BOSS Heavy Metal Pedal to fatten it up, and start off with some drums. I usually try playing some Commodore 64 on top of that (which basically sounds like a fat analog synth). And then add more OPL3 to get noisy guitar-like sounds.The Atari and printer come last because they're hardest to program. They're usually rhythmic accents. Sometimes I use long printer drones to fill out the "guitar" sound. Vocals go in somewhere midway through.When the song's done I program video for the live shows on the Atari 2600. All our video is Atari 2600.

What about the song you play live in which the notes are played in response to movements in a video game? How did you come up with that? Is it easy to screw up the piece live if you die or make a wrong move?

I originally did that as a video installation, and later realized I could perform it live. I thought it was interesting how playing a video game is mechanically and mentally similar to playing an instrument. The original Dodge 'Em game (like Pac-Man with cars) just has a droning engine sound, but I modified it so that each lane you drive in plays a different chord. So if you figure out patterns to win the game and play those patterns consistently, it becomes a chord progression. I programmed 3 loops on the OPL3 which accompany these chord patterns. If I mess up, it really just shortens the song a bit so it's no big deal. I just fade out the background loops early.

Some of the comment posters on this site seem to look down on the way that you go about producing music, and many seem to have inferred that it is "cheating" in a sense, or that the equipment you use to create your sounds makes it "too easy to sound cool." How might you respond to something like that? And should the process of making music even matter when the finished product is discussed?

I'd tell those posters to "suck it". I wanted the record to stand on its own, and many reviewers have agreed that it does. The unusual process is important to me, because it gets me out of creative ruts. Nobody really needs to know that to enjoy the music though. But the process is more important to understanding some of our stuff beyond the music. The Dodge 'Em piece is really a performance and video piece, and has a lot more to it than just the music. And the performance, videos, and process address the nature of technology and obsolescence.

I noticed that visuals are a big part of your live shows, and in many ways are almost the centerpiece on stage, while you are often standing off to the side of a screen. How important are visuals to your band, and do you think that visuals and other considerations outside of the music itself should be considered when someone is trying to understand your band's art and presentation?

For our live show, I think the video is pretty important. Some videos more than others, but in general I think it adds a lot. For Dodge 'Em and the Combat hack, the video illustrates the process to some extent.

Speaking of visual art, will you tell us a bit about your gallery, where it is, what you want to do with it, what kind of work you show in it?

It's called And/Or Gallery, and you can read more about it at We show a lot of different stuff, but we have more video and new media than any other place here. It's somewhere mid way between an artist-run space and a commercial gallery.

It seems like your band has recieved more press attention outside of Dallas than it has locally. How does that feel? What does that say about Dallas in your mind?

We've received a fair amount of press in Dallas considering how many shows we've played and the one CD we've put out. The Dallas music scene has problems, but it's not that bad. The main problem with Dallas is scarcity of decent radio.

What are some other bands that you like/ identify with in the area?

I like Midlake, Mission Giant, and whatever John Freeman is up to.

If Dallas is like a fake L.A., then Austin and Denton must be... A loaf of bread.



Blogger The Fold said...

LOVE. this band.

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you're guaranteed to sleep,
if we don't ask for your customer code.
and pass the savings on to you,
you're guaranteed to sleep.

6:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

was that interview about music or video games?

7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey wsjr i wrote a song based on the video game halo2 and no i am not trent reznor altho that would be awesome because then i would be rich and stuff lol. when is the interview to take place?

12:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if i am reading this correctly, i do believe an atari 2600 nerd just tell me to suck it.

well now i've heard it all-

napolean dymonite was way to empowering for some people.

12:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


and a little less empowering for others

1:17 AM  
Blogger stonedranger said...

Well read the interview again the next time you check my blog (in 15 minutes) and tell me if you've had a change of heart.

2:19 AM  
Blogger Zak said...

Great band. Looking forward to hearing some new recorded material... any news on that front?

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"if i am reading this correctly, i do believe an atari 2600 nerd just tell me to suck it.

well now i've heard it all-

napolean dymonite was way to empowering for some people."

uh, what does that have to do with music again? also learn how to spell?

1:36 PM  
Blogger kidko said...

I'm glad to read the interview. I saw them open for... oh shit.. was it the Blonde Redhead show? well anyway, they were very interesting. I love anything that's influenced by gaming roots. Some of us were actually raised by Atari.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm waiting for that special moment, kidko, and it won't be long. i promise... oh, and what else was i going to say???

check ya later, kidko...

9:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

treewave's next project is a 7" on pancakes for mattie records. paul says that the a-side track will be from the forthcoming treewave release and the b-side will be exclusive.

9:14 AM  

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