DUSTIN WONGWhen did you first start looping guitar?
I was introduced to looping in high school, but I didn't really understand it at the time. My friend downloaded a freeware audio recording software for his Windows '98 laptop and he went though it step by step with me. I would play a phrase and he told me to play on top of that phrase and I would continue on that process. At that time I realized that this way of working was totally possible! But I didn't start using a looping pedal until Ecstatic Sunshine when we were getting more interested in textures. All the recordings I did in college were in a way loop based and repetition based.
How did being in Ponytail help or change your musical style?
Ponytail definitely allowed me to explore different timbres of the guitar. Being in a band, there are certain sounds that it starts to ask from you, not the band members, but the music that is being created by the band. The music is asking for things like, more bass, more distortion, more melody, less chords, a tinge of humor and stuff like that. So we all started to collect our own tools, little by little, one pedal at a time. I only had a distortion pedal and a delay pedal in the beginning of the band. At the end of the band I had most of the pedals I use right now for my solo project. I added a noise gate pedal in my solo set up that is very practical. The only thing is the set of pedals that was being used in Ponytail was being used in a very sequential way, on the x axis. Now, I use the y-axis too. In Ponytail the melodies were created by two guitars so we had to try to make it interesting with a minimal set up, by using harmonies and counterpoint. Now I use this idea with multiple elements.
What was the first instrument you learned and at what age?
I guess the recorder, at the age of 6. I didn't know how to play it, though. I used to just blow hard and randomly press on those little holes.
What was your first solo song like?
I was using this software called Sound Edit 16, for Mac Os9. It allowed me to punch in different notes with the choice of using sine waves, triangle waves and square waves. Then you punch in how much time you want to put into each note. I would punch in 0.1 seconds of this key here and 0.1 seconds of silence and stuff like that. The first song I chose random notes all from The Black Keys. I enjoy it still, though it was definitely beginners luck!
What was your favorite albums of 2011?
I think it might be James Ferraro's Far Side Virtual.
Your last album Infinite Love was a double album. What was that album about and why was it a double album?
I wanted it to be an album that could be experienced in a different way. Fates that change and come back together. I wanted to have a way of changing the way we can experience the actual journey of the album. I would love to be able to make an album that functions even in shuffle mode.
"It might stand out because it might be a few inches taller than the last album. Or a few inches wider."
You went to Maryland Institute College of Art. What did you learn there that you use on a daily basis?
I was a General Sculptural Studies student, but I think that department is now called Interdisciplinary Sculpture. My professors, Hugh Pocock and Jeremy Sigler, were a huge influence.Even now, their words and ideas have gravity and inspire the things I make. Sigler's class on time based performance and Pocock's way of blurring the line of what actual sculpture can be let me expand and apply those ideas to life itself. Allan Kaprow's idea of blurring the line between art and life is a big one for me. If everything you do is art, like taking walks, going to the bathroom, cooking some food, then in a way you don't have to make art anymore. But I still do. I'm waiting for the day when I get there. The ideas I make can be applied to the food I make, the walks I walk, and vice versa. It makes things very easy.
Talk us through your song writing process-
Melodies are introduced one element at a time. It gets layered and then it either gets manipulated rhythmically or specially. Within that context, I can add other elements. When the manipulation is taken away, the listener will notice that something has changed with the loop. I can continue that process or decide to go further or stop and go to the next idea.
Do you write your songs down or write notes to remember when you are supposed to trigger everything off?
Very rarely do I write things down. I record everything once it's almost done. I try to use memory most of the time. I remember writing something down when I was in the process of writing a song, I may have been trying something relatively new and wanted to remember how it was done.
Your new album Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads comes out soon. What makes this album stand out from your past albums?
It's still an extension of everything I have done and have been a part of, including Ponytail and Ecstatic Sunshine. It might stand out because it might be a few inches taller than the last album. Or a few inches wider. I think it's a more in-depth exploration of what I was doing with Infinite Love, trying to get a deeper understanding of what I'm actually doing.
How does your live performance effect your song writing?
It's whole new way of being observant of the music itself since a group of people are actually watching you. It's a great way to figure out new songs. I have songs that I have scrapped because of those reasons. Sometimes songs that work privately don't work in front of people, as weird as that sounds.
If you were stranded on an island and could only bring one instrument and could only have one culture's food for the rest of your life what would they be?
It might have to be a piano. Since I don't really understand it, I can really kill some time by learning something new. I could eat Thai food all day.