Very interesting stuff, which comes as no surprise from Subtle People. To call this jazz isn’t exactly accurate, but I wouldn’t call it pop either, nor ambient, but somewhere in the landscape of all three would be more appropriate. At times I feel a later Talk Talk vibe, crossed with David Sylvian, and even Sade occasionally. Consistency in production and style is very strong on this LP, probably stronger than any of Gracer’s other solo works. there’s a strong Film Noir atmospheric vibe going on here and overall the album conveys a real sense of depth and subtlety. This is a great achievement.
fulkramick is the musical project of multi-instrumentalist, Mark Lavonier. His music is highly experimental, creative, and really is not very classifiable. There’s elements of psychedellia, math rock, ambient, folk, and even some post hardcore. But you really can’t call it any of that. It’s basically just fulkramick, and is one of the reasons I love it so much.
Mark graciously agreed to answering some questions I had, and became the first musician to be interviewed on demonicsweaters.com!
Demonic Sweaters: How did you get started in recording your own music and how long have you been doing it?
fulkramick: I’ve played in bands on drums since the early 90’s and started recording my own stuff later in that decade on a karaoke machine that had two tape decks. Using two cassettes, I’d record a track onto a tape, throw it in the play deck then record a new track with the plugged-in microphone while playing the first tape. It ended up giving the music a distant sounding quality because by the time a song was done, that first recorded track was now a fifth or sixth generation, so in a sense, my new stuff instantly sounded old.
Demonic Sweaters: What instruments do you use for recording? I’ve noticed bass, drums, acoustic guitar, vocals, and plenty of unidentified sounds. Are you using any synths?
fulkramick: As the British say, “You’ve got it in one!”. I usually lead the writing process with lyrics as a guide and record drums first, often before writing anything else, then go from there with instrument layering. The synth I use is a basic Casio from the 90’s that has about two really cool sounds out of one hundred, so most synth sounds on recordings are coaxed to something I like through post production.
Demonic Sweaters: Please explain your miking techniques for drums and anything else.
fulkramick: Just as it’s important to know your monitors, it’s important to know your room. I’ve been recording in the same one for close to fifteen years now, so placement is not so much of a grand experiment. I gather as many SM57’s as I can for the shells, typically going under or aiming it about an inch over the drums but not pointing down. I use a Shure bass drum mic and a couple of old condenser mics for overhead/cymbals. Where I do experiment is a “room” mic. Usually just one odd one I’m not using and I place it in the corner or in the next room over to see what it picks up. My methods are more based on what mics I can round up and a sense of the space. There is definitely a “magic spot” where one mic can capture my kit perfectly for the writing process. Bass recording is done with an SM57 very close to the speaker and a direct line out – so I try to get a good mix of the two. Acoustic guitar and vocals, you guessed it, an SM57. My comfort level with that microphone is very high.
Demonic Sweaters: How many channels at once do you have available for recording?
fulkramick: When recording drums, I usually run everything through a 10 channel Behringer console. Everything else is usually a one or two track affair.
Demonic Sweaters: What is your drum miking approach?
fulkramick: Depending on the mood of the song, for me it’s deciding if I want something authoritative or dream-like. For a more surreal sound, I’ll cut some mics or back them off to give that depth of space and try to bring them a little closer for something more aggressive. A good example from the “Casing the Sill” record would be the drums on “Stuckstruck” which is meant to convey a more desperate and manic sound where I tried to make the kit have certain definitions though mic placement, as opposed to a couple of songs later where “Ripcord Whip” has a more washy effect, even though the parts have their moments of sharpness, I backed some of the mics off and cut sound from a few throughout the recording because it was a more “in a head trip” feel through more pronounced cymbals and the like.
Demonic Sweaters: I’ve noticed very creative use of fx in your releases. How do you come up with these little production touches? For example, I’ve noticed sudden reverb on a single snare hit, or a quick delay on one note etc…. Are you manipulating this stuff in real-time, or are you going in painstakingly editing little bits of waves?
fulkramick: I’m absolutely editing each of those, which is a fun process for me. I get into some very obsessive listening with each track that gets recorded and the touches present themselves to me as the different instruments come together. When one occurs to me, I ask myself if it is serving the song, and how so? At times it can be for reinforcement of the soul of the piece, or in a utility sort of way that aides a transition, other times it’s to undermine a part. In that case it’s a brief moment where I’m saying that I’m not comfortable, this is not straightforward, there is a nick in the iron that calls a focus to itself as part of the story of the song. I will say that every inch and sound is placed or manipulated for a reason.
Demonic Sweaters: What recording software do you use?
fulkramick: For the most part, I use a versions-old version of Adobe Audition. I’ve been using the different iterations of the program since it was “Cool Edit” in the later 90’s. Like any editing software, I still discover new things all the time, it’s a great education and I’m comfortable enough with it to lay down what I’m after.
Demonic Sweaters: Why do you make music?
fulkramick: In bands, it’s for the harmony and experimentation of communicating and playing with others, the unique thrill of performing live and at times reaching out of my comfort zone to write something that still expresses myself and the theme of a song. When I musically do things on my own, it’s really to illustrate the times in my life that can’t be excised in any other way. It’s like taking a class in myself as doors open, light comes in and presents a picture best described through instrumentation. Often, I’m brought to more neglected places where things need to be swept up – and the new, heightened understanding of said place, for me, can be best interpreted and even healed through music. Plus, with the “fulkramick” solo work, it’s fun to call all the shots.
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