Interview: Best Available Technology (w/Mix of Original Productions)
i’m not sure if it’s complimentary to consider an artist’s music “appropriate” for soundtracking a natural disaster or observing one second-hand while stuck outside in various airports, but Kevin Palmer’s sonic experimentations as Best Available Technology did just that for me. Kevin was kind enough to send through just under 40mins of original material in a KORTMIX the day before Sandy hit NYC, so my time spent fervently refreshing news sites with Kevin’s mix on repeat led to quite the dramatic evening.
Kevin composes visceral dub rhythms emboldened with natural hardware compression - think the ‘Shlo-Fi EP’ underscored with Basic Channel’s patience. Composed of all unreleased material, this mixtape offers a clear purview on BAT’s sonic temperament and meditative practices. He was gracious enough to answer a few of our questions as well, so enjoy the double whammy of mix + interview after the jump:
PT: Let’s start things off with an introduction: who are you, where do you call home, what’s your deal?
Best Available Technology: My name is Kevin Palmer, I grew up in Southern California but have lived in Portland, Oregon since 1992. I started doing sonics after I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to skate all the time because of the weather. My friend Max Sympathy gave me the name Best Available Technology when we started to record sonics together, I think maybe he meant that I was, literally, the best available technology at the time for him to help realize some sonic/music/written word ideas he had. I never really had a name for my sonic output until then.
I suppose it is also rather ironic as most of gear is in a state of disrepair or possessed yet remains my best available technology.
PT: Could you run us through your songwriting process?
BAT: All my sonics originate in the outboard hardware realm and are recorded live in one take. I have never really been able to multi track for better or worse, so the machines go into the mixer and from there I record one stereo mix into the computer, like I used to record into the tape deck.
I begin by sampling myself and making some type of rhythmic/textural patterns that will determine where the piece goes. Once I have sounds that feel right, I run the sequences and patterns I’ve created and mix the different elements live, like a dub mix. I end up with a lot of crap recordings, but when I have a piece that works for me, I’ll edit the end and beginning to frame something into a finished song.
PT: What kind of hardware gear do you use?
BAT: SP12, Mirage, S900, MMT-8, MP-7, EPS16+, ESI-4000, MS2000R, Micro Q, guitar, bass processed w/various pedals and rack things. Not all at the same time, of course. I run all of these into a mixer, then record one stereo track on my PC.
PT: What kind of environment do you create, or hope to replicate, when composing new material?
BAT: I hope to create a sonic space where experiments w/repetition, texture, and dynamics are woven in with familiar forms like techno, dub, and hip hop. Every time I turn on my gear and start making sounds I feel like composing love letters to all the music that offered me new perspectives on sound and feelings. Sometimes, I feel like tweaking sonics is my form of meditation…and possibly my way of channeling cognitive dissonance into something manageable.
PT: I first discovered your music from the Opal Tapes release - how did that release come together?
BAT: Stephen Bishop contacted me and asked if I would be interested in releasing something on his label. He had a split in mind and the other artist he had in mind was OND TON, which was a interesting coincidence as OND TON and I had been in contact and were sharing production and creative techniques. Once I checked out Opal Tapes and Stephen’s output as Basic House, I felt a strong connection and shared perspective and it was just too serendipitous that the split would be shared w/OND TON. I was and still am super flattered to be aligned w/Opal Tapes in any way.
PT: Where you at all hesitant about releasing on tape for your debut? What are your thoughts on the tape format & tape scene right now?
BAT: No, not at all. I see the cassette tape format as relavent now as it ever has been, my truck only has a tape deck so for me I have never stopped listening to them. I like the tape format for it’s physical artifact qualities, the case/cover that needs to be cared for, the insert art that may fold out three or four times or it might only be two sided and the tape itself that may actually need to physicaly ejected, flipped over and reinserted. Then there is the actual sonics themselves that cannot be skipped or randomized w/any great ease. I really do not know anything about the tape scene except what I have experienced w/Opal and the ocassional purchase I make.
PT: One of the standout tracks off your BAT/OND TON split for me is ‘Other You’ - it sounds like the output of an alien transmitter buried miles below earth’s surface. how did you create the sounds used in this tune? why did you title it as such?
BAT: That track is SP12, Casio SK1, Echo+, and a crappy old turntable playing a ancient educational 78rpm record that is rather thrashed and has more scratches than music on it. I did the track ages ago so I don’t remember specifics but I can tell that SP12 is loaded w/rhytmic noisy bits rather than drum hits or chopped up breaks and I am playing w/severe eq’ing.
My friend Max Sympathy gave that piece it’s title, I do not know why, sorry.
PT: You’ve got a release coming out with Astro:Dynamics soon - could you tell us a bit about that one?
BAT: The release for Astro:Dynamics is going to be a collection of the best bits and pieces culled from my recent cassette excavations. Near the beginning of 2012, I found a bin of somewhat forgotten tapes that I recorded from 1992 to 1999, I have been ripping these tapes little by little for the purpose of archiving and finding the best parts to add to the collection of tracks Luke has already chosen to be part of the “Excavated Cassetttes 92-99” release.
PT: Anything else coming up beyond that?
BAT: I’ll have a release out with Further Records in 2013, as well as a possible 12” with Opal featuring new material (including “Emitted Lids” off this mix).
PT:Thanks for this Autumnal mix. Could you walk us through the idea behind the mix, the songs you chose, and the overall vibe you sought to curate?
BAT: No man, thank you for the opportunity to share this stuff. I guess the main idea for the is that I wanted to share some forthcoming and unreleased sonics w/you. The OND TON track is something that I wanted to include on my side of the split but there wasn’t enough space; I also really wanted to share the Basic Technology track as a introduction to a collaborative project Basic House and I have begun.