Over the past decade and a half, Phil Elverum has proved himself not only as a figure of great, transformative, and original music, but as a person who has set their own clear path within an increasingly commodified, corporatized independent music world. Handing almost every aspect of his music, from writing and recording songs to arranging art and printing the vinyl, Elverum has established an individualistic musical identity that continues to inspire.
2012 has proved to be a great year for Elverum, with two brilliant full-length albums, (Clear Moon and Ocean Roar, respectively) released. You can catch up with Phil at his brilliant Twitter account here or at the PW Elverum & Sun site here. The interview is after the jump.
That is an interesting question. It is true that we live in a pretty baffling time. It's just so complicated trying to figure out what it all means; what is the significance of all this accumulation of information and shape and color and sound. Everyone has such a huge forum now that the air is crammed. The origins of "DIY culture" were about access to the means of production and information dissemination, but that's not an issue so much anymore. Not that I'm an expert or anything, but I do remember the pre-internet feeling of desperation to find something else out there that chimed with my interests, and the thrill of making contact. My main problem with Tumblr (I am not familiar enough with Pinterest) is the encouraged lack of attribution. I frequently stumble on some amazing beautiful things there (which is the great part of that website) but then can't find any information about the source. The artist goes uncredited, the information is not communicated, and my experience remains totally superficial. Twitter also encourages this type of superficial non-engagment. It is the worst time for the brain actually. Such a struggle.
I don't know what I do about it. I just try to make stuff that is hopefully worth slowing down for, worth paying attention to in a particular kind of way that requires deliberate thought and engagement. There's no stopping this slide into shallowness though. It's epic and fast and horrible. I will try to stay sharp for as long as possible, and encourage others to do the same.
In recent interviews, I've heard you mention Stereolab as an influence on some of your music. I thought this was interesting, as after reading your mention of them, I felt I could hear the influence, but it was definitely subversive. How would you say their music has had an impact on you?
They were my favorite band for many years as a teenager. Especially their pre Dots and Loops albums. I love the driving drone feeling and occasionally I'll get the urge to try again to recapture that feeling. Pale Lights is an obvious example.
Much of your recent work, to me, seems to allude to a cinematic idea of sound, and I have read that you consider film to be the kind of "ultimate" form of expression. Do you feel more like a director than a songwriter at times when you are working? Which filmmakers have inspired you?
I guess so, yes. I enjoy all kinds of movies, and probably most of them make it into my thinking about music, but probably the most direct relation would be Terrence Malick's movies. I feel like I try to touch a direct poetic/emotional button in the same way he does (vs. telling a story about some people doing some stuff). Also of course David Lynch's atmospheres and eeriness. I also like "Throne Of Blood" by Kurosawa very much. I could go on and on. There are many.
There is a great video on YouTube where you perform a karaoke version of "Got Money" by Lil' Wayne. You've also talked about your love for Jay-Z and Kanye West amongst other hip-hop artists.Would you ever consider making music in a style similar to one of these performers?
Yes, although I don't think I would rap. Making the tracks sounds super fun though. I would love to. Hip hop has been the area of music that's tried out the weirdest stuff, production wise, in the last 10+ years. It's what I pay attention to. I do not listen to music that sounds like my own very much.
Many reviews of your recent work seem to allude to "black metal" ideas, and while I can certainly hear that sound within elements like the tone of the guitar and just the sheer loudness of several tracks on "Wind's Poem," most of that record feels much more "new age" to me, which is something that you have also mentioned in the past. When did you first start listening to New Age music? How has it informed your work?
I don't know if I listen to that much officially new age music. I love Julee Cruise, but she's not really new age. Just synthetic tones and heavy digital reverb. I like some Enya. That's about it. I like atmospheres. My love of some black metal is the same way. It's an atmosphere that I sometimes like to fill the house with. I listen to lots of soundtracks.
What are you reading at the moment?
I'm in between books, trying to decide whether to start another NW regional history book (I just read like 4) or maybe a Jim Harrison novel.
When did you first start wearing white pants?
When I lived in Norway for the winter of 2002 I got some women's white snowboarding pants (they didn't have white in men's) so I could disappear more effectively in the snowy landscape. Then I started noticing all the karate pants in the uniform sections at the thrift stores and how comfortable they were. I also got into how filthy they got almost immediately, and just the feeling of always being aware of the dirt.