DEPT.

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  • Toys

An Inaudible Conversation with...Astrolope!

Welcome to a new series of things wherein Toys heads out and about chit-chatting via satellite with all those splendid Peanut Gallery artists we know and admire! In our first such entry Toys is joined by the amiable and deftly talented Paul (from Astrolope, Other Families, Waxlimbs & Plutoid Records!) in talks on stuff like music & art & why they matter, why money maybe not so much, and how a good band might just save the world some day. So, plz enjoy, human_friend... k-thx!

Hi Paul! How are you? Also, who are you?

Paul knob-twiddling live as Astrolope!

Hey Toys!!

I'm good, hbu?

Also hi I'm Paul G, drummer for Waxlimbs and Other Families, producer and composer as Astrolope, co-founder of Plutoid Records.

I'm 6'2" and I like long walks on the beach



Yes, good! Beach walks are nice! This is going well, I think... 


Okay, maybe let's get started with Plutoid, cuz it seems like lots of big things have been happening around headquarters there lately. I was poking around the website (plutoid.ca) just recently and found tonnes of amazing music from all kinds of great artists, and the site itself is really cool, too.


So what is this, Paul, what is the meaning of this?


Oh yeah, that's our little Plutoid reboot. See, me and Lex started this label around 2015 bc we wanted to start releasing stuff properly and putting on cool shows etc. It's s'posed to be like a little creative asteroid orbiting at the edges of the musical galaxy. We had some decent success with it, but just kinda ended up leaving it hanging in favour of other projects. But recently we've realized that it would be really cool to dust it off! It's actually all thanks to Sinéad; she told us that when she originally came to Toronto she randomly ended up at a show I was playing, and then looked me up and also found out about all the other cool artists on Plutoid at the time. So we realized how nice it can be to have a network of artists all linked up together. (Kinda like the Peanut Gallery on $tm!) And now Sinéad's deeply involved with all the label stuff behind the scenes, along with Lex and I. That's all Lex's handiwork on the new website btw, pretty snazzy right? Feels pretty good to have our own little corner of the internet free of ads and bots and likes. It's also got a built-in store where you can buy any of our music and merch without any other "services" taking a cut, so every day is bandcamp friday on Plutoid! :D


(Editor's Note: Just wanna take the opportunity to mention to our loyal readers that Sinéad makes music under the moniker Animal Party, while Lex's creative audio outlet is Feyla, and both can be found @plutoid.ca and within The Peanut Gallery!)


It's a mighty little asteroid, no doubt! I've found out about lotsa new music there as well! Also super-excited to see the kinds of collaboration that's taking place as a result of artist-linking efforts like this one. I know you (as Astrolope) remixed an Animal Party song a little while back, and Feyla and AP had a collab track a short time ago, too, and both were recently featured artists for the Animatist remix album (on Glue Gun Recs). Thing too about Plutoid is that's where you release your own music as Astrolope, and you just recently (like remarkably recently) put out a full-length album AND live performance video to boot! ...Cuz, I mean, you actually perform all your music live...somehow....with an awesome lightshow and everything...all by yourself!


Paul, how could you?

Paul likes to hit things with sticks! - Photo by Sam Haggart

Oh, it's nothing really. My computer's really doing most of the work in those sets lol. Idk how much of it I should give away, but basically the thing is blasting out audio tracks from the songs, click track to my in-ear monitors, MIDI notes to the synthesizer, and DMX programming to the lights simultaneously. And I just control it all from a little USB controller, so I can be very interactive with it, or totally hands-off if I need it to be. So it's basically the perfect backing band, stage crew, monitor engineer, and lighting tech, all in a convenient little box! Pretty neat what you can do with a little tech nowadays, isn't it? So once that little system is backing me up I can simply play my instruments without a care in the world, and nothing can go wrong. Except for the actual performance of course, which frequently goes a bit wrong anyways. But that's the fun part right, where I'm breaking drumsticks and hitting sour notes and everything? I really like to have tons of room for improv and slop in there so that the set feels alive and dramatic every time, despite the fact that it's all sitting on a rock-solid foundation of robotic precision.



I dunno, Paul, seems like a whole lotta complicated stuff going on at once to have to comprehend there...and I've always found just performing live with backing tracks to be a pretty scary experience, even. Like, drop off that click track and omg, the sky is falling!! So yeah, much respect and admiration for putting it all together yet keeping it human in realtime.  


...And see that's the other thing -- you also play with lots of other musicians. Two of my fave bands even! I mean, Other Families is a wild ride and sooo different from anything out there both in composition and execution, and Waxlimbs creates some of the most detailed & interesting rock music I've ever encountered. How do you divide your mind to accomplish all of this seemingly simultaneously? Like, Other Families and Waxlimbs both released singles in October, plus you released a full-length as Astrolope on the 1st of the month...


How can this be?

Photoshoot with Waxlimbs

Haha, thanks! It doesn't all happen simultaneously, and I don't have to divide up my mind to do it! It's very natural, it just takes up some time. Being in bands is really nice because the bandmates do lots of great work, and they have complementary skill-sets and are super flexible.


I actually think that more things in society should be structured band-style! It's an extremely efficient and ethical way to organize a group of people with a common goal. For example, it's non-hierarchical, meaning leadership is completely fluid. Different people are "in charge" on a moment-to-moment basis depending on their suitability to the task at hand. And decision-making is not democratic, it's consensus-based. If even one person is opposed to an idea, it is either modified to address their concerns, or scrapped entirely. I could go on. Money is dealt with openly and equitably. People work at their own pace, on their own schedules, while holding each other accountable and picking up each other's slack. All forms of communications are used as-needed, including dirty jokes and dank memes.

Wouldn't it be nice if our jobs worked like that? Try to imagine it for a sec. I know we're all used to the status quo and everything, but if you've ever been in a good band you know firsthand that a better way is possible.


Oh yes, where would we all be without dank memes!?


And I very much agree with your philosophical outlook here. Like, how artists tend to embrace the more sporadic aspects of life, I think, and if everyone could do a little more of that we'd all be more understanding and a lot better off. There's also an interesting level of connection and communication that you build with others thru music. It's sharing a part of yourself, right? So when collaborating on music it's almost like we're working together with friends on a part of ourselves in a way, or something. Am I making sense here? Which kinda brings me to another thing...


There's a whole community of artists, several communities actually, all around TO and GTA which are doing some very cool and positive things. In fact, we came to know each other mostly at the Good Listener meetings that were hosted monthly in your garage before the lockdown happened. Getting to talk about ideas and show works in progress (and dank memes, of course) to creative peers is just an excellent idea and I'm so happy that you and a few other folks put this together. Very much looking forward to a time when these types of meetings can resume, but what are some of your thoughts on stuff like GL, experimental art communities like The Peanut Gallery, and maybe the future for these kindsa things?


Yeah I think you're onto something with that. I don't think it's limited to just music actually, I think all forms of creativity have this kind of potential.


Problem is, there's also this thing called "real life" that tends to get in the way. Sometimes it can be really hard to get motivated to make music, for any number of reasons. So for me, there's nothing more inspiring than hearing something amazing and fresh that I would never have come up with, and learning about how it was done firsthand! It always makes me wanna jump back in the studio headfirst and come up with something super crazy. I vaguely knew that writers and poets have little get-togethers where they help each other out, so I thought that we musical types should do that too. I really love learning new stuff in general, and I also absolutely despise most traditional models/ institutions of education. So I was thinking a lot about alternative ways to learn and grow together as a community, as opposed to everyone being off in their own little worlds. This was all before the pandemic as you mentioned, but I already sensed that there was a bit too much isolation and not enough community in many of our creative practices. Now of course, I think we need things like this more than ever, and it's nearly impossible to do it. The format that we ended up settling on for those sessions was very dependent on realtime listening and face-to-face discussions, and I can't imagine it being anywhere near as enriching or inspiring over an internet call. Perhaps there would be a perfect way of doing it online that I haven't thought of yet, but maybe we'll just start doing it in small groups outside once the weather warms up again.


Good Listener on August 29th, 2019

I don't know what the future holds, but I consider the Good Listener experiment to be a resounding success, and it's one of the things I'm the most proud of.


Is it me, or is it just sorta crazy how it's considered normal to think about "real life" as being, y'know, the crummiest part of life where we're just kinda trading away our time and energy for money (whatever money actually even is, idk)? And then everything we do that makes up who we truly are seems to get pushed into the dreamworld category...but instead it should totally be the other way 'round, shouldn't it? Real life being the part where we're creative and expressive and doing the things that make us our most valuable selves to ourselves and others. Probably need a societal paradigm shift there, I guess...


And yes so many yeses! Good Listener was and is still a real bright spot in the community! It's the first function I've been to like this for musicians, cuz musicians mostly get together for jams and whatnot, but this is a perfect vehicle for leaving the instruments at home and bridging communication gaps between the communities like you mentioned. For me the meetings have been a super-comfy way of asking questions and addressing things like different sorts of creative processes, struggles/shortcomings, and personal motivation sources. It's like having these kinda talks becomes its own personal motivation source, even! And finding that relatability between artists since, even with the diversity of music everyone's producing, we all have to go thru the same media channels to get it out there and find an audience...which is probably the toughest part, no?


Yeah, you're totally right! Seems like everything is kinda backwards rn, and money plays a huge part in it. You're not the first one to notice that money doesn't have a logically consistent definition. I would recommend taking a peek at this website I found recently:

moneytransparency.com. Also the book Debt: The First 5000 Years if u wanna go deep.

But yeah, I don't want all the world's creativity to have to be stuck between living on scraps or grinding the profit machine. Just seems wasteful to me. Maybe we should do something about it...


Yeah finding an audience online is super tough, it's something I'm really struggling with right now tbh.

I'm not naturally competitive or attention-seeking personally (not that you have to be, of course), but I do want people to enjoy the music I've made.

So sometimes I just decide "Fuck it, Imma grind the socials and make those numbers go up like a good boy." And it totally works for a bit. I get plenty of "engagement" on my "content".

But it doesn't actually change anything. It doesn't really feel worthwhile or real at all, even if the music gets 20% more listens than it otherwise would. And I start asking myself "Why am I doing this again? It takes so much time and makes me miserable, and all they're really doing is showing me ads and trying to get me to run ads of my own." So I drop off until the next time I have something to shill. It just feels kinda cold, y'know? I'd like to find some kind of interesting alternative, I'll let u know if I figure anything out.

They say consistency is key when dealing with social media. Same for flossing ur teeth. Maybe I'll just focus on getting that second one down for now.


Yes, I'll defo check those out! Thx for the tip! It sorta ties in with what you were saying earlier as well about how if everything worked like a good band does we'd all be better for it -- I think art & music are our most direct way to reach ppl, cuz it doesn't matter what language you speak or where you're from, you can still communicate thru sights & sounds, and not just thoughts either, on a real visceral level, so expression in a complete sense. It's like the most universal thing we have, and I guess that's what we're doing about it as artists, and that's why art is so important, and always has been, really. Art is the individual voice of human_people everywhere... pretty sure that's the case anyway, might have to google it.  


And yeah, what you're talking about here, and being all too familiar with that terribly unartistic spammy feeling is actually the motivation behind The Peanut Gallery, y'know? Gettin' up on a milk crate so the artists don't have to do it so much, or feel like they have to, at least. Facilitating connections in different ways (and stuff), plus I've always found it feels muuuuuch nicer promoting other ppl's art rather than my own. Speaking of which, I literally just watched the new Other Families vid for GRONE about 3 secs before jumping back into this interview and holy cow! What an outstanding piece of cinema! Everyone needs to watch this! And Paul, your unicycling skills are exceptional!

Haha thanks, I knew that skill would come in handy one day! Pretty pumped with how the video turned out actually. It was a lot of work for everyone involved, but especially for Jesse who masterminded the whole thing from beginning to end. Someone needs to give that guy a tv show deal or something... Making videos is good actually, it's something I want to give more attention to in general. I think it ties in to what you were saying about art being a more direct form of communication, there's just so much raw information that one can encode into a small unit of time with videos. And it's pretty easy for recording musicians because some of the skills transfer over, it's just using cameras instead of mics and light instead of sound. (Once you get the technical and gear stuff out of the way that is.)

So now I'm at the phase where I'm thinking about format/style more than anything. Of course we've done regular music videos, and there's a lot of cool stuff that can be done in that space. But I'm into lots of weird stuff on YT, and I've been trying my hand at a bunch of different "genres" of video.

I've done the straight-up performance vid where I just play music for the cameras, I've done process/tutorial videos where I explain and demonstrate something I've learned, and there's the obligatory awkward synth jams. I've also done the "Videosong" (see left) where you see all the instruments overdubbed and layered together, I've even done the visualizer with abstract motion graphics (see below) that relate to the music.

(BTW, these 2 contain unreleased music, and are exclusive to this interview!!!)

My approach is to take several attempts at each thing, just so I can get a feel for what I like and dislike about these different ways of working. Of course there are still plenty of things I haven't done yet but would like to try.

I think what I'm looking for in a style is a healthy balance between a large number of factors; including time and energy of production, informational/emotional conveyance, performativity, quality, consistency... but when I start thinking along these lines it can get a bit overwhelming because now we're plotting every video on the internet along a 5-dimensional grid. Meanwhile everyone who's actually had success has achieved it mostly through sheer trial and error. So idk, that's where my head's at right now, just gotta keep trying stuff out.


Sorry to bog the interview down with all these links, everyone has to promise to come straight back and not click on any recommended videos ok?


Yeah, the effort really shows in how well the video turned out. And hey, maybe SplendidTV will be a real-deal thing one day and we can have some kinda hard-nosed business meeting or something, all adult-like, y'know? I guess until then just a big hat's off to Jesse and you and the whole OF crew on this outstanding production!


Also, thanks so much for sharing all of this wonderfilled stuff (especially those exclusive bits)! It's amazing how you're experimenting with all these different ideas, so everything you put out there is fresh and new and full of discovery -- so happy to get the inside scoop on some of your processes & projects, and this here interview has been tonnes of fun, I think...hasn't it!? Will defo be keeping my ear to the ground for all the latest Plutoid news (and would suggest all our gracious readers do the same) because there has just been allsorts of goings on with that mighty little asteroid recently. Very excited about what the future holds for all of us herein and around Torontoville, Paul!


Yes!!! Thanks for taking the time to pick my brain, I hope this was interesting for everybody!

<3 <3 <3

Whoa, what a time! Okay! So that about does it for this round, human_friend! And since we don't plan on shutting up anytime soon, plz keep your eyes peeled here for future words from the human_artists of The Peanut Gallery!


❤,

$™