Karl Blau, Tin Angel, Philadelphia
photo by GAC
interview by Rachel LeBlanc
Last week, I interviewed a band (Kickball) who focus on community and prefers playing smaller shows, not sacrificing the close-knit feel of a house. My second subject is a musician who strives to build community as well, filling in many roles throughout the scene and drawing others together, pulling the smaller guys out of the woodwork. This week to continue the theme, I’ve interviewed K Records alum Karl Blau. Community-minded, Blau also looks out for the underdog, and talking to him you can tell his interest in what you have to say is genuine. As we met over tea, he chatted about the importance of the all-ages aspect of the music scene, creating music with what’s given to you, and Sunn 0))).
Rachel (KEXP): Are you inspired by a wide range of ideas?
Karl Blau: Musically I try to replicate everything I listen to, perform my own take on it. On this last tour I played with so many bands I love. There was this band Denver, or a band in New York, Hospitality, I’m influenced by them. Well, perhaps not influenced, but I love what they do. African music, Sun City Girls-they’re really out there. In regards to indie music, I don’t really listen to any. Except for the Death Cab for Cutie albums. I don’t what it is about that band. I love that band, they’re great songwriters.
Rachel: Do you use a lot of found sounds in your music -- sampling and the like?
Karl: If I’m recording and a siren is heard outside, I won’t get mad. Or if the neighbor kids are outside playing, I’ll ask them to come in and jam. Whoever comes by while I’m recording, I’ll try to incorporate them. I have this fantasy of doing an album with found sounds, where I head out to the woods and interact with the woods, record it all. Do something with it. It could sound really beautiful, capture all the sounds out there. I’ll also do field recordings where I take a microphone out to the edge of the woods and get the frog and swamp sounds.
Rachel: What is the deal with the shell collection?
Karl: My friend Nathan Walker works for Double Scoop Productions, out in Anacortes. He came up with the idea to get fans involved with the album. Until the end of March fans are submitting their drawings and artwork of shells. It’s cool, it’s going to be beautiful. We’ll see what happens with it. The album is a reissue of my CD I put out in 1997-98. It was a collection of four-track recordings, from my first tape releases. They were songs I recorded and put aside.
Rachel: You also have a new album coming out this year.
Karl: Yes. The AM record will be coming out March 17th. It is being released by Whistler Records. Then the K Records 7″ will be coming out, That’s How I Got to Memphis, I’m excited for that. Then the Shell Collection, the reissue. Also a new K album, Nature’s Got Away.
Rachel: What do you think is an important element to have in a music community?
Karl: Obviously, all-ages spaces. I try to play exclusively all-ages spaces; try to make it known to fans, to get a hold of me and I’ll make special arrangements. I’m really against ageism in shows, the idea that people can’t come out to some shows. It’s lame that we don’t have it together in this country to trust people to be in the same room as alcohol. I think Seattle has a really thriving scene, with Vera, there’s great house shows. It’s just a necessity, people need to vent and experience community. We don’t have many places where community exists in this commercial world we live in now. It goes beyond the music, it’s more like the people getting together than what is happening. And the connections made at shows. I’m excited for the future when we’ve gone through punk music and we know that nothing is going to offend us, exactly. Some kid is going to throw a rock through the window, we don’t have to close the space down. We fix the window, and move on. Let’s have a conversation about it, have a dialogue. It’s silly, people are looking for excuses to close a place down. It’s weird.
Rachel: You just moved back from New York. What do you think would help bridge the gap between the Northwest’s underground music scene and the East coast’s?
Karl: I think it’s being bridged right now, with all these artists coming through and playing these smaller places. I don’t know, it would be really cool if there was some national standard of the Vera Project. You could tour through every town and play these places. If it got to the point where only certain bands get the privilege to play these places, there’d be offshoots.
Now that Karl is back in this corner of the world, catch him at upcoming house shows and look out for his upcoming album releases. More information is available at his MySpace. He is also planning on continuing his Kelp! Lunacy monthly series of handmade CDs later this year.