Haunting and airborne. The beatless sulphuric decay that washes the beautiful conceptual shores of Ireland’s southern coast lands in Cork this week and Ian Wilhelm steers the serenade into broken glass. His material has seen justified exposure and hopefully there’s a lot more work coming from this side of the world. His creative world incorporates a vast spectrum of self reflection and personal furtherance that drives all of us but perhaps some more than others. It doesn’t really come as any surprise the music coexists with photographic and collage compilations.
This weeks broadcast is a scorched response to crossing Soviet borders with fraudulent papers. It’d be a fitting visual collaboration.
Kn: A lot of people wouldn’t be familiar with your work – can you give us a brief history of time for us so we’re up to where we need to be?
W: I began releasing techno EPs under my Romart moniker around the end of 2009, but just before that happened a good friend of mine abroad had asked me to create a more ambient set of tracks to accompany a theatre piece she was involved in. It didn’t feel right to just stick everything under the one name regardless of genre so I came up with another and the Wilhelm project was born. Though I began working on new material as Wilhelm that year, it really didn’t surface properly (aside from the odd remix for other artists) until earlier this year with a cassette released on I Had An Accident Records in the US. I continued to produce and put out music as Romart but in the last 2 years or so the focus in studio has certainly shifted and many a long night has been spent working on albums or EPs that might not see light of day for some time yet! Romart will be put ever so slightly on the back burner while I delve fully into the sound art world for 2013.
Kn: Life in Cork. What’s it comprised of for you, where’s it all fit into your own space?
W: Cork is quite a small city, obviously, but in terms of alternative musical circles has really come alive in the last few years particularly. New DJs, producers and venues are surfacing and resurfacing all the time, which is exciting. Weather wise it can be a very grim place, which I’m sure has had it’s fair share of influence on the type of music a lot of producers here make. The sound of rain lashing against windows has been incorporated into many of my own pieces and dismal winter nights have been the setting for many a recording session here. It works for me, I’ve always been more interested in darker, experimental sounds. Generally when I’m not holed up in my studio at home, or taking photographs somewhere, I’m on my bike writing music in my head and trying to remember the ideas I’ve come up with for when I get back. Bicycle rides, whether alone or with my club, have been as much responsible for the direction of my music as bad weather has, and of course the two regularly come together!
Kn: The important stuff. The evolving vistas that double as an epilogue for the Trans-Siberian Railway. How does the project progress as you do as a person and what tactics do you employ to challenge your own perspective through this outlet?
W: “Evolving” is a perfect word for it as naturally I evolve as an artist every time I create something. I’d be doing something wrong if I didn’t, and it has to come across in the music or there isn’t much point, I think. As Wilhelm has matured as a project, I’ve begun to discover different ways of finding inspiration from other sources aside from music, which has been huge in terms of keeping momentum and not letting things go stale or suffering from complete inability to write anything worth recording. Photography has probably been the biggest outside influence for me. I never leave the house without a camera (I learned that lesson years ago!) and I collect old photographs. Browsing through those, or through photo collections online, can be massively inspirational when I need motivation or ideas to begin a project. Often I’ll go somewhere and take a set of pictures and immediately get ideas for sound to accompany them. I’ll go home and spend the night laying down an album worth of drafts or demos and often the actual photos themselves get forgotten and sent to hard drive limbo. Whether or not an album worth of drafts actually becomes an album worth of music is a different story entirely, though. I’m murderously incompetent when it comes to completing works. So I suppose there’s this constant streamlining of how I work, and what I work with, whether it be gear or ways to motivate myself and I’m forever looking for new ways to do just that.
Kn: The music refracts into various states of consciousness. What ideas have you been throwing around for integrating various media outlets to express the undertones of the compositions across a comprehensive spectrum, both realistically and theoretically?
W: Well, a lot of the music is accompanied by, or based on, photographs or collage work so the obvious next step would be moving pictures! I have experimented with video for music before, but not to the extent I would eventually like to be able to. The story, or lack of, behind a piece could really be brought to life by video, especially in a live setting, but I’ve so far found it difficult to dedicate that amount of time to the “secondary” element as opposed to spending that time making more music. Perhaps it’s something which I need to think about implementing from a collaborative standpoint. I’ve also given a lot of thought to installation work, and would like at some point to have the opportunity and time to dive into that. With my music, and largely with the music I listen to, I tend to lean toward pieces that take the listener somewhere over the course of their duration. I love the idea of a track evolving and becoming something quite different by the time it ends, without the listener really realizing where the change took place, or how. I’ve had labels reject music or ask for it to be altered because of pieces beginning and ending differently, or “sounding like 5 different tracks” over the course of 12 minutes or whatever. I can understand why, of course, but it’s not what I gravitate towards usually. To be able to fully compliment a long, evolving piece with the right listening space and the sensory assault of visual accompaniment is where I think eventually the Wilhelm project will need to go for me to see it as being a success!
W: Wilhelm actually began as a collaboration, so it’s a pretty natural part of it all. I have been writing music for theatre and performance art, mainly with the wonderfully talented Michelle R.O., a poet and artist from Puerto Rico. I am more attracted to working with non musicians when it comes to collaborating. The notable exceptions being when I work with my close friend Piers Caldwell (currently producing amazing work under the names “Mr. Squirrel” and “Bija”) on our as yet unnamed project which should be surfacing fully some time next year, and with Pennie Pannavalee, a singer and musician from LA who I’ll be recording with here in December. The collage pieces of Mary Herrera, an American artist whose work I fell in love with is something I’ve been lucky enough to combine sound with recently. She has provided the basis for a lot of my music in the second half of 2012 and we’ll hopefully be putting together some physical releases in the near future. Usually the artists I collaborate with are people whose work I admire before having met them and the fact that I’ve made some very good friends as a result of the process is an unexpected bonus.
Kn: You’ve got a menacing back catalogue and we’ve already touched on the concepts fueling future endevours. If we were catch up in Cork in 10 years what should we be talking about?
W: Hopefully my latest gallery installation, incorporating music, photography and film which has been received very well, thanks for asking! In truth, I’ll probably still be working on the first proper Wilhelm album, so we can talk about that and how great it is that all the kids are listening to vinyl again. =)
: Wilhelm on Soundcloud
: Piers Caldwell’s Soundcloud
: Michelle R.O.’s Youtube