This was originally published in AdHoc Issue 9. Order a copy of the issue here. Rachel Giannascoli painted the cover (pictured above).
Rachel Giannascoli’s paintings have graced the cover of Alex G’s various Bandcamp releases for a few years now. A photograph of her painting of a nude, winged figure accompanies an early record, entitled Paint. The photo, Alex admits, was taken furtively. It was only after he had posted the record online that Rachel, his sister, discovered it. Her artwork, like his music, is macabre and little obscure, all while remaining accessible and resonant. In anticipation of Alex G’s upcoming record, Beach Music, due out in October via Domino, we interviewed Alex and Rachel over the phone. The two talked at length about the creative process, Vincent Van Gogh, and the validation that comes from having someone respond to your work the same way you do.
AdHoc: Rachel, how long have you been doing artwork for Alex?
Rachel: Well, as long as he’s been putting it out there, he’s been kind of just using what is around and things that I’ll send him.
Alex: I would take pictures of stuff before I would ask Rachel’s permission—I would take a picture of her painting or something.
Rachel: I think I would see them on the Bandcamp, and I was happy to see it. I wouldn’t be aware of it.
AdHoc Issue 9 is here! Pick up a copy here for just $2 or purchase a subscription.
This issue features:
Emilie Friedlander interviewing Deafheaven's George Clarke about the band's move to L.A., Clarke's so-called "new Bermuda"
Michael Blair dissecting Gun Outfit's Dream All Over and the complex relationship between punk rock and country music
Miguel Gallego discussing inspiration and practice with Alex G and his sister, AdHoc cover artist Rachel Giannascoli
DeForrest Brown, Jr. in conversation with Kode9 about Nothing, labor, loss, and pushing forward through it all
The Tabs Out gang highlighting amazing recent cassettes, per usual
Thirty-ish one-sentence album reviews, written by AdHoc contributors
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Letter from the Editors:
“Influenced by” walks a thin line. It’s a tempting descriptor for music writers, can be helpful for would-be record buyers, and might serve as affirmation for the artist at hand. A quick, favorable comparison to White Light/White Heat is widely comprehensible (to a certain milieu, at least), and it lets everyone know a given rock n’ roll record hits the satisfying sonic spots, right? Of course, “influenced by” can hurt too. Writers can deploy it in an effort to paint a record as “unoriginal.” An overabundance of such references, meanwhile, might distract the reader. And while White Light/White Heat is great, what contemporary artist wants to hear for the umpteenth time that they sound like something from 1968?
In this issue of AdHoc, we look at the influence and inspiration behind some top-notch recent music. But rather than take the influence solely at sonic value—i.e., this record sounds like White Light/White Heat—we search for the deeper implications, personal and societal, that these inspirations indicate. L.A. punk band Gun Outfit is influenced by ‘70s outlaw country, sure enough; how do they approach these time-worn touchstones, though, to fashion a twenty-first-century object of community-building? Kode9 layers his compositions with dense techno-economic theoretical concepts; how does he use these ideas in concert with cold electronic music to access something ultimately deeply personal? In the issue we also speak to Deafheaven and Alex G about the formulations of their recent albums, both of whom cull ideas not just from the music they listen to but the visual arts as well, all as a means to explore human relationships in nuanced ways. “Influenced by,” for these artists, presents only the tip of the creative iceberg.
A good amount of people can put together a song that demonstrates their knowledge of cool shit, after all: a lyric that quotes Burroughs here, a beat that apes Neu! there, whatever, nothing more than a namecheck. This is the music for which “influenced by” is a dead end, a lazy device. When an artist finds new modes of expression, of dissent, of relating to the self and/or the world, within these shared cultural items, though, whether it’s William Burroughs or Limp Bizkit—that’s the good stuff.
AdHoc Issue 5 drops today, featuring art by Nate Young of Wolf Eyes and pieces on Lil Ugly Mane, Alex G, Björk's collaborators, the economics of cassette culture, Austin's hardcore and noise scenes, and Suicide's third album, A Way of Life. Purchase the issue or subscribe. Here is this month's letter from the editor.
Auteurship is a popular topic in these early months of 2015. Memes comparing the relative artistic merits and technical aptitudes of solo artists Beck and Beyoncé have flooded Facebook in the wake of the Grammy awards, and a recent Pitchfork interview lent Björk a forum to air her vexations regarding the media's portrayal of her agency in the songwriting and production processes of her music. That interview inspired us to run an article this month investigating what we can learn about Björk's signature style by analyzing the disparate panoply of her collaborators.
“Auteur” is a term that gets thrown around by the music press a lot today, often used to denote an artist who works alone and has a unique style. This is a misuse of the term, and ultimately one that does a disservice to the artists who truly deserve the tag. As Miguel Gallego points out in that piece about Björk's collaborators, “auteur” comes from the film world. Specifically, it was coined by the filmmakers of the French New Wave when they were still just critics writing for Cahiers du Cinema, and imported to America by film scholar and Village Voice writer, Andrew Sarris. In his formulation, auteurs were directors who could transcend the inherent chaos of making a film—a collaborative enterprise, with the script, camera, editing, and innumerable other tasks the responsibilities of discreet individuals—to give that film a distinct mark. In so many words, Alfred Hitchcock films feel like Hitchcock films; Martin Scorsese films feel like Scorsese films; David O. Russell films, on the other hand, have no distinct feel.
The fact of the matter is that the media dialog surrounding Björk is tonedeaf to the culture at large—be it her countless obsessive fans or the curators at the Museum of Modern Art—seem aware of: her status as auteur. Paradoxically, even though auteurism was introduced by cultural critics, auteurism is not a concept that the lay person needs a critic to decipher. Instead, the artist radiates that talent, projecting it to the world.