Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Townhouse Interviews: Dave Raymond of Hidden Hospitals

Hidden Hospitals is the current project of three former members of Damiera.  It's like Damiera's first cousin; a separate entity, but the DNA is all there. Where Damiera was the highly technical hardcore "math rock" fan that liked to have a good time, Hidden Hospitals is the more mature cousin that's had experiences, gained a little wisdom, and got some really cool tattoos along the way.  It carries the family name, but has its own identity. The project is streamlined and everything on their two EPs earns its place. Dave Raymond (vocals/guitar) visited the Townhouse for a chat about all things Hidden Hospitals. Enjoy!

Evan Jones So I usually start interviews with "well-mannered frivolity" (stole that quote from one of my friends).  But I want to do it differently for Hidden Hospitals, because I'm really intrigued by it. However, I do have to ask, what happened to math-rock?  Do you hold the same disdain for that term that I find so many other artists do?

Dave Raymond I've never understood the term.  I think I used to view “complex” as technical... I've always been drawn to fusion; those moments when the entire band becomes one instrument.  Hidden Hospitals’ songs are among the most complex I've ever written and a lot of that complexity is in subtracting things rather than adding.

EJ Addition by subtraction.  A powerful tool.  Anyway, when I read through the HH website to get an idea of what you guys are about, I felt like I was reading about an art project, not a band website.  And before anyone says, "hey dummy, music is art too...", I mean that I got the sense that you guys viewed this project as more than just as a band making music.  I will note also that it was refreshing to hear you write that an album is a story, not just a collection of songs.  Amen.  So I guess my first question is what story is Hidden Hospitals trying to tell?

DR Inspiration / Realization / Perspective.  I feel empowered by those who embrace life rather than brace themselves for it.  When I identify it in someone a void fills in me that I didn't know was there. It's like when you see someone slouching and it makes you sit up straight.  Quickly you see what you're doing (or not doing) and are made to adjust. Perspective is 99% of where I find inspiration. The other 1% are the stitches in the quilt - the bridges connecting all of the pieces.

EJ Because I'm curious to hear it in your words, what's the idea behind the name Hidden Hospitals?

DR Hidden Hospitals: “Places revealed to those seeking resuscitation, rejuvenation, decompression, atonement.” Unique to each, hidden to all. This could be your walk home from work, or that corner seat in a cafe where you read.  The space behind your workplace where you take smoke breaks, or the record you play to decompress.  Invisible, always present.

EJ Here's a cliche: the internet has changed everything.  That's probably more true for the creation and distribution of music than it is for anything else.  On-demand listening capabilities, one could argue, have made the creation of an album experience obsolete.  I've changed my listening habits from cherry-picking songs to listening to albums in their entirety.  I think you get the full intent of the music that way.  You obviously believe that, or you wouldn't have put the kind of consideration into this project that you did.  Do you notice whether or not there's been a trend toward, or away from the creation of an "album experience" since the internet has taken over music?  If it has gone away, maybe this project is an attempt to revive that?

DR I think it’s the sum of all parts.  Each piece being ambassador for your art, simultaneous to the full collection.  A full length album, whether best digested whole or in small servings, allows an artist space to explore and stretch.  Crafting proximity with experimental and familiar elements.  This isn’t to say that artists shouldn’t be economical about getting the point across, but people can get bored just as fast with a 3 minute song as they can with a 3 hour opus.  All in all, it doesn’t matter.  Make what you want, and say it how you’d like.  We can’t change the increasingly rapid rate at which media is delivered to people, but we can control the quality of it.  Set goals, set standards, use constraints. An album is one thing.  It gets to be one thing, so let it.  If people get through 3 songs, fine.  It just means there’s more to be discovered even if it never is.

EJ Let's talk a little bit about the creative process for HH.  As I said, reading through your website indicates that this is a deeply considered project (your website is super cool btdubs).  The songs certainly indicate that.  I would imagine that means you guys don't just write a song, hit the studio real quick, and call it a day.  How does a Hidden Hospitals idea manifest itself into a song?

DR I songwrite everything for Hidden Hospitals, and generally conduct from that role.  I don’t take an idea to the group until it’s clear enough to speak for itself, which in a lot of cases is when the song is entirely written and arranged.  The special thing about our group and what I believe to be foundational is that we found and fell into roles.  Each member carries their role out extremely well. In that, we know what is expected of us and what to depend on each other for.  This wasn’t planned, but has proved to be a stable and lasting chemistry.

EJ That's nice to hear.  A good band chemistry is something to be cherished.  I think it's pretty clear that you guys believe in music.  I'm sure you have your opinions about this question, then.  I always love to ask it.  How do you perceive the state of music these days?

DR It’s an exciting time to be in music because so much is in flux.  This is history in the making, and we’re happy to be a part of it.

EJ What's it been like carving out a career in music and trying to hold on to your artistic integrity all these years?  Damiera certainly wasn't mainstream music, and Hidden Hospitals maybe only puts it's pinky toenail on the however-mile long bridge that crosses the mainstream channel from the hinterlands of obscure and misfit music to the land of folly that is popmusicland (I tried to distance you guys as much as possible from being mainstream with that analogy).  I only say that because there's a little more traditional song structure in Hidden Hospitals than there was with Damiera.

DR I believe nothing is new; that anything you like is because it’s familiar, or is popular enough to invade your line of sight.  When something truly new enters this world, we don’t know what to do with it.  We need time to process, decipher, draw parallels and organize this new information in a meaningful way.  It then gets boxed in, categorized, used, reused and distributed.  It becomes a thing that we can communicate and converse clearly.  In its adoption, dies its uniqueness.  Hidden Hospitals isn’t completely new to this world.  We intentionally combine elements that are familiar and human from places that we’ve all been before.  Paying homage to classics, but in a modern format.  This, combined with some aesthetic clearspace give us room to breathe - to be us, and to speak.  I think most would find us quite the opposite of rock music’s archetype.

EJ What kind of place did Damiera come from and what were the intentions for it?  Were they different than what inspired Hidden Hospitals?

DR Damiera was born from angst.  The outlet for an energy that I hadn’t realized was building up. No excuses, no shortcuts, no safety net.  Hidden Hospitals travels a longer road, with more to reach for.

EJ Was there a fear when you guys started this project that you might not be able to distinguish it enough from Damiera, and that people might just see this as Damiera with a different name?  Maybe that's why you spent so much time developing the identity of Hidden Hospitals?

DR It’s actually the reverse.  By the time we had the band stable enough to proceed as Damiera, I realized how alienating it’d be to travel backwards just to move ahead.  Not just to us, but to anyone paying attention.  We chose to move forward as a new project from a clean canvas and haven’t looked back.  There will always be ingredients in my writing - parallels in musical fusion, hearing my guitar join together with Steve’s reminding you of something past.  We’re in a new place now.  It’s ours and are happy to be here.

EJ I think both the most hardcore of alt-rock purists and fans of more popular genres alike would find Hidden Hospitals' music very satisfying.  Was your intent to create more accessible music with this project, or is that just how it came out?

DR Accessible, no.  Our intent was to refine ourselves and stay challenged.  I’ve discovered that one infinitely leads to the other.

EJ Was part of the goal of this project to maybe bring a new audience to alternative music (I use that term loosely, of course), or are you just about making killer music?

DR Rock music in general - not particularly alternative.  We feel a gaping hole in rock music that has long since been filled with stereotype.

EJ Agreed.  So you guys are working really hard to provide the best live experience possible, correct? Care to talk a little bit about that?  Are you focusing on playing the songs flawlessly, brushing up on your dance moves (which I particularly love when watching old Damiera videos), saving up for fog machines?  All of the above?

DR I can confidently say that we've raised our own bar.  Everything we once knew is gone.

EJ That said, you can't help but notice that your EP's are sharp as something that's really sharp. They're really beautifully mixed.  It may be a silly question, but are you proud of how they turned out?  Was the vision realized in the recordings?

DR Proudly, yes.  I say this because the finished product is something that’s greater than just us.  Our producer J. Hall has a saying: “Together we can dream bigger.”  It’s an important step in an artist’s career to realize how true that is.  J. Hall took us on as a project when we had zero options.  He has since become integral to how Hidden Hospitals sounds on record, which in turn influences how we sound on stage.  In short, the “vision” was realized and further expanded.

EJ Awesome.  By the way, there's some wonderful photography on your instagram account.  Who took that?

DR Usually it’s my photography, but currently there is a grid of the album’s art.  The photo was produced and shot by Portland-based photographer Jaret Ferratusco (@corpseonpumpkin).

EJ Related to that, are you guys consciously trying to establish a clear aesthetic identity for Hidden Hospitals?

DR Yes.

EJ How's the full-length coming along?

DR Set to release March 24th.

EJ Does it pick up where the EP's left off?

DR Surface Tension might not be what you’d expect after our two EPs, but it makes evolutionary sense.  Regardless, it couldn’t have gone another way.

EJ Finally, what do you hope to get out of/provide listeners with through Hidden Hospitals?

DR There is always more. You just have to find a way to see it.

As mentioned, Hidden Hospitals' debut LP, Surface Tension, is set to release March 24th.  Be sure to get online and check it out.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Townhouse Asks William Wray: What Is art?


"Sorry but I hate that question."

William Wray is a painter/illustrator based in Los Angeles.  Wray has worked on numerous television and print projects, including The Ren & Stimpy Show and Mad magazine.  View Wray's work on his website and facebook page.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

One Fine Selection No. 28

Why not another 90's song?  This week's fine selection is "Frail & Bedazzled" from The Smashing Pumpkins' album Pisces Iscariot.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Glory Days of Music Videos

1996. A desert.  Four men walking in it.  One badass song playing, some color filters for the camera lens, and you've got a classic 90's music video.  I've been listening to "Burden In My Hand" quite a bit over the last couple of days, so I'm posting the music video here because it came from the glory days of music videos.  The days when absurdity was king and it didn't matter if it all made sense. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

One Fine Selection No. 27

This week's selection is "Punkgasm" from Don Caballero's 2008 album of the same name. "Punkgasm" is a perfect parody of rock music, and maybe even Don Cab playing a parody of Don Cab's music.  Whatever it is, it's pretty sweet.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Townhouse Asks Ward Schumaker: What Is Art?

The Carpathiansmixed media on paper, 22 x 30 inches.

"Me, I don't know what art is.  I do try to find out, almost every day.  But I don't know."

Ward Schumaker is a painter based in San Franciso.  His work can be found on his website, his blog, and his facebook page.