18 January 2010

Devan Boomen Interview

There are moments in an artist's trajectory when more future exists than past. More unknown than known and more to be won than lost. This interview finds the artist somewhere between inspiration and world recognition. Or perhaps somewhere between inspiration and no where at all. Hardly a grim account of the quest when the art is more hobby than career move.

But don't let this hobbyist deceive you into believing his well crafted songs are akin to model airplanes and bottle cap collections. Devan Boomen is a player. A grad student with a literary sensibility and an encyclopedic knowledge of music. He can thoughtfully record the hundred best albums of all time while carrying on a conversation about the problematic post colonial identity of Salman Rushdie. Amidst the demands of academia, Boomen nurtures an enviable underground indie music career.

For the first time, I discover my best university mate's vision of creating an organic sensibility, the terror of you listening to his music and the one record he's been telling me to listen to for years.

Do-it-yourself music production comes to you by way of necessity as an indie artist. I'm wondering if you can take us through your process?

I think that one of the joys and liberties of DIY production is that there isn't really a standard set of rules or guidelines that one has to follow in order to get something on tape. In working by myself I can pick and choose certain writing and recording methods that I feel will be beneficial for any given idea, and alter and manipulate them in order to let the idea turn into the song that I can hear in my head.

I like to experiment with sound alteration once all the basic tracks are recorded. Some of my most favorite tracks I've done have come out of this experimenting - it lets you discover little accidents that really give character to the initial idea. And that's half the fun.

You've been working diligently on your craft for most of your life and yet it's not hard to imagine artists like yourself being tagged an overnight success when they are met with some critical acclaim. So, how do you approach your future in music?

Shit. Good question. I mean I record music for my own personal enjoyment. It's definitely a hobby before it would ever become a career move. Do I want people to hear what I have to say? Of course I do. But it's never been a priority of mine - in terms of seeking acclaim or whatever.

There's this really good feeling when you're recording that happens when different melodies and instrumentation start to lock into one another. It's hard to explain, but it's just this moment when you think, 'I've got it'. It's so fulfilling and never fails to further concrete why I write music in my spare time.

I've discussed what we might call the democratization of music in previous interviews - the ways the internet has made a diverse range of independent music available to huge numbers of listeners. What has this democratization meant for your music career?

Well, I've never really been one to my music out there. I'm not a very shy person, but that's a totally different story when it comes to my music. What I write or record exists on such a personal level that I'm afraid no one would get it. And that would break my heart. I've kept most of my recordings to myself because, like I said, I do them for me before I do them for anyone else. In fact, this blog is the first time I've ever let my music transgress the boundaries of my close friends and it's utterly terrifying. It puts my work in the hands of critics whom I might not ever get to hear the opinions of and there's total discomfort in that. I guess you just have to try everything at least once ...


The scope of your mental music catalogue is bigger than anyone I know. Can you talk about your greatest musical influences and how they translate into your own music?

The influences that translate the most into my music are the ones that have a strong focus in DIY production. Artists on the Anticon label are definitely a good example of that as most of them - Why? Dosh, Odd Nosdam, Themselves, etc. - all record from their own homes. Listening to other musicians who employ similar methods to me is exciting because it reassures me that it can be done from home.

WIth that said, I'm really fascinated by songs on albums that don't really fit into the grand scheme of the work as a whole. I find that most artists will put little quirky pieces in the midst of their opus to catch a listener off guard. I try to emulate that idea with all of my songs - the whole album is full of quick thoughts that vary in tone from song to song.

How do you create an organic sensibility in music that relies so heavily on technology?

It's all about finding a balance between the organic and the electronic. And I think that it just comes with fooling around until you feel you have something that sounds good. All of my drums are synthesized and programmed, so I tend to incorporate organic percussion when I can to not only flesh out the sound, but to make drums sound more believable and spontaneous. I think vocals are a good way to do that too because the microphone picks up the sound of the room inevitably taking the song away from the hard drive.

What is one record everyone should hear?

Hymie's Basement - Hymie's Basement

Click HERE for Devan Boomen's 100 Best Albums

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