New talent: Austin Cesear on Californian landscapes and “getting comfortable” with his loops
By, Aug 21 2012
Austin Cesear’s Cruise Forever almost passed us by.
Released with relatively little fanfare on Public Information – the young label responsible for fascinating releases from the likes of Ekoplekz and F.C. Judd – earlier this month, you’d be forgiven for missing the fact that the LP is one of the most subtly intriguing propositions to grace record store shelves so far this year. Its heady mix of degraded, quietly unsettled ambience and hazy techno sketches could perhaps be compared to Actress, but Cesear’s sound is his own, and is impressively well-developed – particularly for a 21 year old’s debut. FACT caught up with the Bay Area-based producer via email to talk Californian landscapes, fancy nightclubs and “getting comfortable” with his loops.
“I wouldn’t really consider myself part of a community or scene… yet.”
Could you talk about your background – have you been making music for a while?
“I’ve been making music my whole life. I’m usually always working on at least one project. Not quite sure how I ended up here. But here I am.”
Given that you’re separated by thousands of miles, how did the link up with Public Information come about? Had you been following their output previously?
“Public Information just hit me up last year. I’d never heard of them before. They were interested in the Cruise Forever EP I put on my Soundcloud. It had some of the songs from the LP but they were really different. It was a real pleasure working with them; a couple of really nice guys. They’re very passionate and devoted to their vision for the label.”
Are you involved in a scene or community of like minds where you live, or is your music-making an isolated activity?
“I don’t really know many people around here that make similar music to me. But that’s probably because I spend most of my time at home listening/working on music. The Bay Area definitely has a strong love for all kinds of electronic music. I wouldn’t really consider myself part of a community or scene… yet.”
Do you feel like your music is influenced by the Bay Area, or do you mainly draw inspiration from other parts of the world – i.e. Europe?
“Cruise Forever was very much inspired by the Bay Area and Northern California. I wouldn’t say that all of my music is inspired by it though, and it’s not so much the people or music scene here, it’s more the landscapes and weather. I can’t say that I get the same inspiration from other places in the world, other than their music of course. I’ve never been out of North America.”
“I just turned 21 this year and went to this really big, fancy nightclub for the first time and hated it.”
The album sounds heavily influenced by Berlin techno and the like, but it doesn’t feel like it was made with the dancefloor in mind. Do you go out to clubs a lot, or is your experience of dance music purely through home listening?
“I mean I love dance music but I’m not really concerned if my tracks are going to work in tha club. I love to dance though. I just turned 21 this year and went to this really big, fancy nightclub for the first time and hated it. I’ll go to the smaller clubs occasionally if someone really great is DJing. But I go to house shows and performances at art galleries way more than clubs. They’re much cheaper.”
What would you say your specific reference points are when it comes to dance music? I hear mid-2000s minimal techno in ‘The Groove’, for example, and Basic Channel seem like a major touchstone…
“I love my Berlin and Detroit techno just as much as the next guy, but I listen to all types of genres too. A lot of experimental/drone/noise shit, dub and world stuff, and even just straight up indie rock. I can get down with pretty much anything. But yes, I do listen to mostly electronic music. I tend to find that the non-dance music I listen to influences me more than the dance music I listen to.”
The tracks on the album often feel sketch-like in terms of structure – which is not a bad thing – but I wondered if you construct your tracks on computers, tweaking parameters etc., or whether there’s a live element involved when you put them together?
“I work a lot on my laptop plus I got my synth, drum machine, effect pedals, cassette recorder. I usually use my laptop for samples and recording. A lot of the time I’ll run samples out of my laptop through the synth and effects to the cassette recorder. Then do the same thing reversed and record it onto my laptop. It really depends on what kind of song I’m making. I try to keep things as live as possible and not have everything sequenced and laid out. I’ll just jam something on loop until I get comfortable. If I’m not feeling it after a while then I just move on.”
How do you view the relationship between the more beat-focussed and beatless tracks on the album? Were you conscious of trying to achieve a balance between the two?
“Well these songs all tied in with the theme of the album I guess. Some have a beat, some don’t. I just thought they sounded best in that order.”
Finally, what are your plans beyond the album? Do you have other releases in the pipeline?
“Right now I’m working on a mix for the Made Like A Tree podcast series. I have a mixtape coming out on Public Information sometime soon, probably this year. Also just got my live set up and running, so I will hopefully be playing some shows soon. And my day job.”