Q: Can you talk about your background and how you got started in music? Was there a artist that particularly inspired you? Or some catalyst in music?
PAGINATION: I had played bass and guitar in rock and punk bands for years in Ohio before moving to Arkansas two years ago and starting Pagination as a solo project. The catalyst for Pagination actually occurred in the late 1990’s, when I was traveling to areas around Ohio to see shows. One such trip took me to Bloomington, Indiana to see the bands Dianogah and Ativin. Dan from Ativin (and more recently, Early Day Miners) played the album “The Ballasted Orchestra” by Stars of the Lid for me and it was ephiphanic. I tracked down everything by them and also explored the entire Kranky Records catalog, then branched out into the larger worlds of ambient, neoclassical, experimental, and drone music. The origins of Pagination and my other project, Home Learning, are there.
Q: Who are some of your electronic music heroes?
PAGINATION: It’s hard to tell anymore what counts as specifically “electronic” music, but I’ll give it a shot. Some of my current favorites are Screener, Jogging House, Grouper, r beny, Loscil, KMRU, Ian Hawgood, Jon Hassell, Floating Points, Daniel Avery, Mind over MIDI, Celer, The Green Kingdom, Paperbark, Four Tet, Clariloops, Emeralds, Laurel Halo, Actress, Xiu Xiu, The Future Sound of London, Tycho, Roel Funcken, Machinefabriek, Kid Koala’s “Music to Draw To” albums, and dozens of others whose names will all occur to me seconds after it’s too late for me to add to this answer.
Q: Your single “Why” turns electronic music on its head. Can you talk about your inspiration behind it? What was the entire creative process like putting the track together?
PAGINATION: The phrase “For Why” was shorthand for “What’s the point?” that my wife and I began using during the COVID-19 pandemic…there seemed to be so many senseless things happening in the world…or rather the senseless things seemed even more plentiful than usual, particularly in America. The phrase also had another meaning for me…a dedication, or a gift. Music has been both those things for my friends and I in many ways throughout my life. The song itself was constructed of layers of improvised chords and arpeggios I played on a synthesizer, some of them then looped, and also processed through effects pedals. I don’t always keep the most thorough notes but I can tell you that the pedals I used included a Red Panda Tensor and a Context, and the Chase Bliss Audio Blooper. I tend to build tracks up layer by layer, then carve away once I’m at the mixing stage. I record all of the instruments and effects on an outboard recording device (sometimes tape, but mostly digital) and don’t transfer it to a computer until I’m ready to mix. Mixing is the most challenging part of the process, in no small part because I’m spending yet more hours staring at a screen.
Q: Who are your biggest influences in terms of songwriting?
PAGINATION: By far my most important influence is Edmund Osterman, my partner in Home Learning. Even if we aren’t working on a Home Learning track (which is often), we are constantly communicating about music, gear, and techniques. We have also written scripts together, so we’ll sometimes approach songs and albums with thoughts on narrative structure, despite the fact that there are no lyrics. Every Pagination release has been affected by our collaboration, even though he’s not playing on the tracks themselves.
Lately I’ve also had the privilege of getting to know two sound artists who live near me in Northwest Arkansas, Craig Colorusso and Ehule. I’ve been inspired by both their work and our conversations, and I look forward to learning more from them and seeing/hearing what they come up with next.
Q: What’s on your playlists?
PAGINATION: I’ve been working my way through the most recent ten(!) Guided By Voices albums, going back to 2017. They’re a touchstone band for me but I had drifted away from them for a while. I’m extremely impressed by what they’ve been putting out with the current lineup. Every album is strong, and they hold up even to the “sacred” classics. The new Dinosaur Jr. and Lou Barlow releases are also amazing. The Floating Points/Pharoah Sanders collaboration is beautiful. The new Teenage Fanclub album is on my turntable right now. And there are so many amazing smaller labels out there putting out fantastic instrumental music, but I have to mention Seil Records. Anything they put out is worth checking out if you like what I’m doing.
Q: What’s next for you creatively?
PAGINATION: As Pagination I just released the first volume in a series of recordings I’m calling “indicia,” available on my Bandcamp page and on most streaming platforms. More volumes are forthcoming. Home Learning just released the album “someday, Wyoming” on the French label Mare Nostrum, and we are working on a follow up album and also an EP. I just finished a sound piece to accompany a mixed media project by the artist Billy Simms, which will be installed in June at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park in Hamilton, OH. And I’m also working on some other collaborations that I can’t say too much about yet. No time to waste.
Interviewed by Brittney Williams