Joshua Fried has become one of the most innovative artists around with his work covering experimental music, and live art, as well as remixing the work of They Might Be Giants and being a member, along with John Flansburgh, of Hello The Band. On his new album as Radio Wonderland, each track is made of 100% live radio grabbed during a live show. Tomatrax caught up with Mr Fried to talk about his latest work.
Where did the name Radio Wonderland come from?
It was always there, waiting. I took it as a temporary name because all the sounds come from live radio. Slowly I came to know that with all the frightening, funny, jagged-edged and putty-like transformations I was doing, it simply was RADIO WONDERLAND.
You’re just about to release your next album, what’s it like to have to finished?
What? I’m soooo wasted, did you say something?
This is the first album by RADIO WONDERLAND. The RW experience is essentially live and the material is different for every show–being made entirely from live radio bits grabbed during each show. So a recording is at best an approximation, or a close relation, to the real thing. It evokes the live show but it’s hardly a document. Even though it’s all taken from live concert recordings, each track is drastically distilled. The album is its own animal. Even without all the editing, as a recording, it must be.
The album is made up of live radio grabbed during a RADIO WONDERLAND show, where did you come up with this concept?
No, each track is made of live radio grabbed during a show. 6 vinyl tracks + 2 bonus tracks = 8 total–from 8 live shows. The title track ‘Seize the Means’ is broken into two parts to protect the innocent, so the vinyl has 7 actual tracks on it. I always knew the first album had to be strictly true to concept. RW must be 100% live radio by definition. This concept evolved over the years of working with radio, developing the shoes to control gates, applying those gates to radio, and doing show after show after show.
In live gigs I walk on with just the boombox; nothing’s pre-recorded–except of course for what might come up on the air, like a pop song or commercial which obviously was recorded before it aired. Once I plug the radio into my rig, I can grab whatever comes up during the performance. All the slicing, reshuffling, transposing etc. is in my own software, which I’m controlling from the Buick steering wheel, the Musical Shoes, various sliders, knobs, and two pedals.
Anything else isn’t RADIO WONDERLAND. The basic formula for Seize the Means‘ tracks is one 30-to-45 minute concert => one 4-to-9 minute album track.
You had over 200 hours worth of recorded material on this album, how did you narrow that down into one album?
Slowly. I listened to everything, picked the shows with the best grooves, and edited–keeping the remixing and fancy stuff to a minimum. The easy way out would have been to grab whatever tracks were pretty new and seemed OK, and doctor them up significantly. This way is better, truer. There are no “outside” overdubs–each track is made entirely from the sounds of that one particular show.
What make you pick ‘Seize the means’ as the title track?
It’s the longest, and has the least amount of editing. So it’s closest to the underlying live recording, which was made at the Figment Festival, a kind of 2-day Burning Man on Governor’s Island, NY. 13 minutes of throbbing radio bits, and that one word “Power,” over and over. “Nothing but pounding and POWER!” was how I thought of it. That fits the slogan of “Seize the Means”.
What inspired you to write a song about Miley Cyrus?
It doesn’t work like that. The name “Miley Cyrus” came up on the air and I used it. Later, on, someone told me that’s the name of a presidential candidate or a movie star or something.
You’ve done a lot of work remixing They Might Be Giants music, how did this collaboration come about?
We knew one another from the clubs like Pyramid, Darinka, and Danceteria and went to each other’s gigs. I did sound for them at Pyramid, CBGB and some out of town dates. Then Flansburgh just started asking me to come aboard on projects. It was me who scaled them up, adding all kinds of instruments and ideas, and on ‘Larger Than Life’, the reggae MCs Sensi and Miss Linda, who came up with the extra lyrics with me.
How does remixing other artists’ music compare to making your own?
Gives the ego a break. The remixes are another way to channel my sensibilities, and sometimes the personal stamp comes through that much more clearly when working from a template of solid songcraft.
If you could remix anyone else’s music, who would you choose?
Michael Jackson. I heard that on many songs there are literally dozens of overdubs that were tried and discarded, because they were synchronizing two 24-track machines together and could swap out entire reels. I want the whole archive if it’s still out there. Q hasn’t returned my calls.
How long did it take to do the video for the ‘Emergency Bot TV Theme’?
As long as there is imagination left in the world, that video will never be finished. We shot it over a couple of days, the GuitarBot demanding a 10-minute break every three hours. That’s a union joke. Editing took about a week. I’m glad you know about that piece.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
Sure, sometimes. It used to be that was all I listened to, except the occasional OPM = “Other People’s Music”–it was so rare I gave it a nickname. I was writing minimal, hypnotic stuff based on tape loops. But now, like a lot of artists and musicians, if I’m working on it, I listen to it, and afterwards I move on. In the future I want to go back to creating music that’s extremely minimal and have it on all day.
What other music do you listen to?
Frank Sinatra, Jeff Mills, Deep House, the new Avalanches album, Todd Terje, Glam rock, Gary’s Gang, Mahler songs, Fela, early American minimalism, the Bang On A Can crowd (Gordon, Lang, Wolfe, Ziporyn). Not in any order. You think I’m kidding about the Frank Sinatra but I’m not. If I can stand it I’ll break out the old Prince and Bowie but it can be too hard. Iggy’s still around and he Must. Never. Die.
What do you have planned once your upcoming album is released?
Play gigs. I’ll also be updating the RADIO WONDERLAND software. Make more recordings. Do electronic interviews. Rinse and repeat. Thank you!
Seize the means will be released 18 November on LP, USB stick and all major digital platforms. Check out Radio Wonderland’s website to find out more!