Last seen scanning darkly on Ty Segall's GOD? imprint on Drag City with Dark Radar; Madison, Wisconsin's self-made one man force to be reckoned with, Trin Tran, has signaled the forthcoming of his EP Far Reaches. Coming mid February from Castle Face Records, the singular army of one gets a recording assist from Numbers' Eric Landmark, along with fellow Madison regular Ricky Reimer of Transformer Lootbag, and Deerhoof's John Dietrich overseeing the mastering and mixing details. The result as you are about to hear on the premiere of the EP opener's chanson du couture, “Fashion Has Happened To Fashion”, takes to the cat walk with a rich display of art imitating history, imitating life, imitating influence, imitating art.
Trin Tran brings all the weirdness and inventive madness to Madison, WI on the audio evolutions, devolutions, and reconstitutions on “Fashion”. As the song begins with the slow fade-in, the keyboard center slithers in with a serpentine trail as a background electro hum is the binding glue that holds together the sparse guitar strums down on the right channel. With morse code beeps, and over the top delivery of the title as the principle lyrics; the fact that Trin Tran recorded this in the Midwest quickly dissipates from mind, thought and view as an exotic art damaged stage is set. For the uninitiated, this could have come from an old East Berlin basement studio from the days spent behind the Iron Curtain, or an esoteric New York City by London recording project revered by the crowd that guards their Tronics records with a protective zeal. With the Castle Face imprint on a winning streak roll, “Fashion Has Happened To Fashion” is this one of the best fashionable things to happen to Trin Tran's ever-expanding vision.
Trin Tran took the time earlier to talk the pros and cons of playing in bands versus solo, cosmic time dimples, his creative and collaborative pals, the way fashion can push art into a living medium, and more topics of interest.
Thanks for taking the time to chat, Trin Tran. We're juiced on Far Reaches. As such a notorious singular force from Madison, Wiscon, I was curious on how you felt working in pseudo collaborative environments with so many folks who are involved in their own acts of notoriety?
Yeah there are those who think I’m against bands or just an asshole that can’t get along with people because I have done this solo for so long, and there’s probably some truth to that. There are advantages to both. The solo argument is you can do whatever the fuck you want and not argue with bandmates, and there is also the instantaneous change-up improvisational angle when you are playing live that you can’t pull off with three other dudes unless you are mind-readers. But then there are times after recording something that you wish someone would have spoken up to say, 'that part sucks, change it', but it stays instead of hitting the cutting room floor…
Like, how did recording with Numbers' Eric Landmark impact the sound of Far Reaches? I once got caught in a slam dancing pit at a Numbers show at Bottom of the Hill years and years ago, and split the palm of left hand right open as it landing on a broken beer glass.
Landmark is an old friend of mine, and I played in the band Xerobot with him in the pre-Numbers days. He lives in LA but he agreed to come record me in his grandpa’s cabin in Wisconsin. He made some good suggestions for ways to record stuff, brought this old Fender Super Reverb to record vocals with, which I thought sounded pretty good. We’re old pals, so it is always fun to hang out with him no matter what we are doing.
What was the creative impact of working with Transformer Lootbag's Ricky Reimer? Haven't you both known each other for a while? How was it working with Deerhoof's John Dieterich?
Those guys are just super great people. Ricky has a studio in his basement and recorded me on a reel-to-reel Teac 80-8, and just has a shitload of old analog equipment lying around. I’ve actually known Dieterich much longer, since I played in a band with his brother when I first moved up to Wisconsin. I think he was like 15 years old at the time, and I have this memory of him sitting in his bedroom at his mom and dad’s house and playing the shit out of some beat up guitar. He was really good even then. But John affected the most change on these songs of anybody, helping them a lot during mixing – he put a ton of time in on them gratis and they are much better for it.
I love how “Fashion Has Happened to Fashion” begins the EP, it really sets the tone in this fractured Euro, maybe No New York era, post-whatever, anti-conventional air that makes it feel that anything can happen. Was there any fashionable movements or observation on the subject of fashion that brought this song to life, and how relevant is fashion to you in your world?
Basically that song is about a good friend of mine coming back to town and me having a beer with him, and him deriding me for not being fashionable enough, which made me want to punch him in the face.
Though maybe I am not being so honest here….it’s not like I’m rocking some fresh white Adidas and track suits to the show, although now that I say that it seems like a good idea….I guess I’ve always appreciated looking at people who care about it. If fashion is meant to push art into a living medium then I’m all for it.
Thoughts or insights on your abstract, and deconstructed synth pop surveys?
The definitive TT sound is one where you are lulled into sleep by the gentle motion of the waves and then suddenly terrified that unseen beasts of the deep will open up under you and devour your legs
Even the guitars get almost a second, or back seat to the cool keyboards you have involved here. But more importantly, it seems like you build your songs to defy whatever expectations your audience might have. Some might expect some of the darker themes often associated with some of the industrial, mechanical and electrical componenets you dabble in, but a fun 'gotcha' experience feels like is being imparted on the listener. Is this intentional, or just a byproduct of your process?
I used to use a lot more industrial sounding stuff including an old mimeograph machine for drums, small engines, broken, out of tune keyboards etc and run everything through an old DuKane disaster alarm horn. I still use all old stuff but these songs are more conventional, though I am always interested in experimenting with song structure. I opened for Lightning Bolt once and after my set Chippendale came up to me and said something like “You start off as a noise band but then you go into something that almost sounds like a….pop song??” and gave me an accusatory look. I laughed and think maybe he thought I couldn’t be trusted. But I like the fact that people are surprised, even though I am just writing stuff the way I want to hear it.
One of the marks of a great artist in my mind is the ability to create complete all new worlds through the vision of sound, which you succeed at in a six song run. You even close it off right with “Your World”, and that great intro of “your world is not my world”. What is the importance and perhaps creative significance of creating these kinds of bubbles or biospheres for your own art to live, exist, and be understood within? It's pretty groovy.
My favorite track on this record is “Your World”. It’s essentially about cosmic time dimples, our holographic existence, also our not existing, and how maybe our universe is simply a drop of liquid in a tiny animal’s piss stream.
What developmental advancements or approaches have shifted with your process since Dark Radar?
The Far Reaches EP is a much different record than Dark Radar, and the stuff I am recording now is different still from the Far Reaches EP. Lately I’ve even been playing TT songs with a full band, and want to record that stuff soon. These guys I’m playing with don’t think I’m an asshole yet, but it’s only been a few shows so we’ll give it some time…
Trin Tran's Far Reaches EP will be available February 25 from Castle Face Records.