After listening to ‘Spectra’, his album released two years ago on Elli Records, we managed to reach L.A. based Australian audio-visual artist Tom Hall. More recently Tom also made available a collection of ambient drone recordings made between 2015 and 2017 titled “The Day After You Die”, defined a brutal title but check the explanation of it in his Instagram space.
Chain D.L.K.: Hey Tom! How are you?
Tom Hall: I’m as well as can be expected given our current climate, all my family and friends are safe so for that I am thankful.
Chain D.L.K.: Before getting deeper into your productions, can you introduce to our readers?
Tom Hall: My name is Tom Hall, I’m an Australian audio-visual and I live in Los Angeles.
My practice is an ongoing exploration of peripheral space and time, inspired by environments and non-linearity found in the everyday. I use multiple approaches to reference these spaces through algorithms, sound, and imagery, developing live hybrid audio-visual environments, recordings and software.
Chain D.L.K.: The first time I saw your name was for a collaborative release on Lorenzo Senni’s imprint Presto!? with another smart (and well-known to lovers of experimental music) man from your country, Lawrence English. I guess that release dates back… 2008? 2009? How did you meet and collaborate Lawrence?
Tom Hall: Let me just talk about Lorenzo for a second.
Lorenzo is a really incredible guy and to this day hosted one of the most memorable portions of a tour I can remember, putting together a small northern Italy tour for myself and another Australian friend, Ian Rogers. Lorenzo was working so hard to host these shows, and during the day he’d drop us off at a coffee shop or with other friends to hangout and he’d go off to work an entire day in a cement factory, then come home and take us to shows to play. I’m so happy to see what he’s achieved, he really deserves the success he’s having.
Yes, that collaborative album Euphonia came out with Lawrence in 2008 on Lorenzo’s label. I met Lawrence through an introduction by an old friend from university, Scott Morrison. Scott knew I was moving to Brisbane (Australia) after university and suggested I connect with someone likeminded, especially because Lawrence is a Brisbane native so he had lots of tips for getting to know the city in general.
Lawrence was already very established in Brisbane as an artist, and he knew everyone, his generosity meant that he was always connecting you with other like-minded people, Lawrence was a formal and informal mentor for pretty much all my time in Brisbane (5+yrs), his teachings and advice still resonate with me today.
Chain D.L.K.: One year ago, our collaborator Stuart Bruce pushed a review on your awesome release Spectra. Any remarks on his words?
Tom Hall: I mean I’m always thankful for any interest in my work, but honestly I tend not to read into them too much if I did a would have given up making art & music a long time ago 😉 laughs
It’s a great review, thank you.
Chain D.L.K.: ‘Spectra’ was not your debut on Elli Records. One year before it, a digital EP title ‘Fervor’ was released. Any word about that?
Tom Hall: Yes, the Fervor EP was a kind of teaser so to speak.
Chain D.L.K.: You defined yourself as an audio-visual artist. Would you say the difference between an audiovisual artist and an audio artist or video artist only is just a bunch of technical knowledge or would you say there’s a different approach to each branch after the understanding or the awareness of the other complementary art?
Tom Hall: I mean a lot of people say “audio-visual” artist, or “A/V” set. I can’t speak for how they think of it or classify themselves. But for me, it’s a synergy, the few times I let go of the reigns and have had others do live visuals for me it was disappointing, not in the sense that I didn’t like what they made, but more than I wasn’t feeling the connection between the two mediums and subsequently less connection with the audience, consequently I didn’t like playing those sets so much.
But, I will say I have collaborated with two Mexican artists over the past 3-years, Aldo Cañedo and Mar Namihira from a group called Fragment and Forms, on an audio-visual performance that felt right. This was complete synergy but it was also designed from the ground up in collaboration with them, it wasn’t them just stepping in at the last moment to add some visuals.
For me, any sensory element delivered during a performance has to have a reason to be there, just filling the wall with light for the sake of it and projecting some completely random visuals doesn’t serve a purpose.
But of course this is just a personal choice.
Chain D.L.K.: Going back to Spectra analysis, its tracks were composed between 2015 and 2017. Did you remarkably change audio equipment in this time span or did you use more or less the same devices?
Tom Hall: I personally changed a lot, but equipment and tool very little. The process for Spectra was very hybrid, hardware mixed with a lot of DSP processing in Max MSP. I’m actually about to release the album that was meant to come out before Spectra, retroactively I guess, and this album was the pre-cursor for Spectra. It’s a collection of ambient drone works focussed purely on hardware composition.
Chain D.L.K.: A description of your art says that you use sounds “as a means to translate emotions, create hybrid environments and notions of journey”. Can you provide three examples of such a functional use of sounds that have been included in Spectra?
Tom Hall: There’s almost always an intention for my work to be played at full volume, causing a kind of sensory overload and intern depravation. I’d really like the audience or listener to be able to pull back from the “every day” while enjoying my album or live music, I imagine a dark meditative environment or state.
Some of the most powerful artist experiences of my life have been completely immersive, sonically, and visually. That was an audio/visual installation at the MCA in Sydney in 2003 by international artist Ugo Rondinone. The piece was titled A Place Where Nothing Happens, I was completely blown away by that piece and it’s been a huge inspiration sense, this is what I strive for.
Chain D.L.K.: I guess Los Angeles surrounding environment is full of sources for inspiration, isn’t it? Can you tell us how L.A. influence your art?
Tom Hall: LA is a hive of activity, especially in the last 5yrs. When I first got here (2011) there would be a few shows a month of weird, experimental stuff that I’d be interested in, but just before COVID-19 hit it was incredible, honestly you could go out every night to see experimental music, sometimes having to make choices between multiple events. I’m very much inspired by these creative surroundings, but also equally inspired by the environments near to Los Angeles such as the Santa Monica Mountains, the Pacific Ocean, and so on.
Chain D.L.K.: Electronic music is something that could be labelled as contemporary or modern, but do you feel there’s something atavistic into it?
Tom Hall: Most definitely, it’s still linked to music as a whole which dates back centuries, but if you break it down further Electronic Music is very much mathematical. I mean so much of it is being composed on systems that have sequencers, timelines, bars.beats.units, grids, etc although I don’t compose much on any of these, I still utilize mathematics and number sequences that are very old such as Pascal, Fibonacci/Phi, and various calculus methods.
So much of the mathematics linked to electronic music, perhaps not the producer themselves, but the developers of the software they use, go back to the 1500s and beyond.
Chain D.L.K.: I like the way by which you saturate sonic spheres by “vaporizing” sounds in tracks like Flow or Ebb… would you describe a track like a sequence of transitional states of matter?
Tom Hall: I’m quite fond of taking sounds and breaking them down, obviously distortion is probably the most obvious choice but actually distortion in some cases adds more to the sound rather than taking away. Another favorite technique is deliberately causing DC and Phase offsets and then running them through things like envelope followers, compressors, and limiters. My interest in this kind of harsher tones definitely stems from my teenage years of listening to metal but as I discovered experimental music I also admired how artists such as Lawrence, Ben Frost, and Tim Hecker used distortion and volume in a more ambient way.
It’s definitely transformative and fuels my love of decay, iteration, memory, and time.
Chain D.L.K.: Besides author of course, what’s the common element of all your releases?
Tom Hall: It would probably be a couple of things, distortion and granular synthesis, and on the software side would be MaxMSP, which is the singular tool that has been used on all my releases in some way or another, other software and hardware comes and goes.
Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?
Tom Hall: Yes, actually right now I’m releasing an album of material that was meant to come out as a pre-cursor to Spectra. However, it was delayed both by myself and the label, and consequently, it was too close to when Spectra was released so it was shelved. It then got lost on a failed HDD and recently I was able to retrieve it.
It will be out Friday Max 1st, it a new release of old material.
I’m also working on a new release of new material that should be out this year.