World Fiction CD and The Gathering DVD
visit Kit Watkins's
The Gathering DVD
AV: You've been a busy guy since last we spoke during your interview for Ambient Visions. What have you been up to since then besides the projects that we are going to talk about?
KW: The web site www.KitWatkins.com is an ongoing project, so that keeps me busy. These two new projects also have given me plenty to do -- especially "The Gathering" DVD.
AV: Your latest CD, World Fiction, was released not too long ago. What was the seed of inspiration for this CD and how did you go about beginning to do the work on it?
KW: Most of the pieces on "World Fiction" (all except the two Delirium tracks) were created with the thought of live performance in mind. They were live improvisations created in my performance setup, without computer sequencing or multi-tracking. I used looping devices to build them and later edited the pieces down to make them shorter (and pick and choose the most interesting parts). These pieces have a very different quality in comparison to my more composed work -- they're very immediate and spontaneous, and a little rough around the edges.
AV: You've been working on The Gathering DVD for quite some time. What have you been working on all this time and what is it that makes it a different animal than the CD format?
KW: My good friend Sally Heldrich taped the concert with a professional digital video (DV) camera. Initially, I had asked her to video tape the concert so I could have it for my own personal use -- to see how the concert looked, and how I might improve on it for future performances.
But, the footage looked so good that I decided to delve into video editing in order to release a DVD. This took some time to learn, and the editing and creative effects were a bit of a process too. I also relocated twice in the last four years, and wasn't able to stay with the project and complete it as quickly as I had initially hoped. What makes it different from the CD is obviously the visual component -- the viewer can see how I layered the sounds and built up the music, using various instruments, especially on the tracks that don't have pre- recorded backgrounds. The added visual effects enhance the concert footage as well, without being intrusive or overwhelming.
AV: From what I've read on your site you are the sole person who wrote, performed and produced World Fiction. Did you enjoy the work that went into creating World Fiction and does it seem like work at the time?
KW: I always enjoy creating music, and I don't really think of it as "work." That doesn't mean it's always easy, but I'm driven to create and usually that's a positive experience, even if I might toil over a project. But since this CD was mostly improvised, I didn't fret over it very much compared to some projects in the past.
AV: Did beginning work on World Fiction bring to mind echoes of your previous releases and how did this new CD build on what came before without becoming derivative of past compositions?
KW: Well, it's hard for me to be very objective about my own work. That said, this CD seems very different from "Flying Petals" and also from other previous releases. I try to use different methodology from project to project, to keep things changing.
AV: Tell me about what you found satisfying about creating the music of World Fiction and is this feeling the same for all the music that you create or does each one generate its own emotional response within you?
KW: Creating music for me is a search for mystery and magic, and I've become less interested in the technicalities as a result. And, even though I rely on technology to a large extent, I'm only interested in it as a means to an end. If I can get a feel and an emotion out of an instrument, then I'll pursue that much more than trying to analyze the programming behind it, for example. As far as the music is concerned, I'm also less interested in flash or pyrotechnical playing, than I am in creating something more compelling -- a mood, a curiosity, a question without an answer, a deeper contemplation. For me, "World Fiction" has some of those elements of mystery. It isn't the kind of music you can try to compose or write down on paper -- it's there in the moment, with a spontaneity and aliveness -- and hopefully some magic for the listener.
AV: Do you generally enjoy doing live performances and how hard is it for you to recreate your studio music in a live atmosphere like the Gathering?
KW: I do enjoy live performance, but it isn't a simple matter to just go out and play.... it takes a lot of preparation and it also takes having the right venue and atmosphere. For "The Gathering," I wanted to play some of my studio pieces as well as create new pieces on the spot.
The latter were my favorites because there was a lot more creativity involved right then and there. Having the looping machines makes solo performance a lot more interesting, since you can build up layers live. It's a lot of fun when it works well!
AV: What will those who have heard your music before recognize as "you" about World Fiction and what will they find on it that breaks new ground compared to your previous music?
KW: Probably the most recognizable "me" in the new CD is the sound of the electronic wind instrument. I've developed my own patches and methods of playing it, and that seems to be a bit of a trademark sound now. I don't know that I'm breaking new ground as much as I'm just continuing to change and explore. Maybe the fact that the album has a spontaneous feel -- that's what's fresh about this one.
AV: When you have a backlog of music to choose from for performance how did you choose what you were going to be playing at the Gathering?
KW: That concert was part of the Gathering concert series, hosted by Chuck van Zyl of Star's End Ambient Radio. Because of his radio show, and his particular audience, as well as the beautiful venue (St. Mary's Church), I tended to concentrate on my slower and spacier pieces from the past, and then I created quite a few new pieces which I felt would work well in that environment and for that audience.
AV: How do you feel when it comes time to send your music out into the world to stand on its own merits?
KW: Fortunate! But, I've been doing this for some time now, so I'm more realistic about it. When I was young, I might have said "this one's really gonna make it big." I don't have those kinds of fairy tale expectations now. That's a good thing, because I truly believe that if my music became a big commercial success, I'd have compromised it in some way -- you know, the "you're only as good as your last hit" mentality. Glad I haven't had a hit so I don't have to live up to that kind of pressure, which in my view is contemptuous of artistry. Instead, I can do what I please since my livelihood doesn't depend on being popular or repeating myself.
AV: You've been working on this DVD project for quite a few years. How do you know when the editing is done and that you have the final cut of a project like this?
KW: When I start screaming and throwing things. Not really. But, I will admit that it was a tedious process at times. Still, I'm not one to give up on a project, so I kept at it -- and, interestingly, ideas seemed to come together in serendipitous ways just when I needed them. That was very encouraging.
AV: Being intimately familiar with World Fiction what would you like for your listeners take away from this CD after they have played it a few times? Or upon repeated listenings over a period of years?
KW: I hope listeners will be drawn into the music and become friends with it. It has an earthy quality, I think -- primal rhythms that engage an instinctual, gut-level response. Hopefully the familiarity with the pieces over a longer period of time will create a deeper connection as well.
AV: When will this release be available and how can AV's readers get a copy of their own?
KW: Both CD and DVD are available now. Thanks, Michael, for giving me the space to talk about these projects. Keep up the great work with Ambient Visions.