Over the last seven or so years, Garek Jon Druss has been a crucial member of Seattle’s underground-music scene, as well as being part of performance-art ensemble Saint Genet. He’s a rigorous sculptor of drones and also, with the groups A Story of Rats and Dull Knife, a composer of chthonic rock that embraces elements of goth and folk. On Saturday, April 25 at the acoustically dazzling Chapel Performance Space, Druss is launching New Expanse, a series that will explore, in his words, "Active Listening Without Limitation, A New Awareness." Ouroboros Press publisher William Kiesel and DL Salo will join him. In the interview after the jump, Druss discusses this ambitious series' goals and his own musical processes.
The Stranger: What's the goal of New Expanse? What do you think will set it apart from other live-music experiences?
Druss: I created the New Expanse showcase as a platform to facilitate the interactions and experiences that I felt were needed here in Seattle. I wanted to be apart of events both as an audience member and as a performer that are focused on a deeper interaction, one that allowed the artists the proper platform and the audience with the tools to share in what is being created. The New Expanse events will always have time set aside for the artists and audience to discuss what was experienced in hopes that both parties will be able to benefit from the feedback, discussion, and community.
From a curatorial standpoint, I am very interested in multidisciplinary interactions and how one gesture can inform the other. I am interested in events that are about informing and inspiring our community. After all these years I have become a little weary of one dimensional interactions and to have a scholar such as William Kiesel speaking and presenting at this event, in this specific venue, with live music. I hope to offer a scenario where all participants will learn something new or hear something differently. There are a lot of special treasures here and I would like to use these events to be a stage and a setting for exploratory dialog and creation.
Do you see this series as a corrective to typical live-music situations in which cellphones and crowd conversation detract from listening enjoyment?
Very much so. I would like these events to be a place where individuals come to focus, share, and push boundaries. Especially with the sonic arts, I feel like there is a lack of composure and willingness to interact with sound as a living entity. There is so much more that can happen outside of a traditional show, a club, or bar, where we all know what to expect and how to get what we want. There is a good place for that sort of thing, but right now I want to be apart of something different. There are a lot of distractions and false pretenses that drag us away from where we should be heading. This is my attempt to better myself as an artist and the community I interact with locally. This is why I chose to have this event at the Chapel; the work that Steve Peters and NonSequitur are doing with the Wayward Music Series, they are providing a framework for honest creation and events that enable an active and engaging exchange.
Can you describe the piece you'll be performing Saturday and how it relates to architecture and sculpture?
I will be performing a solo piece that utilizes two analog synthesizers, a digital sampler/ sequencer, and a downtuned vintage electric organ. The piece was created for the Chapel Performance Space and how that space holds and moves sound. I have always had a love for that space; it’s my favorite venue in Seattle—the tone of the room and the energy of the space when it is filled with certain sounds. There is that moment when the light is flooding in through the windows and this beautiful softness fills the space. The work I created for the event on the 25th is for that moment and several others that the architecture of The Chapel enables.
As far as the sculptural element of the work goes, I have been thinking a lot about my intention in the work I create and what draws me in and fills my cup. I think that one of these central interests in working with audio is the understanding of it as malleable physical-like object that can be manipulated. An individual can work with subtractive synthesis in the very same manner as a sculptor would with stone or any other material.
There's a lot of drone-based music in the world. How do you approach the form without sounding derivative? In other words, what are the decisions and considerations that go into creating a composition, if you can generalize about your processes?
Yes, there is a lot! Maybe too much, if we are all being honest with ourselves. My approach to creation, for both the live scenario and the recorded always begins with an awareness of my intention and my responsibility as a creator. What is my purpose for filling this space with these sounds, why does it need to happen and why should I be the one participating? I spend a lot of time thinking about how certain tones interact with architecture, the human body and what my responsibility is in that interaction. If I can answer these questions reasonably well, I have confidence in what I am offering and proceed to the best of my ability. I spend a lot of time mediating and exanimating possible concepts and what honesty lies within them. Because of this, pacing is an important part of my process. In my experience, when you move with total awareness of your intention, you will create and share what is worthwhile. I am very aware of the overabundance of the unnecessary, I have shared work and done releases that did not need to leave my head or my heart; that was my learning curve and I was lucky to have it happen in the public with a supportive community. But now I am looking forward and how I can better my environment with the work I produce.
Who else is on the April 25 bill? What other artists are scheduled to play future New Expanses?
I am honored to say that William Kiesel, director of Ouroboros Press, founding member of the Esoteric Book Conference and co-editor of CLAVIS Journal of Occult Arts, Letter and Experience, will be joining me for a presentation on the symbol systems in the Western esoteric tradition. His talk will cover several topics including Alchemical symbolism, Tarot, Doctrine of Signatures, Color Spectra, Hermetic Qabalah, Color Spectra, and Gematria. It’s going to be a diverse and wild evening with lecture, slides, literature, ambient music, discussion, and fun.
For the upcoming New Expanse events, that will be unfolding over the next couple of years, I have an inspiring list of artists that will be participating and several specific locations interested. At this time I keeping it under lock and key until all parties have been confirmed and have had their needs met. I can’t wait to share what is in store for us.