Gravity Wave – November 5th, 2009
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN FAZER MAGAZINE
by Aaron Binder
It can be tough out there. Finance, agriculture, and even music – it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, indeed it can be tough out there. And it IS tough for anyone that feels the need to succeed. To clock in and out everyday is the easy way out, and for most of us it becomes an inevitable reality; but some people strive to excel beyond the most grounded measures and create a lifestyle that they wish to control.
Ken Farrell, de facto leader of Gravity Wave, is one of those perpetual dreamers, embroiled in a life of art, drama and music. He is actively attempting to improve himself, his craft and his life as a whole by bringing his creation into the minds and ears of listeners across the globe. The project started out as a one day collaboration of musical minds; attempting to write, record and play a whole album live within the span of 24 hours. Some would call that crazy, others insanity; and they would probably be right, but somehow, through the pressure and tension, the project managed to produce. Mr. Farrell had proven himself as a competent band leader.
“I guess I kind of had to start out by proving that I was worth having other people playing with me and following my lead… I programmed a fantasy orchestra for myself on a Playstation, I had a videogame and I made my first record entirely on a videogame.”
This is the type of lateral thinking one comes to expect from Farrell; taking an idea and crafting it until he is satisfied with the results and ready to present the proverbial test results to the trial of human critique. His ultimate goal is to have an orchestra lambasting the population with his notes, passages and compositions. He has been inspired more by the era of classical jazz (Farrell describes it as Ellington with a Lawrence Welk twist) than by any current contemporaries. Quirky, considering the medium of his first composition, but music knows only the boundary of the player.
This speaks an interesting piece about the mind of this young composer, the classics have more merit, and he’d like to continue exploring that avenue. Even though Gravity Wave’s new record, Gambol, features the orchestra he desires, the synthesized version will never be a real, living, breathing, human machine.
“To find something new, obviously there are quite a few directions you can go… where you get that range of dynamics, you get that range of emotion out of a room full of players and you get that feeling of…that physical sensation of feeling the instruments play, not just hearing them play.”
This thought becomes a theme with Farrell, he loves music and he loves recording it, but the thump-thump-thump of a bass through the heart can only be experienced as it should in the presence of a live musician. There are few bands out there that are completely able to rivet an audience with a performance and translate it over to record; Farrell and Gravity Wave have a ways to go before executing this. But, if he continues on the current path, dreams could one day become reality.
It isn’t just strictly music that has an allure to Farrell and the rest of Gravity Wave. Gambol is an album devoted to men, women, sexuality and the future. Much of the album focuses on sexuality and how women are portrayed by men and media and how this is portrayed by Farrell. He has hope for women, in music, in politics and as the future leaders of the world.
Lofty expectations, but they come from someone that has similar aspirations for his career.
“The perfect response to this record would be “Gambol-ing” at the live shows.”
As much gusto, work and energy that has been put into the recorded product, Gravity Wave has and will always be a live band. Every member will tell you that no two shows are alike, and this has gained them a cult following. It doesn’t matter what type of question you ask Farrell, it almost always finds its way back to the live show.
With cd sales declining and new mediums of interaction (Rock Band, iTunes) becoming more prevalent, he may have struck upon a formula that works. Live shows are becoming ever larger productions for even small-time bands, and with many labels beginning to focus on this aspect of the business (especially Fuzzy-Logic, their home) if Gravity Wave is going to are going to rise above the rest of the crowd, that is exactly how they are hoping to do it.
It IS tough out there, but with the right amount of drive, determination and live-show gusto, Gravity Wave may just stand a chance at becoming the next must-see live band in a world of monotony.
Aaron: This is a pretty recent incarnation of Gravity Wave, you’re the one constant number but you tend to surround yourself with a plethora of talented individuals and professionals, how did the idea for Gravity Wave come about?
Ken: I want to one day have an orchestra. I want to bring that big band sound back to music. I think we miss something by not having those old…think of the 40’s, that era, where dance music was played live by these orchestras and they could really do some great dramatic stuff and I love drama in music. I guess I kind of had to start out by proving that I was worth having other people playing with me and following my lead, so I started…I programmed a fantasy orchestra for myself on a Playstation, I had a videogame and I made my first record entirely on a videogame, if for nothing else to show people that I could score an entire song myself and take care of every section to the point where it worked as a cohesive song and from there it’s snowballed.
The first member to join us was a 13 year-old hype boy, and then we’ve gone on to DJ’s and currently we’re bass, drums and DJ. This incarnation was not based around the DJ…
Aaron: It seems a lot of artists and musicians these days are interested in making big music, not just the style but the production style as well…
Ken: Yeah…I think we’ve heard enough of the indie or alternative where it is that low-cost of production and they just capture the essence of what’s going on now that it’s almost become the established note. To find something new, obviously there are quite a few directions you can go, but the one that is exciting to me is the Duke Ellington kind of style, where you get that range of dynamics, you get that range of emotion out of a room full of players and you get that feeling of…that physical sensation of feeling the instruments play, not just hearing them play.
Aaron: With the internet making a large impression in the late 90’s to mid 00’s on the minimalistic movement, anyone could record an album for pennies and sell thousands, do you think that’s experiencing a backlash and did it play into the reasoning for you wanting to go in the direction you are?
Ken: It didn’t go that far for me. I connect with that music, the orchestra music. I am too melodramatic, too dramatic if you ask some of my friends. I get a kick out of overplayed things. The orchestra we have on this record is great, but it was not performed live and we’ve never performed this live, so I want to keep working toward that.
As far as the internet and accessible music, I guess the only way that did affect me was that there is no money to be counted on from selling records. Anybody who wanted it could go out there and download it. What that meant for me was making sure the live show was something that people who had heard the records would come and see. Maybe that’s how we got hung with a label of performance artists, because I am trying to put a performance on for people that they’re not going to get elsewhere. It certainly doesn’t have an affect on sound, just how silly I want to be on stage.
Aaron: So it’s kind of like Horse the Band or GWAR where you can listen to the record, but you just don’t get the full experience.
Ken: Yeah! And it’s a tricky balance because…I’ll be honest with you, I don’t want to listen to a GWAR record, but if I see a video or get a chance to see them live, I’m gonna. If a video comes on, I watch it because it is spectacle and I like it. There are a lot of examples, and I don’t really want to name names, there’s no need for me to throw anyone under a bus, there are lots of shows that are more entertaining than musical.
Oh, what the hell, Monotonix take your lumps, you’re incredible performers, all of your songs sound the same; they sound the same as songs did in the 60’s, but you’re a hell of a performance group and I love you anyway. On top of it all, they’re inspiration to anybody that might one day think of being 40 and still a rock and roller.
Aaron: I think that’s more kudos than anything else. When you look at your new album, it seems to have a pretty eclectic selection of songs. When you were putting those arrangements together, were you trying to create that flow or was it just placed how it came out in your mind?
Ken: There is an intentional attempt to take you on a journey through those 13 songs. There’s a reason Fishhook goes in at track number and there’s a reason why it ends with High School Girls are Sluts. I’m sure anybody who sits down and listens to the record the whole way through will actually come up with their own interpretation of what actually is, that A to B and how to get there. For me, yeah, there are some songs on the record that I certainly wouldn’t expect to ever be a single or something people would say “I love that song” but they serve a function on the record….and maybe serve a function to me too. Writing some scores at different tempos and some different themes.
If we were just trying to make a non-stop top to bottom pop record, a party record, or using each of the 13 tracks to try to find that one that would become a massive hit, that would have been a totally different record. But I think it does loosely take people through a narrative.
Aaron: What is the narrative you’re trying to portray?
Ken: The record deals a lot with seduction, it deals a lot with sexuality and the approach to how I will perceive a woman. What my perception of what a woman should be is or what my perception of what a relationship with a woman should be or my perception of what women should expect of me. I’ve kind of given up hoping for men to do the heavy lifting as far as guiding the next change, or guiding us through the next 100 years or 200 years. I think we’ve reached a point where there is a disproportionate influence given to men and this where I’m kind of coming from.
Aaron: So basically you’re talking about your Match.com profile in musical terms?
Ken: Yeah…it’s something that I haven’t quite, perfectly vocalized. It’s something that I’ve left potentially vague for myself. It’ll become clearer to me in the future as I go back and think more about this. Women, in my mind, are the hope. I wanted to take all those ways that they’re portrayed in the conventional love-song or the conventional ‘up in the club’ kind of vibe, and give that a new vocabulary, give that a new narrative, something that encompassed what my vision of the modern man would say.
Aaron: It almost sounded like if Peaches were male…
Ken: I love Peaches, she is fantastic. Her ability to play with innuendo and play with sexuality to challenge people is unparalleled in my mind. I would like to think that what she’s able to do with sexuality; I am trying to do with the question of “What is man?”, that sort of thing. It’s a hard question to explore, because you can really go into any aspect of life and still have to be a man in that situation, I don’t have a choice in that. So it’s fun to explore and play with expectations.
Aaron: Speaking of expectations, your new album was released November 3rd, what do you think the optimal response will be from your listenership?
Ken: The perfect response to this record would be “Gambol-ing” at the live shows. If they connected with people who came to see the show that they could give themselves to the music that they could get that loss of self-conscious, loss of that eyes on themselves, self-judgemental thing. Just loosen up a little bit, free the physical, that would be the optimal response.
Aaron: Some final words…What is the main thing you want people to take away from the album and the live show?
Ken: It’s okay if the album and the live show sound different. The album sounds only like it could have sounded the day we recorded it and the result of the processes that we put into it. The live show…I don’t know what you take away from the live show, you’re never going to see another one like it; you’ll never see the same show again. Try to be cool with change is that summary thought.
Aaron: Thanks a lot Ken.