Colin Holter interviews Zachary Crockett.
I think the unique position of artists in human society is that we get to work more explicitly with meaning than anyone else does, so I feel like there’s a really deep moral imperative to pick the right meanings. Artists present something that they hope will shape the world, and it goes both ways—but in either case you can pick out those things that line up with your values and that you want to see more of in the world to present. Things that on the surface are really detestable and gross and horrifying and sick can actually teach us a great deal about ourselves, they can show ways in which we are vulnerable; our vulnerabilities are beautiful places. So there is a certain type of art that I think it’s important to create: It doesn’t have to be didactic, it doesn’t have to be pretty, but there has to be some very large, deep sense that I’m presenting something that’s important for people to see, to hear, to imagine, to react to. We make meaning, and the right thing to do is to choose meanings in accordance with your values.
This is something that my wife and I share, one of the ways we revel in each other’s company: We work really hard and we make our music, we make our money, we pay our bills, and then every now and again—usually at least once a year we have to do it in a big way, and then in small ways all the time—we both rock-climb. We started at Vanderbilt; we rock-climbed near Baltimore, there’s a place called Seneca that’s in West Virginia not far from Baltimore; there’s a place in Texas called Hueco Tanks, we’ve been there three times. The main reason for going on the trip that we just took was to go to Joshua Tree in Southern California; the skin on my hands is slowly recovering from that. That was a blast. That was a very different kind of rock. Every place you go, the rock feels different. Every time you go to a new place as a rock climber, your first day out, you can’t climb anything. As you stay there a few days, your body begins to sort of understand how the rock works, and Joshua Tree was definitely a reminder of that principle.
Twenty-four hour concert. The way this works is, you talk to people beforehand and get a group of composers and a group of performers, people willing to play something—they don’t know what yet. The composers show up in the house at 8pm, and we have the instruments that the performers play in a hat. The composers pull out a couple of instruments. At 8:15 you say, “I’m writing for bassoon and voice, or electronics and harp,” or whatever performers said they were willing to play whatever went into the hat. You then have twelve hours, from 8pm to 8am, to write a piece for that ensemble. At 8am, after all kinds of raucous shenanigans, we gather. You’re not allowed to fall asleep; if you fall asleep, we shave your head. You’re not allowed to leave the house until your piece is done. If 8am arrives and you’re not done, we take the paper out of your hand, and it will be performed as-is, period. Then we go to Kinko’s and make some copies—we’re all completely groggy and knocked-out at this point—but we prepare the scores for the performers, put them in envelopes on our porch with the performers’ names, leave phone messages saying “music’s here, you have twelve hours to learn the piece and play it,” and at 8pm the following night there’s a concert and a party.
On San Francisco:
When we moved there, towing a U-Haul trailer behind our little Geo Prizm, and we came up over the peak of the bay bridge driving in and there’s the city, I felt something. And by the time I moved away, I knew what to call that feeling that I had driving into San Francisco for the first time: That’s the feeling of home.
On Techno Sine NoMine:
I don’t want to say explicitly, but there is a long, languid, undulating layer that spans the whole piece that’s a snippet from one of my favorite popular artists, very heavily processed. In addition to that, there’s a layer of stochastic, ticky percussion—that was a Pd patch; I had a few percussion sounds and randomly chose between them.