Scott Gilmore’s latest release, Two Roomed Motel, has the magnetic tonality of Eno or Yellow Magic Orchestra crafted with the lovable quirk and offbeat personality of home-recording messiahs like R. Stevie Moore or Ariel Pink.
Two Roomed Motel is your latest release and first on the Belgian label Crammed Discs. How does the records title accompany the tone of the record?
I wasn’t thinking of the tone of the music in relation to the title. My ideas about the music pertained to its composition and production. I don’t feel as though I can accurately say what the tone of the record is. The title is an acknowledgement of a specific feeling of sterility that colors the neighborhood I live in. I think this feeling is very common to most suburbs. They are always eerily empty. The forms of living are present here, houses, cars, occasionally a person, but feelings of vitality are ever absent. To feel alive in the suburbs is to feel at odds with them. To me there is a similar feeling that exists in motels. In a motel you're granted an intimate experience with a room that is utterly sterile. It appears to offer the comforts of home, but remains eternally uninhabitable. To fully inhabit the room as it exists, you must become as dull as the paintings on the walls - the room acts as an audience to the experiences within it.
You're based in the San Fernando Valley on the edges of Los Angeles. Your music has always felt like it exists on the fringes or outer rim of other genres whether that's pop, experimental, or ambient. How is your physical relation to a city with the magnitude of Los Angeles reflected in your work?
There are so many people making music in LA. I have a lot of friends who make music completely different than my own. It doesn’t feel like there is a scene, just tons of people scattered about the city working on art. I enjoy this disconnected feeling. It makes it feel like there isn’t any single overarching paradigm. Because I live so far out in the Valley, I’m constantly reminded of how vast LA really is. It takes a lot of effort for me to drive into the city, so many nights I end up staying home and recording. I think my physical distance from most other musicians adds to this disconnected feeling I experience. I’ve come to appreciate how being out in the Valley creates a sense of mental space to exist around my creative pursuits.
Your records have always featured a wide mix of synthesizers, drum machines, and non-traditional instruments. Did you approach the new record differently as far as recording equipment and instrumentation goes?
On my previous albums I recorded eight tracks onto tape and would then transfer those onto the computer where I would continue layering. On Two Roomed Motel, I recorded everything into the computer. Working this way from the beginning opened up a lot of possibilities. I got into writing melodies in the computer and then sending the midi messages out to external synthesizers. This process allowed me to get really detailed with sequencing modular synths, which opened up a whole new realm of exploration for me.
When some artists are working on a record, it helps to isolate themselves from outside influences and social media distractions. What’s your ideal scenario for recording an album?
I don't set aside time to work on an album, I'm always recording. Having my studio at home makes it very integrated into my daily life. There is never a question of whether I'm inspired or not. It’s just about maintaining the habit of recording every day. For reasons of productivity, I definitely find that distance from social media is helpful. I consciously don't engage with it too often. It disturbs me when I am suddenly, without making a conscious decision, staring at some social media app on my phone. I think repetitive use of social media makes us all forget how to sit and do nothing. Boredom is a very good motivator for an artist. The use of social media for purposes of entertainment lulls a person into a thoughtless state in which they only seek a distraction from boredom - in effect, extinguishing a moment, which would have potentially led to the idea for a new song. To scroll away at a stream of completely unrelated images is a very thoughtless act. It seems like this type of behavior and thinking is the antithesis of art making; which in a way is the practice of making a series of intentional decisions.
How are your influences or creative fuels consumed and digested while you’re working on new material?
While making this album I wasn't listening to much music at all. I could only listen to one or two songs before I would feel overwhelmed by ideas and I would have to go back to the studio and record. I didn't listen to much except for the classical radio station. Classical music was easier at the time to digest because I would mostly hear the melodies and the harmonic structures. When I would listen to something produced in a studio, there was so much for me to analyze in regard to production that it was very overwhelming for me. Since I wasn’t listening to much when I recorded Two Roomed Motel I was also using faulty memories of songs to help me come up with original ideas. I would be riffing off of an idea of some song I used to listen to all the time, but since it had been so long since I actually listened to it, I would be referencing an incorrect memory. In effect I was referencing something that actually didn’t exist. This process was helpful in coming up with some interesting ideas. I don't like it when my music sounds too familiar. I enjoy feeling as though I am exploring and discovering something new. For that reason, it’s helpful for me to not have an endless encyclopedia of music in my mind. If I did, there would be too many walls around me when I am creating. I enjoy at least believing in the fallacy that I am making something new.
Do you go off-the-grid or rather immerse yourself in the sounds and environments your art is born from?
The environment that my music is born from is the studio and all the instruments and machines inside. I don't go into my surroundings for inspiration. I am actually disturbed by the neighborhood I live in. The suburbs are an absurd, lifeless place. In a way my studio is somewhat off the grid, in the sense that it feels as though it exists apart from the environment outside. But, I am definitely not isolating myself. I am regularly collaborating with several musicians and have just finished an album with Eddie Ruscha V (aka, Secret Circuit). I have many ongoing musical collaborations, all of which sound very different from each other.
As an artist who experiments visually and sonically for each recording, do you feel pressure to think obscurely about how music is created?
No, I don't feel pressure to think obscurely about music. Often the quality in music that attracts me is something that is unexpected. I am not attempting to be obscure. I am trying to write music that is engaging and enjoyable to listen to.
Has being associated with experimental music had any impact on how you create and release your art?
I’m glad to be associated with experimental music. I have no desire to make one type of sound, or to make something that is easily classified. It allows me a sense of creative freedom when I’m recording and working on new material. If you’re labeled an experimental artist there is essentially nothing that exists externally to tell you when you can't do something. The only barriers that you have to confront are internal.
As you’ve gotten older, how have the things that motivate you to create changed?
My motivation for making music hasn’t changed. In high school, when I started to really get into recording my own music, I was listening to a lot of R. Stevie Moore, Sensations Fix, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Arthur Russell, and the outtakes from the Beach Boys Smile sessions. I’d drive around listening to all of that music and this feeling close to euphoria would come over me when a song I really loved would come on. What most moved me about those artists is how their music seemed to exist in its own world. Whenever I came across another song that had this quality, I would be so happy, and I’d listen to it endlessly. Those moments have always been a source of inspiration for me. My motivation for recording lies in my appreciation for these types of songs - songs that don’t do what the listener expects and the overall sound isn’t immediately familiar - songs that take risks.
Had you developed any new fascinations while writing and recording Two Roomed Motel?
I really got into the sounds of the vocoder when making this album. It was a long process to find the one that I ended up using on the record. The sound I was going after was very clear in my head, but difficult to achieve. I went through a lot of different models before I settled on an old Roland Vocoder. I got pretty close to the sound I was after. I’m still curious about the Sennheiser vocoder, but I think those are upwards of several thousand dollars...