“Play, Stop, Paws”
By Evan O’Brien and Laura B. Whitmore
Call it “noise pop,” “neo-psychedelia,” or “avant-garde electro-folk,” it doesn’t really matter; the fresh and experimental approach Animal Collective takes to their music creates a sound all their own. Members Deakin, Avey Tare, Geologist, and Panda Bear have garnered critical acclaim and gushing blog praise as they continue to redefine their sonic signatures.
Panda’s 2007 blissful solo album, Person Pitch, received tons of applause, making numerous indie “Best of” lists, including Album of the Year from major internet publication Pitchfork Media. He, Avey, and Geologist, put together Animal Collective’s most recent offering, Merriweather Post Pavilion, which is already being received as a musical landmark for 2009. We were lucky to have Panda share his thoughts on creating music, and how Korg products help him sculpt his work.
Take us back. How did you begin your journey as a musician?
I started taking piano lessons when I was 8 or so. Then I moved on to cello and then guitar and drums and a bunch of other things. I really had a good time singing in a choir in high school, too, and I feel like it informed most parts of my process these days.
When you create music for Animal Collective or your Panda Bear releases, do you have any “go-to” techniques or formula…or is each recording approached differently?
I think I’m a little afraid, or at least wary, of having “go to” techniques, and I feel like I’d rather steer clear of repeating things if I can. I’d like to stay in a zone that’s sort of uncomfortable creatively speaking, if you know what I mean. I’d say that being in the possession of some kind of mastery and being a beginner are two very similar states of mind. So I’d like to stay as close to those extremes as possible.
Merriweather Post Pavilion is out and receiving great reviews…do you have any favorite songs on the album? Any memorable stories from putting it together?
I’ve gone through a couple of favorite songs, and it changes all the time – which is a good thing, I would say! “No More Runnin” is the most emotionally resonant for me these days, and I like a lot of Dave’s words on that song. There was a tornado one day while we were recording (in Oxford, Mississippi), and it passed maybe only 15 miles or so from where we were. We went outside because we heard the sirens, but it seemed really calm and sticky warm out there. Then lightning struck and the sky lit up, and you could see the massive black triangle off in the distance a little bit.
Why did you choose the Korg M3?
I started making songs on a Korg 0/1W pro that my family had, and I feel that by using it so much, I came to understand how the thing worked inside and out. I guess I felt like I had learned the Korg language, if you know what I mean. So when I first heard about the M3, I was excited because it felt like a familiar face coming back. I was really into the idea of the KARMA engine, too, and how it could throw surprises and twists and turns into the sounds. I really like how you can manage the sounds in detail and how you can kind of rip the thing apart from the inside out.
I’ve also really been into the idea of using current equipment and new technologies and devices. I feel like there’s a lot of interest in older machines and gear, and I’d rather go the other way and try to embrace what’s now or what’s new.
Do you have any favorite features of the M3?
I really like the arpeggiator and the KARMA engine. I feel like I can get all kinds of sounds just using combinations of those two. I don’t use a keyboard at all, although sometimes I’ll hook up a guitar with a MIDI pickup, because it’s fun to see how things end up melodically and structurally that way.
How did your Korg gear fit into the making of Merriweather Post Pavilion? What do you plan to use live on the upcoming tour?
The other guys used the KAOSS Pads on the record, for sure. I hadn’t gotten the M3 until after the recording of that release was over, but I’m planning to use the M3 nearly exclusively to make my new songs. I really like how with the M3 and other devices, Korg seems to be looking forward, and I'd like to be that way creatively if I can.