It’s rare to find top notch musicians and producers giving their soul to a musical project that puts edge and experimentation before anything else. Such is Brooklyn band WOLVVES, formed by the Valleau triplets, who forge suspenseful (if not terrifying), noir, experimental electronic rock. We asked a few question to the knob fiddler in the band, producer/multi-instrumentalist Joshua Valleau, who worked among others with the likes of Kanye West, DMC (of Run-DMC), Snoop Dogg, and Imani Coppola.
How much of your recording is done at home versus in the studio?
I run a recording studio in Brooklyn, so we do everything there. We even rehearse there.
What are the pieces of equipment that you find particularly inspiring when recording?
I think the vacuum of a blank stretch of time and the absence of sound is the the most directly incendiary combo for converting the epic of overlapping lifetimes and constant memories of the future into 3-7 minute mp3s. So a quiet room and nothing else to do for a few hours is at least several times more inspiring than the next few items down the list, which for us include a Neve 5452 console modified for direct outs, some synths (Pro One, Juno, JX-3P, Nord Leads, Superbassstation, CZ-101), pianos (Rhodes, CP-70, Kawai 7′ grand), organs, tape decks, crappy 90′s digital outboard, FutureRetro Mobius, guitar amps, drums. I guess the more I try to narrow it down, it’s really only about that first item on the list. Could definitely just be a laptop in that same room.
More computers! Lol no but I’m totally serious. These days I’m growing a garden of computers. For us, I’m learning that the only way to achieve the ecstatic fury of uninhibited electronic music creation is by having access to the highest number of clock cycles operating on the highest number of cores logistically possible at any given moment. Anything less is a recipe for tears. Heartfelt thanks for option to seamlessly farm out DSP to other machines goes out to Vienna Ensemble Pro. Oh also I really want a DEP2b.
Do you expect your next record to be self-produced, or would you like to work with a producer? If it’s the latter, who would you most like to produce your band, and why?
What we would love most is for the United States Secret Service to produce our next record. It seems like a match – they could make our whereabouts unknown, secure the entrances, cook for us, block all telecommunications, tech the outboard gear. Probably even run me cleaner power than I have right now. We’ll give them 4 points of course.
Do you use rack effects or guitar pedals to forge your own sound? If you do, please list the ones you use the most and let us know why you love them.
I mean, Lewis runs his DrumFire through a Foxx Tone Machine clone that I had a guy build me a while back. Other than that some of my favorite distortion pedals are one or more channels on the Neve, a very bossy ’76 V4B, MCI JH-110 1/2″, Decapitator etc. I tend to mentally organize the spice rack not so much by brand or physical location/interface, but strictly by taste. There’s an ever-present continuum of sonic portraiture running through my head, and every different box or plugin of which I’m aware is a point in that spectrum. So a lot of times there’s a software->hardware or hardware->software thing going on. An automated (SoundToys) EchoBoy ride on a return with an automated ride on a send (on the same return) that’s feeding back into itself out to an amp in the live room that’s coming back through stereo mics into an outboard lexicon and then a final live ride into distorted territory on the Neve on its way back into the box would be a typical sort of thing. Then maybe print that to tape. There are also dozens of scenarios that I just haven’t had time to build yet.
Do you have a particular recording style that you aim for? What techniques do you employ to recreate it?
We’re constantly working to streamline workflow, introduce new aleatoric elements into our creative process, and take dysfunctional items off the table. There is a constant push to get everything that’s known into automatic territory as quickly as possible to make room for the unknown. We’ve come to finally understand that technology is a constant string of broken promises. And that understanding is also a key to unlocking the true powers of the technology – when you move your expectations away from your ‘idea’ and towards the current and unknown present. Let the road drive you a little.
The last few weeks we’ve been doing stuff like combining arpeggiators, running an arpeggiating/randomizing reaktor ensemble off a hardware sequencer and running a synth with an internal arp off the reaktor ensemble – stuff like that. I like to play piano, Elizabeth just got a cello. Lewis is mixing & mastering his rock band’s album and perfecting his pie crust. I’m hoping to find some time to put some contact mics in the bookcase next to the Hammond and track drums through them. There’s a song in every single position of the volume knob of my (Fender) ’67 Deluxe. When you don’t feel like you’re going to die, then you’re getting somewhere.
Who determines the direction and style of your recordings?
Ancient forces from the future, and our honest college best shot at trying to figure out what the hell they want from us. Sort of just like composing for Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo in the royal court of Salzburg, or getting a call from Sergei Diaghilev who’s looking for some new ballets. Or scoring an episode of Twin Peaks. Only the creative forces we have to answer to are in the air and in the ground. Seems like a pretty good gig.
Is there a person outside the band that’s been important in perfecting your recorded or live sound?
We have the precious and inestimable support of our family and friends, but no.
What other artists would you say have had the biggest influence in your approach to recording? Why?
I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of particular influence to the approach coming from one or 5 directions. I’ve definitely checked out the approaches of many legendary engineers, producers and artists. That’s always cool. Alongside that, I’d say the inspiration of our heroes is of much more significance. Then you build yourself machines to get you going in directions you’re excited about. The way someone else did it was the right way before things were the way they are right now.
Would you say that your live show informs your recording process or that your recording process informs your live show? Both? Neither?
All the music that’s floating around right now was done before we ever played a show, so only the latter for that material. But as a matter of fact our live show has indeed begun to inform our recording process for the material we’ve been working on since then – none of which is out at all yet. There’s some more live drums, control elements ported over from the stage rig etc, and we’ve been doing some live full-band recording as well. Pretty sweet
Is there a piece of equipment that you find particularly useful on stage?
Particularly useful to us on stage is a small box which contains a pair of mac minis along with several wired and wireless audio and midi interfaces and converters. This forms the technological central nervous system of the band on stage. All the audio is routed through the computers and sub-mixed down to a stereo pair before it hits the house. That provides a world of manipulation and control options that I feel will possibly never be exhausted. Those limits now are primarily defined by aesthetic considerations, which I consider to be a dream come true.
With bands doing more of everything themselves these days (recording, performing, self-promoting, etc.) and the evermore multimedia nature of the world, how much effort do you put into the visual component of your band – fashion, styling, photography, graphic/web design, etc.? Do you do these things yourself or is there someone that the band works with?
Actually that seems to be one of the strongest points of this band: An internally and clearly defined, understood & agreed-upon aesthetic, and the in-house expertise to iterate at will. Our primary limitation in that regard seems to be time (that’s why more computers). But like also we’re doing a music video soon & enlisting a bunch of ppl, of course. How many outside hands we need depends on the job – kind of like the computers. But yeah mostly everything gets done by the 3 of us.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspects of the recording process? On the flipside, what aspects are the most rewarding?
The process? Well it’s really simple. As long as the process is intact (things aren’t broken), then the process is the reward.