“… because it’s always a new experience, always a new fear of putting yourself out there to that extent, and always a new high and level of love when even one person reaches out and says how it affected them, or became a part of their life in some way. If you ever get tired of that or don’t care, you shouldn’t be making music.”
Chapter Nine: Read between the li(n)es
Another one of my many compulsions is concept albums with thought-provoking track titles. In fact, I have to admit that I have cheekily paraphrased a few in various posts. There isn’t a single bvdub album that doesn’t revolve around a central theme and the titles read more like chapters of a book, epigrams and poem verses, collages of micro-contradictions or parts of a greater story that has to be told in a particular sequence. I also read religiously the liner notes; another fine and intricate detail – a ‘lost art’ which brings back fond childhood memories. Sadly they are often neglected or considered redundant in electronic music. Of course, music should do the talking, but some pieces of art call for an extended narrative.
Walk us through the process of writing an album. You can omit the technical details as we have glorified the medium too often at the expense of the musical experience that matters.
Yes, I see what you did there with the apostrophe (haha). You are correct, from album one to now, they all revolve around a central theme – both in and of themselves, and are connected to each other in some way as well, being parts of a greater narrative. The more OCD people out there have figured out some pieces of that puzzle in some very slight hints I’ve left along the way, but at the end of the day, what matters is if someone feels whatever they’re hearing. That’s what it’s all about.
That being said, from every note to every word, everything is intentional. And everything means something. As I’ve mentioned in interviews before, any album I make is named first, tracks titled, then the music comes. I know what I want to say, I just don’t know how I’m going to say it. So I’m able to put it in its written form first, then sonically, everything happens as it may. I never have a preconceived idea about how something will sound. It happens how it happens, and it’s basically an out of body experience. It sounds like BS, but I honestly go back and listen to something I made even a few weeks before, and have no idea how I made it. I basically wasn’t present for any of it, if that makes sense. Maybe this is all my old trance and psychedelics history coming back to haunt me (haha). But I totally agree with you, liner notes, titles, so much of this side of things has been lost. Remember back in the day, you could pick up a record and feel exactly what it was trying to say just by reading the titles? They just spilled it straight out there, you knew that shit meant something. Nowadays most stuff is clearly just tacked on after the fact, just to perfunctorily “give it a title,” much less have any liner notes, any other food for thought, or anything else to say. OK, I’m getting all dinosaur-y again.
I would omit the technical details whether you asked me to or not (haha), I don’t talk about that. Never have, never will, because it doesn’t matter. And it only serves to distract from what’s important. Besides the fact that, as you said, the medium has become so fetishized in recent years that people have completely forgotten it’s the music they’re supposed to be listening to, not taking notes on a YouTube video about how it’s being made.
Basically my albums (or all my work) are the product of mania. A manic, obsessive mind that can’t stop thinking about the past, things that happened that any rational person could have put behind them in two days, much less two decades, and a life lived mostly trapped in black holes of obsession I can’t get out of, unless I make music. There’s basically no way to put this that doesn’t sound cheesy, but it’s basically the only way I can let it go. Work it out. Face it. Release it. Exorcise the demons – or sometimes angels – that otherwise control me. I can put it all in there. And thus it can leave me; at least that derivation of it, anyway.
So they really come from peering over the precipice, I guess. It’s either somehow put it into music, or let it drag me over the side. And I think in some way you can feel that, in that it’s quite apparent my albums are made in that order, one track to the next, basically all of it pouring out unstoppably. There’s not all that much to describe about the process, if I’m honest. I know I have to tell a story, to somehow free myself of its grip (or, at times, help me face it head-on or even accept it and carry it with me, in a new light. As the years have gone on, it’s probably half and half). This is why the title(s) come first; I already know what I want to say. Then I sit down and say it. However it gets said. I can say with complete honesty that nearly every (if not every) thing I’ve ever made does not end up how I ever envisioned it when I started. But that’s the beauty of it. If I could control it and force it into whatever mold I wanted, then what would it be saying? If I had that level of control over my ability to communicate, I wouldn’t need to make music at all. It’s that uncertainty of what to say – and how to say it – that makes music magical. Because you didn’t even know the depths of what you were going to say until you said it. And even you can hear your tale with new ears, as if listening to it told by someone else. This is, to me, one of the main reasons making music is such a thing of magic every time, and always will be. Because it’s always a new experience, always a new fear of putting yourself out there to that extent, and always a new high and level of love when even one person reaches out and says how it affected them, or became a part of their life in some way. If you ever get tired of that or don’t care, you shouldn’t be making music.
Chapter Ten: Not Yours to Keep
Another important aspect I’d like to mention is that you have been actively supporting noble causes through your music, without fanfares and whistles. For anyone who’d like to support and donate, more details can be found on the respective release notes at bvdub’s bandcamp page here.
I try to do at least a couple things a year for charity, if not more, which I guess even I find ironic sometimes from someone, who supposedly hates the world in general as much as I proclaim to. But as you know, anyone who hates the world only does so because at one time they loved it too much, and got hurt. So the love is still there, probably even stronger than in those who throw it around like red envelopes at a Chinese wedding.
I dunno man, I guess it’s just a constant mix of hating the world, but loving it and wishing it could do better. And trying to help those (whether human or animal) who need it. Because we can all use some help sometimes. God knows I have.
As cheesy at it sounds, I’ve just learned over the years it’s important to do what you can for those who need it. Maybe that’s what monetary amount you can spare. Maybe it’s volunteering somewhere. Maybe it’s literally just sitting down to actually hear what someone has to say. Or simply letting them know you’re there if they need you. I try to do what I can when I can outside of music, but being the misanthropic shut-in I am affords me too few opportunities to do so. So, if I can somehow do even anything with music, then I couldn’t be happier. After all, this scene and this music were all about people. It was the beauty of what people could be that turned me from the very dark path I was on in my life and literally saved it. Although people nowadays are basically pieces of shit, there are still good and beautiful human beings out there. We don’t even need to discuss animals. We already know they’re beautiful.
Chapter Eleven: Ignored Prayers
While writing this feature I have been listening back to your discography. As always, I have been trying to decipher hidden messages, concepts and themes that might be close or nowhere near your artist vision. However implausible it may sound, I can draw many parallels with the fundamental scheme of a classic Greek tragedy play. In a nutshell: the main character, who must be good enough so the audience can sympathize with and flawed enough to justify the plot, behaves arrogantly (hubris), which evokes divine intervention. Their mind and consciousness are blurred (atis) which in turn leads to more severe sins. Intervention escalates to divine wrath (nemesis) and subsequently to exemplary punishment (tisis) and the drama concludes with the hero’s redemption (catharsis).
We have all been guilty of hubris in some shape or form, albeit not exactly in the ancient Greek tragedy sense. For instance, I’ve spent too much time and energy, neck-deep in the rabbit hole of self-indulgence, behaving like the unappreciated scholar the world would never be ready for.
So, I would still argue that there are certain bvdub albums that encompass the above scheme (or at least parts of it). The members of the audience of a tragic play can leave the venue feeling “lighter”. They have experienced intense, draining emotions, while watching the tragic characters’ misfortunes, but in the end they exit the theatre almost purified. Theatre acts as a form of psychotherapy. The viewers can resurface their suppressed emotions – jealousy, fear, regret, anger – and let them go. Replace theatre with your music and viewers with listeners. And that’s exactly what catharsis is.
This is kind of the beauty though, right? Your interpretation may have nothing to do with my vision. Or it may contain a part. Or it could literally be entirely identical (all of which happen, haha, though the last one is rare). But at the end of the day the “accuracy” of it is irrelevant. We’re all going to tell our own story in our own head even about objective facts and histories from our own lives, much less our listening to abstract musical interpretations of someone else attempting to narrate his own. And, just like any art, it’s going to change every day, every time you listen, and in every possible way. Not only because your life and its history changes, but because even your ability to process what you hear – both emotionally and scientifically – changes and evolves as well. If only everything else in this Groundhog Day of a life could be so amazing.
It’s not surprising if you draw parallels to Greek tragedies for many reasons, probably and foremost because you’re Greek. But besides the fact I’m already, well, let’s say prone to being dramatic, I also studied an absurd amount of Greek history, literature, and philosophy when I was young (including reading at least what I’m pretty sure were all the works of Plato and Aristotle by the time I was probably 12). Yet another artifact of being a misanthrope, a journey I started at a very early age, generally choosing to stay home and read like a fiend, when I wasn’t out getting in fights. Which was basically every time I left the house (haha).
I’ve always been fascinated with mythology, from Egyptian and Chinese, to Greek and Roman adaptations of course, and beyond. Besides it basically being awesome intrinsically, it never ceases to amaze how accurately the minds of the time assessed and defined the human experience. And how, no matter how you tell the story, it’s always the same.
It’s also not surprising you hear such particular “storytelling” in my work, because it’s definitely there. Not only because my music is already basically about the human experience – or I guess my human experience, but because my life and myself have gone through all the stages and scenes you described; all the rises and falls, good and evil, hubris and humility. And that’s just me… much less all the other world around me.
I think hubris is a particularly poignant impetus for so much in Greek mythology because it is so in life, with human beings. God knows I was bursting with it for years – probably decades – and like I said before, who knows what kind of horrible asshole I had actually been to people when I was convinced I was the only righteous, perfect person on the planet. Sure I always had the best of intentions, but if I behaved in a terrible way toward people as a result – which I surely did – then why do any of those matter? So much of our pain – and tragedy – arises from this proclivity toward arrogance and self-righteousness, which is born from selfishness and we all have it in spades, I don’t care who you are. Whether you love someone too hard, gave too much to the scene, gave too much of yourself to someone who didn’t reciprocate, poured your all into something or someone that in the end broke your heart into a million pieces, it’s easy to think it’s their fault, the world’s fault, or that you were somehow done wrong. But the truth is all your love and all you put in was, in truth, born from some form of selfish want. Something you needed; love, approval, comfort, even just joy, all things that blinded you to realities, caused you to behave irrationally, and, in the end, caused your demise, or at the very least your broken heart. I think this is why broken hearts hurt so much. Because whether subconsciously or not, we know it was ourselves who let it be broken.
I don’t even need to go into wrath and punishment. Let’s just say I’ve dished out as much of both as I’ve taken over the years (haha)
Chapter Twelve: Discography Highlights
We have intentionally put music in the background in favour of a deeper discussion, but don’t be deceived; Brock’s is anything but background music! If you feel overwhelmed and you need a place to start, I attach below the links to my top-10 (+1) favourite Brock Van Wey albums in chronological order:
- Songs for a Friend I left Behind (2011)
- Serenity/Don’t Say You Know (2012)
- At Night This City Becomes The Sea (2013)
- Home (2015 – as Brock Van Wey
- Yours Are Stories Of Sadness (2016)
- A Different Definition Of Love (2018)
- Drowning In Daylight (2018)
- Never Forget Us (2018 – as Earth House Hold)
- Neverlasting Love EP (2019 – as East of Oceans)
- Ten Times The World Lied (2020)
- Daybreak Basements and Broken Hearts (2021 – as Earth House Hold)
Chapter Thirteen: One very important thought
Insert here anything you would like to say as an epilogue, a glimpse of future projects, a self-help message, a recipe, whatever you feel like 😊
Future projects? Tons. Glimpses? No (haha)
Recipe? I cook for myself, every meal every day, but the end result endows me with no right to recommend anyone else follow my lead.
I’m also probably very ill-equipped to give self-help messages or life advice considering the state of my own. But go out of your way to be nice to someone or even say a simple hello. Tell someone they mean something to you. Pet a dog or a cat or whatever animal you like or aren’t afraid of. Try to have a conversation about something positive with someone instead of only complaining about the negative. Don’t become the person governments, media, and the world at large are trying to make you become – a negative, husk of a human being ripe for subjugation and control. Be your own person. And remember the beauty of life before they painted over it with black brushes of despair and hate.
And always remember, in the wise words of the brilliant show ‘Justified’: “If you leave the house in the morning and you meet an asshole, he’s an asshole. If everyone you meet is an asshole – you’re the asshole”.
Back in the last days of summer, when I started drafting the questions for this feature, I had the reservation that I might have gone too far. Now that it’s published I realize that I have only scratched the surface. Every reply triggered another set of questions and in the danger of entering an endless loop we agreed that we had to draw the line somewhere; certain things are better left unsaid or implied. I contemplated about posting one part each month, but I eventually decided to publish all three parts at once, as it was originally intended, in all its verbose glory.
It’s been a rewarding, emotional and thought-provoking experience, which might has set a precedent for another interview of this kind in the future. I am only grateful to Brock for all the music, the time and effort. After all, the blog’s maxim is: “I write about music I like, written by people I like” and although we didn’t talk so much about music per se, the allusions are omnipresent.
The cover photos for the feature have been taken from my personal collection and revolve around the central axis of this feature as described in Chapter One, the sea. I leave the interpretation of each picture open, but I’d like to think they abstractly capture the content of each part, or perhaps it’s all in my wandering mind.
I should conclude this feature on a brighter note; it’s not all about heartbreaks, tallying your miseries and marshalling your regrets. There is always a glimmer of hope and a sense of well-concealed optimism in Brock’s music – if you listen closely enough – which make it all the more emotionally draining.
My deepest gratitude if you made it thus far.
Click below for the previous parts of the interview