Twine may easily be the prototypes of a generation of file-sharing producers. Based in their respective homebases in Baltimore, Maryland and Boulder, Colorado, Greg Malcolm and Chad Mossholder have been producing intriguing experimental music for almost a decade, mostly online via FTP- and filesharing. They have released their sonic excursions on renowned labels such as Hefty and BiP_HOp, but their ‚breakthrough‘, however, probably came with the release of their self-titled album on Ghostly International in 2003. Since then, five years have past without a release, but now the duo is back with their sixth album: Violets.
Yet another trip into the realms of captivating ambience, Violets is based upon the use of voices and their disembodiment, samples, field recordings and once again the tremolo guitar, which has been a trademark of Twine’s sound since their first record came out in 1999. However, moving away from their IDM roots, Violets seems to be more focused than its predecessors, it feels more of an entitity, indeed, a narrative, which is equally haunting and beautiful, and which is, at least to our ears, the best Twine album to date.
We spoke with Chad Mossholder about the album’s themes, the development of Twine’s sound, and the reason why it did take five long years for it to come out.
Tell us how you guys initially met and how you ended up in different parts of the United States.
Greg and I met in high school and we had many common interests (music, art, skateboarding). We then went to the same university and this is where we formed Twine later on. After a time I took a job in Colorado for a company doing sound and music for Xbox games. So, I moved. We didn’t want to stop collaborating so we worked via file transfer and snail mail from then on.
Speaking of, how does your working process look like? Do you meet in order to work on an album or is it all done ‚online‘?
We basically each create pieces and sounds that we like and have a common dumping ground online where we store everything. So then, you need a piece of sound you go to the FTP and look and see what’s new. In this way we construct new and surprising pieces.
Your last album came out in 2003. However, Violets was done a while before you released it. Can you tell us why it took so long?
A very good question. Greg and I put a lot of time and love into the new materials that you will hear on Violets. We also iterated a lot on the final tracks and track order for Ghostly. We worked closely with the label to release something special for the listener. I hope that everyone will find the album is more like an intense film than a music album. We wanted to create a unique listening and narrative experience. Doing something new is never easy. And it makes it harder when you are releasing music in a time when the record industry has to change it’s whole business model due to MP3 downloading and competition from other forms of art and entertainment. Bottom line is that it’s a complicated time for artists and labels. Ghostly was going through some growing pains and had to take care of certain things on its end before we could launch the new CD. On top of this Greg and I both have been very busy with side projects. I’m especially busy writing music and creating sound design in the video game industry (an industry that is currently thriving, even in a recession).
…so it was more or less the decision of the label?
Ghostly is an impressive force, even in the face a record industry slump the label is continuing to release quality music that pushes into new realms. Other labels may have seen the Twine album as too much of a niche market and dropped it. Thankfully, Ghostly stuck by us and helped us see the record to fruition.
Violets is, more than ever, filled with voices. How important is the disembodiment of voices, the theme of communication (and discommunication) for this album?
I’ve always liked the sound of the human voice: its rhythms & textures. For me, hearing a voice that you can relate to helps bring you into the music. It becomes more like a film than music. A narrative.
Is it the first time you have collaborated with singers? How did the collaboration came about?
This is the first time with Twine we have really utilized vocalists. I really enjoy it and hope to do more. Alison Shaw of the Cranes is my all-time favorite female voice. She has an incredible sound, haunting, beautiful, and totally unique.
The cover of Violets seems to contain a dichotomy of decay and hope in all its pastel-green lightness. And also, while the album has a generally dark undertone, there are plenty of bright moments. Is this something you try to evoke within your music?
I don’t like to impose meaning on my work. Violets is how you perceive it. The photography that Ghostly put together for us is beautiful. It fits right in with the sound we have created. Personally I like something that feels organic and less electronic. And that is what we are presenting.
You mentioned that you would rather see the album as the soundtrack to a movie. What kind of movie would this be?
I’m a huge fan of the films of David Lynch and Chris Marker. So, maybe a film where Chris Marker would create a travel log about all the places that David Lynch has been and the fictions that happen along the way.
Some artists think rather critically of their earlier works. How do you look back to your first albums? Would you release them again or do you rather see them as the expression of a certain time and space?
Yeah, I like the old stuff, but it was a different time both artistically and technologically. Our first CD was produced on old keyboards and hardware samplers. Now I don’t use much hardware other than real instruments like guitars and field recorders. Of course I like the new material more, just because it feels more recent.
In which way do you have refined or changed your sound during the last ten years since your beginnings?
I find our music moving more and more away from „IDM“ (if you can call it that way). I am very interested in mood and texture, but still creating something that is enjoyable to listen to. Something that tells a story, a narative like I’ve mentioned before.
Still, you always seem to come back to guitar sounds as the background for many songs. Coincidence or method?
I have always been a guitarist. And I have always been a computer music fan. I remember writing music on my c64 SID editor in the 80’s. (That was fun. I wonder if I can dig that stuff up, might be nice for the next Twine release.) We are huge fans of My Bloody Valentine, slow dive, Joy Division, The Cranes and the Cocteau Twins. We don’t limit ourselves to any one thing. If we want to do a „Doom Metal“ track (and damnit, we just might–being huge fans of Sleep and Black Sabbath) we will. Granted, we will Twine-ize it. That’s just going to happen. I’m really glad we aren’t expected to make the same album every time. Many „bands“ get stuck in that trap. For us it’s just about making what we like to listen to and we hope others like it also.
Tell us something about your other musical projects (if you have any) and the future of Twine.
We have a large collection of unpublished tracks we wish to release. I myself have delved into orchestral composition. That has been a lot fun. I’ve been writing music for games that I work on. I’ve also been continuing my collaborations with multi-media artist and author Mark Amerika. I am currently scoring his latest feature length film. I can’t say much about it right now other than it’s quite an amazing piece of work. Mark’s imagery is highly unique, beautiful and provocative. The score is very much like Twine music. The end result is a hallucinatory audio/visual experience. This work will be traveling through museums around the world and film festivals. I expect a DVD release will follow. Also, Greg and I are currently working on new materials the new materials are moving in a few new directions. I won’t say what directions, you’ll just have to wait to hear it. I would like to do the next release as a 5.1 surround sound DVD.
Will it take another five years for the next album to appear?
I certainly hope not! We didn’t want this one to take that long but it was beyond our control, as said before. Considering the amoint of tracks we have prepared, it shouldn’t take another five years, no.
At last, any chance for some Twine action in Europe?
We would love to get back to Europe! Europe is well ahead of America when it comes to progressive ideas and openness to new ideas and sounds. We love Europe!
And Europe loves Twine, apparently. Thanks to Chad Mossholder for answering these questions and thanks to the lovely people at Stars & Heroes for making this interview possible :)