Track By Track: Larry Gus – I Need New Eyes
With a penchant for a selection of the finest art of all varieties and the ability to sing in two language, Larry Gus is a rather cultured gentleman indeed. His new album I Need New Eyes sees him explore several aspects of the sonic spectrum and combines a selection of homemade sounds and samples that'll open your eyes so wide that you'll probably finding yourself needing a new pair as well. We loved the album so much that we asked Larry to talk us through it in full – give it a listen below and read on as Larry Gus takes over;
black veil of fail
I had been working on the chord sequence for some months. I like the feeling of starting the album as a weird ballad, only to turn it on itself after a bit. The lyrics are the closest thing to my blog that I’ve ever written, going head-on with all my inadequacies and neuroses. Up until this point, I really can’t understand why things are not working out the way they were supposed to, and the problem, I mean the main problem, is that I am projecting other people’s careers on my life, and the comparison is just too much to handle. I had the title written separately in a different notebook more than 3 years ago, and I find it extremely funny, seems like a joke on me. The whole album is a joke on me.
np-complete (working title “synco braz” as in “syncopated brazilian”)
The album started here, I wanted to write a tropicalia song, and there are literally no samples in there, I mean I played everything (drums, bass, keyboards, percussion etc). I really loved the concept of np-completeness, and I have always wanted to integrate it into one of my songs. The lyric “you’re the subset of an infinite set; thus you contain the set itself, and infinite members as well” comes from a complete misunderstanding of set theory, and it occurred to me while reading DFW’s Everything and More. In general, I really really love all songs that can talk about the universal and the personal, in the course of a single lyric. (My favourite remains: “l’universo trova spazio dentro me / ma il coraggio di vivere quello ancora non c’è” (written by Mogol, music by Lucio Battisti)) (roughly translated as: “the universe is trying to find some space inside me / but i don’t have the courage to live (this)”)
a set of replies
Initial title was “No More Compliments”. I like compliments, but I hate it when my friends make those compliments, because I always feel that they want to sugarcoat something bad, and they are just pitying me. Well, that’s what friends are for, so I shouldn’t complain. The other theme of the song is that constant give and take on emails, whether you are talking with your girlfriend or with a label. Sometimes it feels that everyone just has a certain set of replies and he always gets back to them when he just wants to avoid confrontation and/or real discussion. Musically, I wanted to write a super super simple song (ideally I would have wanted it to be three minutes long, but anyway, I am getting there, hopefully in the next album, if I ever get the chance to release one), and I had in my mind some early '80s (find the name of the Compulsion label). No samples here as well, it’s 90% OP-1, and then some guitars and my silly drumming. I really like the main hook here (feels like a setup), it reminds me of everything but the girl for some reason. I composed this vocal melody in half speed, and then I sped it up/doubled it up, right before opening for Ariel Pink in Bologna this past March.
taking the personal away (working title "first fast" and then "clearest fog")
By the end of the sessions I realised that I didn’t have enough fast songs in my working folder (which folder initially had 15 tracks, all narrowed down from 80 possible options), and so I started working on those weird percussion/xylophone/marimba samples and somehow it started clicking from that point. On the same day I also wrote Nazgonya, which is the other fast song on the album (160 bpm). Normally, my favourite BPMs are around 100 and I really keep in my mind the words of M’tume, who mentioned that “each composer should find the tempo that he feels comfortable at.” That being said, I really like the quite straightforward 150bpm drums in the track (kick snare kick snare), they always remind me of the great curve on remain in light. The lyric “our planet was created merely 4 minutes ago” is from a very specific borges footnote, where he quotes Bernard Russell: “our planet was created a few moments ago, and provided with a humanity which 'remembers' an illusory past” (from tlön, uqbar, orbis tertius).
belong to love: (working title FBbC, which is the Fm-sus4 chord that dominates the song):
I started by playing the drums here, trying different recording methods in my old room in our Milano apartment. (i am not living in Milan anymore, and it feels weird talking about it, but anyway). Then I played the main-riff on my jv1010, and it seemed a bit obvious in the beginning, but then I started liking it. From that point on, it was just old-school-sitting-down-to-write-a-song, trying out different chord sequences etc. I was reading Jimmy Webb’s Tunesmith around those days and I was trying to apply his teachings. In the lyrics, there are references to two other songs of mine that are still unreleased: the boulder mentioned is from a song I wrote after looking at those weird pictures of a huge stone that literally rammed through a mountain house in Northern Italy and it reminded me of Gordon Matta Clark building cuts. Then there is this other set of lyrics that I wrote after watching a documentary about Northern Siberia and how they were training their hawks/eagles, so they could go and grab foxes so they can cook them. They were feeding the birds with livers from cows and their relationship seemed extremely weird. It mostly felt as the humans were serving the eagles and not the other way around. In any case, my favourite lyric in the song is “my failures are confirmations of all the actions that were there but never transpired / and now i’m filled with certainty, that life is just a vector pointing to my mistakes”, because it links this song to NP-complete and all graphs explored, in the sense that it’s an album about mathematics and my failures, always in different combinations.
all graphs explored
This one started by trying to emulate the beat in Scott Walker’s Seventh Seal, which in a way is THE definite Haruomi Hosono rhythm, employed in most of his production work for lots of J-pop artists. Then there was a life on its own. Initially there were two songs (the second one being the choral part in the end “and our own world in its course”, which is a quote from Flaubert’s Bouvard and Pecuchet, a journey into the unknown realms of eternal knowledge. I really love this book because it reminds me of myself, working and trying to understand things and always finding walls around me, mostly because of my own stupidity), and at this point, I don’t know, many people around me keep telling me that “there is no actual identity in your music, mostly because you keep referencing other works of art etc etc”, but I really don’t care, even though sometimes it really gets on my nerves (and subsequently can’t sleep much).
I mean, all the books and records and movies I enjoy, I always love them because they send me somewhere else. The first “electronic” album I’ve ever loved (Endtroducing), starts with a guy saying “it’s not me playing, the music’s coming through me” and I love Borges and Perec more than anything, and I like reading “Life: A Users Manual” and then trying to understand and discover which parts of the book are actual quotes taken from other books. This is how I spend my life, this is why I consume art myself, and in the end this is my true self, channeling all the things that I love and I get obsessed about. I’ve been always saying that I don’t write music because I have things to say, but because I love music, and it always sounded weird. In any case, that’s why I named the album “I Need New Eyes”, because Proust talks about “adopting the eyes of million other people”, seeing through them and reliving their experiences. Hmmm. The DX7 oboe thing in the end is a homage to Tanita Tikaram’s Twisting My Sobriety and διονύσης σαββοπουλος’ καλοκαιρι, and all graphs explored as a title refers to my relatiosnhip with my kid, at least in the beginning, where I had this image of him cutting down all branches of possibilites in my life, thus getting to an early point where I explored all possible graphs that could lead me to the unknown. Well, it all started with a lyric from YNL (“τα παιδιά είναι στη ζωή η μόνη ξενιτιά”, “kids in life are the only foreign lands”), and the initial title was Foreign Lands.
the sun describes
In each of my albums, I have a similar title: in Stitches it was “The Sun Debates” (which itself reads as Sandy Bates, the woody allen character in “Stardust memories”), and then in YNL it was “The Sun Plagues”. “The Sun Describes” is equally non descriptive, and it was the easiest song on the album to compose / write and everything. It all happened in an evening, more or less, and the lyric “consider for example the phrase “I will be back”” is lifted straight from DFW's essay on Terminator, but it’s funny, because I already had played the two-chord theme of the song, and while I was trying out different vocals, I just picked up that book that was next to me, opened a random page, and started singing this new melody, just upon those very specific text. I always keep saying how much I hate coincidences, but hmmm, this time it just worked like that. Also there is a throwback to my first song ever “Girl You’re No Failure” and it’s easy to spot it if you listen to both tracks. Also, Borges and tigers, again.
nazgonya (paper spike)
A guy comes and stabs me with a huge japanese sword, and then the sword slides through me right to the other side of my body, and then I fall down with my head facing the floor and then, it seemed extremely comical to me, the fact that random people were passing by me and they were using me as their paper spike, where they would pin receipts, bills and other useless documents. It’s the ultimate image of humiliation, and I don’t think I like anything more in life than being humiliated. That’s why I guess I keep doing music, knowing the shortfalls and the disappointments because above all, I just like the feeling of being ignored. I almost didn’t put that song on the album, in my ears it sounded like an outtake from YNL, and hmm, although I like it, at the same time I am thinking “what’s the point?”. I mean, what’s the point in general? HEAD-> TOILET-> FLUSH.
I Need New Eyes is out now via DFA.