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Ex-Fresnan goes Electronic & Eclectic
I've known Ross Garcia since we were both little kids and lived down the block from each other. Even back then it wasn't uncommon to go over to his house, sneak off with his family's little portable cassette recorder, and spend hours torturing the little plastic microphone by beating, scraping and swinging it --- all in search of making noises that would crack us up.
Later, Ross and I would go on to be long-time music partners; forming weird little rock bands---one of which we actually
packed up and moved from the suburban sprawl of Fresno,
California to the suburban sprawl of Los Angeles. Throughout
this time, and even after drumming in bands ceased to be
his main artistic outlet, Ross continued tinkering and
tampering with the music and art that interested him.
And now, there's a CD to let the rest of the world
into his private world of sound. It's called "Defective
Soundtracks" and features 9 tracks that, though they vary in
texture and style, all reflect their creator's interest in the
sounds and moods that move him. He recorded, tweaked & mixed
these moody melodic noises at his home studio in the L.A. area
and sent me a copy this past December. On first listen, I felt like
a dog with it's ears standing straight up waiting for the next
interesting thing to happen. ( You have to understand: he's
teased a small circle of friends with samples of this project
for the last couple of years, and now he's delivered the
Here's a conversation that began in his livingroom in
Panorama City, and continued via the phone and email...
It seems to me that you work in two worlds at once:
the world of 'just sounds' and the world of
'traditional music forms'. For the most part you seem
to mix the two--- but some of your pieces seem to be
more about sounds and their manipulations, while others
seem to be a bit more the type of music people could
play with regular instruments. How do you start a typical
piece and how does it grow?
Ross: I usually start by manipulating something I've
previously recorded. It could be anything from a guitar part
to a recording of an ice cream truck driving down my street.
I'll goof around and experiment with these bits until something
in the music makes me laugh. (It must be an out loud belly-laugh.
Quiet giggles or chortles do not count) This usually inspires me
to continue working until I can see some kind of shape or form
developing in the music. At some point, it'll become clear
which direction to take the music: sometimes it's to
a textural/atmospheric non-song thingy and sometimes it's to
a guitar/drum thingy. And my hope is that the guitar/drum-based
songs have a textural/moody element like the non-songs do.
The only limitations or "rules" I gave myself before beginning
Defective Soundtracks was that the pieces had to fit together
as a whole. And more importantly, I wanted them to remind me
of specific childhood memories I have of growing up in
Fresno. Sugar Manger was one of the first pieces recorded
with this in mind. And for me, it's probably the one that
stirs up memories of Highway 99 at night the most - back
when giant oranges (serving hamburgers & shakes) still
dotted the road.
I'm very attracted to sounds that are unpredictable
and difficult to identify. And it really doesn't matter
to me whether it's pretty and melodic or ugly and abstract.
Both can be interesting and beautiful. In fact, sometimes
when I'm mixing a piece, I'll forget where the original
source of a sound came from. When that happens -
I'm a happy man.
For instance, "New Neighborhood Drummer" began as a series
of strange beats that were coaxed out of a $40 thrift-store
synthesizer. These messed up beats were created by rapidly
tapping those cheap plastic drum/rhythm buttons you find on
keyboards. But instead of the normal drum samples being
triggered(like tango, basso nova, rock etc...), I was getting
this very abrupt clicky sound. And after a bit of practice,
I was able to get these strange clicks to stay in tempo
enough to record them. Building the song up from there was
a very slow process of adding tracks, experimenting and editing.
One of the last steps was making a rough mix to listen to in the
car. I played it over and over until the thing was memorized.
After that, I was able to improvise multiple live percussion
lines over it, creating a kind of "call and response" between
cooking utensils. At some point, I forgot where half of the
original sounds came from and decided it was finished.
Do you ever have a title or a concept first? Like
"I want to make music that sounds like sucking up
breakfast cereal in the morning" ? or do you do your
stuff and then sort of name it randomly? or after
whatever it reminds you of?
Ross: Funny you mentioned that, last year I intended to record
a song that sounded like sucking up breakfast cereal in the
morning, but Madonna beat me to it.
Where does your music belong? (and where does MINE
belong...answer that too will ya?) Do you know of a
community of artists who work in a similar field?
A 'scene' as it were?
I mean you can't exactly go and play at high school
dances with this stuff.
Ross: Other than the Sock-Hop scene, my music probably
belongs under the big Experimental Rock umbrella - where a
zillion other musician/composers belong. We record this kind
of music in our spare time and have no "scene".
Heck, we don't even know one another - yet. But one day we
will. Yes my friend, one day we will organize and take over
the music industry. Crushing all fake-anger rock bands and
vocal gymnastic divas with our Weapons of Mass Absurdity.
Beware Korn. Beware Britney. We Experimental Rockers will
soon be replacing you on the back of every cereal box, on
the side of every Pepsi Can and in every iPod commercial.
There are many artists who've built successful careers
on experimental rock: Tortoise, Mogwai, Sonic Youth, Captain
Beefheart, Can, Jim O'Rourke & Eno to name a few. But as of
yet, none of them have asked me to join their exclusive
Experimental Rock Club. (by the way, I've also been denied
membership into these exclusive associations: Funk Club,
Punk Club, Faux-Anger Club, Hip-Hop Club, R&B Club & Metal
Club) So for now, I'll be keeping my membership with the
Spare Time Experimental Rockers Club - where members never
meet, where there are no dues and where there is no
[Here Neptune J. Max , a musical friend of ours,
joined the conversation]
Neptune: And the interesting thing here is that this is probably
some of the most commercial work you've done. I know that seems
stupid, but if you think about it, most of what you've done
before has been subversive and/or alternative music aimed at
the highly commercial pop genre (as is true for myself and
Blake as well).
But here you're aiming at a very different audience in an
uncommercial genre which pieces like this fit right in with.
So, actually I believe you've achieved some very commercial
sounding music for the category of audience that appreciates
Unlike the twisted pop songs that we've always had to
convince standard pop audiences to listen to, this music is
perfect for its particular demographic. It's about being a
big fish in a small pond. If you can find a musical niche market
that you fit in with, you'll probably have more longevity with
the people who "get" it, even though the support base is much
I know you're interested in a wide variety of art and
music. What made you gravitate towards this particular
One way to hear "Defective Soundtracks" is to come to the
Full-Circle Brewery on Friday, March 31st where Ross will be
playing selections from his cd before performances from my own
band (Blake Jones & the Trike Shop) and a new band [I don't
even know if they have a name yet] featuring Tom Magill, Stan
Schaffer and Manny Diaz. To get a copy of your own, come buy
one at the show, or visit the website: