Interconnecting Forests: Patricia Wolf & Jordan Reyes Interview Each Other

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Patricia Wolf and Jordan Reyes have both been heavily featured in the pages of Foxy Digitalis over the last two years (and will continue to be, I’m sure!). It would take ages to catalog all of the great music they’ve been involved in throughout 2022 alone. Both of Patricia’s solo albums have been mainstays in my headphones, while Reyes has not only released a fantastic solo record, Everything is Always, his label, American Dreams, continues to crank out so much good music at an incredible pace. 

With that, what better way to feature both on the site again than the two of them interviewing each other in anticipation of playing together in Portland next month (and hopefully making some recordings together!)? Additionally, before the questions start, I’m thrilled to premiere the mind-blowing video for the title track off Everything is Always by Owen Blodgett.

Jordan is on tour right now, and his tour dates are between the two interviews. Go see him before he heads off to Paris early next year!

Jordan Reyes Interviews Patricia Wolf

Do you remember your first synthesizer? What was it? What drew you to those sounds?

My very first synthesizers were the Roland Alpha Juno with the PG-300 controller and the Roland SH-101. I got those synths because I was very inspired by Chris & Cosey and Drexciya and was wanting to compose music in a similar timbre and wanted to feel close to some of the instruments that they worked with.

What about field recording? What got you interested in that? Is there an aspect of meditation when you do field recordings?

I got interested in field recording after I heard Hildegard Westerkamp’s ‘Kits Beach Soundwalk.’ I find that piece to be profoundly inspiring and have fallen in love with all of her work since first learning about her. Side note – I recently played at New Forms Festival in Vancouver, BC, and spent a couple of days there. My friends Scott and Selin, who live in Vancouver (where Kits Beach is located), took me to see an outdoor sound installation by Giorgio Magnanensi (not knowing I was a big fan of his) in a park that happened to be adjacent to Kits Beach. I got to see Kits Beach with my own eyes and hear it with my own ears. I played Hildegard’s piece at Kits Beach through my phone speakers there. My friends Scott and Selin were not familiar with that piece but instantly fell in love with it too. It was so nice to hear her recording with the Kits Beach sounds and sights of that day mixing in and to have a friend of hers, Giorgio, presenting sound works a stone’s throw away. When we returned to Giorgio Magnanesi’s installation, I told him about us playing ‘Kits Beach Soundwalk’ at Kits Beach, and in response to that, he then played her piece ‘Beneath The Forest Floor’ through his handmade Sitka Spruce resonators. I joined the audience with my friends and sat on the ground beneath the trees to listen. It was such a magical experience for me. I kept a couple of stones and a shell from the beach as souvenirs. That is such a great memory!

Back to your question…Yes, there is definitely a feeling of mindfulness and meditation when I am field recording. It’s one of the things that can best bring me into the present moment. When I have my mic, recorder, and headphones on and I am searching for sounds, I am so full of awareness of my surroundings. For that reason, it’s something I recommend to people who are struggling with anxiety and depression. It has the ability to take my mind off whatever might be troubling me and just focus on what is happening in the now.

How did you become interested in nature and the outdoors? What role does the non-human world have in your life, creatively and non-creatively?

I grew up in the country and spent a lot of time exploring vast fields, forests, and rivers. I took books along with me that cataloged the plants and animals of the region where I lived and went out searching for them. It was a fun scavenger hunt, and I loved learning the names of each species and spotting them year after year.

I feel at peace with nature and am in awe of how ecosystems work, how each organism, the landscape, the geology, minerals, and climate combine to create systems for life to exist. With my work, I hope to draw people’s attention to the wonders of the natural world in the hopes of inspiring people to work to protect and preserve biodiversity and fight human-caused climate change.

What role does music-making have in your life? Is it a functional habit, something that provides homeostasis or balance?

Music has been crucially important to me for as long as I can remember. It’s just not an option for me to not center it in my life or not be involved in making it or sharing it in some way. I think it is a way for me to keep my mind engaged, stave off boredom, cast off loneliness, motivate me, and propel me onward. It’s just a necessary part of my life. My reasons for making it are often to have fun, understand myself, experience the excitement of building something in sound, express feelings, and attempt to create beauty or interesting narratives for others to experience.

How do you maintain persistence artistically? And frankly, spiritually/emotionally? I’m always curious about this on a selfish level because I constantly battle surrender and world-weariness. When I wonder, “what’s the point?” some days, I don’t have an answer. Some days I do. How do you keep on keeping on?

I try not to pressure myself too much. I think you can stifle your creativity by putting too many expectations and demands on yourself. Knowing when to take time to just enjoy life, rest, take in new experiences, learn, and listen is so important. If you’re starting to feel worried about having writer’s block, just trust that you’ll soon be filled up by life and feel the urge to create again when the time is right.

Patricia Wolf Interviews Jordan Reyes

Jordan, you are about to move to France from Chicago. That’s an exciting big change! What are you going to miss the most about Chicago, and what are you hoping will happen in France? What do you know about the experimental music scene there? Are there any artists that you’ve connected with there or hope to connect with? If so, who are they?

I don’t miss things like most people – maybe it’s my neurodivergence, but everything I have experienced, do experience, or will experience feels like something I’ve passed, pass, or will pass through. I was talking to my dear friend Eli Winter about things coming to a close with me no longer doing mailorder for American Dreams and leaving Chicago. I told him I’m just a ghost in this body along for the ride, passing through time like a rest stop on the highway. But things I will miss – I will miss driving down to my ONO bandmate Travis’s house on a whim to talk shit and bullshit or hearing P Michael Grego of ONO try to convince me to start the underwear line American Drawers. I’ll miss cheap eats with Eli. I’ll miss running on the lakefront path in the Summer. But I am too busy in Chicago – I’m pretty burnt out, and it’s healthy and necessary to change.

In Paris, I want to spend more time writing and making art and less time doing tedious general tasks. I’m working on a novel in verse – a postapocalyptic take on the epic poem. It’s dark and surreal, but these days it is the thing I want to do most.

I am working with this Paris-based Iranian duo, 9T Antiope, on their next album, actually. We’re about to put it into production but have been planning it for three years – they were one of the first acts I asked to do a record on ADR. Sara and Nima are incredibly talented, and it’s fun to scheme with them. I’m also working with some UK-based folks – Daniel O’Sullivan’s got a record in the can, and I’ve become friends with this folk crew – Shovel Dance Collective. I’ve been working on industrial/power electronics with Tom Hardwick Allan and Alex Mckenzie from that project. Ryan Mahan from Algiers is in London, too, and Monika from Nordra. I’m trying to get everyone to link up to play Magic: The Gathering. Tom, Alex, and Monika all play, but I don’t know if they know each other, and Ryan has expressed some interest, hahaha! My homie and amazing photographer Brad Feuerhelm is in Greece, too – he’s part of Nun Gun with Ryan and Lee Tesche – Brad and I have threatened to make some black metal together, as he’s a drummer!

Ah, hell – I’m doing it again…getting excited and involved in too many things…

You’re about to head out on a US tour. What kind of show are you planning to take on the road? Will you be playing material from Everything Is Always or something else?

I will be playing a few songs from Everything Is Always, but also some new and old songs redone in a direct, songwriter manner, using guitar, bass, and laptop/samples. I think I’ve been hiding behind instrumental experimental music. Voice and words remove a layer of opacity in music, and when people can critique or dismiss or make fun of those sorts of things, it’s scary. I’m playing a song about my first friend who died, and it’s really hard. By the time she died, her parents had passed – her body was found under an overpass in Macon, GA – it had been there for a week or so, and no one checked on her. And I hadn’t known, either. My friend Amanda told me months after. And I wasn’t too busy to have given her a phone call, but I didn’t. I hadn’t talked to her in a few years, but my last memory of her is dancing under a disco ball on the night of our High School graduation, thinking we had the rest of our lives, but she didn’t make it to our ten-year reunion, even. Allowing people to interpret or criticize or call me exploitative is nerve-wracking. But I can’t shake her ghost, not that I’d want to exorcize that anyway – I do want to share the story, though, and maybe apologize, too.

What kind of energy and atmosphere do you plan to bring to the stage? What are you hoping your audience will feel and think about when they take in your music and performance?

I am prioritizing storytelling and honesty – I want the words to be direct, unaffected, and easily heard. My mentor Travis from ONO always talks about the importance of language and diction in performance, but I didn’t get it until now. I am also going to talk between songs, adding color and context when appropriate.

The only thing I hope to impart to the audience is that I’m real – that it is complicated, emotional, and bizarre being human. I’m trying to figure out my place in the universe as much as anyone.

Is there a particular instrument that best helps you express yourself at the moment? If so, what is it, and is there a unique way that you are using it?

Words, voice, and body. Over the last nine months, I’ve written every day, mostly poetry. Sometimes five minutes – sometimes five hours, but the wheels are turning. I write in google docs, which get shared across devices, so when I feel the urge to doomscroll, I write instead, which is rewarding and a good use of mental space.

Never studied music theory or sound but sang and danced. I was breakdancing in High School, though not amazing, but I am trying to be comfortable bodily. It’s strange – in my head, I am less tall, less muscular, with narrower shoulders. I kept growing after most folks stopped and filled out later – in my early twenties, especially when I started rowing and doing Olympic lifts – maybe that’s why that difference exists.

It’s impossible to separate the body from performance – even in absence, there’s an implied question – “where’s the body?” So I am trying to use the most “me” things in performance/expression these days – words, voice, body.

I’m excited for us to play together in Portland! You mentioned that you have never been to the Pacific Northwest before. What do you imagine Portland will be like since you have never been there? What comes into your mind when you imagine “Portland”?

Haha! Good question. Lots of forests, I suppose? I mostly know of Portland through PNW stories’ podcast The Black Tapes and black metal. Of course, there’s a long history of independent music and art in Portland, too, so I always think of that when I think of Portland.

And finally… What albums or songs have you been listening to lately?

I’ve been listening to a lot of hip hop – new Rome Streetz, Armani Caesar, Yungmorpheus, and as it gets colder, I have to put on Mobb Deep’s The Infamous and Hell on Earth.

Most of what I’ve been listening to has been audiobooks – listening to Alastair Reynolds and Samuel R. Delany’s books. Those have been so great!

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