Space Dog Books is an interactive book publishing company that aims to introduce readers to new worlds through the use of touch-sensitive devices. Last month they released their first book app, Treasure Island – A Space Dog Book, and I was blown away by the experience.
I had the opportunity to speak with Tymn Armstrong, Art Director at Space Dog Books, and he was kind enough to share his thoughts on the project and give a behind the scenes look at the process of “creating universes in a digital world.”
Jon: Thanks for sharing with us. Congratulations on the launch of Treasure Island. When you set out to create content for these devices what led you to children’s books?
Tymn: First off, thanks! It was a lot of work. Over a year of production went into making it and it feels so great to see it completed.
I think we’re starting with children’s books because they present more challenges than adult books. There is this misconception that children’s publishing is easy because it’s for kids but it’s actually quite the opposite. It’s an extremely competitive industry with some of the most talented people in the world of books. That said, we do have plans for books that are not necessarily children’s books. We don’t ever want to limit ourselves.
The Ghostly Store just released an exclusive interview and series of prints from Andy Gilmore, below is the beginning of the interview and here’s a link to check out the rest of the designs.
GI: Tell us about your first memory.
AG: Drawing is at the center of a lot of my childhood memories, the most profound of which is watching my father draw. I remember being astonished in watching his lines take form into realistic depictions of horses
GI: So you were into skateboarding, how did that affect you?
AG: Yes, I starting skateboarding in 1987 or so, in the era of H-street. Skateboarding has introduced me to a lot of great and talented people that have guided me on my personal and professional path.
In 2002, an old friend from skateboarding offered me a job resizing print ads for C1rca footwear and Forum snowboards in Southern California. Fourstar was the beginning of working with the computer for me and I will always be indebted to the wildly talented creative staff that I learned so much from.
GI: How do you feel about music, in regards to your artistic life?
AG: Music is at the center of my artistic life. As a musician I have always been fascinated by the harmony and the physics of sound in a sense defining music as waveforms, waveforms whose properties and proportions define our scales, from which we write our melodies, in which we weave our emotions and memories into songs.
In addition to music as an experience I have been very interested in the theories, methods and language of music ”serialism, minimalism, spectralism, indeterminacy, improvisation, tonality/atonality, silence/noise, raga and rhythm these have always informed the language that I applied to design and ultimately shaped my work.
This is the second in a new series of interviews where one artist interviews another, five questions each. Lately i’ve been hearing daily interviews and I’ve noticed too many similar questions keep coming up again and again. I’m hoping that the artist/artist format can give readers a better idea of what’s on the artist’s minds. I’ve also asked each artist to pick two songs which they’ve been listening to, all of which are posted above.
LOSCIL INTERVIEWING LUSINE
LOSCIL: If the world lost electricity tomorrow, would you continue to make music and how?
LUSINE: I would for sure. I used to plink around on the piano quite a lot. But, I’m not great at trying to come up with musical concepts before I mess with samples first, so it would be a challenge to write. And I think it would force me to collaborate a lot more, something I’m not always great at.
LOSCIL: Being a resident of the Republic of Cascadia, how (if at all) has this place influenced your music?
LUSINE: I love it up here. I think it’s nice to write music when it’s rainy outside, and it’s also a great place to escape the studio and go on a quick hike. As much as I love the big city, being in Seattle gives you a nice balance between the urban and natural settings.
LOSCIL: I’ve not heard any of your soundtrack work but I would really love to know more about this as I’m a big fan of soundtracks in general. How does your approach to music change when you work on soundtracks?
LUSINE: It changes in the sense that I’m not really making the music for myself. It’s nice to take direction and have a clear focus on what sound the director wants. And it forces me outside of my own set style limitations. It’s a good way to learn how to write different music and use instrumentation I normally wouldn’t use. But, I like to be able to balance that with the total freedom of making my own music, so I can take what I learned and apply it to my own music.
LOSCIL: Assuming music is your first love, what form of art is second closest to your heart either as a maker or appreciator?
LUSINE: Film. I am a slight bit of a nerd when it comes to movies, and maybe a bit too critical (or so my friends seem to think). But, it’s definitely my first outlet when I am wanting to think critically about an artform that I’m not completely invested in (although that has been changing over the years).
LOSCIL: What is your favourite sound and why?
LUSINE: My favorite sound?? When all is said and done, it’s probably the sound of laughter.
LUSINE INTERVIEWING LOSCIL
LUSINE: I think that maybe I hear a lot of ebow in your later releases. Regardless, it inspired me to get an ebow myself.Do you write any of your music on the guitar first, before layering it with electronic sounds?
LOSCIL: I didn’t play the ebow parts on Plume, they were played by my best friend Steve Wood and my lovely lady Krista Marshall. Despite being a guitarist, I seldom use the guitar in the creation of loscil music. Motoc is an exception. The main chord progression on that was created on the guitar and the pads are formed out of samples from those chords recorded on a classical guitar.
LUSINE: I still kind of have gearlust, despite that fact that a lot of the things I’m interested in probably won’t change my music all that much. Do you still have instruments or equipment that you would like to add to your studio?
LOSCIL: It’s funny because although I too love gear, I’ve always been a bit of an economist (read cheapskate) in this department. For years as a drummer, I didn’t own my own drums. But every now and then I certainly succumb to the desire to own some special piece of gear. The Monome is up there on my list.
LUSINE: Does making sounds for video games give you any ideas that you can use in your solo work?
LOSCIL: Sometimes. The fortunate thing about my day job is I’m always practicing and honing my sound design and composition skills. It is a real joy to spend most of my days thinking about sound. On the other hand, I tend to do a lot of the same things at work. It is a job after all. Spending long hours during the day in front of the computer does not bode well for doing the same with my evenings and weekends so it can be a struggle at times to sit down to work on loscil after working on game audio 40+ hours a week.
LUSINE: How long have you lived in Vancouver? What’s your favorite aspect of that city?
LOSCIL: I’ve been here for a little over 20 years now which is hard to believe. Vancouver’s physical beauty is pretty hard to escape. We are surrounded by mountains, forests and oceans and they are all accessible. The population is growing but it is still reasonable. The coffee and beer are good.
LUSINE: Is there any sort of emotional subtext, or something that inspires you to write such hypnotic and fluid music (possibly other artists/artforms past/present?
LOSCIL: If there’s a subtext, it is pretty subconscious. I’m ultimately inspired and motivated by feeling itself. I enjoy the moment I can create a chord progression or a particular texture that speaks to me and feels expressive of something I cannot otherwise express… it’s not something that I can put into words or draw on paper or realize in any other fashion – it is just that gut feeling of something having meaning beyond myself. Ultimately, I’m inspired by many musicians of all sorts but I think it’s that core act of searching for expression that inspires me to continue to make music.
I’ve interviewed Sam Grawebefore, he’s the perfect fit for ISO50 in my mind, his slow motion synth work as Hatchback meets the Editor In Chief of Dwell Magazine.
ISO50 Just listened thru your new record Zeus & Apollo a third time, whats in the water in SF? you synth guys make it sound effortless, people don’t see how much a handful of you well put together 30 year old men (The Beat Broker, Sorcerer, etc) are changing the face of Adult Contemporary in the background into this finely widdled down masterpiece of a genre, can you explain yourself?
SGI think we’re just trying to make music that we would like to hear ourselves. I’m not really a part of any music scene out here per se—especially since moving north to Marin—so its all about making something that you would yourself want to listen to. We all work for a living, with wives and kids and mortgages and that kind of business, so all that helps you maintain a low profile. Last but not least, I’m not really ashamed of the fact that most of the music I listen to is from 1982 or earlier. I’m not saying that to prove how cool I am, but in fact the opposite. There’s a different attitude with music of that era, much less of a developed sense of irony—like, you couldn’t possibly put a sax solo on a track now, or sing about sailing—and I think its freeing just to get into music that comes from an honest place.
ISO50 You go from Editor of Dwell Magazine back home and do Hatchback, the emotion in the music is calming, your even comfortable with calling it New Age, can you explain how you keep yourself composed? because i’d be an anxious mess of excitement if I was in your position(job wise), i’m asking that because I respect you and your projects and most importantly your tone always seems to be relaxed, do you ever freak out over there on the west coast?
SGI think I release all my anxiety in my dreams. Every night while I sleep I pass through these incredible vignettes of stress—stressful situations spawning even more stressful situations, like trying to find your flight information before you realize you’ve lost your passport only to end up in a car that is skidding around like its on ice—so when I wake up, I am actually relieved to be where I am, and feel pretty good. So, that being said, I don’t really make mellow music to somehow unwind.
I’ve always liked “new age” music, so I don’t really have a problem with labeling it that—new age without shame! It’s much better than “Balearic,” which is a scene I have absolutely no connection to whatsoever. I remember listening to Music From The Hearts of Space (http://www.hos.com/) on Vermont public radio when I was a kid, and my mom had some George Winston and Enya and Windham Hill type of stuff that I would put on. As I got older and started buying a lot of old records, the new age bin was always the place where you would find the rad imports and synth records that the clerks had no idea where else to file. Even at Amoeba in San Francisco you used to be able to get the coolest records for $1 in the new age bin.
ISO50 What do you not like about New Age when you hear it done by others?
ISO50 Can you explain the Dream Chimney community? how did you get involved? what makes you keeping coming back and contributing on there?
SGI kind of come and go with posting tracks, but I’m a daily lurker. I’m usually just too busy to take the 20 minutes to sort out a post, and I haven’t had the energy to rip vinyl in a long time, but I feel a strong connection to the site, so it’s hard not to check in a couple of times a day just out of habit. Long before the word blog even existed there was The Dream Chimney, and it was so cool to get exposed to all kind of different music from all these great music dudes and friends. Back in the day it was largely made up of folks I knew from the music scene in SF, so it was like the place you all hung out during the day before you might see each other at a show later that night. If you were lucky maybe you would get schooled on some crazy synthy progfolk or CTI style beard jazz. There’s an element of humor to it that some people don’t necessarily pinpoint, like in the genre labels or the tags, that never really gets old to me.
ISO50 Can you suggest a Prefab home at an affordable price that you’d live in for more than 10 years?
SGKeep dreaming. But I did see this protohome just yesterday, and was fairly impressed.
ISO50 I noticed the percussion on the new album is almost non existent especially compared to your last record Colors Of The Sun, was that a conscious effort from the start?
SGYeah, it really was. I think after the Hatchback and Windsurf albums came out I was glad that some people were into it, but it was also strange to get lumped into this cosmic disco nu-balearica movement and to get criticized for somehow hopping on a bandwagon you never even knew existed. So I started making tracks that were more ambient or new age thinking that it would be more fun for me, and wouldn’t have anything to do with what was going on in the music world. I had had this idea of a new age “band” called Zeus & Apollo kicking around so I just went for it, fairly consciously thinking of it all as a whole package. Honestly this is closer to my default setting. As much as I love funk, jazz, funky jazz, etc. when I sit down to play at a piano or electric piano, this is the kind of stuff that naturally comes out. Also when it comes to programming drums I usually think what I do sounds pretty horrible, and its really tiresome, so this was a bit of an easy way out.
ISO50 Something your fans might not know about you?
SGI have other fans.
ISO50 Dream gig (location, mood, pick a show opener or closer) and how important is it to you to have a live show? what would want your fans to see on stage for those 45 minutes if the sky was the limit?
SGi’ve been dreaming of doing a show in a planetarium. I’ve always been obsessed with a sort of total immersion entertainment—like an audio visual version of the Audium here in San Francisco; or actually a musical version of the tech in Brainstorm would be better yet.
But to really dream big, I think the most amazing place to play would be at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota. It was designed by Marcel Breuer, and is quite simply, an amazing and inspiring piece of architecture. I love me some brutalist concrete.
ISO50 Do you collect anything other than music gear?
SGI have quite a few pieces by the Finnish designer Tapio Wirkkala. He was a total renaissance man—with one foot in the modern world and the other in primordial nature.
ISO50 Favorite newer band you’ve heard?
SGI really like the last two albums by The Alps—III and Le Voyage. I also like this guy Rob, who released the best two albums of the 2000s that no one heard (Don’t Kill and Satyred Love). He’s released five or six of these mini Dodécalogue eps, which are stunning. The only problem with Rob is that he’s impossible to google. My favorite new music of the last few years is probably 9dw. We became friends after doing a couple remixes for them and even did a short tour together in Japan in 2009.
ISO50 If you weren’t working with music or Dwell, where would you work?
SGA Vietnamese restaurant.
ISO50 Who would you want to take out of hiding and sit in the studio with,
even if it was just for one song?
SGI’d love to have Vangelis and his CS80 pop by for an afternoon. But I think I’d be pretty embarrassed by my shabby rig. My other greek option would be Iasos!
ISO50 Share a childhood memory that might relate to your new album?
SGOne of the lamest things about living in San Francisco is that is so damn cold every single day of the year. Bye bye short sleeves. I grew up on the east coast, in Virginia, and even though it was muggy and crazy hot during the day, there’s nothing more pleasant that sitting outside in the evening and feeling that residual heat burn off in the night air. Hotaru, the fifth track on the record, is Japanese for firefly, and was inspired by a kawabata book I was reading and catching fireflies. There’s something really beautiful about fireflies—not only the iridescence, but also how they all start on the ground while its still pretty light out, but as it gets dark the float higher and higher into the trees; there’s this kind of gentle rising and dispersion, and then they’re gone. So sitting outside on the deck in Virginia, sipping on a cool drink, watching the fireflies. I think Hotaru would be a nice soundtrack for reliving that moment.
This is the first in a new series of interviews where one artist interviews another, five questions each. I’ve been on the road with School Of Seven Bells, hearing their daily interviews, and I’ve noticed too many similar questions keep coming up again and again. I’m hoping that the artist/artist format can give readers a better idea of what’s on the artist’s minds. I’ve also asked each artist to two songs which they’ve been listening to, all of which are posted above.
ISO50: Your new album Maniac Meat has some balls to it, i’m definitely a fan. What made you go gradually harsher and expand your sound from previous albums and projects? TOBACCO: That’s been in there for awhile, but i used to care about not freaking people out too badly. i think sometime last year while i was on tour with black moth, i realized i was tired of all the safe music i had written for that band, and how much fun i could be having just letting all the wild shit out instead of suppressing it.
ISO50: I remember when I heard your project Black Moth Super Rainbow for the first time at the Ghostly office years ago and “I Think It Is Beautiful That You Are 256 Colors Too” came on I knew I was going to enjoy the record, is this a sound that you’ve wanted to make since you were younger? any nostalgia tied to it? if so is there a story you can share? TOBACCO: I feel now like all that old stuff was all i could do at the time. so i can’t say i was ever striving to make music like that, but more like that music was striving for something more. i made that song so long ago that the only real memory i have of it was it was my first or 2nd song completely made on a sampler. that was definitely a fun time.
ISO50: I always wanted to let you know that you have great track names (Sweatmother, Hairy Candy, New Juices From The Hot Tub Freaks, etc) compared to most musicians, anyone help you with those? how do they come about? TOBACCO: Especially with this record, i came up with most of them while running to the songs at the gym or around my neighborhood. i’m usually just trying to describe the way they sound to me, rather than what they might be about – which is usually nothing too concrete to begin with.
ISO50: How did the Beck collab happen? since you went so big is there another artist you’d want to work with in the future? TOBACCO: We asked and beck was awesome enough to say yes. it all just happened through email. you know it’s hard to say now because all 2 people on my list have been checked off, but i think at this point it would be awesome to start a band with someone like beck or aesop and really get in there and see what we could do. i’m remaking someone’s record this summer and that’ll end up being the biggest collaborative effort i’ve ever been involved with, so i’m pretty invested in that. it’s someone i never would have predicted working with, and that kind of stuff can be even crazier because it twists you in ways you weren’t expecting to go.
ISO50: For Maniac Meat, do you have a full band live? hows that setup? do you bring any synths with you? TOBACCO: It’s always 2 of us, sometimes 3. it can be anything from a weird dj/vj show to a minimal band with a sequenced beat, depending on who’s there. on the september tour, we’re gonna try something new and have more people involved for a few songs. we do bring 1 synth around with us.
ISO50: Who does your album covers? TOBACCO: I’ve done all the album covers. for me, that’s just as important as what’s inside.
ISO50: Something your fans might not know about you? TOBACCO: I don’t like most of the music i get lumped in with. if you give me your cd and tell me it’s all vocoder and synths, i might not listen to it, but if you tell me you sound like Scott Weiland I might be down!
ISO50: Dream gig (location, mood, show opener or closer)? TOBACCO: I dream of the day live shows become all digital like everything else, and we can stay at home, and just be projected like a hologram or something.
ISO50: Do you collect anything? TOBACCO: Madballs. there are only like 12 of them, so if you space it out, it’s the most eco thing you can get into collecting.
ISO50: Favorite new band you’ve heard? TOBACCO: He’s not a band, but Serengeti is the man
ISO50: If you weren’t working with music, where would you work? TOBACCO: Any pizza shop
ISO50: Share a childhood memory that might relate to your music? TOBACCO: Baby stinky was a gross baby puppet that this f*ckjob at the flea market was selling, and i wasn’t allowed to have it because it was too sick. for all these years, i put it up on a pedestal of being the ultimate taboo toy that i could never have because it was way too disturbing for my family back in 1992. i finally found an original one a few years back at a costume store and it was definitely gross, but more awesome-gross than disturbing-gross. and that’s because it was from that time. i think that kind of describes some of my musical ideas, or my album covers. yesterday’s sick shit that becomes today’s art. or something like art.
catalogtree is a multidisciplinary design studio based in Amsterdam. Their work is instantly recognizable for its complexity and exceptional clarity; a combination not easily achieved. Their ability to compress large amounts of data into these gorgeous infographics is unparalleled. Joris Maltha and Daniel Gross are the designers behind catalogtree and I had the pleasure to ask them a few questions before I left for Tokyo. Their answers and some example work after the jump.
What were your goals when you initially set up shop?
We never really set up shop and in a way this is our goal. To not have a shop and be amateurs at what we do. Right now we’re working on a 232 meter long radio antenna and are building a crystal radio to receive a local pirate station. We have never done this before and have no idea if this project will succeed.