A conversation with Chad VanGaalen

 

    Bas Mantel spoke with Chad VanGaalen about spending less time on the computer, imagining mutants out of the garbage, the rainfall outside of his mind and building a birdhouse nose.

    The mutant was brought out of my mind by the amount of garbage and dead fish I saw floating in the canal. The barrier is real.

    1

    Bas Mantel

    While performing at the Amsterdam Paradiso last May, you mentioned to the audience that you took a journey over the canals and saw mutants in the water. Can you recall that sight and describe what these mutants looked like?

    Chad VanGaalen

    The mutant was brought out of my mind by the amount of garbage and dead fish I saw floating in the canal. The barrier is real. I don’t hallucinate things very often if I’m sober.

    2

    Could you describe your outer world? And could you describe your inner world?

    My outer world is greenish-grey and the architecture feels governed by laziness and money.

    My inner world has many pathways worn into it that all lead to erupting nature.

    3

    You are a multitalented artist. Does this makes it difficult for you to choose in which medium you are going to express yourself? How does your process of creation work? Is it an organic process? What is important for the process to give you in the end? In which medium do you find the most satisfaction for yourself? Is the production of your own animated films the ultimate blend of your talents?

    As I get older, I want to spend more time with my family and gardening and less time on computers. Music and animation is made primarily on computers. So I am trying to do more art in the moment with my kids involved.

    Drawing and painting and sculpting outside of the computer world is my focus these days. I try not to think to hard about why I want to create works. I love form and color; that is enough for me. I am trying to remove as much of my ego as possible.

    I would say sculpting gives me the most satisfaction. Animation has a very hard and unnatural process. For me, I think it is becoming quite unhealthy.

    A dream reader would be nice to have. On the other hand, I don’t know if humans need another excuse to delve selfishly further into themselves.

    4

    In your lyrics, there are many expressions that speak to the imagination. It’s sort of science fiction poetry featuring your own inventions. For example, you sing about the Wavereader, a machine with which, after drinking a liquid, you can record your thoughts on an empty cassette tape. Can you describe three of your favorite self-created sci-fi inventions for us?

    I really don’t believe I have created anything new as far as sci-fi developments. but a dream reader would be nice to have. On the other hand, I don’t know if humans need another excuse to delve selfishly further into themselves. It would at least be an uncurated presentation of the mind. An empathy device of some sort that allows people to feel the emotions of one another might be very useful, but these have all been thought up a million times over before me. None of my ideas are original.

    5

    Have you ever been to a mind reader? What did they tell you? Do you believe in the phenomenon of reading another person’s mind?

    I have never been to a mind reader, but yes, I do believe it exists. My wife can tell exactly what I’m thinking just by looking at me. She commonly uses it to know if I have washed the dishes or not.

    6

    Are there any movies that inspire you while working?

    I really love 2001: A Space Odyssey. I love the scope of it and the speed at which it releases its ideas.

    My favorite sound outside my head is a mellow rainfall moving across a forested valley from right to left where I am the middle point.

    7

    Could you describe your favorite sounds inside and outside your head?

    My favorite sound inside my head is silence. My favorite sound outside my head is a mellow rainfall moving across a forested valley from right to left, or vice versa, where I am the middle point.

    8

    You have created your own recording studio. Could you describe the character and specific acoustics of it?

    My studio has a small but “live” sound. It can become quite compressed if need be as well. I would call it a cozy-sounding space. The secret for me is just feeling good about the sound in the space to begin with.

    It is a medium-sized open room, so I can easily mic up something and get a good sound quickly. I have a lot of hanging chunks of organic material to break up the standing waves. I do record other bands, but it takes quite a lot for me to wrap my head around another person’s idea of how something should and could sound. For me, it should be a long and unrushed process.

    Chad VanGaalen's studio.

    9

    You have created instruments that you use on your records yourself. Do you have a specific sound and aesthetic in mind before starting to create or build an instrument? When you have finished an instrument, does it get a name? Could you make a list of all of your homemade instruments?

    I do not make very many instruments anymore, although I would love to have some time to make more.

    I have made…

    4 A double-sided peace mbira.

    You play it facing the other player. it always ends up being fun and its great to camp with or go to a cottage with.

    4 Hobo clarinets.

    One which I travel with, which is very small. It’s called the barn swallow

    4 An aeolian harp that is unnamed.

    It has 13 strings.

    4 A violin of sorts.

    I rarely play it because it sounds bad.

    4 Nail pianos.

    4 A birdhouse nose.

    An enclosed structure that has a ring of horseshoes that you are supposed to bash as you spin around inside.

    4 Winter bells.

    Fly pots strung upside down to make a giant hanging bell assortment.

    4 A pan flute.

    Made from bamboo and wool.

    4 Various hybrid instruments combined with garbage…

    10

    Have you ever created mixtapes for close friends? What is the most precious mixtape you’ve ever created?

    Yes, I love making tapes. The best one I currently have on the go is just a mix of Alice Coltrane songs on Side A. Side B is folk music from Sudan.

    Thank you.

    Data


    Conversation: 220
    Curated by: Bas Mantel
    Conducted by: Email
    Edited by: Morgan Enos
    Published: August 8, 2018
    Total questions: 10
    Word count: 979
    Reading time: Three minutes
    Imagery: 1

    Metadata


    Bamboo: Cultivated
    Birdhouse: Yes
    Pathway: ∞
    Drawing: Accurate
    Presentation: ∞
    Water: Seen

    Relation


    About the subject


    Chad VanGaalen is a musician, illustrator and animator residing in Calgary, Canada.

    About the curator


    Bas Mantel has worked as a graphic designer for music magazines, record labels and cultural institutions since graduating from HKU in 1998, He works with various media, from print to stop-motion animated movies. His graphic design is characterized by the combination of old-school skills combined with modern technological techniques. Bas Mantel runs also the small record label REV. LAB. Records, which finds its inspiration in electronic, ambient, experimental, cinematic and abstract soundscapes.


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