We were really excited to talk to Thrill Jockey recording Dustin Wong about growing up in a foreign land, writing music, and a bit about Taoism.
NT: Tell me a little bit about living up in Japan, there are definite musical influences from there in your music.
DW: Growing up in Japan was definitely an interesting thing just because I’m not a Japanese citizen.I went to a Japanese Kindergarten but I was bullied a lot because I was a “Gaijin” or outsider. My parents then sent me to an international school that were run mostly by missionaries from the US. The kids were affiliated with the mission and were mostly American which made it another strange displaced environment. There are military bases in Japan but this was a whole different kind of community. That type of displacement or re-contextualization of culture is something that I grew up with and am very interested in. In music I’m very much interested in the re-contextualization of melodies and how it can create something different and new through that. Japan in itself is a very culturally alchemical place. It takes different cultures and turns it in to their own thing, that integral nature is something I’m very interested in.
NT: Did you always know you wanted to break away from your other projects and concentrate more on your own work?
DW: I’ve always worked on my music even before I started working with other people, so its always been there, it was just very private. But now I’m focusing more on performing publicly and that’s been
quite liberating for me in many ways.
NT: Tell me a bit about writing. Your music has a quite a layered and complex sound, I think you compared your songs to a mille feuille.
DW: To put it simply the process is mainly about stacking ideas on top of each other. Starting with a musical idea that I’m interested in and just building on top of it and manipulating it. Like the mille feuille its about layering, and I really like to compare it painting. Just like when you apply paint on a canvas it stays there, when you play a melody in to a loop pedal it stays there just like a mark can stay on a piece of paper. By applying more and more the picture or image starts to appear. By that I can create a sonic landscape or narrative.
NT: Does the live show ever get daunting? You use quite a variety of effects peddles and improvising, with no backing band as well.
DW: The performance itself isn’t daunting, but I always want to put on a solid show for people are listening, playing sequences of songs in a good pace and flow, and to play consistently. I want to make sure they go home with an experience.
NT: Do you find with so many genres and sub genres of music today, your music is more accessible then in the past.
DW: I think so, music listeners are getting more and more scholary about the history of music and music from all over the world. Where walls between niches are starting to crumble. Because music is so accessible now, people can connect different dots in a more freeing way. Every person in their minds have their own flow charts or I like to see it a 3 dimensional cubic rectangle. Its not just the x and y axis, z is also involved. Since genres have their 1st wave, 2nd wave, 3rd waves and so forth, the genres have their continuous growth and within that you have the different artists that overlap with other genres and history, so now, I think music listeners are able to access this knowledge in a more 3 dimensional way, creating their own sculpture if you will, of their musical essence.
NT: What kind of spirituality has influenced your latest album?
Dw: The more I think about it Taoism seems to be making a presence in my work more than anything.It is this constant humbling, building, and breaking that is very interesting for me. I rarely ‘finish a song. Its an adamant gesture of not finishing a piece of architecture. When its coming to an end, break it down before it ends and start something new.
NT: Where do you think your heading musically in the future?
DW: Its always a very gradual thing for me. I start getting interested in different musical ideas that start developing through a series of songs. I’ve been building loops on different time signature now
like 4/3, 3/3, 7/8, and 9/8 and its been opening new possibilities for me.
NT: Which five records continue to influence you?
DW: From the top of my head these albums but there are a lot more…!
Fripp and Eno, Evening Star
Ashra Templ, New Age of Earth
Terry Riley, A Rainbow in Curved Air
Joe Meek, I Hear a New World
Perry & Kingsley, The In Sound from Way Out