QA : Angus Tarnawsky


angustarnawskycredits : Joanna Trimble

1. Who are you?

My name is Angus Tarnawsky.

I was born and raised in Launceston, Tasmania but I live and work in New York City.

2. What do you do?

I organize sounds – both as a musical performer and in a technical capacity.

When I moved to the States 4 years ago, I was more of a straight ahead musician but a lot has changed since. I still see myself primarily as a drummer but now spend a lot of my time acting as a sound designer or engineer alongside composing whole works and curating content for others.

A big part of that last element is that I run the independent label, In Context Music. Additionally, my work increasingly involves electronics in some capacity.

Recently I’ve been putting a lot of time and effort into expanding my solo work and have a 12” EP coming out in the next month on the English label, Inner Surface Music. It’s my first solo release.

3. Where do you often create/produce?

I have a studio in the basement of my apartment. It’s a windowless room but has a good energy. I’m also involved with the Queens music venue Trans-Pecos so it’s good to be able to work on something in the studio then test it out there on the sound system.

4. When?

Any time is a good time. I used to think that late night was the way to go but it’s quite remarkable what you can do if you wake up very early and work in the morning hours.

5. Why do you play music?

Because I couldn’t imagine a life where I didn’t. It seems kind of obvious, but once you realize you need to create, it’s an integral component within the structure of day to day existence.

6. When did you start making music?

At around the age of 10 or 11. Nothing too serious early on – just a drum lesson once a week after school. In hindsight, it’s also interesting that at that time, I probably spent more hours messing around with a portable tape recorder I owned than I did actually practicing drums.

7. Which track defines you the most?

Of another artist?  Hollywood” by Cluster from the album Zuckerzeit. It’s a constantly engaging track that has inspired various work throughout the years.

Of my own? ProbablyArtifacts 1-3” from my collaboration with pianist Nathan Liow.

8. How would you describe your own music?

It’s about finding melody and harmony through rhythm and texture. It doesn’t really matter if I succeed in this mission statement though as the detours from it are often intriguing.
9. Any track of the moment?

“Flesh War” by the Australian band, Total Control. I’ve been getting back into more post-punk music and I can just listen to this track 20 times every day. It really is that good.

10.What influences your work?

Just keeping my eyes, ears and mind open to my surroundings. It might not affect instant change but gradually, the old gives way to the new.

11. What’s your academic background? Are you an autodidact?

I studied improvisation at the Victorian College of the Arts which is part of the University of Melbourne. Of course, like most trained musicians, I think once you are out in the real world you quickly formulate a new perspective on how you will apply what you have learnt.

12. Favorite designer?

Dieter Rams. Less, but better!

13. Favorite book?

Not sure that I have a favorite, however, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace has been a big influence over the years.

14. Favorite classic movie?

2001: A Space Odyssey” by Stanley Kubrick. Really, if you haven’t seen this movie, you must do so as soon as possible.

15. Favorite music label?

Well there’s several, but at the moment Editions Mego, Modal Analysis and PAN are notable for their explorations into new and exciting musical territories.

16. Your dream collaboration?

Sasu Ripatti aka Vladislav Delay. He has been a big inspiration on my solo work and I hope at the very least to meet him and have a chat one of these days.

17. Are you analog or digital?

Both. Nobody ever told me I had to choose one or the other!

18. Which software/tools/ instruments do you use/play?

Interesting sounds and rhythms from drums (into good microphones) or synthesizers (into good preamps) through good AD/DA convertors then off and away with Logic and/or Ableton for editing and processing. Within this, I try to mix and match a lot of different techniques depending on what is required from the music I am making.

19. Describe your creative process?

It’s quite varied but percussion is at the foundation of everything, either played by me or someone else or a programmed with a machine. I find once I have one strong rhythmic element, I start to hear many different directions in which I can organize the overall sound.

20. When are you the most prolific (creatively)?

When there’s a deadline. I think most artists need that to get the job done.

21. Any favorite record stores? (Real/virtual)

Other Music in NYC is my go to record store but I also really enjoy Hard Wax in Berlin, Dorma21 in Copenhagen and Experimedia online.

22. What’s your life philosophy? (Optimistic/pessimistic)

I’m an eternal optimist and I like to think that I can always get better at whatever I’m applying myself towards.

23. Do you have a healthy lifestyle?

Yes and no. NYC can be great for keeping healthy but inevitably, the lure of eating excellent pizza every day comes into the equation. I trust that all the walking and bicycle riding I am doing will balance it out.

24. How do you manage your time effectively? (Job/hobby)

Opportunities tend to appear in waves. You simply have to be prepared to take advantage of your own time when you get the chance whilst doing everything else as best you can.

25. Any secret skills?

I make my own “contact microphones”. It’s a very distinct way of capturing what you’re playing as they can amplify very soft and delicate elements – sometimes, sounds you would never pick up with a regular microphone. I actually make them using tiny speakers that are inside those musical greeting cards. You just have to wire the speaker in reverse and it will receive (rather than reproduce) sound.

26. Any future plans?

It’ll be great to get a few more solo releases out as I’ve been developing my approach through live performance quite a bit this year. Similarly, my friend Brian Chase and I have two projects together and we’re working towards documenting them and releasing some records.

In a different vein, I also have a punk project featuring a few other people from NYC bands who all love that style but don’t necessarily play it that much. All the songs are fast – only about one and a half minutes per track – and we just recorded a whole album in my studio which is 21 minutes long. It’ll be a real blast to hit the stage playing that material.

27.What’s your life motto?

No need for a motto, just figure it out as you go and you’ll be fine if you stick at it.

Perhaps, that is in fact a motto?

28. Any “mot de la fin”?!

Isolation breeds strange creatures.


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