In 2011 an artist by the name of Gotye rose to international prominence on the back of his song, "Somebody That I Used to Know," from his third album, Making Mirrors. Wouter "Wally" De Backer is Gotye, and it turns out he's far more than a global pop star. Belgian-born, and Australia-raised, he now resides in the New York City area, where he can work on his many passions. An interest in the French proto-synthesizer, the Ondioline – and its most famous player, Jean-Jacques Perrey, led to meeting Jean-Jacques, archiving his music, releasing a record of rare works (on Wally's Forgotten Futures label), and restoring several of the vintage Ondiolines with the massive help of Stephen Masucci [see our interview with Stephen this issue], as well as performing live with the Ondioline Orchestra. Wally also continues to record and perform with The Basics, a rock trio he's had with friends since 2002, and is currently working on a new Gotye album. He's a busy man; one whose energy is positive and infectious.

What were your first recording experiences?

It's a shame I don't have them anymore, but I remember me and my best friend, at age five or six, recording bits and pieces on cassette. I would record Sesame Street off the television, putting my little boom box in front with the microphone by the speaker. It would be intercut with me and my friend, Gerard, making little radio dramas and things. Then I became a pop fan by listening to video and radio shows, harassing my parents to get a drum kit, and then obsessively starting to play drums. I was coming home from school and playing along with Stewart Copeland on the drums, loving The Police. I loved The Beatles since I was a kid. I remember trying to reverse-engineer Beatles songs. I was going to local studios with my first band in high school. That was the next recording experience.

What was your first studio experience like?

My band was called Downstares. There's a studio in Collingwood, Victoria, Australia, outside of Melbourne; an inner-city suburb. I recorded four songs. One of them I'd recorded at home using MIDI instruments on a Creative Labs Sound Blaster sound card. That's the first time I thought, "Oh, you can get string sounds and bongos in the computer!" I had a little keyboard, so I made do with that. The tracks we recorded with the band were like a metal thing, maybe a bit like Tool, or at least what I thought Tool sounded like. I was probably drawn to metal because of the technical, mathematical side to it as a drummer, starting to work out limb independence and being fascinated by interlocking rhythms and polyrhythms. Local studios around Melbourne had cheap rates that would come with an engineer, so we did a lot of things on ADAT at the time. The first programming I ever did was on a Roland Groovebox. I'd take that down to the studio with Downstares, and we'd put it down as a backing; like percussive parts, or synth things that we'd play along with.

Even for a high school band, doing a number of studio sessions is unusual to some degree, right?

I guess so. I definitely could tell that I was doing something a bit different from what a lot of high school bands were doing, which was, "Let's go in and record all ten of our songs," just punk style. We'd come in and say, "I want to do this one song. I don't know if we have enough money, but we've got to get it right today." The engineer would be like, "You've got sequencers here, and synths here. Do you want to treat this snare drum sound and use this flanger I've got?" We'd get to the end of the day and barely have tracked or be ready to mix. I was a bit ambitious. I was listening to a lot of Depeche Mode records, which I guess was my blueprint of what a record could sound like.

Which weren't easy for them to make, as you might know now!

They weren't doing it in a day! As a teenager, I was a bit oblivious that you couldn't make a reasonably elaborate, half-sequenced synth band production in a day, with an engineer who didn't know what you were aiming to do when you walked in there in the morning. I tried that a number of times with Downstares, to varying levels of success.

We all learn somewhere. Did you start putting something together to record at home?

Finishing high school, the four of us guys in the band were going different directions. That naturally made me go towards, "Should I try to record things myself?" I put a PC-based system together. I started with what was going to be Downstares tracks, thinking that I should produce these myself at home. That was before I was starting to sample records, with what became the first Gotye record after a few years. I was still trying to track live instruments at home on a pretty simple setup with two channels of preamps on an interface. But I was listening to bands like Portishead, Massive Attack, DJ Shadow [Tape Op #11], and Cut Chemist a lot. My friend, Andy Hutchinson, said, "Dude, you should sample records!" We'd go to the thrift shop and bring back records, and a neighbor had also given me this whole stack of records. My aspirations to make records that sounded like Depeche Mode or Massive Attack, that process had got me very deeply into like, "What else can I find in thrift shops to chop into bits to make whole tracks?" Trying to turn those Downstares tracks into full productions myself, I was feeling the lack of ability and knowledge – these weren't better than what I was able to do in studios with engineers and local assistants. But I had a few early successes cobbling samples together. Pragmatically it felt like a bridge towards, "Okay, I could make finished tracks that sound really good." Better records than I could do when I was tracking instruments. I thought, "Maybe I should stop tracking instruments and just use my voice, because that can work with the level of gear that I can afford." Sampling, apart from being a creative inspiration, also got me over the hump of making a record that I thought sounded good.

You don't get many people admitting that sampling can be a path forward.

I quickly realized that it's a different set of rules and limitations with sampling. Maybe it circumvents some things that feel like barriers to entry: the cost of recording in a studio, or the engineering expertise required to make drums sound really good. I don't think that means it's cheap. It might make those things easier, but it offers different possibilities. Obviously there are records you can't make without sampling, and there are records that you can't make without really having humans play in a room.

There are a million ways to make a record.

The first thing I thought was, "How far can I pitch-shift things and still have a musical end result that I find interesting?" I was doing a lot of pitch-shifting, shifting things down an octave or more, probably because of the trip-hop that I was listening to.

Listening to a DJ Shadow record, some sources you might be able to identify, but others he's picking a tiny little sound and manipulating it. You'd never know where it came from.

He might not know, either! I know that's certainly the case for me, especially if I was looking into little snippets. I don't know where that snare drum came from, but I manipulated it enough that if I don't recognize it, that's fine.

Did the music become your own project, at that point? Were you working with others?

I conceived Gotye as a project. I was working by myself in my bedroom for years, cobbling together about 20 tracks from which I selected the 12 that are on Boardface, the first album. I was making homemade demos. I'd do a lot of the artwork myself, burn the CDs myself, and then send the CDs in to radio stations – thinking that I could do things independently rather than looking for a manager.

You seemed to have a real tenacity.

It might have been a reaction to Downstares. We did a few Battle of the Bands, and even won one. We entered a radio-based Battle of the Bands with a very pop-based radio station in Melbourne. Listeners voted on a 20-second snippet of three songs, and our song got the listener's vote. They were like, "We'll be in touch with Downstares soon about their prize!" Then I never heard from them. What a bogus thing! A friend of mine, Marty Williams, said to me, "You don't need a label. If you can make your own records, you can distribute them. Maybe you need a distributor, but you can do your own promotion." I wanted people to hear what I was working on. I liked the aspect of being hands-on with everything. I love the physical object of records. I love the experience of entering portals to other worlds. I felt very connected to the fact that if you made music, you were also making the portal in a way that you might give it to someone else. That can be very direct.

The first Gotye record, Boardface, eventually attracted more attention in Australia?

Releasing it commercially was the result of having a bit of interest from a distributor named Creative Vibes. They wanted to put one of those homemade collection tracks ["The Only Thing I Know"] on their compilations of new Australian music called Evolutionary Vibes [Volume 5 - The Winter Of Our Discotheque]. They suggested that I could get a better mix of the song. I was interested, but also resistant. I went to Sydney and they paired me with an in-house engineer, Jimbo [Jim Sherringham], they worked with. Jimbo and I did a remix of the song. I thought there were good things about it, but there were also things that I didn't like. My more lo-fi version of the mix felt truer to what I was trying to do. That was my first experience of, "I do want to try to articulate the music I'm making to the best possibility." I don't want to say I'm only going to make it myself, or make it willfully lo-fi. No, I want to make records that sound great. I was exploring the possibility that I maybe could meet people to help me. That experience on the compilation was with good people, and we tried, but I don't think that it made my sound better. I thought, "Maybe I should stick with my own mixes and release the record myself." Creative Vibes said they were happy to be the distributor. I collected selections from those 20-odd tracks; in 2003 I pressed up the CDs myself, sent 500 of them to Creative Vibes, and they got them into stores. I had a bit of airplay, as well as some great responses from Australian community radio stations and Triple J early on. A year or so after that I'd put together a 12-piece band to play songs off Boardface at about three different locations around Melbourne. Obviously I couldn't pay anybody – it was pure favors.

Those are good friends.

Yeah. We did a few shows, but I felt like I got to a natural endpoint of what you might call an album cycle. I wouldn't have called it that. But I made an album over a number of years; I put it out myself, it got a little bit of radio airplay. I'd done a few shows and not lost a crazy amount of money, but still I hadn't made any money. I didn't even make enough money to buy a new computer to get a better sound card. I guess I was questioning, "What is success?" I was enjoying all the independent aspects of being very hands-on in every facet of putting the music out, but I had a point where I asked whether I wanted to keep doing it. It was a huge amount of work, energy, and effort. But I borrowed some money off my parents to buy a new Mac, and started using Ableton Live for the first time. That was part of the process of making my second record [Like Drawing Blood]. I was thinking, "Maybe I'll sell a few hundred copies, or even get a bit of radio airplay." But then that's the point at which things seemed to flip, where things went beyond my expectations. Since then, that's what I've experienced; and I've felt very, very lucky.

It seems crazy, right? The amount of success from one song?

Yeah, for better or worse. I don't know! I think I see the good things about it. I know I wouldn't be able to do these projects if it wasn't for the success of that song ["Somebody That I Used to Know"].

Sure. I mean it's crazy, right?

The tracks from Like Drawing Blood, I'd mixed to a level that Boardface was mixed to. Me doing the best I could, bouncing out my tracks with Sonic Foundry ACID. That was the best I could make it sound. I don't have a separate software option, or a separate hat to put on. This was the best I could do, automating all the effects I'd chosen and the arrangements I'd decided. That's my mix. I did try to work with some other mix engineers on Like Drawing Blood, but I realized it wasn't resulting in a process that I enjoyed. I found a few people where there was an aspect of ego and seniority, where it felt as though we weren't talking about the music. It was, "Let me make this decision. You don't know how much reverb this sound is meant to have." I was trying to meet someone who I wanted to work with, who was going to help my tracks become more clearly articulated, but also would be prepared to let me – in the end – call the shots. Then I met Fran'ois T'taz, on the suggestion of some of the people around the Creative Vibes label. They said, "We think you guys are coming from a similar place. You'll enjoy the way he works, because he's such an open guy, and he has an incredibly broad perspective on music history and modes of producing records."

That's really important to know a lot
of different styles, and how they
were created.

Yeah. We did a few tracks, and I loved the experience. It was everything I'd hoped for in working with a mixer. Making things sound better and clearer, yet still finding the soul of what may have been a demo-level production I'd put together, and managing to take those tracks further. I went to him saying, "Do you think you can make this better?" He listened to it and said he remembers playing it to a number of people at labels, saying, "There's something in this." He had a lot of responses from people that suggested, "Oh, this is cool, but this will never work. This doesn't have any place. Who's going to play this in Australia?" He wanted to work on my tracks, but I could only afford to do one mix with him. I saved up by working at the cafe or the library for three months to mix one more song. For me, $1,000, was a super cut rate at the time, but $1,000 was a huge amount of money to spend on one mix. I was doing it in dribs and drabs with Franc.

Do you feel that having his perspective, as well as helping you mix it, gave Making Mirrors a commercial leg up?

I think so. If you listen to my rough mixes, it's not like you'd say, "This is a completely different song." But it's a lot about articulation in a context. The challenge of how do you tell the story of this piece of music, this collection of frequencies, this collection of sonic ideas, in the most engaging way so that it invites people to that moment – which you always hope for – which is, "What's this? I want to hear this person sing." Or, "I want to hear the story that's in here." There might be a bunch of music I've made over the years that wouldn't engage as many people. It might be in there somewhere, but they'd have to listen into it, and really look for it, whereas Franc is great at bringing that articulation aspect in.

Were any parts re-tracked or manipulated massively?

Not on Like Drawing Blood. I would bounce tracks down to Sonic Foundry ACID; dry and wet, every channel, bringing in stems. Then we'd look at whether it made sense to recreate a reverb or, "Is there a better way to distort this?" Mostly he'd say, "No, I like what you've done on this fuzz here. Absolutely use this. I'm going to EQ it." Like Drawing Blood was purely him straight up mixing what I brought to him. There's a track, "The Only Way," that has a 30 Hz tone in it. I said, "I really want this low-sub "whoomp" with a long tail, like a Beyonc' track." His studio in Melbourne had these massive Duntech Audio speakers; he mixed that track and helped create this bass tone that underpins part of the song. Hearing him do it on those Duntechs was amazing, just this standing wave in the room! I guess there was the tiniest bit of additional production. But I feel like what Franc brings to my project is an additional production ear for mixing. I'm cobbling these things together from really disparate sources. A collection of textures and frequencies that gives the record a certain eclecticism, even frequency-wise, because it's coming from all these different places. He's great at enhancing those things. I feel like he's the only other person I've worked with who can understand it to the point where he's spent enough time with it. He'll ask what I'm trying to say. He's guessing a little bit, but he's also getting to know me better as a person. He has a feeling for where I'm reaching towards but haven't gotten to yet, sonically. He'll take these things like putty and tease it out, but without breaking it. That's what he's always trying to do. "How far can we explode this without breaking it?"

Changing the presentation or perspective can really ruin or enhance a mix.

It can, yeah. I've been amazed at hearing quite passable mixes, that are objectively better than my rough mixes, but that I felt were absolutely not better pieces of music. They didn't tell the story in an engaging way, or in a way that's even as engaging as how lo-fi my rough mix might be. That really fascinates me; the one step forward, two steps back thing when you get the perspective on a piece of music wrong.

And you kept working with Franc after Like Drawing Blood and onto Making Mirrors?

Yeah, and we've been working on a new record for a good while. He's really gone with me on the odyssey of this record.

How does the pressure of following up Making Mirrors feel?

There's internal pressure. I have different moments. Leaving Australia, and leaving my relationship partly, was something related to the feeling of like, "I want more time." The possibility of being in my early twenties, when I could dig into record shops endlessly, and sample, and sample. But then I'd already set myself this concept for the new record that is in progress, which is actually going into very specific sound worlds of people like Jean-Jacques Perrey or Harry Chamberlin, things that are inspiring the songs, and giving myself that rigorous limitation of not sampling willy-nilly from whatever I find. I haven't been thrift shopping for records hardly at all since I've been here. It actually overwhelmed me a little bit. There was probably something over the years in Australia, of feeling like I couldn't find all the cool records in dollar bins. It's all schmaltz. But that's one of the things that contributed to my early records, because I felt like, "Well, I'll buy that Andy Williams record and see if there's a break on there."


I came off the road after a number of years touring my last record, and felt like I wanted to make more music. I don't want to do the same thing I've done before. I could make another broadly eclectic, generally sampled base with a little bit of live performance pop record, where the lyrics are mostly semi-autobiographical, but I've done that before. I need to challenge myself to do something that's really different. That's how I've arrived at this current album concept. Sometimes I wonder if by giving myself those rules I'm maybe actively stepping away from the greatest strengths I have as a sampling songwriter/composer. Is that a bad move to be actively ignoring the things that maybe I'd naturally do that are engaging? It seems that audiences have told me, "We like you doing this." I'm going to see if I can make music that I think is really good, and I'm passionate about, that is maybe harder for me to realize, but that also feels a bit like, "I don't think I can do this." This might fall really flat on its face, but that's a good reason to try it.

Well, you've got to challenge yourself to stay interested. Maybe the worst thing you could do, at this juncture, would be trying to please an audience?

Certainly. With the things like the Ondioline restoration, and curating Jean-Jacques Perrey music [the LP, Jean-Jacques Perrey et son Ondioline], that's coming purely from this place of, "I want to do this."

The Ondioline, one of the world's earlier electronic instruments, debuted in 1941. I've never even seen one in person until today.

Neither had I, until three years ago. The first one I saw was in a museum in Calgary, Canada. That's what started me off on this new record. I'd finished touring, and I'd done a show in Calgary. A friend invited me to the National Music Centre, and I was flipped out with their collection of keyboards, synths, and early tube instruments. I knew the second I got off the road that I'd have to go back there and spend a week. I invited Nick Launay [Tape Op #105] to come and engineer. We'd never worked together, but I love his engineering and his production work. He engineered and I was jamming on these wild instruments for a week. All of that is currently up on the shelf. I've got 20 quite-promising instrumentals that are very different from anything I've done with the Gotye thing. Just me playing and not getting bogged down into multisampling. "Oh, here's a good sound, and here's a hook. Let's record this." Then I'd pull another instrument in and respond to it. It was a beautiful experience, but I couldn't find a way to turn it into what I thought was going to be a Gotye record. It's like pretty much everything I do in music, the tic-tac-toe approach of, "I've done this, and maybe that's not it, but it's led me to that." I felt like having those instrumentals that I couldn't seem to turn into songs made me think, "I know these instruments, and I know the stories behind them. I love how much more interested I am going really deep into where these strands of electronic music history came from. Maybe that's the inspiration for the album." Actively engaging with those instruments, those people, and those stories. I used the Theremin because I thought it sounded cool, which is a perfectly valid reason; but what if I said I'm using a Theremin for a myriad of other reasons that are very specific in this song? Those kinds of frameworks require a lot of experience, traveling, patience, digging, and researching.

The Ondioline must have caught your attention when you got to play it for the first time.

I saw it first in the National Music Centre, but it wasn't functional. Then I ended up at Audities, also in Calgary, David Kean's studio. He's got an incredible collection of things. He was behind the Mellotron Archives for years. He's slowly donated or sold much of his incredible instrument collection. I went and played some Ondioline on a tribute song to Jean-Jacques Perrey that I was putting together, because I thought, "Where else in the world am I going to find a functional Ondioline?" I'd dreamed of playing this instrument for so many years, and I loved Jean-Jacques' playing of it so much. The Ondioline was nice. It wasn't very well scaled, and wasn't very well tuned. I was having to play lines within maybe only a fifth before it'd be like, "Let's retune it a little bit and do a separate pass." That's what I've learned working with Stephen Masucci on restoring these. That's the case, unless you replace the whole resistor string on the instrument and do multiple passes of the resistor/capacitor calibrations that are required to tune each register. All those components have drifted in 50 years. So his instrument sounded okay, but it was scaled really wildly. That's the first time I played one. I was looking and looking, and asking Dave Kean if he'd had any leads on an Ondioline. I left my details with shops in France, as well as places that I'd seen had sold them over the years. Somebody had this Ondioline in Connecticut. That was the instrument you heard today.

The photos of it when you first got it were terrifying.

I had no idea. It arrived in a cardboard box with hardly any packing. It had been underwater and totally rusted. We could see the waterline on the cabinet inside. I took it to Stephen This was one of the nice things about moving to New York. As I was starting to meet people like Brian Kehew [Tape Op #93], Stephen's name kept coming up.

Stephen Masucci's a foremost restoration expert for Moogs, as well as old Helios consoles and gear like this.

Yeah. He told me recently that we met at a time where he'd reached the point where he wasn't sure if he wanted to be doing that work as much. He'd done a lot of big projects he was really proud of, but sometimes people wouldn't use them for musical ends. They became museum pieces, or display items.

It's depressing.

I was saying, "I really want to do everything Jean-Jacques Perrey was doing on this. I don't know if I can make it sound like him, but what do you think?" He told me recently that he lied to me when he said, "Yeah, I've seen worse than this!" He thought it was never going to work. I didn't give him any kind of deadlines, but I heard that if it was possible, if anybody could do it, it'd be Stephen. He started digging, testing, and checking. I already told him I was digging into the historical document side of it, and intended to translate the manual to give as much insight as we could into what was going on in the guts of this instrument. He got to a point where he had a lot of basic things calibrated and working. The schematics were available, a scan of them, but it didn't give the full story that the actual text in the document elaborates on. The way that Stephen put it is that once we had that English translation done, he said that there are so many, "Oh, by the ways" that are critical to making the instrument work. Like, "If you don't exactly match these tubes and have the voltage in this range at 65 volts, then that whole assemblage won't work, even if you had it working before." But he worked through them. He still found a bunch of oddities that didn't even match the manual. Everything in this manual says it can't run above 170 volts, but this instrument has to run at 190, and everything works. Each one of them is still its own little conundrum. They're all handmade, and Georges Jenny [the Ondioline's inventor] was obviously tweaking little things every time. Stephen's starting to see those things, instrument to instrument. That's an ongoing process of discovering how, even the ones that are seemingly the same model, from the same period, how different they can be.

The Ondioline is very expressive. It was amazing watching you play and see the keyboard shift back and forth with vibrato, as well as seeing the volume control and unique filters you were using for changing sounds as you were playing. I thought, "Oh, that's a great way of expressing through a keyboard."

Yeah. It's a different assemblage of expressive mechanics. Georges Jenny had a real feel for how the choices of materials give you something that's a musical assemblage. You can almost let it go; it continues on its wiggle and comes to rest, in a way. It's this period before Moog, Buchla, and the more programmatic aspects of electronic music. The Ondioline is from this other period, where people were asking, "Why can't an electronic instrument have as much human, mechanical expressivity as a violin or a saxophone?"

This fascination also led to you meeting Jean-Jacques Perrey and archiving his work?

Yeah. Making that tribute song did. I was searching, when I was living in Australia, feeling like I'd set myself on this album concept – that I'm now about three years into. That has mushroomed into so many direct side projects – in archival, tribute bands, and instrument-learning directions – that the whole project has become [something else], which is great; but that's obviously taking a lot of time. Living in New York has made a huge change to those things, because New York is such a magnet for incredible people doing absurd things. You can fly to Europe in half a day. You can go to L.A. in a few hours. When I was still in Australia, I sent a demo of that song to Jean-Jacques. He and his daughter replied very warmly that if I ever wanted to meet to drop them a line if I'd be in Europe. They didn't know my music or anything. I flew over with the intention to see if Jean-Jacques would sing or speak on my track. We tried it the first session, trying some things where he was speak-scatting in English, and I was going to have him mirror in English and in French speaking behind my voice. It hasn't ended up working out in the song. My intention first was to get to meet a musical hero who's inspired me so much. It started this connection that led me back. I felt like I wanted to visit again. They said they were happy to have me come again, and that led to exchanging more music. [His daughter] Patricia [Leroy] started bringing out test pressings; things that her dad had given her when she was a girl. I thought, "What else is hiding here in the cellar, or in Patricia's room?" She was understandably a little worried at first, but I said, "If there's no way to hear what's on them, or you're only going to make them worse by playing them on an average turntable, I'll do whatever it takes to make sure that this is transferred the best that it can be." So she agreed. Hard-copies, or test pressings, where, from all we could tell, that piece of music didn't exist any place else. So I took them to New York and did a bunch of looking around. I found Chris Muth [Tape Op #45], who's been doing the vinyl transcriptions for me. I really love the work he's doing with his setup.

He knows a few things.

Patricia was really happy with the way things sounded. Then I thought we should do some restoration. I tried about seven different restoration engineers, but I was disappointed with the results, thinking that maybe what I wanted wasn't possible. Then I found Jamie Howarth [Tape Op #94], and he really blew me away with the first two or three things that he worked on. Just the sensitivity and musicality, as well as being on the same wavelength as him, in terms of the fact that we're not trying to give this thing the "L.A. body scrub" restoration process. We're really getting that sweet spot between, "This is an artifact, but how much closer to the performance can we get?"

Like building a time machine.

For a time I wasn't sure if it was going to be Ondioline-focused. I was loving hearing some of these demo versions of tracks I know from later albums. This was a joy to discover these pockets of music from his recording career.

Have you set up a proper archive for Jean-Jacques Perrey?

Yeah, I've been pretty systematic about it now. It's multiple hard drives backed up between me in New York and Patricia in Switzerland. It's led to contacting ex-collaborators of Jean-Jacques. After I finished this compilation about the Ondioline, the timing lined up and I met the widow of a man named Sam Fiedel, who was a jobbing bass player in New York for over 50 years. He played on a bunch of CBS sessions with every major conductor in New York. He got to know Jean-Jacques, as a lot of other people did, through Carroll Music. "Who's this crazy Frenchman, making wild sounds at the end of the hall?" They made this great album called Musique Electronique Du Cosmos, featuring the first version of "Chicken on the Rocks." Sam Fiedel passed away in the '80s, but his wife, Dorothy, said she'd meet me at the family house in Pennsylvania, and we'd look in the attic. We pulled all these boxes of tape out; hundreds of reels. I said, "I'd be be happy to archive your entire late husband's collection, in case there are some Jean-Jacques Perrey productions on there. I'll give you your late husband's archive back as part of the deal, just a freebie." We pulled out this box, like with a crowbar to open it up, and there was all the Jean-Jacques and Sam Fiedel collaborations, with all these great little drawings of cartoons, and aliens, and spaceships on it. Right after Jamie Howarth had spent three days restoring the best vinyl version of "Chicken on the Rocks" that I could find, we found the master tape. I've then systematically gone and had Steve [Rosenthal, Tape Op #66], at The Magic Shop, transfer all of the tapes – all the Sam Fiedel tapes, all the Jean-Jacques tapes, all the Harry Chamberlin tapes that the family had given me. The Chamberlin archive is mainly Markus Resch in Sweden, who's taken over the Mellotron company from David Kean. He has the main archive.

It's so important that this be preserved while it can.

Things get scattered so easily.

We need to get this backed up so that it can be studied.

And have processes in place. When you go to digitizing things, those processes need to be foolproof enough that it doesn't become yet another generation that gets scattered and lost. I guess that digital information is more susceptible to corruption over time than these analog sources that have given us 60 years. You wouldn't say that about a corrupted digital archive.

What else is up in the future with you? Your new album, of course.

Yeah. I really do hope that the new album might be a launching pad for the spirit with which I'm trying to do these other projects – the archival presentation revival aspect of the projects [in order to] celebrate people who are potentially less heralded. They deserve a bit more attention, or pockets of their work deserve more attention, than has been given. If my original music can even be a door opener, a little doorstop to let a little light in, then maybe that will lead to work I want to do, which is to actively shine a light on those things. I feel like the projects need to have their own integrity, in their own space; but I'm obviously aware that I potentially have a profile that could introduce people to things that they don't know about. In my heart of hearts, I do hope that my Gotye record can start connecting some threads with the archival things I've got in the future.

I love that you've taken a successful thing that happened to you and put a lot back, too.

That's definitely part of it. I feel like it's a total cycle.

In the culture we live in, it's easy for someone to get a lot of fame and become self-absorbed.

I feel like that in a way, sometimes. Being self-absorbed in things that are perhaps very unusual or peculiar to people. Part of my motivation must be that if I do really good work, then the peculiar aspects of things that I'm into may be enjoyed by more people. If you feel a personal passion for something, and you are blessed to have the time (or various resources: time, finances, support, collaborators who share your enthusiasm), you don't know where it could go. That's really exciting. If some part of you says, "I wonder if the Ondioline could come back?" It could be some new accessibility to musicians, producers, or studios to be used to make new music. That would be amazing!

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

Or Learn More