The Otherworldly Soundscapes of Lionel “Vinyl” Williams
While his previous output relied more on guitars and a traditional bass and drum rhythm section, Williams has grown his sound to include grooves and rhythms from around the world, adding funk and soul to his repertoire as he continues to express his love for this world and his fellow humans as well articulate some of the more esoteric concepts he believes in. Vinyl Williams’ latest release is Brunei, 11 songs inspired by the South Asian tropical paradise among other things. Songs like Ion, L’Quasar, The Presence of Absence and Emerald Isle match accessibility with lushness, combining upbeat percussion with spaced out synths, voices and guitars.
I’m really enjoying your music! I’ve bought all your releases through bandcamp. I’ve noticed that your earlier work is more guitar-driven, but other than that, your music has changed in ways I can’t quantify. What are some of the new ways of making music you’ve learned in the past ten years? New technologies, new melodic structures, etc.
The changes have definitely been qualitative. Creating boundary conditions have been increasingly integral every time I begin a new album. This has meant reducing the time frame of recording from beginning to end, and limiting the instruments I’m using to the most basic objects, kitschy fundamentals like my Casio MT-100. Through creating strict boundaries to work within, it’s sometimes easier to encounter a limitless field. It’s Eno’s philosophy, but it’s proven to work for me. For this new album I was able to borrow an analog console, as well as a cassette mastering device to bounce the entire album through, which glued everything together. I’ve been mastering quite a few people’s records through this system, wobbling the cassette machine around to make the pitch waver in rhythmic patterns. Highly influenced by recordings that combine degraded artifacts with stained-glass-enhancements.
Your music seems to be coming from a very spiritual place. What are you expressing in your music? It’s not simply about getting girls and driving fast.
It’s not about getting girls but it may simulate flying fast! The three pyramids on the Giza Plateau in Egypt played a role in the unraveling of my strange interest in Orion’s Belt. If you turn back our planet’s time about 10,000 years with its axial tilt in mind, the positions of the three main stars of Orion’s Belt are in relative positions of the three pyramids. The ecliptic of the Milky Way matches the nile river, relative to the pyramids. The Great Pyramid of Giza is the largest structure of the three – the center pyramid which once pointed to Alnilam, the center star of Orion. Because of water erosion damage on the Sphinx, its possible that its age could reach back this far. Around 12,500 years ago it would have mapped an accurate reflection of the constellation of Leo, (which validates its lion shape) along with the pyramids & the nile. The stars of Orion were associated with Osiris, the god of the afterlife, and Alnilam may have been thought of as the destination. Similar structures are found in Teotihuacan, Mexico, with the Temple of the Sun, Temple of the Moon, and Temple of Quetzalcoatl in the same layout as Orion’s Belt.
In my own imagination I’ve arrived at Alnilam and observed its behavior. Alnilam is an Arabic word meaning “string of pearls” – this simple linguistic image inspired the song Feedback Delicates. Whenever I’ve visited Alnilam, I seem to orbit around a faux-planet that I like to call Xol, which is a gravity cluster made up of modular architecture that change & flux, with sine waves moving throughout all objects. It’s semi-transparent, as it doesn’t required a dense mass to stay contained as a sphere. There are spacious pathways that run through the cluster of architecture in every axis. It’s an overwhelmingly beautiful place that inspires an infinite stream of creativity for me. I’m not sure if it’s my “job” to do this, or if it’s just my speculative imagination, but about 7 years ago I had an out-of-body experience, which was the first time I had visited this place. At the time I knew nothing of what I observed, but over the past 7 years I’ve been unraveling its relationships to ancient architectural patterns & concepts.
I read that Brunei was inspired by the country on Borneo and how the physical place is a paradise while the people in control of the place are somewhat tyrannical, leading to a strange dichotomy. How can we not celebrate life and the earth when surrounded by such beauty?
Everybody is indoctrinated into the surroundings of their upbringing. They perpetuate their persona (the actor behind mask) through reactionary impulses. Beauty sometimes creates its opposite, perhaps why Los Angeles is probably the dirtiest city in the USA. The Sultan of Brunei has lived a lavish life, and must continue and substantially grow this exterior mirage. Thus he owns thousands of luxury cars, probably more than he could drive in a lifetime. Sharia law has been introduced this year in 2016, which is a huge step backwards on the road toward global human rights. These fundamentalist laws punish those publicly involved with the LGBTQ community. The punishment is death by stoning. I can’t imagine a more polarized expression of the beauty of Brunei. That’s what this new album is about, the blindly inverted mentalities of humans, polarized by the immaculate sculpture of mankind, symbolized by temples & structures all over the world, like the Sultan’s palace in the capital of Brunei.
Do you believe in astral projection? Do you think that there is a source of knowledge that we can tap if only we could clear out the stuff that blocks our access to this realm? Is there an inner space of the mind, of energy, at least as important as the physical space that separates worlds and civilizations? I read alternate history books and wonder how we got to where we are now, and if we’ve been guided by an intelligence or if we’re just part of a natural machine of growth and decay. Douglas Adams made that idea comedy with his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books. I’ve got the tattoo of the logo, 42 and Don’t Panic on my leg just to remind me of how truly insignificant this life seems to be. And yet I still have hope. What are some of your ideas of life, the universe and everything, and how you find hope in the world?
I’m really glad you brought this up, because this is a key point to my alternative view of the significance & meaning in our lives. Forty-two embeds a beautiful mystery. Raindrops are almost always spherical in shape, which create a prism for white light to expand into rainbows. The angle between the incoming white sunlight, and the outgoing rainbow colors is around 42º. The anti-solar point (the position opposite of the sun) is the tip of our head’s shadow. Where a rainbow appears is around 42º from the anti-solar point. This is why a rainbow appears to stay in relationship to where you are. It actually has no specific place, it’s only reflectively in relationship to the viewer. This is a some kind of cosmic axiom that inspires endless thought. “Somewhere over the rainbow” has been though of as that unattainable place that we’re all reaching for – the other side to our limited projection. This place has been named by Kant as “noumena”, or things in themselves that constitute reality.
This gives me hope that there is a very finely tuned background structure to nature, reality, and space-time. Buckminster Fuller created a model of space-time, called the Isotropic Vector Matrix, which is a geometrical object in perfect equilibrium on all axis’s and sides. In Fuller’s words… “The vector equilibrium is the zero starting point of happenings of non happenings: it is the empty theater and empty circus and empty Universe ready to accommodate any act and any audience.”
How much do you think your upbringing had a part in molding your music? Was it the location, the religion, the people, the bands you listened to growing up? Your musical talents seem to be in your blood.
I’ve been equally indoctrinated into my role in life. Though I was raised around music, I had to negate the theoretical aspects of music to find my own element. In the same way I had to negate Judaism and Mormonism (the religions abundant throughout my life) to discover Islamic & Eastern religious practices, which have defined the never-ending flow of aesthetic inspiration.
You also make visuals, sometimes a choose your own adventure type of thing. Where and how can we experience your interactive instillations? Some of it reminds me of the visual manipulations of Future Sound of London. This mix of cultures, nature, space and urban structures. Did you watch MTV and their AMP electronic act show? Lots of trippy visuals there. Are you under the influence of anything while creating your visuals? They certainly are strange.
Currently the best place to interact with the worlds I’ve been generating is on YouTube – since they’ve incorporated 360º interactivity I’ve been making those type of videos which allow you to pan around the environment as its moving you through it. I’ve also made many downloadable environments which are explorable worlds you can venture throughout while a song (or an entire album) is playing. The trippyness is just my attempt at representing that inexpressible place of Alnilam, the most complex dynamic field of swirling objects I’ve ever been able to imagine.
Vinyl Williams Projects
Vinyl Williams – Feedback Delicates
Winter – Wherever You Are
Still Parade – Chamber
Shmu – Shhhh!!!!
Vinyl Williams – World Soul
Vinyl Williams – Space Age Utopia(by Bret Miller)