Ken Morton | Jun 16, 2019 | 0
DIVING DEEP INTO THE CORRUPTING SEA
Jason Lamoreaux is a man of music. He makes electronic music as The Corrupting Sea, with five albums and two live releases under his belt, the most recent is Reflections. He runs the Somewherecold website, reviewing, interviewing and promoting the best in Shoegaze, Dream Pop and other genres of music as well as releases albums on the Somewherecold label. Jason also has the bi-weekly Somewherecold Radio Hour on DKFM.
The Corrupting Sea’s new album Reflections is an apt title, as Ambient Electronic music has always been an outward expression of the internal worlds of their creators. Just got to Youtube and you can get lost in days of full albums from Ambient Electronic artists like Steve Roach, Brian Eno, Jean-Michael Jarre, Vangelis, Klaus Schulze and so many more, taking you to places previously unknown. The Corrupting Sea, while not using traditional song structures, still tell stories, leading you through lands of brightness and shadows, an enrapturing audio experience.
So given the chance to talk with Jason Lamoreaux, I dug deep, knowing this was an intelligent and thoughtful musician. Let’s dive in to the mind of The Corrupting Sea.
How long have you been making music?
I picked up the bass when I was about 16. My first band was in college and I was a bass player in that band. We don’t speak of that band. It was kind of awful. Anyway, my experience wasn’t great so I kind of dropped the music thing for ages.
I think it was around 2001 or 2002 that I got into Brian Eno and Charity Empressa. I have a memory of myself sitting in my parent’s formal living room at the piano holding down the sustain pedal and just holding down notes. I would close my eyes and do it for long periods of time. At the time, I had never heard of ambient music and didn’t know what I was doing could turn into something ultimately creative. When I was in a band, I kind of felt so uncomfortable with highly structured music. Then I encountered Charity Empressa and Brino Eno and I felt like I finally found my musical home. Around 2006, I started recording music. I had an entire album done but lost the files. Only one single appeared on an Australian compilation from those sessions. Then I lost a job and was home all the time around 2016 and I just started recording like crazy, learning how to use midi, getting into synths, and that all became the output for The Corrupting Sea for the last year or so.
When did you get into doing electronic tunes?
For a long time, I only had a guitar and a bass. I made all my drones that way. I had no pedals or anything, only VST’s. So, once I got a tiny cheap midi-controller, my world just opened up. It gave me this huge pallet of sounds and textures I didn’t have before. Once I got into it, I just fell in love with everything I could do, and I know I’ve barely touched the breadth of the tools that are at my disposal. I bought my first synth last year and I’m hooked. Can’t wait to add to the collection. I’m so wanting a Moog Grandmother.
What tools did you start out using and what do you use now?
I started out with a DAW (recording software), a very cheap interface, and a cheap Strat, and 5 string Peavy bass. I would make drones by open tuning or muting strings and then blow fans across the strings. I learned about this from Eric Campuzano of Charity Empressa. Then I would simply play melodies or create sounds and textures with either instrument over the drone. Much of Symphony of a Radical was done this way.
Now I still have the guitar and bass hoping that I can upgrade at some point. However, I’ve added a handful of pedals. I’ve got a Big Muff, Rat, Cathedral, Gold Eterna, TC Electronic Ditto X4, TC Electronic Flashback X4, and an MXR Phase 90. I also have a Korg Minilogue, which I use with my pedal chain now. Of course I use my guitar through it as well, but I love using pedals with a synth. I upgraded my midi controller to an Akai MPK249 and my DAW to Ableton Live Standard. So I’ve expanded things pretty substantially.
Do you play live instruments and sample them in or is it entirely from the digital world?
I do both. I use samples, play instruments live, and so forth. Generally, I play things live and record them, but I also take those things and really manipulate the tracks a bit. I’ve done entire tracks that are one stem and entirely live using my Korg. I also use loops via pedals and so forth. So, it’s always a mixture. I want to use the tools at hand to produce a feel or atmosphere I’m going for. Sometimes it just happens naturally and flows and sometimes it takes a bit of manipulation.
What artist, album, songs inspired you to create your own music?
I’m a strange ambient artist, I think anyway, since I’m influenced by the sounds and textures of shoegaze. I really think I’m inspired by Flying Saucer Attack as well. FSA has been a favorite for a very long time and their improvisation and brilliant need to abandon form in some cases really strikes me as important. Otherwise, I’m really taken with Forest Management, John Carpenter, Survive, Future Museums, and so many others. I think the list might be ridiculously long and be the length of a thesis.
How is the Corrupting Sea a reflection of your temperament and personality?
This is a funny question to me. Tam Laird of Fade to Yellow once told me that The Corrupting Sea is my alter ego. He says I’m an affable guy (I’ll take his word for it) and then my music has this angry, unsettling edge to it. The Jekyll to my Hyde. That said, I think I use the music to communicate the parts of me that are really struggling with things. I’ve talked about this in other interviews, but I struggle deeply with depression and that comes out in the music. I’m also a wonk, so I rail against the political climate in various ways. I do try to keep themes going in each album and some are more angsty/political than others. Resist is obviously an entirely political piece while Reflections is more introspective and hopeful.
How have you grown since first starting The Corrupting Sea? What have you learned about yourself in making this music?
Everything I have learned about recording and working with synths and midi has been during this project. So, in a way, I’ve learned a ton about music, music production, and so forth. I still think of myself as an amateur. Each time I record, get an album together, and work to make it better I learn something new. I’m also still shocked it happened.
I think I’ve learned that I need this. I hadn’t done it for so long but it was in me. Now that it’s out, I can’t stop really. It’s kind of become life blood. It’s also saved my life. Recording and expressing myself has really helped me stay alive… literally.
Is it a release, a form of expression, a way to keep you excited to be in the world?
It’s certainly a form of expression for me. My tracks are all really personal, whether fueled by depression, a moment of tranquility, anger, betrayal, love, etc. I can’t get away from it because, I think, this kind of music lends itself to emotive flow. It’s like an extension me.
Birthing albums and tracks really gets me thinking about my reaction to the world around me in a way I wouldn’t do otherwise. It helps me process. So, in that way, yes, it keeps me excited about the world because I know that, the next track I compose, that flows out of me, will be something entirely new.
I’d like to learn about your creative process. Do you have a complete idea of what a track should sound like before starting or is it more seeing where it leads you? Give an example of a song where it came to you fully formed or one that took on a life of its own after many days, weeks, month, years.
I often write tracks in the course of 30 minutes. Sometimes it takes me a bit longer, but things are rarely pre-planned. There is a sort of stream of consciousness thing that happens when I’m in that zone. I think it’s more of a whole approach where I have an album concept and sometimes even all the track titles before I play a note. Then, I proceed to find sounds and tell the story I’ve laid out. Sometimes I will create a track that really inspires my creative thoughts and then I’ll come up with a narrative off of those. This happened with System Shift (which will be out on Do You Dream of Noise? at the beginning of 2019) and with Reflections. However, my Ghosts album (out this Oct/Nov on Aural Canyon) was entirely pre-planned with song titles and everything. Occasionally, I’m prompted to record something based on a photograph or piece of art.
You’re an academic outside of music. Is there anything literary that influences your music? History, etc?
I don’t know how they connect actually. I know they do, just not sure how. My academic life took up a great deal of my time on this earth and I’m sure it has affected the way I view my world in general. I suppose my dissolution with academia and the realization that it’s actually oppressive to many in it has shaped some of my albums. In terms of the history I study, some of the elements have creeped up in titles, especially my next album Ghosts. Sisyphus and Icarus make appearances in titles and I do have a Master’s in Classics. Maybe, once I come to terms with some things in my life happening right now, I’ll be able to produce something more in tune with all that academic work.
What other ambient/electronic/etc. artists should we be listening to if we enjoy your music? Give me a top five or ten if you can.
I think I’ll give you a list of the folks that continually are coming up in my life in terms of my listening habits. In no particular order:
- Derek Rogers
- Adam Pacione
- Forest Management
- Aidan Baker
- Future Museums
- Tapes and Topographies
And dear god there are so many more.
You also run the Somewherecold site, covering mainly Shoegaze and Dream Pop bands, have a label and a show on DKFM. How does The Corrupting Sea fit in with your other musical interests?
I think all of it is part of my creative output. The label was really created to put my own music out. I never thought someone would want to do it themselves. I was wrong. I’m now signed with six labels including mine. It’s been wonderful and I’m so excited some folks have gravitated toward my music.
I mean, I’ve always been that “supportive” person sitting on the sidelines. I write about others, interview others, play other people’s music but moving into the other side of it became a natural thing once I started doing it. So, it’s all connected.
On a regular day what will we find you doing when you’re not making or writing or promoting music?
Well, hanging out with my wonderful partner for one. Also playing Playstation with my son or going to a gig with my daughter. At the end of the day, I’m a homebody, so I tend to stay home, cook, clean, hang out with my family, and watch way too much sci-fi and fantasy on TV.
During the school year, I’m usually teaching something at a local university for the peanuts they offer me. Yes, most people don’t know this, but about 65% of the faculty in this country make below poverty wages and have no access to insurance. It’s good times but I’m told I’m good at it… just not worthy of a decent paycheck. Ok, bitter rant done.
You moved recently. Is there something in that area you’re looking forward to doing or a place you want to visit?
I’m actually in limbo, living at the parents while me and my partner hunt for jobs. Once that happens, we will be moving the family, and somewherecold, off to Louisville. I love the city, one of my best buds live there, and the cost of living will go down for us. We are educators and it’s getting harder and harder to find places where we can live and financially be stable in this country. So, Louisville is one of those places. I’m just grateful it’s beautiful there.
What is in the future for The Corrupting Sea? Any collaborations, live shows?
I’m in the middle of a few collaborations. Some are a bit stalled and I need to get them unstuck. I’ve got things going with City of Dawn, a project with Yellow6 and Daniel Land, something hopefully in the works with Josh Richardson of Flavor Crystals, and then a project that is non-TCS related with Paul Saarnak of The Beremy Jets.