October 30th, 2013 · 2 Comments · By

cover art by dylan mulshine @lilbabypositiv


Adam Smith is the front man for Invisible Hand and Great Dads, as well as recording and mixing tracks for many rad bands. This Friday, he opens a show at Chroma Projects. #onerecord is a sound installation involving analog tape players playing music that is simultaneously being destroyed by suspended magnets placed near and around the tape players. It’s gonna be real cool.

Adam and I sat down to talk about destruction. Below is the interview, in lower case because I could type it out faster that way.


what do you think is appealing to human nature about destruction?

we all know the law that matter cannot be created nor destruction isn’t necessarily as demonic sounding, as negative as the actual name would imply and i see it as something very positive.

it seems there’s this cultural connotation of destruction, of blackness, then there’s a more objective view of it that’s stripped away of a lot of cultural baggage where destruction if you look at it in a whole process, it becomes a creative or transformational process.

well, think of the idea of knocking down a building, destroying it from what it was, leaving a pile of rubble. if the pile is left unchanged, weeds grow out of it, plants grow out of it, animals find houses in the stone and that this is a whole renewal for these creatures. it’s almost like giving attention to something through neglect when you destroy it. leaving any sort of deteriorating building provides this way for life to come in, breathe new life into it.

i really like the positive connotations within destruction, not just things are left to fester but there’s a positive nature to it.

you also have to think that nature is an unrelenting force that will find anything to survive, so nature itself can destroy something only to create something new. the positivity is the realization as change in exciting new things. when something stagnates, it becomes boring.

when you have a song that lasts for too long or becomes rote or repetitious or whatever, it seems to be stale. so when you can fuck it up, provide new elements that come into it, destroy certain elements of the song, all of the sudden it has new life. it gives people new perspectives too. i always like making songs and turning them upside-down. i feel like whenever i write songs i always see the infinite possibilities, so in order to really whittle it down into what it needs, it’s almost like taking the initial idea, destroying it, maybe inverting it, until the one thing that truly matters comes out of it and that’s what you latch on to.

what about destruction in the industrial sense?

i think when you say you destroy something, the word “destroy” has such a weight to it. as in, there’s an obvious reason the object was destroyed. having this monumental, cataclysmic destruction leaves me with a memory of it, though: that thing was so important it had to be destroyed. yet throughout the destruction you still remember the initial idea. maybe you remember the actual point at which it does become nothing, but you also have this lingering memory in your brain of that something as monumental.

you mean the reason to destroy it becomes a part of that memory?

the idea behind the tape project is that it’s not necessarily to destroy but it’s definitely to realize that our memories live on longer than the actual object does. our memories are truly what breathes new life into most inanimate things, or most intangible things, like a song or a note or whatever. i think having the demonstration of destroying or erasing only gives more weight to that initial idea. it’s almost like the object doesn’t matter.

the destruction almost assures its longevity, gives it more life.

it’s like insurance for that memory. again, it’s really up to the user to decide which part they remember, is it the note they heard before? or is it the actual destruction of the tape they remember? i leave that for anybody to decide for themselves. regardless, the piece has been remembered.

it sounds like it’s an individual thing.

it’s really subjective, like art and all things are. i think we only come to real truths just through a myriad of different ideas and perspectives. for example, something like wikipedia is awesome because of that exact reason, everybody chiming in to find the truth but we can whittle it down, we can simplify it to combine all these ideas into the one that makes the most sense, the most accepted.

when you boil it down, you’re going to have a totally different story of your childhood than your mother would, for example. so, i was a terror when i was a kid, but i never saw it that way [laughs] i thought i was acting in totally accordance with how i should act, but my mother would beg to differ [laughs] and it’s only through her telling me who i was at the time and then me also realizing who i was at the time i have some sort of historical reference for that person i was at that point in my life.

which is only possible by the destruction of that person.

in a lot of ways, that person hasn’t yet existed. in a lot of ways, the idea only comes to fruition once it’s destroyed because it hasn’t been given a cap or it hasn’t been finalized. so through all these different perspectives and ideas of who this kid is, it only really makes sense toward the very end.

how about some of the specifics of the installation, how do you see the things we’re talking about in that context? and how has your viewpoint has evolved since you conceived of the idea?

well, the inception of the idea came from seeing an exhibit by the french artist yves klein. he’s famous for many things, among them creating for this certain shade of blue. his projects that most interest me are the more conceptual ones. in particular, his “immaterial zones” series. it was this project where he would entice wealthy benefactors to pay him in large sums of gold or just write him a check. he would then write a receipt for the transaction, hand it to the benefactor, then proceed to take the gold or money and destroy it. he would also tell the benefactor to rip up the receipt and destroy that. it was this happening that only the two parties were privy to. the idea being that, even though we have no trace of it happening, it still happened.

i took that idea and used it through my own means with sound. i initially thought it would be awesome to produce these self-erasing cassettes and release singles on them. the buyer would have one listen, it would play through and there would be a little magnet inside the tape cassette that would erase it. i’d sell them for ridiculous amounts of money. but it’s kind of impossible to do that and, also, i’m not sure how the consumer would feel about it in this day and age. so i adapted it to a gallery setting, which is involving tape loops that have magnets hovering above them that will slowly degrade the tapes.

the time is the really interesting thing about it, because depending on the amount of gauss the magnet holds…

what does that mean, gauss?

gauss is the field around the magnet. depending on the proximity of the magnet to the tape, you can get different effects. what typically tends to go first on tape is the high end frequencies. you’ll notice a significant loss of high end as it runs around. if i’ve set the tape too close to the magnet, then the data on the tape might just instantly disappear. so that’s the experimental part of it.

on the whole, the objective is to destroy the tape. i think the gradual release is something i’m trying to achieve just to allow more people to witness it. i would be perfectly fine with it dying then and there. there’s also this relationship between the viewer or the listener and me the artist that’s created this piece and i think a lot can be said about the producer and the consumer and how with a lot of these things it’s very fleeting and your emotions that are tied to this certain piece. you could almost remove the artist completely from it and talk about how the consumer is then left with their own memory of the project.

how is that similar or dissimilar from what you do on stage, that dynamic?

i think it’s similar in that i see a lot of shows and a lot of the improvisational shows are exactly that. it’s this moment in time that’s witnessed and is then just as easily gone. not forgotten, but gone. i see with a lot of stage performances, a kind of happening that can only be experienced in that moment. you can’t experience it before or after, it’s this very distinct moment in time people are privy to and they get to experience then they walk away from that show with a new lease on life and it’s all because of the performance. it’s all because it was that brief moment in time that flipped a switch. maybe they walk away with the melody still in their head, maybe they walk away thinking “that backflip the bassist just did was really awesome” [laughs] or whatever shenanigans happen onstage. it happened there and they only happened there. they’re rarely repeated, even if songs are repeated, it’s never played the same way twice..

..for your performances, though. there are people who totally recreate a song note-for-note. it seems like it’s a rare thing in the music world today, even with indie acts, to do that level of improvisation.

i think most people, most music listeners have a preconceived notion of how it’s going to sound because they heard the band or the artist before going into it. i think it’s up to the artist to destroy that notion [laughs] because i’ve always been of the opinion if i were to go see a band and they were to recreate their CD note for note, i would be extremely bored. i would wonder why i even came to the show in the first place. so i’m always looking for something, something unique. it doesn’t even have to be something aurally that’s happening, it can be something like a personality that’s conveyed. i think those are the important times to remember.

you mentioned it would be hard to find someone to buy an yves klein-like experience in today’s world. what would create that person who would buy a very expensive, one-time-only art experience?

i think a lot of weight has been given to possessions, so a lot of people do value their possessions and they hold them close. what i hope to achieve and to make people realize is the objects aren’t as important as we think. it’s more about the interaction between you and the artist. we can also see in the music industry these days how that has become so much more important. how there’s no longer this idea of a mystique and if you have this ominous presence, shrouded in mystery, it’s not very successful. i think what should be taken away from these one-off pieces, it’s the interaction you’re having, this direct personal interaction you’re having with the artist. that is all yours. you’re having that experience and no one can take that away from you.

just from general consumerism today, people think the inanimate objects make them who they are, when really who you are is how you talk and how you walk, you know? it’s not the clothes you wear necessarily. i’m more focused on talking with people and communicating with people than i am selling objects. i’d rather directly communicate an idea, have it soak in and the person understand. i’d rather do that than have some memento of that.


Come to Chroma Projects on the Downtown Mall this Friday to see the real deal.


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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 James // Oct 30, 2013 at 11:09 am

    is Adam Smith the Pete Shelley of Charlottesville?

  • 2 bottes grises // Nov 11, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    I have no idea how you do this but I’m completely fond of this blog.