Interview with William Rauscher (Night Plane, CCC)
I’ve decided recently to start doing some interviews with artists & musicians who I personally like & respect. My goal is to get into the brains of these people & find their creative approach. In my opinion, understanding how a person thinks creatively is much more important than learning a production technique alone. There will always be new techniques to explore (and I will certainly share plenty more) but approaching things from a “mindset” point of view seems that it would give more long term benefits and also deter the “copycat”approach forcing people to find their own creative way.
My first interview is with William Rauscher, who I originally came across through his fantastic remix of a band called Warpaint, which as of this writing is about to be released on Warpaints label Rough Trade (probably best known for signing The Smiths). As I dove deeper into his body of work, I really connected with his psychedelic vibe. He has a solo project he works on under the name Night Plane as well as a group effort under the name CCC. Both have a strong sense of who they are and what they are attempting to invoke in the listener. Links are both below and throughout the interview. I highly recommend giving the linked songs a listen to get a better idea of what we are discussing. His songs are made on a PC in Ableton.
Originally this interview was recorded as video screen sharing but was unfortunately lost due to a rendering error. Thankfully he was kind enough to answer some of the main topics in text format. Below is that interview. Enjoy!
1. You have great warm sub bass in your songs. I’d love you to walk me through how you’re getting these results.
A lot of credit for that goes to Hector, the CCC Roland Juno 106. All the hardware in our studio is named – there’s also Jojo the Jomox 888 and the two 707s, Selena and Esteban. For subby warmth Hector’s hard to beat, especially if you only use his sub and turn everything else down.
2.You have a certain way of cutting up vocals & layering vocals that creates a very dreamy vibe. How do you like to approach vocals when working on a new song?
I like approaching the human voice as an instrument. I’ll usually try to find a brief loop first that can function almost like a chant in the background, that can fade in and out in a sort of ghostly manner, and then build on that. On my remix of Warpaint, I first made a very filtered-out vocal loop that is off-time, it’s like two and a third bars or something, so that when it plays over the percussion it sounds extra trippy, like you’re spiraling down a rabbit hole. It’s also good to pair off different phrases that can form a kind of call-and-response effect when they’re placed next to one another. On “Parallel Lines” I composed the vocal line so that it repeats certain words or phrases to make the whole sentence more rhythmic, so I had Eric and Heather sing the vocals as if they had already been cut-up. Lyrics are important to me: they should appear to be indicating something universal but in an oblique way, so that anyone can project their own interpretation on them – I wish there were more songs about geometric shapes – I composed “Parallel Lines” in part because I liked “Parallelograms” by Linda Perhacs so much.
3. What elements do you feel are necessary for a great club track?
The great thing about club music is that once you pay a certain price by obeying certain strict rules, you can do whatever you want. That functionality is very liberating. As long as your track is of a certain length, a certain speed, and has certain frequencies in it, you can do whatever you want, it can be composed of any sound in the universe. In CCC we adhere to the Law of 32: intros and outros must be 32 bars, because that’s about the amount of time that a DJ needs to mix from one track to the next. A great club track only needs what’s absolutely necessary. In general, the more elements I can remove from my tracks, the better they get. Pacing is everything: remember that a club audience will hear your track in a certain state of distraction. It’s not a concert where everyone is listening in rapt attention – they’re zoned out, dancing, talking with friends, so the music should be way more repetitive than something designed for home listening. I know that might sound like a bit of a no-brainer but it bears repeating.
4. Talk bit about the CCC collective and how that came about.
CCC is three of us, three Austin Texas boys to be exact – JM, Harry and me. It’s a multimedia project, so in addition to releasing records we’re in the process of printing a 100-page art journal about psychedelic drugs called On Acid: A Field Guide to Altered States. The performance division of CCC is myself and DJ Harry Bennett. Harry is the in-house decks captain and house music vet. JM is the designer and creative consultant. We’ve all known each other forever. JM and I met in physics class in the tenth grade, when he threatened to kick my ass if I didn’t stop playing this piece of shit acoustic guitar. I was fifteen and I was really into Beck. Later we became friends and nerded out over The Orb. We met Harry because he was living with Todd Ledford (owner of Olde English Spelling Bee label) at the time and we were using Ledford’s basement to record hours and hours and hours of drone music. CCC considers itself as continuing the work of groups like the KLF and Psychic TV: issuing mysterious transmissions, operating on the level of conceptual pop art, projecting an esoteric aura, treating the artistic process as an occult process. Every artwork is a religion of one person. “Vibrations” is probably the clearest case of sonic propaganda from CCC, as it’s composed as an aural equivalent to the brainwashing scenes from movies like A Clockwork Orange and The Parallax View.
5. What type of habits & mindset have you found important in building yourself from a complete nobody with no songs or DJ gigs under your belt to where you find yourself now?
You have to maintain a balance between listening to everybody’s feedback and believing in yourself. Everyone’s feedback is valid but in each case you should remember who you’re talking to – a fan, a promoter, a friend or a fellow DJ – everybody’s going to hear something different, which is fascinating. Everyone’s opinion is valid but nobody’s is the gospel truth. I was fortunate enough that after I interviewed Wolf and Lamb for Resident Advisor I became friends with them and Soul Clap who were extremely supportive of my work and instrumental in getting it to a larger audience. When “Str8 2 Ur Heart” got attention it taught me the importance of finding an overlap between what I liked doing
and what other people wanted to hear, and that in order to communicate with others through sound I was going to have to seriously streamline my compositions. I could keep doing dense, baroque explorations of sound if I wanted but that wasn’t going to flip many people’s wigs. When making deals I believe it’s important to be gracious but firm: courtesy and politesse are invaluable, but one should refrain from being obsequious. Standing your ground is a key to earning respect. Lastly, don’t look down on others for being opportunistic: the only way to get ahead is to ask for what you want. Also, if people don’t get what you’re about, fuck ‘em. Fuck ‘em but in a nice way. Keep your head down and keep refining your work until it is impossible for people to ignore you – everyone respects good work and eventually the people who are supposed to hear your music will find you.
6. What are some of the things that put you in an inspired & creative mood? How do you motivate yourself when you just aren’t feeling it?
If you’re a creative person you have to decide whether your projects are going to be inspiration-driven or labor-driven. Don’t succumb to the myth that inspiration only arrives like a gossamer angel that possesses you. I motivate myself because I treat my work like work, not like a fun-time hobby just to blow off steam. Turn on your gear and go to work – inspiration will come. It’s a variation on Pascal, who says “kneel down, move your lips in prayer, and you will believe.” Also useful are any kind of pre-work rituals that can get you in the mood and help to symbolize the transition into the special headspace you need, that headspace that’s somehow disconnected from the rest of the world. Weed can be good for this – not that you need weed or other drugs to be creative, but their effects can produce that feeling of transition into an altered zone where you are mentally free.
7. Since unfinished ideas get you nowhere, what are some of your shortcuts to getting your songs across the finishing line. Have you built “go to” kits or templates to get you moving?
I have a personal library of loops because I’ve taken every track I’ve done and broken it down into little parts, this is an immense time-saver, even if the loops are used only for scratch placement. I don’t really know shit about soft synths, I wish I did. I try to know where I am in the creative process: am I in jamming-out mode? Am I in editing mode? Am I working on the middle of the track, the “peak,” or is this just the intro? On several occasions I’ve found myself releasing that the outro should in fact be the main part of the song – I wish I could compose an album that was just an hourlong outro.
8. What is your musical background? What bands have inspired you most?
I started playing piano when I was six and for a few years my mom was my piano teacher, she was a gifted singer and pianist and definitely responsible for putting that inspiration in my life. When I was a teenager and in college I listened to a lot of experimental music, high brow like Stockhausen but also low-brow like The Dead C and Sun City Girls. I was greatly inspired by drone-y sixties minimalism like Lamonte Young and Terry Riley and musique concrete like Pierre Henry. I think listening to all that stuff taught me to focus on the materiality of sound, and to cultivate an experimental attitude.
If you are a nerdy boy who plays piano and likes science fiction, like I was, then you will eventually discover electronic music. I’m always impressed with how inhuman electronic music can sound, and yet everyone wants to party to it. It comes from the future, it goes on forever, and it encourages revelry and ecstatic trances: what else do you want? I still am basically a rock person and the rock I like is all fairly trance-y – that strain of Velvet Underground, Spacemen 3, The Stooges, and so on.
9. You seem to juggle a number of projects. How are you able to keep everything in order without dropping the ball on quality work?
I love collaborating because it’s a way to get out of yourself and your own petty ego. At the same time I’m grateful I have Night Plane where I’m totally in charge of it. If you’re doing multiple projects, division of labor is important – make sure you’re not doing the same job all the time or you’ll get burnt out, and have a clear sense of what each project is offering to you and what you can offer back to it. After working solo on Night Plane for a while it was really weird to actually have to express my ideas in language when
working with CCC! Totally different experience.
10. What are some of your favorite tools when creating music?
Hmmm I use Albino softsynth all the time basically, and Izotope Ozone, which is
indispensable for mastering. I have a library of analog drum machine samples that I
put through Reason which is extremely helpful. I love finding weird ways of vocoding
– we recently compiled all the CCC indie rock edits – we’re currently working on a future
release called the Liberty Lunch EP which will feature house covers of indie tracks like
Gold Soundz by Pavement and Gigantic by the Pixies. It’s named after the rock club in
Austin where Harry used to spin between acts.
I’d like to thank William for his thoughtful and detailed answers. I hope you got as much out of this as I did. Until next time… Happy music making!