Meet Tristan Shone, an American Doom Metal artist, member of the one man’s band Author & Punisher, whom is showing us the future of music, breaking new grounds in how it could be done and played.
Working as a mechanical engineer in a high tech science lab during the day, during the night he spends a lot of time building and designing his own music controllers with machine parts, instead of using out of the shelf synthesizers and midi controllers available at a regular music store.
This was a performance shot at his studio:
This is an exclusive interview for Rock Express, which was conducted by Klemer Santiago by email.
Rock Express – WOW! I am hugely impressed by your creativity and hearing the song “Terrorbird” I felt like I was listening to a band that came right out of the movie “The Terminator “. You would be the guy that took over control of the machines from “Skynet”. Then, instead of making scrap out of them, you started making music with their parts and had just made the trip back from the future to show us new musical grounds. Is this your first interview for the Brazilian press?
Tristan – Yes! Thanks for getting in touch.
Rock Express – How old are you Tristan? Where are you from?
Tristan – 34. I am from Strafford, New Hampshire, about 1 hour north of Boston. I now live in San Diego, CA.
Rock Express – Could you tell us about your musical background and how long have you been listening to metal?
Tristan – I grew up playing piano in a very musical neighborhood and family (mostly folk, some rock). Growing up in a very rural area of NH on a farm, I didn’t have access to a lot of live heavy music, so it wasn’t until I heard Sepultura on the radio when I was like 12 or 13 (“Straighthate” off of “Roots” album), that I was really inspired. I actually called the radio station to find out what it was…I think they thought I was idiot.
Rock Express – Did you play in other bands before Author & Punisher?
Tristan – Yeah a bunch. There were high school metal bands, but my first real band was called Empathy Test, a 2 man drum machine-based band, heavily Godflesh-inspired with some Jawbox and Fugazi influence as well. Then in college there was Falkirk, a full band where sang and played guitar. This was a fun band for me for about 4 years with heavy death metal (Nile, Obituary, Cannibal Corpse) and also some of the slower doom (Neurosis, Melvins, His Hero is Gone). After that I moved to Boston to start working as an engineer for a high tech company and I started another band Bourne (more prog-rock influence driven by the other guitar player, who was much better than myself!) which was somewhat shortlived, as I decided to go back to grad school for sculpture and start my one man band A&P.
Rock Express – When and how did you realize you could make music using machines?
Tristan – When I went back to grad school I almost immediately put out “The Painted Army”, my first A&P album, based around laptop programmed beats, synth and bass, so I was trying to balance my interest in fabricating sculpture while also getting more serious about my band.
I had my first out of town show at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, with a sculpture that was a robotic installation of a cleanroom robot that kind of injured itself slowly over time. I enjoyed the project, but the experience taught me that I didn’t want to make objects that I could not play with or interact with; for me that was a waste of time and money. I only have so many resources and time on the planet. Also, a friend and schoolmate taught me how to make speaker cabinets and something just clicked in my head: combine all of these interests into one discipline. I didn’t force this, I just thought about physical ways to interact with sculpture and it was a natural progression to these doom machines.
Rock Express – How is it to work as a high tech science mechanical engineer during the day and at night applying your knowledge to making music? Is it like you are at the lab and updating the microscopes with new robotics and suddenly you stumble across a new idea for a musical instrument?
Tristan – Yes, somewhat like that. It’s exhausting actually! I would prefer to not have to work at all so I could make everything that is in my head or notebook, but yeah I come in contact with a lot of equipment, old and new, and all these textures, mechanical quirks and qualities, inform my ideas. I think my work would lack something if I wasn’t working on real projects.
Rock Express – Do you know what kind of sound you want to achieve when building a new machine, or is it more like trial and error?
Tristan – These machines are controllers, so they don’t “make” any sound at all. They are physical devices with sensors attached so that the motion is encoded and fed through a microcontroller to the computer. The sounds are all oscillators or samples from my computer (just to be clear). I have sounds in my head the whole time I am making these over the many months it takes, so once I actually plug them in, it’s a day or two to get them where I want them. Each one has a sort of feel and texture that pretty much conveys a sound to me…it just makes sense.
Rock Express – How hard is it to schedule live acts without interfering with your day work?
Tristan – Most shows are on the weekends, so it’s no problem, but for the tours, I am lucky to work at a University with a group of scientists and researchers who all respect what I do, since they each have something of their own as well (start-ups, surf trips, photography adventures).
Rock Express – Can you tell us a little bit about your latest instrument Mute/Gate/Dither? And what new sounds can we expect out of it?
Tristan – These are set of electromechanical masks where the sound is not coming from the computer but rather the sounds of motors, air pistons and your voice. I haven’t really had much time to play with these in between touring and work, but after we complete filming this music video (“Terrorbird”), I will make a new video for the masks. I really like what the voice is capable of and by adding some restrictions like mute, or simply closing your air gap, you can create a sort of tremolo effect as you are singing. I’ve only done one performance, so I can’t talk too much about the results yet.
Rock Express – What bands influenced you? And what have you been listening to these past months?
Tristan – I’ve already mentioned a few in previous questions, but here goes: Neurosis, Godflesh, Melvins, Meshuggah, Sepultura, Quicksand, Flying Lotus, Deadbeat, Pole…Lately: James Blake, Nicolas Jaar, Maruosa, Azealia Banks, YOB, Black Cobra…I like all sorts of shit.
Rock Express – How long it takes to set-up your equipment for a live act? I can see they are pretty heavy to handle.
Tristan – The newer machines used on “Ursus Americanus”, take me about 15 minutes to set up. They are in cases and I can fly with them. The Drone Machines are more like 30 minutes if I am lucky, simply because they are so heavy. I am planning a Drone Machines tour next year…
Rock Express – Which kind of audience do your songs reach?
Tristan – I think the core is the doom metal, Godflesh industrial types, but there is also a contingency of art fans and experimental electronics people as well. It’s pretty diverse, which I pride myself on…kids, grandparents, goats, they are welcome.
Rock Express – You have launched a new album called “Ursus Americanus” on April 24th, 2012. What is the meaning of this tittle? How was the recording process?
Tristan – The title basically means American Black Bear, a rather docile, yet powerful creature. I like to think of my music and myself as fitting this description. I am relatively patriotic as well, in the sense that I am not going to jump boat on the US even though things have gotten relatively fucked up lately.
Rock Express – What can we expect from “Author & Punisher” this year? Is there going to be an international tour, a live DVD?
Tristan – I will be in Mexico City in the end of September, then a US trip to the East Coast, Europe and then back again in October and November. I would love to come to Brasil and South America again. I have played in Sao Paulo and Rio back in 2009 and 2011, respectively. Other than that, there will be a music video for “Terrorbird”, the official release and video for the Masks, the vinyl release of Ursus Americanus, and some new songs that I am trying to release…there is too much to do frankly, but I am trying to push a bit. After all of this, I will be working on a new set of very industrial machines, some of the designs are already complete…
Rock Express – This one is for the Brazilians that will be getting to know you through this interview. Could you tell us what do you think about Brazil and if you know any Brazilian bands? Also, if there are any plans for a South American tour of “ Author & Punisher” to promote your newest album “Usus Americanus”?
Tristan – It’s funny you ask, I am married to a Brazilian woman from Sao Paulo (Osasco). Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but I am huge soccer fan and while I was there I was taken in as a Corinthians fan…I hope I don’t get any rocks thrown at me while I am there, haha. When I played there I performed with a bunch of electronic music acts at FILE Festival, but other than that I don’t know too many bands or metal bands. I can’t wait to come back…the food, the people, the drinks, everything fits my personality. As of now there is no plan, but things are progressing for A&P so maybe someone will invite me. Let’s make it happen.
Rock Express – Could you tell us any funny story that happened to you during your live shows? It can also be something that may have happened before/after the show.
Tristen – Well, this was when I was just starting with the first set of machines, the Drone Machines, and it was the performance for my final masters of arts show with all the professors there, back in 2007. I have my huge sound system and all of my instruments set up, which took me all day to get ready. There were a bunch of people all around having a good time, ready for the show and I played for about 1 minute, building, building, then bam, I tripped on my USB cable and the whole system shut down. This was my old computer, so for some reason, no matter what I did, I could not get everything to connect and work again. This is not so much funny as it is pathetic…after that, everyone left and I was stuck there with about 1000lbs of gear to pick up by myself for the next 2 hours. The brutal life of a one man band.
Rock Express –Thank you very much for letting Brazilians know about your great music and who knows this could inspire new Brazilian artists to craft new grounds as well.
Tristan – Thank you guys! I can’t wait to come again. I encourage anyone to get in touch on facebook on the A&P page. Cheers!
By the time we published this article, the music video for “Terrorbird” was already released, check it out: