Sunday, August 16, 2009

An Interview with Boxwood

A couple of nights ago I ventured on over to the Annex to catch RadioBoxer's Radio Drama show, hoping to play the part of a would be visual projectionist to maybe provide some additional visuals for the group's special event. Knowing me, of course, plans usually wind up falling apart on me at the last minute...especially when something as odd as temporarily misplacing one's cell phone (in the freaking closet out of all places!) tends to keep one's mind awfully preoccupied! And far be it from me to contact anybody in advance as to what I'm about to do, for I'm just a spur of the moment kind of a guy! So what essentially happened there was that I showed up way over prepared (as usual) and possibly even a wee bit overdressed for the after about an hour of standing around the place, still worrying as to the whereabouts of my phone, and getting some photographs taken (which I ludicrously deemed some potentially incriminating evidence) I chose to bail. What else can I say? I was already feeling out of place and about as useful as a third or fifth wheel on the motorbike, and/or automobile of your choice! However, while I was there I ran into a musician by the name of Jose, whom I had met at a previous RadioBoxer engagement. It turns out that Jose was set to be the opening act for the night's event, which prompted me to ask him if he'd be interested in doing an interview for this blog. He agreed, but unfortunately, I didn't plan ahead that far enough (especially after the whole unexpected mishap of my temporarily misplaced phone) and simply didn't bring my handy little digital recording device along. So I opted to conduct the interview via email instead. So here it goes, my interview with Jose from the musical act Boxwood. Enjoy!

Boxwood Image

PS: What are your musical influences? Is Pink Floyd by any chance a source of influence behind the song There's a Fire? The intro bears a slight resemblance to (or actually a cross between) Heartbeat, Pig Meat from the Zabriskie Point soundtrack and Time from Dark Side of the Moon.

BW: I would say the only influence I can think of behind There's a Fire would be an album I was listening to at the time called The Blacks are Home by The Blacks. This is probably not a helpful reference due to its obscurity but I find it necessary to mention it because Print and the singer, Jared McGuinness' solo project The Blacks are musical influences but unfortunately no longer around due to Jared's passing last year. My musical influences are many and usually counterweight each other. Radiohead, John Vanderslice and Xiu Xiu are more obvious ones. Less obvious would be Arab on Radar, Mission of Burma, and Black Dice. Big Star, Guided by Voices, Bowie, Beatles, Tom Waits, and Neutral Milk Hotel are all major influences. It never fails to amaze me on how many great bands/eras there are to discover. As your musical taste broadens more doors open. You get into things you couldn't have years before. Discovery and rediscovery.

PS: Where did you get the name Boxwood from? Is there any significant meaning behind that random choice of words?

BW: Boxwood was the name of a tape I made of my first 4-track recordings. It ended up sticking. I just combined two words I thought were catchy and looked it up later. It turns out it's an evergreen shrub. Commonly use as hedges. Sometimes designed to make patterns. The roots can be sculpted. I liked the imagery.

PS: Do you consider yourself more of a wordsmith or a technical mixer/looper of sounds?

BW: Both. They both compliment each other. I switch rolls depending on what the song needs. A simple, straightforward acoustic + vocal song need to be carried by the lyrics and/or delivery. When the arrangements become more the focus the words play a supporting role and the song becomes more of a sonic issue.

PS: Can you tell us a bit how your unique stage set up works?

BW: I guess the simplified version of the set up goes like this. Miked floor toms, vocals and acoustic guitar are fed into my peddle board. An RC-50 Loopstation sends the sound to either an arrangement of amps and speakers to the right of me or left of me or both.

PS: Most musicians find it challenging to recreate the sounds that they develop in the studio in a live stage setting; sometimes it's vice versa... do you by any chance share in that same struggle?

BW: I try not to hold my songs sacred. If a recorded song doesn't translate well live I change it and make it work. Some of the long drawn out songs that take a while to build up work well in a live situation because your watching it being created. It may not be as effective when it pops up in a playlist.

PS: How would you best define the type of music that you're creating?

BW: I don't know. Essentially it's pop. I guess you can say it's pop experimental. On my MySpace (profile) I dubbed it as Tropical Garage :) I hope that catches on.

PS: How many instruments do you play on record? And how dramatically does this differ from your live sound applications?

BW: I'll play whatever is necessary on record. It won't be virtuoso but it'll have a charm to it. It doesn't affect me live because as a solo performer there's only so much I can bring with me so like I said earlier I'll change a song to make it work live and vice versa.

PS: What prompted your decision to get into the music business?

BW: Well, I don't think it was a decision. Everything just led to it. It's music or anything else creative. I just like making things. I went to art school and found myself writing songs more than making paintings. Eventually one took the place of the other. The process is the same. It's easier with audio and melody to create the illusion of something huge as opposed to gathering the funds and resources to make a huge installation piece; one you can immerse yourself in. I suppose the latter would have been more ambitious, especially if I coupled the two...

PS: Do you regard your music as just a hobby or is it something you would consider doing professionally?

BW: It's definitely not a hobby. I sought out a dead end job in opposed to a career path to pay my bills so that I can focus on music. Doing something you thoroughly enjoy everyday and approaching every new song/project with enthusiasm has to lead to something good, even if it's not music.

PS: You're originally Long Island... is it hard for you to adjust to the climate down here?

BW: No, not really, although, I do miss the seasons. I've been here three years and this is the first year I actually feel the subtle nuances of the seasons. Before it was just hot. I actually did my last two years of high school here before moving back to New York for college. I've been back and forth between the two to visit my folks so Florida is not alien to me.

PS: And as a follow up to that question, what do you think of the scene down here, as far as underground and/or mainstream music is concerned?

BW: Not sure yet. You get spoiled living in New York, specifically Brooklyn where it's a very conducive environment for musicians or artists. Everyone's in the same boat and you don't have to go far to find what your looking for and there's a lot of it. Down here you really have to dig. I've met some really cool people and some great bands but nothing really feels like a scene. At least not yet, I don't go out much.

PS: Can you describe how the creative process works itself out for you when you're creating music, like for instance how do you create a song and how do you know when it's finished, etc.?

BW: It varies. Lately, with the loop peddle, I've been looping random non descriptive notes then try to make them into something by filling in the gaps. You can usually find a way to make it work, then you tweak it. Usually, whether this is the writing process or not, the entire song is flushed out vocals and everything but no words, sort of like Sigur Rós, then I record it on a mini tape player and listen to it then chisel out word from the gibberish. That usually kick starts a direction or subject matter and gives me a template. This, i think, helps you not force in lyrics that just don't go with or help the music. The gibberish tells you what it needs. The trick is getting the most mileage/substance out of a few words. Again, it depends on the song. Sometimes I add or extend notes to accommodate the lyrics if the lyrics are the focus.

PS: Finally, besides MySpace, do you have any other places online where people can check out your music?

BW: Yeah, you can also find me online at and on iTunes. Pollen Records is a label my friends in NY and I put together to present our music more professionally.

Well, there you have it folks! This has been P.S. Elliott or Dr. Gonzo XXVII (whichever comes first!) reporting for the disassociated press, that is... The Gnoyze Guitar Mods & More Web Blog.

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