About Me

Ducked Tapes is us...and we bother people via email. "Hartington... had just told us how hard he had worked all the morning... when, lo and behold! M. Deshayes himself appeared."

Monday, 4 January 2010

DT probes... railcars


railcars is the project of Aria Jalali from San Francisco. He produces an experimental but accessible electro-acoustic scuzz noise with a whole heap of soul. The latest EP 'Cathedrals with No Eyes' is an abrasive affair, akin to the Times New Viking headspace. It's an enthralling record, with sudden, striking moments of pop realisation among a myriad of hazy, atmospherics.

Currently Jalali's working on covering the whole of Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love" album and wants you to get involved - click here for details! In the meantime railcars has a Cranberries cover available for free download here, and some rather wonderful remixes from his latest EP by Luck Dragons, Panther and Former Ghosts with the sublime remix by White Rainbow available here.

railcars is playing the inaugral Ducked Tapes night (yes, this Ducked Tapes) at probably the best venue in York, The Basement, City Screen on 2nd February 2010.


Below is our interview with railcars on the eve (not quite) of his 2010 European Tour (dates below) - find out what's going on in his head at the moment, his recording process and crucially whether he's ever done a hard day's work...down't pit... 

railcars - 2nd January 2010 - via email 

DT: Your latest record ‘Cathedral with No Eyes’ is described in your biog as a “whirling, furious aura” – did you make a definite decision to go more experimental or was it a natural step for you? 

Well, it definitely seemed natural. When I wrote the songs for Cities Vs. Submarines, they were meant to be just as loud and dense - and thats how we played them on tour, but somewhere between the recording with Jamie and mastering and lack of time for that project, the end result came out a lot cleaner and pop-produced than I had originally envisioned. When I started working on Cathedral With No Eyes, I just tried to recreate the loudness and density of the live performances. 

DT: How did the process of self-producing your record ‘Cathedral with No Eyes’ affect the end result? 

It was infinitely different, but also a lot more work. The first EP was tracked, recorded, and mixed in three days, because Jamie and I couldn't get around to working on it until about 3 days before he moved from the San Francisco Bay Area where I was living. As soon as we wrapped up that project, he moved to North Carolina. With the new record, I was recording all the parts, mixing it, doing the sound effects and such on my own computer, at my own pace, with as much time as I wanted. So with that much freedom and time, I got to add a lot of new layers to the songs and really tweak textures. 

DT: You worked closely with Jamie Stewart on your first record. Other than the actual recording, did he have much influence on your sound at that point? 

Well, I mean, the songs were already written and existed in four-track demo form before Jamie and I worked on that record. His influence wasn't really so much a factor in the song-writing or performance, but certainly in the production. (Although he did do some percussion in some of the songs), He did most all the engineer side stuff of tracking in the instruments, making the final mixes. Certainly with him involved a lot of sounds became more interesting, the vocals were cleaner than on the new record for instance, and there are other marks. But really, he was simply a genius, I thought, as an engineer and producer, and having watched him work on the computer end of the project taught me a lot of neat tricks that I'd remembered for later projects. 

DT: Does your live setup reflect the way you’d work in the studio? If it’s different, how so? 

Ah no, not at all really. In "studio," (which in my case is usually a kitchen or basement or bedroom, or whatever is available for me to use,) is just me sitting around smoking and tracking things in layer by layer, making a new setup to track each set of instruments. The live performance setup is mostly always done using less gear but lots and lots of loop pedals. I usually bring the drum beats pre-made and loaded on an mp3 player, rather than lugging a huge drum machine around while traveling for weeks. We try to be more efficient on the road and travel light: instead of bringing 50 knick knack instruments to be used one time each, we just put those sounds on a sampler, etc. It usually ends up being me singing and looping guitar sounds while a friend controls the beats, samplers, mixers, and electronics @ a table top. And on all tours we usually bring visuals. Usually done live by a VJ friend, though for the upcoming European tour we have some pretty great footage we produced ahead of time. 

DT: There’s a strong dance element to your sound. Has this been informed by any particular artists or labels? 

Yeah, I am really into working with over-the-top drum machine sorta things that are big in San Francisco right now like Reggaeton music and Hyphy style hip hop. They have such ridiculous drum beats that I am into. But myself, I don't dance at all, nor am I into the scene. While I love really house-y, big beats, I don't actually much listen to music with it, because all that I like is the drums, not the techno stuff on top. What I wish was on top of those great beats was more imaginative sounds and textures. That's the niche I was hoping to fill with railcars.

After this tour I am going to get working on another music project called "micromagician" which is pretty much just experimental dance stuff. Like railcars, but no vocals or fuzzy guitars. And a lot more diverse in sounds, beat and loop based. Hopefully I can come back to perform that next time. 

DT: The artwork on your records, posters and promo really seems to capture railcars’ sound and aesthetic. How do you go about deciding on the concept for the artwork and who does the actual design? 

All the albums themselves, for both past vinyl releases as well as an upcoming project I have (where railcars covers the entire album Hounds of Love by Kate Bush),is done by a good friend of mine, Claudia O'steen, an art student living in Tennessee. She is really just great, I am a huge fan of her work. She has mailed me the completed originals of the covers of both my records, and they are each like 2 inches thick with different layers on top, which I never appreciated from the actual final images.

The most basic version of the concept comes to me maybe at 4 in the morning while stoned and working on the record, and I'll tell her, but she really fills in the details and puts it all together. consistent concepts and aesthetics are a really important thing to me, I feel that's just as much part of an album as the music on it or the vinyl it is pressed on. 

DT: There’s so much great and varied music coming out of the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas. How has living in SF affected your sound? 

I have to say living in San Francisco, while I am sure it has had some influence as far as who I have met and seen perform, and as much opportunity as it gave me has not been nearly as dramatic an influence as Los Angeles, where I am originally from. LA, in my opinion, is really taking the cake musically these days. With the exception of New York, in the states, I haven't seen somewhere with as ripe a music scene this past decade. In LA, it doesn't make a difference if no one has any idea who you are, has ever heard about your project, there will always be lots of great places to play and people will always come out and give it a try. Plus so many of my local friends from around town have been able to get pretty far musically thanks to all the support and great scene that exists down there. 

DT: Which particular bands are making music that's exciting you right now? 

Oh man, too many. Like I said a lot of LA stuff - my friend Freddy Ruppert's project Former Ghosts has been in my head all day. Protect Me, TPF!, Woah Hunx are great bands to see around LA. Also this project called Truman Peyote that my friend Eric is involved in is just blowing my mind. I don't think there has ever been so much great music at once, but I haven't been alive long, what do I know. 

DT: What is the one piece of equipment you could not live without? 

Either my electribe drum box or my DL4 delay pedal. I go to sleep spooning them.

DT: Do you have a day job? Do you have any tips on how to effectively manage music making when faced with having to work for a living? 

I don't currently have a day job, but only because the latest tour has been going on over a five month period around two continents, but definitely the months of the year I'm not traveling I try to keep some kind of odd job or day work. For some of 2009 I worked at some janky coffee shop down my block in San Francisco. No one wants to do it, but we can't be on tour all year. My best advice is to make three separate bands, commit to your new life as a vagabond, and schedule their releases and tours in a way that you're all over the globe 90% of the year. It's great - you hardly ever have to pay rent. Which in SF is brutal. 

DT: What’s your favourite children’s character and why? 

Whichever of them knows a guy who can get me some weed for after the show. 

railcars full European tour schedule for Winter 2010:  
01.14 Berlin (DE), Magnet Club
01.15 Wroclaw (PL), CRK
01.16 Cracow (PL), Kawiarnia Naukowa
01.17 Prague (CZ), Strahov 007
01.18 Budapest (HU), Zappa Cafe
01.19 Vienna (AT), Rhiz
01.20 Maribor (SI), Dvorana Gustaf (Pekarna)
01.21 Koper (SI), MKSC
01.22 Varese (IT), Twiggy Club
01.25 Faenza (IT), Clandestino
01.26 Fribourg (CH), Fri-Son
01.27 Dijon (FR), Deep Inside
01.28 Metz (FR), Emile Vache
01.29 Paris (FR), Mo'Fo Festival
01.30 London (UK), tba
01.31 Bristol (UK), Start The Bus
02.01 Glasgow (UK), 13th Note
02.02 York (UK), The Basement
02.03 Dublin (IR), Whelans
02.04 London (UK), good ship
02.05 Utrecht (NL), dB..s
02.06 Amsterdam (NL), Subbacultcha @ Nieuwe Anita
02.07 Eindhoven (NL), TAC
02.08 Karlsruhe (DE), Kohi
02.09 Freiburg (DE), KTS
02.10 München (DE), Kafe Kult
02.11 Strasbourg (FR), Simultania
02.12 Frankfurt (DE), Ivi
02.13 Nürnberg (DE), K4
02.15 Hamburg (DE), Hafenklang
02.16 Copenhagen (DK), Lades
02.18 Aalborg (DK), 1000Fryd
02.19 Gothenburg (SE), tba
02.20 Malmö (SE), Debaser