WR867: Greenhouse

Episode 867 January 31, 2024 00:57:03
WR867: Greenhouse
Witchpolice Radio
WR867: Greenhouse

Jan 31 2024 | 00:57:03

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Hosted By

Sam Thompson

Show Notes

I caught up with experimental guitarist Curran Faris to talk about his latest release as Greenhouse, ‘Sacrifice Zones’ — which was one of my favourite local records of 2023 — and more!

Here's our chat about his current projects, including a collaboration with Cole Peters as Seracs, as well as reflecting emotion through atmosphere, approaching the guitar as a 'sound source' rather than an instrument, and much more.

Need more Greenhouse? Check out episode #393 (June 2019)

This episode brought to you by our pals at Devine Shirt Company.

Huge thanks to everyone who supports the podcast on Patreon. You can help out for as little as a couple bucks a month if you like the show and want to throw some change in the guitar case!

As always, if you like the podcast, please tell a friend or 20! Rate and review on your podcast player of choice! Word of mouth is still the main way Witchpolice Radio reaches new ears. Thanks for listening.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:02] Speaker A: If you're like me, you probably have a closet full of local band merch. And whether you know it or not, a lot of that band merch is probably made by Divine shirt company right here in Winnipeg. Divine shirt company has made all of the great witch police merch from our hoodies to our tooths to our t shirts. And if you're looking to get anything done, like screen printing, embroidery, graphic design, digital printing, go to see Divine shirt company at Divine Yourcompany, CA and tell them which witchpolice radio sent you. [00:00:41] Speaker B: One of our colleagues, Sam Thompson, who. [00:00:43] Speaker A: If you saw him, you'd sort of right away assume he was a hippie. Get up of your ass and get up on the bar. Welcome to Witch police radio. I'm here with a guest who has been on the show before, but it's been a while. I mean, the last time we talked on the podcast, he was still in sort of the old days that the pre pandemic era where I was actually going out and meeting interviewees sort of at their homes or jam spaces or whatever. And so that it almost divides the podcast into two separate eras because I've been doing this zoom thing now, this online interviews kind of since I had to by without any choice. Right. So I'm glad you're back on. I mean, I think people who listen to the podcast regularly will have heard me talking about your most recent record on one of my favorite local albums of the year episodes I did. And so I think the best way to start all this off is if you want to introduce yourself, give it a background about what it is you do, and we can take it from there. [00:01:51] Speaker B: Sure. My name is Kern Ferriss. I record under the moniker Greenhouse. I grew up in Winnipeg. I currently live in St. Andrews, Manitoba. Been making music as greenhouse for, I don't know, since about 2009 or 2010. And thanks again for having me on. And thanks so much for digging my latest record. And yeah, it's a huge honor to have it sort of make your year end list. So I really appreciate it. Thanks a lot. [00:02:28] Speaker A: Yeah, no, I'm glad that I picked up a copy from you because one of the things about doing the year end stuff the way I do is because I'm listening to everything physically. I don't necessarily have the easy, like, check out my stats and find out what I've listened to the most. So I kind of have to just go back and look through my shelves and think about it. Like, what have I had on a lot? And that record was definitely something that I had listened to a lot since I picked it up. So I do want to get into that and sort of what you're doing now, but just like, I feel like you're a very prolific, you release a lot of music, and it seems like every. Maybe it's been a while between the last few, I'm not sure, but I was looking at my kind of collection of local tapes, and you take up a large chunk of that, and like you said, you've been doing it for a decade and change now you have a lot of releases. Is that something you have done sort of by design, or is it just the way things have worked out? [00:03:17] Speaker B: I guess it's the way that it's worked out. If it's just age or bandwidth or whatever, I don't know. I feel like I've really slowed down, so that's nice to hear. Yeah. I think that the stuff that I did at the beginning of when I started this sort of project and getting into this approach to music, I guess I think I move a little bit slower now. Just sort of generally in terms of the amount of time that I sort of take to sort of sit on some tracks or sit on an idea and get it to a place where maybe I'm just pickier, but, yeah, I don't know. I think there's a difference in speed or I think ultimately it's just sort of my own. When I feel like something's ready and I'm happy I've got it in that place, and maybe that's just as times got on. I'm getting pickier and fussier with the work that I'm doing. [00:04:28] Speaker A: And I imagine it must not hurt that you're a solo artist in, I guess, the truest sense of the word. [00:04:34] Speaker B: Right. [00:04:34] Speaker A: You're doing this yourself, and I imagine that's got to help in terms of just being able to take the time you need or that you want on a record. I mean, if you want to put something out right away, you've recorded something, it's great all done. Or if you want to sit and tinker at it, you have that sort of ability to do so because there's no one else, really, that you're bringing along with you. [00:04:55] Speaker B: Right. [00:04:55] Speaker A: I mean, the majority of what you do is all very much just you, correct? [00:04:59] Speaker B: Yeah, totally. Which is maybe a blessing and a curse. I'm my own worst enemy. But the last few years, too, I've been collaborating with a different project with Cole Peters, who's built on your show, our project Syrax, and it's really know, after working solo for a long time, Cole and I had jammed previously, and obviously I've been in bands and stuff, too. [00:05:31] Speaker A: Yeah, of course. [00:05:33] Speaker B: But sort of in an experimental music setting or genre, I guess. Been really inspirational to work with Cole and have somebody to sort of get fired up by and sort of inspired by, and also bounce ideas off of as well. So that bounce has been really positive in a lot of ways in the last few years. [00:06:01] Speaker A: What does jamming with someone like that look like? Because, I mean, you say jamming, and I think a lot of people have this sense of what that means, but the type of music you're both doing is a lot less. It's harder to grasp just sort of, like, conceptually how you're making it, what you're doing, what you're going for with your sound. And I imagine both of you together, it's going to come up with interesting stuff. But how does that sort of dynamic work between the two of you? [00:06:25] Speaker B: Yeah, we've been friends for a really long time, and this is our second sort of iteration of a project together. This is under a different name and different approach. I think some of it comes from that. Just sort of knowing each other really well and sort of developing a bit of a sense of sort of like, I've got an idea here, and for me, anyway, I know there are certain things that Cole will do, or I hope I could hear something that he will bring over top of that, and I think that's part of it, too. So, I mean, a lot of it is just sort of bringing ideas into the basement and kind of like, just trying. It could just be a sound. It could be a field recording that he's made. It could be some weird effect combination that I have, and we'll just kind of play around with it and just kind of turn it over a bunch of different ways. We record everything and we listen to the recordings back and we just sort of start blocking things out instead of, like, verse, chorus, and different riffs. It's sort of like this section, and then let's bring in something here that's kind of how it works. [00:07:43] Speaker A: Well, I think that you're both doing music that is really heavily based on atmosphere, right. But yours is just more melodic than what he's doing. Not always, but just in general, I think that you listening to both of your stuff, yours has definitely got that element to it where his is more. I mean, like you said, there's field recordings and there's just kind of sounds and noise and stuff. This isn't really a direct offshoot to what I was just saying. But how has your sort of overall approach to doing this changed over the course of this project of greenhouse? Because, again, you've been doing it for a while, you've put out a lot of music, you've collaborated with various people over the years. Has your sort of approach to what you're trying to get out of it, what kind of sound you're trying to create, has that sort of been developing or mutating over the course of this? [00:08:37] Speaker B: I think yes and no. I think ultimately, what I wanted to do was to create, to use the tools that I had and the tools that I knew, the instruments I knew, which was guitar and pedals, and really being inspired initially by heavier bands, like bands on hydrahead records and stuff that would use instruments that I understood and that I had at my disposal, but to create soundscapes and things like that. And then from there, getting into all sorts of electronic music and experimental music just sort of generally. And so that's really, I think if I had to boil it down to one sort of thesis statement, I guess, really is just sort of to use the guitar, to just disguise it as much as I possibly could, view it more as like a sound source, view effect pedals as an instrument, rather than I would have traditionally approached it when I was playing in bands and just sort of playing the guitar, I think, with sacrifice zones, there was a little bit of a time that had elapsed between the previous tape and that one. Obviously, lots of change just for everybody, of course, over the pandemic. And so I really sort of felt compelled. Well, I don't know if compelled is too strong a word, but I felt like I wanted to hear the guitar a little bit more and actually play it in a more traditional sense. Or, you know, something that maybe would have been an approach that I would have taken on, like an earlier sort of recording or just experimenting at home. And that was actually really refreshing to sort of let some of that go a little bit. I kind of go like, no, actually, I'm going to strum these chords. What a novelty to just sort of strum them. Which was, again, something that I had avoided for quite a long time. Even just like the attack on the guitar strings was something that I try to disguise and cover up as much as I can. [00:20:00] Speaker A: When you're doing something like that, when you are, you're bringing back sort of the more. It's not a traditional album by any stretch, but that traditional sort of more guitar. Guitar style of playing is that. I mean, can you still get the same sort of textures by doing that? I mean, have you. Have you sort of found out how to use sort of the guitar, guitar playing to generate the same kind of atmosphere that you were doing when you were using the guitar as a sound source rather than an instrument? [00:20:28] Speaker B: Sure. Yeah. I mean, it's the final track on the tape that I'm kind of referring to. And, yeah, I think it worked out. It honestly just sort of started as just an idea for recording, or for a track, really, just to see if I liked it, to see if I hated it, to see if it worked or not. There's a little bit of overdub, some field recording and processing towards the end of the track, but that whole piece is just one take. So all those guitar tracks, there aren't any overdubs. It's all done live with different loopers and things like that. Yeah, I think ultimately it did fit. It sticks out enough, but I think in terms of atmosphere, and I think there's still enough sort of merck and sort of artifacts sort of zipping around in there that I think it fits with the other tracks. [00:21:48] Speaker A: Well, in listening to this tape, too, I tend to listen to most local music in the background while I'm working. Like, just pretty much everything I'm listening to lately. That's my main time for listening, because I'm sort of in the zone and I've got background music on. And your music is fantastic for that because. Thanks. It creates a mood, right? I mean, whatever that mood might be depending on, from song to song and album to album. But this one has. You can correct me if I'm wrong, but it definitely gave me more of, like. It was like a heavier vibe. [00:22:18] Speaker B: Heavy. [00:22:18] Speaker A: Not in terms of distorted guitars or whatever, but the atmosphere, instead of being sort of. These are terrible words to describe things, but, like, minimal and drifty. This was more kind of like. It was more oppressive, almost, and thicker. Is that something that you were going for, or is that just how I've interpreted it or misinterpreted it? [00:22:38] Speaker B: No, I don't think you've misinterpreted it at all. Yeah, I would agree. I think that it was recorded during 2021 and 22, and I'm hesitant to sort of. We all went through that, the pandemic and everything. I've never sort of attached sort of. This is like a pandemic statement done that, and that's not my thing. But, I mean, it influenced. For sure. It influenced her, for sure. It was a tough time. You know, for a lot of people, it was a tough time, you know, for. For me and my family. And it, you know, I think that some of that. I think some of that came through. You know, we're also incredibly fortunate, you know, compared to a lot of people during that time, too. But I definitely putting those tracks together, I sort of felt that same vibe and definitely wanted to sort of, I think, sort of process some of that period of time personally and sort of on a larger scale as well. So I think it's reflective of that, for sure. [00:24:08] Speaker A: Well, it's interesting, too, because this is something that comes up a lot when I'm talking to electronic artists, and I know you're doing something with, you're using an actual guitar, it's a different. But the idea of being able to express emotion in that way and then sort of reflect on something that's happening through instrumental music or through unconventional instrumental music, too, is always interesting because you don't have the obvious, direct way to address things that if you were singing or if you had a more traditional song structure and things like that, do you find it easy as an outlet to express that kind of stuff with your music? [00:24:49] Speaker B: Yes and no. I think that's a really good question. I think it's not every time. Compared to, say, like, writing a song with chords and a melody and hooks and riffs and things like that, it's rare that I will sort of. My approach wouldn't be the same. I've got this idea, or this thing happened, and I'm going to write a song about it and sort of tell a story that has a narrative. Or, like, this riff is super aggressive, and so whatever, it's about this thing or something. So I think that the approach isn't there. I think that it's a little bit more. It's still intentional, but it's not as. Not as sort of, like, from point a to point b of, like, I'm going, whatever. I'm really upset about something going to happen, or I'm really pissed off. And here's this field recording of the steel mill, and I'm going to run it through my fuzz pedal. It doesn't really work that way for me anyway. That's not sort of my approach. [00:26:15] Speaker A: Does it work in reverse, though, after listening to something that you've recorded and sort of knowing what was going on in your life and just in general at that time, does that ever kind of retroactively, like, oh, this feeling or this situation or whatever must have come through in this recording? [00:26:30] Speaker B: I think so, yeah, I think so. And it's interesting when I do listen back to older stuff to kind of like. Because I can very clearly remember sort of not only because I record everything at home, sort of what was going on or how old my kids were or whatever, the good and the not so good stuff that was happening. And I think that even just in terms of with my own music or just music of other musicians, other artists really been drawn to just sort of like the. I don't want to use the term atmosphere again, but just sort of like, even just the sonics of it could just be guitar tone or the way that another instrument feeds back at a certain part. And I've always kind of, like, zeroed in on those little moments again, talking about metal or indie rock or something like that. And so I think that I've always been able to sort of like, yeah, sorry, I'm rambling, but going back, trying to go back to the question you asked, I think that I may not sit down and sort of go, I want to create a piece that is about something exact or something very specific, but sort of, I think something that perhaps is reflective of a mood or of a feeling or an emotion and sort of approach it that way. And sometimes it's just something that just sounds good or resonates with me at that moment. [00:28:29] Speaker A: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Do you have a big archive of things you've recorded that you have chosen not to release? I imagine just working on your own, you probably are recording things all the time, right? Do you hold on to that stuff or do you just sort of keep the parts that you're going to actually use for releasing? [00:28:48] Speaker B: I should probably do a better job of that, to be honest. And I do have some sort of archives of bits and pieces, but I think I stand to improve on revisiting the archives, shall we say, and going back and being like, what is even in here? And a lot of the times I think I'm too quick to try something out, be like, I don't know, it didn't quite go, what? It didn't do what I wanted to do or something, and then just kind of zip onto the next thing. And I think there are some tracks and some ideas on sacrifice zones that came from sessions like that where I went back and I'm like, oh, yeah, right, this isn't here. And then kind of, like, reworked it and added some stuff, sometimes like a year later. Oh, cool. [00:29:55] Speaker A: I don't know if you have a plan at this point, but what's sort of the plan for following that one up? Do you have new music you're working on now? [00:30:04] Speaker B: I don't have any greenhouse stuff that I'm working on at the moment. Most of the stuff that I'm working on presently and sort of like, over the last, certainly when this tape was sort of getting wrapped up and when it came out is the project with Cole Peters Syrac. So we did some performances in the summer and the fall, and we're in the midst of recording as well. Hopefully, we were able to sort of finish that during the winter. So that's kind of been my primary sort of creative focus right now. Again, just because it's just a super exciting project. Cole's a super close friend, and it's just exciting and refreshing to be working with him on it. [00:31:04] Speaker A: Do you have any of that music? Is any of that stuff out yet, or is it all sort of two? I mean, I know you've played the live shows, but is there anything recorded that you've released yet, the two of you? [00:31:13] Speaker B: No, nothing's released. We're still sort of chipping away at, again, moving from figuring out to what do we want to sound like to how do we put this together and play it? And now we're kind of going like, okay, well, now how are we going to approach sort of recording this in a way that lends itself to being able to make edits but still kind of have a live kind of feel, which is kind of how we're kind of accustomed to working. That makes sense. [00:38:12] Speaker A: And so for people who haven't heard you before, and maybe they're just hearing about you the first time on the show, what's the best way to dig into your catalog? Because, like I said, you got a lot of tapes out there, and there's a lot of music sort of on different labels and floating around. Is there an entry point? Like, would you recommend a particular release if someone was wanting to check you out? [00:38:31] Speaker B: Honestly, I would suggest starting with the most recent and going backwards. I think sacrifice zones is. I think it's my favorite that I've done so far. I think everything I've done has been, like, a snapshot in time. But when I finished just what I listened, I re listened to it just my own. Before I sent it to the label or sent it around or even got it mastered, I'd be working, like you said, working at home, and I would just throw that on and really spent a lot of time in that phase just going like, is this sort of like this is passing my test. And at a certain point, I was just like, no, this is a record. This sounds like a record that I would own and buy. And then I was like, are you sure? And I would just keep going. So, anyway, I would suggest start there. And just honestly, any entry point that you can, however people find it cool is amazing and flattering and humbling, but, yeah, it's the most recent one. There's copies of the tapes still floating around from myself and the label in Europe, and I believe this one is up on the streamers as well, so it's pretty easy to find. [00:40:12] Speaker A: Cool. Well, that was kind of my next question, right. Is people listen to music so many different ways now. There's no guarantee that someone's going to even own a tape deck, which is how I've been listening to your stuff. So bandcamp, I imagine, would probably be another way to find a lot of the stuff. [00:40:25] Speaker B: Yeah. So audio, visuals, atmosphere is the label that's based in Belgium, so it's available on their bandcamp. [00:40:36] Speaker A: Cool. And then I guess the other stuff, the physical copies of the older tapes, those are kind of. You just got to find them, I imagine, right at this point. I mean, there's a lot of them sort of floating around out there. [00:40:47] Speaker B: Yeah, there's a few. Like, I think the last couple that this label has done are sold out at the source. I might have some somewhere. And I definitely have copies of sacrifice zones. And then the older stuff, there's copies floating around, too. [00:41:07] Speaker A: Cool. [00:41:08] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:41:09] Speaker A: Do you have, at this point, any plans for future live shows or in the relatively near future? [00:41:16] Speaker B: Nothing in the relatively near future, no. And honestly, again, there isn't really sort of, when I do play live, where I'm going to play this song and then would stop, it'll be not completely improvised, but I'll sort of have it charted out. But it's never really. If you're expecting to hear something from a release, probably not going to. [00:41:45] Speaker A: You're not taking requests. [00:41:46] Speaker B: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I haven't figured out how to do it, but I'd like to. I will play out again at some point, for sure. Yeah. But nothing on the horizon at the moment. You.

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