Thanks for having me and the rest of the Interplanetary Acoustic team on VENTS!
I live in Orlando, along with Benjamin Kramer and Jared Silvia, two members of the group. The rest of the band is spread far and wide—Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Texas, Sweden, England, Germany, and so on…
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Light Sketch”?
After my wife, poet Ilyse Kusnetz, passed away from cancer, we created this album. This song has a kind of uptempo feel, and a cool vibe to it, as I wanted the album to celebrate her while collaborating with her words. One unique thing about this song… I wanted to create a something I called a Binary Chorus in the background. So, I asked about 12 people who love Ilyse (her brothers and close friends from all over) to record themselves in binary code: saying “one” and “zero.” We then spread them out across the acoustic field and layered them rhythmically to work within the song’s structure. The end result is that Ilyse narrates the song, with her loved ones creating a binary chorus to back her up. I think it’s a song that would please her greatly.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
The key was in Ilyse’s writing. She had been writing some poems she called Robot Poems, with the intention of possibility making a book of them. Binary code was a large element in those poems, and so that idea of ones and zeros helped guide the composition of this song.
How was the filming process and experience behind the video?
Jared Silvia, along with being an incredible musician (specifically with the modular synth on this project) created the video. We wanted to combine elements of an intersteller journey with mathematical concepts related to what is often termed Sacred Geometry. I hope you like the video! We’re working on another video now that has each of us in space suits!
The single comes off your new album 11,11 (Me, Smiling) – what’s the story behind the title?
In one of her poems, Ilyse wrote: “…In case I forget to tell you, 10 01 is binary for a sigh. 11 11 is me, smiling.” I took that as my cue for both the title and the overall structure of the album, which has 11 songs. In fact, the last song (which includes Ilyse reciting the verse quoted here) is 11 minutes, 11 seconds, and 11 milliseconds long…
How was the recording and writing process?
This happened over the better part of one year. Each song would start with a track or two, and then we’d layered on top of it with other parts, sometimes peeling back or erasing a part, and then adding more. It was somewhat like playing the accordion—some compression and editing at one point, expansion in another. More importantly, though, the process itself felt like a deep artistic conversation with Ilyse. It was a way of experiencing her presence and trying to learn from that interaction, too. It was profound. I personally learned a great deal in the process of writing and recording this album, and it’s helped me to find my way into the follow-up album. The word album, for me, is synonymous with the phrase sonic meditation.
How YES and Pink Floyd has influence your writing?
I’m sure YES is in there, but they weren’t an overt influence. However, I was raised on Pink Floyd, and I can hear their influences throughout the music. There’s also some Flaming Lips, Bowie, among others. All of them create large-scale albums that offer wide, sweeping landscapes for a listener to experience. They create music that transports the listener. They are great sonic storytellers, and that’s what we try to learn from them with the music we’re creating.
Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
That’s all connected poet Ilyse Kusnetz—as all of the words on the album are hers (whether spoken/sung by her or by someone else). There’s one small exception: in the opening song, she’s talking with British scientist Kevin Warwick, and he’s responding with his own words.
This entire project is a project of love, a way of collaborating with her as an artist—so that others might fall in love with her, just as I continue to do.
What aspect of technology and AI did you get to explore on this record?
As musicians, our work was to respond to Ilyse’s lyrics with soundscapes and sonic atmospheres that might cinematically house the narrative journey she describes—going from being human to uploading one’s consciousness into the digital world.
That’s partly why we turned to modular synthesis and other innovative approaches to shaping and expressing sound. For example, in the last section of “Islands in the Cosmos,” I worked with Benjamin Kramer (who plays bass/keyboards, and engineered the album) to layer and transform a recording of an audience clapping years back for Ilyse at the end of a poetry reading she did. I wanted to make that clapping sound like a waterfall in the background—and I think we came pretty close to it! There are many instances of hand-crafted sounds like this throughout the album.
What made you want to touch on these themes?
Ilyse had a great love of SciFi and cosmology and futurism. The transhuman world (H+) fascinated her. Although the album appears to be about robots and technology, that’s the surface material. Ilyse was a metaphorical thinker, and so these ideas are bridges that lead the listener to something one might call the sacred.
Any plans to hit the road?
We’re mostly focused on creating in the studio at the moment, but we’re looking forward to a trip to Mexico City in the spring, with collaborative gigs with local sound and light artists.
What else is happening next in The Interplanetary Acoustic Team’s world?
We’re at work on the follow-up album now, and it’s exciting to see how the songs evolve. Each song in this next album is meant to trace the journey of a group of interplanetary explorers as they send landing parties down to distant planets. So the challenge in the music is to create sonic landscapes that feel like these foreign lands, while also expressing the scale of wonder.