INTERVIEW: T.H. White

Hi TH, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hello~ Thank you VENTS for allowing me to speak about this release. I’m doing well, considering the current situation we are all trying to find our ground in. I’m feeling really good about this record and hoping that during these important and turbulent times, that it somehow, somewhere helps someone feel a moment of peace. That’s always my goal as I believe music is a universal, uniting entity and healer. Today more than ever, we need music, film, and art to keep us aware of some of the beautiful things worth fighting for, changing for and loving each other for.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Phasing Motorway?
Did any event, in particular, inspire you to write this song?

For me, most often, it’s not until after a track is completed and I’ve had a chance to look back on it, that the influences become apparent to me. This track came together over a period of time. Since the majority of my music is instrumental , I try to tell a story as though the song is a film. For example, this cut has some tougher feeling arpeggiated synth lines that eventually give way to ocean like synth walls, which then morph into marching 70’s funk guitars. Reflecting back, those are all characters in the ever evolving story of this place in time. I believe I was expressing a visceral reaction to the many types of divide around us and how fast changes (both good and bad) are happening by the hour. To me It feels like a driving 100 miles down an unstable road or a Phasing Motorway… The steady groove is my injection of hope for progression and positivity.

Any plans to release any sort of video for the track?

Well…there were. Then this thing called Covid came along and greatly complicated the plans for the video (and the tour, promo and music production clinics I often participate in…) We’re back at the drawing board and hope to have a video for this track and one or two others ready over the summer.

The single comes off your new album Foxhole Prayers – what’s the story behind the title? How was the recording and writing process?

Maybe most know this already, but the expression ‘foxhole prayers’ is an old war saying. When things got especially dicey and bleak, a soldier could only look to the sky for safety, direction and hopefully protection. Writing and producing this album was my process to outlet all I was taking in. Over the last 6 months, there have been (and still are) times where I think we all felt helpless and clear answers weren’t presenting themselves. For me when I feel helpless, I pick up a guitar or drum machine or a synthesizer and make music. Creating has been a peaceful and helpful place for me since I first took guitar lessons at 8 years old. As an adult it’s going to my studio and letting it channel out whatever comes. The basis of most of tracks begin that way.

As for the recording process, two years ago I built a studio in Long Island City (Queens)  where I had moved to from Manhattan a few years earlier. LIC has an incredibly vibrant creative scene. There are tons of artists lofts, galleries, boutique software companies and, of course musicians. My studio is in a warehouse building down the block from an NBC sound stage and there is always creative energy all around. On my floor are several painters, a tech group, a design group and other music studios. I definitely love and feed off that. I always have a host of different musicians come in and play on my records, however this year that wasn’t quite possible. So, I as a multi-instrumentalist, I shouldered almost the entire haul. It was a challenge that helped me grow and I hear it in the record, like “oh right that’s me playing drums on this track”…

What role does NYC play in your music?

It’s steeped in deeply. I am a third generation born and raised NYC kid. From birth, sensory overload is something you just internalize and can ultimately channel into inspiration. When you have 16 million people living in a 14-mile radius, it drives you, colors you, inspires you and exhausts you. We become part of a living entity. Musically, I feel the ever-present beats, rhythmic melodies and drum grooves are a direct result of NYC. Take any kind of music and there is a powerful scene for that music here. I once went to a Wu-Tang show, then to an after-hours Willie Nelson show in the same night. I have many examples of those kind of diverse opportunities and I’m grateful to have grown up in that environment.

What is it about the 70s that you find so fascinating?

Hhhmmm, well as a producer first, I just love the studio technology that was available during that era, what they did to constantly push it and the colors that they bravely developed. It was a time that saw the birth of much of the technology we use today ( drum machines, sequencers, effects processors, synthesizers and more.) Yet they could only be used to enhance an amazing performance -not- facilitate it. It was a time that really saw my personal process, which is to use the studio itself as an instrument, take shape. I’m not that present day artist that trashes today’s way of making music with auto-tune and computer perfection etc. Not at all. The recording process is a living breathing thing and artists / producers maximize what they have. If a heavily processed modern-day pop song helps someone through a tough time, then who cares about how it was created. I make use of both. For example, as a result of my love for 70’s records of all styles, to this day I’ll reference a Curtis Mayfield LP, a Blondie LP or an Ultravox LP (to name a tiny few) when mixing my tracks. I make sure all my bass lines and guitar solos are one take period. Albeit a well-rehearsed take. But I’m more than cool to use computers to make sure my drum grooves and synth solos are banging tight. I also show my 70’s production influence by taking certain pieces of a track to a big budget studio and running them to tape to get “that’ Sound.

How did the likes of Fatboy Slim and Les McCann influence the writing on this record?

When I was at Parsons in NYC studying audio engineering and in the early stages of discovering who I was as an artist, I had this idea of taking 70’s samples and sounds and sequencing them with my own live playing into a Trip-Hop / Electro Funk vibe. Around that time is when I was first made aware of these brilliant artists out of England who were doing just that and with incredible creativity and skill. Bands like The Chemical Brothers, Fat Boy, LTJ Bukem, Massive Attack, of course Portishead. I was so incredibly energized by the delicate way they didn’t overuse any of the samples or sequencing / computer technology. While relying heavily on MPCs and Akai’s and Logic, they all also had live playing and sounded like full albums, not just a 4×4 DJ thing. I’m “Better Living Through Chemistry” and “Exit Planet Dust” (just for example) are seriously advanced works both musically and technically for that time and to this day. So those artists along with Air, Aphex Twin, Moorcheeba have been steady influences from a production standpoint since the jump. Artists like Les Mcann, Headhunters, Joe Thomas, Billy Cobham, Art Farmer. Those guys all taught the art of instrumental story telling through a groove heavy lens. They also made incredible sounding 70’s records that to this day sound like heaven on your ears. So the two artists you mentioned are a summation of the two my main schools of approach I take with much of my music.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

On this LP, there isn’t much of a lyrical presence. I really pushed myself to get the emotion across instrumentally.

Any plans to hit the road?

There was a full east coast tour booked. We had all swanky hotel lounges and after-hours spots set to go. I put together a really vibey show with DJ / Guitar / Bass ? Synth. Sadly, that got cancelled as the big C hit…we’re working in on resurrecting it for 2021.

What else is happening next in TH White’s world?

I have an EP in the works that should be out in the late Fall. I have slowly resumed producing two Brooklyn based artists. I’m in talks with Netflix to create a score for a new show. I have done a few online guitar clinics; I am a Pilates devotee and looking forward to resuming my in-person practice….So I’m busy as possible as this thing works itself out!

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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