Orange Milk: Interview with Seth Graham

「未知なる」音楽を発掘し、輩出する集合体〈Orange Milk〉の姿勢と、その在り方

Interviewer: Kazunori Toganoki, Foodman
Interviewer: Kazunori Toganoki, Foodman

How do you and Keith got to know each other?

We met each other at a show, we both played in bands and played a show together. It was about 12 years ago, we became good friends.

Could you tell about the background that made you lead to launch up Orange Milk?

I used to run a label called ‘Quilt’. I released a tape for Keith. We started talking about doing a label together, and Orange Milk happened.

I feel like that from the beginning to present, OG have held the consistent idea or aesthetic as we could see the aspect of sound, the line-up, and the visual. Have you already decided upon these concepts or the direction you were heading for before you had started on the label or gradually embodied them?

I think we gradually embodied them. We had many discussions on what we wanted to do, but we never stuck to an idea, we just decided things as we went, however, it was always surrounding many long discussions about music and art.

Do you have the division of roles between Keith and yourself? And you think that a disparity of each personality has influenced on the character in the label?

Keith of course does most of the art. We both share duties, we both dont make our living from OM, so sometimes I have more time than Keith so I will handle most things and vice versa. Generally speaking, we both trade duties as we are both busy trying to make music and make a living as we run OM. Its a very fluid relationship, where we both are very much there for each other and are like minded in getting things done when we are able. I do think the label is a good representation of both of our tastes.

It is a matter of course that OG is basically formed by Seth and Keith, but I feel like that it also could work as like an experimental platform where a variety of artists put together and create values or possibilities that are unknown to everyone.It’s a basic question, but from both sides of being artist and running the label could you describe the role that the label has fulfilled and what the label is for yourselves?

Ive come to really love running the label, to me its a platform to help other artists, and I see OM that way, where we want to give unknown artists we like a platform. We also like known artists, but I really like the idea that we can help artists have a bigger platform over a self release.

Are there any basis or rules when selecting what you will release from bunch of demos?

We havnt had too many demo releases lately, however, we dont have any specific criteria, generally we want somewhat high resolution recording quality, we never seem to be into purposefully lo fi music. Outside of that, we dont have a criteria.

Could you selected some important albums or artists that have determined where orange milk was going if you had?

To me, many of the Japanese artists really define OM, Foodman, Koeosaeme,Toiret Status. I think Kate NV raised OM’s profile since she has become very popular. Personally I really like the Hanz Appelvquist album, I thought that album was really interesting and very representative of material I want to release. I also really love Machine Girl and the Noah Creshevsky release. I like a wide variety, which I think is a big part of OM. Meaning, we seem to stretch the genre and interest far enough where its not a ‘concise’ aesthetic, which I really like and is a very Orange Milk idea.

Some artists like Tropical Interface or Traxman who have lately released out from OG are familiar with Juke or Grime. Do you feel much sympathetic to “Club” or “Dance music” that we normally categorize? Just simply intrigued by their sounds?

With Orange Milk, I have tried to push my boundaries on what I find interesting, I often question why I dislike something. Dance music I really like, and I am really interested in hearing people who are good at producing dance music. I dont make dance music because I feel I am bad at producing it, but I really like to listen to it. I also really like how abstract and strange dance music gets, to me it always maintains an element of fun.

You brought up in Japan while you are young. How was the lifestyle at that time and something drastically changed your minds or not?

I had a very strange up bringing. My parents were christian missionaries and we moved to Japan when I was 6 years old. I went to a Japanese Public School from 2nd grade to 6th grade. When I was in 7th grade, I went to an American School in Ikoma. Every 4 years we returned to America to raise money to keep being missionaries, we traveled all over America asking for churches to give us money so we could continue being missionaries. I traveled all over the US. I never had a lot of long term friends because we moved around so much and I never seemed to be in one place for a long period of time. So I would listen to music obsessively all the time, in the car, in the plane. I do think this lifestyle turned me onto music. But I think very few people have had this type of upbringing, so even I am not sure to what extent it has influenced me. Only now am I starting to realize how my upbringing has formed my personality. I can say, that when I was in Japan I liked all of the customs and the sense of community Japan fosters. I was also raised by my American parents to be very patriotic for America. When I was in 6th grade, our class went on a field trip to Hiroshima. I learned about how the American’s killed so many Japanese. In this moment, I realized that maybe, the patriotism my parents taught me was not true, but then I also thought, if America is not great, then its possible Japan is not great. This was confusing to my identity, and I really started to contemplate identity and being ‘authentic’ because nothing to this day to me feels ‘authentic’ to me personally. It all feels like a game.

(Foodman) Any changes happening now in US cassette scenes than before?

I feel every artists tries to create their unique style. However, I think no matter how individualistic one attempts to be, traces of their culture affect their artistic choices.
On the other hand, the internet has allowed for trends to become very homogeneous, so in some sense, artistic choices I feel are becoming more akin to the internet culture over the country of origin.

Do you have any specific idea or thought to keep the label maintainable for long time?
I hope we can run it for a long time, but I dont want to force anything, if things keep gong well, well keep doing it. I hope this is the case.

Let me ask about the latest album Gasp that you released two months ago.In this work you employed many classical timbres and mixed up them with electronic sounds. I think that each song is composed of very tiny pieces and you collectively pulled together and arrange them.
What is the motif of Gasp and what kind of process did you introduce in order to make it full shape?

I am obsessed with early avant garde classical music, particularly John Eaton. He has an album called mass, blind man’s cry, solo clarinet. this album is quite insane in my opinion, it is almost unlistenable at times, also fun, kind of cryptic and very strange. I also like the album Electronic Music – Various Artists with Ilahn Mimaroglu , specifically this track –
I like how many of these old avant garde albums, the composers had to know, very few people were going to care about these pieces, yet they made them anyway, I love that and wanted to make something in that spirit.
I wanted to combine these two albums mixed with some modern computer music, mainly D/P/I ‘s MN Roy and Rico EP undertone combined with an orchestra in the future.
Not sure if Gasp was successful in doing so, but I tried.

I also found it quite unique that there are many blank spaces between sound and sound. What thinking do you have about the state of silence in Music ?

I love silence and pauses, it creates anticipation and I love the technique of intrigue in music. For me what is interesting in music is when your not sure what is going to happen next, and using silence for me can be a good way to accent the anticipation.
For me the divide sometimes is too stark between artists who want to be ‘quiet’ and use silence and artists who want to be ‘intense’ I was trying to find a middle ground, between two styles.

(Foodman) Do you think that there are a common style or originality that only Japanese artists have through music? What’s the difference between them and other countries’?

The tape scene has evolved so much. When I first started to release tapes about 13 years ago, tape releases were almost exclusively DIY and Noise scene releases.
Since then they have become quite mainstream, many people who buy from OM only buy tapes (it seems like mostly young people). I feel now Tape releases are equivalent to CD and LP releases in some sense, in that any artists looking to get something out will consider or release on cassette no matter what style, genre or group they are trying to appeal.
Since CD’s are having a rough time staying relevant, having no physical media when buying a release I think is hard for certain audiences to accept. So tape is a fun and tangible way to get a physical form of a release and they become easily collectible. I think if LP pressings were as cheap as tapes, we would almost exclusively see LP pressings, but this is not the case. I am curious myself where the tape culture will go and if it will remain relevant to consumers.