Alberts: And how about the great old analog synths, keyboards, pedals, and other vintage gear at AGM?
Wyatt: I really liked the warm and gritty nature of the sound of Christoffer’s old Hammond organ. It was much more subtle and interesting than I’d thought organs could be. Some of that came from how Christoffer manipulated the sound, often while I played. The Minimoog was the big synthesizer surprise for me. We used it largely for bass parts, and it had a power and presence that I’d never felt playing anything else.
Alberts: I understand you’re also using Native Instruments Absynth. What do you like about it?
Wyatt: I haven’t gotten nearly as deeply into Absynth as I’d like. Its oscillators seem unique and special—besides having a variety of preset waveforms, you can make your own by drawing waveforms or spectrograms, and you can import samples into it to be played directly or through granular resynthesis.
Alberts: How did it all come together in the computer?
Wyatt: I took all the tracks from initial conception to final demo in [Apple] Logic Pro. Some of its built-in effects got used in crucial ways; for instance, the Auto Filter on a tuned percussion track, and we kept the ES2 synth tracks that were the originally improvised foundations of four songs. I also did the piano and string scores in Logic.
[Native Instruments] Reaktor got used in a few key ways, too, my favorite being on the song “Talking Points,” where I took a QuickTime movie of short clips of speeches from the Republican convention, imported the soundtrack into one of Reaktor’s granular synths, and then played it while changing the grain start/end positions with a couple of sliders. I like that I can use Reaktor at both superficial and deep levels.
Alberts: You practice Zen meditation and enjoy hiking and nature. Getting back to the “Sweden” question, how important is setting to the composing process for you?
Wyatt: I guess it must be important to me, because I have ideas about the kinds of situations that are most conducive. Music’s always spoken most powerfully to me at night, when the world tends to be otherwise silent and the mind tends to be a little closer to a dream-like state.
Though I had no idea at the time, the process of starting to compose for this album had a very definite beginning. In 2003, a friend had been nudging me into focusing more on music again and suggested I take a cheap portable keyboard with me to Europe, so I bought an M-Audio Radium 49 [keyboard controller] in Boston the day I left. I had a few days alone in Prague at the end of my trip, so one night I set up the faders in Logic’s Environment to control the ES2 from the Radium’s knobs and sliders. Then, in the space of half an hour, I recorded two improvs—“Cobblestone Mirrors” and “Don’t Know I Know”—that later became two of the tracks from the album, possibly my two favorites.
Alberts: In reading some of the “Musings” blog entries on your site, I see that synchronicity—“personally meaningful coincidence”—plays a vital role in your life. How does it influence your music?
Wyatt: Everything is connected, and just knowing and trusting in this truth seems to be part of the essence of creativity. Improvising music is an act of faith in interconnectedness. Listening to an improv repeatedly, believing that with enough careful attention a hidden structure will appear, is a similar act. Paying attention to impulses, like combining two apparently unrelated themes or sounds, has a way of working out, too. What might appear as a random crazy thought could turn out to be a signal from the 90 percent of our brains we supposedly don’t use enough.