TV on the Radio Talk "Nine Types of Light", Books, Evolution, and the Future
Mon, 29 Aug 2011 07:12:28
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TV on the Radio shine like never before on Nine Types of Light.
The group's latest album is sonically luminous in numerous ways. Ethereal textures of synths cascade into jazzy instrumentation, while Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe trade vibrantly visceral vocal lines. At times, it's soulful and other times it's strangely searing. That's the brilliance of TV on the Radio. Unforgettable melodies can be born from dissonance, and beautiful harmonies can rise from aural unease. Nine Types of Light sees the group expand like never before, standing on the precipice of even more evolution.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino, Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio discusses making Nine Types of Light, some of his current favorite books, evolution, and the future for the band…
Did you have one overarching vision for Nine Types of Light?
I think any feeling of an overarching vision didn't happen at the top of the process. All of the ideas are presented, worked on, and traded. When things start to form, there's a "curatory "process. It's like a "curation" of what makes sense together. Those songs are pulled. Often times, they're not fully written lyrically yet. At that point, there's more potential to create a theme. It's not necessarily an intentional theme or concept though. It's just what we're thinking about or experiencing at the time.
The theme builds around everything after you've had time to understand it.
Yeah, by degrees, I'm sure that we'll hear things on the record which aren't apparent to us now. It's a bit like reading a journal from years ago. You can describe an event or feeling and write it out, but you may not understand it yet. Over time, you look back on it and you have a greater understanding of what you were going through and what it was you were feeling. I feel like that happens with songs. An outsider will clearly have a different perspective, and that can be a privileged perspective of hearing what we haven't heard yet.
How has TV on the Radio morphed on Nine Types of Light? Did you get to try anything new musically or lyrically?
I feel like there have been things in the past where we thought, "Oh, we can't ever do this". I'm paying less attention to rules of what can't be done, what shouldn't be done, or what doesn't make sense on one of our records. Even in the smallest way, there's a mandolin, a twelve-string guitar, and a banjo on "Killer Crane". While I never had any qualms about any of those instruments, the idea that they would find their way onto a TV on the Radio song was an unlikely proposition. I think that song is really beautiful, and it could've been just as a beautiful with a bunch of synths. However, it has more dimensions now because it doesn't have any rules about what can go on it or any preconceived notions of what it had to be. Lyrically, you're hopefully growing as a writer the more you write. I can't say for myself yet what any of those changes would be. Watching Tunde's writing, I feel like he's shown an incredible amount of growth on this record.
Is it important for you to paint visual pictures with the music?
I don't know if that's been a conscious effort. I don't think when that effectively happens it's necessarily just the lyrics or the vocals evoking that. I think some of the work that is the most evocative is definitely a culmination of all the music. From the beginning, Dave Sitek's production has had a cinematic quality to it. It's definitely influenced everyone else's production aesthetic because that's how the band was sounding. They start riffing off of how the band was sounding in the studio. It grows from there. I feel like that painting of pictures sonically depends a great deal on lyrics but it's also powered by what everyone else is doing musically.
Do you tend to read often or watch a lot of movies? Which other influences filter through your art?
It's hard for me to know what actually is filtering through and how it's filtering through. I do watch a lot of movies, and I try to read as much as I possibly can. I buy too many books. I buy more books than I can read [Laughs]. I collect them. I've always excused a lot of that because I feel like the more I'm reading, potentially learning, and taking in can only be expansive for what I can write about and how I can write it.
Have you been reading anything lately?
I've been reading a lot of Derek Jensen in the past couple of years. He's kind of an angry nature writer calling for the end of civilization. I just started reading the poet James Merrill. He's blowing my mind right now. In the past couple of years, I've been trying to read as much poetry as I can. I've found for a long time that I didn't have the patience for it. However, it's almost all I want to read right now. In front of me, there's a book I just got at McNally Jackson an independent book store in Soho. It's called Insectopedia, and it's by Hugh Raffles. I was reading it on the plane last night. It's about insects and humans and the intersection between the lives of insects and humans. It's incredible book. It's prose, and it's a combination of travel writing and nature writing as well as a bunch of different things. I could see looking at this book and writing a song for each chapter—I'm not intending on doing that, but it's as inspiring or more inspiring as all of the poetry I'm getting introduced to right now.
What does "Caffeinated Consciousness" mean to you?
I can't speak to the lyrics because Tunde wrote them, but in some ways, it references some earlier works by degrees. For me, it's one of the threads of similarity of sound from the last two records into this record. I think it's important to have that. It's been really fun to play live. Also, my daughter got to be in the video for that one!
Where were you coming from on "Keep Your Heart"?
I was listening to a lot of West African guitar music and music from the Sahara. The initial version of that song was trying to pay tribute to that music rhythmically with some of the original guitar ideas. Over the past couple of years, I've had a lot of time to play in quieter bands with a much lower profile. It's been really exciting to have time to sing without having to yell or scream. I wanted to work on a song where we could sing. It's not a first for TV on the Radio by any stretch, but I wanted to make a beautiful melody without screaming over roaring guitars. That was the impetus for that song.
What's next for you?
It's hard to say. Right now, we're on tour, and that's going to be taking up our time for a little while. It seems just as plausible that we'll find our way into some other creative thing. It's funny. Making records is one of my favorite things to do. It was really inspiring that the Nine Types of Light film got done. It wasn't just done by TV on the Radio. It was a huge effort with a bunch of different teams of people. The fact that it got done in a way that was pleasing to us was realty inspiring to us. There's so much accessibility of tools right now, the idea of simply making a record is, we could do more. I don't know what comes next. We're brewing it right now.
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Photo Credit: Vivian Wells