In Conversation: Lubelski and visual artist Alex Pelly on his latest album 'Happy Accidents'
DJ and modular synthesist, Lubelski recently released his Happy Accidents LP on DIRTYBIRD. Written over a six week stretch of modular jam tracking and long nights of isolation, the album represents a moment in Lubelski's career when he discarded the rule book and wrote with a renewed sense of creative freedom. This feeling is exuded at every twist and turn on the record, disregarding any preconceptions people might have had about him or the label.
Lubelski discovered visual artist Alex Pelly via her show on Dublab Radio – she uses the same modular synth gear to create visual content, which was then used to create visual representation of Lubelski’s process. Alex has created visual for each of the tracks on Lubelski’s album Happy Accidents.
In an EARMILK exclusive, Lubelski and visual artist for the album Alex Pelly converse on their collaborative process and how their work together on Happy Accidents came about.
Alex Pelly: Why do you like working with synths and what drew you to them? Did you make music before you had synths?
Lubelski: Analog gear just makes it more fun! I love being able to actually touch the synth and get a feeling of the sounds moving through it. I’ve played instruments my whole life so synthesizers feel like a natural progression in deeper sound design with my music.
Alex Pelly: As a video artist I always have music as a starting point and source of inspiration. Where do you find inspiration to start a track
Lubelski: I’ve found inspiration in almost anything — from paintings, movies, conversations I’ve had, experiences, or music.
Alex Pelly: Do you ever have an idea for a sound in your head that you then try to create with a synth, or is it really all happy accidents, where you discover sounds?
Lubelski: There are sounds that I hear that I sometimes think “how can I make that?” Since I started producing, I feel like I’ve almost been cursed with having to deconstruct every sound I hear. For the most part, I really just enjoy messing around until I found something I like.
Alex Pelly: How often do you completely clear a patch vs tweaking and building on a patch you’ve already created? Do you ever try to recreate your patches?
Lubelski: I usually clear a patch every couple of weeks. I do like to build on patches and tweak them too though. I also feel like I have a few go to patches that I’ve memorized the signal flow for as well.
Alex Pelly: Do you ever imagine visual elements or have images in your head when you create sounds or tracks?
Lubelski: That’s an interesting question. I’ll sometimes associate sounds with certain colors, like for whatever reason sub sine waves remind me of the color red, while sharp saw tooths are violet, and nasally pulse width waves are lime green.
Lubelski: How long have you been doing modular video synthesis? What first got you into it and did you start with audio modules as well? Do you work with other types of visual media?
Alex Pelly: I’ve been doing modular video synthesis for about five years. I was already deep into analog visuals using VHS cameras and TVs for feedback along with a variety of old video processors and mixers. Audio synth friends would always tell me that I should get into video synthesis, but I knew it was pretty expensive and all my gear was mostly from thrift stores, so I avoided it for several years. Then this synth store in LA called Perfect Circuit reached out to me to design the intro for their YouTube videos. They thought I was already using modular, because I was making a lot of shape based art at the time that looked similar. I asked them if I could borrow their store rig for a couple months and they said yes. I got totally hooked. They paid me in modules, and I never looked back. I actually got into audio modules after video – audio’s a fairly new thing for me that I branched out into during quarantine. I already knew a lot about synthesis from videoand I've always wanted to try doing audio and video simultaneously, so lately I’ve been experimenting with A/V performances. Video is the only visual medium I work with, but I also do more traditional filmmaking work.
Lubelski: Do you feel that your upbringing had an influence on your art? If yes, how so?
Alex Pelly: Ha that’s interesting….I don’t think my upbringing had any direct influence on my art, other than helping to make me who I am. I wasn’t exposed to a lot of music or art as a: child that I would reference today. I discovered all that stuff later, a bit in highschool but really in college and after.
Lubelski: Who are some of your influences in the world of visual media (whether it be video synthesis, graphic design, or general art)?
Alex Pelly: In my early 20s I stumbled across this DVD set called Avant-Garde Experimental Cinema of the 1920s-1950s. It had work by artists like John Whitney, Man Ray, Stan Brackhage, Hans Richter and Maya Deren. That definitely had a huge influence on me. Also Nam June Paik is a big one – I love doing TV installations.
Lubelski: Do you have a favorite musical artist? Who do you listen to on your down time?
Alex Pelly: Oof I’m really bad at favorites and I listen to a lot of different music, but here are some artists that come to mind in no particular order – Hiro Kone, Tzusing, Catarina Barbieri, Stephan Bodzin, Paula Temple, OMD, Sonic Youth, PJ Harvey, Sana Shenai, Psychic Health, Green Velvet, Carl Craig, Kid 606, Force Placement, Coil, Front 242, David Bowie, Special Interest, Lauren Bousfield, Ancient Methods, Kate Bush
Lubelski: Do you set up a new patch every time you work with your modular? Could you tell me a little bit about your thought process when creating a patch?
Alex Pelly: I usually pull out all my patch cables and start fresh for each project. My phone is full of photos of patches, so sometimes I’ll try to reference something I created in the past, and work off that. For a project like your album visualizers, where I’m making a series of videos that I want to feel cohesive, I’ll work with variations of a patch. So I’ll build something, record the first track, and then alter it for each visualizer without ever clearing my patch.
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