With gentle pulses thrumming in the background, a lone note slowly rises, stretched and pulled to its furthest potential as the pitter patter of a piano twinkles around the edges. It’s both warm and cold, an ambient sound that works equally well both during the morning when the mist still hangs in the air and at night, when everything has just settled down with the only sound outside is the occasional car speeding by. This is the music of Brady Kendall aka Alaskan Tapes.
From the start Alaskan Tapes was drawn to the more ambient and downtempo, creating an atmospheric soundscape that fills the headspace of the listener, yet creates enough restraint to hold the listener’s attention throughout. It’s a delicate balance that Alaskan Tapes does confidently.
Working all throughout last year and releasing his album You Were Always An Island and on a forthcoming EP, it was only right that FRISKY chose him as the CHILL Featured Artist for this month, as his music epitomizes the calming nature of what ambient can be. We caught up with Alaskan Tapes to chat about his early influences, his curated playlist of “Songs To Get Lost To,” what makes his music so special, and his ideas for his featured mix.
Check out his interview below and listen to the mix he created for CHILL – premiering February 20th @ 2PM EST [convert timezone] and available to stream anytime after.
What were some of the original inspirations behind the change from your original alias O S L O to Alaskan Tapes, the current one you’re working under?
The name Alaskan Tapes actually came from an EP title that I was working on at the time. It was a very dark, and moody EP that I ended up scrapping. At the time the music had changed so much in the O S L O project that it was about time I needed an alias change. O S L O had started off as a weird blend of dark dream pop/downtempo, and ended, in my opinion, off the rails. In between the two aliases I really focused in on what I wanted, which was a compositional ambient style of music, and I think I’ve been writing the music I was planning on back then.
In a previous interview you talked about starting out making Drum and Bass and over time it became slower and slower, becoming a version of ambient/drone. How and why did your music start shifting from such a high speed and high intensity sound to a much more drawn out and evolving style?
I really had only been into DnB for a short time before I started trying to produce it. I think it was just a matter of my taste in music changing pretty rapidly. Pretty quickly after I started producing DnB I was already looking into downtempo, and the lighter side of dubstep. I landed on Downtempo for quite a while too, I would say that it’s only actually been maybe 3 years or so that I’ve been focusing on ambient music.
Do your early influences in D&B and other electronic still play a role in the sounds you’re creating now? What have some of the biggest influences been recently?
I think they do for sure. I really love the repetitive aspects of older liquid DnB, repeating vocals, and melodies are something I really push for in my music.
Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Stars Of The Lid, they’re really influencing my most recent stuff. Also the usual like Jonsi & Alex, Taylor Deupree, Chihei Hatakeyama, etc.
I think people would be surprised to hear that I lean more towards heavier music when I listen to music. A lot of the recent heavier music I’ve found has wonderful Lyricism and it’s very inspiring.
In your “Songs To Get Lost To” playlist I noticed you have Ryuichi Sakamoto Johann Johannsson, both extraordinary composers. What roles have these and similar composers had on the way you structure and build your tracks?
It’s funny, at the time you wrote this question I believe that I had an composer named Patrick Jonsson take over the playlist, and he’s actually the one who added Johann, and who put me on to Ryuichi Sakamoto. They’re both composers who I admire a lot, Johann in particular has that lovely nordic style that I gravitate to a lot, and Ryuichi has the Japanese style that I’ve been loving as well. I find that composers from regions like Japan, or Iceland have a very specific sound that I strive for, but ultimately fall short on.
A lot of your work seems to based around series or stories, so when you start a new project do you have a storyline built in your head to create the tracks around or do you build the narrative as you go along?
Depends on the project. I usually have a theme for a story in my head at the time of starting a project, and then as I work on it it forms pretty naturally just by what I’m drawn to. Having stories and narratives in this genre seems like it’d make sense, but I find that having the ideas of the stories abstract enough works better since the only thing in vocal-less music that points towards the story are the titles. Letting people decipher their own meaning while having a concrete meaning in your head is actually very exciting.
In some of your tracks I can hear both stretched and detuned vocal samples and full singing parts. What’s the process of using each type of vocal in your songs, especially creating ambient and drone music which is much more drawn out and evolution based?
I’ve found that I usually used the stretched and detuned vocals more when I had drums in the tracks, then don’t seem to fit as well in Ambient music. But every so often I’ll write a song that’s just asking for vocals. Like “Waiting” off You Were Always An Island or “The Ocean No Longer Wants Us”, both tracks could have been their own songs without the vocals, but Chantal’s voice adds so much. I think it’s nice to add a bit of context to ambient albums as well, but I think that’s a personal thing.
Your music features a fantastic array of sounds, from piano to drone and white noise and even guitar. Could you give us a run through of what your studio set-up is like these days?
My studio is fairly minimal, I do a lot of my work in the box so there’s not much outboard gear. I have just a couple microphones, I live by my DPA 4090, it’s my prized mic at the moment. I have a pretty old Indian harmonium that I love, unfortunately it doesn’t make an appearance in many tracks since it’s so old, I’m going to need to get it tuned up but I’m hoping it’ll make a couple cameos on the new album. I have a pretty basic Les Paul electric guitar, I’m not a guitar player by any means, so I don’t know much about it. And lastly I have my apartment sized piano which I know nothing about, it just sounds nice!
Overall I would think my studio space is fairly boring compared to many others. But it does exactly what I need it to do.
Pianos feature very heavily in your music, so I’m curious, is there a piano you hope to one day own? A personal holy grail of pianos?
Not particularly, I’m quite drawn to mine, I’m not sure why but to me it sounds so good, even though it’s a cheap one. I would love a grand piano one day, but what company? Who knows!
That said, I would love to get my hands on an upright harmonium, the ones with the foot pedals, they sound great. Also, a Fender Rhodes piano is on my list. But those are all far into the future I would assume.
I know that besides music you dabble in animation and it’s featured In some of the videos for your singles? Have you continued to work on and develop some animations for the future? Do you have any other passions outside of music that you like to participate in?
Yeah I just mess around, I’d love to get into animation more seriously.. Maybe in the future. For now I think it’ll be sticking to the small animation clips that I’ve been doing. One day I’d love to make a full animated music video.
Other than that, I skateboard a lot. I’ve been skateboarding for like, 17 years.. So that’s a big part of my life. I don’t think I do much else!
What can we expect from Alaskan Tapes moving into 2019?
A lot, surprisingly. I was planning on kind of taking this year off.. With last year being such a busy year! But, I’ve got a 7 track EP coming in April, and then a Full Length record coming in September. I’m very excited for these two projects. Also going to be a wicked music video by Zhang & Knight, the directors, it’s going to be a big one.
Other than that just my regular commercial work. I’m trying to relax a little bit more this year, last year was nonstop.
What were some of the ideas and themes behind this mix?
I just simply want this mix to be a relaxed one. No drums allowed (mostly). I want to share my favourite artists and artists that I think are going to kill it in the future. Hopefully I can introduce some people to new artists.
Is there anything else you want to tell the readers and your listeners?
I just want to thank FRISKY for this, and whoever’s listening or reading that I’m unbelievably grateful. I’m so excited for the future.