Artist Interview: qualchan.
Coming back into the vaporwave fray after out extended hiatus, Sunbleach is back with a new interview with the Pacific Northwest artist qualchan.. No, that second period is not a typo – the proper name for the moniker is “qualchan.”! Having released on multiple labels including but not limited to Adhesive Sounds and Celldeath Tapes, qualchan. produces a unique form of vaporwave music that is highly influenced by tape music. qualchan.’s albums (such as the spectacle. often feature just two tracks that simulate two different sides of a cassette tape. Tracks feature sample curation and classic-style vaporwave edits with significant post-processing to emulate themes of environmental degradation, decay, and disappointment with the human race’s treatment toward nature. Although humans might not treat our Spaceship Earth with love, it remains a steadfast part of qualchan.’s musical aesthetic that things can get better – but only if we have the courage and extreme devotion to carry them out.
This interview was conducted in June and July of 2018. qualchan. also provided a curated mix particular to this interview, which you can listen to here. Sunbleach would also like to extend a personal thank-you to qualchan. for facilitating this site’s revitalization following the summer.
S: I’ve gotta get this out of the way before we go any further – why the period at the end of “qualchan.”?
Q: Ya know, I have been putting periods at the end of whatever name I’m recording under since my mid-teens (I’m thirty-five), and it’s something I’ve struggled with because people oftentimes leave the period off! I don’t want to seem nitpicky when I reach out to them to fix it. Maybe I should just drop it? Who knows? I’ve been recording as qualchan. for six years now, somaybe it’s too late to change it at this point.
S: Hey, I like it. It’s different, and it makes you easily recognizable/rememberable (is that a word?). Anyway, your music is notable for splicing together various tracks and movements into a suites of music that are presented as if they make up an entire side of a cassette. What inspired this decision?
Q: To be honest, I’m not sure. It started on the here, tyrant death. tape, and it just felt like the next evolutionary step for my sound. With each release I keep getting closer to realizing my true voice, which I think is vital for any artist. Not saying that you
have to reinvent the wheel, but why not try to create your own wave?
S: What else do you see as part of your “own wave”? What do you see that makes qualchan. as qualchan.?
Q: I’m bringing a different energy to things I feel. There is definitely a dark undercurrent that runs through a lot of music, but it’s really fucking corny. If your music isn’t focusing on the impending death of all living beings, then you’re doing something wrong.
S: You’ve described your album one hundred years. as a “sour take on new age” (a term also used for earlier albums) that you’ve termed “now age”. Can you go into more detail about how “now age” affects your creative style?
Q: For fear of this coming off as pretentious or turning into a manifesto of sorts, I’ll try to keep this as succinct as possible. The “now age” is my is a reflection of the fear and dread I feel living through the Anthropocene. Species are dying out at an accelerated rate, massive swaths of the rainforest are cut down every day for livestock grazing which are then led to a cruel and inhumane end on the slaughter room floor. The Great Barrier Reef is almost dead, not to mention trash island. Anyway, as far as sound goes, I’ve been a fan of new age ever since a family friend gave me the Kitaro’s Silk Road soundtrack record when I was eleven, and have become obsessed with it over the last ten years. I wanted to move in those zones but represent living in Cascadia while also refracting my feelings of hopelessness of watching the earth burn around me.
S: Would I be correct in interpreting “now age” as commentary on the “life is so beautiful, the earth is our mother” feeling that a lot of new age music from the 70s and 80s had, like Dean Evenson?
Q: Yes! New age is definitely very much about crystals and aligning chakras, and I wanted to be the inverse of that because the Earth is not fine. Instead of holding hands hoping our positive vibes we send out from our yoga mats while sipping a matcha latte will fix everything, we should be public guillotining all the folks who caused this and using the wealth to ensure there is enough Kool-Aid for humans to wipe themselves out in one grand gesture to preserve whatever flora and fauna we can.
S: Now that we’re talking about environmental concerns, the artworks for the spectacle. and one hundred years. stand out a lot more in my mind – images of pollution, industry, and nature. From where were these images taken?
Q: The artwork for the spectacle. and a number of my earlier releases were from a Canadian science textbook from the 70s that my friend scanned. I would select the image that I felt matched the vibes of the tape, he would mock up a few options, and I would select my favorite of them. The last two releases have had the artwork done by other folks. <>one hundred years. was done by the immensely talented Karolina Pietrzyk & Oliver Spieker who do all the design work for czaszka. For my split with Andrew Weathers, my very good friend Evan Crankshaw who I’ve been trying to corral for years into doing some art for me graced us with some beautiful surreal heat.
S: What inspired you to begin releasing physical editions of your albums?
Q: I have been releasing tapes since the mid-90s. When I was fourteen/fifteen, my buddy’s punk band would practice in my garage, and they would leave their gear and their four-track behind, so I helped myself of course. I was really into Kitaro and Gravity Records and thought the two could somehow be married… I’m kinda glad no one can hear those 🙂 I would leave the tapes at shows I was working the door at, Goodwills, church consignment stores, etc. I have kind of kept that aesthetic throughout my life, releasing a series of field recordings I made right when I moved to Seattle for each neighborhood in an edition of five tapes each and then leaving them in their respective libraries
or dubbing ten copies of a chopped-and-screwed mixtape, then leaving them in Casey Veggie’s tour van after smoking weed with him.
S: With what vaporwave artists or labels would you like to collaborate?
Q: I would absolutely love to work with Orange Milk or Hausu Mountain. I have a lot of respect for what they’ve done and I feel as if we travel in similar zones.
S: What other forms of production or editing do you feel particularly attracted to?
Q: Hmm, production… Chopped-and-screwed and the 80s tape scene are really my main touch points, but to be honest with you I don’t really listen to anything else than Texas trap music. So maybe some of that energy leaks in by osmosis.
S: What plans do you have for the future?
Q: Try to enjoy the clean air and fresh water while we still have it.
Check out qualchan.’s album one hundred years. below: