User Preferences: Tech Q&A With Brainfeeder's David Wexler AKA Strangeloop
Each week we chat about the tools of the trade with one outstanding creative to find out exactly how they do what they do. The questions are always the same, the answers, not so much. This week: David Wexler. Click here for more User Preferences Tech Q&As.
Who are you and what do you do?
David Wexler: My name is Strangeloop [aka David Wexler] and I am a multimedia artist, focused on live-visual media, electronic music, future cinema.
What kind of hardware do you use?
I use a lot of Apple hardware and always have. I’m often the outlier in productions, preferring to use a decked out laptop than any huge console. I’ve run visual shows for 70,000 people off of my laptop, which is great that you can do that these days, as I can be working on content on planes, buses, whenever’s clever. And I feel more personally connected with the device. I have gone through most of the MIDI-controllers out there and have not been satisfied.
There are few peculiar factors I love that seem rare in the world of MIDI-controllers. I love clicky buttons. I like when you push a button and you feel that you have done something. I like very compact controllers that aren’t difficult to travel with, but carry enough functionality that I can do what I want. I like lots of buttons in interesting formations and don’t care too much for knobs… don’t ask me why I have these preferences, suffice it to say I am just a strange person. Recently, my colleague and buddy, also a VJ, Laskfar Vortok, showed me a tiny synthesizer and controller he bought called the OP-1. We used it at an Erykah Badu/Cannabanoids concert last week, and it is by far the greatest controller I have ever messed with. I’ve literally fallen in love, and I’m looking to order one immediately. If I could graft a MIDI-controller to my arm and use it in a super heroic way to fend of some apocalypse, this would be the MIDI-controller.
VISITORS with Mono/Poly
What kind of software do you use?
On the live-visual front, Resolume makes everything I do possible. This software makes the most esoteric visual control seem very approachable and simple. Now that they have incorporated advanced mapping, my TeachingMachine colleagues and I were able to projection map a set of turntables for this week’s Boiler Room broadcast in a matter of 1-2 hours. We designed music responsive content on the spot, and it was incredible to see it come alive so quickly for the
Though there are higher-end server options out there, Resolume is a great ally for VJ’s looking to create their own idiosyncratic approach to the art-form. It is fun to work with, which makes it help with the creative process. The internal feedback possibilities have been my friend recently, as I had abandoned live-video feedback for years because of the difficulty in controlling it within a dynamic live-environment. Now, with a fast computer and Resolume, one can build worlds out of feedback. It’s phenomenal, and allows for the visuals to have a hallucinatory real-time feel that approaches some of the aesthetic of some of my wilder psychedelic experiences.
BIRDS OF PASSAGE
What piece of equipment can you simply not live without?
Maybe this is a cop out, but I really can live without any equipment… or anything fancy, I mean. Before I was making video-works, I was drawing, and that has a strong appeal too. I try to use all the tech necessary to manifest my ideas and the tech brings new ideas out of you, but it’s all just tools. I could live without any of it. It’s just convenient right now. I suppose it would be accurate to say I could not live without a pen and paper… or a brush and canvas… I need to express myself with my hands, basic need.
If money were no object, how would you change your current setup?
First of all, I’d be hiring people left and right to create bizarre new forms of software to augment the live-visual set-up—mind-controlled midi-interfaces, etc. But it’s funny talking about the money part, because it really seems all possible now, even without millions of dollars. Almost anything I’m imagining, on the software/content side is possible. On the hardware/context side you get the major expenses, and by partnering with other organizations, that’s all possible too.
Some of the shows I’ve worked on, quite frankly, are so vast and bizarre that I see them as dream-like, completely surreal affairs. I look for that too, I always want to work on those uncanny shows that pull you convincingly into some collective dream-space, where some deeper work can be done. Where the tech disappears, or reveals its spirit, where the show takes on a life of its own. Where there are emergent properties creeping out of all that production, where the future seeps in and everyone wonders how it got there. Those are the really exciting shows in terms of visuals and production.
FIELDS 1 of 3
Is there any piece of technology that inspired you to take the path you did?
I think when I discovered what a TV could do… When I was 14, I found that strange arrangement of a TV and a cam-corder that produces tunnels of infinite feedback. This very same device that flooded me from a young age with hours of mental programming, positive and negative (maybe mostly negative) had this voice of its own. By simply showing it itself, pointing the gaze back, it came alive. It spoke in fractal bits and tunnels of light. I realize there was this other world of media, a very esoteric world back then, where the awe created by the loop of perceiver and perceived was key. Where the narrative wasn’t in the box, it was all around it, reflected in the very context it was viewed. A live-narrative.
I would sit in front of the TV recording hours of video-feedback, and something was triggered in me that has never left me since—it was a feeling of the power of media to affect us deeply, down to the neuron. As much as it has the power to deaden and manipulate us, to indoctrinate us into organized systems of ignorance and empty power-struggles, it also has the ability to bring us awe, connection with deeper patterns, and perhaps inform us of some hyper-human perspective that we may not have considered.
What is your favorite piece of technology from your childhood?
I recently re-discovered the comic book. This is an incredible piece of linguistic technology. Comic books can do things that movies can’t, and vice-versa. When I get a great work by Grant Morrison or Alejandro Jodorosky, I literally can’t contain my excitement. I am like some kid discovering another planet in his back-yard… When I rediscovered graphic novels upon returning from touring with Skrillex, it was like discovering something critical again. It was all I could think about for about a month. I didn’t want any of the high-tech, I just wanted comic books—which must have seemed like an odd turn for all the people around me, who knew me as extremely tech-obsessed.
I immediately started writing a graphic novel called BEAT-SCENE, which my good friend and Anamnesia co-creator Micah Nelson is illustrating.
Sketches from ANAMNESIA
What fantasy piece of technology would you like to see invented?
A Dream-Machine—something that would allow us manifest our thoughts more directly, encode our thoughts immediately in some share-able, mediated form… images, sounds, feelings… like in that film Brainstorm. That’d be dope.