Let's see, when did I... oh yes, there was a compilation at Comfort Stand, I think. Comfort Stand is/was an awesome online record label, started by The Bran Flakes Otis Fodder, I believe. It boasted an impressive number of DIY releases by all kinds of artists, including a good number of sound collage artists. I explored by listening to a compilation they were offering of various artists (there were literally so many that it would have been difficult to find an easier way to find out much about a good cross section of the work being offered there), and Fortyone really stood out to me.
I've always been a fan of the linear edit, specifically with regard to spoken word samples. I don't know why I haven't done more of it, myself, actually. At one end of the spectrum you've got funny, irreverent guys like Wayne Butane and at the other there's the excellent video art piece by Omer Fast (CNN Concatenated). Fortyone is closer to Wayne Butane in this arena, but maybe a little more thoughtful. Just a tad.
In fact, one of my favorite pieces by Fortyone is called "Love Everyone," off of the album "No More Mayonnaise." That piece starts off with the question and answer: "Q: What do you have to do? A: All you have to do is, be kind, be good, to everyone." That was the track which really warmed me to the project. I'd already decided I was a fan, but hearing the message of that track, I realized I needed to listen even more carefully.
With 22 albums and 5 singles, many of which are available free from his website, Fortyone is definitely more prolific than most, which makes it very difficult for me to review it all! However, with very few exceptions, I've found it was worth the effort. There are even videos to watch, online, so get to it.
Without further ado, here's the SAR Q&A with Fortyone...
*Name: Fortyone (or) 41
*Are there any additional names used to describe this project: Not really. I have associated ‘Freelove Records,’ the name of my made up, non-label “label,” with my music for quite some time now. But it's really just Fortyone.
*Do you use a pseudonym? Boy, that question smacks you right in the pilose face as you play percussion on a moist concavity somewhere in the heart of dixie doesn't it...
*Members: Steven Blair Nichols. And always in upper and lower case letters, that's very important. Could I please encourage your readers to do some research on International Maritime Admiralty Law and English Grammar and to start demanding that all their business be conducted using their grammatically correct actual "living/breathing" names (upper and lower case).
*Founding Members: Steven Nichols.
*Tape manipulations, digital deconstructions or turntable creations: Both “digital deconstruction” and “turntable creation.” I sample vinyl predominantly and both deconstruct and reconstruct the samples digitally. I do sample tape but have yet to manipulate that medium directly. So far I've remained very low-tech, almost “ghetto” in my equipment and software, using only Windows “soundrecorder 32” and a shareware program called “GoldWave” to manipulate sound digitally, and recording all the sound I use via a basic PC mic propped up against my stereo speaker. I’ve used a Panasonic REAL 3DO video game console as my CD player to sample CDs since the first album in ‘03. I’m saddened to say that it finally broke. Anyway, here’s a very brief rundown of what I do: I’ll either grab a whole bunch of source material and go through it all at once and amass a huge cache of samples, recording things that I like or have a general idea that I might be able to use and then sit down and start trying to put it together and form the tracks which appear on my CD’s in the order I make them... Or I’ll sample source material for one track at a time, though again, only recording things which strike my fancy at that time or that I think I might be able to use... I do not do much pre-planning at all and have been continually delighted at how so many times everything just seems to come together, fall into place, and fit perfectly. It’s like: “well, without thinking about the song as a whole whilst sampling, we’ve just recorded 5 minutes of raw samples, now let’s see if we can get anything to mesh,” and knock on wood, it usually does. I find this kind of hard to really convey, thus offer up my “records on my wall” e.p.’s (available for free on my website) as a great example of what I’m talking about here, and of what is really a fundamental principle of my music. A celebration of this magical randomness, if you will, and I'm sure you will.
*Another genre descriptor: Not an original one, no, but right now I do tend to refer to what I do as “collage.” Be it “aural collage,” “audio collage,” or “sample collage.” I almost wish I had a groovy invented term but alas.
Is there a story behind your name? Why 41? Even I have never really known exactly why “41.” I'm just Fortyone. After choosing 41 as my favorite number, as a teenager, years before making music, and then using the name on my music without ever thinking about it, just using it, many “reasons” have made themselves available, for example: Could it be that my last name is Nichols, like nickles which are 5 cents, and 4+1=5, or perhaps the fact that my Pap was born in 1941, or that I love the concept of April Fool’s day and it happens to be celebrated on 4/1, or could it be that ‘41’ is the international direct dialing code for Switzerland, (the neutral country) and I'm essentially a pacifist, or how about this one: Mozart is actually believed to have “encoded” the number ‘41’ into some of his pieces, on and on and on. None of these were consciously considered when choosing ‘41’ and many I only became aware of afterwards. Perhaps it would be easier to latch onto one of these when trying to explain “why 41?” to other people and even to myself, but I'd rather not.
*Location: Waynesboro, Pennsylvania
*Original Location: I was born in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania but really grew up in Pen Mar, Maryland and then moved back to Waynesboro when I was 16.
*What is your creative/artistic background: I never minded playing alone as a child (I was an only child until I was 9) and was always very creative and imaginative. I played alto sax in elementary school but gave it up because I didn't really enjoy practicing and absolutely dreaded performing as I was a tremendously shy kid. I remember making tapes of myself rapping original songs over a Casio keyboard’s programmed beats as a preteen. In fact I’m pretty sure I still have one of those tapes somewhere. I wrote TONS of poetry all throughout highscool. I know I still have plenty of cans of that sitting around. Study hall was poetry time. I dropped out during my junior year and have had no further schooling and certainly no formal training.
*History: Since sometime in 1997. I actually have a hard drive in my closet with all my original songs on it that I’ve been meaning to install and transfer the data off of, so I’m not exactly sure as to the specific date I made my first ‘track’ but I know it was sometime in ‘97. It’s a funny story... I actually had my first computer for quite a while, spending most of the time in chat rooms or listening to “funny wavs” on many of those types of websites, always wondering what that weird button with the red circle on it was for (in windows ‘soundrecorder’ which I of course used to play the “funny wav” files), and I know this might make me sound like a complete idiot but I really didn't know what it was for, even if I had some idea that it was for recording, and as I think back on it I’m sure I must have, I certainly didn’t know what possible use I, most certainly not a computer wiz, had for it, when one day my dad, against all my ‘better-safe-than-sorry’ apprehension, went ahead and clicked it! Well, I forget the specifics but once I saw that it did not destroy the computer or make some wretched high pitched squealing sound that wouldn't stop I was well on my way. It was still some time before I actually started making my own songs and when I did I almost literally made one every day for years. Not albums, or anything ever dreamed to be “released” or really ever made public in anyway, just songs. And remixes of my own songs. Usually at least 2-5 remixes of every song. Anyway, examples from this era can be found on my “The Mayonnaise Days” CDs.
*Born: At 10:12 AM on Wednesday, September 23rd, 1981, in Waynesboro Hospital in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.
*Motivations: Well, beyond the fact that I love to listen to this type of music so much myself and there’s just not enough of it out there (who else is this prolific?) so I’m essentially making it for myself so I can have fresh supply to listen to, beyond that, it’s just incredibly fun to make. This and that sense of wonder and anticipation or imagining of how others will receive it. Before making “No More Mayonnaise,” my first album, in July of ‘03, I had, inspired by the Bran Flakes’ wonderful use of children’s samples, compiled a huge cache of samples from children’s records (which I had collected by the way only to use as “talking records” in my fledging “turntablism” practice), and made a series of birthday songs for my younger brother Jack (a.k.a. Midas) out of them. I remember being filled with this wonderful anticipation as I wondered how he would like the songs, and I’ve had this same “I wonder what people will think of this” motivation ever since, but it’s really, although I often talk (and sample) of sharing, loving, and spreading joy and this is all very honest, real and a large part of it, when you get right down to it I just get a kick out of both making and listening to my music. It’s a heck of a lot of fun and I love putting it out there for others. Let’s put it that way. There’s something else I should mention here, which was another large part of the initial motivation to really start producing ‘albums’ back in 2003, and that’s the idea that although I knew I wouldn't be signing any major record deals anytime soon, ha, if ever, I could still get my music, my creations, out to lots of people via simply handing CDs out and (mainly) leaving CDs behind on everything from restaurant booths to park benches. And I’ve done so. Everywhere from along the roadside in Tennessee to the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. So far this has yielded no response besides a bit of a fuss and a generous offer to use bulletin board space out at the local Quizno’s restaurant but I still do it and still get quite the joy out of it. There’s also a testament to the power and wonderfulness of the internet here because after handing out and leaving behind literally hundreds of CDs and receiving not one response I began receiving responses from all around the world after having some songs up on Comfortstand for only a matter of days!
*Philosophy: Well, so far I’ve been all about only using pre-recorded material. That is: 100% samples. While other collage artists use drum machines to create drum loops, record their own vocals for specific tracks, write and record original questions to go with sampled answers or vice versa, etc... (which is all fine and dandy and very enjoyable), I’ve always tried to stick with only samples. There’s just something about looking at a stack of records and saying, “there, every single sound you hear came from that.” A few times I have used sound that I’ve originally recorded (mostly of my brother Midas as on the “Alien Pops trilogy”) but this was recorded years before making that particular Fortyone album and thus essentially functions as any other found, already recorded, source of sound and allows me to still proclaim: 100% samples! As for the character of the music itself... simplicity, silliness, lightness, humour, absurdity, and nonsense. I like to avoid a heavy, “artsie fartsie,” over-produced style. I think producing the songs the way I do, almost as a journal, a daily thing, and regularly finishing albums in one month or less obviously helps one to avoid an “over-produced” sound. I would never keep something I wasn't satisfied with but I do not spend days or weeks going back over each and every song. I feel this would diminish the work and result in a phony or forced sound. And though one may pick up certain “messages” in my work it’s really all about the music for the music’s sake itself - for the fun of it alone, and not about any real “meaning” or ulterior “message.”
*How would you like to be remembered: Quickly. Re-membered? As in becoming whole again and realizing my true nature? Oh, no, as in continuing to be noted after I’m gone. Well, I wouldn’t. And I won’t be. That is, not forever. In order to be remembered at all you must at some point be completely forgotten, you see, because “remembered” and “forgotten” arise mutually. On the other hand it might be nice to be remembered as the greatest collage artist that ever lived. But I ask you: Nice for whom? No, honestly - I'd like to be remembered as a generally good guy with good intentions who was right about the moon landings after all.
*Web address: http://www.41music.net