In an effort to expand upon the music pallets of Steampunks, I set out searching for bands that have unique sounds and contribute to the landscape of Steampunk music. In my search, I happened upon Life Toward Twilight, a dark ambient, post-industrial project comprising solely of Detroit artist Daniel Tuttle. While not an expressly Steampunk band, his most recent album, I Swear By All the Flowers is full of Steamy sounds, including music boxes, ticking grandfather clocks, steam trains, wax cylinder recordings, early mechanical factories and old voices.
Part One of my interview with Life Toward Twilight is below.
Please tell me a bit about yourself, your musical background, and influences.
I’ve been doing music for a long time now, and as a result have had a myriad of influences. What inspiries me is constantly evolving. I started producing music around 1994 with a high school buddy. We were catching the wave of computer generated music and using a young-ish World Wide Web to generate attention. The band was very “industrial” in the Skinny Puppy sense of the genre, and we maintained that project until around 1999 or 2000 where we moved away from one another, him to Arizona and myself to Detroit. It was around this time that Life Toward Twilight material started coming together.
My influences are very often not musical. One of the things that shaped my ideas on what I wanted to do with Life Toward Twilight early on was Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”. The space and resonance was something that fascinated me and opened doors about how I thought about music. There is also a lot of David Lynch influence in my music, as one of the most compelling things about his work, to me, is the music and audio. I love the disorienting effect of the sound and music in “Eraserhead”, but all of his movies achieve this effect to some degree or another. As a recent example, the movie “Inception”. I am fascinated with how the music and audio creates the canvas for the story telling.
Musically, my hero is John Cage but what I actually listen to varies very wildly. These days I’ve been listening to a lot of Will Oldham, Nick Cave and Radiohead (really enjoying Amanda Palmer’s cute cover album), but I also spend a lot time listening to electronic music, particular dubstep, breakcore, drum n bass and so on. Obviously, I listen to a lot of movie score. I listen to a LOT of music and have made attempts at running music blogs in the past, a project I may pick back up again. Anyway, I’m mostly an old school goth kid, and will be going to watch Swans live tonight so that is exciting.
What inspired you to create the type of music you do?
Well, every album has a different inspiration really. More often than not I am telling a story, except I only reveal hints about the story instead of laying it all out there. My design is to create the landscape and let the listener populate it with characters.
How would you describe your music to people who have never heard it before?
Well, it depends on how close to the subject matter I feel the person is. If I am talking to someone who has no interest or awareness in more ambient/soundscape material, that’s simply how I describe it. Well, I often describe it as “score to a movie not filmed”, trite though this idea may be. If I feel someone is fundamentally in tune with more obscure styles of music, I don’t abbreviate or simplify, and I discuss the particular pieces in depth. If you listen to the whole Life Toward Twilight catalog, it becomes quickly apparent that each album is rooted in a completely different idea.
Can you discuss some of the themes of your music? What would you say your music is about? Where do you acquire all the sounds that make up your music?
This is an involving question because every album is so different from the others. I almost compose each album with an entirely different technique, using different sound sources. As I’ve mentioned, my music is largely stories. That is the one consistent theme. They are often very personal stories, about ghosts and memories, about longing and dreams.
As far as sounds, again, varies wildly recording to recording. I had one album where the majority of the sounds were from wax cylinder archives from late Nineteenth, early Twentieth centuries. Other albums are synthesis. I had a few tracks where the only sound samples came from my own voice.
What is the process that is involved in creating your music?
It is mostly conceptual. I don’t do anything that is technically difficult or obscure. I feel like, for the most part, I am discovering music and capturing it, versus creating something out of nothing.
The last few albums I assembled all the parts and recording in Ableton Live. I usually use Soundforge as my editor, and really that’s where most of work is done. I have various controllers, mics and effects processors, but a great portion of what I do is raw sound editing.
Stay turned tomorrow for Part Two of my interview with Life Toward Twilight wherein we discuss music labels, Life Toward Twilight live shows, and Daniel’s take on his place in Steampunk music.