“If you want to be involved in music, I think you will find a way to be involved or paths will be presented to you to get your foot in. You can’t really teach anyone how to be where they need to be.” – Wet Eyes
Minneapolis, Minnesota resident Ross Auger is best known under the alias Wet Eyes. I stumbled upon his music through his official Soundcloud page and after hearing a track called “Fresh Perk’d,” [click to listen] it interested me greatly. I’d just finished watching Double Take, which featured Alfred Hitchcock doubles and it was interesting to hear the same Folgers commercials from the mid 20th century being incorporate both in the movie, let alone through music! Though a mutual love for music, for talking about music, and coffee, Ross decided upon an artist on artist interview of sorts. He’d interview me and I’d interview him. My interview is in the entry below (or click here) and below are the answers I asked him.
What came first, the chicken or the egg?
I think it would be more interesting to see a chicken appear out of nothing so let’s go with chicken.
You’ve been involved in your own solo music through Wet Eyes, but have also hopped genres more than once in various other bands and projects. Could you mention some of those and what drives you toward diversity?
Of course. I participate in two separate rock bands. One being Electric Aquarium where I play bass and sing here and there. The other being Electric Gauge which is Electric Aquarium minus our drummer. In that scenario, I head back and drum with some spotty vocals as well.
I also provide (usually) the rhythm section for this project called Laura Moser. We haven’t released too much but it’s a project that I hope always sticks around. I also have a sort of hip hop project in the works that is basically a collaboration between myself and MonopoleJoe.
It’s hard to talk about other projects without mentioning some of the other people behind them. My friend Trevor Klopp and I have been making music together since we were about 13 and/or 14. We actually started calling our selves Electric Gauge around that time and have been working on updating some of those songs from back then. Electric Aquarium is (as mentioned) Trevor and I plus this solid dude named Andrew Blaeser. Both of those guys have their own monikers as well, Trevor’s being Spicy Tuna Melt and Andrew’s being Duke Silver. The new Wet Eyes album in the works (Silver Lining) actually has Andrew producing all of the beats as well as song layouts.
I think diversity goes hand in hand with my creativity. My goal (with music) has always been to reciprocate the energy given to me by favorite artists so I think diversity bleeds through that goal.
Previously, you released a a cassette via Jozik Records called Clepto Journals. It’s interesting to note that artists like Alaska In Winter have released limited cassette records and it seems that there is a small underground scene for albums to be released in this fashion. Could you shed some light on what about having a cassette release appealed to you as opposed to vinyl, CD, or a digital release?
What appeals to me about cassette is the aesthetic and nostalgia. I remember sitting in the back seat of the family van as a kid with a walkman and some neon yellow headphones staring out the window into rural Minnesota as the clouds hover. As far as aesthetics go, I think we can all agree that cassette tapes just look cool, am I right? I am also one of those people who will argue for the sound of analog over digital given the option.
I think the scene itself though is bigger than one might imagine. It’s a beautiful thing though. When you put on a tape, there is no skipping songs, no screens with information. Just you, the music and the warm pops and crackles.
In the same vein, you’ve started up your own record label of sorts called Wet Eyes Productions. What sparked this and what are you hoping to accomplish with it?
In all honestly, it was never intended to be a label. Initially Andrew (Blaeser) and I were going to start a production company and that was the name. Our paths hit a fork and both of us ended up in different schools, in different cities, which forced a halt in that idea. After my release on Jozik, I sent out some demos to more labels thinking that the only way to release an album was through a label. One of the labels actually responded suggesting I start my own label to self release, which is the way his label came to be. I tucked that idea away for a while until I released Air is Movement [Wet Eyes]. I had my own vision of how I wanted it to look in physical form which led to the self release. I have just continued to self release which is nice because I can work at my own pace. We will just have to wait and see if the path merges into releasing other folk’s material as well. I can’t say I’m not open to the idea.
If you could have dinner with any musician living or dead, who would you choose and what would be on the plate for discussion?
That’s a tough one. I keep coming back to tea with Thom Yorke. The Eraser is one of my personal favorites and I would love to just hear him talk in depth about it. I believe he has handled some big situations fairly gracefully as well, specifically the release and controversy with In Rainbows [Radiohead]. I can just sense he would be a good person to in general.
Alongside music, you’re currently studying graphic design, have previously directed music videos that have been released via a Vimeo account, and have released limited edition drawings and prints. What aspect of the visual world do you enjoy the most and what’s the process like for mapping out what sort of visual representation is going to be given to a specific song?
My brain actually works in a cinematic fashion. Just the other day I had butterflies in my stomach and I ran down this whole scenario to a co-worker of an eye level shot moving horizontally across an army of troops, each with my face. A voice shouted out “ THIS IS WHAT YOU TRAINED FOR,” and everyone stomped. “THIS IS WHAT WEEKS OF PREPERATION HAS COME TO,” another unified stomp. “GO GET EM’!!!” and the army yells out running forward. Then you cut scene to me confronting the butterflies of my stomach in the conscious world.
With music, your creativity is released into the wild. Your mind creates the images. With visual art, it’s like a peak into what’s inside of my mind. It’s one thing for me to sit here and tell you a story, but it’s a whole other dimension for me to show you the story the way I see it. Being able to then hold and run your finger across a print is a beautiful sort of trip. Computers can be kind of a big ol’ “Do not Touch” sign. When you get a print, it’s a little window into someone else’s mind that you can touch.
As far as mapping out a song, there are two sorts of ways that it happens. One being the song just presenting itself while I am listening back or mixing whichever specific track. The other is just simply from thinking. I almost always have a small notebook or journal on me. Many of those pages are filled with short film ideas that are based off of “What If”s or “Wouldn’t it be cool…”s.
With Autotune being a hot topic of discussion for a number of years, it seems as though Instagram and easy photo editing programs like it have gone under the same sort of fire as being something of a phase or an inauthentic representation and generalization of the photo editing process. Do you have any thoughts on this?
That’s actually a great comparison. I have a personal instagram account and I use a photo editing app quite often but I do not consider myself a photographer. Nothing will beat a professional photo or an actual polaroid. Bottom line, they are all just tools. If you wanted to discredit T-Pain for using Autotune, you might as well discredit me for using a guitar.
Authenticity is an interesting word though. As much as I do not like to credit the general population, usually people can see through those who use Instagram or Autotune as a way to be “cool”.
When do you feel most creative?
Around 8pm to when my eyes close for extended rest. I am definitely a night owl. I think the color of the sky at night and how light pollution soaks in (or doesn’t for that matter) is incredible.
During the creation process of your music, are there any specific go-to instruments or mixing tools that are standard procedure to use? Anything you try to stay away from?
I’ve got this Digitech rack mount that a friend gave me which I run every guitar or bass signal through whether the effect is on or not. It mainly stays on one setting of the hundred which is this amp simulator/reverb. Everything on Clepto Journals, drums and all, was recorded through that baby.
I try to stay way from working on music completely in the box. If I can’t reproduce what I’ve made live in some way, that process is generally avoided. The only plug-ins I really use are compression, reverb, and sometimes a little eq. With that being said, I have an overflowing shelf of pedals.
Recently, you’ve released an album called Freezing Thoughts Create Stability. What are some of the inspirations behind the nine tracks?
What’s funny is for the second time this fall, I have done something without conscious motivation. Freezing Thoughts being the first. One day I just caught myself putting the CD packages together and thinking, when did this start? I think my memories of Halloween as a kid asked for it. Most of the tracks were composed for some project that fell through or didn’t turn out exactly how I intended. The first track, “Coyote’s Mining”, is a song I wrote to serenade the cover art. The actual art piece was labeled a mistake for the class I created it for but I became really attached to the piece, which in hindsight might have also lead to Freezing Thoughts becoming what it is.
As someone who studied at IPR, do you find that attending a school based around the audio world is something that’s beneficial to someone who would like to get involved in music? What’s something you’re glad to have learned from attending this establishment?
I think it can be beneficial depending on how you utilize what you learned. I do not have many kind words for that particular establishment. I have my own way of doing things but I am grateful that I was able to learn how to work Pro Tools without having to teach myself. I did, however, meet some great people including Andrew and Tony who is the other half of the Laura Moser project. If you want to be involved in music, I think you will find a way to be involved or paths will be presented to you to get your foot in. You can’t really teach anyone how to be where they need to be.
Is there anything else you’d like to let the readers know about Wet Eyes?
I hate to name drop Facebook, but the Wet Eyes page is the easiest way to keep updated and informed [click here to be directed]. I have created a sort of mailing list as well if you’ve downloaded anything from Bandcamp, but emails don’t get sent as frequent. Silver Lining will be the first release of 2013 and I am in love with the progress so far which means I can’t wait to share it with whosever ears are curious. Maybe we can get an exclusive preview through 2020k? We’ll see…
Stream and purchase all of the Wet Eyes releases over at his official Bandcamp page, see all of the various other projects over at the Wet Eyes Productions Bandcamp, and stream music over at the Soundcloud page!