The Music Tapes' Julian Koster on the circus tent he's bringing to the Cedar tonight
Julian Koster is the type of creative artist that doesn't really exist in the trepid trapping of reality. For over a decade, Koster has been experimenting with sound to create musical "tape collages." As part of Music Tapes, Koster's live performance pop project, Koster has spent the last four years or so bringing those sounds into homes and unconventional spaces around the country. Now, the Music Tapes are bringing the same sensational world of imagination to Minneapolis.
Titled The Traveling Imaginery, Koster and his longtime partner Robbie Cucchiaro will be performing tonight at the Cedar Cultural Center in support of their latest album, Mary's Voice, a truly unique and idiosyncratic blend of old-world sounds meshed with pop sensibilities. But perhaps performing isn't quite the right word: Koster will be installing a circus tent into the Cedar and is presenting the evening as a multi-layered production, an epic adventure that unfolds as a live story, complete with games and wonderments for the audience to take part in.
Gimme Noise caught up with Koster ahead of his show this evening at the Cedar Cultural Center about what to expect from the Music Tapes, how Mary's Voice came together, and what all the traveling has taught him.
Gimme Noise: Tell me about the show. You're bringing a circus tent into the Cedar? Break this down for me a little bit.
Julian Koster: Well, it begins the moment that you walk in the door. The tent is in there. There's games and various amusements that we've created for you that are everywhere, so when you walk in the door, you're surrounded by these games and experiences that you can do that are a part of the show and a part of the world that we're bringing to you. It's all very dream-like in many respects, and it's all very fun, and it never stops. The experience of the evening unfolds in various stages, and it's always unfolding.
There's different sorts of games and things to see, and that morphs into singing and film cartoons, and then the actual show in the tent starts. There are certain secret things that go on inside the tent and outside the tent that only certain people get to see, and then the show starts and there's stories and lots and lots of music, of course, and lots of surprises.
GN: The show at the Cedar is an all ages event because that's the venue--is that what you're aiming for? What have you been seeing at the shows so far?
JK: It runs the gamut, it really does. As much as it's in our power to make it an all ages, it depends on the promoter and the venue. It's definitely the sort of thing where kids seem to love the heck out of it. The majority of the people that are drawn to this is the people that know our record and our music, teens to older folk. It's as universally entertaining as an amusement park or something, though it exists on a more imaginary plane that that, and so it's been our experience that children and grandparents enjoy this just as much as a twenty-year-old, and that makes us happy.
GN: Tell me about the album and how Mary's Voice came together. What were the different recording processes you used to make this album? I understand that they spanned decades.
JK: Yes. I have a passionate love for the character and spirit of recording machines, as much as I do for an instrument. A Stradivarius violin is an incredible instrument, and they were made in various ways over time, and I liken that to recognizing the beauty and the uniqueness of the sounds from different recording machines, and being delighted by what happens when we bring them together. For Mary's Voice, we used a recorder from 1900 and an Atari 8-track from 1990 and a computer. They each have very, very different spirits and sounds and give people different feelings, even if they don't know it. In the context of them enjoying music, they feel a different experience, they feel different things from the quality of sound even if they're not conscious of that fact.
GN: You've been traveling the country and going into people's homes for four years. Tell me about that experience.
JK: What we were doing before was a show that sort of inspired this show. It was something that was inspired by what we designed for people who wanted a show to bring into their houses, people who wanted something unique and extraordinary.
GN: What's the biggest thing you've learned about the people of America?
JK: I think the nicest, most wonderful thing that we've learned is that people are extraordinarily unique. Places and people are not the same. People are incredibly unique, and the differences between them even from neighborhood to neighborhood in the same town are very special. Yet, in the most important way, people are exactly the same--in terms of their ability to get lost in things and in their spirit of enjoyment. That's universal. We always come into places as ambassadors of something else, of something that people can imagine and we impact a few cases. In a lot of ways, we're just trying to be good hosts or good ambassadors and set up a little world for them to wander in and play in, and when we're invited that way into so many people's lives and homes and when we get to see the incredible warmth and the joyful spirit that people can manifest in exactly the same way, even though the situations are different -- it gives you a tremendous feeling about the world.
The Music Tapes' Traveling Imaginary will be coming to the Cedar Cultural Center this evening. Doors at 9 p.m. Tickets $16. All Ages. More info on the Cedar's website.