An Interview with Edwin Torres
Edwin Torres’s Holy Kid (Kill Rock Stars) is the el classico combo po dj CD. We caught up with him for this interview as he was hustling off for a six-month stint in Europe...
bH: Does the poem dictate the medium you transmit in?
eT: Sort of. . . poem gives me eyes to see, peripheral apogee – what’s around presents itself. . . lifelong mission is to open eyes. Poem gets life once born – at moment of poem’s concept, poem’s life is unformed. First words tell me what it wants... sounds like cute analogy, but poem is creature to me...up to me as its creator to guide it. Means knowing where its best chance for survival is...(how dramatic!)...whether page verse or theatrical vision. The more mediums I’m familiar with...the more chance of it not going hungry! After the moment of creation, there’s a second birth -- when poem is shared for the first time. This is where I’ll find what medium is best for it.
Were the poems on Holy Kid written esp. for CD?
Poems were not created especially for CD, but were chosen from many hours of recorded material. In that sense, yes...there were many poems recorded, out of which some came to life – finding or calling out for sounds and music...while others re-mained one dimensional. The choice of which poem to record was just instinct...I have a wide range of poetic forms I’m inter-ested in, and I wanted to see about covering that range... narrative, non-linear, rhyme, free-verse...love, politics, fear, absurdity, etc. Translates to sound experience I wanted, acoustic, electric, homemade, a capella.
Over a period of 2 years, I went to John Noll’s recording studio at Retromedia Studios, Red Bank, New Jersey. Most of Holy Kid was engineered and recorded by John (who also wrote and played music on some of the tracks). I’d go to his studio with tapes, poems and nonsense and he had equipment, instruments and time...a luxury we both had...to lay something down, take it home, live with it, go back when we both had time, until we had a range of poetry-music-sounds, etc. Access to full studio was great, made ideas feasible.
Jordan Trachtenberg became interested in what I was doing and offered to help. Important to have an outside ear shape what we were doing. Jordy went through hours and hours of tape...raw sounds, music backgrounds. We went through a filtering process of which ones started to catch our ears...over time, I’d hear a melody or sound for a particular piece...or John would add some music, it was an organic creative process.
Have any of your poems switched media on you?
Does that make them new poems?
No...they’re just wearing a different set of pants. In the midst of a performance, I may find a quiet poem that works perfectly, wedged between two grander theatrical pieces. So, previously quiet poem now gains a notch in volume because of where I’ve placed it. Vice-a-Verse...performance poem may find its way into a morning lecture in a classroom, so volume will be turned down a bit, still...a poem should hold up, no matter what it’s wearing. Perception of poem’s message is hopefully clear enough to come through, no matter how communicated – no matter how they appear to those who remain in rolly-poll of samo-samo suits. (As for Internet...just now figuring out Web-media as poem...don’t have it figured yet!)
How much collaboration was there between you and Jordy [Trachtenberg, the Producer]? Between you and DJ's? Between Jordy and DJ's?
Collaboration completes my satisfaction – with other artists, performers, musicians – helps me see my own work in another light -- helps me step outside my skin. For Holy Kid, collaboration took on many forms.
Production Collaboration – where Jordy made suggestions for music, recording studios, best way to proceed through every phase of engineering and mastering, order of the tracks (very important to me since there are 23 tracks forming the journey), pairing poem up with DJ Wally to let Wally collaborate with vocal track, letting him sift through my mountains of tape... Jordy knew where to go with all this material. Musical Collaboration – where John took a capella recordings and created sound beds via live music or samples, working with Sean Meehan on drumset, Brandon Ross on guitar...actually, in the case of “Death Valley” working with Kristine Diekman who took my poem to Brandon Ross to create music for a video about Death Valley. Self-Collaboration – where sound, tape, music ideas conceived by self for particular poem sometimes stupid...discarded, need to listen and be open to mistakes.
I like Holy Kid’s lo-fi feel. I think the 4-track tapes give it a recurring homemade groove. I use tape cassettes in my performances as a way of bringing a certain deliberate utilitarian thing to the stage...I wanted to bring that quality into the recording process. To really make the CD become an extension of what I do.
CD as medium for poetry? What are the possibilities?
Sure...medium dictates reception, long as you’re saying something. Poetry lives on page as words in type, poetry lives on stage as words in body, challenge of CD is to let poetry live as words in air. CD medium has one entrance for senses: sound. From this entrance, other senses follow. Take nature of animal; poetry lives as line and line breaks...can there be an equivalent to that in sound, where verses dictate sound/music cue. Challenge for recorded poetry is to utilize the medium, to not just be words documented but to be as linear or non-linear as poem dictates. To have sound be poetry using words.
Possibilities are as possible as creator creates, or as business-types allow poetry to be recorded and distributed...fat chance. So poets need to start poeticizing the sound studios. Poets who understand subtlety and bravado need to start handling production. Poetry will always remain underground – nature of anarchist with individuality, is to not be accepted by the grand scheme of things...many poets in the world, writing for who wants it. Many who’s in the world – impossible to listen to it all. Business-types don’t understand this, and so always try to please the common denominator...end up with generic milky po’stuffs; hence: poetry as CD has barely penetrated the universal hear-drum!
Last fall you toured Europe, performing one night for 4,000 people and the next on a street corner. What can you say about the poet's life?
As dynamic as dynamos shooting starfields at a lazy gomer...? I look at the trail behind, road of scattered alphabets, many times have said “Wow, poetry has brought me here.” I know I’ve just scratched the surface. Feel like there’s a lifetime to do. One night’s a poem next to next, waiting for discovery. Best I could do is carve out a life where words let me live...riding on sails, created by time.
How does visual art relate to your poetry, book as object, typography?
Inspiration aroused by much art – visual abstraction I find most compatible with my inner demons. Visceral art is what most brings me to emotion, object as art, plasticity of words, edge of concrete poetry delineates form for me to create poem in. Yet, also – daffodil may create poem out of air for me...inspiration aroused by much life. Book is object, person is – typography. Huge letter rears giant head out of tiny word. Letters as type as graphic as I need them to be – another tool for language. Whatever I can use for muse to flow. . .
Who are your precursors?
Everyone who’s come before me.
What new young poets inspire you?
As young as I am there is nothing gained by giving out names – suffice to say, there are a handful who make me take notice... and there are more who watch them.
What does the future hold?
Globs of worldular consumony!
Are you thinking of your next CD?
In my landscape of tapes I have many recordings, with musicians, with self...I have too many studio ideas for too many poems...am I thinking of my next CD? It exists...half of it’s recorded...the other half is in my head and ears – waiting for a gift of immediate rebirth.