Jeremy Ensley is an acoustic artist out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. His work is an interesting blend of instruments with generated and ambient sounds of tunnels and other locations in rhythmic patterns. While this description fails to convey what can only be experience by listening, at times I found myself intrigued, perplexed, amused, and often smiling and toe tapping with the rhythms and sounds.
John Collins (JC): Thanks for taking the time to interview with me Jeremy. What is your background and what led to your desire for a career in music.
Jeremy Ensley (JE): I’ve been experimenting with sound and recording since I was very young. I had my first sampling keyboard, a Casio SK-1, at 8 years old and made a lot of weird little cassettes with it (that are unfortunately lost long ago). From there, I turned to guitar. After a time, I became bored with guitar. Even with saturating it with effects, the sound was still a guitar. So, I went back to electronics. From then on, I have delved deeper and deeper into making things that push the boundaries of what I expect from making music. I don’t know if I would call what I do or what I’m heading toward a “career in music”, but it certainly is a passion that is beyond a phase. I’ve always said “I’ll stop when I’m dead.”
(JC): Tell me about your current projects.
(JE): Currently, I have a few irons in the fire. I just finished a 5-track release called “Terra Cotta” which pulls on more familiar instruments for the listener. It’s my pride and joy, at the moment, and was a great opportunity to work with Matt Ten Clay at Amber Lit Audio.
I’m soundtracking a time-lapse documentary-ish video of the set-up, showing, and tear down of art installations that were submitted to ArtPrize last year by a collective known as Site:Lab. It’s very fascinating stuff, great people too. I have a podcast channel I’m planning on utilizing better (hornofplenty.podbean.com), where I’ll be crafting more stream of consciousness, soundscape stuff.
For now, there is a recording of a show I did in a pedestrian tunnel under the highway in Grand Rapids, MI, where I live. Last summer, I started this series of shows in the tunnels under the highway, using the acoustics of the space as part of the composition. It was a great time.
I plan on doing that again this summer, this time, however, I hope to be finished building a sound device that I’ve started working on which will be a motorized, electro-acoustic noize generator. It is battery powered (I will work with solar power in future devices.), self-amplified, and built in a cigar box. I have some tiny motors which will provide rhythmic and melodic accompaniment to a simple oscillator.
(JC): Where do you plan to go from here?
(JE): In the future, I plan on doing what I am doing now, but have a little more prolific output than before. I’ll continue to leave myself open to opportunities to work with new people and taking on new challenges. I would like to do more with building sound-making gadgets and working with art installations. And eventually, become a hermit in the woods.
(JC): How about telling me and your fans something weird and wonderful about yourself that your fans might not already know.
(JE): People ask me “Why the basket?” Well, the answer is not simple. It began about 10 years ago. There was a pretension in electronic and experimental music that I wished to avoid, and in order to be obvious that I wasn’t taking myself too seriously, I wore it once. But something happened during that first performance. It transformed who I was on stage in a way that I hadn’t expected. I felt a new sense of freedom in my identity. I had become someone else. The basket was transforming my personality. It also inspired me to focus on merging the old and new in my work.
The basket is an ancient concept, nearly as old as humanity, and its purpose has been useful the entire time. It’s an ancient invention that’s still valid. The more I focused on it, too, I realized the ubiquity of the basket. Everywhere I went, I saw a basket of some variety. It can hold a wide variety of interesting things: houseplants, candies, bizarre odds and ends, etc. It also serves a simple purpose, but the design of the structure can vary greatly. The complex weaving of organic materials is also something that appeals to me for inspiration. All of these little pieces of wicker, gathered together, to become something very useful. It strikes me as poetic.
(JC): Thanks again Jeremy and it was a pleasure to find out your background and even more so, to listen to your acoustic art!
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