July 2, 2004
by Drowning In Brown
QUESTIONS with DEVIN SARNO ...
When did you first pick up an instrument? Have you always been
started playing bass in high school in the early 1980's and yes, this
has always been my primary instrument.
My main band for about 10+ years was Waldo The Dog Faced Boy and concurrently
i recorded & performed solo under the name "Crib." Just
recently i dropped "Crib" and now just record under my own
Your music has been described as "beautiful,"
"angelic," "gorgeous" ... i've recently had the
pleasure of hearing some of the samples available on your official web
site (http://www.devinsarno.com/sound.html) - and I have to say, as
a fan of Vincent Gallo's sound myself, you two seem like a rather likely
pair. How is it that your collaboration with Gallo came about?
of roundabout actually. I commission music videos (currently for Warner
Bros. Records.) In the early 90's i was working at Virgin Records. We
had done a video which starred Vincent (as an actor in the video) and
he became quite close with all of us at the label. We have remained
friends since. In fact, my boss signed Vincent to a label we worked
at a few years back called THE WORK GROUP (a divison of Sony) and we
were geared up to release his solo record until the label fell apart
unexpectedly. I was Vincent's de facto A&R guy at WORK and we became
quite close during that time. I have always admired Vincent's music
and his approach to improvisation & recording. It took until just
recently for me to muster the nerve to ask if he wanted to collaborate
with me. He was very gracious in accepting!
Besides Vincent Gallo, your previous experiences
in music run the gambit of connections to indie rock's finest artists
from Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore to Nels Cline (Geraldine Fibbers)
and Mike Watt (Minutemen, Banyan) among others. Who are some of your
strongest musical influences?
& Sonic Youth have always been a primary influence. Growing up,
i was heavily into the SST Records scene & was a bit of a groupie
w/ most of those bands locally in Los Angeles. I worked in their mailroom
for a Summer even. Saccharine Trust, Black Flag, Minutemen, Meat Puppets.
These were all early influences. Also bands like Swans, Naked City,
and alot of Jazz from Ayler to Ornette to Coltrane and beyond. Lately,
my influences run more along the lines of LOW, Sigur Ros, William Basinski,
Stars of The Lid, Loscil...alot of the Kranky Records roster. The Album
Leaf are great. Things like that. Nels Cline is also an important soul
in my life. Our friendship & collaborations mean the world to me.
He remains a big influence.
What are you listening to when you're
stuck in freeway traffic?
it was The Album Leaf & Jim White. Oh, and the new PJ Harvey.
But generally i like AM radio. There's something about driving around
Los Angeles listening to mono radio that appeals to me.
Your music has a very 'cinematic' quality.
Have you ever scored music for film? If so, where has your music appeared?
If not, is this something that you have any interest in pursuing?
So far i have only scored one short film which is called EVE: STRANGER
THAN PARADISE. It was directed by Britt Randle & was commissioned
by BRAVO (Canada.) Nels Cline, Joseph Hammer, Petra Haden & Michael
Intriere play on it. Thankfully, it has done exceptionally well on the
international film festival circuit. I also scored an art installation
piece (w/ Joseph Hammer) for artist Floria Sigismondi. I honestly hope
to do more of this. It's really my main goal right now.
Here's one for the gearheads ... you seem
to favor Fender basses judging by the photos on your web site. What
tools do you find useful when you are developing the various elements
of your sonic canvas? What are your necessities (instruments, FX processors,
loops, etc.) when performing or recording?
I initially started out playing a Rickenbacker 4001 which i always hated.
It was just too thin of a sound for me. I switched over to a Fender
P bass & have played it ever since. I just prefer the feel &
the warmth of that bass.
As far as FX i solely used an Alesis Midiverb II for years up until
recently when i added a Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler which has really helped
w/ layering & loops when i perform live. At times i like to run
transistor radios or wind up chimes thru the pick-ups. But generally
speaking I have never been a big gearhead myself. I tend to prefer a
more organic approach.
You may be the first artist that I'm aware
of with a music release on 3" business card CD. Personally, I think
the idea is brilliant. Do you ever favor certain methods of recording
over another (i.e. - analog vs. digital)?
3" buisness card was an idea of the label (Banned.) I had never
heard of one myself, but was more than happy to try it. I like the fact
that it only holds only a short amount of music...it's kind of perfect
for what i do.
I really do like Pro Tools. I have never, honestly, been militant about
analog recording. I have done
plenty of it over the years, but the ease of digital is hard to deny.
Digital has served me well and most especially with my more recent work,
which has had alot of layering & editing. I was actually worried
to have Vincent come to the studio because it's all digital...but it
worked out great!
I read that you incorporate "field
recordings" into your recent material. Intrigued by this, I also
noted that your site contains a Photo Gallery of manipulated TV screen
captures ... I'm wondering if you often search for ways to bring together
your various talents or interests whether musical or visual into one
collaborative medium? What project(s) are you presently at work on in
I live & grew up in an area that was near train stations. All during
my youth i would hear train horns in the canyon. It became sort of a
soundtrack to my days & nights growing up. When i went to record
"Remnant" i wanted to encorporate the trains as part of the
piece...as an ode. This is how i began encorporating field recordings.
when i perform live i have a tendency to play at very low volume. To
the point that outside noises can sometime overpower what i'm doing
(cars, people talking etc). So in a sense, i always feel like everday
ambience is a part of what i do. "Remnant" was really an exploration
of that concept.
The photo captures that are on my website a part of a series i was working
on of manipulated TV screen grabs. I am a closet graphic design nut.
Frankly it's what i wish i had done with my career in many ways. I generally
enjoy album package design & web design just as much (if not more)
than recording or performing music.
What influence has the internet had on
your music career? What role can you see it taking on for you in the
I'm pretty confident that the web has enabled me to reach more people
than i normally would. Which is crucial for someone on my level and
with releases that are not at all widely distributed. As long as i'm
doing music i will continue to cultivate my website. It's a very important
take a moment (if you will) to tell us about your forthcoming banned
production release as well as the future 'ensemble' project to be released
later on banned prod. - featuring Vincent Gallo. What is it called?
When will it be available? etc...
I'm very excited to be working w/ Banned. They offered to release a
solo 3" CD which is now in production & then they extended
the offer for an ensemble release...which will be featuring Vincent.
I am still in the early stages of development for the ensemble release.
It isn't titled as yet, but i can tell you that Joseph Hammer (a member
of Solid Eye & the Los Angeles Free Music Society) will be doing
analog tape loops (most likely looping some of Vincent's recordings)
and Bobb Bruno (of Polar Goldie Cats) will be playing keyboards. There
could be more people involved, but i need for it to take more shape
before that decision is made. The solo release comes out anytime now
(Summer) and the ensemble piece i would think will follow in Fall.