Behind the Scenes: An Interview with Lo Radiante

A few months ago, Seattle-based artist David Bellard a.k.a Lo Radiante started playing shows on Radio Brennpunkt. His show “The Psychedelic Half-Speed Ambient Sessions” is as it says, a heavy mix of psychedelic, half-speed ambient recordings from his vaults. The show, which now airs at 7PM PST every Tuesday has been a favorite of mine to unwind and do some deep-listening to. I often find myself wondering where the hell these sounds are coming from and what the story of the man behind all of this is. As David is new to the station, I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to fulfill my curiosity and share to our community who this new mysterious music man is and just what he’s cooking with.

Begin Conversation.

Aiken: What is the Psychedelic Half Speed Ambient Sessions? Where did it come from? Where is all the material you’re playing coming from?

David: The Psychedelic Half-Speed Sessions is basically a weekly report of the sounds and songs coming out of the Technocrat Studios. The show is a way for me to work with these sounds and put them together and do some heavy dub on them and see what comes out. I have a lot of musical influences but Dub is probably the biggest, and I apply that style of producing to any music I make. Almost all the music on the Sessions is something I’ve made or remixed for friends. I collect records so I’m a prolific sampler, and a lot of the music I make is sample-based, though my process ends up obliterating the original context. I like to sprinkle in bits of recorded dialogs, which usually consist of whatever I’ve been watching or hearing that week. I find it incredibly entertaining to layer mundane recordings of dialog over music that has strong emotional resonance just to see how they re-contextualize each other. 

Aiken: I’m the same way with dialogue, I find especially for experimental or ambient music that some bits of voice easily elevate the works to new levels. Emotional resonance is right on. You said Dub is your biggest musical influence, how did your influences take shape? What is your background as an artist? How did you come into contact with making sounds?

David: I’ve been into art and music since I was a very young kid, and they’re both still obsessions for me. I’m a working artist, so I derive a substantial portion of income through my fine art, which I sell to consultants and corporate clients. I use analog film to produce my work, which involves cutting and modifying the film I shoot to create entirely new images. My approach to music is the same – I use raw materials to cut, arrange, and manipulate into something completely different than the sum of its parts. I’ve been making music since my university days, and I was a DJ in Los Angeles and Cleveland in the late 90s. In the early 2000s, I was in a band called Jesters Longevity that produced four albums of a kind of psychedelic-ambient-dub-hip hop, though we released it in very limited quantities and barely promoted ourselves. We never even sent it to labels, though in hindsight we should have. Around that same time I put out two breakbeat albums under the name Superdragon DJ, but at that time I didn’t have the money to do a professional pressing, and my art career was getting bigger, so I just put it all away in a vault. It’s only been in the past 3 years that I’ve come back to making music again and revisiting a lot of that music.

Aiken: I want copies, at least digitally, of this Jesters Longevity stuff! Super happy you came back to making music, your shows rock. I honestly don’t know how you deliver such quality week after week. I remember listening to the second show you did on the station and when the piano came in a few minutes in, my jaw dropped. Absolutely beautiful, definitely one of my favorite radio moments. Do you have any particularly fond memories of radio?

David: I grew up in Pittsburgh PA in the 80s, very pre-internet, and radio was a huge part of my musical education. WAMO was the “urban” station, and they were the first station in the city to play rap and hip hop, back in 1983. They had a show on Saturday nights I used to listen to and I would record the shows on cassette tapes. I also listened to the college radio stations like WRCT and WPTS, where I was exposed to so much really obscure good music because the DJs had complete control over what they played. So on a typical night, you could listen to a show of hardcore punk like Exploited, GBH, JFA, and then the next show would be all industrial noise. I taped those shows too and I would go buy the albums and start following the record labels like SST, Some Bizarre, Homestead, 4AD, Touch and Go, and just buy anything I saw on those labels.

In college, I was a DJ at the radio station WCCB, and eventually became the music director for a few years. It was a really amazing time for me because every afternoon I spent all day at the station shooting the shit with the PR folks at record labels, making playlists, and just hanging out. It was heaven for a music junkie. We had a production room with big reel-to-reel machines, tape decks, and record players and we would get totally baked in the back room and make crazy promos for the station or ads for local businesses. I’ve always loved radio – even though I don’t really have a good radio voice hahaha – and I think streaming radio is a natural evolution of the medium.

Aiken: I agree. It seems there are still some legitimacy issues with online radio, it doesn’t seem to be perceived “as real” as terrestrial radio. To some extent I agree, there obviously is a lack of the actual wave-length transmission, a lack of interference texture, and to some degree the magic of accidental discovery. But on the other hand, the community aspect, the act of listening to someone else just play whatever they want, the exposure, that’s all still just as real with streaming radio. But it’s a continuous part of our discussion here, how do we make Brennpunkt more real?

Our other big debate falls around Creative Commons. As you know, we play mostly Creative Commons music here. It started off as a way to not have to worry about licensing issues and costs, and to be able to stream all around the world without having to blacklist certain countries. But as we dove into the Creative Commons world and community it became a much larger and more nuanced part of our identity. Prior to Brennpunkt, what was your knowledge of Creative Commons, your perception of it? How do you feel about it today?

David: I first heard of Creative Commons back in the early 2000s, and I had a pretty good idea of what it was about, but I didn’t follow it closely. I think in the timeline we’re living in, it’s very important for content creators to have a clear framework for how other people can use the content, and to what extent, because intellectual property theft is endemic right now in social media, even though CC does little to stop it. The concept behind Creative Commons is definitely front and center in the spectrum of the decades-long debate over the validity of appropriation in art, or sampling in music. In the world of copyright, to work as an artist that appropriates images or music in order to create your own, and you aren’t paying the content creator, you better be really fucking sure you have a take that’s worth the appropriation, or truly have something un-objectively new. Otherwise, you’re going to be sued, and rightfully so, unless you are famous enough not to get sued, like Warhol or Jeff Koons. In my opinion, I think CC is a great response to copyright culture, though I don’t ascribe as much revolutionary power to the concept as Lawrence Lessig hoped for, that said, I do believe in the philosophical aspirations of CC for sure, and it is one of the better ideas of post-modernist theory in practice..

Aiken: Well said. I think that creators having a clear framework is so important and lacking right now. For instance, if I want to upload my music to Spotify, there is no option about what kind of licensing I choose. It’s just automatically “All Rights Reserved”, but then they make decisions on my behalf anways. If I want people to be able to use my music for certain things, without having to manually go through the process of requesting so and so gets whitelisted for using a sample of my track or what-not, I’m shit out of luck. For me, getting CC into common practice of how we release music into the streaming sphere is a crucial step to fighting Copyright Culture. The battle of CC’s!

End Correspondence.

Thank you to Lo Radiante for his time, his talents, and be sure to check out his show Tuesdays at 7PM PST! You can start getting caught up now on Mixcloud 🙂