Click here for the full interview: ARCTANGENT 2015 INTERVIEW: MYLETS
Henry Kohen, a.k.a one-man band and looping king Mylets, released his second album Arizona on Sargent House this year. I caught up with him after his ArcTanGent set to learn more about his musical history and writing process.
You had a great crowd for your set at ArcTanGent, how did you find the gig?
Yeah, such a wonderful group of people for the second year in a row. I managed to stumble my way through the set despite a lot of technical issues. It was very physically and mentally draining, but in the best way possible.
Who were your top 3 acts of the weekend (if you had to choose!) and did any band that was new to you make a big impression?
What were you studying at college before signing to Sargent House, and was there ever a plan B to playing music? Do you feel that leaving your home town was a necessary step in your growth as a musician?
I was studying Audio Engineering type stuff over at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Playing music was actually the Plan B up until very recently. I’ve always approached things realistically, so I never dreamed such an opportunity would present itself. There still are Plan Bs, it’s a scary world and things can drop out from underneath you at any time. Leaving my home was definitely an important step and being around musicians I so highly respect has certainly helped me grow, but I feel anyone is capable of musical growth regardless of their location or situation.
Did you play in bands before Mylets, and what do you find the advantages or disadvantages of being a solo musician are?
My brother and I played music throughout our childhood(s) and eventually formed a band with a mutual friend. Writing and performing music as a solo musician is actually really dangerous because it creates the delusion that you, as the sole contributor, should rightfully have full creative control of any given project. For me, this can very unpleasantly leak out into real world situations (creative or not) where collaboration is key.
What is your current set up for gigs, and do you modify it a lot?
Two pedalboards: one large with all of the guitar signal chain and effects, the other is smaller and has two midi-synced loop pedals and drum effects. I’m using an Alesis SR-18 which has a built in bass synthesizer now. It sounds great. There’s not as much modifying as there is fine-tuning, trying to reach the pinnacle of one set up instead of trying out various ones.
Relying on so many pedals, it seems like there is a lot of opportunity for technology failing, and things going wrong – have you found ways to deal with that if it does happen, or does it make you nervous?
ArcTanGent was a perfect example of this. No amount of practicing or rehearsal can prepare you for an inopportune technical problem. It’s extremely stressful and never far from the front of my mind before and during any show.
I understand you live at The Farm – what’s it like out there, and is it a good environment for writing and practicing?
I actually have moved my operations mostly to Los Angeles now. I was out at the Farm by myself in complete isolation pretty much constantly last year and while it was a pretty productive time, I went just a bit too crazy out there. I think being in such an introverted project makes it important to stay healthy and engaged with others outside of composing. As I get closer to throwing the next album together, I’ll certainly find myself out there more and more often.
Arizona seems to be drawn from a wide range of influences – Nine Inch Nails comparisons have been made quite a lot, but it sounds like something completely new and fresh. Musically or otherwise, what inspired you during the writing of the album?
I found myself paying much more attention to producers rather than artists as the studio drew nearer and nearer. Pretty much anything where Daniel Lanois, Mark Ellis, Alan Moulder, Brian Eno, Trent Reznor, or Mark Linkous are involved would have been heavily important to me around the record. I also got a lot of inspiration from the cinematography of Jeff Cronenweth, I think the way he captures warm and organic subjects through an entirely cold and emotionless lens is really beautiful.
Do you find that touring provides inspiration for your music, and is touring heavily something you’d be happy to continue doing for a long time?
Yeah, I’ll generally come home from any given tour with five or six songs that I composed from the back of the van, a venue greenroom, or hotel bed. I’d like to tour more often for a lot more time. I think the live performance aspect of Mylets is the most pure form of what I do.
A few Sargent House bands shared the ATG line-up with you this year – there seems to be a real ‘family’ aspect to the label. Do you have close relationships with any other SH bands?
I think every band has met every other band on the label at least once, there are some very close relationships within bands and some people keep to themselves, but there’s definitely a massive amount of respect throughout the label. I can’t express how grateful I am to be a part of it, especially during these specific years.