Q: Who all is SLEEPER?
S: Sleeper is just me, Carlos Ransom….one man wishing he had ten hands or a couple of clones.
Q: Have you been playing out a lot lately?
S: No, sadly I haven’t played out in some time. I took a break for a while to focus on a lot of recording and my day job but I’ll be performing again by next year. I need to get out there to promote my new album, and I really miss performing live.
Q: You seem to have a couple of albums already out. What are they like as far as sounds and variations between them? Is there one with more of a bent sound to it?
S: Yeah, the latest two albums definitely have more of a bent sound than the others but my music has always been lo-fi and somewhat dark. Most of my previous records were closer to experimental hip hop than anything, and my gear was just a turntable, Dr. Sample, SP-12 turbo, and my computer. I released a few albums under the name Mad Awkward from about 2000 to 2004 that were all very sample and turntablism based, and for the most part everything was instrumental. The majority of my music around that time was made using samples from odd 70’s, educational, and children’s records. It wasn’t until 2004 that I started incorporating bent instruments into my music. I also started using a lot more effects pedals, and more live recording rather than computer or hardware programming. That’s when I changed my name to Sleeper because I felt my music from then on would be very different than my previous work. I recorded two albums around that time. One was a dark and mostly instrumental album titled ‘The Crawlspace’ with my friend iD doing some vocals on a few tracks, and the other was a joint project with iD titled ‘Displacement’ that was released by Mush Records in 2005. The Crawlspace was the first record I made merging sampling and bent instruments and a bit of found sound. I released it in 2006 on my own label.
EDIT: Yeah iD has some M.C. Skillz! I really like his style. Be sure to check out his tracks with sleeper…TIGHT!
Q: You actually have a new album coming out soon, could you elaberate on that release a bit?
S: It’s called ‘Behind Every Mask’ and is due for release on Mush early next year. It is my first completely solo album with no guests or vocals, and was made using bent and diy gear as my main instruments along with my MPC. Other sampling sources were used but the majority of the album is bent.
Q: Why didn’t you decide to release your new album on your own label (Ransom Notes)?
S: If Mush wasn’t interested in it then I probably would have….or I would have shopped it to some other labels. Ransom Notes is just my tiny label for limited small run releases, and Mush is a great indie label with way better distro than I could do myself. Hopefully I can do something larger with Ransom Notes and start signing other artists, but I’m way too busy for that right now.
Q: How long have you been running the label?
S: Seven years.
Q: How many releases have you put out on Ransome Notes and what types of sounds come with those releases?
S: Seven, but three were limited show only ep’s.
The first was a split with my friends Freakflag, and then there was ‘Deconstructive Playthings’. They were both very turntablism based and I took a lot of samples from old children’s records, so the sound was kinda goofy and dark. I went from making beats on the MtV Music Generator and two mini disc recorders to Acid and a computer.
With the addition of an SP-12 sampler/sequencer and an SP-202 Dr Sample, I put out ‘The Arthur Lintgen Experiments’. My focus then was more on the production side than turntable compositions, and the new hardware gave my music a definite lo-fi sound. I was sampling a lot of religious and self help records around that time, along with odd 70’s rock and soundtrack stuff.
I put out ‘Rain Closet’ with my friend iD doing vocals around the same time. It was the first album we did together and was straight up lo-fi abstract hip hop.
After Mush put out our next album Displacement, I released The Crawlspace. That’s when I started using bent gear, an MPC 2000, and effects pedals. It’s by far the darkest and most abstract album I had made up to that point. There was less sampling from records and more focus on live multi-track recording. iD did vocals on about half of the album.
I may re-release The Arthur Lintgen Experiments when I do a follow up album along the same lines. I also have plans to put out a few ep’s that will focus totally on the art of circuit bending. I’m hoping to put those out sometime next year.
Q: Getting back to bending…How did you start up and when did it begin?
S: Around 2004 a friend of a friend gave me a copy of Waterhed’s cd ‘X-Amount of Wayne’. I think they were high school friends in Salina Kansas. Anyway, she tried to explain how he modified and made his own instruments but she was pretty lost about what he did exactly. After listening to the cd and checking out his website I knew I had to meet this guy. I’d never heard anything like it before and was instantly drawn to it. So we talked via email several times and he gave me a few pointers starting out. I think he lives in Wichita now but I still talk to him through email or on the phone every once in a while. We’ve still never met face to face though.
Q: What’s your favorite bentstument to date that you have bent? What all does it do?
S: I don’t know if I have one definite favorite. I’m pretty fond of the Yamaha PSS-130 even though it’s a very simple keyboard compared to something like an SK. It’s one of the first keyboards I’ve bent and is pretty common in thrift stores around here. I really like it’s sound and there is a lot of extra room inside, so I have played with adding various circuits like echo circuits, 20 second samplers, and voice changers. Drum machines are another big favorite of mine but harder to come by. Lately I’ve been playing with a lot of diy circuits. I don’t have any kind of electronics training other than research and trial and error so that can go slow sometimes. Reading schematics hurts my brain but I’m getting better at it. Video bending is a lot of fun too. Modified VTech Video Painters and various video enhancers or mixers can be very cool, but I have to be careful about the time I spend on them because I start seeing weird patterns in my sleep. I really like to bend and re-case things also. Vintage boxes from the 50’s to 70’s are my favorite.
Q: Okay so, you circuit bend, record music, and run a record label, there’s got to be a downside here somewhere…what’s your “day job”?
S: My day job is being a full time tattooist so the only downside is that there’s not enough time in a day. I tend to stay up way past my bedtime working on stuff. I’ve been tattooing for 13 years now and am booked for months in advance so I don’t have as much time for hobbies as I would like. Most of the time I have to work on drawings outside of work and it can be distracting when I have all these ideas going through my head for a song or some new toy waiting to be modified. Sometimes I think I put too much on my plate, but I can’t help it. It’s how I stay somewhat sane I guess. There’s not much down time.
Q: Any good stories there? People getting crazy on you or anything?
S: I have ton’s of stories but nothing that exciting. The life of a tattoo artist isn’t so much what you see on those reality shows. We aren’t that interesting, only a little sadistic.
Q: Any up-coming things going on in the near future out in Larwence, Kansas?
S: Lawrence is pretty much the oasis of Kansas in my opinion. There has always been a really good music scene and a lot of bands come through regularly. I’m looking forward to Jesu coming to town soon but other than that, I don’t get out much these days.
Q: Anything else you want to add?
S: Other than my new album coming out soon, I have a project in the works with my wife that I’m excited about. We don’t have a name set in stone yet but it will be more up-beat than my previous stuff. I’m doing all the production and she’s doing vocals. I may do some vocals also. There is another iD and Sleeper album almost finished, and a few projects with other artists around the area. For more info you can check out www.ransomnotesrecords.com and www.myspace.com/madawkward
Thanks Carlos! Seems like things are going pretty good! Maybe we’ll hook-up in Kansas for a show or two!! — Rodney