Just a few weeks after the 8 Channel Seance at the Masonic Temple, we are back with the chief founders and creators, Michelle Fugate and George Kierstein. Meeting at the Botanical Gardens, we sit amongst the beauty of nature with the obscurity of their event and the future of Ambisonic performances in downtown Asheville.
This event was pretty obscure to say the least. Where would you say this whole process got started for you?
Michelle: Luckily, George has been in this world for a very very long time, in the electronic music world. As I have, but not on the technical end of it. Her technical interest goes back nearly a decade and she had been talking to me about the prospect of creating an event like the 8th Channel Seance for years. But she was also very dismissive because she felt that the technology might be out there, but likely not. There was this one night at our little dive bar that we hang out at and she was talking about this yet again, and I was officially over it. I said, “we are going to do this! We are going to get our friends in on this. We’re going to create a Facebook page and get it out there! Cause I am so tired of listening you talk about this!”
Now, George you have your background in a techno-centric sense to this project, is that right?
George: Certainly. I don’t have a background like Michelle does with dance and burlesque but with marveling and developing electronic music from the technological root of things. As an electronic musician I traveled around Europe playing in French festivals like La Petite Musik dans la Prairie and other euro parties. A lot of these parties, I promoted myself and really kickstarted into fruition. We perform together doing stilting at Transformus, which is a huge event. Michelle recently performed for Abs Fest. We both have really been out there in the world for years and years.
Did your relationship as collaborators begin with the 8th Channel Seance?
Michelle: Before the Seance I had been been making electronic music for about five years and George had been doing this for about seven years. We had already been collaborating on our music projects as well. For example I was developing choreographed dance pieces that George and I would sit around spend 10 straight hours cranking out custom musical pieces. I refuse to dance to some generic track. Everything has to be inline with the whole and it has to serve the vision in mind. It is not arbitrary. Nothing is an accident. For example we had this super fucking cool piece called the “Triple Goddess Performance” that was pretty rad. We started doing this for fun.
George: We would make gifts of music for people.
Michelle: Like George made me this really sweet track for my birthday. It was a love song with little kissing sounds in it. It’s been all across the board.
After partaking in this event and having my own personal (dare I say soulful) experience, I began to wonder what the artists had intended to draw out of their audience. When you walked into this, what were your intentions for the rest of us?
George: Are you kidding? I was just wondering whether the damn thing would actually work. (laughs). This sort of audio presentation is not only cutting edge but obscure. This isn’t a popular way of doing business in the audio performance world. It is difficult. It can be meticulous. It is a fragile yet powerful medium for drawing people into invisible worlds that only exist in their minds. Where as Michelle, took the reins for the other senses like visuals and the like, my intention was that this sucker was going to take flight. That we weren’t going to crash and burn on the first go.
Michelle: The beginning of this had a couple intentions. First, to produce and collaborate with more electronic musicians in the Asheville area with Ambisonic technology. To see how these talented people would react to their creations presented in this immersive 3D environment. Then my intention shifted to playing a “creative director” visionary capacity. It evolved beyond the sound or from the sound to other forms of artistic outputs. Sort of like an event coordinator and tour guide walking people through the experience.
What was the contrast between what you thought would happen to what actually transpired that evening at the Masonic Temple?
George: My intention was exploration mostly. However as the show progressed, the intention sort of changed to testing the edges of this. So first, it was just getting a sense of communal response and then learning what the different tools did to the people on a group level. I think I walked away from this first performance enriched with so many ideas that I know the next time it will make me much more present.
This technology is pretty “fringy.” It has a very small community of avid developers so where would you draw your inspiration for the next performance currently being developed?
George: It is exciting to work with borderline nonexistence of tools. Like you said, this is very cutting edge and yet very few develop it further. So it sort of creates a vacuum where your muses are truly yours. I mean, sure, you carry other life experiences with you but when it comes to ultimately presenting it, it is all you. I can see that simplification is in order. Now that we know this can be done. We didn’t crash and burn but soared in many regards, it comes to streamlining some of these tasks to further evolve the sound.
In the upcoming collaboration, what are your intentions on evolving the visual end of the spectrum?
Michelle: Well we have a clear vision of every single tier of possible funding we will get. In other words, we know what the ultimate is and what is the baseline necessity to say this the next step in Ambisonic performance development. The current vision with no funding to perform at the The Candle Factory. We won’t be able to hire on a VJ to do the ambitious visual presentation we have in mind, but we can simplify to do something more manageable, understated and yet appropriate. With funding we would allocate a larger space in the The Candle Factory and create with a half dozen or so projectors to create complete 360 degree visuals. The visuals would open the doors to other artists that would bring their visions alongside our audio endeavor. It would be an opportunity that many artists can really take advantage of in this unique environment that we will create. We would present the music and then trust those artists to take it there. With funding we would want to give them paid for the fuck ton of work they are signing up for. Either way, it will be phenomenal.
George: The main focal point is not to create independent projections but one stitched image that completely wraps around the audience. It would be an inescapable trip. An environment being projected through one computer, so that the visual artist can have the kind of control he needs to do his eye candy dance along with the sounds. From the collaboration point of view, we are open to these artists being spontaneous but thoughtful and rehearsed.
There does seems to be a lot of pre production that has to be considered. In a way both production and post production have to be in harmony on the night of the event. That’s going to take some time. In that time, what are you going to do to spur people? What’s the plan for community outreach?
Michelle: My strength in this regard is my talking with people and getting them together. The networking mostly. Of course, the internet is our major source for publicizing this. With the help of ABRAIRA Productions we intend to create a website with a blog to keep people in the loop during all phases of development. We are also going to get a Kickstarter project posted as soon as the Facebook Page and Twitter accounts are ready to go.
George: We are also not going to be shutting ourselves out in our rooms developing music by ourselves all the time. We do want to continue with our music performances and gather a strong roster of talent that will really usher these Ambisonic events as a hallmark of the thriving Asheville underground scene.