An interview with Half-Handed Cloud

What’s your biggest influence in writing music?

In general, The Beatles have had the biggest influence, but as far as this album goes… I just thought of this–there?s something that happened fairly recently that could?ve had an influence on it. About a year-and-a-half ago, my friends and I got to visit an old mechanical band organ museum in San Francisco. They?re the coin-operated kind that read rolls of paper, and have an entire little orchestra within this large wooden cabinet: pipe organ, triangle, piano, snare drum, xylophone, bass drum, tambourine, etc. They?re so magical. The arrangements are incredibly inventive. This trip was just before I started writing songs on the Omnichord for what would become Halos & Lassos. Yeah, the album is sort of similar I guess — you press the ‘on’ button, and it sort of begins with a sputter, and just goes. I bet that subconsciously, as I was trying-out this new instrument, I was also picking-up on memories of that band organ museum. I feel that maybe there’s something a little ‘organically mechanical’ about Halos & Lassos. I know that the Omnichord instrument itself influenced the way that everything was written and presented.

Does it ever become taxing being the only constant member of Half-handed Cloud? What are the advantages you find over a constant group?

Multi-track recording allows me to be my own band in the creation of the songs…. I love getting to do this, making decisions about arrangements, changing things around, doing it over — there’s no one else to disappoint. Half-handed Cloud started as my solo project for these same sorts of reasons?before this band I got to be in a few other bands that were at least semi-collaborative. And I miss a lot of that. The biggest challenge comes when it’s time to perform the songs, and boy is it a lot more fun to play on stage with other people than for me to do it alone with a mini-disc or something. I’m really thankful to have friends help when they can.

With your latest release, Halos & Lassos, what do you think has improved most notably?

Well, people have told me that it?s ‘tighter sounding’. So the tempo doesn?t wander as much as it does on some of the other albums. The steady tempos work well for this one. I think that half of the cause of the ‘tightness’ would be the Omnichord’s drum machine, and the other reason is that my friend Brandon plays all the drum and percussion parts; he helped me build everything up from the start, and he’s got a pretty trust-worthy ear. …It feels like it?s a pretty consistent album–when the tracks end, they do a good job setting-up for the next song.

Is there anything you would go back and change about Halos & Lassos?

I’m pretty happy with the way things turned-out, and don’t really have any big complaints. It would?ve been nice if we had been able to use a real bass amp though. Also, I?d be interested to somehow hear this album recorded on a reel-to-reel machine (mine broke during the sessions for the Thy album).

What do you find to be the most beneficial part of writing music?

Getting to take part in the creation of something is one of the most incredible gifts we’re given. It’s a little miracle. I’m excited by the whole process: the initial discovery, then watching the song take shape, making the artwork, and receiving the final result.

How do you approach singing about a topic not often approached so directly in pop music?

With open hands, fear & trembling, and doubt at first… but ultimately some gratefulness, and assurance that this is worthwhile. I shouldn’t be scared of who I am, whose I am, and who I’ve been made to be. Why should something that’s such a big part of my identity be off-limits to sing about?

What made you decide to start writing music?

Gosh, I don’t know. I can’t remember a moment where I was like, “Now I will write my first song.” It probably happened in a sort of accidental way at first — you know, hands stumbling on the fret-board. Maybe it was just the fact that I eventually played a couple instruments, and then applied what I’d learned as a musician and a music fan, hopefully adding to that something I thought was honest and interesting.

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