Interview

Baths

Baths

By Martyn Pepperell

Monday, 5th November 2012 11:54AM

American musician Will Wiesenfield has been making and performing electronic music for a hot minute now. Raised in Woodland Hills, and now residing in Chatsworth, California, he started out playing piano as a child, before learning the electronic music trade in his teens, and serving a trade apprenticeship of sorts though his early aliases, Post-Foetus and Geotic.

Adopting the moniker Baths in 2010, for the last couple of years he has been serving up an intoxicating blend of hazy beat production and emotional pop/RnB, both on record (through Anticon Records) and live on stages across the globe.

Described by The Guardian as sounding like, "J Dilla playing around with the Pavement and Prince catalogues", and drawing comparisons with the likes of Toro Y Moi, Bjork and Flying Lotus, his two albums, 2010's Cerulean and 2011's Pop Music/False B-Sides have placed him in some very cool quarters. Friendly and open in person, his vocal electronic music is equal parts joyful, experimental and at moments even pop aspiring in intent. And on the other side of the coin, this instrumental productions squelch, shudder and throb with the same melodic and rhythmic bass underpinned wonk often associated with the contemporary Los Angeles post hip-hop beat music scene.

Originally scheduled to make his live New Zealand debut in 2011, Baths had to cancel due to health issues. Close to a year later, he looks set to finally arrive on our shows in early November through two shows in Auckland and Wellington. In celebration of this, I caught up with him on the phone in the middle of October to talk about the way his worldview has shifted over the last year, the inspiration for his as of yet unreleased new album, and his interest in Lord of The Rings and countercultural New Zealand Musicians.

First of all, and I can understand if you don't want to retread this too much, but here goes. There was a real sadness out here when you had to cancel your 2011 shows in New Zealand. So, could you give us a window into what happened?

Sure sure. It isn't too harsh of a thing. It's not like I'm rehashing or anything. In July [2011] I was set to go to this festival in Paris and I collapsed on the plane right as it was about to take off. They taxied me back. I went to the infirmary at the airport and it turned out I had E. coli. I was viciously dehydrated. They basically killed it that day. I took this antibiotic. But what happened as a result of that is it destroyed all the bacteria in my stomach. I already had a weak stomach to begin with, I have acid reflux issues. I was completely incapacitated.

I had nausea every single day for almost four months. During the first couple it was hard to even get out of bed. It would just sit on the couch for hours. It was kind of crazy, and totally unexpected. It took me like eight months to fully get back to normal. Even now I'm not really normal. I have very extreme dietary restrictions. It started out as me only being able to eat bread, rice, gatorade, water and bananas, just stuff that was very very easy to digest. At this point, even now I have a lot of restrictions. I can't have oil. I can't have carbonation. I can't have spice. I can't have heavy meats or cheeses on anything like. So it is a little confusing because I like all of that food, and it's really really hard. [laughs]

To shorten everything up, it was really serious for a long time, and trying to record a record during that time was really confusing. I was brutally apathetic, couldn't move and didn't want to do anything. But I slowly sort of moved away from that feeling, got working on it, and now I'm fine at lot of the time. I'm just really excited to get it done.

So how did that experience inform your approach to making and performing music, and beyond that, life in general?

It's not a blessing in a disguise, because it was terrible, but, the idea for the newer record, before any of this happened, before I had even made Cerulean, I wanted the second record to be much more dark. It wanted it to be intense and have more aggressive lyrics, and aggressive tones in the songs, and all this stuff. So it kind of just pushed me to make that record real. I was in the weirdest emotional state after that. Apathy is the word that I keep using, because it was so intense. I felt so withdrawn. It was such a complete lack of emotion. In turn that because a very interesting subject to write music about. That, along with all these weird darker feelings was something I tapped into pretty easily after having that happen. It's been really inspiring, weird, dark and all very good. The fact that is 2012 was an added bonus on top of all that. Everything turned out for the better even though it seems like such a weird way for that to happen.

What was it like when you started being able to do shows again?

Good. It took a minute. It was sort of a slow thing. The first show I did after trying to recover was Hawaii. That was November of last year. I was still pretty sick. Even in the hotel I was dealing with a lot of nausea, and I kind of stayed there most of the time. But it slowly started getting better. I could do more, and I started exercising again. That was sort of the biggest thing. I was like, oh, I am definitely getting better if I can do a run each day and all that. It went slow, but it was good.

The past few shows I've done have been solid. All of last year, everything was sort of confusing. I was working really really hard on this record and I feel like I've moved on and I have my heart in the new material. This is the stuff that I am passionate about, but the world hasn't heard any of it yet. So I am working really really hard to finish the record and then I'm putting a bands together for live shows. However, when I actually play those shows and perform that old material, it all comes back to me, and it is really really fun again. The fact that I have never been to New Zealand and Australia makes it amazing, and I cannot wait to play for you all. I have one or two new songs I will put in the set, so I am excited about that too.

I guess from a cynical perspective, you've been given an amazing marketing narrative for this next record by this whole experience. People are going to eat that up...

Exactly. I have to be careful, because I don't want it to seem like that was the sole reason for it all happening. I dunno.

Like DMX would say, you've been blessed with the curse.

Yeah. Exactly.

What are you looking forward to about New Zealand aside from your shows?

I am for whatever it is worth, the biggest Lord of the Rings fan, especially of the movies. They have been very pivotal in my life. I got the Blu-Ray special edition of the movies and I watched every single minute of the special features, which is I think forty hours. It is fascinating to me, watching other people's creative processes, how the films were put together and all the behind the scenes stuff. How all that works is very inspiring. So, the fact that all of that happened in New Zealand and the Weta Workshop people and all that, so I'm so stoked that I may get to meet some of them, or see some of where the new Lord of The Rings stuff is being filmed. Outside of that, I am just excited about New Zealand itself. It sounds like the most beautiful place. I'm just excited.

Are you familiar with any New Zealand music?

I think so, but I might get this wrong. I'm not sure if she is from New Zealand or Australia, but there is this woman Bachelorette?

Bingo!

Awesome! Cool! I love her stuff and I've been obsessed with her voice in particular for a long time. I don't know a lot of New Zealand music, but I also know about this other guy, Connan Mockasin? He is very rad, one of the most interesting things I've ever heard.

________________

Baths plays two New Zealand shows next week - Auckland is very close to selling out - see below for details.

Related
See more from Baths
related gigs
Wed, 14th Nov
Baths
Whammy Bar, Auckland
Thu, 15th Nov
Baths
The San Francisco Bath House, Wellington


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