Oneohtrix Point Never on Gimmicky Visuals: "Electronic Music Has a Built-In Shame Aspect"
Photo by Timothy Saccenti
Trippy visuals and live music go together like drugs and rock 'n' roll -- or BPMs and EDM.
In the beginning (the '60s, when else?), there were Ken Kesey's Acid Tests featuring San Francisco's Grateful Dead and full-on psychedelic film projections splashed across the walls like shamanistic flower-power visions. Meanwhile, on the East Coast, Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, with more than a little help from Andy Warhol, debuted their own distinctly NYC brand of multimedia spectacle, complete with black turtlenecks and the Exploding Plastic Inevitable.
Fast-forward to the digital age and Daniel Lopatin, composer and founding member of Oneohtrix Point Never, is sure to distinguish his live show from this vast, video-saturated recent history of the concert.
"It can feel like a compensation move," Lopatin says about visuals, especially with regard to music composed with and performed on machines.
"Electronic music has a built-in shame aspect. The shame of the electronic producer or DJ who, out of a lack of gestural theater, tries to compensate."
He's referring to the physical theatrics inherent in performing music on guitars and drums, tools lacking from a project like OPN, which is so reliant on computer technology, both vintage and cutting-edge.
However, Lopatin insists the visual component of Oneohtrix stands distinct from those of peers and colleagues in electronic music, many of whom produce laser shows and other dazzling gimmickry just to give the audience something to look at.
"I don't think that's what we're doing," he insists. "We have a program. It starts. It does things. It accumulates ideas."
By "we," Oneohtrix's lone composer refers to artist Nate Boyce, whose psychedelic videos are now a permanent fixture of the OPN live presentation.
"I try to illustrate that Nate is in OPN," Lopatin says. "He is just as much a part of OPN as I am at this point. To me, it's ideal. Sometimes, he's not able to make shows and I'll recalibrate for solo. Largely, though, the intent of an OPN performance is dependent on us being onstage together."
And ultimately, Lopatin's approach to presenting multimedia stimuli may be understood as less to do with simple entertainment and more to do with open-ended experimentation.
"We don't necessarily think of ourselves as 'live musicians' or whatever," the Oneohtrix mastermind admits. "It's more of an experience. Like, if you walk around a sculpture, you can see it from all these different angles, depending on where you are in the room.
"I didn't want to create an experience that was just about sound. It's very narrative in a way. But it's totally cryptic."
Oneohtrix Point Never. Featuring Nate Boyce. Thursday, March 27. Perez Art Museum Miami, 1103 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. The show starts at 7 p.m., and tickets cost $16 for PAMM members or $20 for nonmembers via pamm.org/oneohtrix. Call 305-375-3000, or visit pamm.org.