We met up with anti-folk wonderboy Cold Casper and ambient beatmaker TOBIAS to talk about Casper’s new release, childhood, and love/hate relationship with the internet.
RC: What were you doing in Switzerland?
Casper: There’s this German that my dad is friends with who stayed with my dad in 2009. A few months later he hits up my dad and says “Hey Paul I’m about to be the director of this theater in Germany,” and this is a pretty established theater.
To talk about Germany for a second, Germany is known to have a really progressive theater scene and [by contrast] the one place we happened to be living in was really conservative about theater. My dad was part of the whole no wave scene, so this German hit up my dad and was like “I need you to do weird music for my weird plays.” So he was working there for five years and his parents knew the founders of this boring school that started in Germany but because of the Nazis it had to move to Switzerland so that’s why it’s set up in Switzerland now and my dad’s first childhood friend is the academic director so they let me in.
I got a wavy scholarship - I just got to live in the Alps for two years. It was awesome. First of all there were no phones or computers, I mean there were computers but you could only use them for like an hour per day. It’s a similar curriculum to the Waldorf School so you had three academic classes in the morning and then you had afternoon classes that were sports or arts, and you got to design your own schedule. Also, it was right at the foot of a ski resort, so with the tuition we got season passes and it’s just beautiful there. It’s just clean fucking air and pastures with snow around you, and nice people, and no internet.
RC: Is it then weird that so much of the music scene here involves the internet?
Casper: That was 8th and 9th grade so it was actually a while ago. When I wanted to go back to the States my dad was really worried about the internet ruining my life. He said “you’re just going to go back and be on the computer all the time and be a lazy American piece of shit” and then that’s exactly what happened. Sophomore year was a really hard adjustment because the internet is so heavy in the New York art scene in general and just being a New York kid in general so I came back and was just kind of plunged into that and it was a really hard adjustment period but now I really like memes and I make music on the internet, so I conformed I guess.
RC: Your dad mixed and mastered your record right?
Casper: He didn’t master it, but he mixed it. I’m not going to get it mastered because I just want to drop it and I don’t have enough time. My dad mixes a lot of stuff so it sounds pretty good.
RC: And you’ve been working on it for two years at this point
Casper: Yeah the last instrumental track that I did was March 2014. That was when I realized that I had a lot of songs and a lot of them fit together thematically and they worked as a picture of my teenage years and a picture of what was going on in my head. It’s super personal - it’s a little bit like a breakup album and a coming back home album and a relationship album. I think a lot of first albums are like that though.
RC: That’s kind of a weird thing where when you’re writing a piece of music that’s really cathartic and personal and everyone can hear all of the feelings you had and the details but when it comes to just saying those things face to face it’s much more uncomfortable. Is this release something for you to use as closure?
Casper: That’s a really good point that you bring up, I say this all the time [that] finishing the project was a crazy profound lifting of a burden. It's huge closure to be able to make something and have the ability to look at it and say “this is me” just being able to look at such a comprehensive image of your past that a lot of people that aren’t artists can’t do it and it’s like I think there’s a large part of people who don't even realize that that's a thing you can do um
TOBIAS: Writing music is like throwing up you do it and you’re like that felt really good but then you’re like nobody can look at this please nobody look at my vomit
Casper: Yeah I was fucking lost for a while and teenagers get sad for a long time. After I finished this I just felt myself becoming me again and I became happier and more decisive and more appreciative of the stuff around me like I started enjoying shit more after I got all of the shit I needed to get off my chest off my chest and all of the stuff in my head outwardly examined. But as far as the relationship goes, when you’re very emotionally invested in someone and that bond is broken there’s always going to remnants of that feeling and there’s always going to be discomfort and I’m always going to get nervous whenever I think about that person.
RC: You don’t think you’ll ever progress past it?
Casper: I don’t think so. Not in a bad way, I just think that the love and the sadness that comes with the love is such an intense thing that it never leaves and [is such an] important thing to existence that I don’t need to really progress past it. I like thinking about it and remembering that that’s a really cool and intense part of my life love and loss.
I had initially wanted to have a gallery along with the release show where people submit art on the topic of loss and revival like love and loss, but i just thought the show would be more fun and cooler. I think loss is a really important thing and people have a huge with getting rid of pain and moving on, but i think it can be really important and healthy [to confront].
TOBIAS; That’s just like a bad trip. If you ignore the remnants that pop in your head they just comes back in full force, repression just makes the feeling come back in full force.
RC: So would you say the majority of how you write music is based in emotions?
Casper: A lot of the times like right after something really good or really bad happens I’ll just get one line in my head and riff on that, but lately I’ve just gotten bored writing like that. I feel like there should be more to a song besides, i don’t know... I want to spend more time writing things and more times working out what the art means while creating it instead of just riffing off whatever is in my mind. But that’s how i wrote most of this album, which is pretty random shit that I would write and then look at and be like “where did this come from?” and change the song based on what it’s about. Now I’m trying to do more like deliberate storytelling where i have a bunch of songs that all connect to this story and the words relate to each other in a much more cohesive way.
RC: So you’re already working on new stuff?
Casper: Yeah I’m hoping to drop an EP at the end of August and another EP in January I just want to keep putting out material. I feel like I’ve been making music and I’ve been writing songs since eighth grade and this record took two years to make. I’m just progressing a lot, I’m writing a lot of stuff with electronic elements, like I’m fucking around on synths and I never used Ableton or Logic until a few months ago and I’m getting into audio technology. Because I’m experimenting a lot, I’m trying to release a bunch of stuff that shows everything that I’m working on
RC:How heavily do you think production is going to influence your songwriting?
Casper: I’m going to write stuff with a lot less words like this album is super singer songwriter and it’s just me ripping on the guitar and there’s a lot of words. Now I’m just more interested in slower ambient stuff with less words. I also like the idea of songs that just have a few words over them that are really spaced out. I think it’s probably been because my whole songwriting history has been so word intensive and so much of the music I’ve listened to up until this point has been so word intensive that i don’t want to fall into a trap of making the same music again and again. It just got into a point where i just started writing these guitar melodies and they all just started sounding like the same song, so I’m just trying to do something different so i don’t feel super limited i guess. I’m also into more drone noise ambient music now so the influences are changing.
RC: So who are you listening to right now?
Casper: Well Toby is putting me on to a bunch of new Oneohtrix Point Never and like his (TOBIAS’) squad on soundcloud like falls and distancedecay and Psymun. I’m also listening to a lot of John Faye still who like invented my guitar style, he does all this instrumental stuff.
My computer broke a few months ago and i don’t have any music on my phone so most of the stuff I’ve been listening to has just been either stuff my friends are putting me on to or just my friend’s music on soundcloud so i’m not listening to a lot nowadays.
How do you feel about the Soundcloud scene?
Casper: I like soundcloud because it's a really cool platform and the community is very strong and supportive. I remember I really got tight when soundcloud started showing how many people you were following because i started hearing people talk about their ratio and that shit is terrible. That was something soundcloud used to have where it wasn't about people being up it was just about you and your friends passing around music, and now it's becoming more and more of a way for people to make themselves known and a way for people to network as opposed to just a “sound cloud”.
Also for all the good music on soundcloud there's so much terrible music on soundcloud: i can never just press play on my soundcloud feed because the songs will just get shitty if you leave it alone. Despite that I'm really happy that there's a platform where people can just put their stuff up for free.
RC: More so than something like bandcamp?
Casper: I don't really know bandcamp that well it’s probably cooler but it's way easier to discover music on soundcloud.
TOBIAS: Yeah it's much easier but it filters people out because if you're not good then you're not going to get any plays on bandcamp because you can’t play bandcamp. If you’re good maybe people listen to it but it's so demanding to listen to a full project on bandcamp that nobody does it: you have to be really good which is why it's better.
Casper: I assume people that put their shit on bandcamp are thinking about what they're releasing way more than just someone recording on their iphone mic over a shitty garageband beat and uploading it to soundcloud. I wonder what happened to younglcoud?
RC: What’s youngcloud?
Casper: It was this platform with a terrible name that was like soundcloud but it had a really good interface. A year ago people were talking about how soundcloud was on the verge of death and Toby put me on to youngcloud but then nothing really came of it.
RC: Do you have any fears about the future of these platforms? What are you worried about?
Casper: I have never even thought about that. What I’m worried about is that i have a lot of inertia so it’s really hard for me to get started on a task. I just get super intimidated by workloads it’s just hard to start things. i think i’m afraid of not being able to do things well enough, which just knocks your motivation.
I’m just really worried that i dont have the willpower to promote [my music] myself because I’m really super grateful that i had this space [Casper’s studio basement] and i had a father who could provide it with this awesome equipment. I mean I had friends who did an amazing job, but I also had help from some of my dad’s friends who did a couple parts on it here and there but the last thing i want is recognition just because of my father.
RC: Who is your dad?
Casper: He’s touring with Swans right now and he has a lot of connections. I’m just super stuck between wanting to use those connections and wanting to do this on my own. I just need to get the willpower to just start talking to people and make a name for myself.
TOBIAS: If you got all of the gear taken away and you just had a guitar do you think that you would still have the motivation?
Casper: Yeah I would but i would just be afraid that it sounded like shit.
TOBIAS: Also it’s just weird because people that don't have those connections would jump on them if they were given the opportunity but the people that have those ennert connections don’t want to use them. I’d never wanna use a person that i know that has those connections.
Casper: Yeah I feel like it would make me, like I’m pretty confident that I’m not exploiting my dads name or influence, but i just get worried about if people like it or not. I feel like that's a big concern for everybody. I see myself getting more and more to the point where I just want to do music and I used to just imagine myself going to college and getting the degree. Obviously I’m still doing that, it’s just that there was always this idea of having a backup plan for myself and making music at the same time but I see myself getting less and less committed to that backup plan which is making me way more worried about how people are going to fuck with the music. I feel it’s so hard for shit to pop off.
RC: Do you think having that worry is sacrificing a part of you?
Casper: No, I’m never going to cater to what I think people want to hear, it’s just that once it’s released I’m worried that that might not be what people like. I’m not going to change the style because even if i switched something up to satisfy people- for example like all of our friends are part of this downtown New York hip hop scene like Baby Glock and Sojii and Topra just all of WCD and even super peripherally Rat King- if I show anybody my music they’re just like “what the fuck”: people have no idea that anybody’s making that type of music in our circle. This New York scene is so close knit and everyone is so close knit and it’s so cool to be a part of but I don’t know if I should be focusing on a scene somewhere else.
TOBIAS: What I’ve noticed is that the scene is so scattered and there are many things going on at once [in other people’s music] and by contract your music is so pointed, not in the sense that you’re conforming to one genre but you know what you’re doing and you stick with it. If most people in the scene tried to make an album there would just be so much going on. Not to bring up Ratking but there’s just so much shit going on and all of this noise in the background: it’s not a bad thing but it’s not you or me. Sometimes when you pick one thing and go with it there’s this fear that you’re missing out on all of these other sounds that everyone else is doing.
RC: That’s really interesting because you do have a really eclectic collection of influences. How does such a wide range of influences lead you to such a defined sound?
Casper: Whenever I think of influences, my instinct is to just list my favorite artists but a lot of my favorite artists don’t sound at all like my music. My main influences musically are Sun Kill Moon John Faye and Tallest Man on Earth but I’m also gonna list Ratking Swans Death Grips clipping. ... A lot of my favorite bands are super loud and I’m really influenced by that aesthetically, I guess, I like listening to those artists and I guess they must influence me but I don’t know how they influence me. I just assume it’s being reproduced in some sense in my music but I wouldn’t really be able to pinpoint it.
RC: Something I noticed is that your music is definitely more on the melancholy side but you’re also really funny do you think you can be funny in a musical identity? Are you afraid of putting that side out there?
TOBIAS: That’s so real sometimes I’ll just post something so stupid on instagram and be like “shit this doesn’t reflect the music at all”.
Casper: I don’t know if i could write a funny folk song
RC: You couldn't even use any irony in your songwriting at this point?
Casper: Yeah this project was really sincere. I also do like short stories and poetry and those are pretty ironic at times and now I’m progressing to the point where I want to take my poetry and make it into songs, so in that sense I’m starting to write shit that could potentially use humor as an element but not at this point no. Cold Casper is just an extension of my problems it’s a way for me to figure myself out. The parts of me that are reflected in Cold Casper are not the parts of me that are super reflected in my day to day life. I’m not about projecting the problems I’m encountering in my life so they go into my music. I don't necessarily have to explore the more light hearted elements of myself because that’s inherent, although it would be interesting now that you brought this up to me to explore that side of myself.
TOBIAS: Funny people are sad. Most comedians are super depressed.
Casper: Music and art as a form of expression is how I sort through my shit, it’s how i understand my problems and how i work through them. The music is always going to be more focused on that deeper shit that I usually don’t spend time focusing on.
RC: Are you excited about anything you’re doing in the future?
Casper: No I’m never excited. But for real, I’m so happy to have this project done and I’m so happy that my music makes people happy. I’m just happy that I can make things that people like to listen to and i can present such a personal image of me that gives a great understanding of who i am and what's going on inside my head. I think at this point I see like you and Yabadum and TOBIAS- that's why i picked you guys because you're my favorite people that make music- I just see a lot of great things coming from the people I know and I know this is the first step on a long and beautiful journey that we’re going to take together and it makes my eyes water of joy thinking about it, I’m super optimistic about the future right now.
RC: Favorite sandwich
Casper: Pastrami and Mozzarella with mustard on an everything bagel
TOBIAS: ham on egg on white bread
Listen to more Cold Casper on his Bandcamp.