Interview – 12/22/2020 – Prismadoll

Interview - 12/22/2020 - Prismadoll

Luke Adams, Host of Terminally Online

Prismadoll is an LA-based Vaporwave project and the pseudonym of Mimi. Over break, I sat down to chat with them about Digimon, the future of Vaporwave, and their upcoming triple LP coming out on No Agreements

 

L: I’ve found that a lot of sample-based music tries to evoke specific sensations from the sounds sampled – Like how the original Floral Shoppe by Macintosh Plus had kind of an isolating sound to it. What feelings are you trying to evoke from the “bargain bin” sounds chosen here?

 

M: Honestly with the “bargain bin” sounds I pick, I mostly go for an Adult Contemporary sound… Adult Contemporary as a genre is one of my favorite genres and I genuinely get nothing but pleasure out of listening to it. It’s got this sense of cheesiness and elegance to it while also feeling whimsical and refined.

 

L: Like you’re listening to something from a bygone era?

 

M: Yeah! It’s got such a nice production quality too, it normally sounds so clean.

 

L: Okay, cause I was going to say that there seems to be a guiding influence from New Wave and Adult Contemporary on this EP.

 

M: Yeah, there’s 100% a big influence from Adult Contemporary. New Wave? Not so much, because, like, most of what I listen to is stuff like Toto. One of my favorite albums is this David Bowie album that people consider his worst called Never Let Me Down. A lot of people think that album is absolute trash, even Bowie himself hated it. There’s just something about it that speaks to me… It’s just this weird, flawed, cacophony of a mess, but at the same time, it’s trying to be something so big and extravagant. It’s so full of indulgence. I dunno. I just kind of love it. I hated it the first time I listened to it but I just kept listening to it that I loved it so much it made me cry.

 

L: Yeah, I mean, I understand things like that. I’ve been getting into a lot of nu metal recently, and I think Chino [Moreno, Deftones frontman] said something about adoring how dumb a lot of it was.

 

M: Chino Moreno from Deftones, right? I’m a huge Deftones fan. They’re one of the few nu metal bands I still follow that continue to make some amazing music. They haven’t really abandoned their ideal sound and still manage to evolve with each release!

 

L: I’ve noticed on Soundcloud that you’ve listed some of the people who have figured out the samples on your EP, or just your music in general.

 

M: Yeah, that’s just from my music in general. I haven’t had anyone discover stuff from my EP yet. I’ll add to the board when someone finds another sample!

 

L: Do you think that adds to the mystery of the sounds?

 

M: I mean, that’s just sampling in general. There’s a mystery to everything that you sample for every artist. The whole idea of sampling is that you can take something and turn it into something else, and that type of art isn’t really available through a whole bunch of other methods and means. It kind of adds this layer of scavenger hunting in trying to find out what song this person used to make their song. There are some samples that everyone can immediately recognize, like “Amen Brother” with the Amen Break. That’s a sample that everybody already knows and is instantly recognizable to the ear. A lot of  albums I sampled on this EP, I couldn’t even find on Discogs. Just random things that I found in thrift stores and flea markets that I’ll probably never find again.

 

L: So you were really diving deep, huh?

 

M: Yeah, it goes real deep into the iceberg sometimes. There’s just some weird rabbit hole that you go down with some of these albums. There’s this sense of mystery to it, because you’re never going to know who these people are. They don’t show up on the internet if you look them up. You have nothing to go by other than what’s on the CD and what’s maybe in the booklet, because even then, not every CD has a detailed booklet. Sometimes it’s literally just the cover art slipped into a CD case with a blank backside, and the album’s back insert has the tracklist on it… and that’s about it – no year, no label, no real sign of names, no website, no nothing. Just music.

 

L: That was actually one of the things that stuck out to me about the EP. While I was listening, a lot of it felt familiar and resonant but then I tried searching by lyrics and I couldn’t find anything.

 

M: There’s one song on here that you probably will be able to find if you look deep enough. I did this myself before I put out the EP. I did a little test where I’d type in lyrics and see if any of these pop up online. I managed to get two of them to come up, with one of them managing to pop up consistently. I also had to do some minor editing to a few songs to prevent this. One song in particular I changed to prevent it from being detectable by Shazam. After I finished these songs, I literally put them up to Shazam to see if they would be detected. I tried like 6-7 times for each one.

 

L: So you were trying to intentionally obscure the project as much as possible?

 

M: Yeah. Like 2 or 3 samples slipped through the cracks when I tested it, but for a hundred or so samples on the whole EP, I think that’s a pretty small amount.

 

L: Another thing that kind of fascinated me about the EP is how very few samples I picked up on sounded like they could be an easy cut. Very little clicked where I thought “oh this sounds like it was just cut from the beginning of a song”. Is there some sort of a method with how you slice these songs up?

 

M: That’s funny, because a lot of the sections I pull up actually are from the beginning of songs. It’s the part of a song I find myself sampling most often.

 

L: Oh really? *laughs*

 

M: Yeah, the piano section on the opening for “Who Am I?” was sampled from the beginning of a song. The beginning of “Meyers” was from the opening of a song… “Mina Mona Mora Mira”’s entire main hook, too. The opening of a song and the ending of songs are normally the pieces that I sample the most, just because it’s the first things I check while sorting through the music I’m sampling. I go to the beginning and go to the end, and just listen for 20-30 seconds to see if there’s anything interesting, and if I can get a good feel for the song’s vibe. If it gives off a vibe as if “Yeah, this could work for an Adult Contemporary kind of sound”, then I have something to work with. I then dig deeper to see if there’s something in the middle of the song that I like and really give it my full attention.

 

L: And then you see if that builds into a larger composition?

 

M: Yeah, if something doesn’t give off the Adult Contemporary sound, or doesn’t sound like it would be able to mesh with the main hook, I end up not using it. I have a bunch of CDs in my collection that I purchased thinking that there’d be something on it I could use. I then listen through the whole thing looking for something to sample, only to find nothing. Then like a year later when I go back to revisiting it, I suddenly hear a piece from it that somehow clicks after all that time. “The Connecting Loop” was kind of like that. I have this one album in my collection that I’m not going to say because I want to keep the samples hidden until someone finds it, but the main hook for that song – the voice that goes “In, In, In” – I pulled that from an album that, when I originally listened to it, it had the Adult Contemporary sound I wanted, but I just couldn’t find anything to use as a loop. I just sat on it for a while, and several months later, I listened to it with a new set of ears and I ended up getting that little loop.

 

L: How many CDs do you think you burnt through in the creation of this EP, give or take?

 

M: There’s around 100 samples, I think the exact number is 96 or 97 samples for the whole EP. Off of that, I estimate about 90 or so CDs, because there were a few albums that I sampled from multiple times.

 

L: Something that struck me about the EP itself was how the cover seemed to be stitched together from other media. Does that go in line with the method of how you splice these songs together, sort of patching aesthetics of the era into a whole product?

 

M: Definitely. The sounds are patched together from aesthetics of the era, and the visuals are also patched together from aesthetics of an era. I did that on purpose just because it’s got this cool kind of paper cutout look to it, kind of like Blue’s Clues or something, but from the 90’s MTV era rather than Nickelodeon. I mean, they’re both owned by Viacom *laughs* but they both give off completely different vibes. It’s like a children’s show with the cutout aesthetic, but if you throw like a coat of MTV paint on it, it kind of gives it this grimier, grungier feel, but it still has that childlike innocence that I want.

 

L: I was gonna say, Blue’s Clues always gave me that Kirby’s Epic Yarn feel of patched together media, right?

 

M: Yeah! I genuinely think that Blue’s Clues is one of the best-written children’s shows ever made, unironically.

 

L: It’s been ages since I’ve seen it or even thought about it.

 

M: *laughs* Yeah, I was like a diehard fan when I was younger.

 

L: That was never one of my big ones when I was a kid. I was always into Pokemon and I remember being into Teen Titans, though.

 

M: Funny enough, I was never a big Pokemon fan. I mean, Pokemon was there, but I always thought Digimon were cooler. In Pokemon, the creatures couldn’t talk, except for a few, like Mewtwo and Meowth. Also, they were treated more like pets than friends to their trainers. With Digimon, all of the creatures could talk, and they were more like best friends to their trainers. They were companions, they’d stay by their side in any situation. Something about that kind of resonated with me. It just felt a lot cooler to me having a giant cactus with boxing gloves [Togemon] be a friend who’d protect you, rather than having a pet dog that breathed fire  [Growlithe] or something.

L: That’s fair, and I know a lot of people who liked that more when they were kids. Mainly because a lot of people tell me to watch that movie that was directed by the same guy as Wolf Children [Mamoru Hosoda].

 

M: Y’know, it’s kind of weird too, because Digimon got the short end of the lollipop in America. The movie we got was a hodgepodge of three different Japanese films that they tried stitching together, and it didn’t really work.

 

L: I mean, to be fair, a lot of the Pokemon movies feel really garbage-y.

 

M: Well, I mean, this one was different. I think the Digimon movie we got was trying to capitalize off of the success of the first Pokemon movie. The translators were just like “Oh, now we have to do what 4Kids is doing”

 

L: Anyways, it says on your Soundcloud that you have a 3LP concept album in the works. What can I expect to hear on that?

 

M: That has literally taken 6 years to make. This project started because I wanted to make something that would invoke the feelings of a grandiose album like Pink Floyd’s The Wall or Soundtracks for the Blind by Swans, but like, a Vaporwave version. The vaporwave genre has a lot of experimentation room, but I don’t hear it from a lot of people. It just feels like the genre’s gotten in a stalemate, where it’s been evolving, but I feel like a lot of people kind of get comfortable with the genre because people look at it and just think “Oh it’s easy. I can just take a song and slow it down and give it those kinds of nostalgic vibes and stuff”. It takes more than that. You gotta actually have an ear and some sort of appreciation for the era that you’re trying to get a captured feeling for. You can’t just like, try to be Macintosh Plus and download a Diana Ross song and slow it down like the meme that people make fun of. It’s already happened and been done. But even then, Macintosh Plus does a good job at that, cause that song gives some good feelings. 

 

L: I think we got to a certain point where a lot of people started taking it for granted and just fetishizing it to a certain degree?

 

M: I feel it’s just become an afterthought for some, the whole sense of nostalgia. People get more focused on the Roman statues or the “idea” of vaporwave rather than trying to make the music sound nostalgic and surreal.

 

L: Or even worse, when we had a ton of fascist types trying to co-opt it.

 

M: Yeah… I don’t get involved with that. I would just really love to see something ultra-extravagent in this genre, because it is a cool genre concept. It’s one of the first stylings of plunderphonics I’ve been able to think of that’s had a consistent idea, but also has the freedom to hold different sounds. Kind of how nu-metal has a consistent idea, but they all have different sounds as far as the bands go. Because you’re gonna have bands that sound completely different. You’ve got Cold, and you’ve got Deftones: they’re both great bands, but they have completely different sounds. But they’ve got the same ideas! P.O.D, that’s another one that has a different sound but similar ideas. I kinda want to see more people getting creative with vaporwave because I know it’s able to be done. I’ve been trying my best to do it for like 6 years.

 

Though, those first couple of years were like, practice years in a way *laughs*. I had no idea how to use my DAW, or how to sample, so I just kind of taught myself how to do it over time. And over time, I got better and better at it and it became more and more natural to me, like learning to walk again, and it just became a growing experience. On my computer, aside from that 3 disc album I’m still trying to finish, I have this folder of songs and loops I made in that era of those first two and a half years of working on music. Genuinely, though, they’re songs that I consider unlistenable or really, really mediocre. That’s not me beating myself up or anything, because I’m not one to be pessimistic on things, but they genuinely aren’t good. Art gets like that, though. You have to make a bunch of garbage before you make anything good, and I feel like after I have a good album drop and let it settle for a while, I may want to do, like, a limited release of a compilation of those bad tracks, just so people can hear the growth and evolution of my music, back from I literally knew nothing on how to use a DAW.

 

L: So they can kind of get a look at the process, right?

 

M: Yeah, so they can kind of get a closer look at the process, because there really is some really hot garbage on that compilation *laughs* It’s sitting on my computer right now. I have all the files for the songs, and some of them are really interesting. I have this one track named “Bob’s Barricades”, and literally, I don’t know what the hell I was thinking when I made that. Literally, some of these things on here were just me experimenting and figuring out how to do loops and stuff, and how to play with specific types of effects. The very first song I made was a song called “White Mermaid” where I just looped pieces of a Staind song, and I made it sound ambient, but it didn’t really work out. I made that in like a day. And I was so proud. I was like “Wow, I made a song! Cool!”. And after that, I just kept making more and more garbage, and aside from a really horrible song I made, that my friends and I joke about, called “Burning Sun”, “Bob’s Barricades” is probably the pinnacle of that garbage pile. It’s literally a ten-minute song of just loops from Book of Mormon songs. I don’t know what I was thinking, I definitely must’ve been screwing around with my DAW. It’s a funny meme song, though. Luckily, that’s the worst of the worst. That’s also the only song that clocks in at 10 minutes, and I don’t know why I made it that long. This project’s had a lot of evolution as it’s gone on.

 

L: I mean, it’s all part of the process. And for what it’s worth, I am very eager to see you release the kraken whenever you decide to drop it.

 

M: Yeah, it’s all part of the process, and I’ve just been working on it until it’s ready. I had been working on that album for like five years at that point, and then I was just asked by a friend, “Hey, why don’t you try making something smaller?” Because I had just wanted my debut project to be a triple disc album or a double album or something grand. I wanted my debut album to be something massive. And then I was just told “Well why don’t you try making an EP?” and I was like “Okay, sure I’ll try making an EP” so I could have some material released to the public without taking away the coveted debut album spot I wanted to hold… And then the EP just kind of ended up being album length by accident *laughs* and then I was just like “I’m just gonna make this a rule from now on”, after somebody I know made a joke about it, saying “you make EPs that are LPs and LPs that are Double LPs”. And I’m like, okay, I’m just gonna make that a rule. With the double album or triple album or however long it ends up being, making the EP has given me time to reflect on what I had, and I kind of feel like I’m starting from scratch again. I want to scrap a lot of what I have written because I don’t feel like it’s what I want to do anymore, and after making this EP, I have a better idea of what I want to try doing.

 

L: You feel like you’ve evolved from that point?

 

M: Yeah, I feel like I’ve evolved from those first five years of trying to make music, and eventually I sort of got it together with this EP.

 

L: I have one more question. Now that the year is coming to a close, are there any releases from 2020 that have stuck out to you strongly?

 

M: I have not listened to a single album released this year or 2019. I am dead serious. I am so stuck in my loop of just picking up junk from thrift stores and bargain bins that I can’t keep up with current music too easily. I listen to things that dropped 30-40 years ago, and it sounds fresh to my ears. Albums from, like, 1990 that I had never heard of. I find those more interesting, for some reason. There’s just more history behind them. It feels less overwhelming, you know. With the stuff that comes out now, everybody’s talking about it, there hasn’t been time for people to settle and truly indulge in it. I’d rather look at something that didn’t get as much attention. One of my favorite albums is this one from an artist named Horse McDonald, and it’s this really sensual and romantic-sounding Adult Contemporary album with some elements of AOR and pop-rockish anthemic sounds. It’s called The Same Sky. I found it in a dollar bin at a record store. It just looked interesting to me, the cover art definitely said “I’m from 1990, buy me”, so I picked it up. It’s about a 40-minute album. It’s shorter than my EP *laughs* but I like it, and I like it a lot. Something about it feels more intimate to me, to listen to music from the past that didn’t get so much attention than it is to listen to something that’s currently out and has time to grow a fanbase. I find it easier to love something that’s been underappreciated than something that’s currently settling with people.

 

L: So you feel like you can consume it at your own pace?

M: Yeah, because I’m already consuming stuff at my own pace. I’m having to sift through CDs like almost every single day, listening through tracks and sometimes I don’t get anything that I want to sample out of it. Sometimes I get lucky and I get this one CD that I end up sampling about five times. There’s this one Post-Grunge album – gonna keep the name of this one hidden too – that I swear, I’ve sampled it on about five or six different tracks I have saved to my computer. Funny enough, though I never sampled it once on this EP. For the album that I’m working on, I sampled it a few times on tracks I’m keeping. It’s also been sampled on that album of hot garbage from when I was learning how to use my DAW. I know 100% for certain that I want to name the album Toyland. The good one, I mean. Not the bad one with the compilation of stuff from my early years. I’m probably naming that something overly long and ridiculous as a joke. The entrypoint piece, though? The statement debut album? I want to name that album Toyland. That’s the name that I’ve wanted to sit on since the beginning of this, and that’s what I’m sitting with right now. I just want to make it a love letter to Adult Contemporary, the 80’s, and just nostalgic vibes in general. Something about those loops, they give me life.