Feature Photo by Jason Bledsoe
Seattle-based Andrew Crawshaw is one creatively busy guy. Besides making music as Meridian Arc, he puts time in with side bands SOMAFREE INSTITUTE, New Frontiers, Old Dark House, Vortex, drummer in Terminal Fuzz Terror, a handful of in-process projects with amazing musicians. And he also runs graphic design company Broken Press with his partner Danielle Skredsvig. Crawshaw is always in the midst of something creative. He’s one person that wants to make sure he leaves his artistic mark on this world while he’s here, and I have complete respect for that.
Out of all the projects, Meridian Arc is the one I know him most for. Deep space, heady synth music that paints a picture of dystopian futures and unknown dimensions, much like those you’d see on 50s and 60s pulp sci fi rags with names like Dick, Heinlein, and Asimov strewn on the cover. Meridian Arc’s sonic palate is rooted in the classic 70s Berlin School and Komische worlds, with later era cats like Bernard Szajner, Rudiger Lorenz, and Harald Grosskopf sneaking in between the keys at times. But Crawshaw is most definitely his own creative force, combining his influences both musically and visually into a Pacific Northwest heavy synth trip.
I sat down and had a nice long chat with Andrew about all of his current creative projects, as well as his many influences, writing process, gear, and how AC/DC and David Bowie were his first ever music purchases. Enjoy.
J. Hubner: So where did you grow up? Has music always been a passion?
Andrew Crawshaw: I grew up splitting my time between Northern Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire. I’ve been deeply interested in music since I was a kid. I’ve spent almost all of my time consuming or making music (probably to a fault) my entire life. As soon as I was old enough I convinced my parents to let me start going to shows in Boston or Portsmouth, NH. Around the same time (12 / 13 years old) my friends and I started different punk bands and it’s more or less been that way ever since. Working at record stores and running a business that works primarily with bands has helped keep music in the forefront of my life.
J. Hubner: What was the first album you ever bought?
Andrew Crawshaw: I believe the first 2 cassettes I bought were AC/DC “Razor’s Edge” and David Bowie “Never Let Me Down”. I had some money from doing some small jobs or something. My father drove me to some strip mall music shop in NH and let me pick out whatever I wanted. Not sure why those were my choices.
J. Hubner: Are drums the first instrument you learned to play, given that you play them in two bands?
Andrew Crawshaw: I had started out playing guitar as a kid and something never seemed to click. I always wanted to play drums. Around 14 or 15 I got a drum set and started teaching myself how to play. I actually sang in the first few bands I was in. I didn’t start drumming for bands until I moved to Seattle in 2004, since then I’ve had a number of bands. Terminal Fuzz Terror was the first one I really felt confident as a drummer in. We were always a little on the verge of collapse both musically and as a band. It was a fun band while it lasted though.
J. Hubner: Besides being a musician, you run Broken Press as a graphic designer. Creativity, be it through music or graphic art, seems to be a constant in your life. Where did that love of art and creativity come from?
Andrew Crawshaw: Myself and my partner, Danielle Skredsvig, both run Broken Press together. I’ve been screenprinting in some capacity since I was 15. I originally started by designing and printing my own posters for bands in 2004. It slowly evolved over the years to become a full service poster screenprinting shop. We’ve been lucky enough to both do this full time together for about 6-7 years now. As stressful as it can be it is equally as rewarding. There’s nothing quite like building a business with your best friend (and partner in life) through word of mouth and hard work.
I really have no idea though where my passion for music and art comes from. Both of my parents were always totally supportive of anything I’ve decided to pursue throughout my life. But, neither of them were particularly musically or artistically inclined. I think it’s just something I latched onto when I was young and never let go.
J. Hubner: Who are some artists that have inspired you over the years?
Andrew Crawshaw: As far as artists that inspire me goes, it’s all over the place. I guess some artists that I often go back to (particularly in the past few years) are Klaus Schulze, Zombi (anything Steve Moore or AE Paterra related), Brian Eno, Zdzislaw Beksinski, Scott Walker, David Cronenberg, John Maus, Ariel Pink, Cliff Martinez, Tangerine Dream, John Carpenter (both film and music), Michael Garrison, Scott Campbell, Steve Roach, Johnny Jewel, Daughn Gibson, Haunt Love, Paul Haslinger, Stephen Gammell, Peter Gabriel, Dario Argento, Ken Russell, Harald Grosskopf, Pye Corner Audio, David Lynch, J.D. Emmanuel, Jordan Butcher, Michael Mann, Kate Bush, Ogre, Pentagram Home Video, S U R V I V E / Holodeck Records, Lucio Fulci, old horror / sci-fi movie ads and Polish movie posters. I could make a list a mile long. I basically never stop listening to music, watching movies and endlessly consume visual art at work all day.
J. Hubner: What was it about synthesizers that drew you to them?
Andrew Crawshaw: I grew up watching copious amounts of horror and sci-fi movies which I think set the seed for an interest in synthesizers. At the same time I was into punk rock and metal as a teenager and as my interests/musical tastes evolved I started to find that more of the music I was listening to had some element of electronics or synthesizers as a part of the sound. I remember the first time I saw Zombi (2002 or 2003?) was the first time I realized you could have a band that sounded like the horror / sci-fi soundtracks I heard in all those movies I grew up watching. Which in hindsight sounds a little naive, it was a big eye opener though.
J. Hubner: What was the first piece of hardware you bought? How far back have you been experimenting with synths/electronics?
Andrew Crawshaw: I believe the first synths I bought were the Korg MS-20 mini and Moog Sub37 Tribute in 2014? They were a great intro to basic synthesis. I pretty quickly jumped into trying to hunt down some of the synths/drum machines I saw listed in the credits of records I liked. Every synth has a unique sound to it and I had a general idea of the realm I wanted to work in audibly. I figured if those artists got those sounds out of those particular synths that’s probably a good starting point. That being said I still feel like I don’t really know what I’m doing. I do love walking into my studio and turning everything on and seeing what happens. It’s been the most musically rewarding thing I’ve done.
J. Hubner: I absolutely love ‘Aphantasia’. You don’t overfill your songs. You leave space for your tracks to breathe. What was the process like in writing those songs?
Andrew Crawshaw: Thanks, that means a lot. I have a hard time going back to that record at this point. But, I’m glad to hear it holds up ok. That was the 3rd record I did as Meridian Arc. But, I think it was the first time I finally started to get closer to being able to take what was in my head and capture it somewhat accurately. A lot of the space and openness of those tracks is actually because of my inability / insecurity toward playing what you would consider a “lead”. Coming from a rhythm background has really informed my writing approach. I usually start with writing sequences, bass parts and programming drums. The textures and leads (which I’ve started to add more of) are always the hardest part. I tend to put them off until the very end. On that record in particular it I had just acquired a number of the synths used on it. A lot of it is just me diving into them and seeing what I could do with them.
J. Hubner: You’re currently readying two new Meridian Arc albums, one of which you’re releasing with Burning Witches Records early next year. How did you get connected with Darren and Gary?
Andrew Crawshaw: There are 2 Meridian Arc records in the works right now. One is totally done and I couldn’t be happier to have the guys over at Burning Witches Records releasing it. I’ve been following them since their first couple of releases. I really respect that they seemingly came out of nowhere and from the start have been putting out unique well crafted records from a variety of artists. We had actually been in contact regarding some screenprinting work they were looking to have done. That didn’t end up panning out, mostly because of shipping logistics. I generally don’t like to cross the line between my business and my personal work. But, I had finally finished this record and they were the first label I thought of. I just sent it to them unsolicited and they both responded quickly and said they would be interested in releasing it.
J. Hubner: How has your process of writing evolved since ‘Aphantasia’?
Andrew Crawshaw: This record (that will be titled “Timelapse”) is actually somewhat of a continuation of “Aphantasia”. I started most of the tracks on it right after finishing that record. It was actually it bit of a struggle creatively, my father had died very unexpectedly toward the end of 2016. I basically was lost in a bit of a fog / depression for the 2 years following that coming to terms with everything and trying to find my way through it.
With that, I had been very slowly working on those songs until last winter. I feel like that record is sort of the last chapter of that “sound”. It reached a point where I kept going back and forth with the tracks and I realized I just needed to either be done with them or let them go.
J. Hubner: So ‘Timlapse’ is the end of a chapter for you, both sonically and emotionally. What about the other Meridian Arc album you’re readying?
Andrew Crawshaw: The other upcoming Meridian Arc record (which is titled “The Night, It’s Deafening”) feels a lot different to me. I actually wrote it as a live set that I toured on this past spring and have been playing out since then. I started tracking all of it this summer and should hopefully have that finished up in the next month or so. It’s something I can play live start to finish and I’m trying to keep the recorded version fairly close to that. I don’t think it’s an extreme departure from anything else I’ve done as Meridan Arc but it feels like the next step in this project. I’m hoping to find a label for that one as soon as it’s completed.
J. Hubner: Tell me about the new age record you have coming out with Moon Glyph Records. New Frontiers? Moon Glyph is an amazing record label as well.
Andrew Crawshaw: Moon Glyphs is a great label, I actually got to play with Omni Gardens (Steve who owns Moon Glyph) this past spring in Oakland. I love the constraint he brings to his music. I find it really difficult to keep things that simple and open yet engaging. All of his releases have a fairly consistent vibe both in terms of sonic realm and visuals. I would love to work with him sometime on something.
New Frontiers is a project between myself and Justin Kleine whom I have worked with since Terminal Fuzz Terror as well as in :|DEPTHS|: (a monthly live movie re-score night) and SOMAFREE INSTITUTE. Honestly, the project started a solo recording endeavor that ended up evolving pretty early on to be a collaborative effort between the two of us.
J. Hubner: What are some of the influences behind New Frontiers?
Andrew Crawshaw: It’s a combination of influences, from practicing yoga 4-5 days a week and digging deeper into the world of late 70’s / early 80’s synth artists (Steve Roach, Michael Garrison, Michael Stearns, J.D. Emmanuel, etc) as well as early Innovative Communications releases. We tried to keep it loose and record the first take as much as possible. It was practice in space, patience and trying to push our approach to writing and our musical abilities as players.
J. Hubner: You’ve also got a vocal project called Old Dark Horse. How did that come about?
Andrew Crawshaw: Old Dark House is myself and Corey J. Brewer. We’ve been friends for a number of years and we had discussed working on a project at some point for a while. Last winter we both ended up with some down time (creatively) and I had a backlog of unfinished songs that I knew I wouldn’t use for Meridian Arc. I’m really happy with how this collaboration has evolved.
Corey’s solo work is totally unique. There are bits and pieces of downtempo pop mixed with trip-hop breakbeats all overlayed with crooner vocals. I think this record really sounds like an even blend of what we both do sonically. We’re currently working with Erik Blood on mixing it and will be sending it out to some labels to hopefully find a home for it sooner than later.
J. Hubner: You’re also working with another standout musician in Timothy Fife. You two are working on a project with a live drummer?
Andrew Crawshaw: Timothy and I met through some mutual friends several years ago. Earlier this summer we started discussing the idea of working together on a record. His album “Black Carbon” and the Victims 10″ he was apart of are two of my favorite records of the past few years. I’ve kept both of them in heavy rotation since they came out. Timothy has a seemingly innate ability to capture that Berlin School vibe in a totally unique way.
J. Hubner: What’s the vibe like with that collaboration?
Andrew Crawshaw: Who knows what will end up coming out of the collaboration. We’re both big fans of Klaus Schulze and Kosmische synth records in general. So, we’re using that as a starting point for inspiration. Tim Call (the drummer for SOMAFREE INSTITUTE ) will be playing drums on it as well.
J. Hubner: What’s the background with SOMAFREE INSTITUTE?
Andrew Crawshaw: SOMAFREE INSTITUTE is my main project currently next to Meridian Arc. We practice and function more like a traditional band, more so than my other projects. It is a 3 piece band with myself playing synths / programming, Justin Kleine on synths and Tim Call playing drums. All 3 of us write together in a room. Occasionally one of us will come up with a part or loose idea that we will bring to practice. But, overall it’s a completely collaborative experience. We have a demo we released last year that is going to be re-released on vinyl this winter. We went back and re-recorded all of the drums and re-tracked a lot of the synths. There will also be a new track that wasn’t on the initial release.
J. Hubner: When writing and being involved with so many different projects how do you differentiate between what tracks should go with what project?
Andrew Crawshaw: My approach changes constantly. For a while I would just walk into my studio, start writing and then try to decide afterward if the music fit my own personal idea of what the “Meridian Arc” sound is. If not I would move the song to a folder on my hard drive and move on. Which is what the Old Dark House project came from. I sent Corey those tracks and let him pick through them to see if there was anything that appealed to him for a starting point.
I mentioned earlier that SOMAFREE INSTITUTE is entirely collaborative in writing. New Frontiers has shifted in that direction as well. Justin and I will get together with a general idea of a “vibe” or “feeling” we want to create. Then we start improvising until it feels like we’re moving in the right direction.
J. Hubner: Will there ever be any releases as just “Andrew Crawshaw”? Working under a band name does add a bit of mystery to the overall project, at least when working on your own.
Andrew Crawshaw: I’ve used my name on the :|DEPTHS|: tapes we’ve released as an extension of a live movie scoring night I was running for the past few years. At some point I will probably just start using my name, there’s something about having a band name that feels like a security blanket in some way? I think to some degree having a band name is like an actor playing a character? It mostly just helps me differentiate and categorize the varied creative output.
J. Hubner: What’s the rest of 2019 look like for you?
Andrew Crawshaw: Hopefully not much more than what we’ve already covered, hahaha. I do have yet another collaboration in the works with the band Noise-A-Tron. We toured together this past spring. As a part of the tour we stayed in a cabin on Mt. Shasta and started writing / recording for 3 days. We’ve been trying to find time to get together and work on a few more tracks to finish it up. That should be done before the end of the year.
Outside of the Meridian Arc “Timelapse” album coming out on Burning Witches Records none of the other records I’ve been working on have labels or release dates sorted out as of now. I’m hoping that a few of the labels I’m reaching out to might be interested.
Here’s a list of the upcoming/pending Andrew Crawshaw releases, and below dive into the great Soundcloud sampler Andrew made with tracks from each of the upcoming albums. Great stuff, so dig in.
• Untilted collaborator between Timothy Fife, Tim Call and myself