Questions & Answers with Stacy Peralta-
Having grown up in the skate culture where punk and rock were the predominant choices of music, how did your taste progress and have you always been someone who appreciates different styles of sound?
I was a kid in the 60s and my childhood was underscored by the brand new sounds of the rock’n’roll revolution; the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Stones, Hendrix etc. To me that music defined what was happening at that time; the civil rights movement, the sexual revolution, the hippie and drug revolution and the Vietnam war. It was a time when rock music had a mandate, a mandate to create change or at least reflect the changes that were taking place in society.
I began customizing my own bedroom stereo systems when I was 14 – at that time there were great stereo shops all over Los Angeles, these shops were almost as personal as surf shops, they had their own scenes, they were places people congregated. I saved my money and bought myself some really good stereo equipment and I actually built very large concert speakers to have in my bedroom so I could listen to music very loud. Back then listening to music was an act – it’s something you did with other people or alone- it wasn’t portable like it is today and it wasn’t just an accessory. And quality sound equipment was regarded to be very important. Back then it was thought that the equipment you listened to your music on should be as good as the musical equipment that the musicians are recording the music on.
In 1979 my career as a professional skateboarder started to wane and I began Powell Peralta skateboards. Shortly thereafter I began assembling my skateboard team; the “Bones Brigade.” All of the young skaters I began putting on my team were listening to punk music at that time (early 80s) – they actually introduced me to this music which my friends who were my age weren’t listening too. I ended up really liking it, I thought it was raw and compelling in a very simple way and more of a de-constructed version of rock music; less production value and more uncensored rage.
Then towards the mid-80s my team of skaters introduced me to rap – which again was a new form of music my peers were not embracing. So I was able to keep current with what was happening in music via the skaters I sponsored.
How has music played a part in your career as a skateboarder?
As a skater the music drove us, because we’re talking about skateboarding backyard pools illegally, without permission with the sounds of Zeppelin, Hendrix, Nugent and Aerosmith powering us. The sounds of those bands was aggressive and our skating was a reflection of that aggression.
Music has actually played a much bigger role in my career as a film-maker. The first thing I do when I begin a film is to put together the soundtrack – I need to understand the emotional tone of my film before I understand the film itself, because when I begin a film I’m in the dark as to what exactly the film is and what it is going to be. When I start putting the music together it informs me as to how the film sounds, how it feels, what the pulse is, what the emotion is. I can’t over-state the importance of this process – music is my doorway to understanding the film I’m making.
How do you think music and skateboarding relate?
If there is a relation it is probably freedom. Music frees us and skateboarding did the same to us, it freed us. It allowed us to see the world in a different way – it opened up our minds. Music did and does the same thing, it opens us up.
Living under the rules of gravity is not easy – gravity puts a tremendous amount of pressure on us, pushing us further down and compressing us – living on earth is the like living at the bottom of the sea floor. Music de-compresses us, it de-compresses our minds and our spirits.
How do you go about choosing music for your films?
I go through probably about 400 to 500 pieces of music and narrow that list down to about 100 to 150 songs that I think will be appropriate for the film. The music I choose has to tell a story just like the narrative drive of my film tells a story. I need many different types of music; driving, emotional, sad, angry, tense – there are so many moods I need to create when making a film and the music underscores those moods.
When did you first discover electronic music and how has your relationship with the genre evolved?
I don’t know when it happened – I only know I’ve been listening to it about as long as it’s been around. I’ve been listening to KCRW which is LA’s premier underground radio station for decades now. They have always been on the cutting edge of what is new and where things are going in music. I’ve been introduced to countless bands by the DJs that run that station; Jason, Garth, Liza and the rest of that great cast. That station is one of the best things about living in LA.
In addition to listening to rock as a teenager I also got into listening to jazz. The jazz music I listened too during that time had a similar vibe to me to some of the electronica music that I began listening too years later – I’m talking about that kind of trance vibe you get from long repeating music patterns.
Can you name some musical artists that have resonated with you and why?
This is going to date me terribly but Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers has had the most influence on me of any other artist to date. Why? Because he was a slide guitar player virtuoso – perhaps the greatest slide guitar player in rock history – his sound was a combination of total wickedness and total beauty, all in one – his playing had such an ferocious edge to it – but it was his phrasing that did me in. His phrasing and his lines he played were unlike any other guitarist in rock history, they were so original and so unique and at times from another dimension. I still hear fresh things in his playing even though I’ve been listening to it for decades. He is single-handedly the reason I play guitar.
I also loved his band because they did their best music when playing live and I’ve always preferred live albums. There is an energy and honesty to live albums that has always captured me.
Has there ever been a live music event that you’ve attended that blew your mind and why?
Recently I saw Flying Lotus in Los Angeles – coincidentally my son Austin, who is a jazz pianist played with Lotus on this night. It was one of the first electronic shows I’ve been to in a while and it blew me away in regards to the production value. I’ve never witnessed or felt bass like I felt that night. I didn’t know it was even possible to get those kinds of harmonics in a concert hall. The bass was so heavy and awesome that I felt like my inner organs were going to dissolve.
Over the decades I’ve been to many many concerts even though I don’t like being in big crowds. I saw Zeppelin, second row at the Forum when I was young. Saw Bowie as well, an amazing show. I’ve seen U2, the Police and many others. Saw a ton of southern rock bands at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium when I was young, even saw some early punk bands at the Civic back in the day – they were all great shows. We just saw Dead Can Dance, front row about four weeks ago at the Gibson Amphitheater in LA – they were so damn good that I was inspired for the next two weeks. That concert just stir-fried my senses and opened me up which was much needed at the time. I also saw my son Austin again with his own trio ripping it up at UCLA’s Royce Hall – he opened for Robert Glasper who has kind of merged Jazz with Electronica – his show this night was freaking super-natural, a real hybrid of sounds.
If you could pick one occupation in the world other than what you are already doing, what would it be?
I would liked to have been either a comedian or a molecular biologist.
Can you pick one electronic song that represents your mood these days?
I can’t pick just one electronic artist or song, I really like Amon Tobin and how inventive his stuff is and I like a lot of what Ulrich Schnauss is doing. I’ve also been listening too music that is not necessarily electronic: Solar Powered People’s “Awhile” – Highspire’s “Until the lights go Down” – The High Violets; “Sun Baby.” These songs are cutting me lose and these bands are considered either alternative rock or “Shoe Gaze” music as they have a trancelike quality to them. All three of these songs have a certain melodic darkness to them which I love. Although I love many types of music I love dark music probably the most – by dark music I mean the heavier and deeper melodic tones you hear in bands like Massive Attack and Dead Can Dance.
What does the words techno and house music mean to you?
A very large industrial warehouse with very loud music and tons of brightly colored lights flashing all about, people everywhere shaking and moving and drinking water.
If you could ask yourself a question in this interview, what would it be and then answer the question please.
What are you going to do right now?
Put on my headphones and listen to “Awhile.”
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