Travis Egedy’s particular brand of electronic music is fuelled by his love of performance art and the DIY punk ethos. Sparking the genre of ‘witch house’ (a term he accidentally coined), his music, under the name of Pictureplane, was born in Denver’s post-industrial warehouse scene. With a sound equally fitting with a mosh and a ’90s rave, his profile was quickly propelled from underground to internet-wide. So, on a summer’s day in Melbourne, ACCLAIM takes him sight-seeing. We hit up a kawaii photo booth for a shoot and talk about all things Myspace, Robin S. and the ever-evolving world of ‘net music.
How would go about describing your music to someone that isn’t caught up in music? Say, my great-grandmother.
To my great-grandmother? I guess my great-grandma wouldn’t have any current musical knowledge. I would say… it’s like… jazz. I would say I play jazz. It’s like free… spirited. That’s a good question. [Laughs.]
You were initially studying fine art. How did you become interested in music from there?
I was doing music before I was doing art school. It went hand-in-hand for me. I would say my art training really helped with what I was doing with Pictureplane. I was working on performance art and became involved in that without even thinking about it.
Does your music inspire visual art too?
Yeah, definitely. Concepts that I enjoy working with in sound carry over to my visual art.
How does being from a punk and DIY influenced background affect your electronic music?
To me, there can be a punk movement in electronic music too. At the moment it seems quite lost in this whole DJ culture right now. We have that disconnect between putting on events and curating your own aesthetic and really connecting with people on a personal level. That’s where the DIY thing comes in, giving performances to people who are in an established and heartfelt community.
You were involved in putting on underground parties in your hometown of Denver. What was that scene like?
It was beautiful. It was a bunch of kids creating their own reality. Doing whatever they wanted to do. It was really magical – we’d think of something we’d want to see happen and they we would just do it. Throwing raves, crazy parties, having people tour, curating art exhibitions. When you have access to a space that’s not a bar or a club – when you can transform it into anything you want – it isn’t just important for you, it can really help your whole city, or country, even. For people to be able to go to a space where they can be creatively expressive. I think it’s huge. And that’s all that the rave scene was about – about promoters finding a space where they could let whatever would happen… happen. There was no plan – it was just like, ‘Let’s make some art; let’s have some fun’.
Was that in place while you were younger, before you had your own space to work in?
Denver has a history of warehouse creative spaces. As do most places in the States. A lot of the cities are post-industrial places that don’t have any need for that industry anymore and so there are a lot of empty spaces where you can do whatever you want.
How do you feel about the genres that you’re music has been associated with? Was it you that coined the term ‘witch house’?
Yes, it was.
Do you feel the terms are limiting?
Once you give something a name it changes it and it kills it, really. ‘Witch house’ was a kind of conceptual art joke with my friend and me. The idea was to coin something and turn it into some kind of meme – which is what happened. I try not to stay within any sort of fit. I think names really constrict things rather allow them to flourish. Especially now, where everything is so insanely post-modern. Nothing isn’t just one thing anymore. Everything is a lot of things, combined. So all these sub-genres, and you can go forever, but everything evolves from there. There’s no point in trying to tag it with an identity, really; good music will always be just good music.
Were you surprised that the term took off, and is now known as an umbrella term for a lot of artists that you’re not involved with?
Yeah, but I had nothing to do with that really. It spiralled off on its own, completely removed from me, even. I came up with that word – and it went on its own. Which was cool to see.
Your music was picked up early by internet tastemakers like Pitchfork. What are your thoughts on the online world of music?
I owe everything to the internet. I’m a product of the internet and a child of internet culture too. The first people hearing my music were on Myspace. I love Myspace, and I miss it.
Was that what opened you up to a lot of different music, through Myspace?
It was easy to keep finding different pages on it, and see aesthetically what they were into. And seek out like-minded people from that. I was able to book whole tours doing that. It would be like ‘Oh, this person’s page is fucking insane, I want to talk to you’. Some of my greatest friends I met through that and scrolling through art pages.
What do you think about Tumblr as a platform?
I think it’s the new Myspace, and rad, but there’s not much originality going on. No one seems to be generating their own content anymore – it’s all, purely borrowing and re-hashing something else that exists. Which for better or worse, is just how it is. But I really think that people need to start creating their own art again.
Do you think it’s similar to the remix culture and sample appropriation that is going on in music, too?
Appropriation is huge. It’s something I do every day and I guess something that is just part of our culture. Sampling is very different from just reposting a picture though. It would be different if you took that picture and did a whole bunch of stuff to it, that came from a creative side. That’s sampling, but re-blogging is very different. It’s like a culture that can be lazy.
You’re very active on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Do you think keeping a dialogue with your fans is important?
I’ve been answering a lot of questions on Tumblr too. I think it’s huge for me. I like to be really accessible to people that like my music. It’s an underlying message that ‘you can do this too’. I mean, I’m not some artist of a fucking pedestal; I’m doing it for everyone. I like showing people that it’s a lifestyle choice and I’m living my life in a very radical way, which isn’t always normal and I would like to impart that to other people. You can live in a society that tells you, this is one way to do it, but there are lots of other ways to do it.
You’ve been honest about the current DJ culture and how some artists get flown around the world to play music that isn’t necessarily a difficult thing to do. How do you work to get out from that stigma of a ‘button pusher’?
I don’t have a problem with DJs at all. Most good DJs are talented producers, but they’re generally not good performers. There are a few that are, but I don’t want to talk shit on DJs. But I come from a very different background than what these EDM artists do.
So you work to produce everything live?
Yeah, basically. I’m playing live and doing vocals, synth, and sampling and remixing. DJing, on the other hand, is so easy and they are making so much money it’s crazy. I really like DJing – it’s fun. DJing can be about feeling what people need at a certain time.
Three Physical seems to move away from your earlier darker music, were you happy with the finished album – and what’s your process like when working with a longer form?
An album is a statement to me, conceptually cohesive. I work towards creating something as a whole – each of my records have an overarching theme and representation to them. They were mission statements in a certain time and place.
Do you feel like your music has evolved since you starting working on it?
It’s in a constant state of evolution. I’m always trying to push myself and what I’ve always tried to achieve with Pictureplane. Keep pushing myself forward and take risks.
Your music has been remixed and reworked by other artists, and fans have made videos and artwork to your music. Are you always interested in seeing how other people interpret your work?
That’s part of the beauty of our world right now. When you put something out into the world people are going to dissect it and play with it however they do. I don’t have any control over it and I think it’s a beautiful thing, because that’s what I do with music that has inspired me.
What kind of music were you playing before Pictureplane?
I was a battle-rap MC, hip-hop kid, super emo. Rapping about girls and aliens. I want to produce for rappers. I don’t know about me rapping anymore though. I was pretty good at the time, just being seventeen and killing it at battles. Rap and hip-hop could be a whole other conversation and interview right now. I just did a track with Noah23. He’s from this era that time forgot: late ’90s, really independent and experimental hip-hop and amazing, but it completely died and disappeared. And younger kids today don’t really know about the DIY hip-hop culture of that time, and that’s it’s sort of back. But there were artists that came before them. For a while, if you were still making experimental hip-hop you were from the Stone Age. But now it’s back and in a different form.
It seems like the genre has expanded to a wider scene, where there were raps about guns and women in a male-centred way, it’s now appealing to a wider audience.
That’s what I’m saying, there was a backlash in that time of the late ’90s where it was experimental, largely forgotten about. And now people are treating this new stuff like it’s some sort of a revelation, but it has really happened before.
Is there a place where you can get a hold of your music before Pictureplane?
No. It’s secret. [Laughs.]
This has been your first time in Australia. How do Australian audiences compare to the bigger scenes in the US and Europe?
Well, I can’t really judge Australia yet because I’ve just played the one club last night. Which isn’t a really normal show for me – a club night of young kids that wanted to dance to a DJ. But New Zealand was incredible. [I was] working with a really amazing promoter called Blink, who runs a festival as his own personal mission in the wilderness. It’s full of incredible local musicians, very much about the music. That was one of the coolest festivals I’ve ever been a part of, and I had a great time. On par with any place I’ve ever been.
One final question: what song will always get a Pictureplane party started?
I have it tattooed on my body – Show Me Love by Robin S.
Photography by DTS HATES YOU.