회사AUTO is more than just a vaporwave genre mainstay. With sixteen mainline releases over seven years, four other aliases (Tech Noir, Saint Pizza, Ichibancho, and Zaturn Valley), an ever-evolving production style, and a vast array of instruments, this Seattle artist and former history teacher has known vaporwave intimately since its genesis. 회사AUTO’s impressive technical and compositional knowledge has allowed him to synthesize diverse inspirations into albums like -Q- and Neon Beige that are introspective, ethereal, alien, deeply familiar, sampled and original, weaving a profile of a well-spoken artist who helps infuse meaning and momentum into an underground musical movement, rather than just participating in it.
His 2015 album 仙Android is a sprawling, 14-track exploration of exploration, memory, mystique, and more. Now releasing on vinyl through Æ², the story of 仙Android is perhaps best told by the artist himself.
Q: You first released 仙Android in 2015. What does the album mean to you now, three and a half years on?
A: It’s still my best work. Elements on Informatique Métaphysique were deeper, but as a whole, 仙Android is my tightest and most focused work yet. It gives me encouragement that I can still make an album as good if not better. It represents a peaceful stillness to me, and warm confidence that I want to return to for my next album.
Q: Where was your life, mind, and vision at when making this album? What was your goal soundscape, and what were its inspirations?
A: I was just about to get married and start my career as a high school teacher. This album was supposed to be my last (I’ve since quit teaching and became a Web Developer). I went into this album with the mindset of “I have a couple of months before my life will be changed forever, I’m not sure if I can ever create music again.” With that mindset, and a week off from work, and dog-sitting my brother’s Golden Retriever named Kappy, I locked myself inside and dove into embarrassingly earnest memories of my childhood: playing on the beach in Sequim with cousins, going to Enchanted Village, creating forts in the snow, light fragments dancing on the church floor from vibrant stain glass etc.
I took those pure memories of my childhood and utilized futuristic synth pads to create something that was fully me and fully vapor-futuristic. I didn’t know if this combination of the sentimental simplicity of my heart and the complex systematic aesthetic of vaporwave would work—but it did. I think…I need to create more from the heart and not be scared to show it to others.
Q: What instruments were the backbone of the album? Did any unique techniques go into it?
A: This album was nearly 99% midi synths from Ableton Live. There’s hardly any sampling aside from a couple: (obvious) synth pad taken from one of the founders of vaporwave on a certain track, a famous funk rhythm elsewhere, and the last track is heavily sampled. Nearly everything else is original composition from me, midis, and hours producing, editing, EQing, etc. I like to use a lot of delay, reverb, some soft sidechain compression, and various other (rather generic now I think of it) techniques. This album’s strength is compositional in my opinion, not instrumental or technical.
Q: You call 仙Android an album with an open-ended narrative to it, in a sense. If it’s open to interpretation, how do you read it—if you don’t mind sharing, or at least alluding?
A: It’s open-ended as much as any instrumental album is open-ended—or really any piece of art. I think common themes that I narrate in many of my albums are: exploring, adventure, mystery, comedic relief. One of my best friends Tristan told me that my music sounds like it belongs in films—in that sense—the narrative to Android is very much aligned with future-oriented moods.
Q: With interesting track names like “IpVic 22436e” and “Floodhead 33ECO,” do these names serve a guided purpose in the narrative? Or did they have a different intent?
A: Some do. I scanned a lot of quotes from Philip K. Dick books to find unique words. Some don’t. I combined a lot of those words with made-up Android names, barcodes, etc. For instance: IpVic is a PKD shorthand for: InterPlenetaryVIdeoChannel, 22436e was actually my computer password for the laptop I was assigned as a substitute teacher. It sounded like it could be a reference code for an Android. Floodhead is such a strong word especially used for the jovial track chosen—I kind of liked the mishmash though. I think of this album as a futuristic cybernetic narrative, and after Chem Shower, this song depicts one's new body illuminated by powerful Floodhead lights—thus the light and heavy colliding. In this instance—I took the Thom Yorke approach and had a bunch of unique words I liked, put them on a list, and randomly selected them for the tracks. 33 was my favourite number in 6th grade, and ECO as a leftover concept from my “Neo-Cascadia & The Northwestern Islands, 3402 CE” original album theme. Numb 18 was named after the Dragon Ball Z character. Medicine Ubik was named partly after the PDK book and partly because the song was originally called “Heal”—Medicine sounded better than Heal Ubik—I wanted something that connected to the imagery I had in my head of an uncomfortable dark hospital. Chimera 6 Merger was named after a Mother 3 cybernetic creature who was an actual chimera in Dr Andonuts’ dystopian lab and imagery of mergers in PDK narratives.
Q: Few vaporwave artists have a catalogue so varied as to warrant a Greatest Hits collection. But your 2016 album of that name totally justifies it. How did you choose which 仙Android tracks deserved a place in the collection?
A: The selection was primarily data-driven from last.fm scrobbles, Spotify plays, and Plays on my own iTunes—I used this data to inform and filter. “Cryochamber,” “KR-3,” and “Stardust” seemed to be the stand out tracks, and I only had so much space to fit songs on a cassette. I wanted to have at least one song from each album up until that point as well. I also noticed that some songs are actually follow-ups to previous songs [“Numb 18” is a sequel to “Tropic,” “WASH-35” is a sequel to “Orca,” “IpVic” was a sequel to “Sleep”]. I didn’t want to have too many duplicates themes in the selection in this regard as I wanted to showcase the diversity of my sound.
Q: 仙Android originally got a cassette release. How do you think this vinyl release may affect one’s analogue experience of the album?
A: This new release is a remaster! The sound difference is MASSIVE. I am so excited to share this with everyone because this remaster is how the album was intended to sound. I like to use this metaphor: all the sounds were out in a field, and only a good eye could see them all. The Remaster basically brought all these sounds together in an organized way, delicately and respectively amplified, and highlighted essential elements possibly overlooked in the previous version. Vinyl is rad, the master sounds way better, analogue is warm, and the art by Carson Greenway is some of his best. This is something you don’t want to pass on.
Q: Finally, just for fun: if you could release 仙Android on any physical media, no matter how strange or realistic, what would it be?
A: Video game or film! I’d love to have my music be part of some sort of visual experience at some point. It would be an honour.
Dan Goubert is a contributing writer for Æ². He is the Features Lead of Private Suite Magazine as "deliriously...daniel," and when he isn't collecting cassettes or blogging about breakfast cereal, you can find him thrifting, playing with his cat Jupiter, or scribbling something arcane into a notebook.