"FILLING YOUR CREATIVE CUP," A Conversation with Cole Pulice

What do you want the audience to take away from your live show? 

That’s a good question. I think I like the idea of folks at shows actually being able to see the concrete process behind how I create and control my particular palette of sounds - especially since my setup is intended towards blurring the lines between acoustic and electronic sounds (saxophone, wind synth, pedal board, and computer signal processing software often all running simultaneously). I know for some people they like to keep some magic or mystery around how they do what they do, and that’s cool - but for me personally, I think I like my live show being a bit revealing of the process…I’d like to think there’s a magic to that too!

What is your recording process like? 

My recording process is really playful, and involves a lot of tinkering and improvising. Often I will be fooling around with a pedal chain idea or sound, or something on a computer program that reacts to my playing, and I’ll just sort of playfully improvise and tinker with settings and possibilities. I often am doing this without the explicit intent of “composing” or creating a track for a record or whatever. I’ll usually record most of what I’m doing as I improvise…sometimes an idea or piece of music reveals itself during that process, and I run with it until it feels finished, which itself is sort of a nebulous feeling but I try to listen to my gut. More often, however, these sessions just end up sitting on my harddrive - maybe I end up working with them again and developing them, sometimes not! 

What inspires you to create?

Oh my goodness - really anything/everything. Feelings, places, thoughts, dreams, texts, sounds, conversations, sensations, ideas, friends, gestures, books, etc. Anywhere and everywhere - I feel like inspiration is always there, it just depends when I’m in the right time, place, and headspace to attend to it.

How do you deal with writer's block or creative slumps?

Wow, classic dilemma! When I’m having a really hard time creating or working on something, or finding direction with my practice, I usually take that as a signal to step away from it and get some mental and physical space, either in the short term (like maybe I just need some sleep or some food or a walk), or in the long term (like maybe I need to step away from a project for a few days or a week and let my ears recuperate, and return to it with a fresh frame of mind). In other words: I try not to get frustrated or mad at myself for not being able to finish what I’m working on or for being in a slump/at a block and just accept it and take care of myself and attend to some other things for a while! (Easier said than done, of course).

Who are you listening to currently that inspires you?

I spend a lot of time walking - it’s one of my favorite things. One of the places I walk a lot is a park that’s nestled between the two ends of the Port of Oakland…which has a really wild soundscape: the cargo trains screeching and grinding, forklifts and trucks moving shipping containers, cranes loading massive cargo ships, boats cruising and navigating the waters of the bay. The park itself is full of birds and critters and is usually really windy in the evenings, so the mix of mechanical/industry noise with nature is really wild, plus the sunsets across the Bay behind San Francisco are unreal, even surreal in a certain sense as you’re standing amongst this overwhelming Port environment on the west coast of North America.  The immense imposing industrial machinery and the delicate beauty of the park - loud sounds, soft sounds, intense sounds, delicate sounds…

It has made me think a lot about supply chain/industry/technology and this immense circulatory network that is absolutely hidden in plain sight, a whole world hidden amongst everyday life (I think it’s something that we’ve all become more aware of during the pandemic, with all the supply chain issues). It’s so massive and so fragile at the same time, like when that Evergreen cargo ship got stuck in the Suez Canal; I see and walk along by those ships all the time at the Port, they are bigger than you can even imagine, and then when one goes and gets stuck and it throws the whole circulatory system off, that’s like the only time that most of us are even conscious of the whole system, usually the only part most of us see is the UPS person dropping our package at our door…and then there’s the waste it all creates, the pollution, the physical space it takes up, not to mention the intrusion on the environment - physically and sonically. Especially getting into gear/signal processing technology/etc the past few years, they are questions I’ve been thinking a lot about in my personal creative practice. It’s so easy to get attached to gear, or feel like you need this, that, or the other thing…when you order something it gets built somewhere, shipped somewhere else, packaged, shipped again, ends up on your doorstep…gear is constantly breaking and needs to get fixed or is just thrown out. I don’t know, I’m kinda rambling now, but it’s a world of sounds and a space so forth that has been really impactful to me the past couple of years, and has led me to interrogate a lot of generative questions that have abstractly and concretely informed my creative practice. There’s some music on my new record Scry that is directly influenced by all this!

What’s the most special moment you have had recording? That sort of “ah ha!” moment. 

I feel like I’ve had a few, and - just because of my process - they usually come later when I’m re-listening to recordings/takes I did. Basically, the feeling of listening through variations of takes and being struck unexpectedly with goosebumps and thinking “OMG that was special.” Especially with live improvisation, such an array of things can happen, it always feels magical when things coalesce or resonate together in a special way. Sometimes the “ah ha!” moment comes in the performance, and sometimes it comes way later when revisiting something.

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