Paul Dickow wears many hats. He works as a musician, DJ, producer, and record label operater at Community Library. Operating under the alias of Strategy since 1999, Dickow creates sounds that stretch from experimental, sound art and noise music, to ambient, dub, techno, house and the spaces in between. Combining a granular ambient aesthetic with an abstract, percolating rhythmic sensibility, Strategy music does not find a singular sylistic expression, but rather exists along a genre-confounding continuum where all genres are created equal and primed for deconstruction His constant evolution is driven by a curiousity, and an idea that there are always more ways for sound to be heard. This Wednesday, April 6th, he will be playing a set at Holocene along with Seattle based Raica and Portland’s own Visible Cloaks. He plans to run the show as a complete modular set, so be sure to the strange oddities he has worked up.
How did Strategy first began? How has it evolved since then?
Strategy was created in part to address the impermanence of bands and memberships — in the late 1990s, people were relocating, leaving the city…at a point I had to start making music on my own. Technology made that possible, but it also brought learning curves and distractions. Ultimately I think the way I use technology has enabled me to retain the sense of real-time spontaneity, surprise, and boundary-pushing that I got from playing in groups. Nothing replaces flesh-and-blood band-mates, but I’m glad that doing solo music, with technology, still allows me to feel satisfied in many similar ways. I still play in groups, but as space becomes more expensive and my peers become busier, it’s still great to have solo music as a primary focus.
What is your creative process like?
Music comes to me like a faucet in my brain that is always running. When I am feeling like a music composer, I remember the good parts to execute later. But when I’m feeling like an improvisor, I weave good old fashioned elements of chance and surprise into my process so that I can catch myself off guard and environmental factors or unexpected occurrences take me to new sounds. The use of radios to capture unexpected audio junk is a big part of this, and I’ve been finding myself listening to past music of spontaneous choice (free improvisation) and spontaneous chance (like in the John Cage sense) to be inspired.
You’ve been referencing the concept of Cascadia for many years now. Can you explain what Cascadia means to you, both in a bioregional context and in terms of the regional music scene?
Things fall apart. And then new things are built in their place.
What is your favorite piece of gear or tech?
I’ve been pondering this lately and while there’s not one piece of equipment that is a top favorite, I have come to realize I’m more of a “sampling” guy than a “synthesizer” guy. The modular synth I set up for the Holocene performance, even, is built around live audio capturing and processing. When it comes to technology though I’m not an elitist. I’d be just as happy using a throwaway mass market drum machine and an old guitar pedal, as I would be using something new and cutting edge. Usually my process involves a mix of high and low tech. I love it all.
How do you approach translating your music into a live setting?
My studio recordings are just recorded live sessions–mostly! So for me it’s completely fluid. I’ve always been very resolute that electronic music should be live– I have never felt comfortable with the “press play and dance crazy to pre made tracks” school of live electronics–which is still prevalent in some ways even if many artists now embrace performance at a deeper level.
What are you working on right now? What do you have coming up?
I really need to get my garage-conversion project done — converting it to a music studio. Until then, I have limited space in which to really spread out and create music. I have about 6 albums written in detail in my head, or conceptualized, and just need the time and space to execute them. I am also excited to work on editing prior recordings of my various collaborative projects (including Sound People and Eastside Ancients, among others).
What are some of your favorite musical or artistic institutions in Portland?
Too numerous to list!