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Conversations with Creators: Zac Goldstein
A new photo story featuring Louisville-based magnetic tape artist, Zac.
Our photo series this week is with Louisville-based artist, Zac Goldstein who performs as woods at nite. Zac describes himself as a magnetic tapeist, which means he records on magnetic tape.
Recently, I visited Zac in his studio while he was working on his upcoming album, See Through House (available now for pre-order). Here are some images from my visit and a glimpse into our conversation.
What's most exciting to you about sound and making music right now?
The reason I feel passionate and feel a responsibility to make things is because I was kind of nomadic for all of my 20's. I kept leaving jobs and apartments and was on my own.
Winter of 2019 I didn't have an apartment and I was in the darkest part of depression I've ever had. This was before I went to the hospital and started taking medication and started to climb out of it. I was house-sitting for someone for two months and it was right across the street from a coffee shop called Bean. That house had no insulation so it was freezing in there. I slept right next to the fire every night and I could see my breath when I woke up. And I never got any relief from that.
But then I discovered an album one day. The next day I went to the record store, bought the record, and downloaded the mp3 files to my phone. Every morning after, I would wake up freezing cold and I would wait for 7 am when Bean would open up and I would get a cup of coffee, sit in the window, and listen to this album all the way through. It was my home. I had a house, but it was someone else's house.
This became my home. I realized then how sound can create an environment and recording allows you to carry it with you...and you can reenter that environment at any time. It was so helpful for me and I decided I wanted to create those for myself and also for other people. My dream is that if someone needed an hour of relief, they would be able to get that from one of my albums.
How does recording on magnetic tape work? Break down your process for me.
Ok, so the large black box on the floor is a four-track tape recorder. On one regular cassette tape, it can record four different tracks next to each other without recording over the others.
The smaller one is a studio-quality tape recorder. But that one works like a regular cassette recorder. It just records stereo, so left and right.
“I actually spent some time working at a magic show in Massachusetts. It was the Le Grand David and His Spectacular Magic Company, the world record holder for the longest continuous staged magic show in history. We did 35 years and 36 seasons, and I was there for the last 4. The magic show's soundtrack was actually recorded on the one I have! They gave it to me when the theatre closed.”
I use them in tandem. First I record on my four-track recorder and fill those up ... 1, 2,3,4. So it will be like guitar, vocals, drums, drums. Then my four-track is all full. I can now take those four tracks and recorded them on the two-track tape recorder, and then send it back to the four-track which means I've opened up those tracks again and can keep going back and forth and just keep opening up new tracks and recording more and more.
Where did the inspiration for this new album come from and what is it about?
I've been doing some excavating into the mental health on my Father's side of the family and I see parallels between myself, my Dad, my grandfather, possibly my great grandfather, and beyond. I realize I reap the benefits of the time and place I'm in now and also the work my Dad did to pull us out of the negativity that exists there.
So lyrically it's about that investigation of my family history and my place in my family and my place in the world with the people around me.
Musically, I'm really inspired by other bands that use the same technology that I am using now but twenty years ago when it was the most high-end way of recording. Like a four-track record player back in the '80s allowed bands to record themselves so they didn't have to pay for studio time. That's when grunge started to happen and rock and punk really started to take off because you didn't have to convince someone to buy studio time or buy studio time yourself.
What's the name of the album and what's your hope with releasing it?
This album is called See Through House. It comes from two directions. Sound being a safe place that you can carry on your phone. But also, my self as a house and each person as a house, a see-through house. A house where you can see what's happening inside. I like to try and express what is happening inside my house and understand and decipher what's happening in other people's houses as a way to connect.
My hope for this album is that it would make people laugh sometimes and also make them feel warm, especially because it's winter, and that was just my experience that was so impactful with music. I also hope that this is the gas in my car for performing and putting myself out there through my music.
“I just want to tour and make music and keep making art.”
I hope when this is done, I believe in it so much that I start booking shows and performing and stepping out of my comfort zone at the studio and really expand myself. But my number one goal right now is just to tour and play music.
Anything special about how you're releasing this album and getting it into people's hands? Where can they find you?
I am going to do a traditional release of this album on Bandcamp and Spotify, but in the meantime, I'll just be airdropping this album to people I run into, so it's like a face-to-face handoff with friends and strangers. So by the time the album comes out, it's actually already spread like micelle or mushrooms.
For someone that I didn't run into or when they do finally discover the album, it'll be all around them already. It'll be like they woke up to this snowfall that's been happening without them knowing.
When considering what it means to leave behind a legacy, what would you say you want your creative legacy to be?
I think Cy Twombly said it like this, but I think it’s “I just so loved making them.”
Thanks for reading this week’s Conversation with Creators photo story. To keep up with Zac and his work, check out his website.