O.N.G. interviews Head Dress, the moniker of Ted James Butler. Hailing from Providence and a long term residency in Los Angeles, Head Dress moved to Saint Louis where he continues his high rate of productive notable projects. From his longstanding Norelco Mori podcast to ambient and techno releases on labels such as Audio Visual Atmosphere (BE), Black Horizons (USA), Cønjuntø Vacíø (ES), Phinery (DK) and Granulart Records (ES), Head Dress has garnered support from techno heavyweights such as Oscar Mulero, Regis and Substance. Ted James Butler leads with constant quality output. It’s a nice day outside to play Head Dress’s Crest 32 and think about your own creative process while cresting.
Now play Head Dress’s music and read…
What kind of art do you do and how does it fall under ‘creative technology’?
I make experimental music and sound art with samplers, synthesizers, and computers. I appreciate the flexibility of working with both hardware and software and am constantly chasing the best workflows to realize my ideas within my machines, their pairings, and their surrounding environment.
Who and what are your musical influences?
That’s a hard one. I really enjoy records made throughout the ’80s. So much interesting stuff happened in recording equipment and effects from the late ’70s to the early ’90s.
I am still listening to the same handful of artists I was into as a teenager. Some of them (Autechre, Hum) are still putting out records. Hum just put out their first record in 22 years, and it is incredibly pleasing. I’m still mesmerized by early Helmet records. I could probably listen to Meantime for another 30 years without getting sick of it.
What is the style of your music?
I make techno. I make ambient music. I have a couple different experimental and rock projects I’m working on. They all share similarities in mood. I try to avoid any positive or hopeful themes. I’ve definitely made several records specifically for being found dead to, see Lethargy.
I enjoy repetition and minimal amounts of change. I chase music that is powerful enough to lure you in but vague enough to shift from one context to another without feeling out of place.
Describe your creation process with your digital music.
I think my music is only digital because I like to record with computers. I use a lot of analog gear and also play guitars, so to me, I don’t really do anything specifically digital for digital’s sake. For some, the appeal of working in the box is that you can emulate a lot of real hardware for less money than it would take to own. For me, I like that it can make repetitive or complicated tasks easy and fast. This way, I have more time to focus on listening to the same note play for half an hour.
What tools and technologies do you use to create your music?
I use a lot of hardware synthesizers, samplers, sequencers, and drum machines. A few recent acquisitions of note would be: Waldorf Quantum, Tasty Chips GR-1, and a KORG Wavestate. I am also really enjoying Bitwig Studio and just built a dedicated machine to see how far I can push my workflow. Bitwig Studio is a proper DAW where everything can be automated and modulated at a really granular level. It’s really flexible and can do a lot for you if you’re organized. I’m working on how to be better at that.
Describe your transition from the coast to St. Louis. What motivated you to come here?
I heard there was this really thin pizza with some sort of American cheese all over it and I just had to come out here to taste it for myself.
I almost never think about fresh seafood anymore.
How has the Midwest influenced your music if at all?
I’ve been pretty busy with work since moving here and have since put the brakes on my podcast (Norelco Mori), which I ran for 5 years. I’ve played here way less than I used to in LA or Providence, but I’ve found that the audiences I have performed for have been super gracious and attentive. I really enjoy playing out here. If doing so ever becomes a thing we can do again, I’ll be happy to share what I’ve been working on.
How have you been influenced by Fabricatorz and what projects have you worked on with us?
I had the pleasure of sharing a bill with Alexis Langevin-Tetrault and Pamela Z for Tyler Mathew’s Kinesis 2018, just as I had moved to Saint Louis. I was enamored by the installations and experiences provided by Evan T & Stacy Smith and Ian Patrick Cunningham. That was a really great event for me as it validated my hunch that there was some real cool shit happening in Saint Louis.