INTERVIEW: Connor Bell waxes philosophical about Shedding

Pictured Above:  Exclusive droid shots from Star Wars Episode VII.
For the last twelve years, Connor Bell has performed under the name Shedding.  With a few minor but significant exceptions, Bell mostly works alone, writing and recording in his tiny apartment sound lab, and making some of the most unique and interesting music to come out of Louisville during his tenure.  A mad scientist by nature, Bell’s sonic experiments range from straight forward rock, solo acoustic singer-song writer, digital sound manipulation, up to an album built on harmonium drones.  Most recently, Bell has blended these otherwise disparate interests for a live show that encompasses and builds upon his ever-expanding catalog.  You can check him out twice in March, once for free tomorrow, March 1st at the Kentucky Arts and Crafts Museum w/Thrill Jockey artist Mountains (show at 7pm),  and again next Sunday, March 10th w/Helado Negro at Zanzabar (doors at 9pm, $6 pre-pay or $8 at the door, 21+).  Given his predilection for the genre-switch up, you never know what you’ll get, but you may be surprised.
Never Nervous:  Tell me about Shedding.  How did it start, and what would you consider to be the projects’ m.o.?

Connor Bell:  Shedding started when I could see that my previous band was on the verge of collapse.  It was a painful process when you put so much into something.  I see now that there are oodles of other important things in life, but at the time it felt like my friend I played with had let me down and betrayed some sacred commitment to the muse.  So the impetus behind Shedding was to get rid of all the dead weight around me and rely on no one but myself.  That way I would have no excuses outside of myself.  It was also important for me to have Shedding always waiting for me at any time in my life and not impose any limits on what I do within that creative outlet.  Total freedom.

NN:  What’s the best song you’ve ever written and why?  This is tricky, because if you answer with
more than one you seem kind of arrogant, but if you answer just one you seem timid.  No pressure or anything.

CB:  Hm, I suppose a lot of songs I don’t really “write” per se – since I really enjoy chance and improvisation within the more electronic formats I pursue.  So my favorite SONG would be one of the more traditional singer-songwritery/band tunes: “Inked Bruise.”  I’m incredibly slow to write songs and lyrics and that one just sort of fell together nicely.  I like the lyrics, I enjoy performing it, and I enjoy that it breathes more than many of my songs.

NN:  What was the most interesting show you’ve ever played and why?

CB:  I really have no idea how to answer this question.  Often the “bad” shows are the most memorable though.  I really have fond memories of playing in Lexington when I was in Parlour.  We opened for a group of handicapped kids doing interpretive weather dances at a dance/yoga studio.  They came in mid-set and their teacher was wigging out thinking we would freak the kids out (they seemed to be enjoying themselves just fine).  He came up to me while I was playing and I had a conversation mid-song with him.  I have no idea the context of why that show was put together in the way it was.  It was just a really memorable experience.  How you think of interesting may be different from mine.  I’ve had a lot of interesting shows though – perhaps another was playing on (and sleeping on) a former German warship that was docked in the harbor of Rostock, Germany.  It had been converted into a commune/art-music space (BRYCC House on a boat?).

NN:  Are you working on any projects outside of Shedding or have you any plan to in the future?

CB:  I’ve just started playing music with an awesome and talented gal and the writing process has really only begun over the last couple weeks.  We’re also collaborating on video art – she’s doing live overhead projector visuals for my next show with our friend M. Dodds.  It’s been a really fruitful and inspiring partnership so far.

NN:  What do you feel you bring to the table when you play live (other than a bunch of equipment)?

CB:  Well, I’d like to think people would appreciate my adventurousness.  I try to make most shows different in some way.  I try different approaches, formats, instrumentation, interpretations of songs, etc. etc.   Hopefully people appreciate that it’s always a little different.

NN:  Speaking of live performance, I’ve noticed a difference between the way your material  sounds live and the way things sound on recording.  What’s the process like for recording?

CB:  Recording is a different beast.  I just try to craft a good song without limits in the lab.  Pulling it off live is totally different because I’m just one person and don’t want to lug everything around and couldn’t play it all even if I did.

NN:  Is playing solo an intentional aesthetic gesture or a logistical matter?

CB:  I suppose I answered this already, but it’s both logistics and very intentionally (for most of the duration of Shedding) a solo venture for aesthetic purposes – due to the circumstances surrounding its creation.

NN:  What, if any, value do you place on collaboration?

CB: Collaboration is the greatest part of music.  The spark you feel with others as you create something together is pretty special.  The issue is that it’s very difficult to find people on the same page.  If you do, it is often pretty fleeting too because people?s lives get in the way, priorities shift, and so on.  But I really enjoy collaboration a great deal.  More so since pursuing music alone too.  I always envisioned being in a band at all times while still pursuing Shedding in the slow times.  That hasn’t worked out always though.

NN:  What have you been listening to lately?  Anything you’d like to turn folks onto?

CB:  A few things that are worth sharing because they’re flying under the radar a bit:  
Mind Over Mirrors – amazing space out solo harmonium/synth jams.  When I discovered someone else was using the harmonium I was beyond excited.  I thought I was alone.

Golden Retriever – a duo of bass clarinet/fx and modular synth which also has me incredibly excited.  They lay down some beautiful textures and given my profound love for bass clarinets and their rarity – it’s been a real joy to listen to.

Mark Fell – this guy is just a constant mindfuck and I’m happy to see him really returning to the scene in a big way…mathematical crispy 21st century digital funk.  He also performs in SND, a personal favorite group
Smallville Records/Dial Records – my friend Nick Butcher was raving about these labels and I’ve tried to investigate their sound.  It’s pretty diverse sonically but it is broadly Hamburg house music…

A few things that I’d like to turn folks onto:

Astro Black Records – my friend Jim’s record shop has been amazing.  I’m so proud that we have such a high quality shop in town.  He’s doing it the right way.

Sophomore Lounge/Cropped Out/Other Side of Life/Blah blah – I dunno, lots of people are booking great shows in town.  This has been a really fertile time in the weirdo scene and it’s largely because of some amazing people who are putting in a lot of passion into building something meaningful.

Goji berries – seriously, these are tasty!