The Transmutation of Jeremiah Allen Welch [Artist Interview]

    If you are a connoisseur of visionary art, chances are that you’ve undoubtedly come across The Welch Brothers before. The sibling duo have developed a style that has since been often recreated yet entirely unrivaled and have only just begun to make waves within the visionary community. They have painted along side Alex Grey at Gem and Jam Festival, developed a brand around their unique vision, and are currently breaking free from the limitations of the paint brush. Jeremiah Allen Welch has recently begun a bass music project called SMKSGNLS which, having collaborated on a track with G Jones, has garnered them over 75,000 plays already on that track alone. I met Jeremiah at Gem and Jam and afterward he was kind enough to reach out to me to collaborate on an interview together. After having sat down with him on his current and upcoming projects, it is in no joking manner that I say that the sky is hardly the limit for this budding artist who stands at the forefront of this unfolding renaissance of the new age.

Compose Yourself Mag: You seem as though you’ve always got something big in the works. So, to start with, what are some of the projects you have in production right now and what are some things you’ve accomplished recently?

Jeremiah Welch: One of the main projects I’ve got going right now is having just completed an artist in residence at Planet Labs, a humanitarian company that does earth imaging whose goal is to put enough satellites into space to be able to create a new image of Earth every day and make it accessible from the web. So you can watch the Earth change on a day to day basis instead of like now where most imaging is months old. So I would go and paint inside the office while everyone would be working on the satellites and I would take actual data that they used, like graphs of the changes in the amount of solar radiation that the satellites would absorb through the solar panels and turn them into symbols, trying to infuse what they’re doing with what I’m doing and do things like take a line of code and bring it into the conversation of art. The art that I’ve been working on will be etched by laser onto the satellites. One of my ultimate goals is to be able to be a part of creating the first night club in space, so doing this artist in residence has given me a foot in the door to hopefully pursue that.

The big thing I’ve been working on more than anything over the past few months is my music project SMKSGNLS. We just did a collaboration with G Jones that got over 50,000 plays in a month and all these doors have been opening up from there. I’ve got a show coming up in Tahoe with Bleep Bloop and NastyNasty and we’re hopefully looking to be doing a lot more touring with that.

    I also just bought a red camera which is a Hollywood style of camera they use to shoot films and I’m using it to try and get into the entertainment industry from the standpoint of film. I have a film maker friend and motion graphics friend who I’m trying to combine forces with to start something together. Building the Welch Brothers as a brand I consider to be a huge accomplishment, because I had been doing art in San Francisco for a long time and then I had my brother move in with me and together we created this thing that kind of took off really big. Massiflux is my art collective I’m trying to branch off in a way to umbrella other artists and through which I hope to establish a clothing line and basically be able to do whatever production, build stages, installations for festivals, graphics – pretty much anything under this Massiflux brand I’ve been creating.

    I designed and built the main stage for the electronic music festival Farm on Fire in Ohio last year. It was pretty much the biggest project I’ve ever worked on budget and scale wise. I also built an installation for Snowglobe festival in Lake Tahoe.

 CYM: You said that SMKSGNLS has been your primary project as of late. Being an artist what inspired you to get into music production?

JW: That roots all the way back to being when I was 15. I played instruments in Elementary School and also did honor choir. I used to go into Yahoo! chat rooms that were freestyle battles and this producer told me I should start making beats. He sent me Cakewalk and that was basically how I started. When I moved back to California in 2002, I started making hip hop beats with a friend of mine who had Reason, and it wasn’t too long after that when I got a computer of my own with Reason and got super into making electronic music beats. We’d do tag team sets because we loved playing off of Reason instead of DJ tracks where we would play live loops. I’d host parties and at that time in my hometown, no one even liked electronic music. We helped create that culture in the central valley of California. In the music industry doing art is just like a side thing. You can go and set up your art but it’s not why people go to these events. Being someone who understands that, and knowing the reason why people travel to attend these events.

CYM: What gear do you like to produce your tracks with?

JW: Right now we’re mostly using Ableton with a bunch of plug-ins, and my partner just recently bought a Moog. We mostly use Nexus and Omnisphere, but it’s all going toward using a real synth.

CYM: Do you have specific ideas you’re wanting to convey through your music or are you just going for more of a nasty dance floor vibe?

JW: It’s definitely more dance floor oriented right now. We’re going for heavy bass music, peak hour, really heavy and clean production and seeking quality over quantity. The whole goal is to be able to get to a point where we can do anything we want, but we want to do this to secure a certain little niche place. Once we get to a certain level and it takes off to the point where we can be more secure then I think we’ll get more experimental and be able to put out an album that’s not all just dance floor bangers.

CYM: In your work, I notice a lot of the time that you and your brother transcend a basic subject object format; it has this feel of a sort of ethereal landscape.

JW: Yeah, that’s one of the styles for sure. Dreamscapes I like to call them.

CYM: Exactly! Are you trying to recreate those sorts of designs through your music?

JW: A little bit. Not as much anymore. My last project went more in that direction. One of the names we threw around was ‘Architextures’ and was gonna be filled with soundtracks, very weird, with lots of textures, but then it got more dance floor oriented. The similarities mostly just lie in the fine tuning of things, but if I was to make a piece of music to match a painting it would be a lot longer and a lot weirder, a lot more like a soundtrack. I also think there’s a similarity in my paintings and music in that they are influenced by just really high energy. I’m really into vibrant things, high energy sounds, and visuals with really precise parameters.

CYM: The style seems to have caught on, in fact I’ve told a few of the artists I know that a lot of the time I can see your influence in their work. Have you noticed this at all?

JW: Oh yeah, I mean for me I have inspirations that a lot of people who didn’t study the same art, or they didn’t grow up in the same time, or the same place, don’t know where I got it from. That’s why I think me and my brother blend so well together, because we basically grew up together, we have almost all the same influences until I moved to San Francisco. Then we started gathering different things, but there was a huge chunk of time, for like twenty years, when we lived together where we were being exposed to like the same kinds of stuff. But yeah, I kinda feel that with me and my brother. We kind of developed this style together and now I see other people doing it and I can see that they were inspired more by us more than like Alex Grey or somebody else. It’s a certain style of west coast graffiti, psychedelic, spirit animal, dreamscape stuff.

Photo by Goff Experiment. Courtesy of the Welch Brothers Facebook.

CYM: Being an artist and producing music are you looking to synthesize the two mediums some way into a fully immersive experience in the future?

JW: Oh totally. The whole point of SMKSGNLS is to ultimately be an audio-visual experience.

CYM: That’s a good call. Honestly that’s kind of where I see music and art largely going. In the future I don’t really see much more in the way of people being able to just do art or to just do music, there will of course be niche artists, but I think that future artists are going to have to apply both in some way to make themselves be seen. I see right now being the transitional period of that.

JW: Yeah, I did a thing with my friends band back in my hometown where I did a visual show for their whole set. I picked out clips or made clips for every single song and timed it out perfectly where I could VJ these clips during their sets. All the big DJs now, even the Grateful Dead, have people like my friend Johnathon Singer and Android Jones helping do visual stuff. It’s definitely always been important, but now it’s like even more and more important, because now people feel like ‘Okay, I’ve seen people play music a million times’ and if there isn’t some kind of visual aspect then it’s felt to be lacking.

CYM: Is there some way in particular you’re looking to create your immersive experience?

JW: I’m all about having more and more of a sensory experience where eventually I would like to involve smell and touch. Eventually I’d like to build a custom stage to tour with, with custom visuals, and I’d also like to do a virtual reality experience. I’d really like to do a 360 VR thing as soon as possible. Right now my room mate works for a company called SubPac, and they have this tactile bass transducer kind of thing that you wear on your back, it vibrates and it feels like you’re standing in front of a huge subwoofer but has little actual sound output.

CYM: That’s great – I can definitely see a lot branching from those ideas! Just to finish up, what are you looking to do in the future and where do you see your art going from here?

JW: Getting the camera was a huge deal – that’s a venture I’ve always wanted to get into so I’m really excited to see where that goes. I’ve always wanted to make music videos, so we’ve begun doing that and I think getting into different commercial work with videos will be fun. Then just passion projects, filming stuff in general and being able to create custom content. I have a problem trying to pinpoint what it is I’m doing. I’m trying to have my hands in everything and it’s like you could be a jack of all trades and master of none, but at the same time if I just try to focus on one thing I get kinda bored. Maybe I wont do everything, but I feel like as an artist I could do whatever I want and it would fall under my art. I recently did a collaborative jewelry pendant with Graham Bandt Law, this amazing jeweler.  I used to work at a jewelry store back in the day carving waxes so I kind of have my hands in that world too. Even if it’s something I’m not doing every day or every year even, it’s still something that’s in my head to do.

I have these ideas and I want to get them all out there as much as possible. I’m learning more and more that rather than having to create every little part of everything what I would really like to do is be the guy that comes up with the idea, and then have teams of people that I can hire to do stuff. That’s what the really big artists did, like Andy Warhol and all these guys who create giant installations at The Met have a whole team. Even Michelango and Donatello, they didn’t do every single part of the work that was under their name, they had whole teams of people building marble statues under them, but they were the ones envisioning it, it was in their style. I’m trying to get to the point, having learned from watching business shows, that if you’re just an artist and you don’t set it up right then after you die that’s it. I’m really inspired by Walt Disney, because he created this thing that’s going to keep going. It was his vision, but it isn’t dependent on him creating every part of it to keep going; it’s a style. That’s the direction I’m trying to go.

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