Madison's fall concert season has started to hit its peak, with one of the calendar's most exciting, influential acts â Dustin Wong â visiting this week. He is shaping the future of indie rock with mesmerizing guitar loops. Here's an interview with him.
Dustin Wong's music is a polyrhythmic swirl of melodies and guitar timbres. A Chinese-American who was born in Hawaii and raised in Japan, Wong may still be best known as the guitarist for the melodic art-rock band Ponytail.
With his third solo LP, aptly titled Meditation of Ecstatic Energy, Wong continues to prove how captivating his looped patterns can be. In advance of his show at Good Style Shop on Sept. 21, Isthmus asked Wong about his current process, his incorporation of vocals, and his move back to Japan.
Between your last two LPs, you changed your recording style from laying down individual tracks to performing most of it live with loops. Was the process similar for Meditation of Ecstatic Energy?
I tried to combine the two techniques for this one. For example, ideas that are difficult to play manually I will put on one track, being played through the loop pedal. Then everything else will be separated into different tracks. The bass elements I tried to have on a separate track so they would be easier to enhance, but there were times where it had to be on the loop pedal because of the polyrhythmic overlaps, like 4/4 over 7/8 being overlapped in two rounds.
On those occasions, I will duplicate that track three times and designate each one for high, mid and low frequencies. And by treating each of these tracks in their own way through subtle reverb, compression and EQ, the sounds come through really nicely.
Prior to Meditation, you released a collaborative album with singer-composer Takako Minekawa. You have a few vocal elements on Meditation, too. Are vocals an element that you missed following the end of Ponytail?
Yes! Takako is singing on the last track [of Meditation]. She has such a beautiful voice. Vocals are definitely something I want to integrate more. I'm not really biased about vocals; if it calls for it, that's when I start singing. Sometimes a song will ask for it, and sometimes it won't.
How has moving back to Japan affected you musically?
It's something I'm still trying to figure out. I get more time alone, and in many ways I'm trying to get back to myself. I'm a hermit by nature, so it's giving me the time and space to really rethink what is important to me. Working with Takako and being close to her has been very helpful.