Rich Aucoin: Music Man of the Future

Written by Noah Wunsch on . Posted in Arts & Film, Music.


Rich Aucoin is not your average musician. He’s not really your average human, for that matter, since it seems he isn’t very average in any way at all. He pumped out a self-produced acoustic EP, Personal Publication, on which he played all the instruments. The EP caught the attention of music lovers in his homeland Canada. He toured the country… on a bike. You know… a bike. Two wheels. One frame. Spin, spin. You get the picture.

The bike tour helped him realize the benefits of electro instruments, namely that there aren’t so many to carry, and that using samples opens a world of sound unattainable in analog. So then he went back to the studio to record his follow up album, Public Publication, in collaboration with 500 other artists. The work they did was on such a massive scale, Aucoin decided to release another album, We’re All Dying to Live, to ensure that none of the tracks went to waste. Now he’s back on tour, playing Pianos on Jan. 17 and Glasslands on Jan. 18. All we want to know is:

Are you going to be doing this tour on a bike?
Rich Aucoin: 
This one’s through the use of wonderful planes. I’m going all the way to Australia. A bit difficult to get there by bike [laughs].

What inspired you to do your first tour by bike?
I wanted to do something that I could inspire people with. I’ve always done a lot of charity stuff with my show. I like picking grueling challenges; it inspires people to support your cause. My bike tour was created in the pursuit of raising money for The Childhood Cancer Foundation. I raised around two grand, getting between one and five dollar donations. That was my first tour; I was just playing small shows and small towns. Wherever I could. The secondary perk was to see the country on bike. It’s still in the works for me to do a U.S. bike tour. I think for the next South by Southwest, it’ll be a better time to do.

Can you tell me what got you going on your 500 artist collab project?
I always want to make my next record completely different from the one I did before. My first EP [Personal Publication] I did alone, and then the second was this sprawling crazy number. Because I recorded it with so many people I had to release an EP and a full-length.

How does electronic music work versus acoustic music?
I recorded my first EP with all analog and acoustic instruments, and then decided I would tour it on a bike. I couldn’t carry all the stuff. I carried a keyboard and a trumpet. It meant playing along with samples. It’s a great tool we have now, to share things that couldn’t be fed up in time and displayed for most shows. I’m always working with church organ samples and stuff, and that would be impossible without the use of samples. I love recording with traditional instruments as well. When I do a live show I try making it a lot more electronic since there are some things you can get away with sample-based, and other times it sounds odd hearing an acoustic guitar sample. A big sprawling sound is more appealing. Samples end up replacing instruments.

I’ve noticed you wear an all-white outfit for a lot of your shows. Is that a uniform?
One of my favorite bands [Air] only wears white. Their reasoning was quite good: If you have lots of lights on the stage, you light up the most if you’re in white. Since I was always performing with projections and in a lot of cases the projections were projected on my body, I could stand in front of the screen and have the visuals on my body.

Now it’s a lot harder to have the white clothes, because carrying around sweaty cotton every night and trying to get them washed is a bit of a hassle. Now I play in more of a Spring attire. I usually wear bathing suits, or a tank top, or a basketball jersey.

How many shows have you played?
I play between one and five times a week. I’ve probably played 200 shows a year. I used to keep better track of it when I was uploading shows to MySpace. Last I checked it was two years ago and I was at 400, so it’s probably about 800 now. I’ve gotten to play every type of show, house parties to hockey arenas to outdoor music festivals. More intimate festivals.

What have you learned along the way?
You make a plan and nothing ever goes according to it, so you adapt. I’ve definitely learned a lot about performing. It affects how I write and perform music now. When I started on the bike tour it was about performing with films, and now it’s more of a communal sing-a-long dance party.

How does art influence your performance?
I use it as a creative aid to have a limitation on the song I’m making. I write all the songs, like how a film composer would write. I have a keyboard facing a TV which I use as a secondary display. I play the movie that I’m going to compose music to. I find the beats in the film and adjust. I write the songs based on the feel of the visuals.

What can our readers expect to see when you play NYC?
A lot of old films in the public domain, hooked up to sing-a-long indie pop music. A lot of crowd participatory things during the show. The goal is to have the audience as much of the show as the band.

How do you hope to accomplish that?
I do most of the show in the crowd, unless I’m playing a big festival, when it makes everyone crazy. At a place like Glasslands and Piano’s, I’ll spend a lot of time on the floor. Then there’s the karaoke style of words on the screen to sing along to. I’m working with Final Cut to get the bouncy ball working.

Plans for music in the future?
The next album is all high tempo short songs. The 500 people one ended up being such a long record, I want to make a really fast, short record again. It’s going to be called Ephemeral and it’ll sync up to the Claymation of The Little Prince. It’s not going to be coming out until this time next year, so it’s a ways away.

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