Black Walls: The Wavelength Interview

Purveyors of: Post-rock that doesn’t rock, swapping riffage for mood-enhancing drones and general thought-provoking nothingness (and awesomeness)
File next to: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, Acid Mothers Temple, the most bleak moments of the Spiritualized discography
Playing: WL 607, Thursday July 24 at the Monarch Tavern (12 Clinton Street)

Black Walls is Ken Reaume and Ken Reaume is Black Walls. Moreso a sound project than a band in the traditional sense, Black Walls makes the most of its one-person line-up, releasing dark, dour musical soundscapes that meander, twist and confound. This isn’t gothic music per se, but make no mistake: there is a ton of terror in the subtext of Black Walls’ music, often buried deep within the density and extended track times. Solid tunes for contemplation and soundtracking those darker moments we all have. Not an easy angle to pull off, but Reaume manages to do it with relative ease. Cam Gordon had some words with Ken to learn more about his inputs and how they affect his output.

No doubt, the music you create as Black Walls is pretty out there. Just curious, what kind of bands did you listen to growing up? What were the seeds of you getting into drone/experimental type music?

My first loves were The Doors, AC/DC and Metallica, and then I started listening to Slowdive and Nick Drake in my late teens. I never really listened to “experimental” music to be honest. Around 1998, I was buying a lot of records on Kranky and Temporary Residence, so maybe that had something to do with it. I discovered Steve Roach and Tangerine Dream much later.

How about movies? Your music is really cinematic. Are you a fan of films yourself, and film composers? If so, which ones?

Yes, I really like those “The ‘American Dream’ was a sham”-type 1970s films like Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and maybe Taxi Driver or The Deer Hunter.  I like good horror films as well. I try not to pay too much attention to the music in films, but rather the context of the entire thing being presented to
me. The music of Clint Mansell, however, is very good.

Black Walls is essentially you solo. As somebody who’s played with a lot of artists, where/when did the idea for this “band” come from?

I’ve never really performed in a “band” throughout my career in making music. I have always liked the idea of being autonomous and not depending on anyone. The idea for Black Walls came out of some personal struggles (hence the name) and I wanted the sound to reflect that.

For the uninitiated, describe the Black Walls stage show.

I keep a pretty low profile. I’m seated with a bright floodlight. I have a guitar, amp and pedals with an old Boss SP-303 and run samples that I play over. I’m learning Ableton right now, so someday I’d like to have more control and less gear to haul and set up. I’m interested in creating an atmosphere for the audience, something they’re not accustomed to. I can’t play “Funeral/Wake” live… yet.

When you’re not performing or composing, what music has your ear these days?

I’m actually listening to more podcasts as of late. I like the WTF podcast and This American Life and there’s this black metal podcast I enjoy. I downloaded the new Wolves In The Throne Room album, which is very good. I use my phone to listen to music. I’ll probably be deleting Instagram and Facebook this year, as I want to slowly wean myself from social media. Similarly, I have a meditation and healthy living app that I listen to a lot.

How was your recent East Coast show with Low at Obey come about? What were the Maritime music fans like? Check out/discover any other bands at the convention?

I applied to Obey a couple years ago, but didn’t get in and thought, why not try again.  I had just released Communion and (Obey creative director) Darcy Spindle thought Black Walls would be a good fit this year opening for Low. I saw Tim Hecker, Toronto Homicide Squad, Julianna Barwick and TV Freaks. Maritime fans and people out there, in general, seem to be friendlier and more easygoing than people from Toronto.

Did you get to hang out with Low? Did they party hard in a Mormon-type fashion?

Low were very nice, although I didn’t hang out with them. Alan [Sparhawk] said I should ditch the sampler and just sing, which I thought was interesting.

Black Walls play Thursday, July 24th at the Monarch Tavern (12 Clinton Street).

– Interview by Cam Gordon (Completely Ignored)