I can still remember the first day I met Christian almost 4 years ago. While skating around downtown with Dre, we stopped stop in the WESC store. I don’t think I had ever gone into that store until then. Still new to the city, the Lafayette stores were intimidating. But after the introduction from Dre, the intimidation level had decreased. Stopping into the store had turned into a more frequent thing, and after a little while Christian hooked me up with a copy of his last album Colores Y Memorias. I was hyped on the album, and for a little while bugged Christian about doing an interview or a little write up for the blog. Some time had passed from when I first asked him, and some long months spent in the studio Christian told me about his most recent project, Walrus Ghost. With the release of the new album coming soon I wanted to finally make the little interview happen. So enjoy the conversation with Christian Banks.
So, Whats your Name, Age and Where you From?
Christian Banks, 27, Los Angeles
How long ago did you move out to the east coast
About 5 years ago I moved out to new york by way of a friend who offered me a rad living opportunity
Nice, Couch surf it for a while?
No actually things went kind of smoothly. I had an apartment lined up with a great girl I knew from highschool, i had sold my car and worked two jobs at a skateshop and in catering, so I had a money buffer to prepare for being on the jobhunt. Couchsurfing seems pretty harsh. I don’t know how someone can do it beyond a month or so. It seems so hectic. I did it for a week once at a friends, and the lifestyle was just too insane for me
Yeah for sure. I’ve been lucky enough to only have to do it for a week or so at a time as well
So you moved to the city and had a spot already, what was next?
I had graduated from college with a degree in fine art, I had spent most of my time painting, illustrating, and printmaking; but I didn’t really feel like that was what I wanted to be doing. Music had been on the back-burner for a long time, but just as a hobby. Around the time I was finishing up in school I knew I just wanted to make some songs and doing those songs turned into the Las Flores Project record. Some of those songs were ideas from college, while others were all made once I moved to new york
So my music-making kind of went hand in hand with my move to New York. Since I’ve been here it’s pretty much all I’ve been dedicated to, and everything else fallen secondary in some way or another, which has it’s positives and negatives.
For sure, how did you come up with the name the Las Flores Project ?
When I was little my parents bought a piece of land in the rural part of the Santa Monica mountains and built a house there, the canyon you drove up to get there was called Las Flores Canyon. Since it was the root of my musical beginnings I figured it worked.
Thats sick, you ever go out there anymore?
Yeah. Unfortunately because of financial strains family problems we lost the house so someone else lives there now; but a good family friend Wayne Fawcett runs an animal sanctuary up there. Every time I go back to LA I make a point of going up there, it’s pretty nostalgic and the sanctuary is awesome. There’s also crazy skate spots up there, some have been in videos.
Mostly because the area has a history of consistent wildfires up there, alot of people lost their homes and never re-built. So there’s alot of smooth concrete foundations and weird architecture, emptied pools and all that.
Thats kind of shitty about the fires, but the pool and foundation spots so sick.
It was pretty awesome to explore as a kid. The first bad fire of my generation was when I was around 10 years old. So by the time I was 13 or 14 and I was really skating hard, it was rad to go searching for all these weird spots.
Is it still a trip to go home and see how things may or may not have changed, I know for me going home is always exciting and also just a good time to relax
Yeah. I mean LA is just weird. I don’t have a car anymore, and there’s so much traffic. I don’t know what people do. You try to go anywhere during normal functioning hours and you’re in traffic. La definitely changed alot from when I was a kid, but also what I do and how I spend my time is much different now. Because of where I lived, and both my parents worked a lot, I spent a lot of time as a kid by myself running around the Santa Monica mountains playing pretend with the dogs we had and trying to like unsuccessfully hunt animals and all kinds of weird shit.
When I was teenager all I did was skate, play soccer, DJ house parties, mess around with music and just cause trouble and act up.
Haha sounds like the typical life of any teenager
Yeah, I’d say my youth was pretty typical. But like, in a good way
So what year did you start Las Flores?
Las Flores Project came about I guess in 2006, around the time I was done with school. Maybe 2005 I had the idea.
Now I used Las Flores Project for all my more commercial or collaborative type projects. It works as the umbrella over all the other things I have going on
Walrus Ghost is where I’ve been putting all my energy over the past year, which is my new band/alias that I hope to be a more creative and experimental endeavor.
Was Walrus Ghost something you had in the back of your head for a little, or was it something that just kind of came together randomly.
The long answer is basically, after I finished the Colores y Memorias album for Las Flores Project, I hit a hard creative meltdown. I just didn’t really know where to go. I didn’t know how I wanted to sound. So I spent something like 2 years super frustrated and just really bummed trying to figure out what I was doing. I was really upset that I had really put everything else on the line for this creative endeavor and I just hit a brickwall.
I knew I still wanted to be making music, but I knew I didnt want to do another Las Flores Project-esqe type thing. I wanted a new sound that was just kind of more experimental and genre-bending, because for me, Las Flores Project is very straight-forward sample-based music, very similar to DJ Shadow and RJD2. And that’s what I got from alot of people, “wow this is great, you sound like DJ Shadow.” It’s a huge complement, because I love Dj Shadow, he’s one of the reason why I make music. But to make a record in 2008 that sounds like 1998 just… I dont know. I just felt dated. It’s not bad, but it just felt safe and dated.
Yeah, thats understandable.
And in my mind RJD2 is the last guy of that genre of music, of like doing straightforward sampling to make songs, he’s really the only important dude in my mind. He’s the last guy that did it right and killed it and should be doing because he is the best at it. His first two records took it as far as straightforward “record digging” and using that craft to create beats can go. Which is why I’m pretty sure on his following albums from there on out he started straight writing songs and singing and all that. So I hit a point where I knew it was time to figure out something else, which brought me to experimenting with more live playing and recording. Still sampling, but just making it weird and really messing with it and tweaking both my own and other people’s sounds instead of just straight stealing a hook or loop from something.
I also was listening to alot of post-rock music. I love Tortoise, Broken Social Scene, Yo La Tengo, Do Make Say think. The rock element definitely brought a change of tone to what I wanted to be doing and basically Walrus Ghost developed out of all of these things. At the time it wasn’t walrus Ghost, the name came later. The name came from this old banned betty boop cartoon I saw in college called Minnie the moocher.
Go to about 4min mark to start seeing the Walrus Ghost.
Damn, so for this album we can expect something a lot differnt then ?
Yeah, I mean I think there are some elements that are still similar. I think alot of the music has a similar vibe, kind of contemplative and at times melancholy
i like cerebral heady stuff, which is why I think I like instrumental music so much, I think it allows the listener to get into their own mindset a little bit and be creative
That Minnie the Moocher song is so amazing. I remeber hearing it for the first time in the Blues Brothers movie.
Yeah, Cab Calloway!
Dude!! This walrus ghost scene is insane, damnnnn. That scene when he looks down the well is so crazy
Everyone who reads this better watch this shit start to finish, the dancing walrus is to good. Haha, Alright, sorry back to the story.
Haha, don’t be sorry, thats what its about. its funny because I think the obscure name undoubtedly brings up the question of where did walrus ghost come from.
I was recording with my friend Danny the other night, doing some guitar tracks and afterwards he was like, “dude, where did you come up with this?” and he had the same reaction as you once we watched the cartoon. He loved it
Its too good. So once you were inspired and figured out your sound… what was next?
Really just a matter of starting to mess with instruments, record dig super hard, find obscure stuff to sample. Once I started to get a couple of workable songs, I just started to go for it, and then I started acquiring all kinds of instruments, I bought a rhodes, a guitar and bass, various keyboards, a vibraphone; and I started recording with some live guys, it just all started to flow.
Now, just trying to finish up what will hopefully be one full length. But cohesiveness is really important to me. If I’m doing a full length, I want the album to have a vibe, not just one song and then another and another,
which is kinda where I’m at, finishing songs and figure out if they fit or not
whatever doesn’t fit will get put on like another ep or a b-sides. I have about 3 songs left to fine tune and really focus on, then I’ll be ready to try hopefully work with a rad label to put it out.
As far as doing live performances what kind of prep goes into it? as far as getting the music lined up, or is a lot of it just doing it on the go ?
I use ableton live to record and process all of my music; so when I prep for a live show I just decide on a set list, then take live sets of the ableton live files for those songs and rearrange elements, take some stuff out, assign other tracks to midi keyboard so I can manipulate them in different ways, and then I work in actual live playing sampling parts for songs. I practice in my room just getting stuff ready and planning stuff out, but some stuff I just experiment with onstage and see what happens.
Going back to before Walrus Ghost started up, in that two year break of frustration, did you ever think you’d go in the direction that you have now?
Haha, no. I don’t think I did, because if I did I don’t think I would’ve been as fed up. I really didn’t know where to go at that time, I’d try to sit down and work on something, I would write a song and hate it. I’m glad I’m past it. I had no idea, musically, what I was doing or where I was going to go; and that began to very negatively affect my life. Luckily I had other things in my life that were bringing me happiness, I had the best girlfriend ever and rad friends, and my family is supportive of my music endeavor so they definitely kept me inspired and focused to keep on trying to figure it out.
Nice. When I was over at your crib a little while ago getting a little peak at what you’ve been working on, it looked like a science experiment in there with all instruments sprawled out, I can imagine that things get a little crazy in there.
Haha yeah, it does. And my day job work schedule works out so I have four days “off”, which are essentially just all spent being in my room working on music. I try to run a pretty straightforward work schedule to give myself some structure. Sometimes I’m just in there the whole day and I realize I have been outside or seen another person for like 2 days, so I get weirded out and go walk around, or go running and ride my bike often. Just anything to get off of a laptop. I log way too much time on that thing. But yeah, that room gets cramped and crazy real wuick, lots of wires and chords everywhere. I have to do alot of rearranging just to get to my closet.
Hahaha.. Ok, let’s try and end on one last question to wrap it all up.
Yeah go for it.
As far your music goes, There seems to be this jump between your last two projects, as far as style and sound. Does the idea that 20 years from now, your music is going to be something completely different get you excited for what’s to come?
I mean I don’t think that my music progression will exponentially change every time in the way that las flores project to walrus ghost has but I’m sure as I move through every process my perspective and thoughts will change, which I think is natural in all things. I hope to make new music that is actually creative and new. Hopefully bring forward new ideas, new sound. There’s too much retro-ized music out these days. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, and I’m not trying to hate on other bands or call anyone out, but a lot of bands out these days seem to latch on to some kind of fake nostalgia, like go back to a time they never personally experienced but completely romanticize. If I get into specifics I’ll sound really bitter, so I won’t go there. Personally what really excites me about music, why I do what I do, is the potential to create something that will mark a point the context of musical history. Not that Walrus Ghost is anything epic or earth-shattering; but my goal in all of this is really to make something that will inspire and motivate others to do what they do best. Back in 1998 I was blown away by DJ Shadow’s Entroducing album. 90′s eastcoast hiphop blew my mind. I wanted to know how they did it and it made me want to make music and do my own thing. When I first heard Tortoise’s “TNT” I had a personal “Holy shit this is rad” moment. I hope to instill that same emotion in other people who are experiencing Walrus Ghost for the first time, I want it to affect them in the most positive way. For me there’s nothing quite like that, hearing a record that just changes your entire perspective and inspires you to do what you do creative or non-creative.
Anything you wanna say as far as promotions, or thanks?
Only that if people want to check out my stuff they can go to facebook.com/walrusghost or soundcloud.com/walrus-ghost
And a shout to my family, Andrea, and the talented guys I work with who have been helping me with Walrus Ghost: Justin Hopkins, Mark Nieto, Evan Honse, Chuck Palmer, TJ Robinson, Andrew Janss, David Engelhard, Ace Comparato, Damon Dorsey and Josh Ascalon at Rad Studios, Brooklyn. Thank you to anyone who has supported Las Flores Project and Walrus Ghost, helped me move music equipment, come to Walrus Ghost shows, all that good stuff.
You can listen to a couple selection from the Walrus Ghost album below. Enjoy!