HUM Zine - Drone Therapy
Hum Zine is a Toronto based publication that materialized when artists Kristel Jax and Tasman Richardson took to the back alleys and other less trodden streets to discover sights and sounds which they then published as curated walks. This is an innovative Zine for the present where self care has an increased importance as many are inside and isolated.
Jax works with drone sounds regularly in her work and hosts a podcast called Drone Therapy, a comedy performance series about mental health and treatment access which began as a Youtube series in 2015. Tasman Richardson's primary practice consists of video collage using the JAWA method, a technique he pioneered in 1996, fully immersive media installations and live audiovisual performances. His themes are a critical response to recordings / "contemporary necromancy", social media as a panopticon, and the increasingly abstract human relationship to mediated time and space.
full interview below...
Tussle: How did this concept come to light for you both? And can you give us an idea of how you find these specific sound sites?
Tasman Richardson: We were both feeling so cooped up with the lockdowns and the only way to exercise was to go for long walks or bike rides. We walked all day sometimes, on weekends, and during our walks we both started to take note of sights and sounds off the beaten path. When you're trying to avoid people, you take alleys and side streets to stay off the main roads. While we were in those narrow alleys and unmarked laneways we kept coming across the hidden infrastructure of the city. Large ducts and motors, air conditioners and heating units. Many of them were so old and battered, covered in graffiti and weathered by many seasons. It was like being in another city, which was really nice when we couldn't travel at all. Kristel has a strong background in drone music, and I've got a background in experimental sound recording and video collage, so we have a tendency to listen for the things people normally filter out. When you think of noise canceling headphones, they're kind of like anti-awareness technology. We're more drawn to those sounds, ignored or overlooked, similar to the spaces they reside in.
Kristel Jax: I had made a single zine a few years earlier that was a how-to for creating a drone tour of your own neighborhood: you’d walk around noting mundane, monotonous sounds near where you live, make a map, and then take a friend along on your route. Tasman and I were inspired by the walks we’d been taking and frustrated by some art we’d seen during the pandemic, so we were hoping to create something engaging, simple, and lockdown friendly. Most of the sounds in Hum come from little hunches we have about places that could be investigated for continuous ambient noise. We scout around these areas and find a lot of sounds, then chose the most interesting ones (often where there’s more than one sound at once). There’s a lot more of these places, we call them resonant spots, out there than you might expect.
Tussle: Do you work with drone sound in your own work?
TR: For myself, not specifically. I do work with noise, scavenged from unconventional places like electrons on cathode ray screens, Atari 2600 game consoles with the power supply blacking out to generate unpredictable glitches. Mostly I'm scavenging for found footage with an interesting sound to it for my jawa collages.
KJ: I definitely do, I have a podcast called Drone Therapy where I talk over ambient background tracks I make, and my Brigitte Bardon’t project relies on a lot of drone and drone-inspired sound. I’ve spoken to a lot of my favorite “drone” artists about the genre and a common thread I found is nearly all of them would prefer not to call it “drone,” but I actually like to call it that sometimes for a few reasons, for one it’s a quick shorthand to describe an otherwise complicated practice, like, oh, I’m a drone artist, I work with sounds that are suspended in time. There are many things about the western concept and culture of “drone music” and “noise music” that I find really absurd and contradictory, including the modern use of the word “drone” in military terms, but that’s one of the reasons I like existing in and playing with that space.
Tussle: What does drone sound, sound like to you, and how does it affect you?
TR: I'd think of drone sound as repetitive turbulence with less distinct form or identifying qualities. It feels meditative and sometimes hypnotic.
KJ: I think the easiest entry to drone is that Justin Bieber track that’s been slowed down by 800%. You’re suddenly spending time with individual sounds over a more drawn-out span of time, and I find it can be emotionally overwhelming. Especially that Bieber track because its beauty catches you off guard. Or, right now I could do a little mini–Deep Listening exercise and get really into the hum of my space heater and after a while I might feel calmer, or more anxious.
Tussle: What kind of feedback have you gotten from people who have experienced HUM?
KJ: Interest in Hum has been a lot more than we expected, we’ve had orders for the zine from strangers who live in other Canadian cities, the US, or Europe, who won’t be able to actually go on the Toronto walking tours, at least not until the pandemic makes travel feasible again. It’s great to think that the combination of Tasman’s photos and my writing might be able to carry sounds from Toronto that far on paper alone. Locally we love it when readers take the tour and tag us on Instagram if that’s their thing (though you could definitely use Hum without bringing a phone along, that’s been something that’s important to us).
Tussle: What is the photoshop effect that you are using for the images and how does this imagery relate to the sound?
TR: It's not photoshop! That's the real thing. Classic Risograph two colour printing. I prepare the files by adjusting the colors to as close to two colour palette as possible and then I make a photo with two layers, each being a specific pantone spot color. For example, instead of CMYK which would be four color, I'm reducing the palette to two color and then they need to work together to create the image when they are converted to halftones for the printer's Risograph machine.
Kristel Jax’s work in music, performance, visual art, and writing traces the impossibility of a single narrative by channeling the ambiguity of singular experiences. Her projects including Brigitte Bardon't and Drone Therapy have exhibited at Moogfest, The Gardiner Museum, The Power Plant, Kazoo! Fest, Electric Eclectics, InterAccess, Katzman Contemporary, Long Winter, and many more. Her writing has appeared in publications including Now Magazine, The National Post, Vice, and Canadian Art. “Jax has created a space where nothing is weird – because everything is” (Globe & Mail, 2019).
Tasman Richardson has exhibited extensively internationally. His primary practice consists of video collage using the JAWA method (The technique he pioneered in 1996), fully immersive media installations (Kali Yuga, Arsenal Contemporary, Montreal 2019, Toronto 2021), and live a/v performances (Singapore Art Week 2021).
Images courtesy of the artists.