Julian Lynch - Madison via New Jersey

Madison has always had the good fortune of excellent musicians taking refuge at the university to pursue academic endeavors. From Steve Miller and Butch Vig to Richard Davis and Jim Schwall, the list of musicians who called UW-Madison home at one time or another has become urban legend.

Julian Lynch, a Madison transplant by way of New Jersey, has taken residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to pursue a PhD in ethnomusicology. The multi-instrumentalist, who is a virtuoso on guitar and saxophone, will be a familiar face on the local music scene for the foreseeable future. Lynch has connections from his Ridgewood, New Jersey music roots to such diverse artists as Real Estate and Titus Andronicus. He’s recorded for the infamous Underwater Peoples record label collective and has just finished a new album entitled “Mare” that will be out this year.

Julian Lynch bathed in blue light at the Project Lodge
Julian Lynch 

Julian Lynch - Mare

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Julian Lynch - In New Jersey

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We caught Julian's live show earlier this year when he played with Zola Jesus at the Project Lodge and made it a point to watch for any of his upcoming shows. Julian Lynch’s low-fi recording approach meshes nicely with his spacey, layered soundscapes that take listeners to a different place. We had the opportunity to ask Julian a few a questions before his Summer Tour kick-off at the Gates of Heaven Synagogue in James Madison Park.

We’ve been listening to your new songs “In New Jersey” and “Mare”. We heard the new album will be called “Mare”. Will it be out for your summer tour?

I think there is a possibility that I may get copies of the new album for some of the later dates (the ones beginning in late June). But I can't say for sure right now when the album will be out.

How do you go about recording the new album?

I started recording it last summer, in my parents' basement while I was visiting them in NJ. I mostly recorded drums and other loud instruments that I can't play in my apartment in Madison without my neighbors yelling at me. So I had all of those tapes, and sort of just let them sit on the shelf for a while. Once I got back here to Wisconsin, I had to dive right into school. Slowly, I crafted songs around the original tracks. I think I finished everything up sometime around January 2010.

If your question is more about what equipment and stuff I used for the album, here's an abbreviated list: cassette 8-track, various percussion, guitars + various effects (tape echo, tremolo, wah, etc), cordovox combo organ/synth, bass guitar, clarinet, homemade wind instruments, harmonium & various other keyboard instruments.

Your summer tour is covering the entire country. Any favorite places to play?

A lot of the places I'm playing this summer I've actually never been to before, so that is exciting. Last summer, I found that I had a lot of fun playing in places that don't usually get a huge volume of touring acts, smaller cities and stuff. But I still have fun in big cities, too. My favorite spots last summer were Fort Collins, CO, and Lubbock, TX, and I'm happy to be returning this year.

You’re attending school at UW-Madison working toward a PhD in ethnomusicology. In layman terms, what is ethnomusicology?

It is the study of musical practices or ideas within or across given cultural, historical, social, and political contexts. That sounds broad, but honestly the discipline is, in fact, very broad.

How much longer will you need to stay in Madison to finish your degree?

I've actually added another major to my PhD, which means even more coursework. I'll be around at least another three years to finish coursework, then I need to take my prelims, and then write my dissertation. I'm not so sure where I will be for the writing part...but I plan on staying in Madison for quite a while, no matter what.

How different is Madison, WI from where you grew up in New Jersey?

Well, there are countless similarities; the two places are probably more similar than different. But there are some general, kind of obvious, differences. Like the fact that Madison is home to a large university. That's a huge difference. Or the fact that Madison is a city, and a capital city in fact. The town I grew up in has a population of maybe around 30,000 people. That's a lot less than Madison, but the town I grew up in is also right outside of New York, which of course dwarfs Madison in terms of population. There's a fair amount of public transportation between my hometown and NYC...buses and trains. Madison is outside the immediate vacuum of a metropolis like that. The closest is Chicago, which is pretty far. That has a big effect on someone who plays music, like myself.

If I lived in northern NJ right now, I could play shows pretty frequently in the city, and play to a more or less different audience each time. In Madison, I would feel really guilty playing too many shows in too short a period of time, because it would be mostly my friends and other people I know coming to all the shows. Haha. I actually already feel like that...like I'm boring my friends here, but they aren't complaining yet. That's just an example though. There are many many other differences between Madison and Ridgewood; sociologically/economically, etc etc etc.

Titus Andronicus recently played in Madison. How do you know Patrick Stickles? He kept referring to you throughout the evening.

Yeah...I didn't realize what day they were coming. I feel really bad about not going. Titus Andronicus is from Glen Rock, NJ. Or at least Pat is. There was a time when most of the band was from Glen Rock, but I'm not sure that's the case anymore. Anyways, Glen Rock is right next to Ridgewood, where I'm from. Glen Rock, actually, used to be part of Ridgewood (until the late 19th century, I think). The Ridgewood music community, of which I was a part, sort of converged at some point with the Glen Rock music community. This was back when we were in early high school. I met Pat at that point, and our bands played shows together very frequently. I played on his bands' records a few times. I did a few things here and there on the first Titus Andronicus 7". Pat's a good fella, and I hope he forgives me for missing his show.

Step us through your thought process when creating a new song. What is the Julian Lynch approach to writing new material? What influences you to write?

There is nothing very special about the way I record. I don't usually write much or any material before I start recording. I'll begin with something like a drum pattern or whatever. Eventually I will get around to layering other sounds. Or, sometimes, I don't. I've got twice as many half-finished tapes laying around my apartment as I do finished ones. I don't really try to determine the way a song will end up before starting it. I enjoy the process more if I can't predict the outcome.

As far as what influences me to make music, I'm not sure exactly. I mean, the fact that I've been studying and playing music formally and informally for most of my life probably means something. Like, if I had spent all that time practicing painting, I'd probably do a lot of painting these days. Not to boil it down to reasons that are so materialistic, I guess, but I think those things are some of the greatest contributing factors.

Julian Lynch 2010 Summer Tour

May 17 - Madison WI @ Gates of Heaven
May 18 - Lincoln NE @ Bourbon Theater w/ Husbands
May 20 - Fort Collins CO @ the Lowkey w/ M. Pyres

June 16 - Los Angeles CA @ TBA
June 19 - Los Angeles CA @ TBA
June 26 - Flagstaff AZ - NEED HELP!
June 27 - Albuquerque NM @ TBA ?
June 28 - Lubbock TX @ Coquelicot's house
June 29 - Denton TX @ Rubber Gloves
June 30 - Conway AR @ La Lucha Space

July 01 - Oxford MS @ Red Star Bar w/ Dent May
July 05 - Atlanta GA - NEED HELP!
July 06 - Wilmington NC @ Gravity Records
July 07 - Charlottesville VA @ TBA
July 23 - Wayne NJ @ TBA

August 19 - Pittsburgh PA - NEED HELP!
August 20 - Bloomington IN @ TBA
August 22 - Chicago IL @ Neon Marshmellow Fest

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