Have you heard about I Am Robot And Proud yet? Toronto audiovisual artist, Shaw-Han Liem, is playing a DIY show this weekend at the Brothers Dressler’s furniture workshop for the Wavelength Monthly Music Series with Thanya Iyer, World News and Precious Jewel (DJ).
World News caught up with Shaw-Han ahead of the show to talk music, visuals and furniture.
World: Tell us a bit about the setup – what do you play?
IARAP: On Saturday it’s a brand new show. I used to perform solo and then for a few years we did a rock band version. This time there are three of us – Robin Buckley is on electronic drums, Mike Smith is on synth bass and I am playing keyboards and controlling the electronics and visuals.
World: How do the visuals work?
IARAP: This will be a live audiovisual show, so all the musicians are cooked up through midi to the projections and everything they do is interpreted by a program that I wrote which generates projections based on what we’re playing.
My starting point is audio reactive animations and I use them as part of the songwriting process itself. Every time we play the show the visuals are different; it’s great to see how they evolve.
The projections are an equal part of the show and I have spent an equal amount of time on both. It’s a two-way thing – we respond to the visuals as we are playing so they are important not only for the audience but for us as performers as well.
News: Favourite piece of hardware?
IARAP: The organelle – it looks like a tiny keyboard but it’s actually a small computer you can program your own instruments into. You build them on your computer and once you have something you like, you put it on the box. It’s a neat idea, but you can get lost in the technical aspects of it and forget you are supposed to be writing a song sometimes.
News: Do you have a programming background?
IARAP: Yes, my background is in computer programming. I worked on a videogame for Playstation a few years back called Sound Shapes. I also performed in rock bands around Toronto in the 90s and 2000s… I actually played the 6th or 7th Wavelength show ever!
World: Are people doing similar things to I Am Robot And Proud?
IARAP: Yes, the inspiration comes from a band that I played with in Tokyo called DVD, which stands for ‘Drums Visuals Drums’. It’s two drummers and a guy controlling visuals.
News: Your approach to music is almost the polar opposite from World News, where we actively avoid computers altogether, opting for hardware instead. I spend so much time staring at computers during the day, I don’t want to when it comes to the creative side of music. Do you find that?
IARAP: I get that. My first few records were totally made in the box, but recently I have started to use some external hardware and I like that moment where I realise that my screensaver is on because I haven’t touched my computer in a while!
People are fatigued by computers and they can be a sort of curse sometimes when you feel chained to them. However, it’s all about the approach and turning that feeling around to be creative. The most incredible thing is everyone in the audience has a computer one in their pocket, so it’s very inclusive.
News: Describe your ultimate piece of furniture?
IARAP: My dream is to have a giant table full of gadgets. It’s in the middle of the room so you can approach it from any side.
News: Dark wood do you think?
IARAP: I haven’t really thought that far ahead, haha.
World: Are there any cool DIY venues you’ve played?
IARAP: I’ve definitely played in weird places before – hair salons, disused strip clubs in resort towns, a furniture factory in Japan. I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like on Saturday!
World: I hope it’s got that freshly cut wood smell.
News: Me too, I can’t get enough of those shavings. Anyway, you’ve toured in Japan quite a bit and you’re going again, how did that come about?
IARAP: I have a label out there and released an album that did well. From there I’ve been able to collaborate with Japanese artists too; I did a record that was all remixes and collaborations.
In May we’re going there to perform the brand new set we’re premiering in Toronto on Saturday.
News: How is the reception to what you do in Japan, compared to Toronto?
IARAP: The ironic thing is it’s definitely easier for me to book a show in Tokyo than Toronto. I grew up in Toronto and I’m from here, but I think there’s just a bigger audience for different types of electronic music in Japan in general. I consider myself pretty fortunate to have been able to connect with that audience.
World: Any embarrassing things ever happened on stage?
IARAP: For sure. My worst gig ever story is playing in Korea to nobody other than a group of people using an electronic dart machine. The dart machine speaker was louder than the PA and every time anyone hit a dart my set was drowned out completely. Nobody wanted to hear us in the first place anyway.
News: Cool, well I’ll leave my dartboard at home on Saturday.
You can catch I Am Robot And Proud and World News performing together this Saturday 13th April for the Wavelength Monthly Music Series. I Am Robot And Proud are currently on tour to support their 2018 album, Lucky Static – for more information visit their website.
Check out World News’ debut single: