Recording artists are not the only people to have suffered in the music industry lately. Producers are fucked as well. Cheap home recording equipment has got better and better, leaving many producers with an absence of bottom-end work. Falling CD sales have also meant the decline of the top end, as it is becoming harder and harder to recoup the hundreds of thousands of pounds majors would traditionally spend on a debut record.
Every cloud does however, have a silver lining. The home studio has already given birth to a new kind of recording artist, one not hampered by studio budgets and time restraints. Using cheap hardware synths and drum programming, Chillwave has emerged like a Phoenix from the ashes of the major labels. Pioneering this new genre is Toro Y Moi, the project of Chazwick Bundick, who has recently been name-dropped by, amongst others, Kanye West. We meet in a park opposite the venue he’s due to play that evening. “I gave myself the name Toro Y Moi when I was about fifteen on a long car journey”, he says in a quiet South Carolina accent; “I’ve stuck with it ever since”.
Despite still bearing all the marks of a typical American teenager, Chaz graduated from South Carolina University in Graphic Design a few years back, and is actually 26 years old.
I ask him if he thinks Graphic Design and Music have any parallels: “Graphic design has a lot in common with music. Textures, rhythm, the way you hear music is a good indicator of how you perceive visuals and graphics. Some people look for the main themes first, others look a little deeper – just like with music”. Toro is not the only person to cross from Graphic Design to music: Chuck D from Public Enemy holds a Graphic Design degree from Adelphi University in Long Island.
I ask Chaz what brought him to Graphic Design in the first place: “Creative people can turn their hand to different things. If you try to do something it can lead to something else. If we needed a CD cover, I would just do it. I got into it through the music. After designing album sleeves, I needed to find out the proper name for it, and found out that it was Graphic Design, but it all came from music originally”.
I ask him about touring, which he’s been doing all around the world for a long time now, and he suddenly looks quite serious: “There are points on tour that I just want to go home and see my friends and family. People tell me, you should carry on, you will regret it, so I carry on. I’m touring now because my girlfriend is travelling.” Could he imagine a time when he gets fed up and quits? “Definitely” is the short answer.
Toro Y Moi have always made lots of their stuff available for free; I ask him why: “You cannot control downloading, I looked into it. You have to go with it. It’s understood now you won’t make money from CD sales, not unless you’re Top 40 or something”. Even then. I wonder what it’s like for a young kid from South Carolina to be name dropped by Kanye West, “Amazing!” he exclaims with a genuine enthusiasm. “I rung my Mum straight away and told her”
There is something about Chaz that is not exactly naive, but certainly sweet and childlike; let’s hope after he’s toured he’s still able to take some of it home with him.
Words: Dominic VonTrapp
Image: Milo Belgrove
A version of this article first appeared in Issue 2.