Turning Language and Memory Into Music: An Interview With Wayne Robert Thomas


Yesterday, we spoke with Kyle Bobby Dunn about his forthcoming split LP with the Indianapolis-based musician Wayne Robert Thomas. Today, it’s Thomas’s turn to talk about the split and his composition “Voyevoda,” which magnificently and melancholically sprawls over the course of its 20-minute running time. Come for the epic ambient music; stay for the Cormac McCarthy reference.

When did the idea of doing a split LP first come to mind?

We’re both fond of each other’s work and I admire Kyle as a musician. So when he messaged me a while back about doing a split it was something I couldn’t pass up. I never imagined that one day I’d be sharing a release with a favorite artist of mine, and to have it put on vinyl is even more special.

How would you say your contribution to this LP works in context with the other side?

My track, which the name of translates to war-lord, or military commander, is an old Slavic word. I often make tracks that have some connotation to Eastern Europe, a tragic event in history, or some book I like and I thought this particular song would be fitting for this release. The track starts off as a slow, icy riff that eventually builds into a sweeping drone that stays throughout the rest of the song. It’s bit of a colder melody when compared to Dunn’s side of the split, but I feel that both of these songs complement each other very well in that historical sense. Hearing Kyle’s track was a real treat as I have always loved watching Westerns while growing up. Even when I listening to the other side of the split again I had been rereading a very sad western novel, The Crossing, and felt that Kyle’s track fit so well with the vast heartache that makes up a lot of the American West.

What was the process like, as far as recording your composition?

First started recording “Voyevoda” in August of 2016. It took about three takes for me to feel like it was “complete.” Usually when laying down a track that has a long duration it’s difficult for me to pull off. By the third version I was very content with how it matched the sound I had in my head.

Both of these compositions deal with questions of memory and nostalgia. How do you go about translating that into music?

I first heard the word “Voyevoda” when playing a video game back in middle school. It’s set in the Cold War, and a particular character in the game has that old word as a sort of nick name given to her. I haven’t played it since then and was thinking about it for some odd reason when I was recording this song. It ended up having an influence on crafting the whole composition, most of the memories I have of that time haven’t really been revisited. So I was definitely caught in the “moment” while recording and remembering coming home from school and playing that game, reading about Russia and other moments in history. Capturing a memory in a raw form like that makes the process of translating it to a piece of music much easier for me. I’m sure listening to this track five years from now will bring back more memories and feelings and hopefully that’ll do the same for the listener.

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