An Interview with Off The Sky’s Jason Corder

Jason Corder discusses his projects, the concepts behind his work, and other things.
Jason Corder

I first discovered Jason Corder’s music when I stumbled across the website for netlabel Autoplate while looking for new and intriguing MP3s. The label had just released Corder’s latest offering under the “Off The Sky” moniker, a brilliant EP titled Caustic Light. I was immediately intrigued by the EP’s masterful combining of guitar drones, glitch, and surreal atmospherics, and set off to to see if Corder had released anything else.

Which, as a matter of fact, he has. And quite a bit of it. Several full-lengths and EPs as Off The Sky — including his latest, It Is Impossible To Say Just What I Mean, which just came out on Stilll — and two albums of glitchy, dub-ambient released on the Subsource netlabel under the “Zen Savauge” moniker.

Jason graciously agreed to answer a couple of questions via e-mail concerning his projects, the concepts behind his work, and other things.

Your bio seems to indicate that music has always been a part of your life. When did you finally decide, then, to begin recording as Off The Sky?

About 4 years ago. I was dabbling in dub glitch music under the moniker “Zen Savauge” but wasn’t to happy with the closed ended concept. I created Off The Sky to as a project that would be as endless as the atmosphere. Where I could colab with other artists and musicians and move it into more community.

The first release of yours that I heard was the Caustic Light EP. What initially intrigued me was the inspiration for the CD, that being a very particular kind of childhood memory. Could you explain that a little bit? What pushed you to try and create musical pieces based on that inspiration?

Well I’ve been playing in a conceptual acid jazz band lately. We create sculptures and new instruments and story-boards to base the compositions of our live performances around. Basically this idea of using concepts instead of sheet music, has bled over into my latest works. I just don’t feel as if the art has any meaning unless I really try and base the work around a preconceived feeling.

Caustic light has always been a fascinating aspect of nature for me so it was only natural that I used it as a theme; and the childhood memories just came about in transit to finishing the album; they added complimentary color to the concept I think.

A lot of your releases are very conceptual and thematic in nature. For example, Studies of Lifeform in Transit was an attempt to capture, musically, the seasonal changes near your home in Kentucky. Where do you find these concepts? How do you know when you’ve found a concept that “works,” or that you’re on the right track to capturing it with your music?

I feel it’s all about having a strong feeling inside that inspires the idea. Specifically, if I don’t have the patience and inspiration when I begin to work on something, the internal direction of what effect to add here and there and especially what melodies/beats to create just won’t come. Nothing will end up sounding inspired…

So timing is everything. Only certain, unpredictable times of the day are good for me to create. It’s a delicate process of being sensitive to oneself and sensitive to life through embracing serendipity. I have surrounded myself with random-minded people so I can keep this sense of adventure. This keeps me off-balance enough to be able to come up with fresh ideas. Where there is stagnation in one’s life, there will be an offset of stagnation in one’s creativity…

You’ve released quite a bit of music via Thinner/Autoplate. How did you come to work with them? Why release so much music that people can simply download, when I’m sure a lot of “normal” labels would be interested as well?

I love the fact that my music can be heard free by everyone to appreciate and enjoy. It makes the effort pure and selfless — so it’s cathartic for me to view my art in this light. Also, I don’t feel the need as an artist to have money-making releases on any normal label to dictate my confidence as an artist. I will create no matter how poor I get. Though I will always make sure to have enough to sustain the creation…

Your bio on Thinner’s website mentions that you’re also a visual artist. What types of visual work do you do, and how does your music tie into that?

I support myself mainly via freelance web design. But I studied painting and illustration in college and then graphic design on my own once dropping out of college. These days, I’ve been viewing life as the canvas with myself as the paintbrush… It’s an empowering mental experiment. Music has simply become a cryptic diary to this behavior…

I also noticed this intriguing phrase as a summation for your music, that it’s “an honest attempt to achieve a time-less creative end through means of desperate experimentation.” Your music has such a calm, textured feel to it that “desperate experimentation” feels like a bit of a misnomer. What do you mean by that? How do you experiment “desperately” through your music.

“Desperate” is a good word to describe sitting around in front of a computer for 16 hours at a time working to achieve skill and notoriety as an artist in the world of electronic music. This is something I used to do until my body decided it couldn’t take it any longer — and it really let me know.

I think as artists we all have to go through some stage of self-deconstructionism in ourselves to be able to rebuild and create ourselves as something unique and new; separated from our past. I don’t sit for hours when creating anymore because I don’t have to. The desperation has been replaced with an appreciation for the natural patient flow of things.

You also record electronic/dub music under the “Zen Savauge” moniker. When did you do that? How do you differentiate between Off The Sky and Zen Savauge, which pieces of music go with which project?

See above. But since Zen Savauge served simply as a period of my musical evolution, I will not be creating anything new in this paradigm. Honestly, I truly appreciate dub music because essentially without its compositional influence in the musical grand scheme of things, we may not have had musical evolutions beyond pop rock into the voiceless productions of Kraftwerk, Art Of Noise, etc. I feel in a small way, I paid homage to this great movement that has influenced and spawned so many musical directions today.