Talking about instruments with Zeke Graves of Datahata | Instrumentalist | Indy Week
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Talking about instruments with Zeke Graves of Datahata 

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Photos by Jeremy M. Lange; layout by JP Trostle

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LOCATION: His new home studio, Durham, N.C.

AGE: 37

KNOWN FOR: Electric guitar explorations and traditional acoustic music under his own name; chilly, minimal techno as Datahata

INFLUENCES: Richard Thompson, Pentangle, Krautrock, Manuel Göttsching, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Detroit and Chicago electronica

HEAR & SEE: On last year's Chthonic Journey, Zeke Graves improvises on electric guitar, creating a hypnotic and haunting intersection of tonal exploration and roots-music meditations. Look for a new collection of moody dance music from Datahata, pending release on Grovl Tapes.

PHILOSOPHY: I try to let music be something that I'm doing as part of my life. It's more of a personal exploration for me, more than a career. I don't really try to direct it that much. I like to see or hear the mark of the maker in the work—some flaws, some evidence that this was something someone actually made. I like to hear or see the process in the work.

FENDER STRATOCASTER: That's the only guitar that I used on Chthonic Journey. When I was in 7th or 8th grade, I won that guitar in a drawing from Hames Music, which is the music store under the peach in Gaffney. It was just a freak occurrence that I won this really nice guitar when I was 12 years old, and I still have it. They were having this event that was supposed to be the Guinness world record for the most guitar players playing at one time. So they had I don't know how many hundred guitar players playing "Louie Louie" for half an hour. I was at summer camp. My dad and brother were there, and they won this guitar and gave it to me.

DUSKY ELECTRONICS PEDALS: These are both built by a local guy, Chris Rossi, who is starting this company called Dusky Electronics. They're prototypes of something that he's going to start producing. One is a fuzz pedal (a), and this is kind of an overdrive pedal (b).

ELECTRO-HARMONIX 8-STEP PROGRAM AND MOOG MOOGERFOOGER FILTER PEDAL: With the electric guitar, I'm not much interested in a classically "good" electric guitar tone. I'm more interested in creating things that evoke something to me. The Moog (c) is a filter pedal, and I'm using the Electro-Harmonix (d) to control it, raising and lowering the filter point. With Chthonic Journey, I was trying to use these traditional sources, but filter it through these electronic sounds. I wanted it to be broken down and decayed and dilapidated.

ENOCH BANJO: The people who are building good old-time banjos now, it's very much an artisan, craftsman thing. This one is made by Kevin Enoch, who got started in the '70s. He's one of the more established banjo builders now. The stuff he does is just very, very custom with a lot of fancy inlays and stuff. This is really barebones, but it's also fretless up to the seventh fret. It rings a little more.

CONDENSER MICROPHONES: Graves recently recorded Snake, the band of his friend Aaron Smithers, in his home studio. "I just set up these two condenser mics. I panned them to left and right channels and got a natural-sounding image, like you're in the room. As I try to record some acoustic stuff—and having some environmental sound and room sound in there—this is the approach I want to take. You're not miking the instruments so much as you're miking the room that you're in."

ACOUSTICS VS. ELECTRICS VS. ELECTRONICS: I have different musical interests; sometimes I want to do one thing, and sometimes I want to do another. The guitar stuff and the traditional stuff: It's something I originally got from my family, and then there's the musical heritage of this area. This electronic stuff doesn't have any of that baggage, so I'm not as critical of myself.

DRUM MACHINES AND SYNTHESIZERS: I was in this band Cold Sides in the early- to mid-2000s. We started off as an indie rock band and got progressively more electronic and experimental. By the end, I don't think we had any stringed instruments on the stage. There were three years there where I didn't really play guitar. It was refreshing to get away from because I've been playing so long that I have patterns that I fall into too easily. Everything I know about playing an instrument doesn't apply to this at all. It's more about pure sound. I know how to play guitar the "right" way, but I don't know how to use any of this stuff in the "right" way.

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