On The Record: Kuh-Lida Chats on the Creative Process, Opening for a Hero

As a Conservatory senior majoring in Composition and minoring in TIMARA, Myles Emmons has still found time to record and perform as solo project Kuh-Lida. Emmons opened for Shlohmo at the ’Sco for a jazzed audience last Friday. The day before, he released a new mixtape, High Adventure, on the Stereocure digital record label, an art collective of which he is a founding member. Emmons spoke with the Review this week about the charms of cassette tapes, his influences and really big speakers.

Julia Hubay, Arts Editor

Can you begin by talking about your new mixtape and the process you went through creating it?

Yeah, it started on a track-by-track basis; this was a collection of things I was working on last year and through the beginning of the summer. A lot of the early stuff came around the same time that Stereocure was doing the fall tour last year. But the material I was working on at the time really did not seem like the type of stuff I would like to be playing out live, so I had it just sitting on the backburners as I was generating all this more party [appropriate] material, [which] culminated in the last thing I put out before this tape [High Top Blazers].

After I got back from [the tour and] put this last thing out, all this other material was still sort of building up and being worked on without any real project in mind for it — just the act of liking to make music and sitting down and doing it. So it was around spring last year, I was like, ‘Well, I’ve got a bunch of stuff just laying around, maybe I should think about formulating that into some type of release.’ Even though it is back-catalogue stuff, [I thought] I should really evaluate what’s actually going to go out and reach people. With all of the other artists releasing their music, I wanted it to be to that standard, if possible.

So I spent this spring until the first couple weeks of summer just working on material that would supplement the best of the stuff that I had, and once I had really pulled it all together and could say ‘This is definitely the material that’s gonna be in there,’ it was just a matter of sitting down mid-summer and plotting out what the order of that would be. [But] the process for working on a lot of these things was actually mostly hardware based, which is pretty out of the ordinary for this particular project. Most of the [previous] Kuh-Lida material was more production in software, and this was a big step into grabbing samples from cassette tapes, working with hardware effects and things like that.

Trying to really create something that would really be hands-on and having that work [be realized] in a mix format, I decided that would be a nice way to return to the medium and release it on cassette — something physical. Because there was a lot of hands-on physicality to the process of making the music. Beyond that, it gives me a chance to incorporate the really cool artwork of Eugenia Loli, who is from Cargo Collective and did the cover art. For me and for a lot of physical music culture, it’s nice to be able to hold a culmination of all these different artistic efforts in this one unified object.

High Adventure sounds MF Doom inspired… what are some of your influences?

Well, I love skits in music. Hip-hop and skits and stuff like that, it’s absolutely massive. MF Doom, without a doubt, Mad Lib and the Mad Villain project between the two, I’m really into Jeremiah Jae and the stuff he’s been doing with Young Black Preachers. Oliver the 2nd and Jeremiah Jae put out a cassette called RawHyde that I was all about, it has all types of cool pseudo-narratives inside of it.

I really like the engaging elements of listening to these mini-stories inside of things. Every time I had to drive anywhere in the past year I’ve just been putting on radio dramas in the car, listening to those and just getting old stories from before television and really trying to soak in those aesthetics. It’s all done through sound. I really like Dimension X. High Adventure is actually the name of a radio drama, that’s where it comes from. There’s Lux Radio Theatre, that’s a little cheesy, but it’s fine, sometimes it’s about being cheesy. Well, most of the time. [Laughs.]

Has growing up in the Chicago-land area influenced your work?

I don’t think it shows up on the last release, but some things I’m always keeping in mind are the juke and footwork scenes coming out of Chicago, as well as the Chicago house scenes. The general attitude and spirit that a lot of these artists take toward their music — they’re all very community-based — [is] a very important element of the Stereocure vibe and the things that we do. It’s really more about the crew. I think that’s really important to hold onto. There’s also just some really awesome and creative folks doing music here at Oberlin that are more from Chicago proper — people that are involved in the scene right now. It’s certainly inspiring to be looking at people like that and to think that if they’re doing it, what’s to stop me?

What was it like to open for Shlohmo?

Oberlin’s community just came out with the love. I was so excited to be able to go on and have a crowd full of friendly and homey faces. They were support, but they also brought their own energy to what I was trying to bring. I thought it was one of the best performances I’ve ever had because I was able to connect in such a positive way to everybody who was there. The general enthusiasm for being in a space with your friends, listening to the things they’ve been working on — it’s really special to be able to share that through really big speakers [Laughs.], and to be able to receive the love. It’s super humbling, it’s not a common thing for me. It was amazing to be able to embrace that at that show. It was nuts.

And Shlohmo is such an influence. He’s a really cool guy; he’s really friendly. He had the stomach flu in the morning, and he almost didn’t come, but he was like ‘I want to go and do the show because people are expecting me to, and it would be a bummer if I didn’t,’ and so he came out and played anyways, and I thought that was really awesome. It was more about [the show] than his own health at the time, which is great — it’s crazy. Man I hope he feels better [Laughs.], but it was definitely awesome to be able to play on the same bill as a hero. That’s so special.

I think in general it was maybe a good entry point for people who weren’t familiar with my music to be able have a venue and space where people who are listening to the things I’m listening to can check out the things that I am doing. It’s funny how rare opportunities like that are. It’s not always so set up. It’s really awesome when it is.

How does studying in the Conservatory influence you? 

The Oberlin community [has] so much facility among its students in creative and artistic realms. A lot of the work that I see going on all over the place, in the Conservatory without a doubt — the new music and Jazz departments, TIMARA and Composition — it kind of feeds in just from the exposure, it’s almost just through osmosis. My eyes and ears were definitely opened up through being a student here. It is not just specific to the Conservatory, although there are certain things [from the Conservatory]… that challenge me in one way or another that I have definitely held onto and retained. But just the culmination of years around really amazing musicians and people makes you really want to push what you’re doing. Keep it to the standard that you see around you all the time.

Are you interested in performing for a living?

Maybe. As long as there’s an opportunity [to perform] I’d like to think that I’d be taking it. There’s a team of sorts of new media artists who I’ve been working with this semester, called Real Boy Digital, definitely in many ways related to work I’ve been doing with Stereocure — just a lot of visual endeavors. It’s me, [Conservatory senior] Charlie Abbott, [College senior] Dan Friedman and [double-degree senior] Devin Frenze. This year we got [College seniors] Tom Kearney, Regina Larre Campuzano and [Conservatory senior] Charles Glanders involved, so it’s just really amazing people and artists. It’s been operating where everybody’s doing their own things and projects and labeling it Real Boy Digital as they see fit. We’ve been really curating events involving set design, live music, digital art and unconventional projection art. I think we’re all just interested in the idea of a little bit higher level of new media work, in an artistic sense, on campus and on a global scale.