We are a product of our environments.
In the nature and nurture debate, always put a dollar on the latter.
Need another example, Mortimer?
How about Calgary artist L. Adam Fox.
Previously, the one-time Ontario- and Edmonton-based musician’s medium was of the alt-folk variety, of the Avett Brothers sound, as disseminated through his past project Field Assembly.
Take the man, though, out of those environments, move him to Calgary, give him a job as the director of programs at Studio Bell where every day he’s surrounded by keyboards, synths and other wiry and tubey instruments, well, then you get Carbolizer — his newish electro persona, which he recently fully unveiled exclusively on theYYSCENE with a stellar self-titled debut.
“There’s no question, you can’t separate circumstances in your life from the art you make,” Fox admits of the blending of his worklife and songlife. “Everything informs everything to a degree, some more than others.”
And while he says his surroundings played a huge role in his new sound, he also acknowledges that it came from the fact that artistically he felt he was “spinning my wheels” for the past few years, attempting to write a followup to his sophomore Field Assembly album, 2013’s tasty Narco.
“I was just bored and writing the same things over and over again” he says, “and in the process I actually wrote and recorded an album that I didn’t end up releasing.”
Fox says he was moving away from composing on the guitar to writing on a Wurlitzer, which he says he couldn’t play well and had a limited sound, but it got him interested in working in a different idiom.
Then, he moved to Calgary and began his role at NMC, which is an instrumental candy shop for anyone in search of different ways to create, more electronic ways of making sounds.
“I think it was serendipitous that I was coming to work in an environment that has one of the most amazing collections of synthesizers and drum machines in North America, if not the world,” he says.
But while those instruments were always surrounding him, he found that he never really had time to experiment with them, focussed mainly on the day gig when he was in the building.
On breaks, though, he sought out legendary and legendarily beloved Studio Bell electronic instrument and equipment tech John Leimseider — who sadly recently passed — and learned from him, learned what you could do with what was at hand.
It showed Fox what was possible when you dispensed with those “self-imposed” limitations.
“And that just blew open the doors. It was like, ‘Fuck, I can do anything I want to do.’ And exploring these sounds … offered this well of inspiration for me.”
And the result is the seven-track warmed-up, nu cold-wave Carbolizer debut, which is a remarkable mix of distant and aloof yet somehow extraordinarily personal connections — like a less flamboyant Diamond Rings playing hard to get.
Fox says with the project he was “not interested in making retro music or invoking” the work of other acts, although he does admit to having an affinity for the ’80s days of Depeche Mode, Front 242 and Nitzer Ebb.
“I was surprised at how some of that stuff came out when I was using these instruments,” he says, noting that his sound has also been compared to Cabaret Voltaire, although he never really listened to them. “So my plagiarism, I come by it honestly.”
Calgary lovers of the electro can bathe in his newly nurtured sound when he celebrates Carbolizer’s official coming out with a local release party Friday, Nov. 9 at EMMEDIA, which will be accompanied by visuals provided by Edmonton multimedia artist Parker Thiessen.
He’s already road-tested the show, having taken it to his former home out east earlier this month for a handful of dates. They were, he says, a “mixed bag,” with his new electro persona still something that both he and audiences need some time to warm to.
“I feel like I’m starting from scratch in a lot of ways,” Fox says.
“I played … in Toronto the other night, and the guy introduced me as a veteran of Canada’s electronic music scene, and I’m like, ‘That’s not accurate.’ ”
He laughs. “I’ve only been fucking around with this for the last two-and-half years. This is the first musical statement of this project and I’ve really been learning on the fly.”
Carbolizer performs Friday, Nov. 9 at EMMEDIA.