“Life would be simpler if I was a musician”
Arkm Foam is Adam McCarthy, a 35 year old sound artist and tape collagist now based in Western Massachusetts.
Let me start by telling you what I enjoy about Arkm Foam: I enjoy the combination of very loose attitude and a very specific kind of sound art, that what you do is very “Let’s see what happens” and “I know very well what I’m doing, what I’m looking for” at the same time.
I think that’s really accurate, thank you. I go back and forth between improvising live and obsessive editing and I think it gives my music a loose but calculated feel.
What is it that you’re looking for in your music?
I have a lot of trouble defining what I do to say a co-worker or family member. I often try to avoid those types of conversations and just go about my art projects. I’m looking for undeniable mastery ultimately. It’s a game and a challenge for myself, and it’s very rewarding when other people enjoy it too.
Do you see what you do as music?
I guess I’ve been avoiding the word music, and if I were to mention to that co-worker that I’m a musician I instantly regret it because they ask ’what instrument?’ and I don’t have an answer to that. I think sometimes I wish I was a musician because life would be simpler, or at least I’d have less junk laying around ...
Maybe I should have started with this: can you tell me a bit about yourself?
My name is Adam, I’m originally from Cape Cod, Massachusetts USA but moved to Boston in my 20’s. I’ve been living in the ‘Western’ part of Massachusetts for a few years now... I’m 35 years old.
I’m married with two young children and I work independently in fields revolving around native plants (horticulture, design, botany, fine-gardening).
Your music reminds me of the absurdism of id m theft able, the ritualistic of Sunburned Hand Of The Man, the wildness of Crank Sturgeon, ...
Thank you. I love to laugh, and I love to make people laugh with my ‘music’. id m theft able and Crank are endless sources of inspiration. I’m mostly influenced by my local music community and also many of the great recording artists you might expect. I make a point to perform with lots of different people locally and they have influenced me the most. Andrea Pensado, Vic Rawlings, Walter Wright... those are a couple artists that come to mind that I would consider complete masters and I’m always in awe of them. Artists like that challenge me to get better, and I am so appreciative for that.
Is there, for you, a link to folk in the sense that your concerts almost feel like little rituals? And is that post-hippie?
Hmmmm... I haven’t really thought about it. But I take performing and having people’s attention really seriously. Hippies were a big influence on me too, so why not? I don’t shy away from the better parts of hippie culture. Folk music and folk art are important to me, I play a lot of 5-string banjo and fingerpicking guitar at home. Funny, Frank Hurricane was over a few days ago and said he considered me a folk artist and not a noise artist, I’ve been thinking about that but don’t have anything conclusive to say. I don’t feel bound to one or the other anyways, and appreciate them both.
Do you see what you do as post-Fluxus, post-Dada?
When I learned about the Dada movement in my late teens I felt a strong connection. The humor both dark and light really called me.
Maybe as New Futurism too?
The sonic realms of Futurism were interesting but I’m very opposed to their politics.
Is it for you mainly about the performance and not so much about the recording? Is a recording for you something completely different than a performance?
Different yes but they are closely intertwined. I often use live recordings as a source for my ‘studio’ work. I had performed a lot a few years ago, like a whole lot, but I’ve scaled way back after having kids. Now I play-out about once a month or so in different projects. But I’m very active in recording and have 5 LP’s slated to come out soon as well as tapes etc. ... Always busy....
Why do you like the use of tape and dictaphones?
I like that the recorded medium can attempt to replicate any sound. Like I can make a tape of literally any sound. Of course you can’t escape that the sound is now trapped in the box scrolled in magnets and it’s a new type of sound now. That transformation is magic to me.
The tape players allow my recording art to bleed into my performance art too and I like that exchange. I also really enjoy blending the sounds on the cassettes with the sounds of the machines themselves using contact mics. Cassettes have an enchantment and nostalgia for me as well, stepping into the store ‘Tape World’ and seeing the walls of tapes at the Cape Cod Mall, lusting over classic rock albums. And finally saving up enough to get one and hugging the boom box close to my ear late at night in bed. There is so much to love about tape. It was something you could have fun with as a child, learning to tape songs off the radio, or making your own goofy tape of you and your friends talking. Many of these types of cassettes are just sitting at thrift stores or the bottom of a box waiting to be discovered and reimagined. Part of the fun is discovering new tapes with surprising homemade material on them. Gems.
Do you see yourself as part of the Western Massachusetts music scene?
Yes, the people here have been very welcoming since our moving here a few years ago. Much thanks to Joshua Burkett for getting me out to play shows regularly and to Ted Lee (Feeding Tube Records) for releasing the bulk of my recently recorded output. There are many talented and inspiring people in the music scene, it was certainly part of the reason we moved here.
You mentioned Joshua Burkett and Frank Hurricane earlier. How did you get to know them?
Those guys are top level geniuses. I love them both so much. I know all three of us love the outdoors; Frank loves to hike, Josh is a ‘birder’, and I’m a plant buff. I met Frank while my band Peace, Loving was playing in Georgia. He was a last minute add to the show but a lifetime friendship for sure. We became roommates and then bandmates, and did lots of touring together. Josh and I met at my old house ‘The Whitehaus’ where we hosted lots of shows in Boston. We’ve become much better friends since I’ve moved to the area and we go on walks regularly and started a performing duo together as well. I’m glad you like their music because I’m a really big fan of both of them.
- Joeri Bruyninckx
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