An Interview with Andrew Demirijian

Often with New Media the technology overwhelms the artwork. Not so in the work of Andrew Demirijian. His work gracefully incorporates technology and organic elements into his artwork while providing modern commentary on the state of the world. His work is clever and simple and of course relies heavily on Max. Demirijian also teaches Max and I was intrigued with his approach towards collaboration.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up outside of Springfield, Massachusetts. I think the thing that really turned me on creatively was that I was really into making comic books, my own comic books, when I was a kid. But also I was really into playing jazz. I played saxophone when I was young.

I had a great teacher who was studying with David Baker and Jamey Aebersold. I used to play those Jamey Aebersold albums all the time, with Sonny Rollins or Charlie Parker or Miles Davis. I always wished they had Ornette Coleman collaboration, but that didn’t happen.

So those were some of my early artistic influences and, at the same time, I was really interested in punk rock as I got older, so I was always going between, whenever I felt like, β€œOh, I can’t play these Charlie Parker riffs fast enough,” I would switch over and play like the Ramones or the Sex Pistols or the Clash, that had that kind of energy.

But in a way I think they’re kind of related. The kind of jazz that I liked was the ferocious jazz of the β€˜60s, fire music kind of stuff. I think the appeal of the punk stuff was a really visceral kind of thing.

So I played in a punk band for a long time, and we were on the Warped tour and got signed to a couple of record labels. The name of the band was Stickmen. We were based in Boston, and then we recorded out in the Bay Area in like ’96, ’97.

Where did you record?

The record label we got signed to, and this is a unfortunate name in today’s world, they were called 911 Entertainment. Yeah, bad idea now but, of course, back then it didn’t have those connotations. So they had a recording studio as part of their office in Fremont [East Bay]. But their main office was in San Francisco.

The person that was a key figure there was this guy who I knew from producing the Clash, his name was Sandy Perelman, he was the A&R guy. You must know him, right?

He’s such a character.

He is such a character, but he’s also really nice and genuine. He really liked our band and he was the person that got us signed to the second record label. And he told us, β€œYou guys are the best live band I’ve seen since the Clash.”

So that was really fun. We got to play on the Warped tour, and we were touring all the time, and just loving the energy and the mosh pits, all that stuff.

Then when that label went bankrupt, I realized that I had just been doing music for so long, in that style that I felt like I didn’t know if I really wanted to go back into that whole thing again. I just wanted to make albums every year, and wanted to spread out and do different things.

I was starting to do projects, using Pro Tools and doing these kind of sound designs with computer reading β€” just crazy, experimental stuff.

So I started to get more into sound art. And then, after the band kind of ended, I got really into video art. I felt like maybe I wasn’t really a great songwriter, but I felt really good about video editing. It felt really natural, and I felt like I kind of found my voice more, in that, working with audio and video.

So I went into that direction in a really heavy way. Then I went back to school and got my MFA at Hunter College, in their Integrated Media Arts program in New York City.

Scenes From Last Week: Lexington Avenue (New York), June 2011

Where’d you do undergrad?

I studied at a place called Clark University, which is in lovely Worcester, Massachusetts. Which was interesting and fun. There was a great film teacher there who blew my mind. His name is Phil Rosen, and he heads up the Ph.D. department at Brown now. But he was really the person who got me film-crazy. That was a big influence running parallel.

I used to work at Avid Technology in the mid-β€˜90s. So it was always this kind of video editing running parallel with audio. Being in a band, working at Avid, kind of thing. And then eventually I couldn’t stay working at Avid when we were touring a lot, so I had to leave.

I got really interested in audio that makes visuals, and visuals that make audio; the talking, back and forth, one shaping the other in some way.

And that’s really how I ended up getting deeper, discovering Max and getting into that world. I was at the Experimental Television Center in 2007, and was introduced to it there.

Where’s the Experimental Television Center. I see you did an artist in residency there. Is it like a nonprofit?

Yeah. It’s this great nonprofit. It was like the Holy Grail if you were into analog video and audio synthesizers from the β€˜70s and β€˜80s β€” stuff like that. It was just this wild playground in this awesome, giant loft. You could go on these benders for a week of not sleeping, and as you were coming up with something cool just hit the Record button.

It was a great place that inspired a lot of people. I hear it just recently closed down, which is really a shame.

But it was at that time I was trying to reconnect between music and video. I was playing video like a musical instrument along with jazz musicians, and I was getting frustrated by some of the rather out-of-the-box programs that they had for doing that stuff, like Module 8. And there was another one called Grid.

I had performed at Jazz, in the Lincoln Center one day, and the next day I did something at Monkey Town. It was after those two events, that I realized I was just not satisfied with the quality of what I was doing. I wanted something that was more powerful or that worked the way my brain was working, and that’s when I turned to Max and started to get really into it.

An Interview with Andrew Demirijian

Jan 10, 2012 at 2:47pm

I saw that project in Asbury Park- very cool.

Jan 10, 2012 at 4:51pm

You are a talented artist, Andrew, and a great teacher. Keep up the good work.


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