Screengrab of the "Technomancer" video via YouTube
Meeting Travis Egedy, or Pictureplane, in real life can take you aback momentarily. When he arrived to the VICE offices, he came equipped with a skateboard under his arm, 50 Cent earrings, and an extremely cool bomber jacket from his Alien Body clothing line. He arrived right as I finished listening to the last track off of his new album Technomancer, and some part of me truly believed that the cyber-occult dystopia synths and samples had summoned a physical representation. Pictureplane the person and the body of work are one continuous being born from technology, art, and culture. You want to know the secret of how you can seemingly warp reality to look like music the way Pictureplane has done. And he wants to teach you.
Yet as much as Pictureplane has an ideology to share, more than anything he makes really fun music. The video for "Technomancer" captures a lot of Pictureplane's essence: There's a main shot of him in some kind of room filled with mirror tiles that make it seem as though you're in some kind of future room he summoned—until some dude opens one of the doors to get through. It's a small moment, but in a larger sense it's indicative of Egedy's ability to make ordinary or overlooked spaces seem magical in his presence alone. The rest of the video follows a group of goths and real vampires at a huge bouncing club, feeling more like an end of the world party than a goth night.
In both the song and the album, Egedy implores the listener to use all aspects of technology and what it's capable of to reach a higher state of being and vibration. I sat down to talk to him about what that really means.
Noisey: What was the first computer you ever had?
Pictureplane: My family got a computer probably in 1993. But it didn’t even have the internet on it or anything, my mom would type on it and stuff and we had some computer games I’d play and stuff. It wasn’t until 1997 we got a Gateway 2000 computer that had AOL or whatever on it, which was cool. And I was able to start IMing with my friends and going into chat rooms. They’d come in the big box with the clouds and cows. I don’t know what happened to Gateway, that was a big company.
Do you remember the first really weird thing you found on the internet?
Sure, I was going to Rotten.com right away. I think in elementary school that was a really early website that everyone knew about somehow. It was still when the internet was wild west, and Rotten I remember seeing supposed pictures of Tupac’s dead body. One that was really burned into my brain was a fake naked picture of Gillian Anderson and I always thought that was amazing. I love that picture. And I really have vivid memories of cybersexing with people. Like me and my friends pretending we were older, like we were 18 or something and go into chatrooms and have really weird conversations with people. We were probably talking to other 11 year olds though, who knows.
Rotten.com is funny, because I guess like anything you start to notice what people are aware of on the internet. The other day I was talking to my girlfriend and she had no idea what Goatse was.
Yeah, now it’s become very age specific of internet history of what you remember online. I think if you’re super young now, or 20 you’re not gonna know what Goatse was. It was like old school internet stuff. Same with Rotten.com, I’m sure that’s what Goatse was from.
I’m sure that was the original meme. Like you IM your friends “hey look at this cool thing” and boom it’s a prolapsed anus!
You got Goatsed! [laughs] My friend Ryder Ripps was saying he was writing this thing about this certain meme, and he was equating Goatse being the first kind of trickery online. Sharing something that was really viral.
Did you like art school?
I loved it actually, it’s really not for everyone but I super enjoyed it. It was perfect for me, I had a lot of great professors there who were encouraging of me to be experimental. I felt more like a philosophy student where anything was possible. I really kind of came into my own there.
Do you think that contributed to your taste in aesthetics?
I think it really came from a DIY warehouse for years in Denver. A place called Rhinoceropolis, which still exists. It was a huge part of everything. We’d book shows and I was able to meet people from all over the world who came to play at Rhino and that really changed a lot. Getting to be a big part of the national DIY community and meeting tons of musicians and artists coming through, it was a big part of me becoming Pictureplane. The space was just as much an education as school was.
To interact with people of super-varied backgrounds and work on art together or being in close quarters like that has to really help out a lot in finding yourself.
It started a lot of great friendships, and it was how I started touring. We were booking shows for Dan Deacon and Health and all these amazing artists played at our house. It was the first time I was meeting a lot of those guys.
I imagine moving to Brooklyn was super easy then, right?
Yeah, I had been playing a lot of shows here and felt a close connection to the DIY community and felt a close connection with it.
Looking at you and your career over the years, one thing I’m always curious about is what it’s like when you collide with the other end of electronic music. You’ve been on tours with Major Lazer and on big festivals and stuff, what’s it like when that collision happens?
It’s been really interesting the past few years with the whole explosion of EDM and trap and stuff. Dance music, I don’t know, it wasn’t always that cool a few years ago even. And now it’s the biggest thing in America. I think America has always had a strange relationship with dance music. When people first started listening to me around 2008 there were very few bedroom dance producers. I was a strange novelty act, which I wasn’t thinking about at the time. I was making shit I wanted to hear. But now it’s super common. I think a lot of it has to do with the proliferation of Ableton software and other programs that it’s become so easy to make electronic music. Everyone’s doing it. It’s been strange to watch how normalized it’s become. I come at it from such an experimental way and a lot of people approach it with a very mainstream mindset. I mean, it doesn’t get more pop than EDM right now.
Do you think your music is in response to what EDM is doing?
I guess always, yeah. You mentioned the Major Lazer shows, and those were some of the weirdest shows I’ve ever played. I did three shows opening for them in 2014, and they were right about to completely explode. They were getting really huge, and I think they were about to play Coachella right when I was playing shows with them, which I think blew them up. The audiences there I was playing directly before them, and my music sounds so different than that kind of stuff, it’s produced differently and lo-fi kind of, so when you hear that versus perfectly produced EDM it just sounds different. The audiences, none of them knew or cared who I was and they just wanted to see Major Lazer. It was hard playing for those audiences because I think the tones in the music are so different now. People expect everything to be super loud, and crisp while my mind is dirty and distorted.
I remember in Boston we’re at this 3000-capacity, sold out venue, and as I’m playing there’s this kid the front just giving me thumbs down the whole time. It was tripping me out, like fuck this kid. To him I was probably some wack DJ or whatever. I realized that scene is just not for me, there’s a big divide between what I do and what Major Lazer does. They’re amazing and they blew me out of the water, but the audience has come to expect this certain sound, and I’m happy not doing that.
So the new record Technomancer deals with a lot of how one shapes themselves through technology?
Yeah, I’d say the record deals directly with technology today and what that means. The idea of what a “technomancer” is someone who is utilizing technology and using it for magical means. In that sense you could call like a hacker or someone a technomancer, using technology to create something different.
"Manipulate your machine.”
Right. We give technology so much power in our society and even in our daily lives, it’s this weird struggle of having a smart phone and the internet and it takes up so much of our time. It’s this weird static in our lives, and I kept struggling with that when making this record. This anxiety of technology and all that. I’m not anti-technology at all, it has these incredible uses when used correctly. I’m just worried it’s become another form of social control. A big part of my work is taking control back and putting it into the hands of all human beings. I want it to be empowering for people to take back their control over machines, or use them for something.
That’s totally the thesis for your music and what you do, too. You take all these different electronic sounds and samples and turn it into something poignant and enthralling.
Exactly. My music is a weapon, I think. Create your own weapon.
It’s kind of scary to see like what we’re doing to other people with tech. I saw some app the other day where you rate them after you date them.
I think there already is something like that for women. Like they can rate you without you signing up for it or anything. It’s become this forum where people talk about you, “oh I dated him and we fucked.”
Are you on there?
Yeah. I was looking at it and I don’t know who was talking about me on there, it’s just so anonymous and crazy. What the fuck. That’s just something that is going to exist.
It’s so crazy to me how willing people are in making themselves into data.
Even stuff like Tinder, it’s inhuman in this way of online shopping for human beings. A big part of social media is removing humanity from people and you just become data for some feed someone can scroll through. You’re not much of a human after that, just some picture to be consumed and tossed away immediately. It’s strange.
Have you ever blacked out from social media?
No, I should though. I’m completely absorbed in my Twitter and Instagram all day, all the time. It always seems like it’s hard to step away but whenever you’re somewhere that doesn’t have internet it just feels normal. I think people are just bored so you’re looking at your phone. Maybe when I’m recording my next album I’d love to go somewhere and not be on the internet for a month.
That’s the dream.
Right. I mean who does that? Especially living in the city.
What do you think the next step in human consciousness is going to be?
I don’t know. I used to think I was really sure of it. I was obsessed with 2012, I had this idea of us evolving into a fourth dimensional being and this mind where we become spiritually enlightened, and all these abstract concepts of becoming higher vibrational beings. Looking back I was extremely idealistic and living in a fucking warehouse in this insane psychedelic world fully creating our own reality. Those ideas seemed very attainable to me and us because of this weird lifestyle. But the world is not like that, it’s not there yet. If anything, it’s 2015 and people are still arguing if gay people can marry. It’s so weirdly behind and trapped in these bickering arguments whether a human being is a human being. I have no idea what the future holds anymore. It’s a scary fucking place out there and it’s really easy to lose faith in humanity sometimes.
The other thing about 2012 is everyone expected this huge change to happen when everything is always gradual. There’s been so much social changes in our lifetimes already, so it’s also really exciting. It’s easy to focus on the negative because that’s all you see in the media, but there’s also positive things happening all around us. You just have to look harder to see them.
Technomancer is out today. Purchase it here.
John Hill wants to be Pictureplane when he grows up. Follow him on Twitter - @JohnXHill