The 13th annual Loopfest features headliners who think about guitar in new, innovative ways
Though electricity is an integral part of the instrument, the electric guitar isn’t generally associated with electronic music. In the popular imagination, EDM producers employ an array of drum machines and synthesizers to create soundsâ€”manipulating them with an assortment of processors.
That’s not so different from what Andre LaFosse does, only he uses a guitar to produce tonesâ€”both percussive and musicalâ€”and stompboxes to process the signal. LaFosse is a looper. He uses his guitar and a looping pedal to create entire songs, live, on the spot, and he is one of four solo guitarists headlining Y2K13 Loopfest, a local celebration of the art of live looping.
Among musicians, video artists and others familiar with the term, “looping” is shorthand for taking a snippet of sound or film, and playing it on repeatâ€”adding effects to alter the loop and often overlaying other clips of additional sound or film on top of it, building an entire composition in the process.
Loopfestâ€”founded by local looping enthusiast Rick Walkerâ€”has been bringing artists from all over the world to perform in Santa Cruz since 2001. This year, the festival will feature musicians, producers, DJs and videographers, using a variety of tools to create loops in real time, in front of live audiences.
LaFosse, who is now based in Los Angeles, grew up in Iowa to classical musician parents. As a young man, he was initially drawn to electronic music, and when he eventually picked up a guitar he set about using the instrument and a pedal board to recreate the sounds he had heard on hip-hop, glitch core and industrial records.
He refers to himself as a “turntable guitarist.” “It’s almost like being a DJ,” LaFosse explains, “but you are creating the record you’re spinning at the moment you’re spinning it.”
Using just a guitar, a looping pedal and a collection of FX pedals, LaFosse creates a rhythm section, chord changes and melody. The beats on many of his songs are composed of static swishes, electric crackles, the buzz of a guitar cord being plugged in, or the sound of a flat palm slapping the strings.
“For me, looping was a way of trying to expand the vocabulary of the guitar with electronicsâ€”of imposing the sound of the looper onto the guitar itself,” LaFosse says. Using this method, he explains, “I’m basically getting things out of the looper that you couldn’t get out of the guitar.”
Walker first discovered looping at a Weather Report concert in the late ’80s. He says he was “gobsmacked” when he saw the band’s bassist, the late Jaco Pastorius, use a delay pedal to create a rhythmic loop, which he then played over the top of.
A longtime percussionist, Walker immediately saw incredible potential in the technology. “I thought, â€˜Oh my God! If I could only do that,'” he recalls. “Being able to clone oneself was a really exciting idea.” He quickly picked up the growing art form and has since made a name for himself in the burgeoning looping community.
In the past, Walker has invited bassists and other looping aficionados to headline the festival, but this is the first time Loopfest will be led by guitarists. In addition to LaFosse, headliners include Henry Kaiser, Daniel Thomas and Walker’s brother, Bill.
Walker says heâ€™s looking forward to this yearâ€™s event, adding that it will be a great opportunity to see some of the looping world’s greatest innovators, who also happen to be some of the most forward-thinking artists in the realms of music and visual art. â€œThe people who squiggle away from the mainstream that try to get away from the status quo,â€ he says.
The Y2K13 International Live Looping Festival takes place from Oct. 18-20 at various locations in Santa Cruz County. For the full event schedule, visit y2kloopfest.com. Tickets are $15/door. No one turned away for lack of funds.