James Revels III: The (Renaissance) Man with the Plan!

To put it simply, James Revels III is a renaissance man. Across multiple blogs – including The Evolution of EloquencePyromaniac ProductionsAudioSeXXX, and James Revels Composer – the Dayton, Ohio, native’s mission is to showcase a wide range of creative materials from such diverse fields as science, art, math, music, and writing from young creators. He’s also an accomplished musician and poet whose work (as noted elsewhere) is inventive, cinematic, glitchy, poppy, and dreamy all at once. Curious as to what drives a creative individual like James to champion not only his own work but also the work of others, I dropped him a line with a few questions, and he was kind enough to respond…

You have a lot of irons in the fire, so to speak. What motivates you to keep at it—not just with the blogs, but with your regular YouTube posts and prolific musical output as well?

I’d have to say the pleasure of creation is what motivates me. Those “Eureka” moments that come from finding new ways to utilize the information learned, those journeys of going from novice to proficient in a skill and those connections created by exchanging the creative experience with others is invaluable. Not sure what job or dollar amount compares.

As I noted in my introduction, your interests are wide ranging, encompassing not just right-brain “creative” endeavors like music, art, and writing, but also left-brain pursuits like math and science. How do you see all of these disciplines as complementing each other? What’s the connection?

The way I see is that left brains and right brains are both modes of creation. Left-Brainers discover and design the rules of the world. The Right-Brainers “play” in those worlds and find new ways to use the left brain designs. For example, in music, the mathematicians, scientists and coders engineer the music programs, music equipment, and organize theories, while the recording artists, composers and sound designers “play” with the engineers’ creations to create new music experiences. Without the engineers no one could record but, without the artist there’s nothing to record.

All of your blogs strike a supportive and generous tone, and the business plan for Pyromaniac Productions stresses the idea that you’re trying to differentiate yourself from the “divide and conquer” ideology of many businesses. Why do you think it’s so important to take this approach to the music business—and to life in general? Along similar lines, what’s wrong with the more “traditional” way of doing business?

This is a perfect question because this is what I believe to be the Holy Grail to success in the digital age. It’s important to take a cooperative approach from not only an ethical standpoint, but even a mathematical one. In network theory, as you add nodes (people) to your network, the connections increase exponentially. This is why “6 degrees of separation” is possible. Not to mention, many social media algorithms, especially Facebook and Twitter, are based around Sharing/Engagement. I applied strategies of cross promotion and collaboration to all my social media, by connecting with people of similar interests and goals, such as yourself, and finding ways we can help spread each other’s message. In my opinion, this connection and collaboration process is what builds great communities from the musical to the general.

As for what’s wrong with the “traditional” way of business, it’s too egotistical. This meme “Ego vs Eco” sums it up perfectly. Company’s forget they are part of an ECOnomy, not an EGOnomy.Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 5.42.25 PM

What kinds of services does Pyromaniac Productions offer, and who is your ideal client? Is there anyone in particular that you’d like to work with?

Right now we offer audio production services. This includes recording and editing. We also offer affiliate marketing services, in which we promote artists via social media. We have a Fiverr campaign detailing such a service. (Also shout out to Devaughn, Mariah, and Deja for help with blogs/Fiverr video!)

My ideal client is the up and coming artist. I’d love to work with ylxr. He’s a producer from Buffalo, NY. I heard some of his songs on YouTube and I think he’s awesome. I’ve connected with him a bit on Twitter, but I’m honestly too scared to ask for the collab yet. It’s almost as bad as asking a hot girl on a date, lol!

Turning to your own creative endeavors, how would you describe your music and poetry?

My music is poetry because I try to take a main theme and flesh it out without belaboring the point.

My poetry is music because the longer poem usually has a sense of rhythm and structure akin to hip hop while the shorter pieces are ephemeral like sound.

Is there a common theme that unites them?

I noticed time is a common theme in all my works. My book of poetry is titled Yesterday’s Tomorrow, the durations of songs determine how I tackle compositions (short and layered vs long and varied), and I think a lot about the infinity of time yet the finiteness of the moment. It gets deep sometimes, lol.

In terms of music production, I know we’re both fans of Reason—and that you’re as excited as I am about the imminent release of the latest update. What do you like about that particular platform, and how does it contribute to your creative workflow?

I loved the streamlined look of Reason since I pirated it back in the Reason 4 days. (Sorry, Propellerhead, but I’m a loyal customer now so you still got my money, lol!) I liked how intuitive it is to use. I remember hopping right in and having no problem with the interface and making short melodies quickly. I also like the how it emulates an analog rack which makes it easier to map the signal flow with all those cords from the back side of the rack. I also love the sound bank because the presets sound so rich, and the combinator which gives the ability to group instruments together to make a super instrument of various synths. Finally, when Reason gained the ability to record on version 6 or 7, it became the only DAW I used. FL who? lol

Any tips you can share with fellow Reason geeks like me? For example, I’ve noticed that some of your tracks do interesting things with shifting tempos. How do you get that effect? Are there any other tricks you like to use to add texture or ambience to your music?

Definitely! The tempo shifts are a result of automation. Automation is a method by which you can change a knob’s value mid-song. Hold “Alt” and click on most buttons in the rack and it will create an automation track and outline that knob in green. Hold “Alt” and click on the tempo and it will create an automation track and you can shift the tempo mid-song. A chief way I like to create texture is with Control Voltage or CV. It’s like automation, but it’s generated by the synth itself. It’s a little dense to describe in text. Good thing I created a YouTube tutorial describing it. #ShamelessPlug

Looking ahead, how do you want to grow Pyromaniac Productions?

In general, I want to expand into video production and online streaming. I already edit all my videos, but I’m not confident enough to go professional yet. I’ve been dabbling in twitch streaming my playlist of music compositions so I feel these too are around the corner once I have the resources to build a team.

On the Science and Math side I eventually want to work with other organizations and host programs and create content to help adults and children apply these field in everyday life.

On the Art and Music side I want to eventually gather a team of animators and make animated music videos similar to the one I created below, as well as have an in-house roster of musical talent. I have my eyes on a couple local artists, but right now I’m setting up ground work so it’s a profitable venture for the artists in question.

And what’s your own personal goal as an artist?

My personal goal as an artist is politics. My ultimate goal is mastering the art of repairing, developing and maintaining a healthy community. I hope to eventually be chosen to become Mayor of Dayton, in order to help solve the problems of its citizens while developing a culture around science, art and math. This way the city can hire the brilliant minds from within, creating city pride, as well as reducing the cost of outsourcing to outside private institutions. I’m graduating from the “Neighborhood Leadership Institute,” a leadership program sponsored by the City of Dayton, next week. I hope that with that knowledge and the wisdom from building Pyromaniac Productions I can gain the trust of the community. Win or lose, I plan on helping the city for the long haul.

Anything else you’d like to share with your fans, potential fans, or potential clients?

Yes, I’d like to let everyone know they can contact me up anytime with their work or possible collaboration ideas. If you tweet me @jlronthebeat or email me at jamesrevelsiii@gmail.com I’ll respond ASAP. I love meeting other creatives. I hope to hear from you!

The Love Song of Jemaine Alfred Prufrock – or, For Want of a Wing Man

Anyone who’s read Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” knows that it’s a poem about a hopelessly awkward guy at a party who’s thinking about asking a girl on a date — or at least to meet him for coffee sometime. Sure, Prufrock imagines it as “tea and cakes and ices,” but, for all practical purposes, it serves the same point as coffee. And, of course, as Eddie Izzard says, if you can get someone to agree to coffee, then “sex is on — that’s the unwritten rule”:

The only problem for Prufrock is that he can’t quite make it past the speculation phase of the relationship. Instead, he just keeps staring at the (latest) woman of his dreams and imagining all of the clever pickup lines he might use to get her attention.

To start, Prufrock digs deep and comes up with a real humdinger: “Let us go then, you and I,/When the evening is spread out against the sky.” And, okay, it’s a little over the top, but it beats the hell out of something lame like, “Did it hurt when you fell from heaven? Because you must be an angel.” But then Prufrock blows the whole game with line three of the poem: “Like a patient etherized on a table.” Of course, he hasn’t actually said this yet — it’s all still a matter of speculation, he’s still working out the details, and, as he himself puts it, there’s still plenty of time for “a hundred visions and revisions” — but it’s hard to imagine anyone but a borderline necrophiliac getting turned on by the thought of the evening spread out against the sky like a patient etherized on a table.

Which isn’t to say that Prufrock still can’t get the girl. Loads of guys screw up the first line when they’re trying to meet women. If I remember correctly, that’s half the fun of the whole endeavor. Consider, for example, Jemaine Clement’s imagined overture to a beautiful woman in the first episode of Flight of the Conchords:

As with Prufrock, Jemaine’s best lines — e.g., “When you’re on the street/Depending on the street/I’ll bet you are definitely in the top three/Good lookin’ girls on the street” — are more likely to send the woman running for the hills than to charm her, and a subsequent encounter with the same woman doesn’t put him on any better footing:

Yet even if Jemaine’s pickup lines are completely hopeless, he does what Prufrock can never bring himself to do, which is to go down swinging. Where Prufrock paints himself into a corner with his obsessive “indecisions,” Jemaine gets in the game and goes for the girl.* One reason he can do this is that he lacks the crippling degree of circumspection that locks Prufrock in a debilitating state of paralysis. (Actually, he probably lacks any circumspection at all.) But the bigger reason, I would argue, is that Jemaine has a wing man in his good friend and band mate Bret Mackenzie.

Throughout the videos for both “Part Time Model” and “Business Time,” Brett shows up at key moments — either to join in the chorus of the songs or to play a few licks on his guitar — and it’s his presence that gives Jemaine the extra push he needs to bust a move. Indeed, the fact that the entire series is, in many ways, a paean to the finer points of wingmannery is underscored by its penultimate episode, “Wingmen,” in which Jemaine attempts, with questionable results, to help Bret meet a woman. Once again, the point isn’t whether or not Bret gets the girl. It’s that he tries. And it’s his wing man who gives him the confidence to do it.

The trouble with Prufrock, of course, is that he doesn’t have a wing man. That is, he doesn’t have someone to say, “Hey! That line about the patient etherized on a table? That is so totally awesome! You gotta do it, man! You gotta use that!” And that is exactly what a wing man is supposed to do — no matter how bad the pickup line, the wing man needs to say it’s awesome. Because the wing man knows that all pickup lines are crap, but also that that’s how the game works: You dig yourself into a hole with the bad pickup line, then you spend the rest of the night trying to dig your way out. If you’re witty, charming, self-effacing, and/or funny, you might actually get somewhere. If you lack any of these qualities, then you might not. But the one thing a wing man knows is that you definitely won’t get anywhere if you don’t try.

Beyond demonstrating the value of a good wing man, all of this also helps to explain why TS Eliot and Groucho Marx became pen pals. Though it’s generally not a good idea to conflate poets and their poems, in the case of “Prufrock,” it’s hard not to, especially since Eliot slips so easily into the obsessive voice of his narrator.** And if we accept this conflation, we can see why Eliot might have been so drawn to Marx. Marx, like Jemaine Clement, knew how to talk to the ladies:

Although Eliot was happily married to his second wife by the time he and Marx started corresponding, chances are good that Prufrock was still foundering in his efforts at wooing the opposite sex. What’s more, given the rumor that Eliot was working on a sequel to “Prufrock” at the time of his death (allegedly titled “Prufrock Goes and Gets Some”), we can be fairly certain that the Marx-Eliot partnership would have born spectacular fruit had Eliot survived.*** As it stands, however, we are left with the image of Prufrock lacking a wing man and lingering “in the chambers of the sea/ By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown /Till human voices wake us, and we drown.”

* Actually, he probably doesn’t. Most of the musical interludes on Flight of the Conchords are framed in a way that renders them fantasy sequences rather than part of the events unfolding in the show’s reality. But just work with me on this one.

** Just like I slip so easily into the voice of a drug-addled divorced mother of two in The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl, thus proving my point.

*** Note to high school English teachers: You have to admit that it would be hilarious if your students plagiarized this information without bothering to check the footnote.