In Session: John Malmborg
ALBANY – With No Place Like Anyplace, set for release on April 15th, John Malmborg has created a truly unique soundtrack for a multimedia piece. Forming his ideas around ‘KIOSK,’ an outdoor workshop created at the University of Arizona, Malmborg has composed a soundscape full of wonderment, excitement, and an overall sense of intrigue. The album comes on the heels of ‘SHAPE of Tucson,’ another project that was initially started in 2020. For that particular installation, Malmborg, along with his creative collaborator (as well as his partner), Aletheia Ida, took said piece to this year’s South by Southwest. The sounds emanating from the current project (not to force a pun as the last track is entitled, “Emanate”) are as captivating as the physical piece, itself!
I had a chance to sit down with John as we delved into the piece, working in this artform, and working alongside one’s partner, as well as establishing Analemma, the duo’s latest artistic venture. To catch the conversation, please read ahead, and be sure to check out the piece for yourself by following the link at the end of the article!
Lucas Garrett: John, thank you for sending in No Place Like Anyplace. It’s very interesting
John Malmborg: Oh, thank you, thank you. This is a soundtrack and I’ve pretty much had free reign to make what I wanted. It was definitely a fun album.
LG: I’ve either made art or written about it, but I’ve never done what you did. I’ve never written music for a tangible piece of art.
JM: Thank you. It’s very multimedia; crossing into different things. I mean, there’s art; there’s music; there’s the architecture – my creative collaborator is an architect and professor by trade, so…
LG: How do you even go about doing that?
JM: In this instance – I was just doing the music in this instance – the origins of this collaboration style was back in 2020, right before the pandemic. We were building and successfully built an LED-light podium and used Arduino controllers to synchronize…
LG: I love those things.
JM: Yeah, they’re very nice. We synchronized the music and light show and had different light effects for each track on it.
LG: For those reading that might not know, why don’t you explain what an Arduino does?
JM: An Arduino is basically like a microprocessor. You can use it for all types of DIY projects; pretty simple interface – you just have to string a few pieces of code together and maybe troubleshoot a little bit. But, it’s pretty approachable.
LG: So, you wrote the album, No Place Like Anyplace, as part of a big multimedia experience. Let’s go more into that.
JM: Sure. Well, I would say this album is meant to provide a backdrop for this ‘KIOSK’ that was built by my collaborator on the University of Arizona campus. It’s meant to be sort of, conceptually, about an initiative in the university where there’s reusable aspects to resource management on the campus. The music is just supposed to provide a pleasant backdrop for people that are passing by; to some degree, my own perspective on how I make music ties in. Having different ideas that I go back to that I’ve done in the past. I remix and resample my own things sometimes, so I can relate to that general principle.
LG: It’s a fascinating concept. How do you get started doing that? It’s a very specific art form.
JM: Sure. So, more broadly with music – I’ve been doing that for a very long time. I’ve been making electronic music – I’m showing my age – for 18, 19 years, at this point. Crossing into installation art, that was really the culmination of me and my partner, for a long time we were interested in collaborating. But, we didn’t really have a medium on which to collaborate. She has some musical background. Historically, I play around with my art and do album art and stuff. But, I’m not a conventional artist; I’m not doing paintings and canvasses and stuff – at least not yet! This was an opportunity for us to take our ideas and take it to South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, which we did this year.
LG: It’s very, uh, interesting; that doesn’t always work! How do you feel with creating art – which is a very intimate thing…
LG: How is it creating that with your partner?
JM: It’s a lot of work; it’s actually very challenging. But, I think by having shared themes and concepts that we’re alluding to, we can do what we’re doing in a way with a shared goal in mind. I do the music thing, but I obviously run it by and see what she thinks. Although
I’m not a designer or architect, I’m still very interested in the form of things and what kind of sensory experience they provide. Collaborating is just an ongoing conversation; all the little details, you need a checklist to get things done one thing at a time.
LG: Do you find that there’s more weight behind it; more anxiety behind it? Because you’re work with someone that you’re so deeply tied to?
JM: No, I think in terms of how I feel about it, it’s just fun to work with her. I think it gives you more inspiration, as opposed to creating anxiety. I suppose any time you’re opening up to collaboration with anyone, you have different expectations and you sort of have to be on the ball. You can’t fade away. At the same time, it’s invigorating when you have a solid collaboration.
LG: What is next for you two? You’ve done a lot so far.
JM: Yeah, we’ve really done a lot, literally in the last month with South by Southwest and the second installation. The next thing we’re going to do is: she’s relocating to New York, which is good because it’ll allow us to spend more in-person time to build these things and make these projects. We’re going to be creating things; looking at ways to scale them in different fashions. I’m super excited about this collaboration, Analemma. It’s definitely something that I think has been a long time coming, but to see it come to fruition is super exciting.
LG: You mentioned she is out of state. Working with art is one thing, when you’re trying to make something together and you’re not in the same location…
LG: But, also being with someone and sharing a life like that is a whole other can of worms.
JM: That’s a whole long story. We’ve been in-person; long distance; visiting each other. We’ve had different phases and modes in our relationship – at one point I lived in Arizona. But, yeah that is obviously a challenge and is something we’re not going to be doing, anymore – we’re going to be relocating for hopefully the last time. As far as it pertains to the collaboration stuff, though, this project ‘KIOSK’ was done remotely; I composed the music here and I’m not on site. The other project we did in 2020, and ultimately showed this year, was done in a workshop using the University of Arizona campus. We built it side-by-side.
LG: I think it all pertains; all of our life experience makes the art that we end up creating.
JM: Yeah, I would buy that. I agree.
LG: It’s cool that it sounds like you’re entering another phase of your life. I’m sure that will definitely change and inspire how you make the art.
JM: I believe so and I believe it already has. I know the pandemic comes up as just one of these themes that people just can’t get enough of, but… Without a doubt, I think the pandemic was this up and down of “What am I doing? Why am I doing the things I do? Am I any good? Am I good enough?” All these existential questions. I had a period – even last year – where I didn’t feel I was very creative; I had a dry spell and writer’s block. We’re still in the pandemic, to be clear, but I’m now seeing opportunity. Especially in the world we live in where it seems like so much has gone wrong and so many things might be going off the rails. The simple act of being creative, I think, is important for humanity.
LG: It’s also important for creatives to take the victories when they get them.
LG: Because it’s very easy not to do that.
JM: Absolutely. It’s hard to work as a creative; it’s hard to get support; it’s hard to find good opportunities and find an audience. Any time you can do a project that gets recognition or is well-received by people, that’s a great moment in your life. If you think of it that way.
LG: What you’re doing is very cool and very unique, and honestly very out there. What advice would you have for someone that says, “Well, goddamn, that’s weird! I want to do that.”
JM: That’s a great question. What I would tell people who are sort of looking to – whether they’re experimenting with medium, or their aesthetic, or any aspect – do something a little different, I would just say, “Take the time to try to get good at whatever you think you’re trying to do.” That doesn’t mean a conventional skill set, even. It just means, you know, trial-and-error. Understanding what you’re all about, really. Once you have that kind of comprehensive understanding of what you’re trying to do – and that takes time, it takes experimentation – at that point you just have to find ways to present. It doesn’t have to be what I do, which are these physical installations. It could be an entirely virtual experience. You could make a VR music soundtrack. There’s a whole lot of mediums out there. Once you find something you’re comfortable with, you should try to take it to the next level.
LG: As we wrap the interview up, is there anything else you’d like to discuss?
JM: Analemma is the collaboration between myself and Aletheia Ida. The album is called No Place Like Anyplace. It’ll be on all platforms on April 15th.
LG: Thanks, man, for your time. It was nice talking to you.
JM: Thanks, I appreciate it! Have a good night.
LG: You too, man.