Daniel Lopatin, the synthesizer-guru behind Oneohtrix Point Never, has spent the last year making some of the best zone-out-fodder to ever rise out of Brooklyn. Using late ’70s and early ’80s new age music as a guidepost, his 2010 album, “Returnal,” was haunting and heady in equal parts – a collage of bucolic synthesizer arpeggios that mashed using a laptop computer. On his new record, “Replica,” Lopatin mostly forsakes his Tangerine Dream-tendencies, building his songs out of found sounds cribbed from Reagan-era television commercials, rather than keyboards and sequencers. The result is an album full of foggy tones and eerie emptiness, like listening to dub-reggae guru Augustus Pablo jam over a Ron Popiel special. Lopatin recently confabbed with Click Track about his album’s gauche cover art, his preferred one-stop for vintage TV ephemera, and why he likes to think of himself as a sonic Indiana Jones.
So, why is there a drawing of a skeleton with spaghetti-hair on the cover of your new album?
It makes more sense with my personality than the last one [“Returnal”], to be honest. I like to think of this record as a tragicomedy, so the cover is really appropriate. It scared my mom, though. So in that sense, I felt bad putting a skeleton on the cover of my record. Anyway, it’s supposed to be sort of comical. It was from a vampire story from “Weird Tales,” a dirty pulp comic from the ’30s. I put it on there because, to me, it was representative of my whole stance on the idea of a replica: That it tells us more about the things that we want to be than the things that we are. So the vampire looks in the mirror and sees the skeleton. You’re seeing past the desired image of yourself. But it’s also just a spaghetti haired skeleton with a bow tie. It’s black comedy — “I’m your vampire and I’m going to do a little dance for you.”
I’ve read that the sounds on “Replica” are mostly sampled from old-school TV commercials; can you explain why you went that route?
Okay, so, to make it as brief as possible: I like this idea that I’m not actually a musician and that, instead, I’m kind of like Indiana Jones — an adventurer who is looking for old things that are meaningful. So, like, we don’t tend to think of television commercials and ephemera like that, but to me, it was a really wonderful source of meaningful information. It was an amazing pool of ephemera that I could pull from. Then you’re restructuring and rearranging it to interfere with the original narrative and creating this new poetry.
How did you decide which commercials to use? Did you have a specific type of ad, time period, or product that you tried to concentrate on?
I had a few parameters. For instance, I didn’t want stuff oriented towards children. The sounds that were in kids programming were kazoos and whistles, stuff I didn’t like. So, I cut that out. Basically, I just wanted stuff from late ’70s on. The stock music sounds of that time, to me, belong to the era when electronic was having this populist renaissance.
How did you organize all of these sounds? Did you have a folder full of coffee commercials and another of car commercials?
I categorized the sounds a few different ways, mostly by theme. One strain of infomercial [which I called], “The Middle Class Lie,” appealed to me the most. Those had products that were supposed to make you feel wealthier than you actually are – like, brands of instant coffee that are stylized to feel Italian and special. The music would always feel lurid and weird, sex music almost, with these gauzy minor 9th and 10th chords. It’s the kind of stuff that would be in a porno if it weren’t advertising coffee.
How did you come by so many old-school television commercials in the first place? Were you logging a lot of time on YouTube?
Actually, I didn’t want to do Youtube for two reasons: First, I didn’t want to search for things. I didn’t want to put in keywords that generated a specific result. Also, it’s also crappy sounding. Instead, I found this website Videomercials. The person who runs it is a nostalgia dealer; he makes compilations of commercials from different eras. So, I would just buy these long DVDs of commercials.
Did you get a little weary watching hour upon hour of ’70s and ’80s infomercials?
I didn’t watch really any of them; I just ripped them right away. It was just a distraction to watch them. I mean, later, I turned them on in the studio, just for fun. But when I was actually picking apart the sounds and putting them in different categories I immediately turned them into audio files.