Richard Dreyfest Interviews Ernav K

by Phillip Griffin

Ernav K, what is your position on scrambled eggs? Do you like them more or less forked such that there is more or less distinction between the yolk and the white?

Scrambled eggs are safe. It's hard to screw up and they get the job done. If I'm making them, my white-to-yolk forking ratio depends on how long I can fork before losing interest.

I’m super stoked about having you at Dreyfest, having seen your work at a show I played at the Haufbrau in Bozeman. You describe yourself as the following: "Ernav K is Ethan Hoerr’s psychedelic audio-visualization project combining multiple formats such as analog video synthesis, video feedback, cathode ray oscilloscope graphics and liquid light projection. With an emphasis on analog techniques, correlation between sound and light is made on the fly by human interpretation.” This sounds more like an engineering project in outer space than a psychedelic light show… On the other hand, maybe the two have a lot in common. How did you get into this stuff anyway? How long have you been doing it?

My first exposure to analog video synthesis was watching Nick Ciontea, aka brownshoesonly, performing at Knobcon 2013 in Chicago, a fantastic synth convention. He was kind enough to explain the principles to me, but I waited until November 2015 to buy my first video module. By this time I was in Peoria Illinois playing keys in a psych rock band, The Golden Fleece, when we decided to incorporate a live visual element into our shows, and we also made a VHS-only visual album for our first release. The tapes sold out, but you can find a ripped copy on YouTube.

Had you done much visual art before you got into projection work, or is Ernav K your first venture into the visual realm? 

Apart from making home videos as a pre-pubescent, this is the most involved I've ever been in visual art. The transient nature of using an analog modular synth is really meditative and almost humbling in the sense that you're never going to create the same patch again. I've grown to appreciate that, as I don't actively think like that in my daily life.

You obviously spend a lot of time at shows. Do you play any instruments? Do you currently or have you ever played in a band or music project?

I started out on bass guitar before picking up guitar, drums and keys. Apart from writing occasional solo psych rock/pop stuff. The Golden Fleece was my last stint before I moved here in August last year. They're doing well for themselves in Illinois and I'm really proud of them. Other than that, I've picked up my bass again with a few other musicians in Bozeman, and I have a good feeling about what the future holds.

Last fast food joint you ate at? Did they have sour cream there?

Taco Bell in Belgrade. They definitely have sour cream but it actually surprises me that they don't offer packets of the stuff, whereas when you get a baked potato at Wendy's they pack the bag fat.

What is your favorite piece of equipment in your setup? What does it do?

I like all my fancy video modules and random gear but creating video feedback is probably the most fun and economical video trick I play with. I either point a video camera at the display it's connected to, or you can send the output of a video mixer back into itself. You can get really great fractals or smeared tracer type effects that way. Watch any Earth, Wind, and Fire music video from the early 80's, like September or my personal favorite, Let's Groove.

It seems like you’ve got a whole “retro” thang going on there, with the mumbo jumbo about analog and fluid human interpretation. As far as I know, Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters were among the first to come up with the concept of the light show as its own form of art. Do you know/like those folks? How do you see yourself fitting into that sort of lineage?

I have mad respect for those magic bus riding freaks. I'd like to think I would have hopped along for a ride back then. I owe a lot to the liquid light and video art pioneers from around that era; I see myself as one member of perhaps another "wave" of video synthesists. Many artists from back then are still active today; Joshua White of the Joshua Light Show maintains a Facebook group and is very open about his oil techniques; Dave Jones makes video synthesizer modules and drops wisdom bombs every now and then. I dabble a little in oils, but video synthesis is my bread and butter. Up until the amazing folks at LZX Industries made modular video synths accessible to individuals, the only way you ever would have got to play with one without building it yourself was in the 70's and 80's in a university setting. 

What does Ernav Koepp mean?

The meaning is open to interpretation, but it's a nonsense name I made up in 2007 when I thought someone was stalking me on the internet. There are many ways to pronounce Koepp, I usually read it as "cope" but "co-ep" is pretty common. I guess a lot of people actually have that last name, I got a lot of Koepp friend requests shortly after making my Facebook profile.

You’ll be playing at a couple different spots for Dreyfest, on Friday at Smiling Dog Records and Saturday at Nova Theater. Have you ever been to Dreyfest? What can the attendees expect from your performance?

This will be my first Dreyfest, and I am beyond excited to be performing! Expect a lot of colorful abstract patterns that pulse and wiggle along to the music. I don't want to reveal too much, but I recently got an overhead document camera, like the ones used in classrooms, and have been searching for a Ouija board...


Links for Ernav K: