It seems like Washington state will never cease to be a hotbed of pure talent, with many of the most respected performers of our generation finding their footing in The Evergreen State. 17 year old Washington native Seb Choe, also known as Uda Ox, is no exception to the pure talent claim. Uda Ox is best described by Seb himself, who creates “pop-infused soundscapes” that made me feel as though I were floating aimlessly through an intense dream. In addition to performing music, Seb has taken to producing some amazing short films featuring his original compositions. I caught up with Uda Ox to discuss song writing, recording with Dylan Wall, Avril Lavigne, and local influences.
What is the song writing process for Uda Ox?
I’ve accumulated a quiver of gear over the years, and when beginning the project, I had a hard time deciding on what to use. There were too many choices. The first song I wrote for Uda Ox started with a sample from the film Waking Life. I then wrote lyrics with imagery from over a dozen dreams. Now the process usually begins with writing a melody on guitar or keyboard, and building a loop with samples, vocal overdubs, and different sources of percussion. I used to blend together the music into twenty-minute sets, but have recently gotten into creating songs with their own distinct feel.
From whom do you draw influence from in the experimental music realm?
I wouldn’t say much of my inspiration comes from experimental music. But a few artists that have helped me think outside the box include the Eno brothers, Eric Copeland, and Stephen O’Malley. I find intimate conversations and personal memorabilia visceral sources of material. In that way, Uda Ox is a big scrapbook.
You recently recorded several tracks with Seattle’s Dylan Wall, a fantastic engineer who has recorded the likes of M. Women, Naomi Punk, Zephyrs, and Pangea. Was this your first time recording away from a home environment? Are you happy with the results of recording with Dylan?
Dylan rules. Having been his intern, learning from such a respected figure in the Seattle music community is definitely a fun ride. The only other time I’ve recorded outside of a home setting was with Dylan for a compilation album of young musicians on Seattle’s Eastside. Both then and in this more recent recording, fellow intern Jake Campbell was a big help. This time the tracking was a complex process, but I am very happy with the results and grateful that Dylan put up with all my obsessive requests.
You also just finished producing a music video for the track “Creatures & Creators Pt. II” What was it like shooting a video solo?
Yes. The track is unique to the rest of my recordings because a drummer is featured – Silicon Girls’ David Fure. The video is similar to the song in that it is fairly short, but hits hard and is kind of evil. Because I had no crew, every shot had to be meticulously planned and executed. I hope it is something that people can watch more than once to piece together the symbolism, and form an interpretation even if it isn’t congruent with mine.
Do you plan to pursue the film medium as an extension of your sound?
Uda Ox actually began as a multimedia project. I’ve complemented most of my shows with projected video collages synchronized with my set-list. They contain a lot of found-footage, and the twenty-minute films have been a way to get acquainted with unconventional video editing techniques. Lately though, I’ve been making an effort to isolate my film from my music. I want to explore narrative.
You describe your music as “Pop-influenced soundscapes‘, which I find to be extremely fitting. Do you see yourself branching out in to the pop realm more seriously in the future?
Definitely. One of my favorite parts of playing a show is hearing people whistle the songs I just performed. There’s something beautiful about getting a pop melody stuck in someone’s head even though it’s wrapped up in a cryptic, ethereal package. I would like to advance my Ableton skills, but mostly I want to write fun doom or post-punk hooks to make something cool with a friend or two. Solo production can put you in a very dark place.
Who are some Seattle artists that influence you?
Hearing Masters & Johnson for the first time really encouraged me to leave the Eastside and seek out more mold-shattering music in Seattle. I was introduced to Stephanie in 2010, and just this summer, Ian (the bassist) booked me a show at Cairo Gallery with ambient-lord Secret Colors. Funny how things work out. Travis Coster of Naomi Punk has been a role model, and his now-defunct project U’s organized chaos played a definite hand in the birth of Uda Ox. Casey Catherwood has also been very supportive and I hope that the cult that is Witch Gardens continues to spread. I’m very thankful to have been exposed to such innovative musicians and to have grown up in a community so welcoming to all-ages music.
If you had to tattoo a song or band on your body, what would it be?
The face of 2002 Avril Lavigne on the top of my foot.
Listen to Uda Ox on soundcloud