By Brian Leak
There are some people who are fortunate enough to have talent come naturally to them. Lionel (Vinyl) Williams is one of those people. At just 21 years old, Vinyl Williams has managed to create beautiful art and ethereal, supernatural-inspired music as well as attend college, play hundreds of shows, and create a following in the process. Fortunately, Synthesis had the chance to pick Williams’ brain in between his busy schedule.
How long have you been living in LA?
Just since September 2010, although I grew up from ages 0 – 8 in North Hollywood.
Do you think it’s an easier scene there as opposed to most places for artists and musicians?
Truly, I have only been partially immersed in the artistic landscape of LA, so my obvious associations of a more manageable creative lifestyle only exist out of the constant euphoria of living here. If one is constantly surprised, I would expect him or her to talk more about the beneficial qualities that LA seems to provide. One really doesn’t have a definite answer without sinking into the chaos of the artistic life. Being here at CalArts is more of an ambiguous reality rather than genuinely representative of LA. But for the sake of answering the question, I think the West Coast is easier in general. LA has its problems, but there is more likely than not that west coast euphoria that sustains an art practice in useful ways.
So you’re in college currently, correct? Are you taking art and music classes? What’s your major?
I’m currently studying Fine Art at California Institute of the Arts. I’m in both music and art classes, which is truly a beauty. Fine Art as a major allows for the freedom to be involved in interdisciplinary classes and projects. My first semester of CalArts (last year) was dominated by the fact that I was in Graphic Design instead of Fine Art, which restricted my participation in collaborative projects with other programs.
Do you plan to stay in L.A. or do you have any desire to move after college?
I’m not sure about living in LA. I’d rather live in Tel Aviv. Life in L.A. is wonderful, yet foreboding in an explainable sense. I don’t think the USA is quite right for me either. I think Berkeley, CA or Portland, OR comes closest to my idea of an ideal American life.
How long have you been making music?
There’s a picture I was given by my Dad of me at a 1980’s Alesis 24-track control desk when I was 9 months old in 1990. I’d say my whole life, but only seriously since I was 10 or 11.
Are you currently working on any new material?
Yes! I’m planning on finishing a new Vinyl Williams release at the end of May. It has taken an excruciatingly long time to complete any form of recording, as I don’t have a space here in L.A. that allows me to be as loud as possible. This has proven to be a serious issue! I hope people will be surprised and stimulated by the new styles that I’m working on.
Do you play any shows?
I’ve performed hundreds of Vinyl Williams gigs, probably over 500 total with various bands throughout my life, and more recently have played a few shows with a gypsy band here at CalArts called Psyche Delos. I’m getting a strong feeling that I’ll be finding members to re-animate Vinyl Williams as a live show.
Do you do all your music yourself? I’ve read in some places that it’s a duo but haven’t seen evidence of that.
I write everything, and record most everything. There were times when long-time-member Bryan Lee tracked the drums, but now that I’m in a different location, it’s more tough to relay information without my direct presence. I’ve also had guest musicians performing on guitar, synth, bass, and vocals – some of which were members on tour.
How long have you been making art?
Just since January 2010. I sporadically maintained to focus on a few kinds of artistic mediums before this time, just not with seriousness or a sense of absoluteness. From 2005-2010 I was doing design work – flyers, websites, advertisements. I wouldn’t even include these concepts as part of a conscious art practice…yet they were vital.
What inspires your style?
Imperfection, Alan Watts, tangibles of the intangible, visual identity of the unidentifiable, poetic process (opposite of mechanical process), phenomena of the mind, phenomena in general, supernatural experience, hippie cliches. More specifically, Rosicrucian atriums, order of the Golden Dawn and its counterparts, certain teachings of the Tamlut, the Zohar (teachings of Kabbalah), the hidden place mats that control the evolution of society on a global level, and more. You could categorize it all under “mystery”.
Is all of your art collage work or how do you go about it?
Definitely not all, but my largest catalog is surely collage, and probably advertisements that I’ve designed for promotion agencies and publications in Salt Lake City. My most recent work is installation and other forms of mixed media production. I’ll also be exhibiting an interactive video piece May 2-6 here at CalArts, with elements of collage included.
Do you make a lot of money from your art?
At least $200,000.
Do you do a lot of galleries?
I’ve only exhibited in one gallery, but plan on doing solo and group shows a few times a year.
Your website says you’re an aspiring supernaturalist. What exactly does that entail?
It can mean whatever you want it to mean. What matters most seems to exist in the structure we all objectively interact with, that we assign roles to. Our theories of knowledge are phenomenon, as equal to the inherently associated artwork of mine.
What are your current goals that you’ve yet to achieve?
Complete the upcoming piece that I’ll be installing this weekend, to complete a new Vinyl Williams release, to immerse myself in Israel this June, and to incessantly create and maintain the evolution of my art. A more ultimate goal would be to visit space.
Are you satisfied with what you’ve been able to achieve so far, being so young?
Never satisfied! In life, there really isn’t a time when we realize that we have “arrived” at the place we need to be, which is some kind of accumulation of all of our achievements, combined with the impact they have seemed to ripple outwards. There is just the constant moment. I’m learning to be satisfied with that.