From The Desk Of Kleenex Girl Wonder: Influence Ping (Saskrotch)

Kleenex Girl Wonder just released 13th LP The Comedy Album. Graham Smith, who’s been making pan-genre pop rock in bedrooms, studios, forests and everywhere in between under the KGW name with various people since 1994, joins MAGNET as guest editor this week. Climb inside his skull as he figures out what it’s all about, whatever “it” may be.


Smith: I became familiar with Saskrotch’s music the way a lot of people probably did (and he will probably hate me for saying this, and I would love to see the data contradicting it if it exists): via a compilation of Nintendo music married to hyperfast “jungle” (that’s what we octogenarians called it back then) beats, chopped and unscrewed into delicious oblivion. To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t really my favorite thing in the world, but I did notice something magical about the way he layered sounds together.

At some point after I had heard those, I found him somewhere on the internet; I guess it was probably Twitter? All roads lead to Twitter. But I discovered that he had a lot of original music, and though it plumbed the same territory (I forget if you plumb territories or just depths) as the Nintendo Breaks, it was a lot better, and incredibly original. Obviously, as an ’80s baby (ugh), I can’t help but feel nostalgic about chiptune music, but I am confident that all of the artists I love who traffic in it—Anamanaguchi is another good example—do more than just the easy nostalgia play. They use it to approach melody in a unique, complex way, while relying on the simple square/sine/triangle arsenal to push it urgently into your brain.

Saskrotch does that over and over and over, and as time has gone on he’s expanded into brave new territory—look up FKIN IGNVNT on SoundCloud and you’ll see what I mean—without losing a through-line that ties it all together. It’s really wonderful stuff. Which is why it was a true delight to steal his talent for “Cold Open,” the rollicking rap-song-that’s-not-exactly-a-rap-song nestled near the climax of The Comedy Album. And it was a further delight that he deigned to answer these questions for me.

Did you enjoy working with me on our song? I did, no pressure.
I don’t remember honestly, so it must have been good? I do a decent amount of game audio work, and I remember a lot of those projects because they can get super stressful (example: staying home by myself for Thanksgiving so I could get tracks done for a demo). Mostly I remember I was dating a bunch around that time, and I was stoked to get some money to take a girl I was really into out on a second date. Never actually saw her again.

Collaborations across genres are ever more constant on today’s records. Why do you think this is? Is it just a matter of technological advances, or is there something deeper?
I mean, as far as mainstream music goes, I think it’s just good business, to open up different artists fan bases to each other. I think for smaller, independent artists, it can be a lot of things. It’s a good way to learn new writing techniques, because everyone has their own way of doing things, unless they’re just loading presets into Massive. In this case it was a great way to get to know and work with someone I’d been a fan of. Like I used to put tracks from Graham Smith Is The Coolest Person Alive on mixes for girls in high school, and finding out you were a fan of mine through Twitter really brought me out of a dark place. But also I basically live in dark places, so I guess thanks for nothing. But for real, thanks.

You are, like me, empowered by home recording. Besides convenience or necessity, what do you prefer about that method? Do you enjoy more traditional recording processes, e.g. professional studios with premium bottled water and perhaps a bejewelled curtain for the vocal booth?
I’ve straight up never been in a real studio. My entire audio set up is a laptop and a MIDI controller, and I think I’ve recorded vocals once ever, for a Devo tribute compilation. I have a few game consoles/cartridges with MIDI in capability, but the sound is so basic it seems like I’d just be wasting an engineers time bringing that stuff in to get recorded. But it’s also sort of empowering how much you can get done on your own these days; it just depends on how much time you have to learn mixing and mastering.

What artists have influenced you repeatedly and/or intensely?
Probably one of my biggest, earliest, constant-est influences is Stunt Rock. He made a lot of depressing, sample-heavy, dirty breakcore (like, even dirty for breakcore) when I first started writing with a computer. His Regret Instruction Manual series is amazing. Jake Kaufman is a huge inspiration for game audio, although a lot of times he just makes me feel completely inadequate. Chibi-tech is along the same lines (to me). I always wanted to write something like the Avalanches’ Since I Left You, but never have. I’m bad at writing. I’m sorry.

Outside of income, what keeps you pushing forward and making new and exciting music?
The main thing I like about writing music is approaching a blank canvas and surprising myself. I rarely have an idea when I start writing, and a lot of times I just want to see where it goes. Or I just abandon it and start over.

Please do yourself a favor and check out Saskrotch’s amazing body of work; you can buy (or stream, most of it anyway) it here.