Warren Walker is a saxophonist, synthesist, composer, and producer originally from California and currently living in Paris, France. He is one of the founders of the genre-bending group The Kandinsky Effect and is also the co- leader of oddAtlas as well as his own solo project (n)Traverse.
Here's our chat with Warren:
Can you pick out any favorites from your work that you're particularly proud of?
I really enjoy The Kandinsky Effect’s Pax 6 album. This band has been working together for over a decade and this album really highlighted what is possible in a trio format.
The work I’m most proud of is my current solo modular synth project that I recorded during quarantine which I spent in Barcelona. The album (n) Traverse vol. 1 released today, May 28th 2021. The album was recorded live with no overdubs or edits, and was both mixed and mastered on Audeze LCD-X headphones. I really enjoyed the idea of making a completely live electronic music album and really digging into my modular synth setup and viewing it as a complete instrument and learning to embrace its limitations.
How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on?
It’s always changing and depends on the type of project it is. Generally, I just try to serve the music in the best way possible.
How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?
Initially it was in the school band and then it progressed into playing in my Dad’s groups when I was about 12 or so. My household when I was growing up was always filled with the sounds of Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix and the Allman Brothers just to name a few. If my Dad wasn’t home I would sneak some hip-hop tapes into the mix. Of course all of these artists are still very heavily in my rotation but in the last 10 years I have really explored more on the electronic side.
Can you name any factors you feel majorly influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?
I was about 14 or so my Dad got me John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” which kind of changed everything for me at that point.
Another time was in my early 20’s I went to a workshop with Anthony Braxton in Paris and I went up to ask him about helping find more direction in my writing and he just told me to find people I like that enjoy the music I do and then see what happens. A week later I started a band which became The Kandinsky Effect. Thirteen years later and a dizzying amount of shows, we are still going strong.
Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?
I think most of my frustration would be in my earlier compositions. As a young composer trained in a jazz school, sometimes it was hard to overcome that little voice in your head whether or not that musical decision was cool enough rather than just making the correct decision to serve the music and not your ego. I think just trying to make honest music with intention is my only goal now.
Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?
I think it’s just my ever rotating modular synth case. There is always something new to be discovered while patching.
Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?
Just keep pushing and creating. Find enjoyment in your work and the rest will follow.
How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?
I’ve always spent a considerable amount of time working in headphones. With the amount of touring that I’ve done in the last 15 years, headphones are an absolute necessity whether to work while on the road or just for pure listening pleasure.
I also really enjoy working remotely and having a pair of headphones you can rely on day in and day out is very important. The last 2 albums of The Kandinsky Effect were written in a little beach shack in Dominical, Costa Rica.
For my current workflow, i.e. the (n)Traverse project, headphones are an absolute necessity as that music is just one stereo track so mixing everything within my system was really only possible using headphones as I recorded the entire album in an apartment with no acoustic treatment and tiny monitors.
How have your Audeze headphones affected your work? Can you tell us what you've been working on with them so far?
After using the LCD-X extensively these last few months I must say that my mixes both come together quicker and are more defined. I know that I can rely on these no matter where I'm working and be confident that my mixes will translate to any system. Currently, I am working on the follow up to my solo electronic debut (n)Traverse Vol.1. I also recently finished a score for a French film entitled “Lazarus.”
I have found the LCD-1’s to be the perfect travel reference headphone and could easily use these full time in the studio as well.