On the record with Andy Gilmore

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As well as an artist and designer, Andy is a musician. And his work is often inspired by the physics of sound and acoustics. We decided to talk to Andy about the role music has played in his life and his work.

We started by asking him for his top five musical inspirations:

The Smiths – my all-time favourite band ­– Johnny Marr being one of my favourite guitarists.

David Axelrod – creator of amazing instrumental records from the late ‘60s to early ‘80s.

Donald Byrd – jazz trumpet player that started out in the bebop era and transitioned into funk and soul. My favourites are his funk/soul records produced by the Mizell brothers.

Ennio Morricone – composer noted for his film scores – most notably the “Man with No Name” films directed by Sergio Leone starring Clint Eastwood.

The Impressions – current favourite – the early band of Curtis Mayfield.

You mention David Axelrod, and you created a piece based on his albums ‘Songs of Experience’ and ‘Songs of Innocence’ for a Pitsch ‘n’ Sync exhibition last year. Would you like to do more work directly referencing the music you love?

Maybe someday, but it isn’t something I have been considering as of late. 

Your top five reveals eclectic taste, going from indie to soul/funk, jazz and orchestral. Has your taste evolved and expanded over time, or is there a particular type of music you gravitate towards?

Yes, my taste in music has certainly evolved over the years. When I was younger I was drawn to what was being expressed on a very personal and emotional level. These days I gravitate more to a particular quality of sound – a quality that can exist in any genre – but one that is less about the individual and more about an expression of a collective human experience. 

What attracted you to the Impressions and Curtis Mayfield at present?

The song ‘Minstrel and Queen’. 

Is there any kind of music you really don’t like?

Not really. I can appreciate all music as a human/cultural phenomenon but I am not inclined to listen to it all. 

Do you remember how you first discovered a liking for music?

The earliest song I have a memory of loving was “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis. I think I was 8 or 9 years old. It wasn’t until I was 13 that songs I heard on the radio starting to catch my ear and required that I listen to the radio endlessly in order to rehear a song.  

Do you have a huge record collection?

I have my fair share of records, but due to the weight and space records take up, I am much more interested in quality over the quantity of my collection.

You describe yourself as a musician. What kind of music do you play? Do you play a specific instrument?

My primary instrument is an acoustic 12-string guitar that I play in a kind of Western-Raga fingerstyle that I have developed over the years. By no means do I play at the level of proficiency or understanding required to play Indian Ragas, but I improvise around particular scales and modes in an effort to expand a certain technical and intuitive understanding of sound. 

Have you ever performed publicly?

Yes, I average about one public performance a year, but only here in Rochester, New York. 

Have you ever aspired to be a professional musician, or did visual arts always come first?

No, not really. When I was young I was under the impression that the only people that make a profession out of music had formal training from a very young age.

Do you listen to music while you work?


 Does music directly inspire your work? If so, how?

Yes, I have had a number of true eureka moments regarding my work that I am sure would never have occurred to me if I hadn’t acquired a beautiful archtop acoustic guitar with incredible harmonic resonance and sustain. 

The harmonic principles of sound that the guitar amplified acoustically guided my playing and led me to conclusions of color and proportions that would never have occurred to me otherwise.

What was the first record you owned?

When I was 12 or 13 I requested the DJ at my Aunt and Uncle’s wedding play The Smiths…he didn’t…but he gave me the one Smiths record he had which was a “William, It Was Really Nothing” 12” single.

And what was the first record you bought with your own money?

It would have had to have been a cassette tape and I think it was Special Ed – ‘Youngest in Charge’.

Do you go to see live music? If so, what was the last concert you went to?

I used to go to a few shows a week but these days I’m lucky if I make it to that many a year. I think the last concert I went to was Future Islands in Ithaca, NY. 

How do you listen to music – download, streaming, CD, vinyl, all of the above?

I listen to radio, mixcloud and vinyl. 

Where do you hear new music?

First Listen on NPR.

Who would you most like to design an album sleeve for?