Andre LaFosse has spent over half his life charting the common ground between "live" and "electronic" music. As a guitarist, looper, producer, engineer, MIDI programmer, composer, and improviser, he's made an ongoing habit of upending expectations, questioning convention, and finding connections between wildly diverse elements.
Born in 1974 to two professional classical violinists (his father Leopold and mother Marsha), Andre was exposed to music from the beginning - his very first word was "gig." Andre dabbled with piano and violin himself throughout his early years, and studied cello for five of them. But it was an altogether less rarified and more unlikely influence - a chance encounter with a $90 consumer synthesizer - that ended up sparking his long-term musical path.
His newfound curiosity with electronic sound led Andre to 4-track cassette recording and MIDI programming, which in turn led to the purchase of a pawnshop electric guitar in late 1988. Originally intended as a background element to his synthesizer-driven compositions, the electric guitar soon took hold of Andre's interest and assumed a central role in his work. But his interest in electronics remained a consistent element as well, and was never far from his guitar-driven endeavors.
That duality - guitar performance and electronic sound manipulation, performance verses production, organic and synthetic, - has been perhaps the single most defining factor in LaFosse's music over the course of his 15 years as a creative musician.
In 1994, six years after first picking up the guitar, Andre was accepted to the guitar program at the highly selective California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles, California. The CalArts curriculum's overriding themes of individuality, personal expression, and musical thought free from the confines of "style" and "genre" were a perfect match for Andre, who was already preoccupied with finding a voice outside of standard convention.
His three years at CalArts covered a wide array of studies: electric guitar with Miroslav Tadic, jazz with Larry Koonse and Wadada Leo Smith, guitar synthesizer with Stuart Fox, North Indian/Hindustani classical music with Dr. Rajeev Taranath, Javanese gamelon with Pok Djoko Waludjo… and innumerable ensembles blending rock, fusion, world music, and live electronic performance. It was also during this time that Andre received his first national press, in Guitar Player magazine, for a two-track demo recorded in 1996, when he was 21.
Andre's first major statement arrived in 1999 with his debut album Disruption Theory. A sprawling, hour-long hybrid of drum & bass, classic rock, jazz, world music, and electronica, it combined Andre's sample-programming work with extended flights of lead guitar and post-ambient looping. Perhaps surprisingly for an instrumental, guitar-driven recording, Disruption Theory won strong praise from a wide cross-section of national and international media, including Alternative Press, MOJO, Expose, Outburn, and 20th Century Guitar.
His latest album, Normalized (2003) is simultaneously the most radical, innovative, and accessible statement Andre has made to date. An 18-track, 73-minute epic, Normalized is based around his highly distinctive solo live performance style, dubbed "Turntablist Guitar." Using nothing but an electric guitar, an Echoplex digital looper, and a standard tube guitar amp, Andre creates rhythmically-intense, texturally dense real-time performances that meld funk, hip-hop, glitch, and IDM.
The sound is both intensely organic and unmistakably digitized, and finds Andre utilizing percussive slaps, harmonics, and extended techniques to create a sound that has more in common with drum machines and crates of vinyl than with any conventional ideas about the electric guitar. It's a record by a live musician filtering post-DJ culture through his own instrument: turning production-based studio concepts into a performance-oriented live discipline, and making technology subordinate to the whims of an instrumental improviser.
In many ways, Normalized acts as a metaphor for a potential survival tactic in 21st-century life: in a world where existence is fragmented by a relentless assault of digital information, Andre deals with it by fracturing his own music, throwing it back at himself, and finding order amidst the chaos.
In addition to his more personalized, exploratory solo work, Andre maintains activity as both a freelance guitarist and as a producer and engineer. Of particular note is his remix work for a variety of independent artists and labels, which shares many common conceptual traits with his guitar-driven solo approach. Andre's remix technique combines a penchant for stylistic eclecticism with a preference for using the actual performances contained in the original versions of the remixed tracks, using studio technology to mold and shape those organic sources into radically reconstructed new forms.
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