Between writing and recording his own solo records, touring intercontinentally playing keyboards with The Shins, and producing records with musicians like songwriter Damien Jurado and Portland’s dreamy up-and-comers Pure Bathing Culture at his studio National Freedom, Richard Swift is a busy human.
Swift’s show Mt. Mountain opens at the Division cafe today, revealing inky black and white paintings, whose surfaces are often emblazoned with scribbled text and a dark sense of humor. Swift lists influences like Walt Whitman and Jack Kerouac, Bo Diddley and Captain Beefheart and outsider artists Bill Traylor and Royal Robertson.
His artist statement reveals a bit of insight into his process:
And only his humor, his vinyl collection, his libations and his canvas — whatever his canvas may be — are there to keep him from crossing that oh-so-thin and fragile line into madness. If you should see themes and reoccurring characters in Swift’s black ink pieces, it’s likely these are the themes and characters that kept him just to this side of that line.
We caught up with him in his studio in Cottage Grove and asked him a few questions about his life and work — and from here, it’s tough to tell which side of mad he’s hollering from.
Can you catch us up on what you do for work and fun?
I MAKE MUSIC RECORDINGS. SORRY FOR THE ALL CAPS. I JUST NOTICED THAT MY CAPS LOCK WAS ON AND DECIDED TO JUST, YA’ KNOW, ROLL WITH IT.
What projects are you working on right now?
DAMIEN JURADO LP 11 / PURE BATHING CULTURE / SHINS / WAKE OWL / FEILD DAYS / FOXYGEN / REVIVAL HOUR / MT. MOUNTAIN / NOBOZINE
Where are you from? How did you find yourself in Cottage Grove? What’s life like there?
EVERYWHERE KINDA / CALIFORNIA / MINNESOTA / UTAH / OREGON / ALL CAPS /IT’S QUIET HERE / AND CHEAP / PDX BOUND MAYBE?
What is a typical day like?
PAINT/RECORD/NOBOZINE/FROZEN STRAWBERRIES/SMOKES/WALK/PICS/WOODY ALLEN DOC/CHALKBOARD / GAWD I LOVE MY CHALKBOARD RIGHT NOW///// NOBO
How often do you tour? How has that affected your visual work?
OFTEN / I “WORK” A LOT ON TOUR / CREATING “WORK” IN HOTELS LIKE AN INDIE-CIGARETTE ARTIST WHO DRINX WAY TO MUCH TYPEWRITER-COFFEE CUZ HE’S GOTTA GET HIS VEGAN ZINES MAILED OUT
Your work is often incorporates layers of text, handwritten or typed. How does language play into your work?
I OFTEN HAVE TO USE WORDS TO ASK MY SQUAW TO MAKE DINDIN
Will you describe your workspace?
IT’S WARM IN HERE. LOTS OF BILL COSBY RECORDS.
What are you really liking right now?
BILL COSBY / RACHEL’S SECRET BOYFRIEND’S ULSER /CC / MY SQUA / FOXYGEN /NOBOZINE / EL JIMADOR / MY TABLE / WILLOW / JONATHAN BEHR / LAURA (FOXHEAD) / COKE ZED / MAUST / SUMI INK FROM YUUKI / YUUKI AND EMILY’S BABY CLAIR / DAMIEN JURANGO / THIS SNARE SOUND / STEVIE WONDER WHEN HE WAS NINE / SEX / RAY’S JOHNSON / HOW TO KILL A BUNNY / JACK WHITE’S BABY BLUE IPHONE
What are your influences?
RACHEL DEMY / 16 HOURS / CC / Z PDA / JURADO / SWANSON /MERCER / DANNY / MISTY / CC / SQUA / SQUA / SQUA / SQUA / SQUA /
SQUATS / SQUATTING / NOBO / THE JIM ADOR / SILVER THROAT / AUNA /AUNA’S TASTE IN WOMEN / JAPAN TOUR / MY ARTY LAPTOP / TASCAM / THE BAND / RAG MOMMA RAG / ZACH IN A FOREST / CHRIS COLBERT ON VINYL / GENE EUGENE / KEVIN / ZACH’S HAIRCUT /