Vinyl Williams: A True VR Sonic Wizard
Vinyl Williams, real name Lionel Williams, is an LA-based multimedia artist and musician. His music, self-defined as “celestial pop”, attempts to achieve extreme harmony across dimensions that enables his listeners to experience a transcendental, encompassing world view rich with symbolisms from various cultures. Recently VeeR had the honor to have the following interview with him, which offered a fresh perspective on the VR music industry.
VeeR: How long have you been producing VR?
Lionel: I’ve been working with Unity since 2012, slowly developing an expansive celestial civilization, which is now so large that it’s hard to even recover all the hidden zones that I’ve left for myself & others to discover. The first 360º video I made was public in October 2015.
VeeR: How did you see VR’s potential in showcasing your music work?
Lionel: It definitely amplified the immersion of music that fit within a similar category as maximalistic frame-filled over-stimulation. The more minimal pop songs I’ve made 360º videos for seemed to distract away from the song. Ultimately I think I’d repurpose all of my 360º with more alien avant-garde sounds that would truly bring one into the other side, rather than merely represent glimpses of it.
VeeR: How was your VR art style established? How has it evolved over time?
Lionel: It’s slowly been getting less abstract and more figurative. It’s always been the same since I first started making virtual realms & collage artwork – which can be classified as syncretic havens of inter-dimensional harmony that entangle all dualistic concepts into unified ineffabilities.
A deliberate evolution has been the conscious inclusion of political implications of multi-religious / multi-cultural simultaneity. For example, when I included the sultan’s palace of Brunei in one of my pieces, I made sure that the work explores more than just an aesthetic illusion of Brunei, but also the controversial political aspects, such as the incorporation of Sharia law last year. To refute this I intentionally added many rainbows surrounding the unfolding palace, symbolizing diversity & LGBTQ rights. All of the forms, ornamentations, and aesthetics you witness within my worlds are reactionary expressions of the religious dissonance I experienced living in the state of Utah. In these dream worlds, I intend for the opposite, the expression of order & harmony in the cosmos in the way that my cognition interprets it.
VeeR: How would you define your music genre? Could you elaborate on the “sonic matrices” that Wikipedia explains your music attempts to achieve?
Lionel: I’ve been calling it celestial pop. Sonic matrices are harmonious combinations of sounds that can lead to “frission” – goosebumps caused by an extreme state of harmony in music. It can also allow for a “spiral ascension” – the feeling of a beneficial coiled energy flowing up through your spine.
VeeR: Your music videos are very psychedelic, among which “Feedback Delicates” is especially mesmerizing. What message do you hope to convey through these videos, if there is one?
Lionel: The messages are veiled. They do their work on the viewers subconsciously.
It is supposed to make our choices & actions more to the benefit of ourselves & each other through a barrage of ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Mesopotamian, Pagan, and even Enochian symbolism that lead towards endless gateways, representing an exit of the track of biological existence, into a state of incorporeal bewilderment.
It is also to express the vastly harmonious & complex forms of nature in a realistic simulation, repeating in hyperbolic patterns to transmute our cultural conditioning into a greater world view. This is why I’m strongly against the use of cute low-poly worlds.
VeeR: What’s your typical workflow like? How much time do you devote to planning, shooting and editing individually?
Lionel: I don’t really rationalize it I just go, go, go until it’s done. It’s a circulatory process of sending videos through massive amounts of effects, digital to analog transfers through my Panasonic MX20 & Tachyons+ video synth, and overlaying those artifacts into the environment, creating a real magnetic feel.
VeeR: Of all the VR music videos you’ve produced, what has been the most memorable for you, and why?
Lionel: The newest one I’ve made for Spaceface is probably the best I’ve ever made… it’s not out yet, but its realms are the closest to the ether I think I’ve been able to represent thus far. It should be out within a month.
VeeR: What editing software do you use for your videos?
Lionel: I use After Effects CS5 & CC17 to edit. Its strengths are rooted in its name – effects! The Red Giant Universal effects are fantastic, as well as Mettle’s 360º plugins that I just received after winning a raffle at their Siggraph exhibit.
The main drawback is that on my puny 2015 MacBook Pro (which I do everything on) it can barely playback the video even at 1/4 of the resolution. So I essentially have to trust that it’ll be right and use trial & error. I recommend it for those that love Photoshop and want to use it in a video format with all of the same effects and infinite layering options.
VeeR: What has been your biggest challenge during production, and how did you overcome it?
Lionel: Incorporating 2-dimensional green screen footage into a 360º video while keeping it immersive has proven to be a real challenge. Also any coding aspects I have to execute are nearly impossible for my irrational mind. Right now I’m working on an exploration-based points game, where one can explore around this huge environment and find secret pieces of Osiris to piece back together. Coding all of that has been impossible for me. Somebody please help!
VeeR: What visions do you have for the future of VR application in the music industry?
Lionel: I like working on tape machines, although I’ve thought about making VR music applications, I think the more grounded one is to the electro-magnetic field of Earth the better their music will be. So, I don’t think VR is best equipped for music production yet.
I’ve made 3-dimensional audio remixing applications, where you can assign samples to orbs, and your relationship to their placement determines the pitch & volume of the sounds. Sometime in the future I’ll make the most futuristic DAW platform one could ever conceive, but it’s not my main priority as I couldn’t even see myself actually utilizing such a thing with how comfortable I am with tangible recording systems.
For more information, please visit Vinyl Williams’ official pages: