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Audiophiles as Artists - Joshua Miles

05-01-2019 | By Editors at Positive Feedback | Issue 103

Twenty questions with an audiophile who is also an artist. For this premiere, we feature Joshua Miles of JWM Acoustics.

What's your background?

My primary background is in visual arts and industrial design.

After establishing myself in this world, I began my engineering work in acoustics and recording technology.

What's integral to the work of an artist?

Space… for myself, I need lots of it. I work very organized so my mind can focus on creativity. This also goes for my work in sound reproduction. The more space I have to work in, the more organized I can be to fill it up.

Why do you do what you do?

I create things to give forth experiences and hopefully spawn thought in my audience. The process of creating is like water to me though. If I can't make things I will dry up and die. If I can create things people like, that glass of water is even more quenching to my insides.

How do you work? The process.

My process is started with memories. It could be a good one or bad one, but this is where it begins. In my paintings for example, I have fond memories of movement in fluid forms. The ocean. The river. The light as it reflects from the phosphorescence of tiny dinoflagellates within the tide pools in the morning. These moments are stuck in my mind until I can get them out in lacquer or porcelain. With sound, I remember every system I have ever heard. Every live show. Every voice. I pick and choose the parts I feel are closer to my goals, and try to convey them with my own audio experience. Art and audio are one in the same for me. I do not distinguish between the two. Just different mediums.

What has been a seminal experience?

This is a tough question. "Ah Ha "moments are many, so trying to pinpoint one is difficult. I'll give you three. When I was around 11 years old, I was at the home of a longtime friend of the family and audiophile. He asked me to sit on the couch and give a listen to something. At that age, my attention span was pretty short, but I did. As soon as he dropped the needle on that live jazz recording, I was stunned. I had never heard such a thing. It was not like the instruments were floating in free space in the room, they were. I could literally pinpoint each one across the stage in a 3 dimensional space and feel the heart beats of each player. I was hooked. In the art world, that experience happened the first day I walked into a true and fully equipped sculpture studio at the San Antonio Art Institute. All the space. All the surfaces. All the raw materials ready to be mixed into plastic clay bodies. The rows of kilns and the cords of wood being fed into the huge kilns. The fire. The smells, the sweat on the faces of the students as they prayed for the pieces within to be blessed by the fire they had created. Again, I was hooked. The third was the first time I was asked to create a piece utilizing my lacquer paintings on a set of speakers. I was so confused I didn't know what to say. I knew the industrial design of the cabinets was crucial to the work, but then adding my paintings into the mix was a mind blowing revelation I had to pursue. I haven't looked back since.

What's the best piece of advice you've been given?

Do one thing and do it right.

Professionally, what's your goal?

When it comes to audio, I would like to build my company to the point where it gives more time to create. There is a limit to how far you can grow a company like mine though. Too big and you will lose the handmade passion I try to keep in the pieces. I know that boundary well. If I am able to collect the right craftsmen to execute my vision, I will then have the space to move on to better work and creative pursuits. I hope this dream is reached within 5 years from now. I won't push it though. The universe has shown me that haste is not the way.

Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years as an artist?

As in the previous question, I plan to grow my visions. The sketch books are filling with ideas to combine more of my visual arts with the sonic arts. Should the stars align, I hope to have the two make a mark in some way. As an artist, I will never retire completely into one or the other. Hopefully in 10 years, less limits are places on the work.

In looking back, anything you wish you had done differently as an artist?

Yes. I wish I had not taken a hiatus from teaching and the studio life shared with others. The energy exchange in the studio is so vital to me, yet I chose to focus on myself for a while. That led to disconnecting from the goings on in the art communities I love. I can't help but think about what I missed without the constant exchange.

What wouldn't you do without?

My family for one. It always comes first. I have been blessed with a strong one that values our heritage and tries to preserve it. This in itself is an inspiration to me and I will do my part to continue it. Oh, and vinyl records. They are pretty cool.

Is there a food, drink, or music that inspires you?

Oh gosh. All three have deeeeeep roots in me. I am a foodie to the core. If I were to pick a particular food, it would have to be sushi. This is an art to me. Much like a box of paints, each ingredient can be layered without rules. Each one with its own color, texture, flavor. The plate is the canvas that can be more than just a surface, but a diving board into the mind of the chef. When it comes to a drink, iced tea. Just like sushi, one can layer flavors like paint, till the perfect match is made for that time. Like a summer day on the porch, or with that smoked brisket by the river. Yeah, tea. Good stuff. Music? Good drummers are my thing, especially recorded live and raw. If you look at my collection, you would find 85% of it are live recordings with great drummers. The power in the instrument while in this environment evokes energy in me. It makes me focus. It makes me dream. Maybe that's strange, but rhythm is what makes me boil. Raw rhythm.

Or something else that inspires you?

Gosh, love? Seeing it in others and hoping I find it again…

How has your practice (art) changed over time?

I think the first answer is freedom. I have spent so many years trying to perfect my technics, that I never really allowed the freedom to use them. As time goes on, I feel I am finally allowing myself to loosen up and fuck up.

What do you dislike about the art world?

It's not that I hate any part of the art world. It's like saying you dislike a certain flavor of ice-cream in a way. It's all good, just some more appealing than others. The first thing that comes to mind though would be dishonesty. I see a lot of artists being pushed by galleries that don't give a hoot about the work. As long as it brings in the dough, it's called "art." Too much of this work when viewed by other artists is blatantly dishonest. Like ripped from the pages of their text book in the second year BFA classes. Or worse yet, a facsimile of their professors from 20 years prior. I was guilty of this for a while, so I see it every day with great clarity. "LOOSEN UP FUTURE ARTISTS!" I absolutely see this in the world of audio as well. People are so easily swayed by what they are told is good sound. If it sells, it must be the best right? It can be frustrating to a designer, for these little boxes of sound are a direct reflection of the creators ear. Not just numbers on the sellers ledger. I wish more galleries and retailers would open their ears and eyes and not see it in this way.

What do you dislike about your work?

Too complicated. I am really about process. I tend to dwell on each piece of the puzzle too much rather than allow the flow to occur naturally. Like I mentioned earlier, this is changing though. My work is becoming less complex and more soulful as I get older.

What do you like about your work? Flow. I like flow.

How did you get into audio?

I was very young when I became fascinated with audio. I think I was more interested in the way equipment worked before the music it was playing. I would say this was when I was about 11 years old. I started taking speakers and turntables apart to understand how they worked and why. It was around this time I was introduced to my first HI-END system and I was hooked.

Is there a relationship between you as an artist and audio?

Yes. For me they are one in the same. I do not distinguish between the two, but consider them both expressions of my work. As the two have developed individually over the years, they are now starting to overlap within the design realm.

Where can we find your work?

My artwork has been displayed in approximately 30 galleries over the years, but the bulk of my pieces are sold directly from my studio and gallery. This is also true for my audio equipment. Some ends up in galleries, but the bulk is sold directly. Because most of the work is large scale, the trend has always been toward commercial spaces though. Banks, resorts, offices, etc.

Anything else that you wish we had asked?

Favorite color. GLITTER!

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