Today we’d like to introduce you to Cody McPhail.
Cody, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born in Dallas Texas at Medical City Hospital in April of 1977. My first life changing and cultural forming events that I can recall were seeing ET at the Northpark 1 & 2 cinema, falling in love with the force of the Star Wars universe because it was/still is all pervasive in American society, and my oldest brother showing me 2001: A Space Odyssey at the young age of 8 years. Seeing this film is a point of which I consider my life goal and love of art were discovered. Instrumental music, beautiful photography, and speculative story telling would become obsessions of mine later in life. They were early on as well but I was being force fed MTV, Saturday morning cartoons, and Cap’n Crunch which blinded me from examining my true passions.
At age 13 I started to become very serious about playing and writing music. Twin Peaks was airing on TV and I had a fairly deep understanding of who David Lynch was at this point in my life. The Elephant Man was another film that had effected me heavily. It’s treatment of understanding and exacting compassion towards all beings changed my outlook on how I handled myself around other people. His film version of Dune blew my young mind after I had seen it in Beaumont Texas when it was released, leading me to read the novel. Twin Peaks was so extremely eye opening with its style of storytelling and music by Angelo Badalamenti. I became obsessed with all things Lynchian.
The music in Dune was so alien and beautiful to me. I had to find more music like that but this would not happen until later in the 90’s. The distractions in American culture in the 80’s were powerful. I feel like I missed out on a lot of beautiful art happening in that time period due to what was surrounding all of us at the time. I was young and didn’t know how to avoid these distractions. In the 90’s I was getting into electronic music through my love of Nine Inch Nails, which led to an obsession with Aphex Twin’s music because of NIN’s Downward Spiral remix compilation, on which Aphex Twin is featured. My love for the Boards of Canada, DJ Shadow, Tortoise, and Bjork also led me towards more experimental music, much thanks to the old CD World on Greenville and the now gone Forbidden Books in Expo Park, expertly run by Jason Cohen.
The videos that were attached to much of this music proved to be very influential in my love for experimental film, ironically thanks to the AMP tv show on MTV. Attending the Cinema Texas film festival in 2002 in Austin Texas, djing parties with friends projecting their video art onto screens while I played tunes that same year, and going to I Love Video in Austin and renting massive amounts of VHS copies of films by directors such as Tarkovsky, Jodorowsky, and Miyazaki. Several years before this I had attended Brookhaven Community College in Dallas where I took a class on digital music production run by the brilliant Andrew Walters. This is where I met my best friend and frequent collaborator, Matthew Hanner, who now runs the Aural Canyon record label.
Andy introduced us to music by Ligetti, whom I had heard in 2001 but didn’t know at the time, Xenakis, Stockhausen, Morton Subotnick, Varese, Pierre Henry, Brian Eno, LaMonte Young, and many others. We were allowed to make music in a studio filled with beautiful pieces of synth gear all midi controlled by an old Mac running Performer. From 2000 c.e. until now I have been making experimental electronic music as Akkad the Orphic Priest aka ATOP, mostly because of my teacher Andy Walters. He taught me the importance of sound creation and sonic manipulation. He taught me how to make music, the way that I had always wanted to make it but didn’t know how.
In 2015, after having been a music reclusive but performing in bands, mostly in the background as the guy who made the “space” sounds, I decided to start Dallas Ambient Music Nights. I had been trying to come up with a showcase that I would love running and also love executing. My friend Stefan Gonzalez was a huge influence on me in deciding to put together a showcase. His Monday night Outward Bound Mixtape sessions, that started at Crown & Harp on Greenville and now reside at RBC in Deep Ellum, are an eclectic showcase of talent from within North Texas but with persons coming in to perform from all over the world. It is a historic event happening now. The Dallas music scene will be forever connected with the words Outward Bound.
Dallas Ambient Music Nights or DAMN is going very strong and everyone that is involved are brilliant artists showing their amazing creations at every DAMN showcase. It is something I am very proud of and will continue to run for as long as I possibly can.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The only struggles I can think of are with money. I wish we could all exist without it but we can’t. Experimental showcases aren’t the biggest money earners, in America, and it is hard for me to do what I do, pay the artists what they deserve, and continue to do what I love each month by putting on Dallas Ambient Music Nights showcases.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
I run an experimental music & film showcase named Dallas Ambient Music Nights aka DAMN and I make music under the name Akkad the Orphic Priest, better known as ATOP.
What were you like growing up?
I was a very shy kid. I hid in my room when my parents would have friends over. I lived in my own world. I created my own world from all of the toys, films, and stories that I loved at that time.
Brian Tomerlin, Evan Henry, Mike Petty, Chad Walls, Photograph of Future Museums performing, Photo of myself performing, ATOP, Marissa Rodriguez, the Thoth Deck, Dune coloring book