Interpretive Impressions

Quality Impressions tape impresses with a new way to make art with friends

Measha Vieth

MEOW YOU’RE GETTING IT. Ben Hinz, of local band The Ronald Raygun and effect pedal maker Dwarfcraft Devices, has released a 26-minute audio odyssey called Quality Impressions.
MEOW YOU’RE GETTING IT. Ben Hinz, of local band The Ronald Raygun and effect pedal maker Dwarfcraft Devices, has released a 26-minute audio odyssey called Quality Impressions.

I close my eyes as “Drum Womb” engulfs my senses. First, I get the feeling I’m in a mysterious forest with creatures calling out, then outer space as a spaceship becomes my home, lastly I imagine witnessing a ceremony take place. Whatever you may imagine, the idea behind this 26-minute piece is what started a musical effort called Quality Impressions.

You may know him as the front man for local band The Ronald Raygun and the owner of effect pedal makers Dwarfcraft Devices, but that’s not all Ben Hinz has to offer. “I’m excited to show people who care to pick it up a pretty different part of myself,” Hinz said. “Especially around Eau Claire there is a perception of who I am and what I do and that’s such a limited part of my person and even that, really a limited part of my art. I just want to get people to know me a little better.”

It all began in the summer of 2015. Ben was gifted a notebook and pen as he struggled to write something down. From then on, the notebook never left his side. He stated that his best ideas were conceived in the shower, yet forgotten shortly after. Now, all those ideas had a home on pages in this book. This is where “Drum Womb” among three other pieces first came to life. Described as a meditation of sorts, Ben wanted to hear it happen, but because he didn’t possess the skills to play drums, he called in friend and Ronald Raygun band mate, Matt Haapala to give it a shot. 

As Ben watched his ideas come to life in the hands of someone else, he wrote instructions others could freely create within boundaries, and then called in more favors. Soon, Jaime Hansen (recording engineer who plays guitar in The Ronald Raygun), Jeff Mitchell (from Field Report, an old friend and collaborator) and Ben Derrickson (drummer for All Tiny Creatures, Collections of Colonies of Bees, and owner of The Tannery recording studio) took on the task of deciphering Hinz’s instructions. Improvising didn’t deter any of these musicians. As each of them is skilled in multiple instruments, the creative process became that much more exciting. “Everybody can kind of speak the same language,”  Hinz said. Having what he would call an overqualified crew really helped the project transform. 

With multiple schedules, it took nearly a year to complete. Recorded in Derrickson’s Milwaukee studio, the project was automatically referred to as “Milwaukee.” The studio resides in an old industrial building where memorabilia and signage are often left behind. Outside the building an old salon sign caught the group’s eye – “Quality Impressions” it read. Jokingly, the name was said over and over. “Once you write something dumb down three times it just kind of fits,” Hinz said. “It kind of works in that this is our interpretation of the pieces, and really, I want to hear other groups do them, their impression.”

Quality Impressions released April 2017, a year after recording. “My whole world moves in explosions and then glacial progression. This is purely art. It could wait. It’s not going to sound old at any point,” Hinz said. He hopes that this cassette stirs emotions within the listener. With no specific stories in place, it leaves a whole realm of possibility. A 12-page companion booklet with full scores and instructions for all four pieces, designed by Zak Sally, accompanies the cassette. Listeners are encouraged to come up with their own thought process while listening, while musicians are encouraged to record pieces again on their own using the instructions. 

Looking toward the future, Ben and Matt won’t be stopping this collaborative art anytime soon. Keeping busy creatively is something they thrive on. Though they are proud of this project, as Matt puts it, “It’s just another mark on the growth door.” They are continuously moving forward. “I’m always super proud to play with Ben and Jaime, because I just really respect those dudes and being creatively involved with them means a ton to me. I’m glad that I can make these projects with them because it’s something that keeps me sane. You know, like when my normal life drives me completely bonkers,” Haapala said. 

Hinz adds:“It’s part of a larger whole that doesn’t end. Our lives as artists, there’s no end point to look at things from.”

As artists, Ben and Matt are always in search of what they can do that’s wilder, more radical, and scarier for them as well as other people and you’re welcome to join the adventure. Quality Impressions is currently open for interpretation.

You can stream and purchase the cassette via Dwarfcraft Global Media’s Bandcamp page at dwarfcraftglobalmedia.bandcamp.com.

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