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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, July 28, 2014

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In Music

Madison drummer/producer Craig Walkner recently released a new EP titled "The Watcher of Thoughts."

Madison producer Silent Man Standing going places after new EP


To listen to Madison-based drummer and electronic producer Craig Walkner talk about his musical inspirations – ranging from Bjork to King Crimson to Peter Gabriel to even some of today's modern electronica pop music – is to feel like you're getting an education in assembling music.

During our interview, he referenced plenty of these groups and musicians, sometimes getting lost in enthusiastically describing their soundscapes and their influence.

One of Walkner's biggest musical inspirations isn't a big name like Bjork or Brian Eno however. It's his brother, Clint.

"He was always there for me in the good times and in the tough times," Walkner said. "He's been a rock for me whenever I needed help. And it's a tribute to him as far as bringing all of that other music that I might not have necessarily listened to and brought to my ears, but ended up making a huge influence on my sound right now and going forward."

It's for that reason that Walkner dedicated his recent downtempo electronic EP, "The Watcher of Thoughts" – picked up by Mareld, the deep electronica branch of the Swedish record label Substream and released on iTunes and several other music streaming services late last month – to his brother. The album, a five-song collection of often dark, mood-setting ambient electronic music, is a significant step forward for the Menomonee Falls born drummer/producer, who performs under the name Silent Man Standing.

"I found the name in an article somewhere," Walkner said. "I read Silent Man Standing or something of that nature in there, and I thought, well, that kind of personifies me a little bit. I enjoy reading philosophy and thinking about it and psychology, and I'm a big introvert who's trying to create music that's meaningful to me. It may not necessarily speak to all people, but there's definitely an audience for it. So it was a good moniker for myself and my personality."

The title of the EP, "The Watcher of Thoughts," is also a reference to psychology and mindfulness, elements that Walkner attempts to bring across in his music.

"They say it's hard to be musical on a drum set, and it's not," Walkner said. "Playing emotionally on a drum set is very easy for me, whether you're lonely or sad or excited or happy. It was always easy for my to portray that, even on an acoustic drum set."

Walkner originally got into this brand of eclectic, experimental, drum-influenced electronic music back during his college days at UW-Stevens Point and UW-Madison, listening to bands and artists like King Crimson.

"I was really a big fan of theirs and enjoyed how they brought electronic music into the fold with electronic drums and sounds into their music," Walkner said.

From there, his passion only grew, discovering ambient artists like Robert Fripp and Brian Eno, as well as the style, sound and sample blending on DJ Shadow's 1996 studio debut "Endtroducing….." Walkner eventually released an ambient album of his own in 2011 as a nod to Fripp and Eno, but he soon wanted to start developing his own sound.

"I wanted to bring out more drumming and more melody into the mix," Walkner said. "I just really wanted to come into my own, electronic drumming wise and production wise, and step my game up."

Walkner ended up developing six songs for demo shopping to labels, all furthering his grasp on what Silent Man Standing's certain sound would be like.

"There's one song that really captured my voice," Walkner recalled. "It just really came together melody-wise, and then I've got this break in the middle and that comes to a massive climax. Drumming-wise, everything is put together. And then, all of a sudden out of nowhere, I had this beautiful, simple Spanish guitar line that finishes off the song like, 'Ahhh, there you go.' I played it for my brother, and we both got emotional, and he said, 'Now there's your sound.'"

Unfortunately, since Substream was looking for more down-tempo music for its Mareld arm, that song wasn't selected for the new EP. The label ended up taking three songs from his originally pitched six, as well as two others from his 2011 ambient album. However, Walkner still has the song "in the box" and ready to go for a future EP or record, and he's still tremendously proud of the step forward "The Watcher of Thoughts" represents for his personal sound (not to mention his professional standing), especially the track "Shopping for a Diagnosis, Parts 1 & 2."

With the progress made on his EP and other songs in the tank, ready to go, it seems Silent Man Standing might be ready to make some noise soon.

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