Described by Time Out New York as an "art-rock visionary", Charles A. Looker has been active in underground music circles for the past two decades as a composer, vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist. His music brings together diverse influences and styles including classical composition, metal, pop, industrial, and improvised music. Born and based in New York City, he has received commissions from various ensembles, however most of his output has been with his own bands.
Looker was a founding member of the now-world-renowned experimental collective ZS, establishing his roots in the '00s Brooklyn DIY scene. He left ZS in 2007 to form his own band Extra Life which recorded three albums and several EPs, toured the US and Europe extensively and built a devout international following before disbanding in 2012. Since then, Looker's main performing vehicle has been metal/electronic project Psalm Zero. Other ongoing projects include Seaven Teares, a mostly acoustic quartet featuring medieval instruments, and Period, an improvisational trio with drummer Mike Pride and electronic musician Chuck Bettis.
In 2018, Looker released the first record under his own name, Simple Answers, a song cycle for three singers, a 17-piece chamber orchestra, and electronics, on his own limited edition vinyl imprint Last Things Records. This concept album, dealing with fascist psychology, stand-up comedy, and addiction, was performed in its entirety by the full ensemble at National Sawdust (Brooklyn), and was praised by the New York Times, Pitchfork, and NPR.
In 2020, Looker launched the Last Things YouTube channel and podcast, where he hosts weekly live-streamed interviews with various musicians, from the eccentric corners of contemporary composition, improvisation, metal, rap, noise, and Early Music, as well as writers, philosophers, and artist in other disciplines. Noted guests have included Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu), and Jim Thirlwell (Foetus). Looker also creates long-form educational videos on music history and theory, as well as video essays dealing with cultural criticism and philosophy.
In 2022, Looker revived Extra Life and released Secular Works, Vol. 2, a sequel to the debut record from 14 years prior. With a new line-up including Toby Driver (of Kayo Dot), and Gil Chevigné (of Helium Horse Fly), Extra Life began touring the U.S. and Europe.
Looker’s credits as a sideman guitarist and/or featured guest vocalist include work with Dirty Projectors, Xiu Xiu, Tyondai Braxton, Tim Berne, William Parker, Glenn Branca, Mick Barr, and the SEM Ensemble. As an arranger, producer, and remixer, Looker has worked with Amanda Palmer, Mivos Quartet, M Lamar, and Kate Miller-Heidke.
As a composer in a classical context, Looker has received fellowships and commissions from the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Yarn/Wire, the Ostrava New Music Days festival, and Experiments in Opera. In 2015, Looker was an artist-in-residence at The Stone (New York City), and collaborated with Mivos Quartet and M Lamar at the Ecstatic Music Festival (New York City). In 2011 he was voted one of the top 100 American composers under 40 by WNYC. Looker’s music has been performed at festivals around the world including Primavera Sound (Spain), Bad Bonn (Switzlerland), Villette Sonique (France), Moers Jazz (Germany) and Sound Forest (Latvia) and is documented on labels including Northern Spy, Profound Lore, LOAF, ThreeOneG, Troubleman Unlimited, and Last Things.