Monthly Archives: March 2010

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I have a healthy obsession with the consumer music technology press. By that I mean Future Music, Music Tech and traditionally my own personal favourite Computer Music. I don’t really mean Sound on Sound which doesn’t have the same sensationalist impact to the untrained eye. When I was first starting to get into electronic music production in the mid to late 90’s my magazine buying habits moved away from Guitar Tech and onto Future Music. In part this reflected the development of my musical tastes from the indie pop n rock staple which has been traditionally forced on teenagers in this country as a result of the prejudices of generations before them to mainly listening to electronic music. The indie pop situation will no doubt be addressed by the electro-centric nature of today’s ‘cutting edge’ pop music and the subliminal eduction this is giving to today’s listeners.

The album that really caught my attention and turned my head was The Black Dog’s ‘Spanners’. I find it hard listening to this album today as it is a bit too familiar to my ears. The experience does however recall a specific teenage time and place. As is the way with the emotional attachment we have with music the endless indie pop I was listening to before I discovered electronic music doesn’t hold the same resonance with me. So much so that I associate it both musically and personally as unfulilling and ‘immature’ (I’m looking at you Sonic Youth, Pixies et al).

Whilst I was at the time a proficient drummer, a less proficient guitarist and a reluctant keys player, I had no idea how to produce the music I now had swimming around in my head. I obsessively devoured Future Music and my copy with an interview with one mean and moody member of The Black Dog is perhaps the most interesting artist article I came across (but only because it was with a member of The Black Dog). The Black Dog cultivated an image of a kind of cultural mysticism, of sophistication. Whereas Warps other major artist of the time Richard James opted for the one of the other tried and tested musician stereotypes of the secretive genius.

The Aphex Twin never revealed the technology he used to come up with his creations and if he did it would be a synth he created himself or a proto computer program coded by a hacker or something. Personally as a marketing standpoint I can see the importance of this, especially if the marketing machine is billing an individual as someone with superhuman musical powers, a vision which is then lapped up by the a potential audience unfamiliar with how music is produced or created. Tom Conti, talking about the latest film role on Mayo and Kermode’s Wittertainment show talked about how dull revealing the creative process to the general public would be if it were to happen. In that it would destroy the magic, the illusion required to fire the imagination and hold the wonder of the audience. The general public would wearily sigh ‘is that all it is’ in Tom’s view, one with which I have some sympathy with.

But breakdown the wall of mysticism I did. With no internet (good god can you imagine those days), nobody else within my circle of friends interested in moving in that direction it took me a good couple of years to even begin to figure out what equipment to buy with the aid of Future Music (I guess it should have been quicker but I guess I was a bit of a slow learner at the time). I remember driving over to Digital Village fully in the hope of buying my first bits of equipment and being fobbed off by some bloke who told me my initial choice of a hardware sequencer was rubbish and that computers were the future. I went away without buying anything. When I did buy a computer it was from Turnkey on Charing Cross Road…which as a computer was amazingly useless. They also ripped me off blind.

Despite a start to my autobiography what is the point of this rambling. Well I still pour over these magazines every month and I wonder how many established musicians do (of which I am of course not one) what with the internet etc. This month I picked up the current Computer Music special titled something like how to make it in music. I’ve not read it all (I’m usually entranced by the new programs / synths etc out that month but no such excuse on this special) but I did read the bit on making yourself stand out as an artist with a distinctive image or a gimmick. See above I guess but this is something I personally find pretty depressing. I’m all for wicked type faces and logo’s but photo shoots with grown adults looking mean and moody does nothing for me or my opinion of their music. A line from an interview I saw online with Moby I thought hit the nail on the head. Whenever he sees an electronic musician in a photo-shoot looking mean and moody he chuckles to himself at the pretence because he knows that man is really a nerd making tunes in his bedroom. Oh well back to the bedroom.

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Some musical thoughts

I thought I’d put down some thoughts on where I stand musically. A taste of what to expect regarding the forthcoming music I’m putting the finishing touches to which will perhaps be interesting to anyone who listens and is motivated to navigate to this website.

I believe in attempting to create musical moments and sounds that excite both the ear and perhaps the mind. In my music I think you can hear an attention to detail in the selection and creation of sounds and manipulation of samples. I’ve spent many many hours designing and creating sounds I’ve used within the forthcoming album.

That’s not to say that I haven’t used preset sounds here and there, indeed I have nothing against using a sound that blatantly works that I haven’t had a hand in amending. I think sample packs are a good example. There are so many amazing ‘one hit’ drum sample packs, scrub that sample packs, that you’d be a fool not to get out there and pick up some incredible usable sounds straight out of the box. Sampling is such a diverse and creative art with, like seemingly all areas of production, an endless array of powerful tools out there. Using presets are only a problem where their presence indicates an obvious lack of imagination or technical ability.

If you read the first post on this blog you’ll see I allude to the charm that the first album I released four years ago, Nakatomi Plaza, holds for me. Part of this charm is listening back and appreciating the artistic and technical limitations I had at the time. I think there are certain moments where a few overbearing preset sounds come in (and a lot of moments where you can hear some ‘charming’ production skills!). Their inclusion shows the technical limitations I had at the time and perhaps how my enthusiasm and passion for the music masked a critical evaluation of my artistic vision and values. However what I can hear is that passion. I still think there is some killer material on there.

Moving to the forthcoming album I hope I’ve carried that passion forward but enhanced the listening experience with four more years of learning about the mechanics of musical creation. If you managed to sit through the previous album you’ll hear many of the same musical ticks. A lot of the music on the album was initially conceived around if not before the music I was preparing four years ago. The initial club material which I’ll be releasing before the album does represent perhaps a more contemporary snapshot of the music I’m creating but only in so much as the initial starting point of each track has been in the relatively recent past. I would say that maybe they showcase some more conventional arrangements and tempos than some of the tracks on the album. The level of detailing is perhaps reduced but then I would expect that of any club material by necessity. I’m pretty excited to hear the cuts once they come back from the mastering house. Stay posted…