One of the techno masters explains his process and setup in great detail.
It’s not easy for an artist to maintain a genuine independent ethic in this day and age. Amid the drudgery of internet exposure, whether it be shameless self-promotion or carefully marketed anonymity, there are not many who choose to make and share their music in a truly independent way. Some of Steevio’s working practices, such as making his music without a computer, are actually quite en vogue these days, but for the Sunderland-born, North Wales-dwelling techno producer this approach has been a way of life since before the dawn of house music.
A quick look at a long-neglected Discogs entry mentions his involvement in one of the UKs first electro-funk clubs, The Sidewalk, and he’ll happily recount the days spent playing guitar for acid rock outfit Dead Flowers before the first strains of techno seduced him – and all of his mates – in the space of about two months. After a number of years spent throwing free parties in Newcastle with fellow cohorts in the Roost Records acid techno collective, a crackdown in the policing of raves meant a change of scenery was needed, and Steevio and his partner Suzybee relocated to the pastoral climes of North Wales, and the Mindtours label was born.
After meeting Tom and Joe Ellis and Leif on the outdoor party circuit in the area, he nurtured their unique production talents while also steering his own music away from 130-140 bpm techno into a slower, more intricate 2-step minimalism. As a loose-limbed scene of sorts started to form around the pockets of artistry hidden out in those rolling hills, so was born the Freerotation festival.
Beginning as a 300-strong gathering in 2007 (bar one fabled test-run at an Outdoor Activity Centre in the hills), in five years the event has become one of the most highly regarded electronic music festivals in the world. The line-up is certainly niche, appealing to deeper, more experimental shades of house, techno and dubstep, but of equal importance is the atmosphere the event inspires. Held in a mansion with the Brecon Beacons as a backdrop, the weekend is the pinnacle for meaningful dance music.
Understandably, the commitments of Freerotation have meant that Steevio’s music has been sharing headspace with the logistics of a three-day festival, and so it’s been a while since a new Steevio release emerged. As of Spring this year, a new four-track Mindtours release emerged under the no-nonsense banner of Modular Techno Vol. 1, yielding the first publicly available results of his decision to switch to a modular studio set up.
“Every day I record at least three hours of what comes into my head at that moment, so I’ve got absolutely tons of material,” Steevio explains when pressed on the origins of the material onModular Techno Vol. 1. “I thought I’d put out the stuff I’ve done last year, because if I don’t it’ll just disappear and I’ll never use it. It’s slightly dated compared to the stuff I’m doing now, but I just wanted to put it out.”
There’s an undeniable rawness to the tracks on the record, which comes not least as a result of the live ethic Steevio places on his production process. All his tracks are recorded in one take straight from the hardware, as he tweaks the elements and triggers the patterns on the fly. Much of this approach is spurred on by the modular equipment he uses; in essence a self-built performance device tailored specifically to your own individual needs.
“It’s really about control over the way that the patterns come together,” Steevio explains. “I’m using similar sounds to the ones I’ve always used, but with a modular you don’t arrange the music. It’s basically different trigger patterns and fractalised sequences looping and interacting in complex ways. Everything happens in the moment, so it’s about getting as many controls in front of you as possible to do as many things as possible.”
It’s been a slow process of learning and developing for Steevio, when he had been sequencing his tracks on his computer, but the purpose of this re-shuffled work practice seems clear. “It’s about how you wire it all up so that in a live situation you think ‘oh I wouldn’t mind hearing that happen’ and you just reach out and turn the knob and it happens.”
It’s certainly a brave move to uproot your way of making music, not least for an artist who had already carved a clear sound for himself. The defining characteristic of Steevio’s music, at least for the past decade, has been intricate, inter-locking drum patterns with a pronounced funk to them, while the melodic elements come in equally lean and fluid forms. “I got bored of hearing the same 4/4 motifs like snare drums and claps on the beats 2 and 4, which is the common house method of punctuating the rhythm,” Steevio states. “I just sat down and said I’ll never ever use those things, so it leaves it open to me mixing different polyrhythms together to make new rhythms.”
Polyrhythms take average beat programming into a more complex realm, arguably made much simpler if you have a timeline sequencer on a screen to map the patterns out on. “When I went to the modular, the first thing I tried to do was keep that approach but it had to be slimmed down a bit,” Steevio admits, having ditched software sequencing and resigning his computer to a glorified tape recorder. “My tracks aren’t as complex as before, but that’s OK. I quite like the fact that it has made everything a little bit sparser. It makes you get the best out of what you’ve got.”
Steevio sits on the reams of recorded material he generates, as his understanding of the modular way develops, letting months pass by until revisiting the results and whittling them down to workable tracks. With an ever-strengthening command over his music in the instant that it’s being produced and moving away from laborious arranging and editing, it’s palpable to see the correlation with his rock band roots. “It’s just like practicing on an instrument,” Steevio enthuses. “When you first start you’re a bit clumsy. You haven’t quite got the control, but as you go along you get slicker and slicker.”
It’s safe to say there aren’t many artists producing tracks quite like Steevio at the moment, and he’s the first to acknowledge that it’s difficult at times to see where his brand of bumping, complex techno fits in at a time when Ostgut Ton and Sandwell District rule the day. In some ways the Freerotation line-ups reflect Steevio’s quandry about the lack of music that delivers what the experimental principles of techno promise.
There’s a spread to the styles to be found at Freerotation, from deep house through to a more jacking Chicago style, from hypnotic techno to tough minimalist bangers, from wild dubstep variations to ambient soundscapes. However all those elements have a common thread running through them which knits the whole weekend together. Whether it would be classed as “techno” or not, all the music played embodies that spirit, that dance music can mean more than just a soundtrack to a night out.
“I find it very difficult to programme techno people at Freerotation,” Steevio reveals, “because there’s been quite a lot of house people on over the last few years and it’s started to get that sort of reputation for being a bit more house-y than techno-y.” Be that as it may, with Detroit’s DJ Bone and Tresor mainstay Pacou prominent on the bill this year, it’s not as though proper ballsy techno isn’t being catered for. However it doesn’t detract from the fact that Steevio is still struggling to find many people meeting his expectation of what techno should be able to do.
“I’d really like to find some good techno,” he says hopefully. “Most of it’s just really formulaic, I’m wanting to hear something fresh. For me, our resident Sam Watson has got that sort of techno that I’m quite into. The deeper, more hypnotic, tripped-out sort of stuff.”
As with many parties, an aspect of Freerotation that sometimes gets overlooked by the crowd is the residents. Not so much the likes of Move D, Portable and Soulphiction who feature heavily each year, but the core collective of DJs and producers from Wales who together help steer the festival. As well as Sam’s particular brand of techno, Steevio also talks emphatically about the selector talents of Joe Ellis. “I just think ‘why is this guy not a famous DJ?’ He just seems to see through the music, and sees what a lot of other people can’t see.”
As well as Sam and Joe, the crew of musicians includes the more established likes of Tom Demac, Tom Ellis and Leif. Steevio has had a guiding hand in all of their production careers, from helping to master and release Tom Ellis and Leif’s first vinyl appearance, to inviting Tom Demac to bolster some of his early releases in the Mindtours studio. Even with individual careers, everyone from this close-knit group of friends remains a part of the loosely-formed Freerotation Collective. However the festival itself doesn’t always provide the best platform to fully appreciate the combination of their sounds as a unit, what with all the peaks and troughs of the rest of the weekend in between. Now though additional events are planned for later in the year, and the sonic identity of the collective has a real chance to establish itself.
First up will be Freerotation Tenerife 2012, which is taking place on the last weekend in September. While the Canary Islands might seem an unlikely destination after Wales, the opportunity has come about through an old friend of Steevio and Suze’s who lives on the island. After years spent talking about it, a site was found and a 24-hour party has been planned, running from the Saturday afternoon to the Sunday afternoon with a pre-party the Thursday before. “It’s starting off modest and we’ll see how it goes,” Steevio explains. “The site’s out in the country, and it’s good for a big party, so if it works out this year we could make it into a proper Freerotation.”
The party will be a collaboration between Freerotation and Mazaribah, a local cultural organisation. As such, the Freerotation-curated acts will be bolstered by some local artists too. “Obviously we had to vet it a little bit,” says Steevio. “We didn’t want just anyone to turn up and play something, so we had a little listen. At the same time we didn’t want to just come steaming in going ‘here’s Freerotation’, we wanted to try and make it a collaboration.”
Keeping up the tendency of the event to choose unconventional locations, the next stop for Freerotation will be Blackpool in December. One Of These Days is being billed as “the festival of festivals”, bringing a wealth of successful leftfield bashes such as Bloc and Primavera together for a weekend in the Winter Gardens complex on the North West coast. Instantly it’s clear this is quite a move for an event such as Freerotation, which has kept itself relatively off the radar over the years, so it wasn’t without negotiation that the collaboration came about.
“I wasn’t going to do it at first, it seemed too far removed from our underground leanings,” says Steevio of the initial proposal. “I sent an email out to all the guys in the collective and everyone wanted to do it, so I talked to the organisers a bit more about our concerns about it being a sponsored event. They’ve been really reasonable the whole time. There wont be any sponsorship signs in our room, so I’ve made sure that it’s Freerotation-friendly before I agreed to do it.”
With just twelve hours to play with at the event, the line-up for the room needs to be kept quite streamlined, and as with Tenerife, most of the artists will be from the collective, providing a platform for them to operate more closely. There will of course be some choice guests included, but the intention is to let the residents do their thing.
As for Steevio’s own musical endeavours, there’s plenty of material ready to be pored over and fashioned into a release, but still his main focus has been developing his modular set up. From its previous appearances at Freerotation, the sheer scale of the machinery made it seem nigh on impossible for a gigging situation, and yet Steevio’s entire approach is geared towards the music being made in the immediate moment.
“Before it was taking me an hour and a half to set everything up,” he says, “but now I’ve bought a multi-core it’s gonna take twenty minutes. I am working towards it being an actual live show.” Due to the fragile nature of the equipment, flying is out of the question for any gigs Steevio and Suze get for their audio-visual show, although opportunities await them across Europe and as far as Japan. However a plan is being hatched to get a van and traverse the continent, once again harking back to Steevio’s earliest musical explorations.
“Some of the best fun I ever had was in the bands,” he recalls. “We chucked the gear in the van and drove around Europe, slept on floors and met loads of people. You tend to get to know people better that way. Sometimes I think the whole flying around, going and staying in a hotel, it’s a little bit unfriendly and cold.”
It’s just another prime example of the independent approach that typifies Steevio’s attitude to what he does. While the music he makes and that he’s most connected with is relatively critical, there’s no air of pretension to be found anywhere. After all you wouldn’t work this hard for it for this long if you weren’t in it for the right reasons.
Words: Oli Warwick
Main image: Tasha Park
Reposted from junodownload.com
Berghain resident & Ostgut Ton producer Ben Klock Interviewed about history, collaborations, performance and how the Ostgut Ton label got started.
Excellent interview with left field techno and elctronica pioneers Mouse on Mars.
Machine love: Tommy Four Seven
Logic and field recorder: We discover the way in which the UK producer has made limited tools work to his advantage.
No producer wants to sound like another. Or so they would say. So why is it that so many do? It’s something that the UK-born, Berlin-based Tommy Four Seven has considered a great deal. The difference here, though, is that he took affirmative action. Faced with recording an album for Chris Liebing’s recently rejuvenated CLR, Tommy challenged himself to produce using only found sounds and vocal recordings. The results were fascinating. Yes, Primate is very evidently a techno record—an unmitigated one at that—but this is the genre cut from a different cloth. As we met at his Berlin studio, in a suitably industrial corner of the city, it quickly became clear that the idea of restricting oneself—for whatever reason—has enabled this young producer to find his voice.
You’ve said before that you’ve been messing around with music programs since you were 12—what were these specifically?
The first music software I ever messed around with was a game called Music 2000. I was around 12 years old and found myself totally addicted. It wasn’t technical, but you could write your own riffs and sample about 20 seconds. Although I thought of it just as a game, I think people like Leftfield and Grooverider even released tracks using the program. The first slightly more serious program I experimented with was Reason when it first came out and then another program called Orion Platinum. By the time I hit university I had enough funds to buy a new G5 Mac and Logic 7 (thanks to student loans) and I’ve stayed with Logic ever since.
Many people have said that they didn’t find formal music tech training overly helpful. What is your take on it?
I think it really depends on the course you take. It totally broadened my perspective on music technology. I found interests in topics I never really thought about, such as Foley and sound design and working with live recordings. Soon I began to apply these new techniques to my production process in techno.
And you applied a very specific process to Primate. Could you explain the concept behind the album?
The concept really came about from both boredom and frustration with the techno scene. Hearing the same sounds, the same hats, synths. It isn’t everyone, but a large majority of producers aren’t willing to take risks. It just seems we are going in circles sometimes and I think it’s time we all pushed ourselves to take things forward. I find it almost impossible to finish a track if I use the same sounds in previous tracks—I lose all motivation. So I needed a concept of no generic sounds, such as claps, hi-hat, and synths to keep me excited and interested.
It also created a box which allowed me to focus. There’s nothing worse than having too many options as you get distracted more easily. You need some kind of rules, you need some kind of direction, otherwise you’re going in all kinds of places.
Have you struggled with an overabundance of options in the past?
Well, I think I’ve totally restrained myself anyway. I’m not someone who’s like a plug-in whore. I’m not searching for plug-ins all the time. Everyone’s like, “Oh, what plug-ins do you use?” I just use what I’ve got and make the most of it.
So what are you using?
They’re all native to Logic. I don’t use any fancy plug-ins like Waves; it’s a little bit out of the budget at the moment. I’m actually happy with Logic’s plug-ins. I love Logic for the functionality, the interface, it works. I’ve not found a reason to change yet.
Tell me how you generated the percussion sounds on your album.
Most of them came from just grabbing the mic and recording anything that was in the studio, anything that was outside—some field recordings, anything that works.
What would one of these field trips entail?
Like going to the tube station for example, getting the haunting ambience of a train. Or when the cars drive over the bridge, you can hear this haunting ambience that’s kind of like screeching. It’s really, really surreal. So quite often I made a note of sounds like that and then came back and recorded it.
There’s a track called “Armed 3” [on the album] that the percussion was made out of tin foil. You just scrunch it up and then there’s a great metallic sound and then that’s heavily processed and distorted. Most sounds have been processed probably like ten times—bounced, distorted, crunched, pitched, reverbed, bounced again. And each time you’re bouncing it, it kind of inspires you to do something else and that’s kind of why I find using recordings really helpful because they’re like the catalyst, they’re kind of leading the way. They’re showing me a direction and I’m just going with it. It’s like you’ve got two people almost working together—you capture something and then it’s the two of you and the computer. It definitely helps when you’re stuck for ideas just to get the microphone out.
Using the example of the foil, what would you do once you have the audio in Logic?
I would then crunch it with distortion, overdrive—that’s a weapon in Logic that people never use. But you have to, to get the effects I do, you have to manipulate it a lot of times. I’m bouncing it out, crunching it, and each time I’m subtly changing it, so maybe lowering the pitch, or changing the EQ and just driving the fuck out of it with distortion.
Why do you bounce audio as opposed to setting up an effects chain?
It’s quick. Also if you’re committed to something, there’s no going back. Once you’ve got that sound it’s there, whereas if you’ve got a chain it could change slightly depending on the plug-ins. So I like committing and that’s a process that helps to focus it as well, to not leave it open. I mean, I don’t work with MIDI, it’s all audio.
Did you find it hard to stick to your self-imposed rules?
No… I don’t know. At the moment I’m just anti-really typical synth sounds. For that project I had this kind of rebellious, “Ah, fuck it, just do something different.” I was working with vocals to replace the use of synths.
Tell me about the melodic textures on the album.
I was using vocals to replace the melodic elements that synths would bring to a record and it also gave that kind of human element and a bit more soul because with all that distortion and the industrial size of the sounds, it was nice to have a human voice to kind of balance that out.
Did the post-processing differ much for the vocals?
Well sometimes I’d come with some ideas, some lead ideas, and the vocalist would take them and interpret them as they wanted to and give them back to me and then I would further sound design those. So yeah, that was a lot of sound design on the vocals to get them working with the elements, kind of some side-chaining, because with digital distortion to get vocals to sit in this harsh world, you have to unite it with a bit of compression and side-chaining. So it kind of needed to be worked to sit in the world of the track. It just didn’t connect otherwise.
Do you find it at all tiring to work with such heavy, Industrial types of sounds?
Harsh on the ears?
Harsh on the ears, yes, but how do you generally find working with “noise” for an extended period?
Especially because I was using headphones for some of it as well… Yeah, it was harsh but I like that. I don’t know why, I love the crunch, the energy, the aggressiveness, the kind of rebellious sound. It’s a bit more what techno is for me, it’s a bit more raw, it’s a bit more true. Techno now is really fucking clean and it’s not really like it’s played in a warehouse.
Tell me about the process you undertake when starting a track.
First I’m going to go and make a recording. For “Talus,” say, it was a washing machine. So I’ve got like five minutes worth of recordings and I’m just listening to it. I’ve got the whole audio file and then I’m just marking—I’m taking sections out that I like and I’m doing that for a while and it’s getting shorter and shorter (the amount of audio that I think I can work with). And once I’ve got the audio that is quite inspiring to work with, I’m then just jamming, jamming with the audio—taking sounds out, turning that into percussion, turning that into the bassline.
So I’ve got like an eight-bar loop going on, it’s just like a live jam and pulling more sounds in until I’ve got something that I’m happy with. And this whole process of jamming, I’m grabbing distortion here, grabbing pitch here until I’ve got a nice groove and then I stop and reflect on that and build it.
Are you literally using the mouse, rearranging sounds?
Yeah it’s just mouse and audio, dragging it and playing around.
And what sort of stage would you need to get to in which you think “OK, this is going to become a full arrangement now”?
Once there’s a nice groove, a nice bass… it might get to that point but I need a kick so now I’ve got to go and find some other sounds, so I’m just going back with a microphone and getting those things or I’m digging into files of sounds I’ve already created and chucking them in. Maybe think, “Oh, hang on a minute, there’s a really nice sound that I came up with yesterday that I’m going to chuck in.” It’s quite spontaneous.
Taking the example of the kick, how would you generate the sound?
I would just hit the chair. I could hit that and then just EQ it. It’s really simple. But I have to say that to stand up in a club sometimes you need that electronic richness to give it more body. That’s one thing I find sometimes with my tracks, some songs don’t sound that rich. The only elements that are really electronic [on the album] were layering under the kicks to boost up, to kind of give it more density. It’s a really cheap plug-in called BassIsm and you can play around with the frequencies and the decay and tune the kick to your kick, just give it that weight. And that’s actually what we did at Chris Liebing’s studio, we took the tracks there and listened to it because he’s got like a massive fucking sub, which I don’t have, and so we were just listening to the bass to make sure it stands out in the club and really just focusing on the kick and the bass to give it enough weight.
“I don’t want to recognize
what people are using.
I want to be like, ‘Wicked,
I’ve never heard that before!'”
Do you find the mixing process easier when you take this kind of sound design approach to production?
Yeah, it’s funny because sometimes what you’ve got works and however you’ve come to that point, it’s got soul, and sometimes when you pull the faders down and start again, you lose that vibe; that original kind of jam that just happens. So I always bounce it down, save that session. I will pull the faders down and bring it back up because sometimes you do get a nicer mix-down like that—it’s balanced. But generally I do have a point where I put the faders down, it’s not done as I go along and such. I think for most people it will probably work like that, but I’m more about not losing my interest in it and going with the flow. I’m going until I’ve got a track that excites me and then I’m worrying about the exact sonics and, “OK, how is this going to sound, how does that sit?” I’m more concerned about the energy of the record, the soul of it— is it alive? Because you can kill it if you have a shit mix-down.
Would you say you’re someone who works quickly?
It could be two hours and I’ve come up with an idea, it’s not a finished track, but an idea. Sometimes it can take a week. It really depends on the track. Sometimes I get fed up and I move on and I work on something else, but I’m not the fastest worker too. I’m really self-critical, I don’t tend to believe in a lot of the stuff that I’m doing, so I’m often pretty slow.
The best tracks usually come within six hours max. They’re usually the best tracks and I usually finish them within two days, but sometimes you need to distance yourself because you can get really carried away and the next day you walk into the studio and it sounds shit. So sometimes I like to give myself five days and you’re not so emotionally attached to it and I think that’s another important thing for mixing, is if you’re trying to mix it down too soon, you’re emotionally attached to some sounds and sometimes it’s not the best for them. It’s hard, coming back after, say, a week, sometimes I just know instantly where to put the faders—”No, that’s not right, that’s not sitting there.”
You’ve obviously got a specific way of doing things so I was wondered if you could see yourself moving away from that in the future? Or do you feel wedded to your process?
No, I mean, that’s why I’ve got some empty rack space because I plan to get some modular synths and just play around.
Do you see modular synths as a way of breaking away from what you were talking about before: sounding like everyone else?
Yeah I think you can get some great sounds from that. It’s more of a personal goal just to know more about that and to play around with that because it’s not something that I’ve delved into much and I feel like I’m missing out on some options of finding sounds. The whole [not using] synths thing was mainly people using presets… I don’t like a synth when it sounds like a synth, when you can recognize what it is, that’s kind of what the whole point was—I don’t want to recognize what people are using. I want to be like, “Oh, what the fuck is that sound? What’s that texture? Wicked, I’ve never heard that before,” and that’s what I’m trying to do with the albums is give people textures that they’re not that familiar with or can’t put their finger on what it is.
EDLX SPOTLIGHT #08 CHRIS FINKE
[EDLX] What can we expect from you in 2011? What have you been up to recently?
[FINKE] 2011 has been pretty good so far, gigs are strong and i’ve got some great little tours planned for Asia, Canada and South America for summer and the end of the year so very happy. We have just launched the long awaited “Chris Finke presents Atomic-Jam” podcast series which has been really well received. Releases I have on the way include 2 EP’s for Trapez (including some wicked remixes from Valmay, Justin Berkovi & DJ3000), and 3 other EP’s i’ve just literally finished which i have just found homes for so really excited about those. I’ve got remixes about to hit the shops for Orlando Voorn, DJ 3000, Mark Broom and Steve Mac, plus some newer artists on various labels as well, so keeping really busy in the studio!
[EDLX] What have been your best shows of the last 12 months?
[FINKE] Personally my favourite gig of the last year has to be my October at Fabric which was off the hook! That was the first time i really felt I “got it” in that place and got some serious love back from the crowd. The 3 dates I did in Japan were crazy as well, I really cant wait to go back later this year. Other than that, the 15th birthday of Atomic Jam was off the hook!
[EDLX] For people who don’t know you can you give them an idea of your production style?
[FINKE] I try not to to be too one-dimensional and make stuff that I want to play in my DJ sets and that I know will work on the dance floor. I tend not to follow patterns and make tracks that sound the same as I would get bored and that’s a pattern I follow with my DJ sets as well.
[EDLX] Do you have non-productive moments in the studio? Do you get writer’s block?
[FINKE] Haha yeah quite a lot. I tend to have bursts of inspiration where i get stuff done, and then periods where nothing happens. I’ve tried to do the 9-5 thing with production which works now and then, but I tend to do my best stuff when its not forced or i’m making it “because I have to”. I’m getting a lot better with it though and am working to a bit of a schedule which is new for me 😉
[EDLX] What are your favourite albums of all time?
[FINKE] Impossible to answer as I have soooo many favourites, but these just came into my head:
The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses & Second Coming
Led Zeppellin – Led Zepellin IV
The Beatles – The Best Of The Beatles (haha!)
Super Furry Animals – Fuzzy Logic & Radiator
The Libertines – The Libertines & Up The Bracket
Spiritulized – Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
[EDLX] What Track is your secret dance floor weapon?
[FINKE] Ive got so many edits and versions of tracks i’ve done that kill it that I keep for myself. I’d say one at the moment is a pumped up version of DVS1 “Running” which just never fails to do the job!
[EDLX] Who surprises you the most when you play with them? Who is pulling out records that you don’t know?
[FINKE] I find that I get surprised so very little these days, you tend to know what you are going to get a lot more then you used to as people stick to “their sound” so much which is a shame. There are so many copycat DJs and producers out there who need to start doing their own thing. Each and every time i hear Speedy J and James Ruskin play they both nail it without question so i guess i’d have to say they are the boys! A few weeks ago I played after Jeff Mills who really really surprised me, he was so on it with track selection compared to the last few times I saw him, it was great to see!!
[EDLX] What music do you listen to when you are not in a club?
[FINKE] I tend to not listen to much modern dance music too much out of a club or studio situation, i’m really into rock, indie, old pop, classics and that sort of thing.
[EDLX] Can you give us your electric deluxe top five tracks?
[FINKE] (In no order)
Tommy Four Seven – Surma
Speedy J & Chris Liebing – Maggie
Terrence Fixmer – Drastik (Planetary Assault Systems Remix)
Audio Injection – Operation A – (Speedy J Remix)
Echologist – Connect EP
[EDLX] What can everyone expect from your DJ sets?
[FINKE] I try and approach things from a slightly different way to a lot of DJs. I really like to surprise people (and myself) and dont stick to one sound the whole set. Along with new material I play lots of my own edits of old techno stuff that 99% people just wont know is old or have hear before and mix it up with. I try and play with a sense of humour make it fun. I can rave it up or play deep and moody, its all the same to me. At the end of the day your job is to make people move, react and above all have fun so that what i try and do….
[EDLX] Can you tell us a bit about your mix for the Electric Deluxe podcast
[FINKE] This is a mix i have been wanting to do for a long time in some form or another so the ED podcast series is the perfect platform for it. Its a mix of some of my favourite DJ tracks and covers ambient, classical, deep house, techno, electro, disco, broken beats, house, nu wave, acid house, dub and more. I really wanted to mix it up and make do proper DJ set that would make people smile and listen to again and again and not get bored. It could have been a lot longer but 2 hours is about right for the first part 😉
Electric Deluxe Podcast 046 Chris Finke by electric deluxe
Reposted from electricdeluxe.net
Good interview from 2004 with a couple of pioneers. Posted courtesy of TimeWarp. Enjoy
Interview Part 1
Interview Part 2
One of the few producers around who can claim to be putting a fresh stamp on the techno genre is London producer and label owner Ali Wells aka Perc. A gradual shift into the depths of underground techno has led to his position as one of the very best in the game; a producer with a relentless work rate and mammoth discography to match. Ahead of his live appearance in Dublin this Friday, Ali took a few moments away from putting the final touches to his debut album to kindly answer some questions we put his way…
How long have you been producing, and what inspired you to start originally?
I started at the age of 16 and I bought my first drum machine (Roland TR626) the day I got my GSCE results, so it’s been a while. At that age I had been in bands for a few years but was starting to realise that a group dynamic was not really for me. Electronic music was creeping into my life and the more I read about the DIY/home studio methods of producers the more I wanted to get involved.
You have released music on such a large amount of labels. With a lot of commitments to releases/remixes etc. do you have to limit the time you spend on each track?
No, by putting in long hours I can work on something until I am happy with it. When I rush, due to a deadline from myself or a label, then I am rarely happy with the results. I spend a lot of time in the studio, maybe 40-50 hours in an average week, some tracks and remixes come together in a few hours, whilst others have been tweaked on and off for up to a year. Every track is different but I know when one is ready to face the outside world.
You’ve taken an interesting route over the last number of years to where you are now. In a way you’ve done things in the opposite manner of many other producers, in that as you became more well-known and successful, your sound appeared to become (for want of a better phrase) more purist. Is this how you would describe your path?
Hmmm, I don’t see myself as a purist. I have a knowledge of house, techno, rave, drum & bass etc going back a long way but I like to think I combine my influences rather than adhering to any of the existing templates of how techno should sound. There are people out there still serving up purist Millsian loops and Basic Channel dub-techno clones. It would bore me senseless to stick to one of these well worn formulas. A good example is my track ‘Stoq’ on Stroboscopic Artefacts; it pulls on dubstep, industrial and techno and (hopefully) creates something new. Maybe my sound has become more compatible with the established techno sounds of Berlin or Birmingham etc but I like to think I mix in enough unrelated elements to not be filed amongst the hardcore purists.
By shifting your sound, you may have risked alienating part of your existing fan base. Was that a concern to you at any stage?
I make music for myself first, if I am not feeling a track even if I think it has dance floor or sales potential then it will be scrapped. If I looked at my more successful tracks and churned out copies of those then I would be dead in the water in a matter of weeks. I have to be excited with what I make and I like to think people can hear that in my tracks. Whilst my sound and style does develop and shift there is still a clear Perc sound/aesthetic that has been about since day one. The spitting snares, the big kicks, the broken beat stuff, and the kinds of distortion I use. Some things are constant whatever I am making.
You have continued to release vinyl on Perc Trax, when a lot of people and labels around you moved primarily to digital. Can you give a background into how you first started collecting vinyl?
Strangely enough my first decks were cd decks; this was a long time ago when playing from cd was commonly seen as fake or cheating. Then when I got my first paid gig I rushed out and bought a pair of 1210’s, giving me a month to learn how to play vinyl. My first purchases were looped up tribal and acid techno, which I found quite easy to mix and my collection has grown since then. Perc Trax carries on to do vinyl for a number of reasons, but if the day came when releasing vinyl was losing serious money then I’d have no problem stopping the 12’s rather than risk the label as a whole. I love vinyl but I can see a vinyl-less future for techno at some point.
Can vinyl survive? Will younger djs somehow embrace it or are we looking at a future dj culture that will bear no resemblance to the original model?
It will survive for a number of years but I don’t think it will be around forever. Younger djs are embracing it but I am not sure they are enough in number to replace people dropping out of the vinyl market. I laugh when I see a facebook post about a release that is coming out on vinyl and digitally, almost every comment is ‘vinyl for me!’ when most people posting will grab the release free from a blog and not even pay for the download. A lot of the ‘vinyl forever’ stuff is purely show, people trying to look like the real deal when they get most of their music for free from unauthorised sources.
Much of your recent material is industrial influenced. Is this the last area left in techno to truly experiment?
I think there has been an industrial element in techno since the very beginning. Even the old ’88 acid tracks created with a drum machine and 303 shared an atonality that a lot of industrial music thrives on. I think it is an interesting area that still has space for innovation and exploration, certainly within the grey area where techno, industrial, drone and noise music meet. I think for the more forward thinking producers techno is just a vehicle to carry their experimental sounds to a wider audience via the established system of djs and dancefloors. Of course Techno has other areas to move into apart from the industrial thing, some of which will be blind alleys whilst others will open up whole new worlds of possibilities. Going back to what I said earlier about the established templates that a lot of techno follows, it would be a shame if what was once seen as future music becomes too focussed on replicating past glories.
Industrial is also a style of music that could claim to have been a type of active techno before ‘techno’ the term was first coined in Detroit. Would you agree?
Yes, it was/is machine music, focussed on texture and rhythm over melody and lyrical content. Whilst industrial music has always featured vocals, they are often treated as another instrument, equal to machine generated sounds and that is the same with all but the most commercially driven techno. Without studying old Mills/Wizard playlists I am sure industrial music was as much an influence on the early Detroit producers as Kraftwerk. Not just through the choices of sound used but also due to a shared approach to music-making and the (mis-)use of discarded machinery.
Is techno as an experimental art form, sometimes weighed down by the now defined sounds of influential cities like Berlin and Detroit, or is it important that techno has reference points like this?
The reference points are important, to use a cliché, it is just as important to know where you are from as where you are going, but people get too bogged down in these cities and their history. Techno has often been at is most innovative away from these major hubs. Perc Trax’s Sawf is based in Athens, which has a tiny techno scene and his range of influences are truly his own, not those dictated by a select group of hyped clubs and record shops. People should remember that moving to one of these cities does not instantly make you a better DJ or producer. Often with the amount of competing creative types in the city such as Berlin your chances of making a name for yourself are reduced.
It’s argued that the innovators of today are not the producers but the people developing forward thinking software and equipment for producers. What do you think about that, and how has technology helped you over the last five years for instance?
The software developers and hardware companies have a part to play but talented people will always find ways to adapt and use a piece of gear beyond what the designs intended. It is easier than ever to make functional dance music that will ‘work’ on most dancefloors. This does not mean you should be making it or that it has any lasting value. Using preset sounds and samples is an easy way to get a few digital releases but without some innovation and thought you will not go much further than that. Technology has helped me a lot, the switch from a fully hardware based studio to Ableton interfacing with a few choice pieces of kit gives me a flexibility that I could not have imagined before. For remixing the ability to creatively and accurately edit audio visually has been a massive change for me, so much better than staring at the screens of samplers and grooveboxes.
Your debut album is about to be released. For someone with your prolific output, it seems like an album could have come a long time ago. Presumably you were holding out to do something a bit more conceptual then, that is not just a collection of 12″ club tracks?
I think the change in my sound has meant that an album is more viable for me than it was 3 or 4 years ago and now my drone/ambient tracks are getting good responses when before they were often overlooked in favour of my club tracks. One thing that really bugs me is when a producer waters down their sound to make an album more suitable for home listening. If people want an album to soundtrack their dinner parties then they will go for one from a producer with pedigree in that field, not a techno producer suddenly softening their sound. For me the classic techno albums are exactly that. Planetary Assault Systems on Peacefrog, the classic Joey Beltram albums on Tresor and Novamute, Vaporspace’s debut on Plus8 etc. Yes, there are some drone/experimental tracks on my album but they are far from easy listening. If anything they present more of a challenge to the listener than the dancefloor tracks as the sounds don’t have the tried and tested framework of a club track to cling on to.
What else can you tell us about the album?
Not a great deal right now. Roughly 10 tracks, more broken beat than 4/4. It is not a concept album but the title (to be revealed soon) focussed on two elements which run through all of the tracks. There will be one 12” released before the album and one after. The remixes for the first single are done and I’m blown away by who has remixed my tracks and what they have done with them. I know it is all very secretive at the moment but I don’t want to say too much until the album is finished.
How important was it for you to release it on your own label? Did it bring an extra creative freedom that you might not have been afforded elsewhere?
For an EP I am happy to send 3 or 4 tracks to a label and if they only want two of them then that is fine, but for an album I need 100% control. To submit an album to a label which they then start picking apart would kill my passion for the album dead.
Finally, what’s on the horizon for the rest of 2011?
The first half of 2011 is focussed on finishing and promoting the album. Aside from that a new collaboration between myself and an Italian producer is about to surface. The first fruits of that new project will be out at the end of March. Details of that will be made public very soon. Perc Trax has a full release schedule with albums from myself and Sawf plus EPs from Forward Strategy Group, Donor/Truss, Dead Sound & Videohead and Samuli Kemppi. From June or July onwards I have no real idea, a few festival appearances are confirmed and I guess I’ll start recording tracks for some other labels once the album is in the can. I don’t really know and that is what makes it exciting for me.
Reposted with permission from Earwiggle Dublin
In anticipation of the up and coming release of the Skyhook Remixes (the first release on Phil Kierans new label Phil Kieran recordings) we asked the man himself for a quick chat about the upcoming release, his musical origins and future directions.
Hi Phil how are you doing? Run ragged with your schedule what with the new label launch and skyhook remxes promo tour?
Im good thanks…Yeah loads on, trying to have enough music ready to go for the next 6 months , just worked on a couple of remixes and getting all the singles ready for the label, first release is skyhook with remixes from adam beyer & jesper dahlback , green velvet , scuba / scb , ricardo tobar, and the next releases we have , Egbert, Prirter, Lucy, Greenvelvet and a release from Matador .
What would you say your favorite remix of skyhook is? What is it about that mix you particularly like?
Dont mean to sit on the fence but i like them all , they fit different moods, honestly , it was a dream package and some how it all came together, I was able to get some or my favourite artists on there so im delighted .
Most people know you grew up in Belfast, did the city have much of an influence on your initial interest in electronic music? Was there much of a scene in the city when you were starting out?
It was a great place in the way that there was very little going on which meant that people had to be creative, as teenagers we just got on with it all we cared about was getting out to the next night. The music was always good, back then it was mostly the art collage, many nights with David Holmes , Andrew Weatherall and people like that.
Now that both Northern Ireland and the Republic are somewhat better off than they were 15 or 20 years ago (current recession not withstanding) has this made the Irish scene more or less interesting to you?
Honestly , im glad there is a bit of a recession on, people were getting too greedy and obsessed with money , everybody once they got a glass of wine in them would brag about the value of their house, you don’t hear a whimper out of them now. its been proven that in hard times there is more creativity , and when I think back to the start of the 90’s we had hard times but had no idea as all we cared about was searching for the next bit of good music to listen to.
Skyhook Remixes Sampler
Listening to Shh (and the recent CLR podcast mix) it becomes quite obvious that you aren’t simply a techno and house only kind of guy, to my mind there is a lot of eclecticism in your style. I can detect everything from dub and ambient to Electronic Body Music in there. Are there any non dance music favorites you’ve got that you think more people should run out and buy albums by?
Where do you start, I could mention bands that are responsible for so much like My Bloody Valentine or Jesus and Mary Chain etc, obvious things like the Pixies, dépêche Mode and Brian Eno are great source points. Recently I have been lucky enough to be asked to be part of a new project with one of these artists at the moment I cant say anything else all will be revealed in time.
So I have always been into post punk and disco, New York stuff, even jumping across the water to Manchester then you have joy division and new order, I could go on forever into more obscure things but there’s not enough time time or space.
You also created one of the most popular remixes on Nitzer Ebbs Body Rework album a few years back , How did you end up being involved in remixing the classic NE track “Murderous”?
I think the guy Seth who was A&r for novamute was a fan of my stuff and he got me to do a few remixes, I am eternally grateful to him for asking me to do these I even thanked him on my album, he was working at minus for a while and now lives in Berlin, great guy, huge respect !
Regarding your position at Cocoon, your work for Electric Deluxe and International Gigolo and now the launch of your own label, is there a conscious decision to delineate between the other labels and your own or will all your new work be getting the Phil Kieran recordings moniker from now on? Is there to be an intended difference between what you release on on PKR and your other work?
I have a good set of labels that are into my music which you have to be thankful for. I like working with cocoon they are great guys who love music. I am very exited to be working with my good friend Jochem (Speedy J) giving him music for his Electric Deluxe imprint I urge you all to go check it out and see what they are doing its very very cool. Hell at gigolo asked me to send him a track and the Love Wish Ep will be released in December. I also like loads of labels out there one of note to talk about would be Snork I really like what they are doing.
My own imprint is here to enable me to work with people I like and give me a regular output for the large amounts of music I am making it’s a really productive time at the moment.
Hot any new artists signed up to PKR that you think will be making waves over the next little while?
I have got a 3 track ep from matador ( dublin ) i think its the best tracks he has done, they just blow up when you play them in the club, im planning to do a release with boxcutter and space dimenssion controler both from belfast and doing really well, closer to the experimental/ dubstep side of things. On a Belfast note keep an eye on Psycatron who are doing really well with stuff on planet e and cocoon coming out soon.
You’re quite prolific, how do you produce so much work, is there a methodology you use? Or is it just old fashioned hard graft?
H.A.R.D. G.R.A.F.T. I tend to go and stay in the south of Ireland without tv and people to distract me this seems to have increased my output, the shelves are full.
Do you find it difficult to produce new tracks while touring? Or do you keep the producer and DJ sides distinct & separate?
It is all a process road testing tracks is important you have to have a link to the dancefloor when creating music although thats not all that the music is about, I like all aspects of it from weird and experimental , songs and club tracks too.
Regarding the production of that unique “Phil Kieran” sound Do you have any secrets you can let us in on? Do you have any favorite studio kit? (Were partial to the DSI Mopho synth & NI Maschine around here). Do you tend to produce at your own studio or do you find getting away to a pro studio to be more useful to you?
Getting more into my old outboard stuff, thankfully ive kept some, though I have sold many keyboards I really regret like the juno 60 , my fav thing at the moment is a thing called a “ mutator “ it does what it says on the tin tbf, and I love my TL audio valve compressor for distorting things .
Were there any creative alleyways you went down on your journey towards your current sound? How do you break out of any ruts you may find yourself in?
I try to not revisit the same ideas as much as I can, its hard to avoid them when you know it works, but to avoid being like so many people who just repeat them selves id rather be original and unsuccessful than successful and feeling like a fraud .
Check out Phil Kierans site for free mixes news etc.
A fun informal interview with the guys form Modeselektor (now Moderat), they talk about champaign showers and meeting Bjork in New York.