Archive for June, 2012

What’s your favourite waveform? #2 – EKOPLEKZ – (sits on the waveform fence)

Posted in Blog, WYFW? with tags , , on June 29, 2012 by magicanddreams

Here we are with the epic second installment in what nobody is calling “WYFW?”

It features good friend and sometime musical sparring partner of mine, the one and only Nick ‘Ekoplekz’ Edwards.

Nick goes deep on this one, I recommend you take a little time out to read through these honest and thought provoking answers:

EKOPLEKZ: These fucking questions been nagging away at me all night so i drank a couple beers and just went for it. got it out my system. deal with it…

MAGIC: So the most difficult question first: what IS your favourite waveform, and why?

i don’t really have a favourite waveform. a waveform on its own isn’t much fun. its when they interact with other waveforms that things start getting interesting and unpredictable. so i’d have to say, whichever waveform is sounding good in the context of whatever i happen to be working on at any given moment. 

Do you follow any rules or systems for writing your music?

i have lots of small, niggling, self-imposed rules. mainly of the ‘thou shalt not…’ variety. i  find those sort of rules can help to drive creativity,  although they can change from week to week and project to project. for instance, i have a general ‘no acoustic guitars’ rule, but i let that slip for the Tapeswap thing i did with you (for the record, that’s me playing acoustic on “Keep The Lighthouse Burning Bright And True Tonight”). Probably the one abiding rule that never changes is that i avoid using samples. although actually even that rule has been broken occasionally, for instance when i’m working on a remix of someone else’s music (pretty unavoidable in that situation), and i played lots of sampled loops and hits of my own music on the ‘live at dubloaded‘ album. but i would never reach for someone else’s record and sample stuff from it. some people think i have a ‘no digital’ rule, and maybe i helped to cultivate that idea in the early days, but it’s not strictly true. yes, i avoid software as much as possible, but several of my hardware machines have digital aspects and if they do a good job and help me achieve what i want, then its stupid not to use them for the sake of some outdated principle.

Can you talk me briefly through the process of making a track?

okay well i walk into the studio, and start connecting things together, making audio chains. obviously the chain will start with some sort of audio/rhythm generator, then i start adding fx pedals and other signal processors. take things away again if they aren’t working. try other things instead. trial and error, until eventually something sonically pleasing (to my ears) begins to emerge. as soon as it starts getting interesting, start recording straight to tape, constantly tweaking the sound by hand all the time, getting as much movement and development into it as possible. get it down while its still fresh, and always make sure the signal is ‘in the red’ with no noise reduction (the subtle distortion of recording a ‘hot’ signal onto analogue tape is a big part of my sound) then start adding more stuff on top, repeating the process until all four tracks on the portastudio are filled up. then go to bed. then try out some mix-downs over the next few days. maybe do a dub-style mix if the material suggests it. record the stereo mix straight to my little digital recorder. transfer the file to PC. make some very basic adjustments using Audacity software if required. export wav. job done.

What is the part of the process that you least enjoy?

i enjoy all of it. the bits i wouldn’t enjoy would be technical/engineering stuff to make it sound ‘professional’. i present my work as lo-fi, thereby circumnavigating all that dull engineering crap. so many electronic musicians feel they need to be a great engineer too.  i used to believe that as well- reading bloody tutorials in Sound On Sound mag or whatever – but now i just trust my own ears. i know how i want my stuff to sound, i know how to achieve ‘my sound’. i’m not interested in replicating someone else’s sound or meeting anyone else’s expectations in terms of technical standards. i don’t need to know the correct way of doing things. 

What is your favourite piece of equipment?

tricky to answer as i have lots of little boxes that all do special things. i guess i have an ongoing love affair with the danelectro ‘reel echo’ pedal. its a relatively cheap approximation of a genuine tape-echo, but i just seem to get good results with it all the time. its been central to both studio and live work since day one. the ekdahl moisturizer is another thing that never seems to stop giving. its also the machine that people are most fascinated by when they look at my gear when its all set-up on stage.


Do you ever have a critical voice and / or an imagined audience responding in your head whilst working?

No, no…if it feels good, do it. then stop when it don’t feel good no more. its a creative exchange between me and my machines. there’s never any thought at that stage about what others might think about it. 

What’s the atmosphere of your studio / workplace like?

dead dull..no windows…no view…just breezeblocks. no computers, no internet or phone. no distractions, no inspiration. the only place to go is inwards.

What do you do when you get stuck?

i go away and do something else. then when i eventually come back, i play-back what i was working on and usually realise that the reason i was stuck was cos the track was already finished. just cos i have four tracks, doesn’t mean i have to use them all.  

How do you know when a track is finished? How do you choose a title for a piece?

referring back to my previous answers: either when (a) all four tracks on the portastudio are filled, or (b) i can’t think of anything else i want to add. titling tracks usually occurs during the playback and mixing stages. i’ll be listening really carefully and usually something will suggest itself as a suitable title in my mind. or else it’ll come to me when i’m doing something completely different. i spend a lot of time just thinking about my music. thinking about titles, concepts, etc. physically i might appear to be making scambled eggs or walking the kids to school, or whatever, but actually i’m thinking about my music, about how certain tracks might fit together, how best to present it, which labels to offer it to etc etc. its all very well coming up with a nice tune, or a good dance beat, but i do like to have themes and concepts to tie things together. it doesn’t matter if anyone else gets it or not. some of my themes can be pretty opaque or so personal to me that hardly anyone else would get it. as a recent example, i was really satisfied with it, but did anyone else ‘get’ the Snuff Mill Tapes i uploaded to bandcamp? probably not. probably no one even gave a shit, or thought it was just some stupid joke or whatever. sometimes you wonder why you bother making the work public in the first place. but then you just have to shrug those thoughts away and get on with it. i think if you’re gonna be some sort of artist, you have a certain duty to make your work public. not necessarily every little half-arsed doodle that makes up the vast majority of soundcloud, but if you’ve got a well-developed sound or theme that maybe says something about your life or offers a certain way of looking and listening to the world then you should publish it. 99% of the population might laugh in your face but maybe, for someone, somewhere, it’ll be a life saver.   

What’s the track from your own catalogue that you are happiest with?

you know how artists always say “the latest one”. well, i’m the same, i’m afraid. always stoked about my new shit.  there’s nothing i enjoy listening to more than the music i made this week. rarely listen to anything i did more than a month ago.

Do you create in other ways than writing music?

no. just sound. unless you count the really basic youtube videos i sometimes make for my tunes. i used to be quite nifty at drawing things when i was kid, and i dreamed of being a comic strip artist, drawing Spider Man and stuff like that, but it’s not something that’s ever really interested me as an adult. some people tell me i’m good at writing, but its not something i’ve ever particularly enjoyed doing.

Are there people from other disciplines (e.g. painters / writers / architects) who have influenced your creative process?

influences come from all over, whether its a random quote from Andy Warhol, or a particular painting by Piet Mondrian, or some anonymous piece of architecture that captures the imagination. i get loads of creative input just from walking around my local environment. at the same time, my creativity is shaped as much by what i’m against. my music is like a wall, a psychologically protective wall that helps keep me sane in the face of all the media/consumerist bullshit that surrounds me. i’m one of those people who refuses to totally buy into consensus reality, but at the same time i realise i have to operate within it to a certain extent, if only for the sake of my family. my music is my little bit of rebellion; a temporary escape route to the fantasy ‘other’.

What piece of equipment / software would you wish into being?

something that performs a similar function to the aforementioned danelectro reel echo pedal, which has a convincingly muddy analogue-modelled sound, and can act as an instant real-time tape loop generator, but with some advanced features, like longer delay times and the ability to play several discreet loops at once, which could then be modified separately on the fly, with separate tempo, reverse and EQ kill switches for each loop.  there’s probably some amazing software that does exactly that, but i just want it in a compact, robust metal box with knobs and sliders for live work.

What’s the next thing you want to learn more about or learn how-to-do?

well i’ve wanted to get into circuit design and building my own shit for about 20 years, but it just never happens. i don’t have the patience or the confidence to learn that stuff. but maybe one day… 

How do you timetable / schedule your work time?

no timetable, i just grab whatever time i can get hold of. the thing about having a busy work/family life is that you really cherish what little free-time you have. mostly i work on composing and recording late at night when the rest of the family are asleep, usually on headphones. then i’ll do the mix-downs whenever the house is empty and i can crank things up a bit on the speakers. 

If you could go back in time and be a fly-on-the-wall at recording sessions for any track or album, it would be….?

looking over King Tubby’s shoulder during a dub session at Dromilly Avenue circa 1972. or maybe Malcolm Clarke’s ‘sea devils’ sessions at Maida Vale, same year. Chris Watson’s loft in sheffield c.1973, the day he bought that EMS synthi, or a Suicide rehearsal session in NYC c.1975. a typical day with Faust at the Wumme studio, or hanging out with Rother, Roedelius and Moebius during the ‘Music von Harmonia’ sessions. Daniel Miller and his Korg 700s recording ‘Warm Leatherette’ in ’78 or Robert Rental and Thomas Leer’s ‘The Bridge’ sessions in ’79. basically if i had the opportunity to go back in time, the 1970s would be my first port of call. its quite possible i wouldn’t come back. 

Thanks Nick!

Nick has  a spate of new releases coming up (as always!):

Not one but two split cassette release coming up on the excellent Further Recrods – one with Wanda Group here

and a second with eth UFO expert and beatsmith NOCHEXXX here!

THEN, he’ll be dropping a double LP on editions Mego under his own name:here!

PHEW.

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posted by MAGIC

What’s your favourite waveform? #1 – KOWTON – (loves the square)

Posted in Blog, WYFW? with tags , , on June 25, 2012 by magicanddreams

Welcome to the inaugural edition of a new series I will be running here on the M+D website.

Interviews with artists whose work I admire, with questions about the creative process.

It’s called “What’s your favourite waveform?”

First up is Joe ‘Kowton’ Cowton:

MAGIC:  So, the most difficult question first: what IS your favourite waveform, and why?

KOWTON: Square. Its absolute, all or nothing: none of this transitory business sine or triangle waves are into.

Do you follow any rules or systems for writing your music?

I try and keep things as simple as they possibly can while remaining engaging. I think I’ve learnt a lot from working with Pev about removing anything that isn’t necessary. If a track isn’t cluttered the parts that are there have more room to move and their effect is intensified, I’d rather have that than a bunch of noises that aren’t doing a lot.

Can you talk me briefly through the process of making a track?

Load up the sampler with drums, make a 4 or 8 bar loop and try and make something from that! Once there’s a rough arrangement I get busy trying to record some sends: reverbs, delays or flange or whatever and give the track some movement. From there on in its just a case of deleting sections and adding more effects. To finish I run the whole thing through my tube eq a couple of times to add a bit of grit and cohesion.

What is the part of the process that you least enjoy?

I find arranging things hell. Not so much once a shape’s forming but more the initial period of taking a loop and creating the skeleton of a track. I think a lot of people probably share this sentiment!

What is your favourite piece of equipment?

My tube eq: I’ve never used a plug in that sounds this good, I think distortion is a difficult thing to emulate with software. I just borrowed a Sherman Filterbank which sounds fucking great too, its a different kind of distortion to the eq though – more brittle and cleaner.

Do you ever have a critical voice and / or an imagined audience responding in your head whilst working?

Usually only once I’ve sent it someone! Then I imagine Chris  [Farrell, Idle Handler] or Pev scowling at the track and make loads of changes, thats probably the most productive phase. 

What’s the atmosphere of your studio / workplace like?

At home its pretty relaxed: i’ve just got my gear setup in the corner of my bedroom. I used to hate working there because the hot water tank was in my room and it was permantly about 30 degrees in there! That’s been taken out now and it’s a really nice place to work. Then there’s the Livity Sound studio aka ‘The Broom-cupboard’. That one’s dark and cold with no windows,  but Tom’s got all his gear in there so its great for processing stuff. I need to go down there more.

What do you do when you get stuck?

Give up. Talk to my housemates or go to the shop or the Bell. I don’t bother sweating it any more, I’ve been stuck so many thousand times that I know its just a case of waiting for some fresh inspiration rather than trying to force anything.  

How do you know when a track is finished? How do you choose a title for a piece?

When I start making it worse rather than better. Sometimes I’ll send a track out a bit prematurely but I think generally speaking you just know.

What’s the track from your own catalogue that you are happiest with?

Des Bisous –  I’m still not sure how I got it to sound quite so rough, but that’s the kind of tune I want to be writing. I’ve been playing the dub version out quite a lot and it always down really well: given its not got a kick it still surprises me that everyone doesn’t just leave!

Do you create in other ways than writing music?

Not really: I wish I could draw or paint but I’m terrible. Or write at length for that matter, I think thats one of those things that needs a real investment of time though. Next year.

Are there people from other disciplines (e.g. painters / writers / architects) who have influenced your creative process?

Not directly but I’m drawn to anyone who demonstrates control and simplicity in their work yet manages to create a very powerful impression. I go through phases like anyone else.

What piece of equipment / software would you wish into being?

An auto-arrange. It could form a algorithim based on every other track I’ve ever made and arrange the track in a semi-random fashion. I’d fucking love that.

How do you timetable / schedule your work time?

I tend to fit in making music around working at the shop, doing gigs and being in the pub. As i said earlier I find trying to force creativity a nightmare – when I’ve got ideas I’ll make the time and get the work done. I write quite quickly when I get going so this approach seems to work.

If you could go back in time and be a fly-on-the-wall at recording sessions for any track or album, it would be….?

Loose Joints – ‘All Over My Face’. Just such an incredible track, one of those where if someone doesn’t like it I think you’re genuinely entitled to demand a reply as to why not.

Thanks Joe!


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posted by MAGIC

Some summer summons

Posted in Bass Clef, Blog, Live, Some Truths with tags , , on June 13, 2012 by magicanddreams

Good day friends.

Here’s some details of a few live shows I have coming up….

First off I’ll be taking my first ever trip to Poland, to play a Bass Clef set at the Malta Festival.

Then a few days later I’ll be packing up the modular synth and taking it on a trip to the seaside, to play a Some Truths set at Joseph Stannard’s Outer Church night:

Great looking line-up eh? Tickets are available here.

Then I’ll be back in the cosy environs of Cafe Oto on July 16th,

I’m very happy to be the guest of Andre Vide and Rashad at their two day residency.

Also appearing is Kouhei Matsunaga, info is HERE.

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posted by MAGIC

Well-armed and shackled

Posted in Bass Clef, Blog, Live on June 6, 2012 by magicanddreams

 

This saturday: benefit show for the lovely folks at the Hackney Film Festival – should be a good one!

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posted by MAGIC