Something you said at LEME last year stuck with me. You said: “In house and techno music, structure is not difficult; you can even have a track with no structure.” That suggests it’s not something you normally pay too much attention to, so how about something like ’Norwegian Raven’? How is the structure of a 38-minute track determined? Is it totally unplanned and jammed?
I know a lot of people who are making music have difficulty with structure, but it’s not that important, I think. The structure in ‘Norwegian Raven’ just came automatically, I didn’t even think of it. It comes naturally, you’ve just got to listen good… it comes down more to a feeling. I wouldn’t say it’s totally unplanned – I mean, you know what you are doing to a certain degree. I think not thinking too much about such stuff is the best way to go – just let it flow from your mind.
If you had the chance to design your own synthesiser or drum machine, what would you create?
I think the world could use a nice ROMpler hybrid again. there are just too many boring, simple analogue synths coming out. Everyone will sound the same: pwowowooooiing blip bleep unimaginative machine music. A lot of these kids don’t even know you can press two notes at the same time, have intervals or even chords – it’s all monophonic boring drabble!
Anyways, the synth would be called the WOLFERS NOSTROMO. It would be a four digital oscillator synth, where the oscillators are digital waveforms, either wave cycles or samples, but 12-bit, maybe even 8-bit. Each of these oscillators goes through its own path of a 24dB filter and extra-warm VCA, with an EQ dip. Then these four paths are mixed together and there is another filter and VCA at the end. And an analogue delay. Also lots of envelopes and LFOs that are freely assignable to the filters, oscillators and VCA, etc.
It would be a bit like a super Ensoniq ESQ-1… all normal stuff, but the character would lie in the digital waveforms, which it would have like a few hundred of. A lot of nature sounds, like noise waves made out of sea sounds, rain, waterfalls. But also storms, thunder and stuff like that. And lots of animal sounds…flute wave cycles made out of bird calls, and raw sounds from bears and howling wolves. A lot of ethnic instruments but also normal waveforms of course.
It would have a JX-3P/Elektron Analog Four-esque polyphonic step sequencer with pattern memory, an arpeggiator and chord memory. If any synth company wants to make this synthesiser and make a lot of money, give me a call. I will oversee and endorse this product. Maybe we can restart the Welsh synthesiser industry and reopen Cheetah marketing.
A lot of the time when you talk about your early electronic music experiences it seems to be things like listening at home to radio and tapes rather than going to clubs. How about now? Do you go to clubs much when you’re not DJing?
Yeah, sometimes to check out friends or interesting people playing and I like to dance, but not really to listen to music in a way that you can hear everything, because in clubs the music is always loud and you don’t really hear all the nuances of the music. People are talking and there is other stuff going on. I guess going to the club is like going to church but then you are not a Christian but a techno person, or house or whatever.
If any synth company wants to make this synthesiser and make a lot of money, give me a call. I will oversee and endorse this product. Maybe we can restart the Welsh synthesiser industry?
Do you think less club-focused electronic music has been pushed into a niche because of the focus on club experiences? Is it harder to make labels take a chance on non-dancefloor music?
Most labels sell records which are basically DJ tools, they sell for club use. The Occult Orientated Crime Album would never work on vinyl; first of all you would need six LPs to fit all the music on in acceptable, decent sound quality… The ‘Norwegian Raven’ track wouldn’t even fit on one side of a record. It would cost a label tremendous amounts of money and not a lot of people would buy it because its not a DJ tool or music with a beat. But besides that the vinyl format also wouldn’t be able to play all the frequencies that are present in the music itself. It would be a weak, watered-down copy of the original. The solution to this is of course to produce shorter tracks!
You told me that you prefer DJing to playing live because there’s less pressure. What kind of pressure do you feel when you play live?
Well, it’s normal: if you are performing of course there is pressure. When you DJ you mostly don’t play your own music, so if a record isn’t received well by the audience you don’t have to blame it on yourself. OK, you’re still playing the track but at least you didn’t produce it… and you can easily just put on another record.
Some people are motivated by pressure. Is that not you?
No, it works the other way around. If something or someone pressures me too much or nags me too much it will have the opposite effect, like I will lose interest or just don’t do something.