Friday, 25 September 2015

Artist Interview: Noisecast

Today's artist interview is with a guy I came across on Twitter. I listened to a couple of his "Noisecasts" and was greatly impressed by them and so I decided to see if he would be interested in an interview. I'm glad to say he was and this is reproduced below. After having read the interview feel free to have a wander over to Mixcloud where you can hear examples of the audio collages he has made. These are at  

1. How did you get into making music?

I joined a band when I was 14. I didn’t know how to play anything but picked up bass and managed to write some pretty terrible songs. We had a decent drummer so that kinda carried it. After realizing we were a bit rubbish, I sold the bass and picked up some decks. From around ’94 drum n bass was an unhealthy obsession for me for a few years and I spent every penny I could on vinyl. I remember really wanting to make electronic music (DnB) back then and having not much of an idea how to or what you needed get to start. When I got bored of drum n bass, record collecting slowed down a bit for me but with a better mix of stuff (blues, jazz, rock, soul, reggae and whatever else).

Much later on I eventually picked up an MPC and started making sample based hip hop beats. I’ve never gotten very far with computer based music. Looking at a computer screen when making music presents too many distractions and options for my liking. Hitting pads on an MPC until something sounds right was more my speed and felt more satisfying too. So initially it was just looping, layering and chopping samples for me. Using sounds from my records and wanting to do cool stuff with them over looped beats. I was pretty strict about everything being 100% sample based then. The sound that achieves can be really cool but I had some weird purist restrictive thing about it. Which was a help at first, in that it pushed me to make the MPC do anything I needed it to do, but I’m glad I got away from it. Restricting your sound that much doesn’t really make much sense to me now. When I did first try using a synth I couldn’t ever get it to sit right with the samples and didn’t understand what any of the stupid wavy lines next to the knobs meant.

So not knowing any of that stuff I got a job working music technology and picked some of it up along with a bunch of other gear. That job and having access to all the gear you want turned out to be a massive passion killer for making music. I think there was a period for maybe about 4-5 years where I didn’t make a single tune. Anyway, I’ve since got rid of anything I don’t need and appreciate what I have a lot more, and I'm pretty sure I know what most of it does now.

2. What role does music play for you? How important is it and how does it influence you?

Going to see live music is maybe my favourite thing to do. It’s loud and you’re not expected to listen to anyone just the music and there is drinking. I don’t mind being sober and listening to people sometimes too but usually that’s not as much fun. Live music will influence me a lot more than hearing new music on an album I may really like in terms of ideas for making new music. I’ll always have stronger ideas after decent live music. Doesn’t matter what kind of music. I find that I’ll pick up on much more from a good live gig.

In terms of making music, what’s most important to me at the moment is avoiding sounding too much like anyone else, to not be precious about ideas and not sounding like complete garbage. That’s the balance I aim for anyway, but I’m still working on it. Just having something creative to do, whether or not the results are any good, is what’s important. Obviously it’s more satisfying when I do something I’m pleased with. Occasionally that will happen and it feels good.

I’m fairly obsessive about music in general but I’ve never really thought about why that is. I just enjoy it.

3. What do you currently use to make music? Are you happy with that or how would you like it to change?

My current set up is an Ensoniq ASR-10 sampler, Grendel Drone Commander, some Moog effect pedals, an Eventide Space reverb as well as some iPad apps. I also have couple of MPC’s (the 1000 & 3000), a Moog Voyager, DSI Tempest drum machine, a couple of pre-amps and turntables which are in storage for the time being. Everything attaches to an RME Fireface 400 interface and then through to Genelec monitors. My laptop is there just as a tape recorder and for editing. One thing I really like about the Fireface is that you can leave your hardware hooked up to it and don’t need to turn your computer on to use it. So unless I’m actually recording something, there’s no computer involved.

Every bit of kit I have definitely adds a specific flavour of sound and they all mesh nicely together for me. Next year I’ll have a new dedicated space for making music again so am looking forward to bringing it all back together. I miss having access to my record collection too. It will be cool to have everything back in one place.

For the moment though, I’m content just with the ASR-10 and Drone Commander which is all I have space for just now. You can pretty much build any sound you want in the ASR and its effects engine is incredible. The ASR-10 is bit quirky to get to know and gets stupid hot very quickly but the workflow is really nice. Plus I just love the sound of old samplers. The MPC 3000 is probably my other favourite piece of kit. It was in a gnarly mess when I picked it up but I’ve refurbished everything I could on it. It still has little issues here and there but I forgive them and just get on with it. If I’m sequencing anything (other than the DSI Tempest), it will be from inside the MPC 3000. Recording samples through it is some magic fairy dust kinda deal. I love the sound of that thing. Both the ASR-10 and the MPC 3000 have compact flash card readers installed on them now via SCSI to avoid floppy disks which saves a lot of headache.

While I don’t currently have access to my record collection, I’ve been sampling a lot more sounds from old movies. The best stuff I tend to find is usually from old horror, martial arts or sci-fi films. That’s something I’ve always done but have been a lot more reliant on it this year. It’s also spurred me to use more ambient soundscape sounds that I’ll record with my phone.

The Moog pedals are a lot of fun to use, sound amazing and there’s always new ways set them up and whatnot. Great fun to use alongside the Grendel Drone Commander and Eventide Space. The Grendel DC is the only thing I’ve picked up recently. It’s sounds really dirty, compliments the Moog pedals nicely and is compact enough that I can sit it on a pedalboard with them.

I’ve no plans to buy any more gear just now. I like what I have and enjoy finding new ways of using them together. I don’t think I really need anything more. …..BUT!! If I were to get anything new, I guess it would be practical to have a bigger interface so all my gear could hooked up at the same time. A cheapo cassette multitrack would be cool. Always enjoy messing with those and cassettes remind me of making mix tapes. Some new weird fx boxes or pedals would be sweet but I’ve tried not to tempt myself in to any for the last year or so successfully. A new portable recorder thingy (a leaky battery murdered my last one) and binaural mics to record sounds with would also be cool. For now I’m happy enough just using my phone for that. Most of the time I find it’s best to just make do with what’s at hand and not worry about getting any new gear. New ideas are what’s important, doesn’t matter so much what you doodle them out with. If I have gear lust I’ll try to cure it with a £5 iOS app rather than something pricey that I don’t really have space for right now. It’s not quite the same as having a cool piece of new kit to play with but it allows me to mess with new stuff without the burden of new gear to incorporate.

iOs apps that I use a lot are Soundscaper, Borderlands, Hexaglyphics, csSpectrual and Sampler. Usually when I’m recording anything out of the iPad it will pass through the ASR-10 effects engine, Moog pedals or Eventide Space to add a little something extra to it.

4. What projects are you currently involved with and what about them is attractive to you?

At the moment, just the Noisecast podcast. I’ve bunches of new ideas, some doodles I’ve been doing on the side,  some half finished projects and other stuff I want to work on, but I should be off on travel break before long. Anything new is on hold until I come back. Before doing Noisecast I had not tried doing anything like this musically before. I just opened a project in my DAW and decided that I was going to fill it with half an hour of sound. The idea behind it was to try new stuff, not be precious about ideas and a call it finished project. Music is so disposable now calling it a podcast seemed a good way to do it. Stream it once and never listen to it again. No need to bother with fancy track names. 

Having all the different parts (or ‘tracks’) within a single project in the DAW works well for me. It’s cool trying different instruments (or samples) I’d built in the ASR against the different parts within the project to see what would fit best where. Flipping ideas between tracks helps make it a bit more like a continuous piece of sound rather than a bunch of tracks that have been thrown in together. It’s also fun working without aiming for any particular structure or form. Just doodling ideas out. Sometimes they’ll end up a 1 min thing, other times a 15 min track. Doesn’t matter, just keep it and move on. The only rule I set was to always to pick something new to mess with - like a time signature I’m not comfy with or not having any tempo at all, or maybe using a sample I’ve kept banked but never managed to fit into anything before. As long as it includes fitting something new in then it’s worth doing.

I’ll do a third ep before I leave for travel and then hopefully carry it on whenever it is I get back. This one will be different to the first two as it’ll be based around one or two longer Drone Commander improvs I recorded, rather than shorter sketches. I’ll layer it up with other stuff and call it a finished. Hopefully it won’t be entirely as bad as that sounds.

5. What sort of music do you see yourself as making? Are there other kinds of music you want to make or wish you could make?

Self-indulgent dark sci-fi nonsense? Dark ambient would probably the easiest box to fling Noisecast in. It’s definitely soundtrack influenced. I’ve collected a fair bit of soundtrack vinyl and a lot of the sounds I sample are taken from old films. I’ve always been a film geek and like referencing it in music. Working to picture is something I’d like to try. Maybe re-scoring part of a film or scoring music to a graphic novel and then putting that together in a digital format. I’ve lots of ideas for stuff and putting different sounds together but talking about them seems like nonsense until you actually get on with doing them.

I’ll do something a bit more beat orientated when I’m back for sure. Working out some kind of live set is on my ‘maybe to do list’.. and perhaps some noise-pop-polka jams?

6. A musical genie grants you three wishes. What are they?

To be able to teleport my music studio anywhere in the world at anytime I need it. 

Reincarnate Hendrix for a last gig somewhere smallish. Anyone reading this is invited.

No one else gets a musical genie. I want to feel special.

Noisecast is on Twitter at @NoisecastFM

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