Jan St. Werner of Mouse On Mars Interview (Part 1 of 2) [Listen 30:15] Getting My Disorder Assessed By Jan St. Werner S04 Ep07
Special Guest: Jan St.Werner (Mouse On Mars) (Part 1 of 2) can put his name to an elite group of electronic musicians who move through time pushing musical boundaries, exciting dance floors, and bending minds. He has done this by the difficult but necessary journey of searching out new sounds, considering unconventional uses for the objects and technologies that surround him, and (possibly most important of all) not sticking to a formula - keeping his music exciting, innovative and relevant. Jan St. Werner has been twisting, modding, and manipulating his musical environment for the past 20 plus years. After six years away, he and his longtime collaborator, Andi Toma, have teamed up again to put out two new amazing albums.
In this podcast we talk about the band’s name, a strange early connection between Andi Toma and Jan St. Werner, how the two work together, understanding technology, and how Mouse on Mars treats it, working with Mark E Smith of The Fall (and I kind of butcher the name Von Südenfed), we talk about the track Chagrin and much more.
The Glitch in the System
Wikipedia describes glitch music as "a genre that adheres to an "aesthetic of failure," where the deliberate use of glitch based audio media, and other sonic artifacts, is a central concern." This description is taken from Kim Cascone's entry in the Computer Music Journal published by MIT press THE AESTHETICS OF FAILURE: 'Post-Digital' Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music. But there's another view to be taken by the genre, and one that may have progressed in the genre since the genre grew to wider popularity in the early 90's and that view is that glitch deconstructs noise and pieces the random elements back into some assemblance of order, some degree of melody (although, it could be said, loosely) and Cascone goes on to explain this in the article: "Another German group, which called itself Mouse on Mars, injected this glitch aesthetic into a more danceable framework, resulting in gritty low-fidelity rhythmic layers warping in and out of one another." This, I believe, is referring to their earlier work, perhaps Vulvaland in particular (released 1995). Some other later works by Mouse On Mars bear much less of a resemblance to a "danceable framework." But Vulvaland is a great early example of glitch music that is also somewhat melodic and atmospheric.
One could say that glitch music is the quickest to bring the exclamation from the uninitiated, "Turn OFF that Noise!" turning the deliverer of the exclamation into a parody of a curmudgeon from the 1950's protesting an Elvis Presley record. there's more behind the noise that is readily apparent; several artists credit the futurist composer Luigi Russolo as an influence. And some glitch strips down to only dissonant clicks and grinds, arrhythmic stops and starts, a wall of sound to silence, and no established tempo to speak of, but there's much more to it than noise. In fact, some glitch, take Autechre, Oval, or Ryoji Ikeda for example, gets to be so removed from a recognized musical structure that you get the feeling that you witnessing the inner workings of a computer, that you are an entity inside the computer, seated inside, hearing all the elements at work-- taking in the digital mystery as an unwitnessed observer, or perhaps an incognizant part of it. Whatever your approach to music, and acceptance of old forms of structure, Glitch can be one of the quickest ways to shatter your conceptions of music and your expectations of it.
While glitch carries the notion of being on the cutting edge, and there's truth in that, there is quite a lot of history behind it. Aside from Luigi Russolo, the United States Library of Congress credits the first sung by a computer to "Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)," Max Mathews (1961) "This recording, made at Bell Laboratories on an IBM 704 mainframe computer, is the earliest known recording of a computer-synthesized voice singing a song. The recording was created by John L. Kelly, Jr., and featured musical accompaniment written by Max Mathews. Arthur C. Clarke, who witnessed a demonstration of the piece while visiting friend and Bell Laboratories employee John Pierce, was so impressed that he incorporated it in the novel and film script for "2001: A Space Odyssey."1 You could say that the first glitch music is from Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, when HAL is being shut down, he ends up singing Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two), but, in his limited way, with logic circuits shut down. The first electronic work commissioned by a record company was in 1967: Morton Subotnick's Silver Apples of the Moon. While this may not seem so long ago, bear in mind that this was when The Beatles were putting out Sgt. Pepper's. Come to think of it, it's remarkable that glitch has maintained it's own through an era so dominated by polished studio sound and songwriting. Thanks to those who go against the grain.
Aiming for the Simple and Innocent Things with Alex Paterson of The Orb (2 of 2) [Listen 22:37] S04 Ep06
Special Guest: Alex Paterson (The Orb) (Part 2 of 2) is a major player in the Electronica genre, splashing on to the scene at a transitional time in the genre's history: the period when European musicians were just starting to pick up on the new Techno revolution happening in Detroit and the Acid House scene from Chicago. The Orb were one of the leading bands playing their own form of Electronica at the beginning of the biggest electronic music explosions--the UK Rave scene in the late 80’s to early 90’s--and were fundamental in the direction that Acid House took; spawning "Ambient House" in the new "come down" or chill-out rooms of the rave clubs.
In this podcast, we continue from where we left off, and get into the details of sampling and all the fuss therein, what he's been doing with Lee Scratch Perry, and what he might like to do next. Have a listen
Chiptune: What's Old is New Again . . . And It's Really Old
As some musicians are striving to get the latest sounds and technology, other musicians are turning to old technology and hacking, modding, and stripping things away to make something new, something better. And they're using technology more than 20 years old.
It can be fairly technical, from adding additional chips, to just ripping some of the parts out haphazardly to see what kind of noises it'll make. It comes from several sources, but most often from old video game technology such as Gameboy and old pc's such as the Commodore 64.
Chiptunes and modding has always had a large place in the computer demoscene, but the exact origins are debatable. They could be attributed to Eno from the days of Roxy Music fiddling at the controls of the board on stage, and with The Yellow Magic Orchestra, more closely with sampling computer game music.
But the interesting thing about it is that it hasn't died. The advancement of technology has only promoted the love and furthered the interest. And to show that everything is circular, it's made it's way back to vinyl. I'm mot talking about converting classic albums to 8 bit chiptunes--although that's been done--I'm saying that the format has gone from being the "new medium" that was going to knock vinyl off it's throne, to being discarded as refuse and come full circle to be revived to earn a place in the history of music on vinyl.
While Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, and Leafcutter John have been known to put elements of hacked and modded synths in their music, the indie artist, Jim Guthrie, might be the one who's been infected to the highest degree of chiptune into his music. You might have to call it "Chipfolktronicatune," if you weren't afraid for another lame subgenre label coming into usage. What a long strange trip it's been for the medium that was to be the killer of vinyl, to the bottom of the technological scrapyard, and back into vinyl again. What's next; videos of astronauts covering Bowie classics in space?
Daniel B. of Nothing But Noise Interview (Part 2 of 2) [Listen 21:45] Dropping the needle anywhere with Daniel B S04 Ep05[21:45]
Special Guest: Daniel Bressanutti (a.k.a. Daniel B.) (Part 2 of 2): is an electronic music pioneer and one of the forefathers of the electronic body music genre. Daniel B was a founding member of the iconic Belgian band, Front 242, and an essential figure in the shaping of Synth-Punk, electronic dance, and post-industrial music. He and his current band, Nothing But Noise, comprises of himself, the other founding member of Front 242, Dirk Bergen, as well as adding Erwin Jadot into the mix. Nothing But Noise have a new Limited edition 300 copy 10” white Vinyl single called “Music For Muted TV 1” released on Record Store Day 2013. In this podcast we talk about about growing up in Belgium and getting inspiration from the Prog-rock bands of the 60’s, his connection to the visual arts, his perspective on music critics, and we get into some of his Front 242 work.
Does technology make a better musician?
There's no doubt about it, technology is advancing beyond all measure. It has been said that technology is advancing beyond mankind itself; our culture, society, mind, civilization, and ethics haven't risen to meet the demands and conundrums such an advancement carries with it. In fact, the latest technology in today's cellphones have more computing power than the Mars Curiosity Rover. The logical conclusion leads to launching cellphones into space to act as satellites now. The unfortunate matter on this is that cellphone technology is advancing so quickly that by the time that the phones get equipped and launched into orbit, they're outdated and that no one in the market for a cellphone would buy one. Seems rather a waste when most often cellphones get used for acquaintances of yours to post pics of what they had for dinner, doesn't it?
It has been said that technology is advancing beyond mankind itself
Think of what could be created if we put a fraction of that research and development towards new music machines: new sounds and treatments that could shatter the comprehension of the modern mind! However, as mankind, is conjectured to be behind technology, it could be said that musicians themselves haven't advanced far enough to use the capability of the technology. There still has to be a human application of theory and practice. Pressing one key on a synth that has been programmed to the gills to produce the sounds of an orchestra does not make a better musician. I would say that that doesn't even make a musician at all. A monkey could be pressing the key, or a brick resting on the key could just as well produce the same sounds of the programmed synth. There's a lesson in there for budding musicians in there.
Think of what could be created if we put a fraction of that research and development towards new music machines: new sounds and treatments that could shatter the comprehension of the modern mind!
Of course, there is nothing that dates music than outdated sounds, some artists, though, thankfully, manage to escape this limitation; I would use Brian Eno, David Byrne, and the Pixies as examples, but, of course, I'm biased. Although the the reverse is true as well, some musicians sound dated despite using the latest equipment, and no degree of production or equipment tweaking can fix. I'll not name names here; I'll just leave that to your own prejudice.
It's no secret that musicians are an odd lot; some are professed Luddites, some are obsessed to reproduce particular sounds or to use coveted equipment that their heroes used in their impressionable youth to capture the intangible effect.
It's no secret that musicians are an odd lot
Theoretically, considering where the most advanced technology is these days, the best audio producing equipment would be a cellphone. Just wait, there's more to come from that direction.
Of course, there is something to be said about getting the greatest product out of limited resources - to crafting a fine, polished product from within confining boundaries; like the short story is a unique medium in itself with it's own difficulties for writers. And really, so many of the best songs are done with a guitar, drum, and voice. Outdated technology.
But what is there to say except that, of course, there is nothing to show that advanced technology actually adds to the music; the source, the well-spring comes from the mind, and the talent of the musician, and is only limited, or limitless, therein.
So, taking all this in mind I'm going to be the latest to remix Justin Beiber on my cellphone, hurl it to the sky in a ballistic fashion to place it into the atmosphere. It goes on sale upon its return. Who doesn't want the latest limited release remix of Justin Bieber from space? Bidding has already begun on Ebay. Act now!