Every fan of all realms of electronic music has experienced it. Someone you’re talking tunes with slams the whole scene, serving up the slight, “Anyone can do that. They just push buttons. I like real instruments.” Ladies and Gentleman of the Audiophilic Jury, let me share with you a piece of footage, created by Edison and his crew, that I consider Sound evidence in defense of the creative bastion we know to be electronic music:
After ages of ogling his astoundingly fresh videos, I reached out to Edison, the up and coming SF based begetter of Monome beats. I received a shout back from a refreshingly grounded individual, brimming with creative essence. He was so kind as to share a few moments of time with me for his interview.
I caught up with Edison one night after he shared a vegetarian mock-Thanksgiving meal with his wife and friends. In addition to chatting him up about his craft, I learned Edison to be an advocate of avocados, compulsive cyclist, and prolific painter. He also has a long and complicated relationship with music that has allowed him to become the masterful producer he is.
Growing up with a guitar in hand, Edison developed a keen ear for music that eventually translated into skills on piano, banjo, mandolin and drums. During early experimentation mixing percussion patterns he tapped out on a synth with layers of guitar and other noises, Edison’s creative lusts grew. With a love for beats, but no drum set in reach, he shifted the focus of his musical efforts to programming percussion on a Dr Sample 202.
Fast forward some time… Edison, still making use of the sampler in his recordings, stumbles across a demo video on Youtube for a device called the Monome:
Edison: I do believe it was the first round of 40h kits, so I had a Roland 606- their kind of MPC. I was doing all this finger drumming/ guitar type of stuff… but… it wasn’t “IT”, you know? Me and some homies were playin lots of shows, but i wasn’t 100% into it as a performance. I just happened upon the Monome videos… then Daedalus, and I just had to have it. It totally freaked me out as to what it could do, so I sold my (Roland( 606 on craigslist, and had a kit ordered in the next few weeks. In the end… after exploring all the Monome could do, I really came back to the 606 approach in a way. The Monome just allows me to get ahold of every track- 16 pads just wasn’t enough for me.
Madison: Mo buttons!
Hah! Hell yes!
Following your video shares on Vimeo chronologically, that makes good sense. You progressed from one monome 64, to two 64s, and now you’re on a 256. What are you doing with all those buttons now? What kind of layout are you rocking on that giant grid?
Oh man…. well, I just got my hands on the 256 a few months ago. I literally had to sit down and draw a big map… wound up making a few revisions, and finally started attacking the thing. Its pretty intense, but basically, I have all my drums on the bottom, the melodies have an A and B part, then everything else is kind of a remixed/ effected/ flipped version of that, and the top section has buffer effects- some for the melody and some for the drums. Its like having 3 different versions of a song loaded that you always have access to. I just jump around and keep it interesting.
On the subject of jumping around, and keeping it interesting, how much of your live performance is improvised?
Well, every song is a single Ableton file… so each one is a set of sounds. Other than that, its pretty much a free for all. I just try and do something different than the last thing I played.
When playing in front of audiences, do you feel your setup allows you the opportunity to connect to the crowd more so than traditional DJ style performances?
Absolutely! I think that the see/ say aspect the Monome adds to it is key! By that, I mean that one buttons get pushed, lights up, and then noise comes out. People seem to respond really well to that. Additionally, the time it takes to load a new file between each song gets me talking to the crowd, interacting… cracking dumb jokes… it just lets them see that I’m just a dude waiting for a computer to load, which makes the whole experience more engaging than just looking on while some guy rocks out quietly with their head down… And I don’t mean that as an insult to other mediums of performance- I love them all. Get up there and do it! That’s just my personal thing…
Apart from crowd interaction, what makes you tick creatively? Spaces? Noises? Mindsets? Other music? A certain time of day?
There’s a lot that goes on. I think that San Francisco itself is a huge influence on me. Morning walks to the train for work, the crazy people… And for the new stuff I’ve been working on, space is definitely a factor. Most of the new stuff is really cut and dry production, but with extensive layering of room mikes all over it. The sound of my studio… the sound of my office at work… the sound of the studio we mixed at… You can hear and feel the room I was in. Other than that, for People Are Bad Animals, the inspiration was Daniel Guinn books. All The Information at Hand was a Rhodes my wife bought me. This new record Delayed Reaction Elements is largely inspired by One Flew Over the Cucoos Nest.
Excellent book! Totally awesome… and not what I was expecting to hear…
So, I’ll tell you a secret. I found a reading of the screenplay for One Flew Over the Cucoos Nest online… It was Christian Slater reading it on some old radio show or something. So I took the last chapter, where McMurphy gets in trouble, is lobotomized, and the chief kills him, and hid little super effected, twisted sentences in each song. So every song has a little snippet of the book in there…
Don’t let Congress find out…
Any other musicians out there that really get your goat?
Oh shit, lots! Babelfish, Evak, Mildew Home and the Beastmaster (my old rap crew), RO, %, Blockhead and Aes Rock, Jonwayne, Nofx, Lagwagon, Herbie Hancock….
Word. So you talked a little about your forthcoming album… what else is in the works? Touring? More sweet videos?
Working on the album still, but it’s real close to done. I also have a split 12″ with Lazerbeak of Doomtree coming out on Fieldwerk Records. As far as touring goes, I’m not 100% on anything, but I might be going for a while next year… hopefully. As far as videos go, we are discussing some things for a song off the new records, and I did a promo thing for Cinemax that aired over the Holidays.
Rad! To change course a little bit, how do you feel the widespread availability and (relatively) low cost of recording and sharing music has changed what people are creating?
Ooh, good question! I think that people are really experimenting, so we’re all experiencing a paradigm shift. Even the average Joe can be really expressive. I love checking it all out, but as far as coming into the music industry now, its a huge disadvantage. No one can make money- its practically impossible to sustain off music alone due to availability, so it makes for tumultuous times. There is good and bad… To add to that, I got to mix my new record in a real deal old school studio. Those are really dying, which is really quite sad. People (including myself) would rather throw a Native Instruments plugin on than run it through a 40 year old beast that has stood the test of time. I feel super lucky to have had access to that at least once in my life.
Well, you’ve certainly earned it. My final question- Sting!? What is it? Explain?
Haha, Sting! is the verbal exclamation point. As in Yo! That show was dope… Sting! Or dude, your fly is down and that girl just gave you a dirty look… Sting! Its just fun… and I must credit the man, the mythh,,,, Mildew, for making Sting! possible.
I dig it… Any other shout outs you’d like to give?
Man, so many….. 900bats, Kidwithoutradio Family, Monome boards, Decorative Stamp, the Cleaver League, Fieldwerk, and all the dudes who high five, and you of course, for taking the time to interview!