Friday, January 14, 2011

Feedback and Technology - Shotguns Part Three of Four

Shotguns is a musician who hangs out on IDM Forums. His interview has been split into four installments.

Obscure Robot: Tell me about a particularly difficult track?

Shotguns: On the studio tip. I've got a few consecutive riffs and melodies that quite a few people have heard in at least 15 different forms. People only know it by the working name and it's actually one of my most appreciated tunes - but it didn’t exist in final recorded form. I couldn’t seem to get it right. I've tried it in every single way I could imagine.

But you know what happened yesterday? I had a decent draft of a track going. It was alright, but it was more of an album track, if you catch my drift? Well, I realized that it was in the key of F minor, so I casually tried to freestyle that one melody on top. It sounded pretty damn good, so I kept going with the other riffs and melodies and ended up bouncing it down. I played it to a few people today and they were over the moon.

So always keep an open mind and don't be afraid to make an "alright" track into TWO "alright" tracks. You might not notice the difference at first, but other people will notice the fact that you're simply packing a lot of ideas in there.

Obscure Robot: It sounds like a second set of ears can be helpful too

Shotguns: Exactly. You never know. You just never know. Some tracks resonate with people and you're not the jury in that field. You know the saying, right? "You're the worst person to pick your single", YES! That means YOU!

Obscure Robot: That's one of the great things about SoundCloud - I'm often surprised at which tracks of mine are most popular.

Shotguns: Exactly. That's why I like the combination of live shows and internet accessibility.

I worked with a band as a tour manager a few years ago and two weeks before a tour we released a new track. I came up with the idea that people should learn the mid-song breakdown and sing along and clap along, so the band released the song with a little "how-to" guide and it turned into the biggest surprise of the tour. People really got into it and it was a total highlight.

Even in your world, the software world, it's all about user interaction, right? I can't see a reason as to why that shouldn't be a part of entertainment.

Obscure Robot: User interaction is huge in my world - it is easy to think you've made the software that your users want, only to find that you didn't at all

Shotguns: Exactly. Have you ever done focus group tests? Well, imagine people only being able to use your product during a focus group and that's what live shows are.

Yes, that includes all the ridiculous, contradicting "TOO HARD!" "TOO EASY!" "TOO UGLY!" "TOO PRETTY"-feedback.

Obscure Robot: Software development is close to music composition - there really isn't an equivalent to live performance in the software world though.

Shotguns: You should be thankful for that. That probably keeps you sane.

Obscure Robot: What is your relationship with technology, musically speaking?

Shotguns: It's definitely an enabler.

I wouldn't call it a "necessary evil", because I don't think it is. It enables me to make my visions reality, no matter how pretentious it sounds.

Obscure Robot: In what ways does technology enable your music?

Shotguns: Every single way possible. Sure, I still fill up a notebook per month with song ideas - but from composition, to synthesis, to sampling, to recording, to project management and distribution - it's always a mainstay.

Obscure Robot: Pen and paper is a technology too.

Shotguns: Yes, but I meant in the modern sense.

Obscure Robot: I find the word modern interesting, in part because it denotes a design and architectural style that really peaked between the 1930s and 1950s, but also because we are seeing the re-release of Propellerheads ReBirth for the iPad, after it was discontinued and released for free. And the original version was an emulation of the classic Roland machines of the early '80s

Shotguns: Exactly. Very interesting and quite meta. The world "modern" changes a lot, but in this case I meant it as "non-digital", which is probably considered the "dark ages" by some younger people - And I'm not even that old!

Obscure Robot: One of my favorite fountain pens was designed in 1966, and people comment with what I think is unintentional irony on how modern it looks!

Shotguns: Haha, yes. Interesting. I guess it just means that ground breaking things can still be ground breaking even if they're not technically considered modern. Again, comparing Kraftwerk to 2010 G&R.

I mean, Kraftwerks music doesn't really hold up (oh, blasphemy!), but the idea is still ground breaking.

Obscure Robot: I'm not sure I agree - some of Kraftwerk is dated by its popularity, but it is amazing how contemporary Kraftwerk, Stockhausen, and Ligeti sound today.

Shotguns: Of course. But I meant that their live ideas still haven't been surpassed, whereas people have surpassed their actual music (opinion of course, but still). It just shows that no matter how powerful computers get - ideas are still king.

Stockhausen and Ligeti is 100% based on ideas and that's why they still hold up.

They both are. Kraftwerk is more dated music-wise simply due to the technology.

But then again, they had the "full package" and were very much incredibly ground breaking.

But I can definitely see why more youngsters would consider "going back to the roots" to be Aphex Twin and Richie Hawtin instead Kraftwerk and Stockhausen.

Obscure Robot: I think that is fair, though I'm thinking specifically of Kraftwek's Ruckzuck, which in some ways reminds me of Pierre Henry's Psyche Rock - the music that became the theme to Futurama!

Shotguns: Oh, yes. I am not dismissing them at all. I am heralding them for coming up with amazing performance art ideas that still haven't been beaten even though we have a lot more resources and technology these days.

I mean sure, Brian Eno works with U2 and Coldplay....But it's still not pushing any boundaries, in my opinion.

Obscure Robot: Once again we have the advantage of the internet. If you dig deeply enough on Aphex Twin, you will find the perhaps-apocryphal exchange between James and Stockhausen where Stockhausen criticizes James' work, and James responds

Shotguns: Yes. The internet is an amazing resource, but you really have to question if the newer electronic music genres actually open kids up to the more legacy ones.

It's still up for debate. I'm not sure if kids respect legends these days - it might just be way too far removed from what they like about the artists they like. I mean, I have nothing against gateway-artists, that's how most people get into genres, but it's definitely up for debate with the kids of today.

Obscure Robot: I don't know if kids respect legends these days, but I suspect that more electronic music fans are likely to discover Stockhausen than Metalheads were to discover Beethoven. If so, only because their parents aren't telling them to listen to Stockhausen.

Shotguns: Yes. Agreed. It's interesting though.


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