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(***PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH ALL YOUR FRIENDS***) Whether you are into dance music (techno, house, dubstep, jungle, post jungle, post inverted dupstep, freakcore, etc) or the many meandering paths of experimental music, we are all united by our love of our community and the many different sonic strands that pull at our heart strings. This community needs our support in order to keep it alive and moving forward. Often, this means buying local releases or checking out local shows. Today, you got a chance to help fund the shows of one of the most diverse electronic music and art non-profits in town, The Fuse Factory and Digital Arts Lab. This organization is built by community members for our scene. There is no profit. There’s only the love of the music and the art that we all cherish so much! There is no angle. There is only the heartfelt desire to show people new ways to appreciate and make music and art. Such an approach could not be more important when so many other people and organizations are trying to brand your experience of music and art and don’t allow you the space to interpret, feel, and experience the music in your own way.  This present kickstarter campaign will be used to finish the funding they need to put on the rest of their frequency friday shows that their grant money from the Greater Columbus Art Council does not cover. This event brings sound experimenters from all over the globe come here to share their art with our community. Not only do these shows provide amazing performances, but they also provide a central meeting points for all people in our community working with sound in different ways. You can read more about the non-profit in my interview with its director and founder Alison Coleman HERE.

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However, they need Columbus’ help to bring the grant home! They are only 435 dollars away from their goal. Yet,  they have only 1 DAY LEFT!  70 individuals in our community and abroad have donated already.  A donation in any amount helps and is important to keep this excellent programming alive in our city. This is a great way to say that you gave back to your community. I have already pledged my money to the cause and I hope you do to!

CLICK HERE FOR THE KICKSTARTER PAGE

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I did my second spot on Trademark Gunderson & Frillypant’s Sound of Plaid Radio Show two weeks back. You may remember my first spot on the show in November. You can listen to that HERE. This time around we played some local music, some old & new music, talked big ideas, and had a great time. Take a listen when you get a chance.

Tracklisting: Click on Artist Name for more info
(Band — Song)
Jay Dee — Airworks
Elizabeth Waldo — Balsa Boat
A Tribe Called Red — The Road
The Fallen — Raw Times
sKewn — Circling
Jeff Central — The Day Of Attack
Druid Cloak — Sun Elf
Glass Teeth —BB EYEZ (FUNERALS Remix)
tactil vision — illusion
Glacier 23 — The End Track
Walleye — Burn 4u
Mike Shiflet —1917
Mike Shiflet — Zahlentheorie
The Evolution Control Committee — The Fool On The Hill (Major-Minor Swap, incomplete)

I have been getting a great response from a lot of people around the scene from my posts concerning what’s going on in the scene today. All I can say is thanks. Thanks for doing what you do, so we can all have a community and I can help tell stories. This project does not exist without the energy expended by all of you in our community.

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Today, I am continuing these contemporary community-centered posts by shedding some light on the past and present of Mister Shifter. Mister Shifter is an artist that cut his teeth in our scene in the 1990s when the underground and club scene was thriving. He is an accomplished DJ and producer whom made up half of the critically acclaimed Drum and Bass duo Random Movement. Listening to the Random Movement back catalogue, one is catapulted back to the late 90s and early 2000s when the D & B sound was at the cutting edge of dance music and Mister Shifter himself was a key contributor (alongside Mike Richards) to pushing these new bass sounds in our city and abroad. Not only does his story help detail some of the back history of bass music in our city, but also provides a lesson on how an artist changes over time. Over the last few years, Mister Shifter has adopted an open format approach to sound, which has enabled him to continually change up and incorporate new styles and sounds into his sets. This has proved incredibly useful for him, as he has been able to reinvigorate his love of DJ’ing even as he grew bored of past sounds he immersed himself in so heavily. For me, it also makes for better art, as Mister Shifter is able to draw on diverse musical influences to craft soundscapes for dance floors that aren’t pigeonholed to any one tempo or mood.

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Mister Shifter will be playing a free show this Friday, February 22nd at Victory’s Live hosted by Squared headman Scott Litch (Event Details Here). Squared has been one of the gold standards of Columbus dance music for over ten years, as Litch has continually tried to innovate conceptually and graphically to push Columbus dance music to the next level. Within the last year, he has brought in new resident DJs to his Future Fridays event like Lower Frequency, Kevin Parrish, Tony Fairchild, and others and collaborated extensively with Quality, Run614, and Push Productions. Together these actions have increased the cohesiveness of our scene and provided artists in our scene a platform to play sounds not often heard. The show this friday is no different. Scott has carefully curated a stellar line up of artists like Mowgli, Mister Shifter, Ill Atmospherics, Lights Out!, and Doctah X that have expertise across the spectrum of bass sounds from Drum & Bass to Dub. In order to get you ready for that show, I provide for you a broad ranging interview with Mister Shifter that delves into his love of music, his time with Random Movement, and what he is up to now.

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Local Autonomy: What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?

Mister Shifer: It may sound cliché, but I’ve been a music junkie since I was a young child. Ever since I can remember I’ve been obsessed with music. I feel honored to have grown up in momentous times like the golden era of hip-hop, and the grunge movement of rock, even the 80’s (for better or worse). Being engaged and in love with music during those times of my youth really helped shape my life, and how much I appreciate music.

I’ve always enjoyed sharing music that I love with friends, from making mixtapes before there were CD’s or MP3’s, to modern day methods . Eventually becoming a DJ was a very logical progression, and that desire to share music with others has always been the driving force. DJ’ing, for me, was never about ego or because it was a cool thing to do, it was always about sharing what I loved. There’s almost no better feeling than playing the music that I’m passionate about, for tens, hundreds or thousands of people at at time, and watching them experience the same joy that it brought me. It’s a really amazing feeling that makes me never want to stop doing it.

LA: How did you get into dance music? Was Drum & Bass your first love, or did you get into later?

MS: In the early nineties I really started to gravitate towards the hardcore-breakbeat stuff that was emerging out of the UK. Artists like 2 Bad Mice, Underworld, Omni Trio, and Hyper On Experience loosened the grip that hip-hop, industrial, and some other genres had on me at the time.

Soon after, I was full-on obsessed and going to clubs and raves every single weekend, experiencing the full gamut of electronic music at the time. I think most importantly I have the ele_mental guys to thank for exposing me to such quality music, from their core artists, to the amazing local and international artists that they were bringing into Columbus on a regular basis. I’m eternally grateful for people like Ed Luna & Titonton.

Oddly enough, I didn’t gravitate towards drum & bass right off the bat, and primarily favored techno & house music for quite some time. That all changed, and I’ll never forget when drum & bass just “clicked” for me. I was at a rave at the Valley Dale Ballroom in 1997, and Titonton was playing a drum & bass set in the main area. Grooverider’s remix of ‘Share The Fall’ came on and it honestly turned my entire world upside down.

1997 was a pivotal year for drum & bass, so in my mind it’s easy to see how I got taken so hard by it. Artists such as Ed Rush & Optical, Dillinja, Photek and Adam F were putting out some of the best music the genre has seen to this day. Drum & Bass was taking the electronic music scene by storm, and I surely got pulled into the frenzy.

In a way I guess I could consider drum & bass my “first love” as I’d never been full-on consumed by any single type of music like that before. I soon bought my first set of turntables and a mixer, and started buying vinyl in massive amounts. I basically did nothing but practice DJ’ing in my spare time for the next few years.

LA: What were your experiences like in the late 1990s and early 2000s when you were DJing huge dance music events and pushing the Drum & Bass sound?

MS: I was a great experience to be a part of drum & bass in what I consider it’s golden age, the late 1990’s. Playing raves in warehouses before those type of events dried up is something that I’m so thankful to have been a part of.

Once everything started to move into the clubs in the early 2000’s I had made a bigger name for myself by getting into production. Getting signed to an iconic drum & bass label like Breakbeat Science was huge. That really opened doors for me, and allowed me to play some of the biggest drum & bass shows that would come through Columbus. It was a treat to play alongside some of my idols such as LTJ Bukem and Bad Company during those times.

LA: What prompted Mike Richards & yourself to start the Drum and Bass duo Random Movement?

MS: I managed the DJ department at Sam Ash Music Store a long time ago. One of my co-workers who I went to high school with used to have a friend that would visit often and blow my mind while toying around on the synths in the keyboard department. His name was Mike Richards, a classically-trained musician with a background in Jazz. He was somewhat unfamiliar with drum & bass and DJ culture at the time, but was very interested in knowing more. I basically fed him all of my favorite drum & bass tracks to get him initiated with certain artists and labels, and got him instantly hooked.

It didn’t take long before we started making tracks together and within about a year we had an offer from DJ Dara to release a 12″ on Breakbeat Science’s sister label Orgone Recordings. That single, “What a Woman” sold all of it’s pressings and got us out there in the international spotlight.

The success of that release gained us enough exposure to secure a release on Ireland’s Bassbin Recordings. That release contained our biggest hit to this day, “Stars in the Dark.”

Drum & Bass icon DJ Marky fell in love with “Stars in the Dark”, as he famously played the track three times in one set at The End nightclub in London. He later said he was extremely upset for not being able to sign the track to his own label, Innerground, but we worked out a deal and our next release came out on his label.

At the time, Bassbin and Innerground were two of the most popular drum & bass imprints in the world, and we were the first American artists to be signed to each of them. It was a huge accomplishment, and I’m still shocked and humbled by it.

LA: Its crazy to think that you were still releasing vinyl records with Random Movement in the mid 2000s when vinyl was arguably at its lowest popularity. Though vinyl releases have always been a benchmark for success for producers, What are your thoughts on the resurgence of vinyl within the last 5 years?

MS: Yeah, at that time the vinyl market was declining pretty heavily with the emergence of CD decks and hardware like Final Scratch and Serato. Releasing tracks on respected labels were enormous accomplishments for us. At that time, releasing a 12″ was basically what you needed to do to earn the respect of your peers in the DJ community.

I’m not surprised that vinyl is still popular today, albeit more so amongst purists. There is nothing that compares to the warm sound and tactile feedback it provides. I prefer DJ’ing on vinyl wholeheartedly, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love taking advantage of some of the innovations that later came along, like Serato and Ableton Live.

I used to pull my back out lugging over a hundred records to each gig for years, and then all of a sudden I could show up to a venue with thousands of tracks to choose from, and instantly sort by artist or label. It made playing shows a lot of fun, especially since I never had set lists in mind, and would always read the crowd to figure out what songs to play next. Being able to pull out a classic from ’95 because it just felt right at the moment was really gratifying. It’s not surprising to me that the vinyl market took such a hit when these technologies became ubiquitous in the DJ community. That said, I’ll always treasure vinyl, as I loved the many years I played on it exclusively.

LA: Within the past few years you have transitioned into a more multi-genre DJ’ing approach. What led to that shift?

MS: I had always appreciated all styles of music. I would have loved to DJ other genres over the years, but during a large portion of my career DJ’s strictly used vinyl, and it would’ve cost me a fortune to buy enough wax to support that type of endeavor. I reached a point where I had honestly grown a bit tired of drum & bass. That scene was starting to crumble due to a lack of innovation, and tracks were becoming quite samey and cookie-cutter.

Around 2007 the dance rock scene was really starting to blow up. Labels like Ed Banger, and artists such as MSTRKRFT, Diplo, and Hot Chip were surging in popularity. I made a DJ mix called “Selections for Love Making” around that time which ended up getting a lot of buzz, and surprised a lot of my friends who knew me only as a drum & bass DJ. I started playing shows and had a blast enjoying the freedom of not being pigeonholed into one style of music. I loved dipping into techno, french house, 80’s… you name it. It was fun being able to pull from different genres, yet striving to keep a cohesive vibe during the course of the night.

Around that time, Squared and I started a dance rock night called “The Fix”, and soon after I became a resident DJ at places like Bristol Bar and Spice Bar. Things took off pretty fast, and before I knew it I was playing sold-out shows alongside heavyweights like MSTRKRFT, Benny Benassi, and Steve Aoki.

LA: What is next on tap for you musically?

MS: There’s nothing I love more than DJ’ing. I’ll continue to play shows as long as there are people on dance floors.

I just always try to keep an open mind musically, as my tastes tend to change over time. I’ve never tried to jump on any bandwagons, even though my identity as a DJ has altered over years. I like to keep up with what’s new and emerging, but still incorporate it with the sounds of the past. DJ sets only consisting of the top tracks of the moment tend to bore me, so I’m always looking to diversify.

If I like a new song that I hear, there’s a good chance I’ll try to somehow work it into a set. I’m currently enjoying a lot of the future garage/post-dubstep stuff that’s coming out of the UK at the moment, and I’m really starting to come back to drum & bass. I’m glad to see a lot of artists over the last few years break out of molds and experiment with different sounds and tempos. That’s surely what I’ll continue to do myself. You’ll rarely hear me play the same type of set twice, and I find that to be very exciting and rewarding.

See you on the dance floor.

These past few weeks have found me very excited to provide some more directed pieces about community current events so that you hear the stories behind the art and events that are going. I feel this is important because it provides you a means to develop a deeper connection with the richness of the community we are all a part of. It also is a direct challenge to any person who tries to dismiss the artistic endeavors that anyone is engaged in within our city. That is one reason why I decided to do a post in the lead up to last night’s Standard show to show people the ideas and feelings behind the event (READ HERE). Without hearing what the people behind the event have to say, Its too easy to just say: “OHH, I don’t like those cliques, or their not playing my genre, or I WON’T step foot in that building.” However, once you see their side of the story, its much harder to just dismiss them.  Through their words, you can see they have larger goals of scene building and bringing new people into the community. Don’t we all have that same goal, but often get lost in our own devices to achieve it?

I think our scene should stand for a belief in the validity and beauty of art and dance events in its widest form and will not tear people down for trying to express themselves or provide experiences for us to dance in dark. This means letting go of metrics of scene success or failure and thinking about the acts of creating, learning, and community building as outcomes in their own right. Our community is not a for-profit corporation, we deal not in money and hype, but in sound, art, and human emotion. We are not concerned with flipping a profit, but with finding a meaningful human existence where the creation and sharing of art at a community level essential to navigating human existence.

Today, I want to move away from highlighting the philosophy behind a new event to detailing a DJ’s thoughts about a mix he has put together. I feel this is important, because we need to place greater value on mixes as vehicles of expression. We need more critical engagement with what mixes are saying to us and what the artist was trying to achieve with them. Too me, mixes still tell me a lot about the artists in our community. They tell me about their taste, their thoughts about sound, and how willing they are to push off the grid of certain dance music rules/norms.  I think a great place to start is DJ Bohno’s recent Sink Deep|Think Deep two part mixtape.  You may remember DJ Bohno’s “Heartbeats” mixes. They were explorations of the sounds of love through the sounds of hip-hop, R & B, House, Disco, and other genres.

He has always pushed away a one genre approach to mix-making to demonstrate how multiple genres can be put together to craft narratives about the common experiences we all share as humans. His recent Sink Deep|Think Deep mix series is no exception. Bohno has crafted a wonderful mix series that facilitates moving through the simultaneous joys and fears of life across a variety of genres. You can feel his emotions through his track selections and transitions as he paints vivid vignettes over the course of the two hour tape. (Cheers to Marko on the Excellent Cover Art as well!)

However, instead of me telling you more about the tape, I will move to a short interview I did with Paul to hear what he had to say about the mix and his relationship to sound.

Local Autonomy: What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?
Bohno: Well, music has always been a big part of my life. Growing up I had 3 older brothers and the one closest to me was 6 years older. They all listened to different music so that is where I got to know sound. Andy listened to the beastie boys and nirvana. Kevin listened to radiohead and black sabbath, and Michael listened to a lot of indie and was also in a ska band himself. So at a young age I had all kinds of music thrown at me and I loved it all. I did not did discriminate against any genre or type of music when I was little. I remember loving Hanson, N’Sync, TLC, and even The Spice Girls when I was little. That attitude still holds true now. I enjoy most all music and it is evident in my DJ sets.
Music and Sound in general have always been my love in life. Some people love football, some people love neuro-science, others love writing, but I love sounds. Not just music either. But noises too. Being outdoors and hearing the loons on Weld Lake in Maine or waking up in my house in Ohio and hearing the crickets in the morning. Sounds fascinate me. They have deep rooted memories in them. And I feel like they change my mood and the chemicals in my brain a little bit more than most things.

LA: You recently changed your name from Pro Bono to Bohno. Walk me through why you changed it.
B: Trying to find a name that fits is very tough for producers and DJs alike. I remember first trying to pick a name for me about 5 years ago with my buddy Bill in Athens, Ohio. I wanted to be Kid Disko but bill said that “you shouldn’t make your name force you into a genre”. So that ruled out Disco Bloodbath too :(. Then I thought well okay, I will make it true to me. I have had the nickname Bono my whole life. It was passed down to me by my older brothers so I thought I would use that somehow. Then I thought of the term pro bono since my father and my brother are lawyers and that relates to my life as well. So I stuck with DJ Pro Bono. Later on I found out that the latin meaning of the term is ‘For Good’. Which I really liked. I have always been a happy and positive person and my DJ sets show that. They are for the good, not the evil. So I kept the name for a while. But the meaning of the law term ‘pro bono’ is to do charity work or to do work for free to help someone. I did not want this attached to my name and it making people think I play for free. DJs need to get paid too. So I recently changed it to Bohno which is much more simple and sleek. No more changes. I finally found my name.

LA: One of my favorite things about your mixes (Heartbeats & Sink Deep|Think Deep) is you use it to tell a story and provide a short narrative to orient listeners. What has drawn you to story-telling with your mixes?
B: In my mind, there is no reason to make a mix that doesn’t have some sort of ‘flow’ or ‘story line’. You might as well just put together an iTunes playlist and press play on the shuffle button if your not putting some flow into your mixes. Just like a DJ in a club has to slowly build and rise the energy. And just like they have to work with the other DJs to make the night progress slowly upwards is a short story in itself. I strive to make my mixes stories simply because that is much more interesting than just a bunch of recently popular tracks thrown together. I think of them as a journey. I have my own story in my head for each of them. But you can take them how you want. Make up your own story in your head. Whatever it makes you feel, I just want my mixes to help people. Help them maybe get over something or someone. Or maybe just help brighten their mood for that day.

LA: What story were you trying to tell with the Sink Deep|Think Deep mix?
B: I wanted to tell the story of a person who is sad. Goes to the beach to think about life. And they end up taking a journey into the deep sea to drown their sorrows. But while they are sinking, the journey changes them. I imagine them seeing massively large sea monsters and lost cities on the ocean floor. Seeing new forms of life and old ones that were lost long ago in a time unknown This changes their mind about life and they emerge from the water at the end with a new outlook on life. That ends Sink Deep. Think Deep is a prequel story about them enjoying life and embracing it. Dancing on the beach all day and all through the night, celebrating their journey and new outlook on life.
The entire mix has a feeling to it. It is heavily influenced in Garage music from Symbols Records as well as some UK Garage. But I wanted it all to sound Deep and almost like you are sinking in water. A lot of the drops are very bubbly. Sink Deep is much darker and more relaxed. And Think Deep still has all of those dark kind of bubbly flavors, but it is also uplifting and refreshing.
All of my ideas for the mixes come from current life experiences. Like I said before, sound and music are a huge part of my life and my psyche, so these mixes are therapeutic for me. They help me get through things. And I hope they help others do the same.

LA: I always see undercurrents of Hip-Hop and R & B in your mixes. Why are you so drawn to these sounds?
B: I am a 90’s kid and we are rooted in Hip-Hop, Pop Music, and R&B. Like I said, growing up I loved listening to singers like TLC, Aaliyah, Boyz II Men, etc. I also loved 90’s Hip-Hop. Artists like Nas, Tupac, Biggie, Jay-Z, and all the classics. I remember coming home from school everyday and watching BET Top 10 Live and TRL. These come ups in music influence my life still. And obviously still influence my mixes heavily as well.

LA: I know you have been hard at work on your own productions. Have you found the creative process of production different/more challenging than mixmaking?
B: The process is much different. In college, I was having troubles finding out what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. DJing helped me shape my life and find direction. At first I didn’t know what I was doing and I had to find out myself. Eventually I did find myself and what kind of DJ I wanted to be and I am finally comfortable in that now. But moving on from DJing and into production I am also trying to find out who I am as a producer. Like I have been saying, I love all sorts of music and I am a fan of so many producers out there. It is very difficult deciding what kind of music I want to make. So far I have tried my hand at some Hip-Hop, Garage, Disco House, and Nu-Disco. My roots as a DJ are in Disco and Funk influenced House music, so that was what I thought I wanted to make right off the bat, but now I am not sure sure. As you can tell my love for garage music and future bass have grown immensely this year thanks to a lot of producer friends and I have been exploring those sounds now as well. I am just trying to do what feels right to me and what comes naturally. I think eventually I will hone in my sound just as I did my DJ stylings. It is just going to take some time and work at it.

I was milling around on the internet and compiling links for the multitude of work that has come out of our city over the past few months. Man, I was seriously impressed. There were a multitude of mixes, original production, and live events that just blew me away. I figure I would do the community a solid and put together a rough list of some of the recordings that have been posted online from people in our community. This is obviously not exhaustive, but consider this a first attempt to update the sorely outdated archive. All the listing are in alphabetical order and numbered so you can see that there are 27 unique pieces of music to explore. These numbers do not correspond with a ranking. They are given more so you can see each piece of music as a unique entity and to give you a sense for our overall aggregate output over the course of 2-4 months as an artistic community. If you like someone’s work try to look more deeply into their other releases and go see them live! (Note:  If I have missed you send me a link and I will put you up here. Also, feel free to point anyone in this direction if they are saying that Columbus doesn’t have a thriving “electronic” music community.)

1.) 9star: “Tangible Thoughts”

2.) Aaron Austen: Promo Mix

3.) The Beat Oracle Radio Show: “Saturated”

4.) Ben Bennett: Spoilage (New LP out on Jeremy Bible’s Excellent Experimedia Records)

5.) B-Funk: Thump Show

6.)  Bohno: Sink Deep

7.) Burgle: Jack Shack TV Mix

Burgle 53 Min Jack Shack DJ Set by Jackshacktv on Mixcloud

8.) Conner Campassi: GRVTY

9.) Creamz: Basement Sessions 002

10.) Crucial Taunt: Frito Flip

11.) Dave Espionage: Jack Shack TV Mix

Dave Espionage 51 min Jack Shack DJ Set by Jackshacktv on Mixcloud

12.) DJ Push: There Was Sun

13.) Doctor Zapata: Promo Mix Enero 2013

14.) Doctor X — His latest mix “Ambient Evening” on his Perscriptions Radio Show

15.) Druid Cloak: The Groove EP

16.) Dustin Knell:BACK & FORTH: A LOVE/HATE Mix

17.) The Fallen: “Live at BLUR”

18.) FBK: “Where Their Love Still Exists”

19.) FBK: “In This Deadly Light”

20.) FUNERALS, Druid Cloak, and Others (BOO SRA Remixes):

21.) FUNERALS: Vessel Mix 2012

22.) George Brazil: Jack Shack TV Mix

George Brazil 59 min Jack Shack DJ Set by Jackshacktv on Mixcloud

23.) Hawstyle’s Most recent mix on his Bus Bass Show:

24.) jMac: January Promo Mix

25.) Kevin Parrish: Squared Online Podcast

26.) Lower Frequency: Squared Online Podcast

27.) Midislut:

28.) Mike Shiflet: “Secret Thirteen Mix”

29.) Mike Shiflet: Three Tracks from new LP “The Choir, The Army” 

30.) NetworkEDM: Post Day-Glow Hangover Mix

31.) Ohioan: “Buoy”

32.) Plural: “The Beatings Continue”

33.) Quality: February Live Recording

34.) roeVy: PROXY – Raw (roeVy remix)

35.) Self Help: Jack Shack TV Mix

Self Help 50 Min Jack Shack DJ Set by Jackshacktv on Mixcloud

36.) Single Action: Bus Bass Mix 55

37.) Sybling Q’s most recent mix on his Q Factor Radio Show

38.) Tactil Vision: “savage”

39.) Titonton Duvanté: Live Mix 2012

40.) Todd Sines: Live at Mister H

41.) Tony Fairchild: February Jack Trax

Jack Shack TV is a boiler room-esq video mix show that our own local (I count Athens as part of our broader scene even though they have their own distinct community) jack-of-all genre’s DJ Barticus runs out of his basement in Athens, Ohio. You may recognize the name. DJ Barticus was one half of the duo (With DJ Self Help) that ran the widely popular Athens & Columbus Dance or Die party that ran for 6-8 years.Just like in the Dance or Die Parties, DJ Barticus has used Jack Shack TV to push an open format approach to music that place hip-hop, dance, and pop styles of music on an equal pedestal. Just take a quick listen to the show he did with George Hertzel. Look at that Keytar! Man.

What Barticus did with the whole concept really impressed me, because he was not scared to take a really popular model and bring in his own flavor to make it his own.  Watching just one of the episodes, you can see how Barticus and his friends have taken the Boiler Room model and twisted it to their own purposes.  The show presents their own unique perspective on music and is devoid of the hype machine-esq trappings of so many other video mix shows. Instead, it is injected with a sort of public access TV vibe that is rooted in notions of their local Athens community.

DJ Pro Bono 63 min Jack Shack DJ Set from Jack Shack TV on Vimeo.

Most importantly, I think it also reaffirms how much people in our community can do with very little. Barticus decided one day, “Hey, I want to do that.” And so he did. This is the story I hear again and again in our scene. He didn’t wait until he had the right equipment, the right premium accounts on youtube or vimeo, or a complete online identity. He created a name, got his VHS camera ready (He has since upgraded), contacted musicians, and started filming. Then all of a sudden a new video mix show was born. If you take away anything from this story, I hope you feel inspired today to do something creatively you have always wanted to do. You can do a lot with the cheap or free tools you already have at your disposal. Anyways, I hope you enjoy the interview and my collection of some of the Jack Shack TV shows. See there accounts on YouTube and Vimeo for the complete video catalogues and listen to audio of all the shows on their mixcloud :

Thunder St. Clair 60 min Jack Shack DJ Set from Jack Shack TV on Vimeo.

Local Autonomy:  It is obvious from listening and following your eclectic output that you are a big proponent of staying open to a diverse range of influences and sounds. Why are you such a big proponent of an open format approach to music?

DJ Self Help

BARTICUS: It all comes down to 2 things: Hiphop and ADD. Being a hiphop DJ got me open to all kinds of music, because hiphop takes its samples and influences from everywhere. The ADD part means that I don’t want to hear the same thing for an entire night.

LA: How did the idea for Jack Shack come about?

BART: Jack Shack is a combination of many ideas that have been floating around my head. I was inspired by the Talking Heads song, “Found A Job” and Mission Man’s “Do What You Love”. The format for the show was obviously stolen/borrowed from Boiler Room. I would watch episodes of Boiler Room full screen while i was on the other side of the room doing dishes. I just loved the whole setup, the people behind the DJ were just there hanging out in the DJ booth, and the person on the other side of the screen was the audience. Like hearing the Ramones and starting a punk band the next day, that’s how i felt about the Boiler Room.

I made a list of 30 people that I would want to book for Jack Shack. Everyone who I told about the idea was very excited. it felt like such a good idea. It didn’t take long for me to get the idea to want to record and share my friends DJ sets. The more I thought of it the more up sides i saw to it. I still can’t see any downsides.

I also wanted to capture the vibe of what it was like when i first started DJaying. I would go to a friends basement and we would take turns working on our skratches. I was hoping some one just getting started could find some inspiration in these videos.

LA: Youtube is your prime medium. Why did you choose the video sharing site to release your shows?

BART: Youtube is the spot people go to quickly share music. Something on youtube will reach more people than any other video sharing site. The problem with youtube is we have different interpretations of what is fair use and what should fall under Internet Radio Equality Act. I’ve had to move some of the content over to vimeo and not as many people see those videos.
At this point if i want to keep using youtube i am going to have to switch the format to original music, and i really hate being forced into that. I really don’t value originality in music that much. i think the best things in music come from freely building on each others ideas.

LA: As a fan of what many people consider obsolete technologies, I loved your use of VHS recording for the first few episodes. What made you turn to the VHS?

Burgle

BART: I turned to VHS because i wanted it to look crappy, but sound amazing. I’m not a very visual person and for most things VHS is really ‘good enough’ for me. I have a collection of VHS tapes (and VCRs) because i sometimes project VHS behind me whlie i DJ. I like how VHS movies have no menu, i like how the flicker when paused. i like how it looks when you play them in fast forward or rewind. I like how a tape looks after you re-use it too many times.
The only reason i’ve started to go with the webcam is because of how much time it saves me in the editing stage.

LA: What do you hope to achieve with the Jack Shack concept?
BART: I would like to start doing more episodes at different venues, keep it as different as possible. I would like to see more people make their own version of jack shack. realistically the shows I produce are going to not happen as often. I just started to run for public office and that is going to keep me busy.

Mission Man

In my post on the infrastructure of the Columbus scene I posted 2 weeks ago (Read That Here), I delved into how people bring our music to life through their interactions with one another and the use of the music and traditions we love. This is an important point to make when you are talking about a music community, because our scene is only the sum of all the individuals that are spinning, producing, listening, or dancing to the music. The problem with this approach is it makes scene analysis a much more complex matter that defies easy categorization.

As humans, we do not like complexity. It makes us feel uncomfortable. We like to feel like we have a handle on the world around us. Psychological research has shown that we seek to try and streamline our interpretation of the world around us by placing things in simple categories. This is an essential coping mechanism for living in our highly mediated, complex world, as we have to be able to put blinders on and easily categorize things in order to carry on the basic tasks of being human. I see this happen in our scene. Its much easier to place the trajectory of our scene in the Right or Wrong box by saying, “Oh, the scene is going in the right directions, because of X, Y, & Z” or “The scene is going in the wrong directions because of X, Y, & Z”. Just as it is also easier categorize the crews that populate our scene in different boxes, “Oh that click’s sets and shows are played out, commercial, and this crew over here is authentic and underground”. (Genres also work in a similar way).  We all fall into this trap since we are taught from a very young age to put things neatly into categories (Race ,Gender, Sexuality operate the same way). By becoming active in the scene, you quickly learn the relevant categorizations you need to be a member of the community.

The problem with these categorizations is that they do violence to the rich complexity of the practices, rhythms, and art we make on an everyday basis.  Our scene is never going in a right or wrong direction. Crews are not commercial or underground. We always exist somewhere in the middle. The scene shifts and evolves as the people in different crews enter,  exit, and re-enter the scene, change their tastes in music, or try to adapt different artistic concepts to their practices in a scene. For this reason, no one person could give an accurate assessment of what the state of the scene is at any one moment, because you just don’t know what everyone is doing at all times.  There will always be another pocket of people working with the same ideas and rhythms in a different way that you didn’t even know existed or have been forgotten.

I seem to gravitate towards these people on the fringe, because I think it helps us understand our scene in a much richer fashion. For instance, there is a rich history of improvisation and experimentation in our music community. Did you know that the individual first credited with creating the mash-up lives in our city? (Trademark Gunderson of the ECC) Did you know our city has housed multiple experimental/electronic tape labels that have released almost over 150 distinct pieces of music over the last 20 years? (GMBY, Exoteque Music). Just as shocked as most people are that their was and still is a thriving dance scene in Columbus, it may be shock to people in the dance community that there is still a thriving experimental scene working with beat-driven and beatless electronic music. I have already delved into this part of our community with interviews with Alison Coleman (director of The Fuse Factory Electronic and Digital Arts Lab), Mike Shiflet (Noise/Sound/Electronic Musician), & Jeff Chenault (Ten-Speed Guillotine/ Noise/Sound/ Electronic Musician). Yet, that was just skimming the surface.

One of the most interesting developments I have been following over the past 2 months is Jeff Chenault’s work to restart his Exoteque Music Label.  When I got to the Blur show in November, Chenault handed me a piece of paper announcing the re-emergence of the label and a list of releases forthcoming in 2013.

Release List

To say I am excited about the re-surfacing of this label is a gross understatement. I think local record labels are such an integral part of the infrastructure of our music scene. Not only do they give local musicians the ability to understand the creative process of putting together cohesive pieces of music and sharing it with the world, but they also send a beacon to the rest of the world that creativity is streaming out of our city. It furthers our artistic dialogue, and enables all people in the scene to have a file or physical object they can hold on to and enjoy. I sent Jeff a few questions, and he was gracious enough to provide me some insight behind the history of the label and where it is going now:

LA: When and how did the Exoteque Label first get started?

JC: Exoteque Music originally started as a DIY cassette label in 1983. It was a release platform for my own music that gradually expanded to include other artists as well.  The label was originally known as the International Terrorist Network, or ITN, but wisely decided to change the name.  Exoteque Music was chosen because it represents my dual interest in exotica and technology.

LA: What is propelling you to bring it back now? Is there something brewing in Columbus and across the country that is inspiring you?

JC: Since getting back into music a couple years ago I have been doing a serious amount of recording, both live and in the studio.  I’ve also joined the Fuse Factory organization to help bring artists to Columbus for their Frequency Friday events.  Exoteque Music allows me to showcase not only my own work but other people’s work that I highly respect and admire.  Columbus has a huge electronic and underground music scene.  It is a virtual hub of creative sound artists.  People like Mike Shiflet, Joe Panzner, Mark Gunderson, Mike Textbeak, Steve Wymer, John M. Bennett and Kevin Kennedy are doing incredible work.  These are the people that inspire me.

LA: Your release note that you recently passed out at BLUR notified the world that you already have a full schedule for releases for the upcoming year. It also said that the releases will be available in various formats. What drove your choice of release format for each of the releases?

JC: I love physical objects.  Records, cassettes, and CD’s were formats that I grew up with.  I loathe the digital download but do see its advantage for people who want portability.  It also helps to preserve these recordings as well.  When I decided to re-launch the Exoteque Music label I wanted to make available any and all formats that I could afford.  Everything released will be in some kind of physical format as well as having a digital download.  

LA: I think it’s a great idea to also bring back past releases from the initial run of the label from the 80s and 90s. How did you make the choices what to bring back?

JC: Over the years I’ve been slowly digitizing some of my favorite releases.  A few things like the Stimulus and Response compilations are simply amazing.  The choices were simple.  If I loved it and deemed it worthy of re-mastering then I’m going to reissue it.  This stuff is too good to let sit in the basement collecting dust.  My most anticipated reissue is a cassette that I never even released.  It was a privately pressed cassette, released in the 80’s, by Paul Steinborn aka/Shame, Exposure.   Paul lost all his master tapes and all that remains are the cassettes that he sold locally and a few tracks he did for the S/M Operations label.   I owned one of these cassettes so we meticulously re-mastered it and gave it new life, all with Paul’s permission of course.  The CD will contain all his known recordings and come with original artwork made by Paul specifically for this release.  

LA: What are your hopes for this run of the label?

JC: Exposing people to new music has always been my hopes for the label.  Some of the best music I have ever heard comes from independent artists.  If I can turn people on to this music, and preserve some of these vintage recordings at the same time, I have fulfilled my goal.

Below is a list of scheduled releases for 2013…..

1)     Shame, Exposure; Werkshau – CD and download

2)     Circuitry Room; Tuned to Tomorrow – CD and download

3)     Best of Frequency Friday Vol. 1 (various artists) – CD

4)     Jeff Central; Primativa – 25th Anniversary Edition – CD and download

5)     The Escargonauts; same, Vinyl LP, CD and download

6)     Jeff Central and Friends – Multi Collaborative LP and download

7)     ZOA / ZOA Mike Textbeak/Paul Von Aphid collaboration – CD and download

8)     Highly Funktioning Kult – CD and download

9)     Jeff Central solo – cassette

10)  Dan Rockwell solo – CD and download

11)  Circuitry Room collaboration with poet John M. Bennett – CD and download

12)  Jeff Central and Hal McGee collaboration – CD and download

There has been much written about the boom and bust cycles of dance music ( i.e. when is the edm bubble going to burst?). The boom happens when certain strands of dance music attract wider “pop” audiences and bring new listeners into dance communities. During this time, audiences swell, more records are sold, and it is “cool” to be associated with that music community. Much like other “pop” fads, these boom-time periods always come to an end. The bust of a cycle results when the luster of dance music fades and many of those new listeners abandoning dance communities. We are entering what appears to be the tail end of one of these boom periods (Its debatable I suppose), and a lot of keystrokes have been spent trying to decide what is going to happen. The resounding answer people give is that it is natural that dance scenes ebb and flow in popularity, but their survival is not in jeopardy.  The problem is that writers often stop there and don’t explain why dance scenes will survive. Looking to how our Columbus scene has weathered these boom/bust cycles in the past provides one way to provide an answer to this question. By drawing on my conversations about our local scene’s recent history, I want to argue that dance music persists in columbus because there is an underlying infrastructure that is kept alive by the people who continue to use the music, ideas, and traditions we all share even when dance music culture is not popular.

Rewind 6-8 years ago. The underground ele_mental parties had ended, other crews associated with the underground had slowed their activities, and many of the clubs across the city had closed. Both the underground and more obvious club oriented activities had slowed from their once feverish pace. Local dance and experimental record labels like 21/22 and Exoteque Music went into disuse. A whole generation of fans seemed to disengage from dance music as its popularity reached a low point in Columbus and across the nation.  At the surface, it appeared as if the scene in Columbus had died.

Yet, I question whether the scene actually “died”. Did all the people so instrumental to dance music flourishing in our city in the 90s and early 00s leave the scene?  Did all the fans “grow up” and stop liking dance music? Sure some people did leave and others “grew up”, but the vast majority of people that held dance music so central to their lives never left. Consequently, all the know-how of how to build record labels, dance music crews, clubs, and build a scene from the ground up was still in the city. The rich traditions of how a scene is supposed to operate were not lost. The love of the music and the artists need to express themselves never waned.

The scene didn’t die in the early 2000s. The infrastructure of the scene just went into a period of dormancy. Dormancy is very different from death. A state of dormancy is characterized by re-grouping and contemplation that naturally comes about after a common routine has resulted in stagnancy. Activities continue, but in a much less pronounced way.  Death is, well, its death. An end of a form of expression or life. Culture doesn’t die. It carries on in the cracks of the system. After some 10-15 years of doing dance hard in Columbus, it was natural for the scene to shift into a slower, more underground phase as the popularity of dance music waned. However, expressing oneself through dance music did not die. The most visible organizations throwing parties became less active and many of the recognized venues had closed, but the infrastructure of the scene was still intact.  All the rhythms, know-how, and traditions were still used by people, but the scene had receded back into the cracks of the city.

Quickly after the disbanding of many of the most visible crews and clubs, other events and crews took their place. By 2006, Sweatin’, Squared nights at Bristol, Restart House, and other underground parties were regular events that gave DJs and fans a space to express themselves. The scene wasn’t filling the newport, Skully’s, or BOMA, but it certainly couldn’t be pronounced dead. A core group of new and older scene members took the lead and brought dance music back to a prominent place in Columbus nightlife. In the short period of 5 years, the Columbus scene went from dormancy to again having 5-10 dance events a week. Our scene is again pushing out in a multitude of directions. New routines have replaced the old. New crews have replaced the old. The dance and experimental electronic music community is again thriving and sharing their music with Columbus and the rest of the world. We have new events, radio shows, record labels that offer you the opportunity to get exposed to new sounds. We have a multitude of innovative, dedicated people still pushing the scene forward into new spaces and concepts. (Check out the links on sidebar to see all the different people working to make our scene great with video projects, record labels, record stores, and events).

What we can take away from this short history?

1.) Well, It is quite evident that dance music persists in Columbus because it matters to us and we want to share it with one another. We are the core elements of the infrastructure that give life to something bigger than our selves: a dance music community.  The boom/bust cycle may affect how many people show up, how many records one sells, or how cool someone may think you are, but there will always be a scene as long as people come together and use the music, ideas, and traditions we share.

2.) Having a scene go into a state of dormancy is not necessarily a bad thing.  Dormancy is vital for weathering those periods when dance music is unpopular in the mainstream and growth is hard to come by.  By receding back into the cracks of the city, we can regroup and find a ways to keep our community together when there is less support in the mainstream. Gauging back the frequency of events can also be really healthy and important for a scene to shed old routines and think about new ways to innovate. It can also help foster community and build the type of committment that is needed to push the scene out of dormancy and back into a prominent part in a cities night life.

I feel these two lessons are important, because they remind us that the scene is in our hands. Its not in the hands of abstract economic, political, and cultural forces. Sure, these influences shape what our scene looks like, but in the end its all on us. These lessons also prod us to have a more realistic assessment of our scene’s development. We do not need to be New York, LA, Las Vegas, Berlin, or London. We need to be the best version of Columbus that our city has ever scene. I for one feel lucky to be a part of our scene. Our community is constructed of a teflon-tough DIY fabric that has endured the tests of the Boom/Bust cycle.  We have done more with nothing than all those many market cities have done with immense financial resources.  Just look at all the dance music related record labels, radio shows, events, and organizations that are now active in our city. If that doesn’t give you faith in our community then I do not know what will.

Trademark G. & Frilly of Columbus based Evolution Control Committee have their own weekly radio show called The Sound of Plaid that airs every thursday. This week they had me on the show to talk Columbus electronic music history and to show a selection of some local Ohio artists I had been enjoying. I think the show is a great saturday morning listen to get you ready for the benefit show BLUR this Evening (For More Info CLICK HERE). We got a great line-up of artists for you including Mike Shiflet & Jeff Chenault, Trademark G., Textbeak, Aaron Austen & DJ Push, The Fallen (FBK & Plural), and FUNERALSEach artist gets around an hour. Each artist is given complete freedom to do what they want. That same spirit also pervades the guest spot I did on The Sound of Plaid. I brought a smattering of experimental, ambient, and dance tracks by local musicians that blur the boundaries of genre to show you and the rest of the world that our city does push musical boundaries.

Tracklisting:

1.) Evolution Control Comittee — Jessiematic
2.) Synek – Paradiba — Rano Records
3.) FBK – Nanofonque — Absoloop Records
4.) Plural – F*** It — Audio Textures Recordings
5.) Burgle – Pounder — Self-Released
6.) Mike Shiflet — Web Over Glen Echo — Self-Released
7.) Forest Management — A Sketch Of The Historical Pattern Of Blue Ocean Creation 
8.) Walleye – This Is Your Heart, This Is My House — Self Released
9.) Jeff Central/Chris Phinney — Thermal Blooming — World Records
10.) The Weird Lovemakers — Quiet Spillage
11.) FUNERALS — Boo Sra — Mishka
12.) OHIOAN — Microscopist — Self-Released
13.) Dirty Current — Anubis — Self-Released

I could not be more excited to share this interview with the two musicians, Mollie Wells and Casey Immel-Brown, that form the Columbus, OH based electronic music outfit FUNERALS. It comes on the heels of these two musicians continuing their consistent production and mix work in town and around the United States. In the past few years, they have garnered a great deal of respect around the country and world for their ability to breath life into the areas in-between genre formulas. I know I enjoy their production and mix work for its ability to put together diverse strands of music thought into a new concoction.  When I started my project a year ago, I held it as one of my goals to have a conversation with them to share it with you all. I couldn’t imagine that I would be in a position to share an interview with you all and have them playing the BLUR benefit show this weekend at 400 W Rich with all proceeds from the door going to the Columbus, Oh based experimental art/music non-profit The Fuse Factory (More Info on logistics and artist line up HERE).  Call me sentimental, but my dreams with the Local Autonomy project are centered around sharing ideas, music, and a space we all can call our own. I feel this interview definitely contributes to these goals and our common dialogue by delving into issues of social justice, social media, and their creative process. Specifically, I think its so important to think about what Mollie and Casey had to say about the role our community can play in pushing a more equitable space for all genders, races, sexualities, religions, ages to find common ground.  I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I enjoyed the conversation I had with them.

Interview:

LA: What role did music play in each of your lives growing up? How did each of you become musicians?

MOLLIE: Music has always been a huge part of my life. I started singing at a really early age, used to put on these performances for my mom where I’d dance and sing along to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I can remember making these tapes in early grade school, with one of those Playskool tape recorders, do you remember those? I’d make up songs, or sing parts of Disney songs I liked, and beat the ground with a baton for percussion. My biggest dream back then was to play Ariel in a stage adaptation of The Little Mermaid. Actually, I’m not totally positive that’s not still my dream…I often spend hours at a stretch squealing “Part of Your World” at our cat. No shame. 

Anyway, I did all the usual music stuff in school: Choir, band, jazz band, some silly musical theatre. At some point around 7th grade, when I started getting into punk and grunge, whatever the hell was happening then, I had this sudden realization that I could actually be in a band. So I started forming them, one little thing after another, until finally they became increasingly more…real, I guess? I moved to New York for a bit, spent most of my early 20s touring, then shifted into writing about music and teaching myself electronic stuff. So it’s been a pretty constant and well-defined path for me.

CASEY: It was one of those things that was always around when I was growing up. My parents never had like a crazy encyclopedic music collection or anything. They had really specific, strong, but varied musical tastes. So I was exposed to a lot of music growing up, but not a ton of the really, really classic things that a lot of people of our generation would’ve had their parents listen to. When I was really young my parents got into Windam Hill records stuff, so I had a lot of exposure to early New Age. Kind of the pre-Yanni era, when it was all acoustic guitar and piano, with occasional chamber groups. I’ve never really thought about it, but I’m sure some of the minimalism of that stuck with me. Other than that they listened to a lot of somewhat obscure folk and classical stuff, with kind of a weird smattering of contemporary stuff that they latched onto for whatever reason. Particularly Dire Straits and Tears for Fears, which I can’t really blame them for I suppose… There were also always instruments around, and I was always messing around with them. Eventually I started trying to learn my mom’s guitar, and I became obsessed enough with it that they bought me a cheap Aria Pro-II strat copy. From then on I was just always working on playing and writing music. From the age of like 11 or 12 it was just the only thing I ever wanted to do. Oddly enough, both Mollie and I played French Horn in school. We probably both had the inclination to choose the most unusual instrument that was available to us in that context. Though I don’t think I ever did as much with it as I wish I did, simply because those things are annoying as hell to walk home with.

LA: What music scenes did each of you grow up in? How did these scenes influence how you look at music communities and the art of making music?

MOLLIE: For me, the scenes I grew up in are divided into distinct phases. There was the early-mid high school phase where I was sort of constructing a reality; I grew up in a miniscule town, so there wasn’t much in the way of underground culture. I was a weird kid, chronically haunted by what I know now is OCD and anxiety, but back then, I just thought I was a misfit. I didn’t relate to the normal kids, I guess, so I ended up hanging out with the only punks that existed there, who were really just goths, and really just mall-goths. So anything I knew about underground culture, I knew only from those kids, whatever magazines I could get my hands on and 120 Minutes. I saw 1991: The Year Punk Broke when I was 14, and I wanted desperately to live in that world, so I spent a lot of time listening to Sonic Youth, Hole, Babes in Toyland, then stuff like Portishead and Elastica and Cibo Matto later. It was just what managed to trickle into my limited purview at the time.

But around 17 or 18, once I left that town, moved to New York then back to Columbus, I was exposed to the reality of all that. I dated this guy who went to Bard College, and he got me into riot grrrl, which filtered into hardcore and eventually the sort of early 2000s synth-punk/post-hardcore stuff. That’s where I feel like I really grew up, because that’s where I learned to be not only a musician but a thoughtful, politically minded, community-oriented person. It was from those scenes that I started touring and really making music on a larger public scale, and those years definitely set the stage for who I am now. And I think that, combined with the experience of being a kid cobbling together pieces of culture in a small town, has really influenced my perspective more than anything. On one hand, I still combine my personal affinities in ways that make sense to me, regardless of what makes sense to anyone else. It’s that small-town individualism. But on the other, I put a huge impetus on community and collaboration, because none of what we do — or what I’ve ever done — would be possible without it. None of us creates in a vacuum, and it’s just folly to play that game of keeping up with the Joneses. If we can’t honestly support our friends — and I mean, doing so with no benefit to us, completely selflessly — then I just feel like we’re all sort of working in vain. It becomes egoism, navel-gazing. It happens a lot right now. And it misses the point entirely.

CASEY: I grew up pretty solidly in the mid to late 90s hardcore scene in Columbus. At the time Columbus was actually one of the more major centers for DIY punk and hardcore, and was hugely involved in the merging of music and political activism. It probably can’t be overstated how much that framed how I look at things now, though I think lots of the lessons have really only started to become clear to me in retrospect as I’ve come into contact with people who didn’t grow up in an environment where everything was viewed as so naturally accessible. I don’t think it ever really occurred to me to view making music, putting out records, or putting on shows as something that was somehow done by a group of people separate from those who listen to the music, buy the records or go to the shows. It’s always seemed very clear to me that whatever it is you’re into, the people who are doing it can’t really be that much smarter or better than you are. And they certainly started out no less clueless than you might be. There was always just a very direct line for me from consuming art to making it, and I’m sure that came out of being so close to so many people who were not only doing both, but showing other people what they were doing. As much as we talk about the oversaturation of music now, like the idea that anyone can watch an Ableton tutorial and call themselves a producer, and as much as that’s true for sure, I still find myself shocked by just how many people really think of music as a hierarchical thing. So many people still have this weird view that there’s some singular “music business” to be broken into, and that there’s thing huge world that musicians, show promoters and labels are a part of that’s somehow separate and above them. And at the same time there’s this weird view that goes with that on the other side that if they just break into it, they’re instantly going to be making a great living off of the tracks they sell. I guess I was fortunate enough to have had that narrative completely dissected before I was old enough for it to have really sunk in with me on any level. Also, when it comes to politics and general social outlook, it was just always so natural for it to go hand in hand with music for me that I don’t think it ever occurred to me for it to be any other way. It always just made sense that you’d gravitate towards art and communities with shared values, and that if people are making art about the things that matter to them, then you’re going to be attracted to art produced by the people who care about the same things as you. There really is this huge divide for a lot of people when it comes to politics and music that never made sense to me at all. It’s something that affects your life just the same as romance or sex or aging or mental illness affects your life. Why in the world would one thing that you’re affected by and care about be somehow off the table for art? And obviously when you have a community of people who care about things, they’re going to what to act on the things they care about. But that attitude definitely came out of coming up in a time and place where there were as many ‘zines about politics as about music, and as many shows were benefits for some cause as weren’t. 

LA: Why do you think it is important to build a music community where you are able to trust the person next to you at a show?

MOLLIE: Well, it’s kinda what I was saying earlier: None of us could do anything without a group of people getting our backs. I think the trouble you get into now is that as local scenes are broken down in favor of the internet and that sort of externally focused, constant self-branding and -curating, you don’t always know the specific politics or personal values of any person interacting with you. With both Casey and I being so political and coming from riot grrrl and hardcore, that can be sort of tough to reconcile. Not to get all Baudrillard or Unabomber on you, but technology and social media have essentially turned us all into constructs. I don’t know what you believe. I don’t your values. I only know what you’ve chosen to select as your particular brand. And in some cases,  that’s totally fine. I mean, education and understanding starts with allowing multiple voices to speak their own truths. But when those truths stop being truths and start being branding messages, that’s when it gets tricky. That’s when it’s complicated knowing whether to trust someone. And I think that trust is really important; if you spent your high school years calling girls like me a slut and guys like Casey a faggot, and identify with electronic music now because it’s an extension of that bro-culture — even if we like the same producers, man, I’m sorry, I just can’t relate to you. Your shit has nothing to do with me. And I’m not so egotistical and ambitious that I’ll play a party founded on a basis of, like, rape jokes and cultural homogeny just because I want someone to see my name or respect me as a DJ. I just can’t get down with it.

LA: It seems to me that some groups of people are able to trust each other in our scene, but people in marginalized positions are left out. Do you think minority groups inadvertently become collateral damage in how we organize and promote shows in Columbus?

CASEY: I’m not sure how much as a straight, white dude I want to speak for any of those groups, cause obviously, that’s just as problematic some ways. Or at least, I don’t want to address this in such a way that it seems like I’m trying to speak for anyone who’s experience I haven’t had directly. But there are definitely areas where things can seem a bit alienating. I don’t wanna say it’s down to how some giant collective “we” organize across the board, because I feel like there are people out there, Scotty Niemet for instance, who are super conscious about access and inclusiveness. In general of course, that’s less of the rule than the exception. I still see tons of events promoted from this ridiculous kinda bro-centric standpoint, from ridiculous bikini girl flyers, to event descriptions that are directly addressing only straight dudes, or even big room events that push very specific themes of class and economic status. In some ways you can look at it as a function of not so much marketing towards specific demographics but as a part of the fantasy that someone is intending to create with an event. I’m not saying I have any problem at all with elements of fantasy or escapism either in event promotion, or in the actual events themselves. Not only is that something we personally use quite freely, but I think it’s an integral part of dance music creation and of the events themselves. And that includes the creation of an atmosphere that can be strongly sexual at times. However, I think it gets difficult when the world one is trying to create gets either exclusionary or downright threatening to substantial portions of your potential audience. This can get hard to discuss without an endless litany of caveats, but at the end of the day, it shouldn’t even come down to having to go out of your way to being open and inclusive, it should just be a matter of being responsive to the perspectives and reactions you’re garnering. In other words, you can have an event where the promotion, or even the atmosphere is in some ways straight up sexual, but if you’re doing it in such a way that there are people who are generally open and comfortable with sexuality who find what you’re doing threatening or uncomfortable, then you either have to start questioning your own concepts of what “sexual” mean, or you gotta start looking at your own ability to execute your vision successfully. Likewise, if the only way you can think to create a “professional” or “exotic” atmosphere is to put up a bunch of Louis Vuitton monographs, then you gotta either look at how you view fashion in relation to economic class, or you need to realize that you have fucking terrible, boring taste in fashion and don’t understand that there does in fact exist things that are stylish that aren’t also symbols of crass consumerism and status symbols for the ostentatiously wealthy. You can say the same for a myriad of other things, not just related to gender, sexuality or class, but racism, xenophobia, imperialism, etc… Humans have a pretty unlimited capacity when it comes to being dickheads.

Let’s look at all of that far more directly. First off, the electronic and dance music scenes in Columbus have been relatively small for a while. If you’re into that stuff, chances are you’re actively looking for events to go to, and get pretty excited when you see something that is at all related to that universe. Anyone promoting events is fundamentally doing it to a crowd that’s overwhelmingly friendly, open and eager to give the benefit of the doubt (well unless you’re talking about cover charges, but that’s a whole other enormous issue, and I’m on the side of most promoters with that one). No one is demanding that you meet a set of criteria written out by Andrea Dworkin working on the most pedantic day of her life. We want to find places where we can go and have a really good time without worrying about the shit we carry around the rest of our lives, and we’re really, really ready to assume that’s what your intentions are to create. Secondly, threat, discomfort and the general sense of being grossed the fuck out by something all come from prior experience. It’s a pretty Pavlovian set of reactions. And if you were to plot it out on a graph, you’d find that it’s directly proportional to, on one axis, intensity of the previous experience, and on the other axis, strength of association with things previously seen or lived. Humans are pretty simple that way. So it’s actually a pretty fucking specific kind of test you have to be failing to be alienating or offending anyone, or otherwise getting a strong negative reaction from multiple people in the way you promote or create events. First of all, you’ve got to be putting off something related to people’s prior experience. I mean, right there, you’re doing it fucking all wrong already. You’re already using some pretty trite, completely boring, uncreative reference points to begin with. Then, if those reference points people have seen a thousand times before are eliciting a strong negative response from multiple people, not only is it something that people have had less than positive experiences with, but they’re something that some people have had a really, really unpleasant history with. And in that case, then anyone who is reacting positively to it, is either completely oblivious to the lives of other people, or actively gets enjoyment from shit that makes other people suffer. In either case, the only people you’re pleasing are assholes. Not only do you have to be particularly uncreative, but you also have to not have the good sense to realize not to attempt to compensate for your lack of inventiveness by choosing super charged imagery. In any event I have zero sympathy for your boring, offensive ass.

LA: How do you think we can foster trust between all races, genders, sexualities, classes, and other divisions at shows and in our scene?

CASEY: Again, like I said, 99% of the time it’s not really that hard. People want to have a positive experience. Listen, we’ve all been dumbasses. Especially someone like me, who grew up a straight white male, in a seriously misogynistic, homophobic religious environment. Even meaning well, I had (and certainly still have) some pretty internalized fucked up viewpoints and reactions to things. Privilege and isolation make you pretty oblivious to other’s experiences… And to be totally fair, it’s hard to completely fault someone for being less immediately aware of suffering that doesn’t directly affect them then someone else who has to live that every day. And to some extent, in this society there are few, if any, of us who can really say that we’re not owners of some sort of privilege, even if we can consider ourselves oppressed on another level. In other words, our personal experiences and observations all contain some knowledge that a lot of other people may not have, and we are all ignorant to the experiences of others. With that in mind, so much comes down to basic interpersonal dialogue, and willingness on every side to make that dialogue happen. Most people who have gotten over biases, internalized prejudices, etc… have done so largely by being in situations where they said or did something problematic and had someone close to them there to say “yeah, that’s not ok, and here’s why”. For that to work though both sides have to be willing to not only have that conversation, but to have it on even terms. I think one of the other lessons I learned from growing up in hardcore was that a serious backlash against “PC” or whatever (though I hate that term so much), only really happened when things became about public “call outs” and using ideals for interpersonal and scene power plays, instead of as a means of further fostering learning and comfort for everyone. Being willing to listen with respect requires a loss of personal ego, and so does being willing to educate with respect. I think there is a difference now in that ego is almost taken for granted, and people aren’t as willing to admit ignorance to ANYTHING when they can jump online and feel like experts by reading the first sentence of each paragraph of a Wikipedia article, but I do also feel like once your ego gets you in trouble a couple of times you learn pretty quickly to actually listen. It’s like any other activism, you can try to win people over issue by issue as much as you want, but once you really start focusing on getting people to see each other as valid individuals, then the other stuff falls together way more easily.

NVR MND FUN FUN FUN Mix

Over the summer we did a t-shirt collab with NVR MND, and to go along with it we did a mix of techno, house and dance tracks from 1989-1994. Lots of classic tracks that anymore I tend to listen to here and there, but rarely all together in one group. But pulling all these tracks at once, I was reminded of just how focused on politics and social issues the early rave scene really was. The past two or three years there’s been a revival of lots of the aesthetics of that era, and along with baggy tie-dye and yin-yangs, you’ve suddenly started seeing people talk about “PLUR-vibes” all over the place, but so far only as a callback to that era. It is important to remember that so much of what we do really was based on that notion of “peace, love, unity and respect”, and that if we want these parties and events to be really free and without all sorts of constraints, you really have to start with that attitude of mutual respect for everyone around you. It’s actually a very natural place for dance music to be. I mean, the music itself is a combination of so many diverse elements and cultural reference points, and the paths that find people getting into the culture of dance music are so insanely varied, that it’s only natural that once we start paying attention to each other we can’t help but be confronted with experiences and ideas that are truly new to all of us. It’s just a matter of letting go of your ego enough to learn from it.

LA: Switching gears to explore your views on your art, what is your definition of success for your music? Put another way, what do each of you hope to achieve with your art?

CASEY: For me it’s really nothing more complicated than just making something I actually like. Something I’d want to listen to. At any given moment there might be a detailed answer, but ultimately that’s what it comes down to, and it’s honestly a tall enough order to keep me working hard pretty constantly. When it comes to individual things there might be some more explicit goal, but there’s not one giant sweeping agenda, or even career path that I ever have in mind for anything. I think that music is too all encompassing for something like that. It’s just a matter of at any given moment taking whatever I’m inspired by, interested in or feeling strongly about otherwise and responding to that in a way that produces something I like.  For better or worse, I’m not one of those people who babies their work once they’re done with it. I never really feel that, no matter how much I might like something I do, I have to accomplish XYZ with it, and it has to be then put in glass to be gazed upon for all time. Sure I want people to hear our stuff, and I’d love to be at the point where we’re doing enough with our work that I don’t have to have a day job to support making music, but beyond that, when something is done I’m almost always just interested in whatever I’m going to make next. So I guess that’s the best answer, success is whatever keeps me making things I like for as long as possible. In a weird way, now that there’s no longer a really solid model for revenue generation without music, it’s almost easier to keep that at front and center. We all know that in terms of business we have to make it up as we go anyway, and that actually gives you a freedom to focus on doing things in a way that keeps you inspired.

LA: This raises an interesting issue I have thought a lot about. Today, we have so many platforms for DIY music sharing and scene building. Yet, it seems harder to break through the white noise of hype and find a meaningful metric of success for music projects. Do you think we have lost anything in the social media revolution? Was easier to create and share music before?

MOLLIE: I think we’ve both lost and gained. I did an interview probably 10 years ago, and a similar question came up: How has the internet affected your ability to not only make music, but be a musician? And my answer then was only slightly different than it will be now: It’s been, and always will be, both blessing and curse.

On the one hand, music sharing and scene building are soulmates with current technology. From the early 2000s to now, some of the most valuable connections I’ve made have been internet-based. We’re able to create almost labyrinthine communities of people all over the world, and stay in constant contact with them. We can stream live shows from our bedroom. We can make a song and get it to you 20 minutes. We can interact and react, real time, every day. Our closest friends can dot the continents, but we’re as close as if they were right here. The discovery is endless, and that idea is incredibly exciting.

The trouble, of course, is that it’s too much. Being able to interact and disseminate content on a minute-to-minute basis isn’t necessarily good for art. Since everyone else is creating new stuff on the constant — and, consequently, choking up social media to the point that we don’t notice anything — there’s this social pressure to always have fresh material, always have something share, always be on the cusp of whatever is happening. And in order to make solid, inspired music, you need time to think. You need time to try things. You need time to be. The constant Herculean force of social media doesn’t allow for that, if you get yourself too deep into it, because the minute you stop publicly moving forward, the minute people forget. Thank Facebook algorithms for that. 

The other issue goes back to my whole thing with external perception and branding. For one, when you’re constantly sharing new content, you’re constantly getting feedback. Sometimes that’s great; it can help you define what you’re trying to do or hear things through another set of ears. But think of it in terms of, like, a Creative Writing MFA. One of the greatest complaints about those programs is that the workshops, however valuable, cajole the art out of artists and streamline unique voices into one big mass of same-sounding literary fiction. This happens with music too. It’s not malicious, it just…happens. What gets chosen by any tastemaker is almost always what feels familiar to them, or in the case of music blogs, what’ll boost page views. Publications have always been that way, but now those judgments are instant. You’re judged before you’ve even had a chance to judge yourself. So when you’re sharing new things and getting into this endless feedback loop, you stop hearing your songs through your ears — you hear them through everyone else’s, simply because it’s seems like the only way to get enough people to notice that it cuts through the white noise. The medium becomes the message. And that’s no way to make song. It’s miserable. It’s impossible.

And similarly, because of this, we’re all marketing experts now. Various sharing platforms and social media sites have allowed us access to metrics so we can deepen that expertise. So we’re not just judging that work based on literal feedback we’re getting — we’re judging it based on a set of metrics that, to be honest, any legit marketing professional will tell you are complete folly when it comes to art. You stop creating based on what you like and focus on how many Soundcloud plays a certain type of track gets, what your CTR is for an ad on Facebook, how many likes a particular post generates, how much engagement you can force through Twitter. While that can all be helpful for people eventually, it’s simply not helpful when you’re trying to figure yourself out as an artist. It’s not reality. It does not, in almost every case, accurately display public engagement or future sales. There’s just too many variables at play, not least of which is how people are getting your music in the first place. 5,000 Soundcloud plays doesn’t translate to true real-world interest always; it translates to your efficacy with that particular platform. And I don’t know what the solution to any of this is…only that it keeps too many solid artists concerned with arbitrary metrics that somehow convince them that they’re not good enough…or worse, that they can tour on those 5,000 Soundcloud plays and see a similar real-world response. It just doesn’t always translate that way. But then we get into a question of, what is the current reality: real world or internet metrics? How do we define success: money or plays? What does anything mean? And I can’t even begin to answer that.

There’s also something to be said for the self-serving nature of all of this. How many people comment on someone’s Soundcloud track not because they legitimately like it, but because they want other people to notice their page? How many artists share another artist’s track in hopes the original artist will notice them? Certainly we’ve all done those things. Certainly we’re all strategic and savvy in that way. Hopefully, more often than not it comes from a genuine place and can forge genuine connections. But…how can we be sure? Social media ultimately serves no one but ourselves. I can’t remember who said it, but I read some pithy little observation that the most interesting word to every human is ‘I’. If you break it down, get real honest about it — in terms of yourself, too, because none of us escape this tendency, not really — then it leads to a lot of skepticism with social media. Why are you throwing shit into the Twitter ether, if not to have the mirror shone back at you, if not to be validated by other people’s interest in you? I’m no better. We all do it. I’m just trying to be real fucking honest about it and wish more people would.

I’m getting particularly verbose with this question, but I can tell you this: I liked it better when I had only Myspace plays and show attendance to guide me. I liked it better when the numbers were secondary to the artists, at least at first. You didn’t worry as much, and people were generally more willing to take a chance on new bands because they weren’t deterred by their only having, like, 250 Facebook likes. You just made your stuff and hoped for the best. You interacted with people with slightly less self-consciousness. Or maybe that was just me. I don’t know. But if you don’t think Baudrillard, Foucault and McLuhan had it right all along…well, I’d like to live in your world for awhile, because I can’t stop thinking this is all about to explode into some epic demise wherein art and inspiration is so devalued, the best of us just give up trying.

LA: Your most recent Hypermotion EP is the first extended release that showcases the most recent articulation of the FUNERALS sound. How did you get to this point creatively with the FUNERALS sound?

Casey: Really just letting go. We’ve been at this long enough on various levels that when we sit down with a project it’s really automatic to go at it from the standpoint that we’re doing this as part of a predefined concept. When you’re just starting making music, it’s really easy to let it happen and have whatever you’re putting out be your sound, I think because you look at your abilities and goals in a much more narrow sort of way. When you learn what you’re doing more and more, and start to see music as the thing you’re going to be doing, it’s easy to get into a thing where ironically the expansion of possibilities puts limits on each new project or work you attempt. It becomes a thing where “this is my dark electronic project.” Or “this is my deep house project” or “my gamelan inspired minimal project”. I mean, it’s really, really easy to think in those terms, and to then be working from the idea that every track has to sound a certain way to fit in with what you’re attempting, and everything else is just for some future project or release. Those limitations can definitely be healthy and helpful at times, but it’s very easy to get so focused on them that you’re not really just getting excited by sound and reacting. The biggest change with this last release, and with a lot of the remixes and mixes we’ve been doing lately, is that we’ve really taken a step back and said “fuck it, let’s just have fun”. We don’t want to be all over the place in terms of sound, but we’re just letting the cohesion come out a lot more instinctively from the natural tendencies we have as musicians, and from what is musically and creatively exciting us at the moment. Some of that definitely comes from a certain level of confidence in the production as well. It’s easy with electronic music to get very intimidated by the pressures of producing something that’s really accomplished technically speaking, and again, that I think can make you afraid to fully let go and just let things happen as they want to. I think there have been times in the past where you could hear the struggle coming through in tracks. Maybe other people couldn’t hear it, but I know we certainly could anyway, and I think that we’re at a point right now where the fluidity that comes from really enjoying what you’re doing is back in the sound, and I think it’s shaped where we are more than any other element.

LA: You often discuss how your recordings and live sets are able to provide an escape for listeners to another place. Where do you think your most recent sound takes listeners?

CASEY: Our standard joke answer is usually “to the place where all their drugs have just started to kick in”.  That said, I think it’s actually hard to describe a singular place. We prefer the vague notion of “somewhere else”. I mean, if we’re trying to make a track with 4am in Beirut in mind, that really does nothing for someone that actually IS at a club in Beirut at 4am. Not to mention, when you try and get too detailed with evoking a singular place, the only place that usually gets evoked is the Starbucks in your local Barnes & Noble. Besides, we tend to use tons of reference points all over the place, almost as shortcuts to certain atmospheres and feelings. That said, I think we were thinking a lot about an almost cartoon version of 90s house and techno with a lot of Hypermotion. But that almost worked more like a more literal version of Eno’s Oblique Strategies. Kind of an arbitrary point for starting off or switching gears. Like, there’s a spot on the record where we go from beats built around samples from Polynesian drums into a sudden amen break, and it’s such a 90s thing to do, but the effect I think is way fuzzier than that. You get a hint of it, but it’s vague enough for someone to put onto it whatever they want it to be at that moment. There’s a lot of sonic density in parts of Hypermotion that really has to do with wanting to blur atmospheres together without making anything so totally overt. In it’s way that’s one of the really, really nice things about working for the dancefloor, because those atmosphere’s and environments get superimposed on so many arbitrary contexts, and do so in such real time that it’s really about taking wherever you are, and just twisting it into something else. Making a warehouse feel a bit greyer and smokier. Making you a little less aware of what time it is or the fact that you’re going to have to go home eventually. Differences in rooms alone make certain things pop and mute other elements. Add in specifics of place, and potentially altered states of consciousness, and the result is maybe more of a momentary Rorschach Test than anything else.  For me personally, it’s also a little hard to answer that question once something is finished, because I’m so instantly on to whatever we’re working on next, so things become really colored in my mind by how my perspective has shifted. I feel like we’ve thought a lot more about warehouse reverb and tribal beats lately, but that’s not really as prominent in where we were a few months ago as I might think now, so I don’t know.

LA: Mollie, how has the Hemingway Quote, “All you have to do is write one true sentence” influenced your creation of music?

MOLLIE: Oh man. I love this. Can you call this piece The Local Autonomy Interview Wherein Mollie Wells Gets To Be A Pedantic Intellectual? Please? Ha!

I feel like I need to preface this by saying I’m not a Hemingway devotee. There’s a connotation to that cliche that just doesn’t jibe with my worldview, but I recently read the original A Moveable Feast (before the newer, more fiercely edited version) and was really struck by this idea. That all art starts with one true thing. Truth, for me, in this context, is work that isn’t externally focused or compromised. Something in which you don’t notice the presence of the artist; you’re not paying to the man behind the curtain. You’re experiencing the thing for the thing, completely unaware of how the thing came to be.

The idea, basically, is this: If art both forces you into and takes you out of yourself, you (as the consumer, not the artist) need to be the only person present in the exchange for that moment. Do you know what I mean? The reason I hate Philip Roth is that he Philip Roths all over everything. I’m always aware that I’m reading him; he never steps away long enough for me to relate to what he’s trying to say. Musically, I feel the same way about commercial American dubstep. So many of those producers are too self-obsessed to do anything but throw a dozen signature markers on one track, so all I hear is the effort they made, not the song itself.

Anyway, it’s a weird impetus to put on dance music, but I think it’s valid. When you think of your favorite producer, of the first experience you had with them, it’s never that you thought “God, I love how much I can tell this is Dubbel Dutch!” Maybe later you think that, on your fourth or fifth listen, you start catching those cues and hearing how the song works on a technical level. But your first reaction to your favorite song is always visceral. You react to the inherent something about it, whatever that something is. It’s like the artist said “Here, you listen to this, I’m gonna grab a drink, I’ll come back when you’re through and we’ll chat.” You know? I mention Dubbel Dutch specifically, because I had that experience with “Throwback”. It’s a very Dubbel Dutch track, I mean the thing sounds so much like him, but when I first heard it, all I could think about was how I wanted to hear it again. It made me purely, unequivocally happy, and in that moment, I didn’t give a fuck who wrote it or how it worked. I just wanted to hear it one more.

And all of that, I think, starts with one true thing. It’s making a beat or melody or sound or whatever that feels so utterly right by no one’s standards but your own. It’s creating something that forges an emotional connection but does do by earning it, not by tugging at sentimentality or some preconceived emotional idea. I try really hard to erase the effort from everything I create. I’m not always successful. In fact, to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve successfully started with the one true “sentence” — or if I have, I’ve fucked up the authenticity by the time the song is done. But if I wake up every morning with that goal, to just get one true whatever out of my head, then I’ve at least succeeded in that moment. The next goal becomes keeping it true. I’ll let you know when I get there.

(For the record, I now have Amerie’s “One Thing” in my head, and the sudden urge to watch that shitty Meryl Streep movie.)

LA: Casey, are there any artists or ideas that have shaped your views on the creation of music? Who or what are they and what affect do they have?

CASEY: I’ll try to answer this really, really quickly without thinking too much, because anytime you start thinking in terms of influences, it’s gonna open the floodgates. Going with whatever pops into my head first is probably gonna be most accurate anyway. My whole life I’ve loved Erik Satie, and a lot of the themes of both his work, and how he actually worked, seem to carry through to everything else I like. Like pretty much everyone else on earth, I gravitate towards his early piano stuff. Aside from how obviously atmospheric his work was, there’s something that’s always gotten me about how he combines simple repetition with these elongated melodic lines that manage create this incredible movement without you being able to pin down what exactly it is that’s causing things to shift. It’s only when you really sit down and try to play it that you realize how much every single note is actually doing, and how much you can accomplish simply by occasionally having a note or chord be just a tiny bit off. Joy Division were another huge, huge one for me when I was younger for a lot of the same reasons. The first time I heard Unknown Pleasures when I was 13 they became my favorite band instantly. A few months later I heard Closer for the first time, and whereas Unknown Pleasures had appealed to me because it sounded like a lot of what was already in my head, Closer really shocked me. I remember thinking at the time that it sounded like someone wrote these fully formed songs based around standard chord progressions and bass parts, added a bunch of accents and fills and things, and then removed the original chord progression and bass line, and just left you with all those extra bits standing on their own. Just accents and atmosphere with no skeleton to support them. That’s actually a huge thing that’s really had a massive effect on the way I’ve viewed making music ever since. I just really love that concept of taking out the backbone of a song, and letting everything just hang on the remaining scraps. 

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