Interview 2010 - by Graham Getty
So, what have you been up to lately?Same old thing really , trying to create music, record it it etc... Either I do that or I go back to working in an architects office which is highly unlikely. I was rubbish at it the first time round.
What are your memories of the last Hampshire Jam performance?I suppose the memory that really stands out is the mechanical failure with one of my sequencers during the sound-check. The other one still worked OK but losing one has a greater than 50% effect on the complexity of the patterns you can create. What is important is the way they interact with each other, and we lost that ability that night. To my ears the sequencer lines then sounded a little lacking in depth, but we survived.
How did the recent trip to the US go with Ian as ARC?Very well. But very tiring, though age may have had a hand there. It was organised by Chuck van Zyl who is a true gentlemen, he even managed to stay cool and calm in the face of Boddy's incessant whinging. Everyone there was so helpful and friendly, we also had a wonderful place to stay and rehearse. Also, I believe we were able to borrow every single instrument with the exception of Ian's Mac. Several people kindly entrusted us with their expensive equipment. It saved having to haul any big stuff over there. After the church gig we did one of Chuck's live radio concerts which meant finally getting to bed at about 5am after a truly surreal, but entertaining, drive through the back-streets of Philadelphia.
How did you find using the dotcom modular vs the Moog?Well, superficially they look very similar of course, but the basic operation is very different. The Moog has a totally unique way of routing master pitch and trigger signals. The Dot.Com is more like most other modulars in that respect. It just took a short while to get used to it. Of course I was already familiar with the sound of the Dot.Com, Rob Jenkins used one with Redshift some years ago. Sound-wise it is obviously very different from the Moog, but I doubt if the intention was to create a clone anyway. It has it's own sound, and mercifully , it has extremely stable tuning. The one section that is identical of course, is the sequencer. Ergonomically it felt exactly like using the Moog sequencer, very reassuring.
Do you still get as much of a kick switching on the Moog (and waiting 3 hours for it to warm up ;)?There are certain instruments whose sound I will always adore, the Moog sound is one of them. The sheer quality and richness of the sound still inspires me in a way that no other synthesiser has ever got close to, despite some very stupid and ill-informed claims to the contrary. There are possibly more affordable modular systems available now than ever before. Is this good for EM? In terms of encouraging people to experiment and craft sounds that cannot be achieved in any other way then of course, it's very good. What has to be avoided though is this "all analogue is good, all digital is bad" mantra that crops up. Throughout the relatively short history of synthesisers I would say that most of them are pretty awful, analogues included. Just because it is an analogue synthesiser it doesn't prevent it from sounding thin, cheap and nasty. I would rather use a quality sounding digital synthesiser than a bad analogue one. I guess I'm lucky that I have the use of what, in my opinion, is the best sounding synthesiser ever. It is very difficult to get a bad sound from it, although I have managed to do just that from time to time (I feel the that bass sequencer sound I had on the track Bleed from the live album Siren was terrible, I never really got control of it, it just sounded so bland). What would be better for the future of electronic music would be an influx of younger listeners, but how to achieve that? I have no idea, marketing not my thing really.
Will you be releasing anything new at the concert?Not this year, though we hope that the material we play on the night (all new) will be suitable for future release.
Is James’s absence from the band temporary?Good question. The honest answer - I have no idea. He is still living in L.A. which obviously makes it pretty impossible to play live with us here, from a cost point-ofview alone it's a non-starter. I still have contact with him, he still retains a love of Redshift music (he kept banging on about Halo the last time I spoke to him). Who knows? Maybe in the future it will be possible to include him in again, it depends on everyone's geographical location.
What do you think Ian brings to Redshift?He's a reasonable van driver I suppose. Also (and it is hard to overstate the significance of this) it's so entertaining to have a real-life Geordie to make fun of all the time during rehearsals. Ian has been at this music lark for almost as long as I have, it means he brings all that experience, his own unique way of creating sounds and notes. Basically, he brings himself. And, of course, he has a comedy accent.
How would you describe the difference between the ARC and Redshift output?I think they are very different. ARC music tends to be lighter in feel, occasionally melodic even. We often have very distinct themes develop throughout a piece. Redshift has, in my opinion, a harder and darker atmosphere. At least that is the intention. The arrangements tend to rise and fall more organically compared to the more structured ARC tracks. Naturally there are always areas where the two overlap, that's unavoidable. ARC music is generally easier to play live, as long as I can learn it.
Any plans to produce any solo material again?I'm guessing that you are referring to the Legion/Crash Head/Nocturne style of music from a while back? At this point in time the answer would have to be no, probably not. I don't want to say never because things can change, but at the moment I can't find any real desire to create that kind of music again. I think that one of the reasons is that I felt that Nocturne reached to place I wanted that music to go, I didn't know where else to take it afterwards. Legion and Crash Head were kind of way-points to get there, though I was never really happy with the mixes or arrangements of either of them. But with Nocturne I felt I said all I wanted to say with that style. Having said that, it was fun to play more basic "analogue" versions of some of those old tracks at our last HJ performance.
Any new technology that’s impressed you lately?Not much really. Most new stuff seems to be software based only, which lacks a certain inspiration for me. That's not to say that I dislike all software "instruments" (I think Omnisphere is really good), it's just that creating music is starting to look like people are just surfing the internet,or answering emails, rather than leaping off a Marshall stack screaming "Rock and Roll!!". I know which I would find more appealing. Sitting at and playing a real Fender Rhodes is so much more satisfying and complete that just mouse-clicking up yet another tiresome and weak plug-in version, never mind the vastly superior sound of the real one. Ian recently gave me a link to a German company making various sequencer peripherals that would actually fit inside the Moog. They look really interesting, although from a listeners point of view they are missing a certain romance, however they take analogue sequencing onto a different level.
In terms of delivering music to customers, are you warming to the media-less download era?Hmmm. You see, to me music is so important. When I listen to a piece of music I really listen, that means doing nothing else. It does not mean playing something back on my computer in the background while I doing emails. It means listening to it the best possible quality I can manage, it means the best possible media on the best possible audio system. I read an article in the Times a while back where they said that for the vast majority of people now, listening to music meant playing MP3s over fizzy, tinny sounding earpieces and that many of those younger people had no concept a what quality audio should sound like. The MP3 had now become the the standard quality medium. Sorry, but this is a massive step back in technical terms, NOT forward. It would be like saying all those years ago, "lets get rid of vinyl and just have the cassette". It constantly saddens me that the general public's quality control is limited mainly to whatever it thinks is most convenient, no other criteria are applied. At least companies like MusicZeit give people the option of the CD-quality FLAC files, I just wish iTunes and the like had a similar attitude. Personally I still prefer to have a CD, something physical, something that retains a sense of significance to actually own. Music appears to lost it's importance to people. As Ian once said "People don't really listen to music now so much as consume it". That's very sad. Like a lot of musicians I spend a lot of time trying to make the music sound as good as possible, these days I sometimes wonder why I go through that agony. Why not just boot up an illegal copy of Reason and whack out another turgid example of gutless supermarket electronica? Who is going to notice the difference on an iPhone?. Isn't it incredible that, given the advances in technology, most people are now listening to music at lower quality level than 20 years ago? Madness. In answer to your original question, before this extended rant, we do release MP3s like everyone else, but only because we really don't have much choice. As a format I still maintain it's the spawn of the devil. And I haven't even mentioned all those low-lifes who steal our music too, those idiots are killing music.
What music have you been listening to recently?Different styles. Can't stop playing Beethoven's 5th Piano Concerto, the slow movement is so painfully beautiful it makes me unhappy even if I'm not. I saw a documentary on the Small Faces recently and really enjoyed the music they played. I was a little young for them at the time so it was nice to see why they had such a reputation. A couple of years ago we went to see Jarre play at Birmingham doing the live version of Oxygene, it ranks alongside Node's Emma ‘94 gig as one of the best electronic music concerts I've ever seen. No fireworks, no dumb film-shows or slide projectors and, above all, no miming. Just four very talented musicians playing all those wonderful old instruments (and some new ones) as a band. Fantastic.