I have been asked about my biggest influences in music. Impossible to sum up in an article. I currently have 20,021 pieces of music stored in 257,326,638,350 bytes of FLAC/MP3/M4A information. Or 921 artists. 250 genres. 1922 albums. This is obviously not a perfect figure, as there may be the odd duplicate or a few interludes that made it into the total, but more or less, that is a fair and accurate set of totals. I can however offer my current biggest influences, and how their music and creativity has influenced the current style of music I have been recently working on. I can also offer some of the more im- pressionable musicians who’s music may not directly influence the current type I am involved with, but who’s sound and presentational style has been more than memorable enough an impression to make upon all works I be involved with, current, past and future.
Ever the relevant purple majesty in music (more-so fashionably, rather than political- ly), Prince has the song-writing ability and technical dexterity to perform and produce entirely his own music, in a career spanning over four decades (including the tail-end of the seventies, right-up to present day) without requiring a great deal of help from outside performers, other than to ‘invent’ bands and groups, and to add more variety to the image he projects from each project. Mainly working in the funk genre for the bet- ter part, he has a seemingly endless pool of music from which to draw from, and while entire albums can be hit-and-miss later on, he usually has one of two tracks on even his most inferior releases that can live up to his best works. It’s no secret that I’m mostly a fan of his early albums (everything up to and including 1999 is near-perfection) after which I find the albums are in- teresting more-so for the individual tracks rather than the sum-total. Still, his production and engineering sound is usually ahead of it’s time during the 80’s, much of the reverb and eq-ing techniques taking a good ten or fifteen years before they start to become the standard (Parade still sounds timeless from a mixing and arranging point-of-view) and his sexual provocativeness is always surprisingly accepted considering much of his live-performances came hot on the heels of the punk-era, circa late 70’s.
Small selection of favourite tracks:
My Love Is Forever (For You, 1978) | Still Waiting (Prince, 1979) | Uptown (Dirty Mind, 1980)
Do Me, Baby (Controversy, 1981) | Little Red Corvette (1999, 1982)
An innovator and trend-setter for art-rock and electronic-pop in the late-70’s, throughout the 80’s, she brought many of the soon-to-be-common eighties production techniques to
the forefront before they were widely adopted, always opting for dramatic, rhythm-heavy sound-crafting, interspersed with melodic, often-touching, always thought-provoking song-writing and intricate use of ambient synthesizers and extreme vocal processing. An ear- ly user of the Fairlight CMI (costing, at the time, around £18,000 for an 8bit/16 kHz sampler and Waveform editor) she often elaborated upon ideas for short films, bringing a meticulous attention to detail into the visual medium, synchronising musical concepts with a cinemat- ic narrative, and as such is often considered a pioneer for her contributions to stage (her one and only tour was equally as theatrical) and music videos, as she is for music. Within the re- cent decade, she has made a comeback of sorts, releasing three albums, (one in 2005 and two in 2011) after a twelve-year hiatus from the music industry.
Small selection of favourite tracks:
Wuthering Heights (The Kick Inside, 1978) | Army Dreamers (Never For Ever, 1980)
Sat In Your Lap (The Dreaming, 1982) | Mother Stands for Comfort (Hounds Of Love, 1985) | And Dream Of Sheep (Hounds Of Love, 1985)
Originally a jazz band bass player, Tom Jenkinson was an early adopter of the drum-and-bass and jungle sounds of the early-to-mid-nineties, and soon worked as one of many artists of the time (Venetian Snares helped to initially shape the original sound of Breakcore) to devel- op the high-energy, up-tempo genre into a progressive, jazz-fusion influenced, death-elec- tro based form of music, incorporating and drawing inspiration from breakbeat/breakcore, noise/avant-garde, acid and dub. Initially referred to as Intelligent Dance Music, but ironi- cally relabelled in rebel response to the term as Braindance, IDM was what art-rock was to rock and roll, in many ways, and after it’s high day circa 1996-2001 (concluding the populari- ty of the scene’s interest with Aphex Twin’s final release for Warp), it has made somewhat of a come-back, with artists such as Skrillex, Kill The Noise and Koan referencing classic IDM art- ists as influence for their upgrades to Dubstep (which has slowly evolved in itself out of UK garage since the early 2000’s by producers such as Skream, Burial and Rusko taking it slowly into a more metal-dance based sound).
Small selection of favourite tracks:
Tundra (Feed Me Weird Things, 1996) | A Journey To Reedham (Big LoadA, 1997)
Male Pill Part 13 (Hard Normal Daddy, 1997) | Boneville Occident (Go Plastic, 2001)
Go! Spastic (Go Plastic, 2001) | Greenways Trajectory (Go Plastic, 2001) | My Fucking Sound (Go Plastic, 2001)
When creating music, I have a few personal thoughts and ideas that may be of interest/use to anyone who makes music and listens to my works, or who listens to my music and would like to have a curious insight.
1. Know when to stop.
It is incredibly compelling to keep working on a track until every flaw is ironed out and every detail has been en- hanced (Madeon self-proclaimed to work 70-200 hours on each track alone), however with too much work, it can become tedious to listen to, and parts that started out simple, classy and effective will soon become boring to hear on repeat, leading one to build sections beyond necessity. Try to ask other people to listen to your track and get an objective viewpoint on how it sounds to them.
2. Build with headphones, mix on speakers
In music that requires a precise consideration of stereo positioning, frequency/amplitude interaction and dynam- ic arrangement construction, I find it useful to use headphones to build the initial tracks, and to semi-mix them so as it all sounds good for 90% of your post Y2K listener-base (remember where and through which medium your listeners are more likely to be first hearing your tracks) and then finish the sound through speakers, A-B-ing between both forms until the track sounds good. So much music I hear through headphones (ear-buds, actually) and I am often in disbelief in how unbalanced the stereo positioning is and frequently mono-sounding certain sounds are, which I believe close listening can help the artist to better understand where sounds could better be placed. 3D/binaural processing is sometimes fun to use, and for this purpose, headphone listening is almost com- pulsory.
3. Emulate musical heroes from memory
If you’re going for a sound that one of your favourite artists has developed, it is sometimes far more preferential to the student of said musician to first attempt to create the sound yourself from memory, and then have a listen to see if it’s close enough. As artists, it is impossible to entirely create art without influence and some emulation…
…however, by first formulating ideas via frequent listening and attempting to construct the sound yourself, you will more than likely be less disappointed if it isn’t quite the same, as it will have at least your own personal touch, without much initial comparison, and, should it be as close and accurate a recreation as you wished, you will be all the more proud of the outcome. You will also have a better understanding into how you can create similar sounds to match your own distinct style.
4. Don’t believe that it takes money to master
Far from decrying the efforts of professionals (I use this term in reference to the position being of paid and expe- rienced in the field) who master audio for a living, and have no other interest or co-operation in working on an artist’s music, other than to perform the final finishing touches of the work, it is NOT necessary for ANYONE to REQUIRE a mastering engineer for their music, any more than it is for them to require a mix-engineer, a co-ar- ranger, co-producer or any other co-operation in any other stage of the music. It is a skill that can be acquired by anyone with a little practice and understanding. Tip: the best mastering requires almost no enhancement or modification of the original mixing of the track, rather the absolutely finishing touch. These days, it is even less essential for a hired mastering-engineer, certainly since vinyl pressings are a luxury and fairly in-frequent (and most modern over-limited/over-saturated pop music that works well on ipods and mp3s, sounds distort- ed and flat on vinyl) and hardly anyone releases music with the intention of it being listened as part of an album, with dynamic volume changes and frequency inconsistencies that would require being balanced out. Almost everything these days is hard compressed to the same volume, so erratic amplitude changes hardly ever happen amongst artists of totally different genres, let alone the same style of music. Albums of music these days are also varied in production techniques, and it has become far more acceptable for each track to be mixed and mastered for it’s own sake, rather than as part of a body of work, where everything needs to match aesthetically.
1. Tony Banks – By You
2. UB40 – As Always You Were Wrong Again
3. Van Mccoy and the Soul City Symphony – The Hustle
4. Patrice Rushen – Never Gonna Give You Up
5. Bill Bruford – One of a Kind, Pt. 1 & Pt. 2
6. Chaka Khan – Clouds
Here are some haikus that I have come across that are London themed and inspired. I favour reading the haiku format as it is non-subjective and allows the reader to visualise the imagery of the poem without interference from the author.
Of hearts and thoughts, expecting Kindness – receiving!
Union jack flag
Less the patriot, much more A warmth – caressing
The Queen lives today Half a century passes Seeks rule – approval
Lives and breathes within the wall To work within – come
Palace gates, guarding
No longer the heart and soul Rented rooms – no worth