I thought it was wise I jumped upon here, its been a while now . . . .
There have been a few developments for the Mazzula project since I last posted upon here.
Firstly, there have been a couple of podcasts which have gone down well, which I was surprised by seems as neither of em were exclusively electro. I decided to diversify a bit, and seems as my love affair with all things electronic started with techno, it seemed wise to return to familiar pastures as far as DJ’ing is concerned. I think I might hold on to this mentality for the time being. I’ve included a mix for download at the bottom of this post, or here.
Also, I figured in Dave Clarke’s chart with ‘Saturdee Night‘ and appeared in an interview he did with DMC, in which he cites me as his ‘curveball favourite’ (young artist at the mo), read the interview here. All spiffing stuff, and lead me to wonder . . which way next . . . . which means a return to playing live, which I haven’t done properly for a couple of years now. This, of course leads to the question, what exactly does live mean?
I can remember this p**sing me off last time out . . . .
Recently there has been all sorts of stuff on the internet surrounding what exactly constitutes a live performance, from the brutal honesty of Deadmau5, to the hilarious antics of the now unsurprisingly defunct Swedish House Mafia, or whoever they were. The spotlight has definitely fallen upon the stage for all the wrong reasons, to the delight of vinyl aficionados, but triggering some serious inward thinking for the electronic community. I recently took part in a radio show, where the view was that live electronic performance can and does exist, with myself the only person there who had given up on the art of performance for the sake of pragmatism, for example, why take a pile of gear with you, when you can pre-record the gear in the home studio? It wont fit in a dj booth anyway. I must say that I was totally alone in this view, but also that I was the only person there who hasn’t had a guitar, and has never been part of a band so my theoretical grounding is different. Importantly, it was notable that one of the guests on the show is pursuing a Phd in electronic performance, which to me kind of suggests that there must be an actual need for advancement in this area, and perhaps it isn’t as understood as we would like to think. You know what, Deadmau5’s honest rant might have done us all a favour in initialising this badly needed debate.
In the case of both Deadmau5 and The SHM, the emphasis seems to have switched towards a holistic view of performance, as in the whole effect, from coordinated lighting, dancers etc, the music just appears part of the greater whole. This is not new. I can remember years ago, reading an interview with The Prodigy, where Liam Howlett discussed how it would be impossible to perform it all live and would need 5 people reaching around all the synths and that. As I remember, they used DAT’s and stitched a performance around that (correct me if i’m wrong). Then, it was very much about the front men, some dancers and some effective visuals. Still, if you were in the crowd, you would know that there wasn’t much live about it, but you didn’t care. The performance might have been lacking musically, but there was still a show.
Even without the big show, there are still questions about the nature of electronic performance. A couple of years ago, I was on stage once with a very respectable underground techno live act, who had a click and go set up on pro-tools, with the person involved just messing with FX. I can imagine this is how the majority of artists do it, but I fail to see how purely using sequenced hardware on stage is, in the performance stakes, any different than sequenced Logic and a pile of softsynths. This is a dangerous viewpoint I know, it questions everything, even the mighty Orbital and their mammoth ‘live’sets. I can remember that I had a terribly difficult set up on ableton to sequence live that evening, 30 channels or so, and was pretty disgusted that someone could just click and go, but you know what, the punters all enjoyed themselves, his set being the highlight.
It wasn’t long after this that I decided to cut down on these complicated sets and start mixing full tunes, with the odd addition of drum machines or even singing (yes, singing) to try and constitute a performance. I know others who have done similar.
There is an undeniable truth here, in that live musical performance for those in electronica is just that, a choice. Something that I always struggle with is this . . . . so I’ve written a track, mixed it down, and mastered it beautifully, it sounds as good as it ever could do. Performing it live would mean, taking this track and breaking it down into its constitute parts, so I can sequence it live on stage with ableton, with all the compression, careful eq and nice mastering lost. So for the sake of performance, there is a sub-standard end-product. I struggle to understand this when Im in a nightclub and noone is interested in what I’m doing technically .. Why should I wheel around my entire home studio if this is the case? Having that choice, which is not there for those populating the world of guitars and drums, doesn’t exactly force people to find interesting ways to perform.
None of this should be surprising as at the end of the day, computers were built to cut down on our workload through automation and in music, we are trying to undo that, or at least accepting the elements we like and avoiding those we don’t, its almost as though the parts just don’t fit. Its a complicated business, which is why people do Phd’s. Was it Heidegger who said that we only focus upon the advancement of technology, rather than to hold it back and try and understand it? Its a constantly moving target. I think this has indeed happened, we find ourselves so far down the track and cant remember how we got here. The fact is that little has changed, apart from that the quality of what we actually experience at these shows has gone up, from Daft Punk in their spaceship to Hawtin’s lightwalls.
This vid below, of Tim Exile and Co’s new superbandband ‘Mostly Robot’ is a decent effort at a proper live band type setup with electronica. Although a fair proportion of it seems to be effecting the sound, rather than performing it ‘live’, and there are also traditional elements too, such as the keyboard player and vocalist adding to the performance factor. See what yer think, me likey.
And here’s a downloadable DJ mix for yer, all cheating of course, with ableton, maschine and a pile of VST’s.