Everyone who’s gotten to know me over the years recognizes the fact that I positively adore electronica. When it started to gain traction in the late 70s and 80s, I was hooked. The evolution over the past few decades and the vast pool of gifted electronic musicians has given a depth of life and breath to this genre of music that few would have dreamed of in the beginning.
I’ve known Arin Ex (formerly Scorbie and also Aaron Hannum) for over a decade, thanks to FaceBook and the wide world of Interwebs. Music is my lifeblood and I’m constantly rattling around looking for new and inspiring tracks. I’ve been a fan of just about everything that Arin Ex has laid down during the past decade+. His music is both varied and cutting edge, moody and stabilizing, an escape and an in-your-face challenge to grasp tighter onto reality. It can ground you or set you free. The possibilities are endless and he’s not afraid to explore the dark crevices and poke the potential monsters that lie within.
Arin Ex’s latest foray into electronic is a collection of tracks titled Elektropolis ’21. Even though he’s been creating and distributing incredible music for many years, this can be considered the debut of his “Arin Ex” persona. And what an entrance it is.
From the opening notes of the mind-bending “Any Time, Anywhere,” until the closing strains of “Hikaeme (Edo Mix),” the listener is given an epic and unforgettable journey. Many people in today’s messed-up world are looking for a ticket out of COVID-created depression and drudgery—Elektropolis ’21 is the perfect escape. It takes you anywhere you want to go. Your destination is limited only by your imagination.
Arin Ex has agreed to give us a look into his interpretation, expression, and creativity via the awe-inspiring world of computer-generated music.
MissParker: I just made the comment in a recent interview that to me, electronica paints a picture without the use of lyrics. What do you have in mind when you sit down to create a song? Is it a scene, a theme, a story—all of the above?
Arin Ex: It’s nothing so ‘artistic’ really. I just turn everything on with a vibe in mind and see if it happens. If it does, great. If not, then I turn everything off and my night is ruined. I seriously get in a mood. (laughs)
It’s different with my synth rock/vocal stuff. I get a vocal melody in my head, or a bassline, a groove, whatever, and try to make it happen. With the techno stuff I just run with it, tweak it, and see what happens.
MissParker: Tell us a bit about the equipment you use.
Arin Ex: Ahhh, who cares?! It all does the same sh*t. I have the full arsenal of Native Instruments plug-ins on my Mac. It’s great. But I find more inspiration from hardware synths.
At the moment, I’m using Novation’s Ultranova and Bass Station 2, Arturia Matrixbrute, Yamaha MODX6, ARP Odyssey MK1 (’73 Whiteface), ARP2600, and I’ve recently picked up Behringher’s reissue/copies of Roland’s TR808 and TB303. They’re amazing for techno—really inspiring kit at a fraction of the corporate cost.
MissParker: What musical training have you had? Did you have any formal training in using synths in particular, or are you basically self-taught?
Arin Ex: I’m 50 now and got my first Moog when I was 11. I was lucky enough to hear Bowie, Kraftwerk and Numan when I was very young, due to my mother’s DJ career in the 70s, and ended up with one for my birthday. I learned how to use it by ear.
I also love Frank Sinatra and briefly studied jazz piano in my late teens, only to learn how to play ‘All Of Me’ and ‘Summer Wind.’
MissParker: Who are your musical influences?
Arin Ex: David Bowie has always been number 1, followed closely by Gary Numan, up until about 10 years ago when he lost the plot.
A simple list goes like this: Bowie, Numan, Severed Heads, YMO, Brian Eno, Scott Walker, Skinny Puppy, Thomas Dolby, Kraftwerk, Orbital, Cluster, John Foxx, Ultravox (including Midge!), The Psychedelic Furs, DAF, Sinatra, Covenant, Japan/Sylvian, and so many others, usually from the 70s/80s.
MissParker: Is there anyone in particular that inspired the making of Elektropolis ’21?
Arin Ex: Band-wise? Obviously Orbital, Cluster, Music Von Harmonium, and Aphex Twin. Duh. (laughs)
MissParker: Tell us about some of the musicians you’ve had the opportunity to work with.
Arin Ex: Ha! Are you ready for this?
Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins—an old friend. We haven’t talked in years but, yeah, we used to do Numan covers in my basement in Chicago in ’84. Then he went off and got famous.
Jay Younger from White Zombie. He taught me how to play guitar. He was in an old punk band in Chicago called Rights of the Accused. We hung out a lot. Legend.
I had an opportunity to work with one of the guys from Icicle Works here in the UK many years ago. Turned it down. Also had a chance to try out for keys with Peter Hook & The Light which I also turned down. A major regret, but family comes first. They tour too much!
I can’t claim to have ‘worked with,’ but certainly did two gigs with the legendary Steve Strange of Visage. This was due to being invited by my friends in the UK’s biggest electronic 80s tribute act ‘Electro 80s’ as support, while Steve was working with them. I not only had the distinct honor of applying make-up with him in the dressing room, which I pointed out (he wasn’t bothered), but also introducing him to the stage.
It was surreal. Here’s me: a mid-40s Ex-Pat yank in the UK, old New Romantic, introducing a legend to a huge crowd! I also played his tribute gig after his passing with original members of Ultravox, Visage, and Heaven 17. That was a big gig. Even had my oldest son, autistic and 12 at the time, on stage in front of 1000 people! Out of my depth to be honest, but it went down well.
MissParker: Are there any collaborations with other musicians planned for the future, or are you pretty much planning to remain solo?
Arin Ex: I’ve recently been invited to join the UK’s ‘premiere 80s electronic’ cover band. Seems fitting that I never quite made it and I end up in a very popular UK act with none other than Ade Orange, a longtime Gary Numan collaborator and synth player. I’m pretty excited, actually.
The guy who leads the band ‘Blue Electro,’ aka Dave Hamilton, a Scottish legend, invited me to support them on many occasions throughout the UK over the last 8 years. He had a falling out with the other members and kicked them out. So Ade Orange and myself are in.
Apparently I’ve made an impact on a few unfortunate souls in the UK since I relocated here from Chicago many years ago! (laughs)
MissParker: Do you sample voices or other common “worldly” sounds to use in your compositions, or do you let the machines do it for you?
Arin Ex: No and uh, I dunno. If you mean do I program all of my own sounds? Sort of. A lot of ‘synth’ guys will say, ‘I hate presets! I make all of my own sounds!’ That’s not always true.
Just like guitar players, us synth guys have an arsenal of equipment at our disposal, presets or not. But we still use what’s been designed and put in front of us. It’s what we do with it that counts.
We hear a sound, tweak it a bit, and stick it in and see if it fits. I have synths with presets and I also use modular synths that I’ve actually physically built myself. So what? I didn’t invent it. It’s an oscillator and a filter. It makes sound and I use it. It all comes down to the song.
Is it any good? Not usually in my case. If you plug a guitar into an effects pedal, same thing, not as much effort maybe, but same thing! Is the song any good?
MissParker: In addition to creating some fabulous music, COVID was a time of visual creativity for you, as well. “Buddha’s Testicle” is a hilarious send-up of martial arts films that you and your children conspired—um, collaborated on together. What inspired “Buddha’s Testicle” and what was it like working with the kids?
Arin Ex: OMG. When I was a kid, say 10-14, I did Karate and Kung Fu. I also grew up on all the Chinese Kung Fu films from the Shaw Brothers and loved Bruce Lee. Then I had kids.
Guess what? Martial Arts time! After Ice hockey naturally. (laughs)
So, lockdown one arrives. I’ve got all this gear: Pro Tools and an iPhone with a great camera. ‘Hey boys! Let’s make a movie!’
We already had a dojo in our dining room, and I actually have a Japanese-style garden I built over four years and some 14 bonsai trees. Yes, Mr. Miyagi and all that sh*t, so we decided to make a movie for YouTube. Visual and audio effects, the lot.
I directed and edited everything. The music, sound effects, etc. My oldest son Chris, who’s 17 now, helped with the plot, script, and camera work. I directed my younger boys to do the scenes and say their lines, but I overdubbed their dialogue to make it as terrible, rude, and authentic as possible. We had a f*cking blast! Well, I did at least. 🙂
It was hard work editing, overdubbing, and creating music for it. I added it up one day. Every five minutes of footage took me about 12 hours of work! Either way, it was something to do during the first lockdown and everyone on Facebook told me how great a dad I am, so it must be true! (laughs)
MissParker: Can we expect future family collaborations?
Arin Ex: The twins are almost 12 and approaching that age when anything ‘dad’ related might become very uncool. We shall see. Chris however, who is 17, is now studying film making in college, so that may very well lead to more bad Kung Fu movies with dad. Or maybe videos for me? Just thought of that! Hmmmmm….
MissParker: I don’t want this to sound like a stupid question, but do you support the idea of your kids following you into music, film making, or both as their primary careers? The reason I ask is because I actually know of parents who have discouraged their kids from following a similar path due to the risks involved.
Arin Ex: They will do whatever the f*ck they want. I’m here to provide a supportive, loving environment.
It’s not up to me what they do.
MissParker: Thanks so much for sharing some of your time with us. Please tell us how we can purchase your music and also be informed of any future releases.
Arin Ex: I’ve shut my website down due to downloads wiping me out. It’s all Bandcamp and SoundCloud these days.
Can I go now?
Thanks! 🙂 xx
It was genuinely a blast to work with Arin Ex and pick his brain for a look inside his creative process. Be sure to follow the links above to sample/purchase some of his incredible work. Oh, and by the way, he just IMd me (sorry Aaron–hard to keep a secret) that he misses Lethologica-type stuff…that it’s been too long and he’s getting an itch to go back to it… So, my best advice is, stay tuned!
Have a look at some of his visual creations/music videos:
Anytime, Anywhere ~ Arin Ex (Scorbie)
Buddha’s Testicle (pilot movie)
Scorbie – Traitor (from Lethologica)
Scorbie- DamnAge – Live – England March 2013
Electro 80s (w/ scorbie)- I Die: You Die, Manchester UK 01 July 2011