80s (and sometimes 10s) Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ Colony Three/Brian Dickson

(c) Brian Dickson

I’ve had the enormous pleasure of being introduced to the delightful electronic music of Brian Dickson, a.k.a. Colony Three. I was asked to review a collection of 10 tracks titled ErgosphereWikipedia defines the word ergosphere as “…a region located outside a rotating black hole’s outer event horizon. Its name was proposed by Remo Ruffini and John Archibald Wheeler during the Les Houches lectures in 1971 and is derived from the Greek word ergon, which means ‘work.’”

This listening experience allowed me to take a remarkable journey that I look forward to revisiting time and time again; I know that I will hear more and experience different sensations with each opportunity.

The first five tracks lull us as listeners into a sense of peace and well-being—a journey that is both pleasant and without a hint of danger. Suddenly, with the opening strains of “Bad Gram,” the mood changes and we are thrust into a metropolis of sights and sounds that are both confusing and terrifying. As the music gathers steam, we are subjected to the aural awakening of the “fight or flight” instinct.

“Random Sparks” brings us back to a safe haven, giving us hope that there will be no other dangerous interludes until we reach the conclusion of our travels. But, just as suddenly as we feel that sense of calm, we are reminded by the dire melodies in “Collider” that the dangers we face are still all too real.

In the end, the pace of the excursion slows down, the dangers melt away, and again we begin to feel that perhaps this odyssey will have a positive completion after all. “Winds of Elysium Planitia” puts me in mind of The Man Who Fell To Earth when we are given glimpses of Thomas Jerome Newton’s suffering family back on his native planet. The final track, similar in scope by looking back on the previous tracks, evoke feelings of  both relief and sadness—relief that the trip is over and we are still breathing, and sadness, because of a nagging feeling that the world will somehow be forever different.

I am so pleased to have had a chance to interview Brian Dickson to provide some first-hand insight into the origins of this lush collection’s creation. I hope you will enjoy reading what I learned about this man and what he has to say about his exquisite music.

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MissParker: I can sit here and list all of the influences that I hear in this brilliant music—from Brian Eno to Gary Numan to Underworld to Jean-Michel Jarre…but my opinions would be irrelevant. Let’s hear it from you–who are your influences and why?
BD: I’d say my biggest influencers are Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre. In the early 80s I lived in a very remote northern town so my exposure to music was mostly through the one local radio station that played top 40 pop and country music. One day, I was digging through my older brother’s stuff and came across a cassette of Force Majeure, and listening to it was a life-changing epiphany. I’d never had an emotional response to music until hearing this. It wasn’t the harsh “bleeps & bloops” synthesizers that I’d heard in so many b-movies and radio shows, but instead an incredible audio landscape that took me on a fantastical journey. I became obsessed with finding more music like this and pretty much anything that pushed boundaries.

Thanks to radio shows like CBC’s “Brave New Waves” with Brent Bambury and CFNY (under the tenure of David Marsden), a whole new world of musical influence was made possible. Listening to bootleg cassette copies of CFNY played a large part in me moving to Toronto.

MissParker: I’m terrified of flying, but I do it out of necessity. Listening to “Approach” made me smile because it actually reminds me of the airplane’s approach to the runway for a landing. What is the true meaning behind that song?
BD: First, I love hearing about how you interpreted this song as it was always a dream of mine to create something that sparks the listeners’ imagination.

Certain sounds or songs create a type of visualization for me.  When composing, I often start with a single sound and build on it, twisting and overlaying a few other sounds. At some point a scene forms in my mind and I often end up naming the track whatever was in this imaginary scene. In this case I had come up with the album name “Ergosphere” and thought it fitting that this song would be the approach into the Ergosphere and beyond.

MissParker: “Indifference Waves” has a lovely build-up to the brief spoken word segment. It puts me in mind of Gary Numan when he was

(c) Brian Dickson

experimenting with techno in the 90s and ended up keeping it as his signature sound. Then it takes off into a fabulous confluence of electronics and raw drumbeat. I love that combination. What inspired it?
BD: “Indifference Waves” was born of a sample from a 1964 episode of Danger Man in which John Drake (played by the outstanding Patrick McGoohan) finds himself in a surreal village called Colony Three. Many speculate that this episode was the precursor to the iconic science-fiction series The Prisoner which finds McGoohan imprisoned in a mysterious village where everyone is known only as a number.

“Indifference” describes my interpretation of The Prisoner, which is the importance of questioning the status quo. I’m finding that naming the songs is almost as much fun as making them!

MissParker: There seem to be very brief, if any, breaks between most of the tracks. Was this collection meant to flow like a single soundtrack, or are the songs meant to stand on their own?
BD: Some of Ergosphere was composed with no gaps between the tracks, but I’ve found that some streaming platforms or audio playback software inject small breaks between songs. Spotify seems to play the album “gapless” while others are hit and miss. I’ve noted that artists like Jean-Michel Jarre now release large single track “continuous play” version of their albums to avoid this issue. I personally love continuous play albums as they seem keep the listener’s imagination and mood flowing throughout.

MissParker: I played a lot of Jean-Michel Jarre in the late 90s early 00s when I was a corporate trainer. I used his music specifically to soothe my classes while they were testing on the stuff that I’d taught them. I hear some of his influence in “Flight to Tadoule.” What is your take on Jarre’s music? Did he inspire you to create your own version of electronica and how?
BD: Jean Michel-Jarre is influential on almost everything I produce. In my opinion, Jarre has found the precise balance of classical composure and technology. His bold approach to musical and performance experimentation is inspirational. I was fortunate enough to go to Jarre’s amazing 2017 performance in Toronto and it was better than I could’ve ever imagined.

Jarre inspired me to start simple and build on it. If I ever got the chance to speak with Jarre, I always imagine that his advice would be “There’s no wrong way to do it.” Sometimes when working on a track I will literally ask myself, “What would Jarre do at this point?” which always seems to get me past the block.

MissParker: “Clearwater” has a remarkable intro that flows seamlessly from the close of “Flight to Tadoule.” It reminds me of a DJ making the perfect segue between songs during a radio broadcast. Were the two songs created in tandem purposely?
BD: Unbeknownst to everyone (until now) “Clearwater” and “Flight to Tadoule” were composed in memory of my mother and father. My mother lived her final years in Clearwater, a scenic town in the interior of British Columbia, Canada. Her last years there were the happiest of her life and it was always a pleasure to see her so happy there. One of my fondest memories of my father was when he took me on a flight in a Cessna to a very remote northern community called Tadoule Lake. I felt it fitting to have these songs sound very different on their own but also be somewhat connected.

MissParker: Up until “Bad Gram,” the songs seem to have a laid back and dreamy quality to them. Then all of a sudden we’re thrown into a random foot chase with pursuers hot on our heels. The urgency carries over into “Influence,” although not as intense. What brings on this change of mood?
BD: I really enjoy your interpretation of “Bad Gram,” and I think I hit the mark on this one! As the song was being composed, I started imagining a scene from a Michael Mann movie, like some of the amazing instrumentals that Jan Hammer had done for Miami Vice. After the lulling jazz-bar sounds of “Daydream on Pacific Avenue” I wanted to create an unexpected spike of adrenaline for the listener to snap them back to the rest of the album.

MissParker: I mentioned in the introduction how some of this collection reminded me of David Bowie in “The Man Who Fell To Earth.” My only complaint about the film is that 45 years later, the soundtrack (which Bowie did NOT compose) presents as a bit “cheesy.” Your music on Ergosphere, however, is as timeless as space itself. That said, did you have a “movie” playing in your head when you created these tracks?
BD: That is another really big compliment on many levels! I didn’t set out with a movie in mind for the overall album, and I think the timeless aspect is a result of a personal preference I have for simplicity in both the composure and instruments being used. My good friend Rob Stuart (of SLAVE to the SQUAREwave) and I discuss this philosophy at length, that so many of the timeless classics were created using equipment that was greatly limited by today’s standards. I believe these limits are what ultimately demanded the most creativity and best performances from the artists at the time. I used to think that because I had a 16-track recorder, I needed to make use of them all. (Maybe to get my money’s worth?) Now, my studio has the ability to mix and record over 1,000 tracks, but I generally use 10 tracks for most songs, which encourages me to focus on melody and dynamics.

(c) Brian Dickson

MissParker: Is all of the writing and production solely yours, or do you have people that you collaborate with?
BD: For my first album, I made a conscious decision to go it alone as I ultimately wanted to own the outcome and find my own groove, so to speak. I did the writing and recording over the course of a few months. While the composing and recording was the fun and easy part, I was really struggling when it came time to master the album. Mastering is the final step in the process where the entire album is stitched-together and balanced for harmonics and volume levels. I’m thankful for being able to lean on Rob Stuart for advice during this journey as he has decades of experience in music composure and production. These great conversations turned have led to Rob and I collaborating on some new tracks.

It’s early days but we are both really excited about the outcomes and are looking forward to sharing them.

MissParker: Do you perform live? If so, where can people have the pleasure of being enveloped by your music in a live performance?
BD: I haven’t spent the time yet to research live performance in this genre…I’ve simply been having too much fun creating the music! I think my gateway into live performance would be through that previously mentioned collaboration. It would be the experience of a lifetime no matter what the venue.

Missparker: Where can people sample and ultimately purchase your music?
BD: For the latest information about Colony Three and to sample new music in the making, visit:

Instagram (@colony_three)
Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ColonyThree/ )

Colony Three music is available on all of the major streaming and download services including Amazon, Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, and YouTube:

Missparker: Thank you so much for taking the time to share your music and your thoughts with us.
BD: Thank you for your support and for such a thought-provoking and fun interview experience!

I love your site and what you’re doing for all artists both new and established!

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80s (and Sometimes 10s) Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ Neurotic Wreck

Anyone who has followed this blog over the years knows that I have a huge soft spot for 80s alternative music, synthesizers, musicians who think outside of the box, and sultry British voices. When Marilyn Roxie (founder/creator of net music label Vulpiano Records) asked me to review Neurotic Wreck’s latest compilation, I must say I hit the lottery on all counts.

Dan Shea (small)

Dan Wreck

Neurotic Wreck is the wildly successful cumulative and solo efforts of musician Dan Wreck. He is a one-man battering ram of musical and lyrical genius. The variety of styles ranging from electric-folk to synthesized electro could be a holy train wreck (pun intended) in the wrong hands—but it works flawlessly on his superb album called “Glow Ghosts.”

This wonderful collection of tracks transported me back to such tremendous musician favorites as Underworld, Jesus & Mary Chain, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, and a short-lived but fantastic group called Ashengrace.  There’s even a covert reference to a well-known Gary Numan song, but I am not going to spoil the experience by disclosing which one. The tracks are relatively short, extremely captivating, and arranged in such a brilliant way that the segue from one to another keeps the listener glued to the playlist. And, the fun part is, the artists I’ve named here are by no means the complete list of influences that the listener will identify.

Marilyn

Marilyn Roxie

The best way to introduce you to the up-and-coming artist Dan Wreck (a.k.a. Neurotic Wreck), along with Marilyn Roxie, the backbone of his label Vulpiano Records, is to share some questions that I asked both of them. As this post goes to press, the intended release date for “Glow Ghosts” is July 14. This is a must-have for any 80s or even contemporary alternative enthusiast, and may be purchased via pay-what-you-want here:
http://neuroticwreck.bandcamp.com/album/glow-ghosts

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Sandy Missparker (SM): I’m going to show my hand up front and admit I was blown away from my first listen. You had me at “The Wakeup Call” which was, indeed, a wake-up call for me. Typically, I’m a bit skeptical when first asked to listen to a new (to me) artist’s work, but that all went out the window pretty quickly, once the playlist got rolling. So, I’m curious: how long has Neurotic Wreck been making music?

DAN WRECK: As Neurotic Wreck, I’ve been doing this since 2011; steadily putting out collections of songs compulsively to a deafening silence, a name known to literally fives of people. I’ve been in bands from an early age, though (as most artists worth anything have been, I know). There’re other projects I’m involved with, but it’s not fair to elaborate on those, (because) if I do that people’ll go “Oh Dan obviously came up with this bit” if they like what I’ve done here, and quite often the things people pick out as me having contributed–I haven’t!

SM: I clearly hear some of my favorite 80s artists influencing your music. I’d love to hear from you specifically who it is that influences the direction of your music, and what attracts you to theirs?

DAN WREurope's Missing SonsECK: Here’s where I get to be tedious and nerdy!

You already picked out the Numan thing, and like recognizes like there: one autistic monomaniac has to recognize another. I first heard Numan as a teenager and went on about how great he was to very disinterested friends. Prince is another big influence on me, another case of like recognizing like; not that I’m as technically gifted as him, but like me he was an androgynous, sexually ambiguous weirdo and artistic control freak. Also from the 80’s there’s New Order, as you’ve likely picked up from the tracks where I’ve shamelessly stolen Peter Hook’s style of playing bass. On the subject of bass, there’s also Barry Adamson: stuff like Speak In My Voice and After The Quiet sort of bear his imprint. As well as having played with many of my favorites at some point, his solo stuff manages to be soul and jazz influenced while still being very North West English; and let’s not forget the North Will Rise Again.

Then outside of all the obvious synth-pop stuff, loads of 60’s girl group records like I Never Dreamed by The Cookies, immortal solid gold pop; the drama and the melody in them is what sticks with me. Scott Walker for similar reasons. Rowland S Howard, undoubtedly, lingers over everything I do, but I could drone on about him forever (and in an article on Dennis Cooper’s excellent blog which Google have in their infinite wisdom taken down for no reason, I do). Coil is another one; I’m not sure it’s apparent from Glow Ghosts, but Jhonn Balance is a similar spectre pacing through things I’ve written. Maybe it’s apparent from Rune Cloud and some of the more esoteric lyrics.

Mixtape

MARILYN ROXIE: Here’s where I have to chime in, because it is Dan’s influences that I shared as favorite artists, both literary and musical, that caused me to pay more attention to his music submission, which was from an email he’d sent to my old music blog A Future in Noise back in December of 2012 with his Leave Tonight – Mixtape Side 2. Not only that, but the way that he is able to integrate it all together with his own personal style instead of the hopelessly derivative way that some artists do–that’s what really impresses me. Our mutual love of Coil and Dennis Cooper were initial conversation topics and I immediately invited him to also release material on my netlabel Vulpiano Records, which I don’t ask everyone. Vulpiano is really my own little curated paradise of independent and unsigned artists who I really love; and now Dan and I are together actually as a couple, as well, so it is very exciting to be able to work together more closely on what is happening musically.

SM: I have a deep fascination for single artist “bands” (and even duo-artist such as Underworld) who create such intricate orchestrated melodies. What does your studio look like and what types of instruments/devices do you use to develop your music?

DAN WRECK: My studio is basically wherever I’ve plugged in my digital 8 track recorder: it’s a Boss BR-600, and basically all I do is record on that, then export the tracks onto an old Window XP desktop with the Reaper Workstation installed on it. There I mix, add effects, and sometimes add software synths into it; but most of the sounds come from an electric guitar with 4 strings, a bass with 3 strings, a Novation synth with a key missing, and an old drum machine. Most of my equipment is at least cosmetically broken. Being able to afford more expensive equipment would be great personally, but wasted on me because I’d just dither around with it trying to make cool sounds rather than writing songs. I have to work within limits.

SM: In order to take your music out on the road, would you be willing to train other musicians to play various parts, or is it something that you could reproduce live as a solo act? Is live performance even something that you would consider doing?

DAN WRECK: Live performance is something I’ve done with other projects and will continue to do so because I love doing it. But as Neurotic Wreck, it’s quite unlikely, frankly, for the time being. Never say never, but for now it’s not on the menu. I don’t see the point of getting other talented people in and then getting them to just play what I ask them to when they may well have better ideas than me. So, if it does happen, then it’ll most likely be me doing it solo. That said, who knows? It’s under the name “Neurotic Wreck” not “Dan Shea:” it could, down the line, become more of a band. It has been, briefly, in the past.

SM: What got you started making music initially? Did you wake up one day and say, “I’m going to be a musician,” or did a specific person or event set you on that path?

DAN WRECK: Well, I’ve been around music from a very early age: my dad is a very talented songwriter, so it’s probably in my blood. I didn’t set out to be a musician or a songwriter; in fact, sometimes, to be quite honest, I wish I wasn’t. I wish I could be one of these people who’s happy just to be a consumer, rather than a producer. Ignorance is bliss, after all, but that’s not the way it worked out. In fact, for quite a long time I thought everyone could do what I do: being autistic, as I’ve mentioned, I just assume everyone can write songs or play an instrument, because if I can do it, it must be easy! Then I’ve spoke to people about it and they’ve looked back at me like a dog being taught a card trick, so it’s only recently sunk in that I may actually be quite good at all this.

SM: How would you classify your music? In other words, does it fit neatly into one genre, or does it span several different types?

coverDAN WRECK: I’ll give you a short and a long answer

Short answer: Just call it post-punk; no one knows what it actually means, but it’s an accepted bit of terminology. And if you say “post-punk,” people just nod and assume you know what you’re talking about.

Long answer: I don’t think it fits neatly into one genre, but I don’t think a lot of music does. There’re so many genres out there and they exist more as a marketing thing than as any remotely helpful guide to what you’re actually getting from the music. I’d say genre is more the domain of the gate-keepers, if you will: journalists (who I like) and publicists (spits over shoulder and crosses self). It spills over a bit but I’d say mood is a more useful way of categorizing music than genre tags. It is for me, anyway. To each their own.

MARILYN ROXIE: Post-punk makes a lot of sense as a descriptor…also, experimental synth, a dash of neo-folk that goes counter to people’s expectations around that genre as it can be overly anti-fascist. I do agree that it isn’t necessary to think of genre when he can do so many different styles with ease.

SM: It’s not unusual for artists to evolve their musical direction over time, but there is an evolution of sorts that happens in the span of the 13 tracks of this one dynamic compilation, a la David Bowie. Was that intentional?

backcover

DAN WRECK: It may have been intentional, but it wasn’t my intention. I got Marilyn to order the tracks because I think if you’re looking at something as an album rather than purely a collection of songs (important distinction even if it is an irrelevant one for many people these days), then the order is incredibly important. You’ve just mentioned Bowie, so a case in point would be 1.Outside: at the end of what is a fairly heavy-going album, especially from a multi-platinum megastar, there’s “Strangers When We Meet,” which is one of his most moving songs and even more effective because of what it’s come after. If it had been in the middle, as an individual song it’d still be wonderful; but the right sequence of tracks, as someone who still believes in the album as a viable format, is utterly crucial.

MARILYN ROXIE: I’m obsessive about playlists so I spent a lot of time working with Dan’s tracks to get the order just right. I always knew that I wanted “The Wakeup Call” to be the first track and “Tell Me What to Swallow” to be last, but finding the right ebb and flow of the softer and punchier songs was a challenge and I’m glad the flow came through in the end. Many of these tracks are from totally different recording periods.

SM: What is the hierarchy of lyrics and music—for example, do you write lyrics and then formulate the music to enhance them, or is it the music that gives birth to the lyrics?

DAN WRECK: It changes from song to song, really. If the song has a definite purpose, then it’s usually the lyrics come first: “One Skin Too Few” is something very personal about my feelings on gender and also the treatment of the mentally ill, and “Speak In My Voice” is about these same themes. They both started from lyrics. “After The Quiet” became something very personal, but that started from the descending melody line after the lyrics are sung in the choruses and expanded outwards.

SM: The label behind the promotion of “Glow Ghosts” is Vulpiano Records. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing its founder, Marilyn Roxie, for about 7 years now, thanks to the magic of the Interwebs. Marilyn, you are an extremely gifted keyboard artist in your own rights, but you seem to get a lot of satisfaction promoting others. Can you give us a little background on what makes Vulpiano Records (and Marilyn Roxie) tick?

Vulpiano RecordsMARILYN ROXIE: Vulpiano started off just as my idea of having a place to host exclusive content from independent and unsigned artists that had submitted to my old music blog (A Future in Noise, now on a bit of a hiatus). It isn’t always easy promoting yourself and throwing your content out there and hoping for the best; in the past few years, a lot of blogs have ceased to exist and only the super-popular remain, so the whole landscape is really different than it was in the late 2000s as well. Creative Commons and places to host free and legal music like Internet Archive and Free Music Archive have persisted, however, and there are a lot of exciting online radio and podcast platforms. I’m always searching for ways to share all of the great music I have gathered up.

Vulpiano is really representative my personal taste and artists I have become friends with that I think are really interesting across genres and want to show to other people, though experimental, electronic, and folk tend to predominate a bit. I do have plans to do another album of my own, which I’ve not put out since 2009 with New Limerent Object, but it’s taken me awhile to really figure out where I want to go with my own music. I am gravitating towards drone and shoegaze a lot lately, but I don’t want to just copy my favorites. I am a little too hard on myself, like many musicians. I enjoy seeking out new and exciting material so much sometimes it is hard to stop and actually go back to doing my own music! I am also involved in video art now and thinking about ways to combine that with my own music. I’ve been making videos for other people, including Dan, so I may want to make an album that has a music video for every song, or something like that. I am really interested in doing something multimedia, at any rate, but I’m not entirely sure of the final form just yet. I hope to do this late this year or early next.

SM: What can we expect in the future from Neurotic Wreck (and please don’t say it was a one-off—that would be SO disappointing!).

Dan Wreck

DAN WRECK: Well, after the huge stream of free releases over the last five years, I’m finally charging for something: Sandalphon, which will be out on Small Bear Records on the 22nd of September, the Autumn Equinox. Sandalphon is something of a genre exercise; two years ago when I recorded the bulk of those songs, I started investigating the genre of neofolk. Again, as I said earlier, this genre tag is just a convenient way of linking things with a similar ethos together; but that influenced Sandalphon an awful lot. Although, not to worry, there’re no banjos on it, the guitars are still plugged in, there’s still lots of synth, and the drums are still as mechanized as God intended. So that’s what’s coming up next. After that, who knows?

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So, there you have it. I can’t emphasize enough the brilliance of this album, “Glow Ghosts,”, and urge you to add it to your music collection. The beauty of creative genius is that it keeps our lives interesting, gives us a positive outlet as listeners, and promises us always something exciting to look forward to.

Further information at Vulpiano Records and alternative stream and download options as Internet Archive, Free Music Archive, and Mediafire are here: http://vulpianorecords.com/post/147400571616

Other relevant links:

Vulpiano Records
http://vulpianorecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/VulpianoRecords
https://twitter.com/vulpianorecords
http://neuroticwreck.bandcamp.com/

Neurotic Wreck – Funeral of Roses
Music video by Marilyn Roxie; premiered at Artists’ Television Access in San Francisco:

Marilyn Roxie and Neurotic Wreck – Obsidian Offerings
Tribute video for Jhonn Balance for CHAOSTROPHY exhibition at LUDWIG in Berlin:

80s Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/ Bands ~ Rob Stuart is Back with Electronic Dream Factory (EDF)

Excellent music never dies; sometimes it just goes away for a while. And, like a treasured loved one, its return evokes strong emotions of joy, relief, and a reconnection with the universe. That’s what’s happening here, folks. And, I am delighted to be the bearer of the fantastic news.

Rob Stuart first graced Rave and Roll’s pages exclusively as a featured artist back in November 2009. Earlier that year, I had published an article about his Toronto-based band SLAVE to the SQUAREwave, followed by a review of their then-latest smashing release, The Money Shot. Earlier this year (Feb. 2014, to be exact), I was privileged to announce Slave’s return with a jaw-dropping, in-your-face collection of tunes called Asphalt, Sex & Rock ‘N’ Roll. Now, I am thrilled to deliver the trifecta: Rob Stuart’s long-awaited re-emergence featuring an entire catalog of synthesizer-driven musical goodness from his band, Electronic Dream Factory (E.D.F).

Rob agreed to be interviewed so that I can share with you all a little bit about the beginnings of E.D.F., its evolution, the inspiration for the music, and the reason for the decision to re-release the catalog.

When did E.D.F. make its debut in the world?

EDF studios circa 1983

EDF studios circa 1983

Originally E.D.F was and still is the name of my home recording studio. I stole the name from a small British synthesizer company called Electronic Dream Plant which built a very cool monophonic synthesizer called “The Wasp.” My earliest recollection of my first home studio was back in 1981. I decided very early on in my “music career” that rather than pay other people to record in their studios, that I would just build my own and teach myself how to record, engineer and mix.

I was only sixteen back then and gear was incredibly expensive, so my first studio was nothing fancy. I would work three summer jobs to save up enough money to buy studio gear. I still remember purchasing the first real synth I ever owned, a Korg MS-20 for $595.00 at Steve’s Music Store in Toronto. I was so proud walking home with that synth tucked under my arm that day. It was once I started writing original music when I decided Electronic Dream Factory would also serve as a good band name.

Who were the original band members?

Greg Fraser, Rob Stuart, Rob Tennant (1992)

Greg Fraser, Rob Stuart, Rob Tennant (1992)

There have been many incarnations of the “band”version of E.D.F. Version 1.0 is me alone as a solo artist . Long time friend/musician/ artist, Greg Fraser was the first person to become an official member. Our first full-length self-titled album was just Greg and myself. Version 2.0 included Rob Tennant, who was the live drummer.

We soon added Maxx on guitar. Version 3.0 included Emerich Donath on stick bass and Rude Van Steenes on electronic percussion and vocals. I knew Rude back from the Vis-A-Vis days as I was an original member of that band .

EDF Version 3.0

EDF Version 3.0

Why synthesizers and electronica vs. guitars and…?

I’ve always been a synthesizer nut. Ever since I first heard early synth-based music like Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Pink Floyd, Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Throbbing Gristle, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Gary Numan, John Foxx, and early Human League, I knew I wanted to get into synthesizers.

First of all, they looked so cool and they could make sounds that you’d never heard before. That was really the appeal to me. I would spend hours messing around with my MS-20, plugging in cables, twiddling all the knobs, to come up with unique and different sounds. I’ve never been a person who is comfortable jamming in a rehearsal studio or in a band situation, which is why I don’t really consider myself a musician. I still don’t play that well, but writing, recording, and producing came fairly naturally to me. Writing music always was and still is a personal journey for me, so when MIDI came along it allowed me to create all parts of the music by myself, which I thrived on.

Having said that, I’ve always been a guitar fan, so when I couldn’t fake a guitar part by myself or find the right guitar sample I’d have to bring in a guitar player. Of course nothing can replace the thundering sound and look of a live guitar player on stage. That’s where Maxx came in. He was a cool-looking dude with a great head of hair and a killer guitar sound which added to the live element and gave the studio recordings a little extra grit.

Was E.D.F. mainly a studio band, stage band, or both?

I’ve always been a studio guy, but you have no choice but to play live if you want to promote your product seriously. It’s a great feeling playing your own music live with 3 or 4 other people on stage with the lights, smoke, and (hopefully) crowds of people in the audience grooving to your tunes; however, I also derive immense pleasure spending hours in my studio just writing or playing music by myself.

That’s were the “other” side of E.D.F comes from, as I also record and release ambient, chill out, new age music which I never intend to play live. Our finest moment was playing at Pine Knob in Detroit, Michigan in front of 10, 000 people for a big end-of-summer music festival.

What or who inspired the music?

The “who” is endless. See all the bands named earlier. Inspiration can come from anything, really. It could be a unique industrial sample, synth patch, drum and bass groove or simply a nice chord progression. It’s piecing all of those elements together that makes it fun and challenging.

Did E.D.F. originally get the airplay it deserved, and if so, by whom?

The first E.D.F release was actually a cassette-only; but, believe it or not, we used to get airplay on the radio. CFNY 102.1 in Toronto was the first station to play our music. That station was a huge supporter of local independent music, led of course by the one and only David Marsden who still plays my music to this day on his new station http://www.nythespirit.com. With open-minded people like David and the good folk at CFNY, the song “So, What of Tomorrow” ended up being a winner on a CFNY talent search contest and was released on a compilation CD, which to us at the time was unbelievable.

Other places that would play our music would be University radio stations like CIUT (University of Toronto), CKMS-FM in Waterloo, and CKLN (Ryerson University) who were always great supporters of ours. Local DJs like Ronno Box and Craig Beesack would play us at clubs like Catch 22 and local promoter Billy X was also an early supporter of E.D.F

What’s it like to translate a concept in your head into music that you share with the rest of the world?

It’s fun at first, but it can quickly become frustrating when the business aspect kicks in. I won’t even talk about the music business these days as no one has a clue what’s going on; but back in the early 90s there were still labels you could shop your product around to. For our first album we had some interest from TVT Records which had just signed Nine Inch Nails. For the second album, “Drama Dream” we signed a deal with a label in Montreal, which went bad. For the album “Number 3” I had a distribution deal with Toronto’s The Record Peddler. Financially that was probably the most success I had with an EDF album as they managed to get distribution deals in quite a few different territories worldwide.

What made you decide to resurrect EDF?

One word: “Tunecore.”

Tunecore is a great service that distributes your music around the world to digital music stores and streaming stations. It’s really cheap and allows you to keep 100% of the earnings. They really do get the music out all over the world! E.D.F had a pretty strong following in its heyday, especially in Europe.

As I mentioned above, the album “Number 3” was released and distributed internationally by The Record Peddler. I used to get royalty cheques from airplay I received from places like Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Norway and many other countries. Over the past few years I decided to post some old E.D.F videos on YouTube and found that people were actually looking for the old releases. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to re-master and re-release the whole collection in a new package.

Hence “Industrial Catalogue:” All four E.D.F albums in one, 64 songs in total, reasonably priced at $8.99. I did the same with my ambient/chillout/down-tempo E.D.F music, as well. Four albums in one package under the title ˜Noise Control” with 60 Songs in total.

Are there plans for live shows, and if so, where?

At this point, definitely not. SLAVE to the SQUAREwave takes up all of my spare time with live performances and recording. The last time E.D.F played live was at a rave in the middle of a farmer’s field in Oakville, a suburb of Toronto. This was actually where I met Colin Troy from S2TSW, as we were both playing at the rave that night. I was performing my more “techno” E.D.F material while Colin was doing his Smokin’ Jehovah project, which was a mix of middle eastern music and house. Really cool stuff. We chatted through the night about our love for Bowie, Roxy Music, and electronic dance music. We became instant friends and SLAVE to the SQUAREwave was born.

Do you have any examples of E.D.F. music online that people can preview?

Here’s some of my ambient/chill-out music taken from “Noise Control”:

Will the entire catalog be available for purchase? Where?

“Industrial Catalogue” is available via Amazonmp3.

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“Noise Control (Vols 1 to 4)” is available via Amazonmp3.

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Both albums are also on Spotify, Rdio, Shazam, iTunes, Google play, Wimp, Deezer, beats music and many, many more on-line stores.

Can folks buy single tracks?

Yup! Single tracks are the standard 99 cents.

Will this inspire you to go back into the studio and create new E.D.F. tracks?

E.D.F has never really stopped. It’s just come in many different shapes and forms over the past 32 years and will continue to evolve. I’m getting more and more into the chill-out/ambient stuff as I get older, so you can most likely expect some more music in that vein.

What’s next?

I’m considering releasing some music by a duo group I was in back in the mid 80s called “silent GREEN.” It was an ambient project where the music was ad-libbed and recorded live. I played synthesizer while Bruce Bentley played “ambient” guitar. Bruce and I also had a synthpop band called “Ear Candy,” which was another CFNY-supported band. Tragically, Bruce passed away last year, so I’m thinking of releasing it in his memory. Some of that music is pretty magical.

Thanks so much!

Thanks for your support. I love what you do. You don’t know how important things like this are to a band/artist. You’re really doing a great thing here and it is most appreciated. XOXO

80s Music (and sometimes 10s) Rules—Slave To The SQUAREwave Returns!

ASRR---CARAfter a long hiatus full of whispered rumors hinting at disbanding, retirement, everything Slave to the SQUAREwave fans absolutely did NOT want to hear, something very exciting has happened—a new album release and a hot party at the Hard Rock in Toronto on February 28, 2014 hosted by David Marsden. That sound you hear is the collective thud of gob-smacked jaws hitting the floor—hallelujah and praise the music gods!

The album—Asphalt, Sex and Rock ‘n’Roll—where to start? These Slave-starved ears were ecstatic with the long-awaited product of a flawless, long-standing, and highly successful collaboration between Rob Stuart and Colin Troy. If ever a duo were destined to create beautiful music together, this is it, folks. The result of long hours in the studio is a perfect, fun-filled collection of music that will both kick your ass and caress your soul.

What should you expect? Here’s my humble attempt to describe the pleasure trip this album delivers to its listeners. Strap yourself in, slide your headset on, and prepare to rumble—this is way better than the best road trip you’ve ever had in the mightiest muscle car.

If asked to describe the opening track Middle Finger in one word, “funkalicious” is the closest adjective that does it any justice.  It’s a combination of Max Headroom (without the stutter) meets the Funkateers that is the perfect warm-up for what’s in store along this welcome journey. Alive and Electric (Dedicated to Jodi) presents swelling synths and superb harmonies; it’s a truly pleasing blend of keys and strings that picks up speed and takes on a life of its own.S2TSW-Poster-01

Next up is Texan Thugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll, a play on words rife with fast cars, a thrumming beat, and tough-guy lyrics. Who could ask for anything more? Then, wafting through the headset is a slightly off-kilter intro to The Big South that lures the listener into a poetic bop-fest of beat-driven goodness.

Not for the faint of heart, Zombie charges off the starting line in a sheer frenzy. Anyone who can sit still while listening to the exceptional synths and snarling vocals of this party-in-your-ear track needs to check for a pulse because they just may well be a zombie. Then, when you think you have a handle on what’s feeding into your brain, the Dr. Who-esque intro of Poor Man’s Fight draws you smack-dab into the middle of the fray, while trippy, fun lyrics bind you up and hold you captive.

Who wouldn’t wish for a Seven Day Saturday Night? Here it is handed to you on a silver platter—the penultimate weekend escape, complete with kick-ass strings that transport you straight into the party-hearty environment that you crave. From there, the bass-heavy opening of Bump promises—and delivers—heart-stopping percussive goodness.

Early Stone Roses anyone? Montreal is another foray into trippy melodies, sexy organ, and seductive piano. After the shameless seduction has left you breathless, you are thrown in front of a revving engine like a beast out of control. Amazing Grace threatens to spin out wildly; miraculously, traction holds you firmly to the road and catapults you along the autobahn of life and love.

SLAVE-to-the-SQUAREwaveThe next track begs for Peace of Mind, but the direct and driven message is that it’s truly an elusive goal. To emphasize that point, Time is Running Out presents a frantic and breathless illustration that time for us is, indeed, running out. Perhaps we should stop and smell the roses?

Casino is a perfectly crafted analogy of love won and lost the hard way. Better luck the next time, baby. You see, everybody gets a little lucky sometimes. Destined to be a favorite, Alive and Electric (Rob’s Analog Electromix) would be ideally at home on any Ultravox collection. The vocals form a faultless partnership with synths that reach down into the soul and infuse a shot of divine life-sustaining energy.

Zombie (Sonix Mix) is a less-frenetic reprise of the un-dead anthem; a different spin on a great, rollicking song. Likewise, Texan Thugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll (Mad Flowers Mix) gives one last and different listen to what makes this collection a no-holds-barred masterpiece.

Slave to the SQUAREwave delivers raw, unbridled musical joy with each and every collaborative piece that they create. Don’t miss out on a chance to experience truly artistic genius at its very best, while Rob and Colin still have the passion to make it happen. And, if you are lucky enough to be in the greater Toronto area whenever the sun, moon and stars align in perfect combination, be sure to see the dynamic duo Rob Stuart and Colin Troy, along with supporting band members Doug Lea and Craig Moffitt, for a live performance.  It’s definitely on my bucket list.ASRR---Reel-to-Reel

A very limited supply of 200 Asphalt, Sex and Rock ‘n’Roll CDs will be available at the release gig at the Hard Rock Café (279 Yonge St, Toronto ON) gig on Feb 28, 2014. After that, an “Expanded Edition” will be added, which includes these outstanding bonus tracks: “India”, “Stereo Orthophonic High Fidelity Victrolis (SOHFV),” and “Alive & Electric (Kernel Chiptune Mix).” Also, for the first time, S2TSW are making The Money Shot (another absolute personal fave) available with all bonus tracks. Both albums are for sale starting Feb. 28, 2014 at the locations shown below.

Tunecore-Release-Availabili

Gary Numan ~ The Amazing 80s Icon is Back Stronger Than Ever

From the “it doesn’t get much better than this” department….Gary Numan’s live set presented by KCRW in its total exquisiteness.

This was merely a warm-up for the mini-eastern US tour he was about to embark on, and the later more extensive UK tour.

Unfortunately, I missed Numan in Sunrise, FL when he opened for Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails on October 30. I had a ticket, but circumstances way beyond my control prevented me from attending.

Next time…and there WILL be a next time, so I hear. Perhaps in March 2014.

Until then, there are always quality videos such as this–and my dreams–to sustain me.

With thanks to Andrew Lister for calling my attention to this video.

80s Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ I Start Counting

I start countingIf you’re lucky, you’ll remember this short-lived electronic band from North London. If you’re like me, you haven’t a clue who they were, but after listening to them, you’ll know you missed out on something really good. Fortunately, a dear rare 80s blogging buddy featured them on his blog Mine for Life a few years ago, otherwise I may never have had the pleasure of experiencing them

Electronic, poppy, somewhat dark, somewhat trippy….all the major ingredients for 80s music success, right? Once again and in this case, something was definitely missing in the equation; like so many other talented artists, this band went totally under the radar.

I Start Counting was actually a duo made up of college friends David Baker and Simon Leonard, who, according to Wikipedia, shared a love of pop music. The Wikipedia article goes on to report:

Baker and Leonard had met at Middlesex University; both had affection for pop music. In 1982 they began to DJ together which led to them to form the I Start Counting project. Leonard specialised in the technology side and Baker was biased toward the musical side of the project. They approached Daniel Miller with some demos of their recorded material. These demos led to Mute Records signing the duo in 1984.

In 1986, I Start Counting recorded and released their debut album, My Translucent Hands. This accomplishment led to them becoming a I-Start-Counting-My-Translucent-Handssupport act for Erasure the following year. They released a second album in 1989, Fused, which included a new version of “Lose Him” comprised entirely of sampled voices.

The duo would morph into two more groups, Fortran 5 and Komputer, migrating to a different sound and experimenting with the dance/techno genre. Needless to stay, the enduring success they deserved eluded them, and they faded into 80s rarity oblivion.

Purchase I Start Counting music here.

Discography

As “I Start Counting”

1986 – My Translucent Hands (Mute Records)
1989 – Fused (Mute Records)

As “Fortran 5”

1991 – Blues (Mute Records)
1993 – Bad Head Park (Mute Records)
1995 – Avocado Suite (Mute Records)

As “Komputer”

1998 – The World of Tomorrow (Mute Records)
2002 – Market Led (Mute Records)
2007 – Synthetik (Mute Records)
2007 – Intercom (Self-released)

I Start Counting ~ Letters to a Friend ~ via YouTube user GeneLovesBowdie:

I Start Counting ~ My Translucent Hands ~ via YouTube user The Jesbel:

I Start Counting ~ Modern Sunbathing ~ via YouTube user MilesFiles2008:

80’s (and sometimes 00’s) Music Rules ~ Introducing Martin Eve

I have had the great pleasure of meeting Martin Eve through our mutual love of 8os electronica. I was searching for Fiat Lux’s “Photography” on YouTube, somehow Martin found out, and he ended up uploading a copy for my enjoyment. In getting to know Martin, I have found him to be charming, engaging, and an extremely talented electronic musician. Martin has graciously agreed to be interviewed for Rave and Roll, while waiting for the imminent release of his latest collection of music. Be sure to check his music out on SoundCloud, under the user name 4th Eden. I believe you’ll be very impressed.

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How long have you been a musician?

Well, I guess since my teens, as I studied music at school which was in the late 70’s. I really started writing in the early 80’s, the time of the electronic music explosion. So, I wrote music with my friends on our synthesizers.

What/who inspired you to become a musician?

I have to say my first music teacher inspired me to begin with when he played me Tomita’s – The Planet Suite. Ok, written by Holst, but all done with synthesizers…awesome. He also played in class a guy called Mike Oldfield. So, Tomita and Mike Oldfield are an unlikely inspiration together, but that’s how it began.

Tell us in what way that inspiration influences your music.

I try not to be influenced by music I listen to but it’s always going to be there in your subconscious. Inspiration however, is all around me, particularly where I live in Mid Wales. One moment I will write about the Welsh Hills and the next about a burial chamber. Real life and people inspire me, as well. I was recently inspired to write a piece about George Mallory (the man who almost made it to the top of Everest).

How would you describe the genre of music that you create?

I don’t stick to one genre, so I guess I genre-hop. With my influences from the 80’s with bands like Ultravox, there will be the electronic pop feel; but then I really like the folk/new age side. However, I do enjoy writing in a Cinematic dramatic way, where possible.

What current artist/group do you listen to most often?

At the moment it’s Ultravox – “Brilliant” the new album after 28 years away! But I also am listening to School of Seven Bells – “Ghostery” and Polica – “Give You the Ghost.”

Which decade of music do you feel is the most influential on current up-and-coming artists, and why?

The artists I listen too are influenced by many different decades of music. They then make it their own to make it sound bang up-to-date production techniques.

If you could spend your time doing anything at all, what and where would that be?

Hmmmm…. walk, live by the sea, and write music…as I say on my forums, “Composing Until I’m Decomposing.”

Do you prefer the studio or performing live? Why?

I’m a studio musician…the thought of performing scares the hell out of me.

What is the nicest compliment you’ve ever received?

I rarely get compliments!

What type of equipment do you use?

I use a variety of software based instruments and samplers with my Digital Audio Workstation, Sonar. These are all connected to my Korg MIDI keyboard. Favourite instruments are probably Omnisphere and Kontakt. Once a track is finished then my preferred location for publication is Soundcloud where fellow Soundcloud members can comment on my tracks.

Do you work alone, or do you collaborate with anyone? If you collaborate, what is their role?

I mainly work alone but recently I have been collaborating with a singer in Los Angeles, a musician in France and another musician in Sweden. It’s great collaborating; it pushes you further out of your comfort zone, but can be more time-consuming.

I generally find that my role will be mainly to write the songs and then produce them, but this depends on the other artist. If they want more involvement, then I’m happy for a role-reversal.

Where can we go to listen to/purchase your music?

You can listen to my music on my SoundCloud page at http://soundcloud.com/quietman. A new CD is imminent, but I cannot mention where it can be purchased from yet until it’s finally released by the record company. However, it will be available in our cafe’ (that’s the day job) at the ‘Wye Knot Stop’ Cafe/B&B in Llyswen in Wales.