This week’s episode is a long-read of the deep. Sonically and in the literary text.
Veteran playmakers lurk in the shadows. They put in the hard work and they go on an experimental odyssey of audio art actualization. They are not flashy, but they matter in the dystopian age of instant hits. The counterbalance is the youth and their eagerness to discover. They can spend 16 hours consistently with “flow” embedded in their prefrontal cortex. Bursting with ideas and never tire of toiling in the pursuit of the ultimate goal of being discovered and recognized.
The polarity of music innovation. Or is it parallel?
Leeds, UK native, Planar is that so-called long term strategy music producer who revels in anonymity. Yes, I could have just released this piece of beautiful mixing composition as a stand-alone. This dichotomy had me tossing and turning during the night for days now. This thirst of curiosity could not be ignored any longer, so I proceed to click on the SoundCloud messenger, typed into the form and posed a question: “They say that the exuberance of youth is at the center of innovation, but do you think that age is irrelevant as long as you can predict the future?”.
I remember at 11, the excitement of a new edition of an animal encyclopedia I subscribed to had arrived. The scent of new pages was my stimulus for arduous study. From my standpoint, motivation would lead you towards a deeper dive into a very involved subject. What is your opinion on this?
Most non-trivial activities have almost onion-like layers in terms of depth and steps toward mastery. Usually, to go a layer further towards a complete knowledge of something requires some form of motivation. I definitely think as you get deeper and deeper into each layer, the cost to move further down becomes greater. I actually think what’s most interesting about this is the forms that motivation can take to traverse these depths. In your case, it was a material thing to focus on and learn from. But most of us are motivated, in a very different way, to do our jobs and improve at them because we want to lead more comfortable lives or earn enough money to feed our families. But motivation can be found in other ways as you’ve just bought something, so now you feel motivated to get the most out of your investment. Or you just want to better yourself and you’re motivated by your sense of self-improvement. Perhaps you’re motivated by what you’re feeling at that time and you need to express it, mastery becomes almost a by-product in those kinds of scenarios.
With that thought in mind, I want to paint 2 scenarios.A) A 17 yr.old producer who hits it big on their first try. Global recognition with a thin resume backing it. Afterward, many singles and albums later (now 21), they are still around; however, their lack of innovativeness is their stumbling block. They never made it to the critical lists or had the ear of the tastemakers. B) A 52 yr.old producer who was always under the radar. Had some critical hits for many years, but never seem to get over that hump of success. Always experimenting and keeping up with current trends, but never succumbing to the tropes. The thought of success will never cross because it has eluded him/her so long. Is It an age that determines depth or is the ambition of youth that determines your trajectory?
Ambition can drive people into certain directions, good and bad. Making it big on your first try is either down to pure talent, luck, or, yeah, a certain drive to succeed that makes you do things that I personally wouldn’t. But success or not, this is about music. If someone is staying true to themselves, making their art, and getting the recognition they want with it, then that’s amazing for them. Sometimes having no artistic compromises can limit you when it comes to success, but if you’ve got all that, then you’re doing well. Similarly, having success, but no integrity limits you artistically. Some people have no art and just want success, I like to think they’ll be found out eventually. I actually kind of admire that shamelessness in a way, there’s a mentality there I just can’t fathom. I think age brings with it a reduction in that ambition, to look at that treadmill of success from afar and just not care about it. That brings freedom, I think.
Is that how you approach production? A free-thinking perspective (with freedom in mind)?
I have the freedom of not caring about chasing trends. I’ve spent time around other scenes where keeping up with a sound is probably more prevalent. Right now, I’ve found a little niche in 170 music that has influences from other genres very close to my own, and the little community around seems ego-free. Artistically though, I’m definitely still exploring my own sound. It’s important for me to be at a point where someone hears my music and would instantly know it’s mine. All my favourite artists over the past 20 or so years have always had that distinctive voice. I think that this little sub-genre of music with its ability to seamlessly go into 85bpm and then that relationship to 127.5bpm means there is a lot to play with until I feel like I should move onto something else. There are no expectations on me either.
If you look within the early works of Photek and it’s hybrid strands within the ‘Autonomic’ experiments of dBridge & co… I would think this ‘niche’ of 170 was always there (I believe). This quest for experimentation, formulation, and observation that is peer-reviewed are akin to scientific research and development. Generally speaking, would this critical seeking producer’s musical output benefit from the viewpoint of an ‘artistic’ scientist?
Peer review is really valuable, but I don’t think it should have any bearing on your art. Peers should respect one another’s art when critiquing, it’s cool to say, “I don’t like that” or “I’m not into it” but it’s wrong to say, “that’s bad.”. It’s the line between objective and subjective. From a technical point of view though feedback is invaluable, and a lot of electronic music inevitably has that technical element. Swapping tips and feedback with each other helps you improve on that side. It can also separate from your own internal anxiety; when you’ve produced something you’re not confident in, a little push from someone in the form of positive feedback can be a spark to carry on. The Internet has made this so much easier; when I first dabbled in production years and years ago, the Internet wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is today and finding communities to help you grow as an artist on a technical level just didn’t seem to be there. Having good production then seemed like being part of a secret circle, you either knew someone in person who could help, or you had the money to hire an engineer. These days, of course, there is a whole industry around this, so it’s gone completely the other way, where people can find and buy knowledge in a click of a button, sounds can be bought and professional results made very quickly. I spent years and years in the dabbling stage, not really improving, but then suddenly these communities started appearing and I got involved with one. That was key for me, I was suddenly able to finish the music and have it playable next to a professional track thanks to reading good advice and experimenting as much as I could. Having knowledgeable people interacting with you and feeding back information helped so much to take things to a higher level. I try and learn, and improve every time I sit down to make a track or even a small bit of sound design. It’s a journey I don’t really see ending.
I agree, it never ends. The journey is infinite when the torch is passed on to the next generation. Although it is not compulsory, I just wish there was more of the human touch outside of the mechanical click-thru options as you have previously mentioned. Do you see yourself being involved in a mentorship role at some point in your music career?
If someone wanted it, then sure, I’ve benefited from being mentored. Even if that’s just a little nudge in a direction I hadn’t thought of. So I’d welcome being able to pay that back by passing on things I know. It’s a 2-way street anyway, regardless of someone’s skill level. There is always something you can learn from everybody you interact with. So if anyone wants to chat about production, DJing, whatever, then feel free to contact me.
I would like to say thanks to everyone who has discovered and supported my music over the last couple of years, and those like-minded producers who have helped and pushed me to come out of the shadows. They all know who they are.
1 Books – Anomie (Melody of the infinite)
2 Eusebeia – Undercurrent
3 Nekyia – Killing Daylight
4 Getz – Labyrinth
5 Shinbu – Data Vent
6 Ahmad – Octagon
7 Dyl – YDNTKNW
8 Paracusia – ?????
9 Last Life – QTN
10 Planar – ?????
11 Itti/NoRules – Exhale
12 Tommy Four Seven – Feed [Homemade Weapons remix] 13 Personnage – Surtr
14 Friske – City Limits
15 Antagonist – Shui
16 Roho – Lost Relics
17 Madikma – Reason (Akinsa Remix)
18 Kletis – Surrounded
19 Monic – Research Methods
Allen & Heath Xone:DB2
2 x CDJ1000
1 x Technics 1210
Serato with remote for triggering cue points and looping