Much of today’s music technology is expertly engineered to deliver the highest quality and most pristine sounds. But for many artists, this sanitised aesthetic doesn’t hold much of a draw. Instead, many people look to push their machines to the limit to release the beautiful potential of distorted and overdriven timbres. The north London based producer Brassfoot is one such artist and his releases on Apron, Biorhythm and his own tape label NCA are a testimony to this. Wild, raw but always innovative.
For the next installment of Creative Technology? I caught up with Ruben A.K.A. Brassfoot to pick away at his relationship with the machines he uses. We spoke about his use of old and not necessarily the most desirable gear to create his sounds and why having lots of books in the studio is great for those hard earned spliff breaks.
What is your relationship with your studio? Do you have an emotional attachment to the gear and the space or is it just a tool to allow you to express your ideas?
The only thing that I remain conscious of, regardless of where I am is that comfort is the most important factor to me. I've moved my gear around enough times to not really hold any attachments to the actual space. However I do I try to create a comfortable mindset, and thus a comfortable and inspiring space to work in, first. It might sound a bit smarmy, but some quality incense does wonders for clearing away negative energy and wipes the mental-slate clean ready to explore something new each time. I'm also surrounded by a lot of books, which are inspiring and great for spliff-breaks too!
A lot of your music is quite dark, distorted and gritty. Does some of the inspiration for this come from the machines/technology that you use?
The darkness and the grit is a little difficult to explain for me. A lot of my music is best suited to the dancefloor or makeshift-dancefloor; somewhere in an old warehouse, so I guess those sounds kinda choose themselves. All my gear is second hand, I don't think I own anything brand new, minus my audio interface. Old gear comes with its own problems/limitations, but most of the time it's exactly the kind of character that I am looking for, and it's always a bit of a lottery as to whether or not the user interface will be friendly enough to gel with the way I work. In most cases we (the gear) build our relationship with each other slowly over time.
Do you ever feel that technology gets in the way of realising your ideas?
I record most of my hardware through my interface into Ableton. Ableton is great, but I would be lying if I pretended that it didn't bother me staring at the screen for long periods of time. Hence why is common place for me to have all my gear hooked up so that I can just hit record (on Ableton) and see what happens afterwards. When a piece of gear bothers/bores me, I just lend it to a friend for a while or swap. Sometimes it takes a fresh approach to break the gear in and really understand how to work it to it's full potential. My main machine is an old Roland Groovebox from the 90s. It gets really bad reviews online, but I feel it's like an extension of my sound, because I fought through all the initial 'limitations' and it turns out to be my most valuable studio asset.
You run a tape label – is there something in the sound of music being pressed onto cassette tape that made you want to do this or is it just an accessible route to a physical product?
With NCA, a lot of the music was already recorded directly to tape in the first place, so it made sense to keep it that way for release too.
Is there a piece of gear or software that you have a particular love/hate relationship with?
Everything I have ever bought from Akai and Korg generally do my nut and I end up selling/swapping shortly after copping. I don't own an MPC so I'm not referring to those, as generally speaking they are dope. But I stupidly bought this Akai MPX8 to do one specific thing... trigger/playback samples from SD card for live performance. I does that, but not very well and takes forever to load from one bank to the next, which makes it very unpredictable for live performances and thus rendering it an unreliable piece of plastic. The Korg Kaosillator was another waste of money for me, we just didn't gel together at all. I blame it on a few misleading Youtube videos personally... So if you're reading this and we ever meet I might just let you have it for free if you smile or wink at me in the right way. ;-)
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