San Francisco producer Derrick Boyd aka Dead Seal, now Tone OF Arc has been making music for most of his life. Ahead of his appearance at You Are We this weekend we caught up with relative newbie Tone of Arc, who's been bringing a glimpse of real musicality to an often quite staid scene.
You just played at the No.19 showcase at Panorama Bar (21/10/12), how did that go?
Panorama Bar was a wild club to play at. I actually didn't get to hang out as long as I would have liked as my flight back home was a few hours after I finished playing. Great crowd, great sound, I think I only saw half of the club though. Life of a traveling man I guess.
How would you describe your sound? (points for creativity)
My sound is engineered around my roots. Rock, punk, 80's, old hip hop melodies, jungle vibes, warm, sexy, mature, classy, familiar, original, clean, with some battles between light and dark elements. I often imprint my music with good intensions behind dark sound. I like to call it Digital Organics. When Zoe steps in there is much more soul because thats what she likes the most.
What motivates you creatively?
I've been self motivated since I can remember to make music naturally. It's not wanting recognition and fame or money that drives me thats for sure. I always spent hours and hours by myself experimenting with anything I could get my hands on. It was a delay pedal and a four track recorder that turned out to be my gateway to making tech house and some really weird stuff I don't even know what to call it. I get inspired from places I can't control. Everything in life.
So are you looking forward to coming back to London after your performance at Fabric in September?
Fabric blew my mind. That I would have to say at this point is my favorite club. They really take care of everyone and have put a lot of thought into what is going to make the club stand out as one of the best in the world while maintaining a classy clean feel but not too clean.
You’ve had a great year in terms of international recognition, what has been your single personal highlight of 2012 so far?
Personal High lights are No.19 Showcase for BPM at Canibal Royal, Montreal's Picnic Electronic with 10,000 people, Fabric, and the release of Goodbye Horses with the music video. My life is changed forever for each of these events. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity and I owe it all to Jonny White, Nitin, No.19, and Rebels Agency and of coarse all the fans.
[For Derrick] There are clear stylistic differences between Tone of Arc and your last project Dead Seal, what inspired the change in direction
Really there never was a change of direction rather I just got better and better and more focused on what I was doing instead of letting my gifts run me I put a filter on everything now to make the most out of my time and love for making music. I have so many different styles I could go under several different alias's but I think I have found the one that I can grow into as a live band collaboration. Soon I will be picking out band mates.
Throughout all your musical projects you’ve always had a very diverse & unique sound. Who were your music influences growing up and which contemporary artists inspire you?
Frank Zappa, Bowie, Clash, Joy devision, Talking Heads, B52's, Odis Redding, Operation Ivy, Tribe Called Quest, Tones on Tails, Dead Can Dance, Steve Millers Band, Johnny Cash, Fleetwood Mac, Portishead, Radio Head, Caribou, Emperor Machine, Kraftwerk, Aphex Twin, Daft Punk, Who Made Who, and Q Lazarus but this list goes for days. You can hear something from everyone of these artists and bands in my music.
A “Live” performance can vary hugely from one artist to the next, what is your live setup like and what should people expect from your performance at You Are We?
For this show it will be just me but Zoe my wife sings when she can as often as she can but Im on the road alone most of the time. Ill be singing on a lot of the songs and playing bass. I would play more instruments but funds are limited to get what I need to reach my full potential. Don't get me wrong the set is really great as it is a lifetimes work and evolution but I can do way better and play more instruments. I need more hands.
So what’s your view on the House scene at the moment?
You were quite outspoken recently about the overkill of pitched down vocals, do you think there’s a lack of creativity (or general oversaturation) within the scene? (or had you just listened to one too many samey demo’s that day?)
There is always someone trying to get to the top. In fact way to many people are infatuated by this idea of what that is. Its not all milk and cookies. I'm getting a lot of promo's from people and I love that part. Sometimes I get really cool stuff but It seems that a lot of artists are stuck on repeat all doing the same thing. If it's been done so many times it needs to have a breather before it's used again. Thats how great things get used and abused and become not so great like that Gotye Song. When I here a pitched down vocal of some sample that every artists can get from on a web sight I just cringe. Use a real vocalist. Go find a friend that sings. Slow down on using that same bow bow bass. Dixon said it best recently "just because you made a song doesn't mean you need to release it". I have made over hundreds of songs. You can only find a hand full. To be creative you need to step outside the box. Go deep into the rabbit hole. Confuse and challenge yourself. If you don't know how to do it. Teach yourself and take the time and energy to do it right. My dad said to me when I was very little he's said, "son if your not going to do it right don't do it at all". All or nothing is my modo. Be eccentric in your self and unsafe. It's not easy to be different though with 7 billion of us running a muck.
Do you have a specific set of rules you follow when producing? I remember you saying in the Independent interview “No thought in the process and all improv… No samples, no excuses”
I sit down with a margarita. It settles me into the space that makes me feel like I'm at the party with my best friends. I light my creativity incense from shaman in SF. From there I say to myself Ill go either slow, medium or fast today and pick my bpm. Then I choose my sounds one at a time and play them live as much as possible. If I need a loop I make one from scratch most of the time. Like drums and shakers everything. I don't like thinking Im using something that any one else can use too and I never use the presets. I then go into a time warp where I can spend sometimes ups to 16 hours making a song thinking that its still noon. I stop only when the song forces me to rejoice and I begin to aggressively dance in my studio. I often think if anyone saw me they would laugh there ass off but Im so happy I don't care. Thats when you know you are on to something.
What do you think the role of the DJ is currently? A major DJ recently wrote how one fan critiqued her set as boring because there was “no crowd interaction”. What do you think people should expect from a DJ?
DJ's can do what ever they want. There are millions of them and the numbers are constantly growing. There are ones who play what they like and people love it and then there are ones who play what is trendy to market them selves and make money and there are ones who genuinely care about the people and feel out t he crowd. This is a chance to help people reach their full potential. Inspire them. Move them. Tell them a story. A squirrel saw a bat flying through the woods and said "I want to do that." of coarse he couldn't up and grow wings and be just like the bat so he did it his way. He stretched his skin, lengthened his reach and took the leap of faith. At that moment he became the flying squirrel and stood out amongst his kind with a gift all things wish they could do. Fly.
Tone of Arc plays You Are We this weekend. Full details here.
Check his recent fabric mix….