Breakin’ In Space #5: Kid Frost – Terminator
The same names are going to crop up a lot in this column as there were a handful of producers who made gold every time they went into the studio. Dave Storrs is one. His ahead of the time productions can be linked to his education. He studied at UCLA and got a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, with a specialist interest in Quantum Electronics. When he had concluded his studies he became the in-house engineer for UCLA's electronics music studio, lecturing and supervising the students projects. At this time he was actively recording, joining forces with Devo to develop Toni Basil (of Hey Mickey fame) – Storrs appears with Basil's band in one of the first videos to be shown on MTV. His production skills started to grab the attention of major labels and he secured jobs editing, remixing and generally sprinkling his magic on tracks from Prince, Sheila E and Sylvester, often uncredited.
Storrs was a big fan of Stockhausen and Edgard Varèse and was always looking for the next innovation in music. He found what he was looking for in the early rap/electro scene, and it is for his work in this realm that he receives most props, and deservedly so. Like many, Storrs became intoxicated with the rap and electro scene when he visited the legendary LA nightspot the Radio Club. It was here that he met DJ Pebo (who worked for JDC Records), who introduced him to Ice-T and The Glove, and Kid Frost. Storrs had a garage studio where he recorded all his tracks and it was here that he produced a host of seminal electro cuts, including Reckless, with Ice-T and The Glove, for Breakdance the Movie. Ice-T called Storrs “Davey PHD”, because he was constantly pulling apart all the electronics gear in his studio looking for fresh sounds. Aphex eat yer heart out. Storrs was also a partner in the seminal electro label Electrobeat, where many of his productions were released. Ice-T once said that Storrs was good to have around during legal meetings because he "spoke Caucasian". But Storrs’ main job for the label was providing the music – composing, playing, studio recording, mixing and production.
I've already written about his amazing instrumental for Chris 'The Glove' Taylor's Itchiban Scratch, but I think his production work on Arturo “Kid Frost” Molina’s Terminator is his finest hour (or 6m 05s) – it is one of the greatest electro-rap tracks ever made. It was Frost who gave Storrs his other nickname, the Alien Wizard, one that suits his far out productions skills perfectly. Frost adopted his moniker as a tribute to Ice-T, whom he idolised and used to battle with at the Radio Club. Frost was just 15 when he recorded Terminator, and his tough. menacing delivery is similar to Ice’s. The vocal is vocodered in parts, the tight flows delivered over Storrs’s atmospheric backdrop, which sounds a bit like a John Carpenter horror soundtrack, with storm effects, laser beams, rolling 808 drums and a measured bassline.
Back then, getting the vocoder sound on a rap was really tricky, but, ever the innovator, Storrs had a solution. For music geeks, he explains how he did it: "You need a lot of high overtones to recreate syllables on a vocoder. I used the OB-8 and tuned all 8 oscillators to a single note in octaves using saw and square waves, then detuned them just a little." The Davey PHD nickname was well earned, but Storrs' productions aren't science experiments – they are groovy, otherworldly, killer cuts from a true innovator.