slope 114 – process part 356
Feet Towards My Dreams
About the creative process. I could go on all day. Our band, Slope 114, is the result of a very deliberate creative process. It is also very much about not following the crowd nor doing what people say, ‘you need to do to be a successful musician or artist’. I am a firm believer in ‘practice makes perfect’. I also believe that today too many people have grown too dependent on gadgets & software, to the point where they lose certain real world / old world abilities. People these days want everything instant & without any effort. Sure, guitarists used to say that about synthesis in the 70s but, hey, to make actual music on an old modular synth does require refined technique. Techniques that have to be passed down & practiced. Much like DJing was when I got into it. I do not consider virtual synthesis to be synthesis really. I wouldn’t shoot a feature film direct to MPG & don’t consider fast food to be fit for human consumption either.
After working 5 years in mobile video technology, I no longer carry a phone. While working there mostly behind a desk & of course with a computer for long hours, I discovered that I no longer wanted to use the computer for music production. This comes after years of producing tracks & records using DAW softwares. I used them since their inception – was using Performer, Logic & Cubase back when they were only midi versions. When the DAW became available in the 90s I learned them all to the point where people would hire me to teach them how to use their own studios. Anyway, enough bragging about knowing how to use the computer. While I was working the 9-5 I just didn’t want to look at a computer screen at home in my ‘for fun’ time after 8 hours of the same (face in the screen) SCREEN FACE no depth perception! So I moved the computer out of the room, set up a table with midi gear & started to make house music live. It was at that point that I eradicated the chair from the room as well. Soon I was dancing while creating! … & after that composing dance music while sitting in a chair in front of a computer became a huge joke to me. I will never do it again.
After ditching the DAW as sequencer / arranger I started to become more obsessed with midi hardware, circuit bending & ways of attaining high quality analog synths while not being rich. At the same time that I was teaching myself to circuit bend drum machines. I was also getting a lot of push back from the laptop DJs/Laptop Techno/House producers & started to feel less & less like one of them! Yes, the Bay Area is a tech hub ( a little bit too much sometimes!). So I started to do more things to separate myself from the typical DJ. Not to mention after over 10 years DJing at that time laptop DJing had suddenly become trendy & I was suddenly competing with thousands of overnight DJs, most of whom had none of the knowledge or background that has always come with hardcore dedication. In 2011, I stopped DJing & officially releasing tracks completely out of disappointment with the scene. I was determined to not quit music but to enjoy it again 100%.
At this time I met Elise Gargalikis, a brilliant singer/song writer living alone in an apartment on the outskirts of the East Bay near an abandoned army base. My co-worker had done a remix for one of her songs, him and his buddy’s Laptop DJs. His young ass would tell me that, “You can’t tell the difference between the sound of an MP3 & of a vinyl record on a club system,” while holding a straight face. Elise had no boyfriend & I knew those dudes lacked the skills to do it right. Not to mention were not paying her for the work she was doing , including her original song writing! I liked her, so I stole her away from them! She lives with me now & she does not work for free anymore.
After all the drama with the DJ types – usually too much machismo & not enough interesting music to offer – we decided to ditch the whole scene with its stigmas & be Electronic Musicians instead. I already thought I was one but could always be educated more (much much more!). Elise & I began research on all of the earliest Electronic Musicians. Many of which we found to be women & so began Elise’s interest in Synthesizers & Music Concrete. I also started to become increasingly interested in modular synthesis.
At this time I was giving circuit bending workshops at Robotspeak, the synth shop on Haight Street, and was still obsessed with midi gear. We would eat mostly only 25 cent packs of ramen soup for weeks at a time & I would send all my money to an online synth retailer, using the 3 easy payments credit plan to buy gear that I really could not afford! We used the gear to make Youtube videos. After vowing to not participate in the mp3 download ‘industry’ this was my outlet for music. If I wasn’t going to make any money from my music then I didn’t want the owner of a download boutique to make any from it either. Needless to say the videos were a success & probably the reason why we were contacted to participate in this series.
I have this trip about the power of music. I experimented a lot with psychedelics as a youth & music has a great effect on my body / mind. Along with words or even without, So we made another vow. A vow to accept our gifts & the responsibilities that come along with them. Our music can be medicine or a weapon but it is too powerful, if we use as weapon we will only hurt ourselves. It has to be & can only be TRUTH MUSIC for us. TRUTH MUSIC is the way.
Well, if we were going to dedicate & focus our lives to art & music, I had to be truthful. I could not afford all that midi gear, couldn’t keep the credit addiction. So I sold it all & bought PC Boards from Ken Stone of Catgirl Synth to build my own modular synth.
At this time I was still pretty distraught about not DJing anymore. The videos had garnered thousands of views but did not earn us any gigs. Disappointed in my peers for taking the easy rout of trading quality away for quantity. I decided again to do something really different. It was at this time while researching modular synthesis DIY that I discovered Serge Tcherepnin. His story struck me so hard that I decided Serge had made a greater contribution to electronic music than any of my braggadocio DJ peers ever would. I decided to promote the work of Serge Tcherepnin instead of my own for one entire year. While my DJ peers were still desperately & chronically promoting themselves I would instead promote the work that Serge Tcherepnin did on Haigh Street 40 years ago. That included building my own Serge Modular Synthesizer & changing my circuit bending workshop into a Serge building workshop affectionately named ‘The Church Of The Super Serge.’ To effectively educate my house music (electronic music fans but don’t exactly know it) friends on who the man is & what he did. / ‘How to make a real contribution.’
When I made this decision I still had no idea that Serge Modular Music Systems was located directly across the street (in the 70s) from where Robotspeak is located now. I had heard some stories about Serge / SMMS & I just decided to put a smile on the man’s face by letting him know that his work for electronic music is still appreciated by electronic musicians today. The way the workshops happened & the building of the Serge modular has all happened for me in a bizarre and beautiful cosmic way that I can only attribute to good intention. The quality of the people who stepped forward to support, let’s just say The oceans parted for the whole project. I’m still in awe. I can’t even call it a project any more, It’s a Church Of Serge Modular Synthesis. The name was a joke, a nod to the historical black sheep style of the synth it’s self & those who played it, While having a focus on building & playing Serge Modulars. It’s been going for a little over a year & a half with no intentions on quitting anytime soon.
So here we are and I’m finally responding to Modyfier’s request for an explanation of our creative process – possibly half a year later. It’s a beautiful Saturday morning in San Francisco and Elise & I are on our way to Outsidelands festival in Golden Gate Park. We would never go to such an expensive event but I happen to be retrofitting a Serge Modular with custom etched panels for one of the guys in NIN. A Mr. Allesandro Cortini & he put us on will call. Elise & I plan to shoot a music video while walking through the crowds.
Today the creative process in music production is like this. We only record songs that will have a positive effect on Elise’s Fans. All the little girls in South Africa, England & everywhere else they email her from. We want them to feel healthy in the mind and confident upon hearing our creations. We might accept money for our music on occasion but we never make music for money. I do not promote synths, gear or lifestyle that I cannot afford, and have given up the safe zones of software production tricks in trade for 1970s modular synthesis Techincs with The Paperfaced Serge Modular Synthesizer. We don’t own a TV so our minds are not polluted with commercial marketing. As a result of the non polluted mind & dedication to truth we don’t get writers block. We also do not make music every day or expect anything of it. That way our songs do not all sound the same. When we choose to release some content into the world it is potent content, packed full of intention. For me, it is no longer about technical ability but more about intention. As our life style has become increasingly deliberate our music has become improvisational (less deliberate). For us it’s all about the set up, our life style is the set up / preparation for improvisational musical outbursts.
Bob Moog believed that his subconscious could communicate with his Synthesizer circuits. Studies at Princeton are now revealing that the collective subconscious of the humans on earth sway the direction of random number generating computers. I believe that we receive our songs from the collective subconscious of our peers. We make these songs because they need to be heard. COA is Conduit Orchestrations Analog.
To any young producers, beat makers, musicians I have this to say: Do not prostitute your music, respect its power. Do not hand cuff it to your ego but rather nurture it, feed it, become its student, allow it to grow & appreciate what it can do for you and others. Music is medicine. Music can be the glue that holds us all together. Music can help us to fix this ass backwards world!