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Friday, April 8, 2011

Circle Six Interview

Interview with IDM arist Circle Six.

Be sure to check out his brand new release "The Box" on Chimera Central: here

Firstly, can you give us a brief history of your project?

Circle Six was a spin off project from my high school industrial band. All the really experimental music I wanted to make fell under that name. It comes from Dante, who is my favorite author. I was trying to think of the level of Hell I would end up in, and the punishments and poetry in the 6th circle really inspired me. When I started making music again much later, the name had just stuck. I started making noise music in Kansas City about 5 years back with the Roil Noise crew, but as I got deeper into the tools and technologies of crafting music, my sound evolved to what I do today, which is much more beat and bass driven.

What inspires you to write music? What draws you to the medium of idm/ambient music?

Making art is really reflexive for me. Even when I was a little kid, I would draw on anything I could get me hands on. I don’t really make too much of a distinction between making music or sculpture or writing or what have you. I’m always working on dozens of projects at once, and music has been where I get the most creative excitement for the past few years. For me, writing a track is just a part of what I do; I don’t have any specific inspiration because I’m always working. And because of that, all the things around me make their way into the music. I have loved Industrial music since I was very young, and as the itch to create like the artists I respected grew, the sound I wanted naturally made its way there. In the 90’s I feel like Industrial struggled to find a voice, and by the end of the decade, the bands making it really didn’t push the ideas or sound any farther then the pioneers had done a decade before. So I drifted away from the club sound that the labels seemed to be pushing and started listening to all the Warp Records crew. IDM was much more radical in its approach to song structure and sound and that was what I wanted to hear and to make. At this point, “IDM” is really stale to me, so is “Industrial”. But there are a ton of artist and labels that are making a new kind of electronic music that doesn’t really have a nametag, and that is the stuff that really excites and inspires me. Tympanik or n5MD don’t really put out IDM or Industrial music, it’s something past it. “Post” both of those styles, but not so far that it doesn’t pull from those styles. And because it’s so new and fresh, the kind of music I want to make draws from there.  

Since you mention that you feel both IDM and Industrial are stale, what do you think the future of electronic music is – right now perhaps it’s Tympanik, N5MD, etc, but what about beyond that in 5, 10, 20 years? Where is there left to explore? 
I’m really excited for the future. Right now, the cost of making high quality electronic music is under $500 for a laptop and really that’s all you need. There are kids with PC’s that have better sounding gear then all the bands working 20 years ago without having to pay a dime for it. So, I think the only limitation to making great music will soon just be drive and creativity. And that makes electronic music in all its styles the main vehicle for most people because it’s the one kind of music that sounds whole and complete when made by just one or two people. There is always talk about the death of Industrial or IDM, but with so many more people making it and making the styles their own, I think in the next decade there will be a faster and faster cycle of styles coming into play, to the point where there isn’t one idea that dominates the scene, because the quality of all the ideas will get better and better. Personally, I really want to see more of the unrepresented groups in the music world rise up into the electronic scene. Historically this has been girls and poor people. But with a smart phone in every pocket, countries where the poverty has keep people down will be less and less of an issue. I would love to see women take a leading role too, because there is so much talent out there that just isn’t being tapped. I think the next frontier to explore is really all the voices that haven’t been heard. White men have had a long run at being to voice of most music. The next chapter is pulling down the old systems and finding new sounds coming from places that never had a chance before. 

Your track for the compilation is “Development”. Can you give us a bit on insight on what inspired this track, how you composed it, etc.?

That track was really hard to make. It ended up in the dustbin a few time while I was working on it. It started with a really odd beat that I loved but didn’t know what to do with. I would try something and work it for a few days but always scrapped it when it wouldn’t fit right. After a few months of trying new things, I just started to hear what I needed. Because it was such a struggle I think it’s the best track I’ve made because I really had to midwife it into existence. I’m always trying to push the music I make as far as I can, so I really struggle sometimes because I don’t want to rely on standard issue music cliché. And I was hoping I could balance a track that is listenable but also really off the wall at the same time. The vocal samples where a big part of getting the whole thing together. I wanted that part to pull people it. We all have brains that are pulled in by words, even if we don’t speak the language. It’s the same reason people see Jesus in slices of toast, we are programmed to see and interact with other humans, but taking words and mangling them really pulls a listener in. After the synth break, I wanted to bring people back into the beat without the usual tricks. It seemed to work for me, so I hope it does the same for others. And I guess that is what really inspires me with all my music, to make something that people can get off to but opens up new doors to sounds that wouldn’t normally fit into their idea of music.

Tell us a bit about your studio. What gear are you using, what is your favorite gear, etc.?

My studio is really sparse. All the sounds I make come from Reaktor and Absynth and I compose tracks in Ableton Live. I’m slowly starting to work in Max, but right now I use it mostly for live performances. I spent a few years learning Reaktor and at this point I have so many tools and toys built in there, I never feel the need to pick up any other gear, either hardware or software. I’m one of those people that pulls creativity from limits, and not limitless options. When I see studios with thousands of dollars in gear, I lust over it for a few minutes, but I would never invest in it. It’s the same as gear lust for guitarists, a $6000 dollar Gibson isn’t going to make anyone a better player. If you can’t make music without the next piece of gear, you won’t ever be able to make music. I have spent a long time getting my live rig right. I started playing live in Reaktor, but now I use Ableton with an APC20 and a home made Monome. I spend a lot of time making my own controllers, I’ve build 3 Arduinomes at this point, so I’m always welding or making something new to make a live show more engaging. I’m also playing guitar again for textural sounds. And I might one day get a Virus for more synth options for live show because I love really deep synth sounds that just punish cpu. But that’s it.

Do you have any favorite ensembles in Reaktor, or are you using custom built applications?

I have a really long list of ensembles that I use. It’s an even mix of other peoples stuff and my own. But there is really just a limitless amount of great tools that people have built over the years. I use Carbon 2 and Photone by Mike Daliot all the time. Everything that LazyFish has made is just brilliant and priceless. cList and Herw from the forums make incredible stuff. And of course everything from Tim Exile is great, but I always have to hack them to pieces to be able to use them for my music. Things like The Finger and Vectory just have a static sound to them, but if you just rip out the parts you like, you can make very cool devises.

Any advice for those interested in getting into building controllers and/or Reaktor?

I tell people not to use Reaktor. I think Native Instruments has really done a disservice to all their customers by not supporting the building side of learning Reaktor. Max is open for everyone to learn because there is rich documentation and tutorials that can get anyone building. For Reaktor, it’s basically the forums and some piss poor tutorials. The community is incredible, but they have to be to make up of NI’s shortcomings. I think Max For Live is really the future, so I tell people to invest in that. Both are very expensive (for me anyways) so the smart money is on the companies that already have great support.

For building controllers, I would tell everyone to start at the Monome community and at the Livid forums. Both are great, with great people that will go out of their way to help people out. Sparkfun is also a great place for everything cool and electronic, and they are here in Colorado, so the local connection is great for me. And the next step is to learn to hustle. There isn’t any one person that has all the skills to create a great controller on their own, so learn to trade your skills for other peoples. If you weld and can’t code, find a coder that needs some welding done. And no matter what, always try and trade with people instead of just paying. You will be shocked on who you can help out and who can help you. Building your own gear isn’t for everyone though. I just have a nack for making stuff, so it’s easy for me. But there is a lot of great gear out there for cheap, and I would always say that anyone into building stuff should really make sure they know what they need. I was playing live for 4 years before I started making stuff, and at that point I knew exactly what I wanted, so there was no waste in time and money on a box that I will end up not using. Cool gear is great, but the truth is, if your music sucks, there isn’t a custom paint job in the world that will save that gig.

What can we expect in the future from Circle Six?

Right now I have a CD of music done for release on Chimera Central, which will be out in a month or so. I try and play live whenever I can, so I’m always on the hunt for a place to play. I’m going to Santa Fe in May to teach an Arduinome workshop at the Monome Gridfest. I’m going to be helping people learn to build their own controllers, and making all the class custom enclosures for donating to the event. I lecture on making computer music with the local Ableton user group, so I’m still putting together endless amounts of info to help people understand the nitty gritty of audio productions. So I hope in the future I will be around doing many different things, from playing more national gigs, to teaching more people about the craft, to making cool tools to play with. But mostly I want to keep making more music that will get out into the world. I want to spend the next year trying to reach more and more of an audience. I don’t want all my work to just wither away on a hard drive stuffed in a closet. That’s why being on Wounds of the Earth has been a great step for me, not only because I deeply respect and I’m inspired by the other artists on the comp, but because it helps me get my ideas into the ears of people around the world, which is my total goal as a artist.