Jackal & Hyde - Supermeng 3
If you have been keeping up with the latest releases hitting the digital shelves, then you may have noticed the highly anticipated and warmly welcomed return of Jackal & Hyde to the scene. Well, if their latest vinyl release "Bad Robot" wasn't enough to make you move, then perhaps this punishing collaboration with Miami Bass overlord Otto von Schirach called "Supermeng 3", will get you poppin' and lockin' 'til you just can't move anymore.
What I find the most interesting about this single, is that as with the previous release on Dominance Electricity; which by the way is the imprint once again hosting this great duo and guest artist, Jackal & Hyde seem to be slowly stripping their sound down to a more classic approach, that while still highly energetic, and still carrying vibes of their earlier works, seems to be aiming for an evolution of their sound, rather than being predicitve and appealing to the expectation that everything they do must be typical Electro Core, and must have a lazer beat if its to be J&H.
Here, we are presented with what sound like classic 909-styled drums; mainly the snares, that revel in their own glory as they race forward without looking back. The vocals by Otto von Schirach are wild and really well done, and as can be expected, carrying a bit of humor to them. Aside from contributing a little Bass to shake the bins as well, the rest was left up to the duo from J&H, meaning there is no shortage of amazing edits and mind bending sonic manipulations here. Soulful, yet dark and sinister synth layers, sequences gallore that spew into the track from every direction, and a highly "cinematic" construction to this song that creates a world of its own. Visualizing the story narrated with attitude by Otto is not difficult, if anything, a delight! Very unique, and yet one more unexpected release by the German powerhouse imprint. I like where things are going though, and the wider audience they will garner for the music by putting out this style of releases.
This title is available now in digital stores everywhere, including the label's Bandcamp page, and will soon accompany some more Jackal & Hyde music on vinyl; which is sure to make for a tasty 12" treat! Jump on this, and hit the decks! If there is one track that is gonna blow the roof off at your next DJ set, this is the one! The masses will either love it, or take cover as they wonder what will come from this fierce sonic attack on their minds. To them I say, don't worry, Supermeng's got this! So come out, come out wherever you are! :)
Written by: Santino Fernandez - TechnoBass
DJ Debbie D - Like Dat
Unless you grew up in Florida, then you may not realize that at one point, what people consider "Electro" and Breaks, were one in the same for many people. Partygoers during the height of the Rave era would often get to enjoy a myriad of old school Electro Funk and Bass classics, mixed with many songs newly released clearly influenced by the sound while attending an event. It would not be rare for you to hear Aux 88, Dynamix II, along with Friction and Spice or maybe the anthem "Two A Nation Rockin'", or its flipside classic "Stone Skipping" by Xpando in the same night; often by the same DJ.
At the forefront of all this, was DJ Debbie D, one of the pioneers of the Florida Rave scene, and a strong supporter of the Electro Breaks sound. Her debut hit "Super Tweak" alone was a huge influence to the newer generation of Electro Bass producers that would come from the region, and after nearly 30 years of non-stop rockin', she returns once again with a song that will not only redefine the Breaks sound, but also her career and the direction the music is beginning to take as more and more we begin to see Electro Bass and Breaks borrowing influence from one another once again.
"Like Dat", her newest release, is a punishing, yet soulful tune driven by what sound like hard-steppin' 909s, letting you down off the roller coaster, only to pick you pick you back and do it all over again. A bubbly bassline stutters along in an almost dub-step sorta way, as a cool acid line soothes and adds a bit of playfulness. A great thing about Debbie D is her synthwork, which here presents the song with a bit of mystique, inspiring and intriguing at the same time, only to be met by growling tones that rip through you without mercy. The vocals are very much how we used to rock back in the day, and even MC Funk, the man behind the vocals, reminds you of just that by telling you "Bringing back the old school bass...like dat!". A great tune, innovative, and for the Electro Bass lovers, a nice fusion of sound that at times reminds one of some of the works found on labels like Cultivated Electronics; not nearly as glitchy, but definitely carrying that dark, hypnotic, and aggressive funk flavor.
We are in the middle of interesting times, and its great to see one of the leaders still rockin' it like it was yesterday. Many of us echo the same idea that something has been lost over the years, and we are working hard to bring it back to the old school, while evolving on what we used to be. Keep the vibe alive, and support the underground. This single is available now through Beatport! Get in...like dat!
Written by: Santino Fernandez - TechnoBass
The Return of Vinyl: The Good, The Bad, And The Underground
Vinyl is back! Well, so they say, but did it ever really go anywhere? Obviously in the commercial industry vinyl hadn't been around for a very long time, but in the underground it never truly disappeared...even it seemed that way for some time. While there was a noticeable decline in sales and interest prior to the 2008 US recession; which ultimately dealt the underground market its final blow for some time, Nielsen Media Research reports that in the commercial music industry there has actually been an average 38% rise in the sale of vinyl records as of mid-to-late last year, beginning ironically enough around 2008. With 2.5 millions units sold in 2009, ARS Technica reported that this was the most units sold since Nielsen's inception in 1991. Several years later, those numbers have more than doubled and only continue to grow. While the general consensus and media reporting are that indeed there is a surprising resurgence in the vinyl market, many like The New York Times continue to echo the notion that somehow, as the Times puts it, vinyl: "faded with the arrival of compact discs in the 1980s." Which would have more or less put the beginning of the end of vinyl around 1982.
What the media seems to be generally ignoring, is that in the underground; a market that a company like Nielsen could never track due to the common lack of barcoding releases, there was actually a huge upswing in the manufacturing and sales of vinyl records during the '90s with the growth of the worldwide Rave scene. Even in the '80s vinyl remained a strong medium with the growing popularity of Hip Hop and labels like Streetsounds, but there is no mention at all. And while the numbers from both these eras may not compare to what we saw between the '50s and '70s commercially, undeniably this shows that vinyl in no way was making its way out with the arrival of CDs. "What happened in 1990, when it was all supposed to be gone was that I opened Groove Records (Sonic Groove after 1995)," noted Frankie Bones, legendary pioneer and founder of the American Rave scene. "We had the decade of vinyl in the 1990's. Watts Music was our extended family and they were the biggest distribution company in America for dance music. So where a claim was made that vinyl was going away, we really took it back to the streets, to the clubs and the underground." Supporting the idea vinyl never really went away, Ruth Wilson, manager and long-time employee of the Plan 9 store in Charlottesville, Virginia (USA); part of a chain founded in 1981 and since a retailer of both used and new vinyl releases, mentions that: "Vinyl has always been our bread and butter. You can't say that vinyl is back, when it's never really gone away. It's all about generational perspective and who you talk to. The kids today may think vinyl is cool and new, when to us it's all we've ever known."
But as the turn of the century came, and we began to see the eventual slowing down in the production and sales of vinyl in the underground; perhaps due to the crackdown on Raves, 9/11 and the subsequent recession, not to mention emerging technologies eventually leading to the so called "Digital Revolution", a small niche market remained for several years as we headed towards the 2008 collapse, even seeing a few still existent labels start up. As Frankie Bones points out: "Two things happened in 2001: 9-11 happened. and Pioneer released the CDJ-1000; which became the first reliable unit for DJ's. It took 5 years, but between 2001-2006, thousands of record stores and record labels were dissolved. We [Sonic Groove] made it to October of 2004." By the time the 2008 US recession came, most Electronic music indie labels no matter how successful had gotten to the point of barely moving 300 units, and then the final nail in the coffin was set as distributors like Watts, and Syntax in New York closed down for good. "After the smoke cleared, the carnage was pretty devastating for lots of labels and distributors, but not bankers," commented Andrew of Satamile Records during a recent interview. "My reaction was to just hit pause on Satamile, and start working on Bot during this time. So as far as label work we never stopped, but we had to slow down and wait for the distribution and retail sector to recover along with the rest of the world, of which it seems to be coming back with the whole new vinyl craze as well."
The Digital Revolution, which fully set in during the time of the recession, obviously had its impact on the Electronic music scene; of that there can be no doubt, and perhaps there could be no clearer sign than back when almost every DJ around sold their collection after digitizing it, to settle for a laptop instead of the crates, and the file instead of the record. And who could blame them, with a bad economy came a lack of funds, and cheaper downloads and not having to pay for certain songs you may not want seemed more appealing. As more and more technologies not just like CDJs, but Serato and Traktor began to proliferate; especially with the evolution of the trend into Timecode Vinyl set ups, it seemed ever more apparent that vinyl would be no more. There seemed to be no place for it...or so they would have you believe.
Hardcore enthusiasts still collected it, as classics were now cheap and easy to obtain, and some underground labels like in the Electro Bass scene even turned to cutting services like My Vinyl in France, to release digital material on a "Cut On Demand" service, that while more expensive, served the purpose of making sure many of the great digital releases that would have been lost to cyberspace and the underworld of piracy, were forever stamped unto the almighty wax! Around this time, a few courageous labels also began to pop up. Though as may be expected, being one of the few labels to begin the experiment of trying out vinyl again was no easy task, and many were simply not up for it as they had barely recovered from the collapse, not to mention that the general consensus with distributors; at least for our music and deep underground sub-genres like ours, was that enough numbers could not be moved. "At the time the labels I most respected seemed to be pressing less releases and I felt there was a need for another label to push the Electro sound," says Phil Bolland aka Sync 24 of the infamous Scand parties, and the iconic Cultivated Electronics label. He claims that quite a bit of money was lost on the early releases, showing the hardship of the era, and how difficult it was trying to convince people to go back to vinyl. In time though, while the majority of the world seemed to continue to adapt to the immediately gratifying download, something truly would begin to change. A nostalgic feeling would begin to call back on those who remembered different times, the feeling of "owning" something that wasn't just on a hard drive somewhere, but in your hands. This perhaps, might be the root of what has been happening for the last several years, and it is very exciting news as it only continues to spread like a wildfire!
Statistically, it is reported that as of the first half of 2014, 6.5 million vinyl records had been sold according to Billboard, followed by reports that as of the second half of 2014, sales were up 52% according to the Recording Industry Association Of America. And The trend is only continuing. Over the past couple of years, as streaming has risen in popularity, CD and Digital downloads sales have declined by an average of 10%. It is even more interesting however, how hand-in-hand the rise of vinyl and streaming seems to be; even if the numbers for vinyl are still much lower than that of CD's and Digital overall, it seems as if music lovers are now exclusively listening to music online as we did back in the day with radio, and then going out to buy it in physical formats to truly take part in the full musical experience; something vinyl uniquely offers many people. While it is also true that some are perhaps pirating the music or even just buying vinyl or CDs purely to "own", many people have often complained over the years that downloads just don't feel real, there is no real sense of ownership over something artistic; especially something as charming and nostalgic as vinyl.
Another interesting tidbit in this ongoing vinyl craze, is that the majority of buyers of vinyl records are reported to be 35 and younger according to MusicWatch, and even now big corporations such as Urban Outfitters (who cater mostly to people between 18-25) and Whole Foods are beginning to carry vinyl releases at many stores, as if our beloved vinyl is again becoming an intrinsic part of cosmopolitan culture. Record Store Day, which began in 2008 as an effort by independent record store owners to help spread the word worldwide about Brick and Mortar record shops, has also been a huge success, and has attracted the younger generations by the droves. As the official website explains: "This is a day for the people who make up the world of the record store—the staff, the customers, and the artists—to come together and celebrate the unique culture of a record store and the special role these independently owned stores play in their communities." With special CD and vinyl releases planned specifically for the day, exclusive artist appearances and performances, cookouts, Vinyl DJ sets, and many other interesting community events, not only have the folks who grew up with vinyl gotten a chance to connect with like-minded enthusiasts, but it has also given the younger kids a chance to see what they had been missing growing up in the era of cyberspace.
However, one thing that doesn't take long to notice when walking into a record shop, or even ordering online, (this is an important thing to note especially for the Indies) is that vinyl is actually getting quite expensive these days! Back in the '90s people often complained about how expensive CD's were, which typically sold for around $18 US, now finding that an EP will run you easily about around $15-20 US, and about $25-30 US for an LP album. During the '90s, EPs and LPs; which came from the underground scene, typically sold for around $6 US, and averaged about $10 US for imports. Those prices went up little by little after the turn of the century, where EP's eventually would be found for about $9 US, and $13 US for imports. And in the underground those prices are still hovering more or less about the same, depending on whether the release is limited, or colored for example. As many labels, frustrated with low sales and a lack of distribution, have taken online to mediums such as Bandcamp to sell independently, we have even begun seeing units sold at sometimes even more expensive prices; but with much more thoughtful and creative packaging options than we are used to seeing, often done on the side by the label to save money on manufacturing (cardboard jackets cost, not mentioning how outrageous it would be to pay to do special packaging), but to also offer a more unique buying experience that entices the buyer to want to buy vinyl instead of a CD or download, and justify the reality of paying more for that record. Something that seems to be a necessity these days; primarily for indies if they want to make it.
For major labels, paying for and offering these kind of packaging options have never been much of an issue, and until recently not even a thought in their mind. As the market seems to steer towards uniquely designed covers and special packagings, the higher prices of vinyl in the commercial industry and in the underground obviously reflect the higher manufacturing costs. And while it may not seem worth the effort for Indies to go through such trouble in independently constructing their own packaging and continue releasing competitively, sometimes going that extra mile is what they want, the personal connection to the buyer, and the passion that goes into handcrafting each release. Alek Stark, from the iconic Spanish label Fundamental Records, and the man behind the iconic "808 Box" series, states that: "When I founded Fundamental Records, I want to put the packaging at the same level of the music. I don't want to use a simple jacket made in cheap cardboard, so we decide to create our own jackets in plexiglass and recycled 3mm cardboard with bolts. People love it, but is not easy because our prices are high; but not expensive, and people who buy our releases know about this subtle difference. When you receive our records and you have in your hands… you can feel what I'm talking about. We put all our love in each release!".
The truth is that in order for a sustainable vinyl market to continue in the underground, clearly more labels need to think about not only raising prices, but also offer more creative packaging options to help stay competitive and for the market to continue growing. Fans need to also be much more aware of this as a necessary evil and help support, if we are to continue seeing vinyl output by our favorite labels and artists, that while at higher prices, are offering us a more unique listening and buying experience than we have been used to over the past several years, and on a medium that time and time again continues to make a resurgence....vinyl!
But let's talk about one "unnecessary" evil that has always plagued the underground vinyl market, and that is the incredibly high pressing cost of manufacturing a record, that only continues to rise. Pressing plants, while they may be able to argue their own operating costs, have never offered a different price range for Indie labels; they pay what the majors pay. For commercial labels with big budgets, this may not be an issue, especially when their distribution systems can move well over a 1000 units, but for most Indies these days, even moving 200 can be tough. Doing some simple math, it doesn't take long to realize that anything under 500 units sold through conventional distribution methods is simply not going to help a label break even, and this without being compensated for any of the work whatsoever; label or artists involved. Many in the underground, especially our beloved scene, have been accustomed to working on vinyl projects for free for well over 10 years, under the agreement the label needed to recuperate the pressing costs to continue, and the artist got to have their work on wax. But lately as labels consider getting back into vinyl, or trying it for the first time, the numbers simply do not add up. "Today 150 copies is near of total selling numbers of some labels" mentions Alek Stark, which make each pressing even if sold out, a complete failure financially; unless done independently of course, which can be almost impossible for most these days in regards to moving all of the units themselves. But pressing plants and distributors aren't blinking an eye; and in some cases, not even the fans who don't realize the importance of supporting.
However, as many Indie labels are run in part out of pocket or in partnership to share risk, passionate artists and label owners alike (often one in the same) continue to push forward as what seems like a trickling down of this resurgence in vinyl makes its way into our music. Andy Barton of the infamous Bass Agenda radio show and label says: "The resurgence in vinyl overall is fine - what needs to change is the level of support people give to the music, almost regardless of format. There are probably more people making and releasing this music than buying it and until that changes, vinyl is a feel good luxury for all concerned. You have to enter into it with eyes wide open and accept that no matter how much support you get from DJs and media, it comes down to the majority competing for the attention and money of the minority". But while it is true that many complain of a lack of support in sales, and pirating is still a big issue in a relatively dominant digital market; perhaps even a reason for what might "seem" like a lack of support, it seems more and more that vinyl is indeed making its way back to the deep underground. It doesn't take much to notice the great series of releases by "The Exaltics" and their infamous Solar One Music, or even Fundamental Records and their 808 box series, that show what seems like a definite demand for vinyl releases. As Alek Stark himself comments: "People love it, and we have a big support from our regulars".
As with all trends however, there are upsides and downsides, and with vinyl that involves not only prices, but also steam presses; many decades upon decades old and in need of heavy servicing if not complete rebuilding, which is something not costworthy for any plant to do. While many of the world's plants still own a good number of the existing ones, many had been sold off to newer plants like "R.I.P.-V" in Montreal while downsizing after the recession, but as many of those eventually shut down, plants like Independent Record Pressing in New Jersey, began buying them back, while others around began to do the same. The problem since has been that as the sharp rise in vinyl sales continue, plants like United Record Pressing in Tennessee; the oldest plant in the USA, have come to struggle with the demand, leaving turn-around for most labels, especially Indies, to about 6 months. A major reason why major Indie labels like Epitaph and Fat Possum have decided to take matters into their own hands, and venture into opening their own plants; eventually though, finding themselves in the same position as they take on new clients.
As more and more labels begin to dip their toes in the water though, there is yet another problem that is a big obstacle for most, and that is distribution. "You need a distributor who is proactive and believes in you - and in this climate you just represent a risk," notes Barton. Highlighting how the distribution sector for underground music has not really quite recovered to the point where it was prior to the 2008 collapse, with only a handful still operating worldwide like Clone or Crosstalk out of Chicago. "Dance music vinyl continues to be a low-margin, highly volatile commodity with a short shelf life," comments Phil Hertz, founder of Crosstalk International. "Press runs get shorter, and production times get longer, which means production costs essentially get higher. We’ve survived largely by being small and agile, and able to constantly refocus and shift our priorities." Because of how tough it can be for labels to sign on to distributors, usually only by referral, unsatisfied labels owners have begun to look for independent ways of selling their physical music online, with services like Bandcamp, which even offer different tools like discounts, and digital downloads. Unfortunately though, it has not proven to be as worthwhile of a system to move enough vinyl to help recover costs. "Sales are still pretty low and I am lucky to break even on a release." states Bolland of Cultivated Electronics. Noting on how difficult it is for most labels to continue funding vinyl releases, or even consider getting into it if they have not yet done so. Thankfully, project funding sites like Kickstarter have begun to give people some other avenues to fund vinyl projects and decrease the risk of losing money or not being able to move enough copies. So far however, what seems like the most promising and realistic option for many labels is a new service called "Qrates".
This incredible new system, similar to Bandcamp, is actually designed solely for the purpose of helping labels press and sell vinyl. After uploading the music, and designing the record on a 3D display that then lets buyers look at the finished product, the system begins to collect pre-sales towards the release until it reaches the minimum goal of 100 units. The label and artists can even purchase copies themselves at wholesale prices to sell at shows or on their websites. Once the minimum is reached, Qrates, who works with the best pressing plants around the world, will find the best fit according to the project, and have the record pressed for you. Another option offered is "Press First and Sell", which works similarly, except labels pay ahead for the pressing, and then have the ability to have record stores worldwide buy from them at wholesale prices, with shipments to fans and stores alike handled by Qrates. Their website claims that they have: "Tied up partnerships with record stores worldwide to enable them to order your vinyl at a wholesale price set by you. This 'Store Delivery' system can collect orders from major record stores in Japan, the EU as well as their 200+ partner stores". The system also gives you bonus promotion tools such as downloads, and discounts, to help boost sales and generate a bit of hype as the release is being prepared. A worthwhile look for labels interested in pressing, but unsure about the quantities that will be sold.
Indeed these are exciting times, as many of us for several years have been rather disatisfied with the quality of the music industry, saturated to the bone with digital music, often lacking ingenuity and labels who clearly seemed to not understand the tremendous and professional endeavour that running one can really be. Vinyl has and always will be, a sort of memento that represents more than just music, it represents a cultural approach to how we embrace the art. Audiophiles have long argued the difference in quality of sound, and while ignored for quite some time, it seems people; especially the younger crowd, are finally listening...literally! For the rest of us who have tried to hang on with every bit of our being, this is nothing new, but a way of life; even if a struggle. While the road ahead may not be easy, it will be worth every minute, as we rebuild and not just get back to, but evolve on how things once were. There is a certain aesthetic that goes along with "owning" your art, of being a part of the experience as much as possible, and not just having a virtual copy somewhere on a harddrive. For labels and their artists, there is a tremendous satisfaction that also comes from going through the complex process of manufacturing, releasing and distributing vinyl, something that labels of the Digital Revolution simply could not understand. "Vinyl is good, it feels right, its where a lot of the electronic music we love belongs," notes Barton, "But it comes at a cost". Whether it is worth it or not, is up to you. For the rest of us, its just a way of life. Call it nostalgia, we call it love and dedication to preserve the music.
Written by: Santino Fernandez - TechnoBass
DJ Debbie D - How One Woman Helped Shape A New Generation
For nearly three decades, DJ Debbie D has been at the forefront of the Breaks scene, expanding her influence across many genres; including the Electro Bass (Techno Bass) sub-genre, of which a whole new generation would come out of the Florida Rave scene bringing us the likes of James Wolfe, Jackal & Hyde, InHuman Designed and many others. An avid DJ and vinyl collector since childhood, and later a pioneer in her own right who helped carry the Florida Rave scene into its glory days, Debbie D has since been a pillar of influence showing that for many of us, this dream will never die. If anything, it is just something beginning to get realized! With such an illustrious career behind her, having played alongside The Chemical Brothers, Carl Cox, Josh Wink, and Altern 8 to name but a few, the future, just like her past, continues to look very bright as we continue to see her now infamous Genuine Debbie D Records imprint explode into becoming a mighty machine for the EDM world in general. With numerous releases, including her own holding top spots in the charts, and a publishing company now part of her media empire, the reach of her music and her artists is something that cannot be denied. We are, some would say, in the middle of a revolution of sorts, as we try to rebuild something that was once lost, through strength, passion and dedication, something our next guest has oodles of...and so without further ado, let's get going!
Santino Fernandez: Hi Debbie, welcome, thank you for taking the time to do this interview! I must say this is a huge honor for me, you have influenced me on so many levels as I have grown up in the scene, I cannot thank you enough for all you do! I am sure so many others feel the same way. Let’s talk a little bit about your early life, how did you get steered in the direction of music?
Debbie D: Thank you so much for having me, and thank you for all of your kind words. It makes me happy to think that my music could be making people dance and smile.
I would say, that my music roots go way back to early childhood. My Mum is British, and she exposed me to just about every genre. I think she may be responsible for my live performance drive in a way. She took me to my first concert in the '70s, which was “Kool And the Gang”, and “Earth ,Wind and Fire”. I remember thinking back then, that I wanted to be on that stage one day. I developed a deep passion for almost all genres of music.
Listening to Bach and Beethoven, lead me to attend a Professional Ballerina school, at the age of 7. I did that for many years. This is where I developed the skill for counting beats and began understanding music composition and theory.
In the early '80s, I found a new hobby involving the music I ended producing later on in life. It was also where my vinyl collecting and my DJ interest began as well. It was Roller Skating!
I had no idea you had a British parent! Very interesting background. I also have to say, at least for those of us who grew up in Florida and also people in New York, Roller Skating was the beginning for many of us indeed! Great times.
Yes, I love roller skating. I Still do it to this day. I have Reidel two stripes with red zinger wheels!
Nice! So then who were your main influences in general would you say?
If I had to name just a few that influenced me to become a DJ and Producer, they would be: Depeche Mode, NIN, Nitzerebb, Planet Patrol, The Cure, Eurythimics, Front 242, New Order!
Good list! Depeche Mode and New Order alone are such influential artists, but I find it interesting that Front 242 were big for you. So would it be fair to assume you were fairly involved in the Electro Funk and Miami Bass scene in the 80’s before Raves started? I hear you did some work with Dave Noller of Dynamix II at some point, can you talk about that a little?
Yes, I was buying Miami Bass on cassettes from Flea Markets back in the 80’s. Jam Pony Express tapes were my favorite! I still have some too!
I was also spinning Miami Bass and Electro on vinyl in the early 80’s as well. I had my first turntable in 1977. My first 3 records were Planet Patrol “Play At Your Own Risk”, Al Nahayfish “It’s time”, and Freestyle “It’s Automatic”.
My Brother Justin actually owned Planet Patrol, and to this day, tells everyone that it is his. I will admit that it is, and thank him in this interview for letting me spin it for so many years……Love you Justin!
Yes, I worked with Dave Noller in “The Lab” (his studio) in the early 90’s. We did a track together, but it never got released. “Give The DJ A Break” was one of my all time favorites, and was my 4th vinyl purchase. In fact, I have a video of me in high school poppin' and lockin' to it in a talent show, where I won 1st place with my girl Simone!
So when did you get into music production, who took you under their wing?
When I started producing, I can honestly say, my strong point was always with music composition. I have never really had a problem banging out my own synth parts, drum beats, or even with choosing the right vocals.
It was all analog back then, so outboard gear like the Juno 106 that I had, had a nice bender on it, so that is how I would rock the synth parts.
If I had to give a name of someone I feel helped me a lot, I would admit that I owe my biggest thanks to Phatty P when I began. He was a fantastic help with teaching me how to hook gear up, engineer, master, and mix down. I also have to give props to all the promoters and clubs that supported me with gigs during that time. I cannot forget to thank my fans too. I owe a big thanks to each and every one of them.
Very cool, I had no idea it was Phatty P who helped guide you along early on. So let’s talk a little about Super Tweak, your infamous and highly influential debut on Stratus with Speed Freeks. This release alone in so many ways influenced the new generation of Electro Bass producers that would come from the Florida region, including myself. It originally came out in 1991 before being re-pressed on Juice Recordings, which makes that record quite forward thinking for the times. What was the inspiration behind it?
Super Tweak is a great story. I was in college attending Georgia State University, obtaining my degree in Music Industry Management. I met this guy in my Music Industry Law class named Jason Clay (very cool dude) ! He invited me over to his house to work on some music one day. He had this really primitive Macintosh computer with two horrible speakers, and I think some generic Radio Shack keyboard hooked up. It may have been a Casio, not sure. Lol
I always start with my hook , which is usually a vocal idea I have. So, because I had no actual vocalist, I had to create one. This is the secret everyone asks me regarding Super Tweak, so I am letting the cat out of the bag for the first time here on this interview! The actual vocal part “SUPER, TWEAK, BOOM, POW” was a computer generated sound I made his computer make by simply typing it in.
As far as the synths, riffs, etc., as I mentioned earlier, I loved recording things live by cutting up the bender on the keyboard; it has always been my signature way of producing. If you notice, in all of my tracks, not every measure sounds the same. It is because I usually play just the drums, hit record, and rock the synth parts live. It is the DJ in me I guess. I still do this to this day, you will see it in my newest track coming out on March 7 , called “Like Dat”.
I can see why recording that way is best, I also start everything by hand on the keyboard, I feel it gives everything a much more personal sound to begin with. So moving on, I am intrigued to ask this, since I am personally from the city of Washington D.C., and was very surprised when I left Florida and realized you were partners with Wes Smith; who is also from D.C. Great guy by the way, helped me a lot up there! Breaks around that time were not very popular in the city, so it was interesting to me that there was this fairly important alliance between DC and Florida for Breaks, you guys were pretty underground there. What led to that partnership if you can talk about that? Did you ever go to DC to perform?
I met Wes in Gainesville years ago when he was attending college there. He threw a party called the “Day One Rave” way back in the early 90’s. I spun for him there, and we instantly hit it off. Wes always had the Juice Logo for his party events, so we decided to take it a step further, and start up a Label called "Juice Recordings" together. I signed all my friends to it, Mike B, DJ Moon, Sharaz, Lil Rob, Chris Gallagher, Speed Freeks, DJ Perm, Sunrise Society, DJ X, and Phatty P. Good times!
I did play in Washington, yes. Wes flew me in, and I headlined at his night in Washington called “The Funk-tion” with Jen Lasher (very cool chic). It was a lot of fun.
Interesting to hear all that. I had actually met Wes originally in Pompano Beach while throwing a weekly event at "The Nest", and had no idea he was from my hometown 'til I got there. I remember him giving me some Juice promos that night that I still have, Mike B was one of them actually; great stuff!
Thinking back on the 90's Rave years in general remind me of a lot of great things. So much that was accomplished on so many levels in regards to all of us evolving away from the darkness of the times, and becoming more “real”; even understanding the nature of society and life itself on deeper levels. What did the Rave scene mean to you personally?
The Rave Scene was important in the movement of this music genre. The gathering of a ton of people all under one roof, dancing their booty’s off was so amazing to me.
I had the pleasure of experiencing some phenomenal Raves in the UK when I was attending Cambridge University. I saw Dream Frequency, Altern8, and The Prodigy live with attendance of over 50,000 people! They were called the "Rain Dance Raves". I met Carl Cox and Grooverider at Black Market Records, and they let me play for 30 minutes at the Brain in Manchester that Friday night. This was a huge inspiration for me, and major influence. I immediately came back to Simons Club where I was opening for Chris Gallagher at the time, and threw down some hard core Techno Breaks that I bought overseas. And of course I was wearing my Joe Blogg jeans and sipping on Strawberry Ribena!
That story reminds me a little of the one Frankie Bones told me of his first time in the UK before he came back to start the Rave scene, seems they had a really amazing thing going there for a while. So then tell me, having been such an integral part of the scene for so long, what do you think led to its unraveling over the years?
I think it could be a combination of many things. It could be that people grow out of certain scenes, clubs, and genres. Perhaps some favorite producers and DJ’s retire. Inadequate funding, poor event promotions also could have an effect on It’s demise.
Those are all good arguments, and it would be safe to say it was probably all of them combined. But have you heard that Frankie Bones, Heather Heart, and the rest of the Sonic Groove crew are actually bringing back the famous STORM raves in New York? I have been very excited about this, as it has been rather disappointing watching these so-called "Raves" that have become so mainstream and rather superficial over the years. Are you seeing any other efforts aside from all of your hard work musically to bring the true scene back in your region? Do you think it can happen again?
I am aware of what the Sonic Groove Crew is doing, and I think it’s great! I see a lot of effort happening towards making the scene flourish again.
Musically, I also see some great things happening. Both older and newer producers are making tunes to make you dance and have a good time. Promoters are working hard to bring you the talent, and the fans are coming out to support it, so we are headed in the right direction.
Seems that way, I really hope it continues. I for one miss the scene dearly, and feel something big was truly lost when it went away. Anyway, so moving forward, something that I really feel is important to talk about is the role of women in a male dominated scene. I have always respected your approach, in that you put your talent to the forefront. Many women, especially these days unfortunately seem to make it big not always for talent, but for their looks, which at least in my opinion, further disempowers women in general; reinforcing the notion that they are somehow merely sex objects. Something that is not true of course, or at least shouldn’t be. How do you feel about this? What would you say to an aspiring woman trying to make it in this scene to truly be able to make it for what they really have to offer in regards to their talent?
Woman have come a long way in this Industry over the years. When I began, there were only 3 female DJs/Producers in existence, myself included; so it was both awesome, and intimidating at the same time. I have no clue exactly how many female DJ and Producers are out there now, but it must be an astronomical number.
I personally think it’s very sexy to see a female DJ , but they have to be able to rock the decks too!
My best advice and tips to women in this industry would be to find your niche, develop your own style, have good stage presence, remain humble, practice, work hard, network, be respectful, smile, promote yourself, get bookings, make tunes, mixes , throw down , do your thing, and most of all, have a good time!
Good advice, and I agree! Let’s talk about your music now. What’s a studio session like for you? What gets a song going?
I always have fun in my sessions, because I love what I do. I get up and dance, jam out, and laugh a lot in the time I am there. A session is usually a long time for me, it could be hours, or sometimes even days. I get going and I can’t stop!
When I begin a track, I basically start with a hook. It is usually a vocal, and I run it with just a basic drum kick. From there, I create my synths by simply jamming along with it until I have something hot! This is basically how I find all of my sounds for my track.
I feel blessed that writing and arranging music comes naturally for me. I am a fast producer and writer, and admittedly, a much slower engineer.
I am not embarrassed to say, that I have spent hours on Youtube watching tutorials on Ableton Live, as well as the hours I spent bugging my producer friends for advice. (Thank you Evan Gamble Lewis, I leaned an incredible amount from your amazing production and engineering skills….respect).
Do you still own a lot of old school analog gear, or have you become mostly computer based over the years?
I held onto my Novation Bass Station, and my Juno 106, but sold my Groovebox , which I dearly miss.
Switching from Analog to Digital was a hard transition for me, mostly because I am a born knob twiddler, and gear junkie. In my Analog days, I remember playing a sound or a synth part on my keyboard, hooking up guitar pedals to it, and running all of that through my Novation Bass Station rack module, just to get the sound I was looking for. Now, I choose whatever sick VST I want to create the sound with. The technology we have at our fingertips is incredible. Not complaining a bit!
Indeed. We stand in the middle of an amazing musical revolution in terms of the technology available. So what about all this new hardware coming out, anything that has been catching your attention?
Yes, I see a lot of things come out that I want. I love Synthesizers, so I look at those the most.
Me too, its actually the reason I started writing about them here, I think synths are just the coolest thing ever! Let's get into a little recording engineering now though. Let me start by asking you this: have you noticed music getting really loud over time? What’s your opinion on this so called Loudness War? Any production tips for the aspiring producers out there?
Music is definitely louder. Producers are mastering this skill by making very clean, loud, room filling tracks.
My advice would be car test it, to make sure it is not distorted, or to see if you need to adjust any levels before releasing it . I would also club test it, either yourself, or a DJ friend. Party dropping is always a way to tell if it sounds good in the club, and if you are moving a crowd.
Testing is critical for sure. Funny how we spend so much money on monitors, when it really comes down to the cheap systems that tell us what it really sounds like. So where do you see the music going as it stands? Breaks are huge right now, but EDM in general is finally at its height it seems; though most if it, the mainstream stuff at least, very watered down and lacking that beautiful, soulful, edgy vibe we had going back in the day. Are you feeling positive about the direction its all going?
I honestly just love any music that makes me want to dance. I appreciate and respect anyone who can make music, no matter what genre. I actually used to play Hard House, Progressive House, and Jump up Jungle, and had a ton of fun with those styles. If anyone is interested, you can hear some of the mixes I did with some of those genres on my Soundcloud page.
I love that we have diversity, and I love that we can progress with new sounds, and still bring back memories with remixes of those tracks from back in the day that you are talking about.
Diversity is important, definitely not anything I would argue against. What’s in store for the future with Genuine Debbie D Records then? I know you are also now running a publishing company as well. Any big developments you wanna talk about?
The Future for Genuine Debbie D Records is looking very bright! I thank my lucky stars everyday that I have some of the most talented, hard working and kind –hearted artists on my Label. I love them all!
Genuine Debbie D Records has been a publishing Company for 2 years now. I also provide all of my Artists with the opportunity of receiving Music Placement deals as well. Anyone signed with the label, automatically gets included in this contract. GDDR has a contract with over 414,00 clients and reputable businesses for Music Placement, such as MGM Studios, Sega, Apple, ABC, Bravo, BBC, HBO, NBC, Sony, Warner Bros Television, Turner, and Universal Studios, to name a few.
I always have something up my sleeve for the label, I wanted to do lots of cool things for everyone to enjoy this year! I like to keep things fresh and exciting, so I can’t really give away any secrets, but I usually try to put a release out every Monday on Beatport, so it won’t be a very long wait. I have some amazing new talent coming on the label in 2016, so hang tight!
Thank you ahead of time for anyone who took the time to read my interview. I love every one of you for your support.
Peace to all the DJ’s, Producers and fans,
Love DJ Debbie D
Right back at you! Thanks for all you have done over the years, you have influenced so many of us to go out and make so many different styles, and I think its safe to say it has spread like a wildfire!
Interviewed by: Santino Fernandez - TechnoBass
Frankie Bones is truly a man of history. Having been responsible for founding the American Rave scene, this tough-as-nails purveyor of our culture has been on a nonstop quest to spread the message of Peace, Love, Unity and Respect for over 25 years. Whether it is through his incredible DJ sets, productions, events, record stores....you name it! The guy has had all bases covered, and no stone left unturned as even today he continues to work hard at reviving the old school party scene through his legendary STORM Raves, never forgetting the core values that started it all, and why this message is no less important today than it was in 1989 when he first started this.
To some, there is a disconnect as to how the Hip Hop, Techno and Electro Funk scenes were actually the same movement in many ways, expressed through different means, yet driven by the same core values: The need to come together under music and a movement that could change the world....no less! For years we have heard of New School Electro being to "Ravey" to the old school B-Boys, or Electro Funk too "retro" for the younger generations. Perhaps even that neither retained the intrinsic influence of the roots of Electronic music like Techno did. The truth is, it all stemmed from the same place, the same need if you will, and while it has blossomed into many flowers, the importance of realizing WHY it all began is something old schoolers and younger generations alike must once again embrace if we are to change the direction which it has all taken. So with that in mind, let's meet the boss of all bosses.
Technobass.net: Thanks for agreeing to do the interview Frankie, its an honor to have you spend some time with us to discuss not just highlights of your career, but also the recent efforts in trying to revive the old school party scene. For those perhaps unfamiliar, briefly tell us what inspired you to get involved in throwing parties back in the day, what was life like for you in New York during that time prior to the Rave scene?
Frankie Bones: I started to DJ really young during the Disco era in the late 1970's. In 1977, Roller Disco became popular and I started skating at a rink called "Roll-A-Palace", which was a multi-million dollar complex with real DJ's and lights and sound. So from 10 years old I learned about programming and sets and BPM's and how to blend records. This was not something kids did in those days.
I was exploring a lot because I lived next to Freight Train tracks. Those tracks led to the subway, the subway took me to the rink and back and I could travel 5 or 10 miles without ever once crossing a street into traffic, so my parents were o.k. with that. This was an every weekend thing for me for about 5 years. I also was able to shop at many different record stores, so by the time I was 16, I was a lot better than most DJ's already in their 20's. A DJ named Tony Torres took me under his wing, and he was already doing big clubs and remixes for labels, so I learned a lot before even graduating High School.
Q: Many people may not know that you are responsible for bringing the Rave scene to the United States, and you did so after getting booked to play in the U.K. back in 1989. What would you say was the main thing you took away from after playing in England? Obviously having played for 25,000 people is an amazing feeling I’m sure, but was there something that hit deep within you, perhaps giving you some sort of insight on what could be accomplished when people come together under one cause with such passion?
A: Up until I was 18 years old, I never knew anyone who passed away. The first party I made money at was my own 18th Birthday party where I made $60. Then on New Year's 1984-1985, I made $200, and my Dad who never believed you could get money to play records started to get excited about what I was doing; chasing this dream. He was murdered four weeks later and nothing can be as tragic as not ever being at a wake or funeral, and suddenly you lose a parent. My parents never were apart for a day and my brother was only 13, so it was a horrific ordeal.
The music is all I had and I was hellbent to make a career out of it. My Dad was murdered in a robbery during his 16th hour working driving a taxi. It also was racially motivated after a white subway vigilante shot four black teens on the subway. New York was a different place in 1985. Racial wars, territory wars, crack and AIDS; the city was falling apart. So I buried myself in the music after we buried my Dad. Four years later I got my first U.K. gig and that was incredible. Cannot describe the feeling of seeing so many people come together because of the music.
Q: Did you have a sense of purpose before going there to bring people together under one cause, or was it there that night that you had some sort of an epiphany about it all? This was also the first time you took Ecstacy from what i understand, which as you even mentioned in your blog, is a powerful tool in breaking down the societal mental and spiritual limits imposed on us. Briefly tell us what this must have revealed to you about life, and people coming together. It had to have been a life-changing, in fact, Soul-changing experience.
A: I can only answer this by asking you to watch a Youtube link:
Q: What was the response from people to this new idea of Peace, Love, Unity and Respect once back in New York again, and beginning to put together the nascent American Rave scene? The scene obviously adapted and evolved into this amazingly well into the 90’s, but did it feel during the first few STORM Raves that perhaps in some weird way people weren’t ready, or was it welcomed with open arms?
A: P.L.U.R. was started in 1990 when we began to push the rave scene as opposed to the club scene. It was The PEACE LOVE UNITY MOVEMENT, known as P.L.U.M., and we jump started it off of "The Stop The Violence Movement", which like anything else happening at the time, came from Hip-Hop. We were pushing Techno music in the exact same way I lived it through Hip-Hop. White Folks still were not used to white kids who liked Hip-Hop, so we really confused folks who didn't know better. We weren't Kandi Kids, we actually used the American Flag a lot. Otherwise we came from the streets, like Hip-Hop, Graffiti & Breakdancing, we were just pushing it as a movement of peace. People liked that idea. It needed to happen.
Q: So what are your thoughts on clubs as opposed to warehouse parties then? It's a common belief amongst old schoolers that clubs were not really the place to have a party, somehow it perpetuated bad vibes in a way. What made you want to stay away from those type of venues since the beginning?
A: I discovered the rave scene @ Energy on August 26, 1989. This was a festival, absolutely an EDM festival in its own right. I never once even thought I wanted to do festivals. Only because it didn’t seem like it could happen on that level in The United States. In those first nine months, I thought rave could only happen in clubs and as I did my first successful NYC party called “Atmosphere” in June of 1990, I also did my first California tour, and those California kids were already doing Undergrounds, breaking into warehouses and that just lit my fuse. A Storm is a change in atmosphere. June of 1990 is where “rave” arrived. On both coasts at the same exact time.
Q: Something else people may not be aware of, is that PLUR in itself was kind of born out of irony in some ways, at an event where a fight broke out and you threatened them in return in order to get them to settle down. We just have to know…what were the looks on those guys’ faces after you said you’d break them if they didn’t start showing some Peace and Love? Was there an overall vibe that things were still raw and rather negative at the time still?
A: We never had any problems during the STORM-Rave seasons in 1991-1992. The PEACE LOVE UNITY MOVEMENT as PLUM 1990-1993 was an almost invisible force, and people knew what we were trying to do. This all came into play after the Happyland fire in the Bronx in 1990. A social club where 87 [people] died when a jealous boyfriend torched the club because he thought his girlfriend "Daisy" was cheating on him. That in itself made Raves, festivals & carnivals a serious threat to NYC and the NYPD & NYFD weren't happy about us throwing illegal warehouse parties when they caught onto what we were doing.
The PLUR speech came in June of 1993 in the Bronx at a B2B event (Brooklyn to the Bronx). The Bronx was still kind of new to the Rave concept, so when the fight happened, I took it personal. It was not much different than me playing the part of "Cyrus" in "The Warriors". 300 people who I knew, understood where I was coming from and the party continued on until 10 a.m. without incident. Hyperreal who promoted the event are the ones who changed PLUM to PLUR right after that night. We now had the MOVEMENT so the M became an R for respect. Because that fight disrespected everything we built in three years.
Q: Were you originally influenced more by the Electro Funk era of Hip-Hop in the early 80s, or did Detroit’s answer to it in the form of Techno appeal to you more? Perhaps both at the same time? Were you into 70s Electronic music as well?
A: I started out with Kraftwerk in 1977 when "Trans-Europe-Express" was released. Giorgio Moroder also produced Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" and Cat Stevens did "Was Dog A Doughnut". Those were your first three Electronic Dance Records. The Roland TR-808 was released in 1982, and in 1982, 1983 & 1984, I would go with my friend Tony T. every single week to pick up his box of 30-45 promo records at his record pool. I would also write every single title down and then we made our own Top 100's and at the end of the year, we would make a yearly list out of the entire year.
You can use my 1984 year end Top 100 to hear the actual songs on Youtube, and that will be where my inspiration came from. It wasn't based in other cities. It was really a New York City thing at that time. We never knew we would travel outside of our area to DJ. The international DJ circuit wasn't even a thought at this point. Even when I went to the U.K. in 1989, it was unheard of for a New York City DJ to actually DJ in another country. You had some guys in the Military based in Germany maybe playing a local gig there, but you are in combat, you weren't making a career out of spinning. I paved the way for that by having that experience I got in the U.K..
Q: Very interesting stuff! Alright, so let’s talk about “Call It Techno” then, this is a fairly intriguing track for us. Obviously you were aiming to make a Techno track, but you also refer to it as “Techno Bass” in the lyrics. Clearly you can hear influences of Detroit Techno, as well as early breaks and Electro Funk. Had you already heard the track “Techno Bass” by Dynamix II?
We ask because into the 90s, this became a term for “Intelligent” Miami Bass, like Dynamix II or Beat Dominator for example, as well as Detroit’s 2nd wave of Techno like a lot of Underground Resistance’s catalog, or even Direct Beat and 430 West, yet not long after the term seemed to have gotten lost and it became known as “Electro Bass”, shortly after “Electro”…what was your inspiration for creating that song?
A: Freestyle Music. Shannon, Stevie B, TKA, Noel, Expose'. It was street music also called Latin Hip Hop which inspired "Call It Techno", It all came from "Planet Rock" 100%. Even Juan Atkins "Clear" by Cybotron. Juan claims to have never heard "Planet Rock" when he produced "Clear". However it wasn't the version everyone knows, because that "Clear" clearly says MIXED BY Jose "Animal" Diaz and Diaz remixed it to sound like "Planet Rock", so even Detroit putting out it's first Electro-Funk record was still just another great New York record from 1983. Hashim & Twilight 22 also, We considered those Hip Hop records with beats. Beats from Disco/Dance Music, and it all evolved from that. Miami Bass also came from that and Freestyle was always a New York-Miami connection. In 1988, the first wave of House came through, then Techno in 1989, but it wasn't until 1990 where breaks & trance also first came through, and a lot of it arrived with rave. Detroit & Rave hit New York simultaneously.
Q: While we are on the topic, what are your feelings about the whole argument of Electro only being Electro Funk, or Electro Bass? In this scene, there is a sense of elitism against Electro House, or even just the idea of Electronic Music being Electro in general, even given the history and the fact in the 70s people in the UK and perhaps even here in the US already referred to Electronic Music as Electro prior to Street Sounds. Obviously at this point it would be difficult to call it all Electro, nor would we really want to, but does this argument seem silly, or do you also feel Electro is only Electro Funk and Electro Bass music?
Electro-Funk is something Afrika Bambaataa was pushing from the time "Planet Rock" was released on April 17, 1982. Celluloid Records like "The Wildstyle" or Herbie Hancock "Rockit", "Jam On It". Washington D.C. had a small "Go-Go" scene which records like "Arcade Funk" came from which were also known as Electro-Funk. It didn't stick though. It just became "Electro" and when the songs like "Let The Music Play" by Shannon came along, Electro became Freestyle. Miami Bass also started from Freestyle as early as 1984.
Many of Electro tracks fit in that equation, with Freestyle or Miami Bass which all came out during the 1980's. Electro-Bass such as UR, 430 West and other Detroit based labels was strictly after 1990. Aux 88 isn't much different then a lot of 1980's electro but Detroit pioneered Electro-Bass early on, in 1990. Electro-House wasn't even a thought before 2007 and doesn't really fit into anything that came before it. Electronic House music might be a better way to describe that, where synths became more futuristic sounding then traditional based House songs.
Q: What would you say have been your feelings about the so called “Digital Revolution”, and the subsequent decline of vinyl? Do you feel as if Social Media and digital downloadable music have been of benefit to the music industry, or has it deteriorated everything to some degree?
A: The digital revolution put everything on the grid via the internet. It connected the entire world into one great movement. It deteriorated everything that came before, but it expanded on everything that existed. It's great that the whole world is now tuned in, but it sucks that the original history isn't important to most people doing it today.
Q: So were you one of the producers who sold their studios to jump on the Plug in bandwagon, or did you remain hardware oriented throughout all this time? What are your thoughts on the return to analog, and all these great issues and re-issues?
A: I still use Hardware. The Roland Aira system is the only new gear I got. I never needed anything else but my original Roland boxes anyway, I'm kind of simple in that sense. Drum Machines and Synths, the same way I always did it. And some samplers of course. Got to have samplers.
Q: Yes of course, very cool to hear you stuck with hardware this whole time. So this is very important, let’s talk about the rebirth of the Storm Raves recently. While some might argue the Rave scene never died, clearly what had been built in the 90s was somehow lost as the turn of the century came. Seems to have become sorta mainstream, with lots of Candy kids and girls in lingerie running around almost aimlessly at EDM shows that simply do not seem to promote the kind of vibe and mentality that we all worked so hard to attain a long time ago. What was the inspiration to start this back up? We must admit its probably the greatest bit of news we have gotten in years, as we have always wished the real rave scene would return. Has the response been good?
A: 9-11-01 changed the world. After 9-11 the rave scene kind of disappeared and returned as something else which happens as things move on. It's the same scene we started in 1990, just a little bit more commercial and not as underground as I would like. The club element came back into the scene, the same one we were trying to escape. It took them 20 years though, it was bound to happen.
I can only answer this by you going into GOOGLE: "Frankie Bones Storm Rave". Search that and study the topics. Over 22 years between the last STORM rave and the one we just put on in 2015. The answer is in that.
Q: What are your current plans or projects aside from DJing and reviving the scene, are you working hard in the studio?
A: It's really EAT, SLEEP, RAVE, REPEAT....or however the expression goes. My life isn't any different then it has been for the past 25 years. I make a career out of Selling Vinyl, Making Tracks & Spinning on the weekends.
Q: It's an amazing feeling being able to do what you love as a career I am sure. So as you have probably heard, there has been lots of talk about vinyl making a resurgence, are you seeing it? Are you getting back into it, did you ever stop playing it?
A: I'm going to pick up 200 records in about an hour. I never stopped buying & selling vinyl. It doesn't change for me, but I have used CDJ's when I play out because that is what is available to use when I play out. Turntables don't exist in most live settings, venues & festivals.
Q: Are there any plans for Sonic Groove the store, or the label to return? Do you stay in close contact with the whole gang still?
A: My brother still runs the Sonic Groove record label. (www.sonicgroove.com)
Q: That's great news, it was sad to see the store close down, though we can understand the reasoning after 9/11 and the environment that was created in the city for some time. So are Heather Heart and Adam X joining you in the new STORM Rave journey you are embarking on?
A: Rob Gee, Lenny Dee, Heather Heart, Adam X & myself were able to become a serious working team in 2015 as proven by the event Red Bull sponsored event for their RBMA festival. There are a lot of new areas to explore and I have been active in trying to bring this original concept to the next level. It is still a work in progress.
Q: Well thank you, we really appreciate your time doing this interview Frankie. To conclude, what would you have to say to the new generation of DJs, Producers and partygoers as to what should be important in doing all of this? Obviously there are different reasons why people do it, whether it be ego, image, or hopefully a deeper drive to promote good vibes and a good message. What would you personally encourage people to strive for?
A: Be true to yourself, and you will never fall. Words of The Beastie Boys. And naybe think of PLUR for what it truly means, not for what it has become in the scene today. Think about Peace, and be peaceful. Think about love, and go fall in love. Think about unity as we are all in this together, and try to have a little respect. For everyone. When we pass on, the fame, the life and the money don't come with us.........
Thank you again Frankie, long live the movement!
Interview by: Santino Fernandez - TechnoBass
The Loudness War: When Too Loud Isn't Loud Enough!
The Loudness War: you may have heard the term at some point over the past 15 years, and in fact, you may have even noticed that music has progressively gotten louder and louder over time as well. For those of us who have a keen ear, and perhaps its fair to say this is a department exclusive for audiophiles and sound engineers, there has been a noticeable difference in the loudness of music; especially Electronic Music, over the past 15 years or so, making it harder to listen to frequently, and often creating what is referred to as a "tiring" or "fatiguing" mix.
While we can argue this is a new trend, the interesting thing is that it actually happened a long time ago as well during the days of 45's, where cutting engineers were asked to cut singles louder and louder in hopes Jukebox listeners would place their attention on the louder records, as well as getting Radio Station program directors to pick out the louder ones in favor of the others. Motown records were infamous for this, and were in fact considered to be some of the "hottest' records of the day for it. Artists who would find their record to be softer in volume than that of the very popular ones, would usually ask for their record to be re-mastered in order to compete in this early loudness war in hopes to achieve better sales and recognition.
Today, in a slightly different fashion, the same has been happening, and for the same reasons: in hopes that the louder music will jump out to the listener and end customer, and appeal more; sound better produced somehow. Its truly, a "Sonic Arms Race" as some would call it, creating a competitive environment where every artist and label feels that their record must be as loud if not louder than the next; leaving behind an era in between where even though Dynamic Compression and Limiters were useful tools in the mastering process,they were also used with care and with the idea that Dynamic Range was an important part of the listening experience. That is to say, the naturally loud and quieter instruments of a song were part of how one was supposed to experience the music. Listening to a Beatles or Pink Floyd album, even Kraftwerk, one can clearly see these are not loud records, but rather very dynamic, and offer a very enjoyable experience where each instrument has its place and set volume level.
The Loudness Wars came to a head in the commercial music industry several years back, after the 2008 release of Heavy-Metal band Metallica's "Death Magnetic" album, which was also released on the video game "Guitar Hero", though not compressed in the same way the commercial release was published. This led to a huge backlash, where fans of the band actually signed an online petition asking for the album to be remastered, claiming a noticeable difference in sound, and preference to the Guitar Hero version; which was not as heavily compressed.
The good thing at this point was, that people in greater numbers were beginning to see the damage of taking a properly mixed piece of music, and then taking every instrument and pushing it to its ceiling. One has to ask, what would even be the purpose of mixing a song, if we were to follow by maxing everything to its absolute peak? Naturally, in a song there must be parts that tuck behind others, and parts that are meant to be louder and lead the listening experience. It would seem like an awful waste of time to then take the final master, and squash everything against its max peak ceiling, almost as if in the mixing process, every channel had been turned up one by one on purpose and without recognizing the need for every part to have its place in the volume range.
Thankfully, as this trend continues, and there is more of an understanding that something truly is rather wrong with music these days, and that its not just Audio Compression for digital downloading purposes, but a competing culture that has either forgotten, or never learned the value of proper mastering techniques; then perhaps loudness will no longer be the ultimate goal, but instead it will be to make well-balanced dynamic music that is enjoyable to listen to.
The more this concept is re-adopted, it will also take away the other illusion that has been prevalent, that somehow a more dynamic piece of music is perhaps the poorly produced; something that engineers who have used conventional techniques through all this time have struggled with as it makes their music appear considerably lower in volume than most other material. Something particularly apparent in the club scene were much of the music is generally mixed by DJs, and dynamic records lead to uneven mixes that suggest somehow these pieces have something wrong in the production applied to them, driving many to question if perhaps loudness must be achieved for better sales and overall impression. Something else that has interestingly enough never been proven to be true. In fact, not only has loudness in no way equated to better sales, the opposite has been the case as more people recognize what is happening. The fact is, sadly enough, that we have literally taken millions of incredible albums, E.P.s, and singles, and in many ways destroyed them by taking away from the overall quality of the sound; in some cases driving listeners back to earlier periods of music, because it is simply more enjoyable to listen to, and not because of the styles necessarily, but because it is truly "easier" on the ear.
Around 2010, many great strides were made against the Loudness Wars when Ian Sheperd, a mastering engineer in the commercial music industry, started the "Dynamic Range Day" campaign, which was a huge success, and showed that industry professionals and fans alike where behind the idea that indeed something needed to be done in order to get music to sound better again. Companies like SSL, TC Electronics, and others began to support the movement over the past several years, with some of the industry's most notorious recording engineers openly calling for a change in the mastering process, as well as that of broadcasting practices, which also use signal processing to push music to its absolute amplitude in order to compete with other stations. Popular mainstream bands like Daft Punk, even began pushing for their newly released music to be mixed and mastered properly, with their album "Random Access Memories" winning five Grammy Awards, also for Best Engineered Album; with engineer Mick Guzauski stating that "We never tried to make it loud and I think it sounds better for it".
Some time ago, other big steps were made against the loudness of music, with the founding of the "Turn Me Up!" campaign, which encourages the use of stickers on albums certified for having been mastered correctly, and even the Apple Corporation who has also gotten behind the idea of using a normalization process in streaming called "Sound Check" for iTunes Radio, and following on the footsteps of "ReplayGain". As a standard proposed by David Robinson in 2001, this method essentially uses software to ensure even levels of volume across different recordings played in a session; something that as it begins to be implemented more and more as with iTunes Radio, will make producing louder music irrelevant, as it would simply be attenuated to the standards being set forth recently by organizations like the European Broadcasting and International Telecommunication Unions, who are trying to set a proper standard for how loud music ought to be.
Bob Katz, a Grammy Award-Winning mastering engineer and all around popular Audiophile, explained on his website that: "The way to turn the loudness race around right now, is for every producer and mastering engineer to ask their clients if they have heard iTunes Radio. When they respond in the affirmative, the engineer/producer tells them they need to turn down the level of their song(s) to the standard level or iTunes Radio will do it for them. He or she should also explain that overcompressed material sounds wimpy and small in comparison to more open material on iTunes Radio."
Debate within the industry continues on today about the subject of the Loudness War, specially about how to properly measure what is perceived as an increase in the loudness of music, which while the general consensus agrees music is indeed louder, some like Emmanuel Deruty of Sound on Sound argue that Dynamic Range ( Or Dynamic Variability as he argues ) has actually not changed, but rather that there is much more limited crest factor (peak minus RMS). Something that after analyzing 45 years of music in a study aided by Dr. Damien Tardieu of the IRCAM Institute in Paris, led him to the conclusion that it was indeed crest factor that had diminished, as opposed to an increase in Loudness Range or decrease in Dynamic Range. Ian Sheperd and Bob Katz have both challenged this analysis, saying that Loudness Range is a way of measuring volume variation within a song, while the European Broadcasting Union's R128 "Peak To Loudness Ratio" measure was a more useful way of measuring overall perceived dynamic variability; something that in their studies had shown to decrease throughout the 1990's.
Other people in the industry also argue that perhaps some types of music benefit from loudness, as EDM for example, which as Deruty explains: "It may be suited to your kind of music, or it may not. You might want to remain 'soft' on purpose. If you're doing heavy Techno music, though, 'compact' is probably a good idea." David Noller, iconic Techno Bass producer, and highly influential performer as Dynamix II also reinforces that idea, saying that: "Back in the prehistoric days of recording, they just didn't have the luxury of the tools they have nowadays to make everything sound larger and fuller. Now everyone compresses and limits to bring out each sound to its maximum potential to make the overall track sound louder, The louder the track is, the more people will hear of it. We are making music that is to be played on loud speakers in a loud nightclub/festival setting, so it would only make sense to crank everything to the max." However, there are many that still feel that this isn't the best approach, even with Electronic Music, which many argue sounds "offensively" loud these days, and often makes them shy away from it even if they still respect the works of many of these artists.
One thing is for sure, something has changed in music over time in regards to loudness; whether it is for better or worse, and while it may have even happened long ago, we've enjoyed a good amount of time where music seemed to be handled with care, and did in fact seem more dynamic and naturally flowing; something analyzed wave patterns of older music show via what is clearly a dynamic piece of music with variable peaks in the wave, not the "bricks" one tends to see on sites like Soundcloud, where many praise this approach as if it is somehow a more worthy accomplishment. Barella points out that: "Music must retain dynamics in order to express emotion & passion.", and it's a sentiment echoed far and wide across the music industry by many who simply feel this to be true.
The truth is that there are proper techniques in how music should be produced, which unfortunately with the advent of the digital revolution and computer software for making and recording music, what we have seen are the flood gates being opened up to the point that the over-commercialization of it all has created a culture that is in many ways very unaware of what it actually takes to properly record a piece of music, and even what it takes to be a true professional musician, and well-rounded recording engineer. Sadly to many, making music is part of a trend, something that gains them social status, while to the rest of us, it is a labor of love, and a deeply driven cause that encourages us to always try harder and be better, respecting our roots, and the work of those who laid that foundation for us.
Part of that has always been, that music should truly sound its very best, and that it is not a tool of competition that blinds us as to what is important, but a sacred craft that asks of us that we be diligent in the approach we take to making it and delivering it to the masses. Music can have a powerful effect on people psychologically and spiritually, which considering the power of sound waves and the physical influence they have on their surroundings, it would seem self-defeating to deliver them in a way that doesn't truly allow the music to flow in the way its meant to. Complaints of ear fatigue after hearing much of the modern records being made today are a good sign that this isn't being done in general, and thankfully people have stood up for the cause and changes are beginning to be made...the soul of the music itself is worth the fight!
Written by: Santino Fernandez - TechnoBass