Out Of Context _ Interview With Lag
What is it like in Serbia for electronic music? Is it pretty progressive and easy to access? It seems like that, looking in from the outside anyway..
I went out a lot during the two months I spent in Berlin last year because there were many acts I wanted to see, and I had a great time. In Serbia not so much, because I have a day-job and going out to hear the same local DJs for the umpth time is a bit dull. There is a local night that I like to frequent because 90s club music is played, so it’s a selection filtered by the trial of time. Other than that, I’d rather spend the evening with my girlfriend, or with friends on Teamspeak, playing games.
Serbia used to be a blast (I sound like Gramps again) because there is nothing worse for a ruling dictator than young people gathering in the evenings, talking and effectively spreading the “cancerous” idea of wanting to fight for a better future. For that reason nightlife was very nurtured (you can’t really plan a revolution while standing next to a 100 kW soundsystem) and man oh man was it great. It just grew very, very strong at one point. Then, after the Bulldozer Revolution, club privileges got cut hard and it has progressively been harder to make a party and not end up spending more money than invested, especially with the annual introduction of laws and regulations which make the promoter’s and club owner’s job increasingly challenging. Of course, there are people here still working hard to make the best of it, as well as an ever increasing number of local producers worthy of everyone’s attention. Even though party-wise it isn’t what it used to be, the scene itself is far from dead.
Sounds like you had the time to make a few tracks in there somewhere. When did you start producing?
I remember being on a local forum and someone pointing out that such a genre called IDM exists. I took interest in it and took the most bitter bite by watching the movie PI first, and then playing Aphex’s “Drukqs” album. Having the sick mind that I do, I wanted more of the sadistic material and I met with the guy who told me about IDM in the first place. After talking for ages about Autechre and such stuff, he showed me Reason. I got into it, read the manual and started experimenting. The first two tracks I made took me about a year to finish. They both had around 60 stereo channels and, even though I still love them as music, the production was, as you’d expect, totally poo. Then I just went on doing all kinds of things and actually studied sound recording and design for four years. Didn’t really learn anything from my teachers (one of my which still claims that mastering is basically just down to applying multiband compression) but articles and books I’ve read, as well as exchanging thoughts and experiences with other students, gave me ideas that I still (ab)use to this day.
I read that you have some hardware.. is that what you are producing on now? I don’t know whether to be surprised by that seeing that you work with computers in your day job.. but maybe it’s a way of escaping, eh? Haha
Oh man, I’m all about the “in the box” workflow. And I really like computers. “Home is where my hard-disk is”, and all that. I mean I’ve got some hardware that I like to play around, but I can’t really do the “Lag” stuff on that. I do have a different project that would be straighter techno and then I will be able to make more than just jams on those babies. I have a ES-1 Electribe, and I always dreamed of having a 303 unit, so getting a x0xb0x unit made sense. Now if I could just get my hands on a good 909 clone, and the Sherman Filterbank distortion unit, that would be awesome.
How do you approach arrangement of a track? It’s an area that some people struggle with. I’ve been doing a bit of “subtractive” arrangement; adding all the parts on the arrange page, then deleting the bits I don’t need. After I’ve done that, I’ll record some live automation over it. Do you have any hard or fast rules?
I love doing the arrangement. I also hate it in a way.
At one point (around 2003.) I stopped caring about techno. Everything became the same, and I was tired from hearing “Murder Was The Bass” for 5 times in a night, so I turned to the progressive scene which was going strong with the Global Underground and Renaissance mixes (makes sense, as hearing Darren Emerson’s Singapore mix actually made me decide I don’t want to just be a bystander, but an active participant in the EDM scene). This was an important part of my musical growing up as I started paying a lot of attention to the production, arrangement etc., so doing tracks which really evolve over time is something that feels really natural to me. The only problem is – this sucks for techno. Techno (in my opinion) needs to be very sustained to be able to build the tension up (just listen to any newer Planetary Assault System track to see what I mean), or, if it has a wild arrangement, it needs to have most of the fun stuff happen in the first third of the track (for example, almost any earlier Surgeon track). Basically I tend to mix relatively fast, and end up making tracks which have elaborate arrangements and peaks which happen between the second and third part of the track, and for this reason I end up not playing that much of my own music.
Now some might say that this is relative as most of today’s techno also has it’s most peaking break in the same, latish area. Well, when I play these tracks I make cue points and usually just skip the first, boring part. 🙂 I just have a style of playing and I want my music to fit that style. It’s just like with basslines. I used to do basslines, but most places I played had really inert sub speakers, and I didn’t enjoy hearing my music on those sound systems so I stopped doing basslines.
Like I said – I love doing arrangements, and then, when I’m done and it sounds great as a song, I delete everything and start again to make it more toolish, and thus – functional in my own set. I should have a 12” coming out in a few months on which I allowed myself to have one of each (toolish and songish). I wonder what the feedback will be.
What was the last production problem or pain in the arse that you had and how did you resolve it?
Oh man, finding that last sound you need is always a bitch. As you add more sounds it gets progressively harder to fit something new that will go well with everything else. Not only that but 90% of the time I know exactly what I want and won’t take anything else instead of it. It’s a pain in the arse to find it, and then to mix it in so it sits naturally.
And yeah, every time I find that last sound I yell “LEEROY JENKINS”, take of all my clothes and do the helicopter dance in front of an open window.
Hahaha – I’d love a .gif of that!
What was the best thing you ever got for your Studio?
Adam A7 monitors.
Cheap cables. Never get cheap cables.
Buy cheap, buy twice!