Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Richard Cole King interview 15 March 2009 Pt 1

Richard Cole King is a cool kid from Cape Town. He's making quite a large contribution to the South African music scene because he is one of the tiny handful of people regularly blogging about what's going down. Other than his great blog Smack Talk, Richard also writes for publication called Chew.

For their recent technology issue Richard approached me for an interview. While the published interview was (very understandably) cut down drastically, I'm presenting you with the unabridged full thing here. Along the way you'll notice some photos of me doing the stuff I'm talking about. These photos were graciously supplied by my friend Liam Lynch, who has (amongst a multitude of other projects) been enthusiastically documenting the exploits of our gang for the past few years.

Hi Richard!

Here're my responses.

First up I thought I should just point out what I do and don't do, to avoid any confusion. Basically I don't bring any new music into this world :) In the time I've been DJing I've only been involved in making one remix - a rework of Kidofdoom's Forest Fire, which I co-produced with The King of Town under the name "The Critical Hits". I played synth in Johnny Neon before I'd assembled my visual set-up, but I really sucked at it - needed to write down which notes I was allowed to play in each song and just rocked it as a one-fingered-wonder. I couldn't have been happier when I finally got hold of a keytar and could focus on just triggering visuals, singing and rocking out.

What I'm doing with the keytar is entirely visual. I use the white keys to trigger clips and loops of stuff I've animated or re-edited. I use the black keys to turn effects on and off and I use the controls on the neck of the keytar to manipulate these effects and the brightness of what I'm sending out.

Cool, just thought I should clear that up form the get go - I'm not a musician, just a guy that mixes other people's music together or tries to translate other people's music into live video and dance moves :)

Cool - here are my answers!

R: How long have you been interested and making music? Who are your biggest influences?

B: I first got the idea of me DJing into my head late in 2004. I was telling a friend about all these "dance" punk bands I was loving. Said friend was a house DJ and his first response was "so you could mix them together into a DJ set?" and I was like "Ummmm... FUCK YEAH!". And from there on out I started looking at music differently. Instead of just aimlessly dancing around in my bedroom to The Rapture, !!! and Moving Units, I was thinking about how cool it'd be to get a whole dancefloor of people to rock out with me.

R: As a dj (Sassquatch), do you primarily make your own music, or do you remix and play other artists stuff?

B: I don't produce any music myself, I just mix other peoples' songs together.

The only track I've played out that I was involved in making was the "Critical Hits" remix of Kidofdoom's Forest Fire. In the studio The Critical Hits were basically King of Town (Paul Holden) and I.

I really enjoyed working on the remix, and I think if a DJ produces tracks to play as well, it gives his sets a lot more substance. To me seeing someone like JD Twitch (Optimo) DJing, the way he seamlessly combined all these elements from different tracks he's produced was completely awe inspiring.

Personally I'd love to get to that kind of point, but I came to the realisation quite a way back that I will suck at making music for a long time before I get good and I don't like sucking at stuff. So I decided to focus more on the visual side of things. So many incredibly talented people have given the world the most amazing collection of music; I honestly know I can't hope to offer any kind of improvement on that. As far as throwing myself around a stage and spitting animation out of a keytar though, I feel like I really have something special to offer.

R: What genre type/style is the music you enjoy playing at shows? Is it electro/house, mainstream, underground etc etc?

B: I started DJing because I wanted to play fast, fun art-punk kinda stuff. Bands like Q and not U, Moving Units, The Rapture and Gang of Four were bands that I played almost every set in the early days, and I just kind of crashed the songs into one another.

After a few months of doing that I started working on actually beat matching tracks to combine songs and work towards having seamless transitions. This brought me to the rather crap realisation that most art-punk bands weren't making music for DJs. As such the tempos were generally really fast and inconsistent and songs didn't have extended intro and outros. So I started moving towards more mixable "dance" music, but still tried to keep things very rock and roll.

I really can't stand all the banging electro and nasty ghettogrimehop that's become so intertwined with the "indie-dance" scene since I started DJing, so I steer as far as possible away from that kind of stuff. I'm playing mostly guitar-oriented, vocal, punk-funk and nu-disco at the moment.

R: You are one of a very select few who successfully mix music and visuals for the ultimate in music experiences. What inspired that and do you think more visuals are an integral part of the music scene in SA going forward?

B: I think I first got interested in the idea of VJing just when I got out of high school. I was studying film, but I was obsessed with music, so the idea of re-interpreting songs into visuals was very appealing to me. In 2005 I saw Digital Rocket doing a demo for VJing software called Ar Kaos. They were assigning video clips to the keys of a synth. When I saw that I was just blown away, I was just like "I have to start playing video."

I definitely don't think more visuals are necessary to push the SA music scene forward. I do think it'd really help things if we saw more bands coming out that looked at performance differently. Re-evaluated what a band needs to be a band. We already have some awesome acts that are playing rock and roll with that kind of attitude (Yesterday's Pupil, Sticky Antlers, Unit R to name a few) and it would be the coolest thing to see more bands playing with that kind of enthusiasm about challenging the idea of what a band should be.

For me personally though, I think the future of visual performance is massively exciting. To me it's the next rock and roll. No-one is challenged by a guy playing a guitar through an amplifier. It's sad because in the 50ies, seeing or hearing just that is something that would outrage people. Amplification, distrortion pedals, synthesisers, drum machines, these things were like rock and roll weapons. And I guess they still are - people are still using them to make music. But it's only in the first few years that they're out there that they freak people out, and piss old people off and make kids scream just on the grounds of what they are.

I realise there are infinite possibilities for people to use modern technology to change how music is performed, but I'm a whole lot more excited for the possibilities with video performance. The very action of taking a device that's was designed to make sound waves and using it to make light waves is so wrong that it's perfect. I know most people that would see me playing would by default assume I'm making music and they'd probably be very confused/ pissed off if they found out that wasn't the case. I think that's awesome.
R: You recently did a collaboration with Kidofdoom at Ramfest. What was the idea behind that show? What exactly did you do?

B: My response traveled for into the future here!

R: What is your favourite musical gadget that you enjoy at your shows?

B: The Keytar - it's called a Roland AX-7. At the time it was discontinued, it was the very last keytar that was been made in the world - Korg, Casio, Yamaha and Moog had all given up on making them a long time before that.

I went through such an ordeal hunting it down for over a year. Once I finally found it, I saw it get snatched up by someone else from right under my nose. I lived without it for another couple months until this guy realised I really needed it and sold it to me. Every time I get to throw it over my shoulders it just makes me so happy to have it in my hands.

I recently got a wireless midi transmitter for it, so at Ramfest I could move around the stage freely, which made rocking the AX-7 that much more awesome.


Cool dude, sorry to give you way more than you need. It's just very exciting for me getting to talk to someone about this stuff!

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