William Fitzsimmons delivers a heart rending and stripped down tune in honor of his recently deceased Grandmother.
I spoke with the elusive synth-pop artist Gab who hails from Melbourne Australia and works entirely with vintage 80’s analogue equipment. I spoke with him about the challenges of working with that equipment and his origins in the musical world.
I started playing electric guitar in high school but it wasn’t until much later that I was introduced to electronic music by a DJ friend of mine. Although I never ended up following the Djing path myself that brief encounter with vinyl and ‘beat-matching’ made me listen to electronic music in a very different way. It was like my ears were open for the first time and I could not only hear but ‘feel’ all the layers (basslines, pads, percussions etc..) and appreciate how they worked together as a single danceable driving force.
After hearing artists like Giorgio Moroder, Cerrone & YMO I started wondering how on earth people managed to make electronic music before computers came around…
I became increasingly fascinated by the production techniques of the 70s/80s and was amazed to see how many limitations artists had to work with compared to even the simplest laptop setup of today. I decided to start applying a similar approach to my own music and got myself a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder. I soon discovered that having less options worked much better for me than having too many. I’ve bought more equipment since then but I’ve made a point not to get anything manufactured after 1989 as a sort of self-imposed limitation on how sophisticated the gear should get. I’m not particularly interested in the whole “tape-&-hardware-sound-better-than-software” argument but what I love about this process is that it forces you to literally ‘think outside the box’.
The Roland Juno 60 is by far my favorite analog synth. It’s generally my go-to keyboard when sketching out ideas for new songs as it has a very intuitive interface. Most sounds that end up on the finished track start out on the Juno.
Here is a little video I recorded when I first got it:
Tape overdubs are probably the trickiest part of the whole process as there is no copy & paste, no micro-editing and definitely no ‘undo’. It’s not uncommon for example to try and re-record over a small mistake of an otherwise perfect take and “punch-out” (i.e. stop recording by pressing a remote footswitch connected to the cassette machine) just a second too late therefore having to redo the whole take from scratch! And the mechanical aspect of how quickly the tape recorder head engages and disengages only adds to the fun…
It’s frustrating at times but also a much more fun and rewarding experience overall than simply clicking away on a mouse.
The other challenge is cables… you just can NEVER have enough cables!
I’m still relatively new to the city after moving here from London last September but Melbourne is a great place for electronic music and a lot of my favourite synth-influenced artists have come from this very city. Bands like Cut Copy, Miami Horror, Client Liaison and World’s End Press are all from here for example. The scene is very active and there is live music pretty much anywhere you turn. I’m planning to get back into playing live at some point in mid-late April.
It’s hard to choose but here’s a quick selection in no particular order:
Tear Council – Anywhere: Michael Di Francesco (the mastermind behind a number of amazing projects like ‘Touch Sensitive’, ‘Van She’ and, more recently, ‘Tear Council’) is one of my favourite contemporary producers. It’s like everything he touches turns to gold! Plus I love that he still predominantly uses vintage synths in his studio.
Client Liason – That’s Desire: no one does 80s like these guys! It finally looks like they are getting the recognition they deserve!
Computer Magic – Mindstate: her tracks strike a perfect balance between quirky and melancholic. Quite an unusual combination but a highly addictive one.
Maybe the Moon – Two Birthdays: Simply put one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard in a while.
Sam Padrul – Skylight (Ft. Alex Lewis) only discovered this a few days ago but every time it ends I just want to press play again!
I’m just about to shoot my first ever music video with the help of my partner (in life and in crime) Emma. It will be shot on a camcorder from 1986 and will feature a lot of the streets of Melbourne.
I’m also looking into releasing a cassette EP later in the year and I’m currently working on recording the material for it.
I had a chance to talk with neuroscience student and ambient electronic musical artist Arielle Herman about her musical origins and her grant to illustrate how brainwaves change…
I had a chance to talk to the excellent electronic band MIKRO from Athens Greece about their longevity, their love of vintage synths and their future.
I had a chance to talk to Alex Lasner of San Francisco Electro/Sprawling Pop band Maybe the Moon. Learn more.
I had a chance to chat with a band from Western New York that is on the rise with a sound akin to Passion Pit, Foster the People…