In recent years, there’s been a significant amount of controversy in the electronic music community about what qualifies as a live performance. These days there are several methods with which to perform that the preconceived notion of the ‘live’ performance is often left up in the air.
Traditionally speaking, the process of performing live music has been quite simple - bring your sheet music, tune your instrument, and play. Regardless of whether or not the artist is performing solo or in a group, there is always an element of spontaneity - no matter the artist’s skill level, live performances can be full of mistakes and will never sound like the original studio material and it shouldn't have to. In a 2013 article from FACT magazine, artist Xavier Thomas aka ‘debruit’ said, “You have to be able to make mistakes to have a feeling of live-ness. And it's also presenting some sort of difference between your music in a live format as opposed to a recorded performance to people that might already know your work” (Fintoni).
Before we continue, it's important to recognize the distinction between DJs and Producers. A DJ’s strength traditionally lies in engaging a live audience and witnessing their immediate reaction while working with their instruments, the turntable, mixer and crate of music. A producer also needs to work with their instruments in a studio environment with digital and or analog equipment to effectively convey an emotion or idea. Sometimes, Producers who are strong in the studio may lack the performance chops to rock a crowd. And on the flipside, seasoned DJs who can successfully mix for hours may lack the technical knowledge to produce. In these situations, those who are producers first may resort to pushing play on pre-recorded sets, and those who are DJs first may enlist the aid of a friendly neighbourhood ghost producer. Both are equally taboo topics which question the legitimacy of the artists skills.
It’s sort of like realizing your favourite singer is lip-synching and the microphone they are holding is merely a prop, some singers will always perform better in the studio than they do onstage. The same can be said for the producer playing a pre-recorded set at the mainstage and the revered DJ who releases a song made by someone else. Without a transparent connection between the two sides, confusion is bound to develop as the actual product and the expectations communicated on behalf of the artist, the promoter, and or the venue cease to match up with one another.
The essence of live music performance is that there should be a chance that things could go wrong, but it is the skill of the performer to bring it to new heights and keep it all from falling apart. Otherwise it's like just going to watch a movie. Sharing the experience in an environment with other people does have the potential to transform your relationship to the art, but that's just the equivalent of pressing play, and for many reasons we expect more from music.
There will always be audiences who will appreciate the performer who walks the line with artistic integrity and there will be audiences who simply seek the thrill of dancing live to music regardless of the performer’s technical prowess. Both are fine, but as electronic music grows and audiences mature they will also inevitably become more aware of what is actually going on in the booth and/or on the stage. The room for error and genuine talent should come together in a way that compliments the audience's tastes so as not to set up some sort of false expectation whereby the artist can get away with pretending to perform. For those looking solely for a visceral experience perhaps the play button with some banging tracks, flashing lights, and fireworks will do. The performance, however, often informs the experience and this speaks to the classic dance floor notion of energy transfer between performer and audience and the question remains can that truly happen when it's a one way conversation?
Fintoni, Laurent. "The Great Live Music Roundtable: Six Producers Debate the Future of Live Electronic Music." FACT Magazine. FACT Magazine, 31 Oct. 2013. Web. 19 Mar. 2016.
In this episode of infamous OCDJ-TV Steptone & Slowpitch dive into the the Space Bag of questions and attempt to find the true answers that lie beneath the surface of DJing & Production. Will they emerge successful!? Find out as they duck and dodge their way through the challenges of turntable, DJ, beat making, and all around electronic arts philosophy.
Superior Method is a Hip Hop and Funk artist that has been making some serious movements around Toronto. We caught up with him to talk about his new 6 song EP titled "BeHold".
OCDJ - How would you describe your style?
SM - I truly feel that the Hip Hop genre has lost its roots from way back. I would describe my style as one that personifies the old school vibe. I am also experimenting with Funk, Jazz and Electronic.
OCDJ - How Long have you been making music for?
SM - I have been creating music for about 9 years, since I first sat down in front a computer and started experimenting with FL Studio. I became enthralled in making music that made me feel good - simple. I started off producing Reggae & Soca, and then proceeded to indulge in the world of Hip Hop, Funk, and Trap Music.
OCDJ - Who are some of your early influences?
SM - I credit the artists that have truly animated my musical arrangements. My very first song that I loved for a long time throughout my childhood and was a big influence on me was “ It Wasn’t Me” by Shaggy. His music always involved good vibes and made you dance. Every track I write, I try to create something that will make you bob your head. The other prevalent artists that have had a lasting impact also range from Q – tip, A Tribe Called Quest, Method Man, Kanye West, Redman, John Legend, Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg, Mos Def, Dizzy Wright, Drake, Tori Kelly, J Cole, Chiddy Bang, Rihanna, and Immortal Technique.
“All the essential tools you need to become successful, you already have, It's a matter of realizing your potential and then lighting up the path” - Superior Method 'Kool-Aid'
OCDJ - How do you feel being an artist in this day and age from Toronto?
SM - Toronto is home to a lot of varied talent, which is why I strongly believe I have to set myself apart in every possible way. My aim is to create intrigue with my art including a wide range of creative tactics.
OCDJ - The delivery on 'Love Hip Hop' is very genuine, What is Hip Hop to you?
SM - I sincerely regard music as a cognitive path that is distinctive to every single person in this universe. It goes beyond stimulating melodies you listen to however, the amount of pleasure and feeling an arrangement can cause is genuine. Love Hip Hop stemmed an expression of how I felt about the culture and its pioneers that led the way. Hip Hop nowadays is an entire culture that is getting overrun by the same ideas and tactics.
OCDJ - Do you make your own beats and if so what is your approach to making music?
SM - I use FL Studio to produce my own music. It’s a program that works for me and I love it. My approach comes from someone that wants to bring back the funk, the poetry and lyricism back. I also love meditating during the week for at least an hour every day to relax and have a clear mind when making music.
OCDJ - Is there anything else you like to do in your spare time when you aren't writing?
SM - I enjoy everyday like a new adventure and also enjoy meditating. I am currently bumping Chance The Rapper, Kehlani, and Camille Safiya.
OCDJ - Any last words or projects coming up you'd like to tell the world?
SM - I enjoy working with new artists all the time. I am the CEO of Superior Sound Group, which is my company I started last year. We are a collective of producers that help out vocalists or rappers that need quality instrumentals. Shoot over your music to email@example.com. I’m open to all genres.
Z103.5 will be playing out 'Love Hip-Hop' on Friday November 27th at 10pm.
Welcome to our Video Newsletter. It's November! Here are highlights of things we got going on this month. You can go old school and read the full newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/bDuRZD
In Episode 5 of our ongoing OCDJ series we touch on a much debated topic: Humans vs. Technology! Not so much in the Ex Machina sense, but more so breaking down how art and expression are influenced and sometimes even replaced by pre made loops, stock automation, and computer generated mixing. Technology is a wonderful thing, but where do we draw the line between self expression and roboticized beats? What's more important, star gazing or trail blazing?
Sound architect Matt Thibideau has a wealth of Synth knowledge pouring out of his modular brain. We grabbed a bucket to hold some of it and realized it wasn't enough so we decided to get him over to OCDJ for a highly anticipated weekend workshop happening July 18th. Here's a taste of the man's knowledge.
OCDJ - It's time to abandon ship and you've got only 2 minutes. Which synth is going with you? Why is it so special?
MT - That is a really tough question. It may be the Oberheim OBX, or my Roland System 100m modular.
Both for very different reasons. The OBX is great at lush sounding polyphonic stabs, chords and bass sounds. I tend to turn to it a lot because it sounds alive. No two notes really sound exactly the same.
The Roland System 100m is a great compact modular synthesizer that can dream up pretty much any sound, it could be drums, bass, bleeps, or weird sound fx. With the ability to connect it via patching and
so many different synthesizer parameters, the sky is the limit.
OCDJ - You were recently featured in a documentary about modular synthesizers. Can you tell us a little bit about it? What was it like being approached to be in it?
MT - I dream of wires is a great documentary that explains the disappearing and then return of the modular synthesizer in music. The Artist Solvent (who put the movie together) got in touch with me after knowing about my music in the local scene here in Toronto for years. What drew them to include our studio was that we have the Synclavier (an early digital sampler that changed the way music was made in the 80's).
It is a great documentary for both the enthusiasts and people new to synthesizers as it gives some insight into the history of some great machines and how people use them.
OCDJ - Are you opposed to digital gear or have you found a way to fuse the two worlds together?
MT - I do use some digital gear, mostly in the form of hardware (Samplers, FM and Wavetable synths). I also do use a Mac with Protools. It pretty much acts like a big tape machine and editing suite with midi control.
So in this way the two worlds do come together. All of my sounds tend to come from external instruments though. It is a comfortable way of working for me I guess.
OCDJ - Are there places in Toronto you like visiting to get inspired?
MT - I tend to leave the city to get my inspiration, but have walked around outside to record different "natural" types of sounds. I tend to record and take this back to the studio for
a lot of experimenting and manipulating.
I do visit the lake shore a lot as a bit of an escape from the city.
OCDJ - Besides navigating around mountains of synths at your awesome studio, do you have another passion?
MT - I enjoy my bike rides, and going to the gym when I have time. Listening to lots of ambient music and working with other like minded artists.
Performing live and travelling makes me happy too.
"Never be afraid to try working at a lower sampling rate"
OCDJ - Our students go bananas over tips. Do you have a drum programming or synth tip you'd be willing to share?
MT - 1. Erase the presets, Avoid sample packs, and build your sounds from the ground up.
2. Make kits of drum sounds using synths and sample them into different devices.
3. Never be afraid to try working at a lower sampling rate. Recording and sampling sounds in 8 bit, and 20khz can produce interesting and sometimes
OCDJ - What can participants expect from your "Intro to Modular Synths" workshop?
MT - Participants can expect to explore all of the aspects of a smaller "moog" styled modular synthesizer.
This will include the Oscillator, Filter, Amplifier and Envelope. We will talk about how they all interact and some of the history of the synthesizer.
OCDJ - Any last words or projects coming up you'd like to tell the world?
MT - My Brother and run a small label called Obsolete Components with many different recordings done with modular and hardware synthesizers. We have plenty of music to share with the world here.
We will also be heading to Europe this August to perform some of that music live.
Guelph/Toronto beat wiz Elaquent is on a steady climb into the minds of music enthusiasts around the globe. Taking a break from a busy tour schedule, the skilled beat smith hung with us for quite an awesome chat.
OCDJ - Why beats?
EQ - hmm, I mean, I could get into a number of philosophical reasons why I make beats....but the biggest or main reason..is that its fun. as a kid who grew up on golden era hip hop, production has always been an area I was very interested in, however, I didn't have money to buy an mpc. luckily I discovered fruity loops and found a way I could create. my older brother and I often used to complain about how wack commercial hip hop was, but instead of complaining about it, why not be a part of the solution. He excelled at rhyming, I excelled at beats.
OCDJ - For someone who has no idea about music but loves food can you describe your sound to them?
EQ - lol thats a tough one...perhaps a well seasoned steak with a rich balsamic wine reduction sauce. there is a lot of quality steak out there, but I try to add a lot of subtleties to add a little bit more flavor to the typical boom bap sound, whether its my usage of samples or synths, while still maintaining an element of rawness...hence the rareness of the steak. but really, its all in the eyes of the beholder. perhaps to someone else, my sound is a multi flavored ice cream, or dill pickle chips lol, there is a number of analogies. I would say anything delicious with layers to it.
"I feel like vinyl immortalizes you, one day somebody might find my 12" vinyl 80 years from now and get curious"
OCDJ - Whats your biggest personal breakthrough in your music making/performance career to date that you can remember?
EQ - hmm, releasing my Scenic Route album on vinyl (first one) was a very big deal to me, it always ranked very highly on my personal bucket list. I feel like vinyl immortalizes you, one day somebody might find my 12" vinyl 80 years from now and get curious. To me, an artist who releases music on vinyl in this digital/mp3 age has an aura of legitimacy to them. on the performance side, touring europe for the first time was big. Being able to share music, embrace and interact with people who don't speak the same language or live in a completely different culture is humbling.
OCDJ - Do you have another passion? Something you enjoy doing when you're not feeling musically creative.
EQ - Outside of music, I'm notoriously known to be a big sports fan of NBA and NFL, which is no surprise to everybody who follows me on twitter lol (@elaquent). I would say that my second love is collecting martial arts movies. maybe it was the early influence that Wutang had on me as a kid, but I've always been super interested in martial arts movies, and I have a big collection with over 500 films ranging from Shaw Brothers classics from the 60s and 70s, Jackie Chan/Sammo Hung cop movies of the 80s, wired Yuen Woo Ping stuff from the 90s, and so forth. I've spent a fortune on them over the years.
OCDJ - Without making your Toronto/Guelph fans to upset, have you found a place/town/city through your musical travels that you envision yourself living in? Can you tell us why?
EQ - In a perfect world, I would live in a number of different cities for like 4 months at a time. Would love to spend like 4 months in Paris, London, New York, Los Angeles. As far as one single place, i'd lean towards Los Angeles. It is just a really good creative hotbed with no shortage of people to see and things to do. I guess there's a reason that so many artists try to move to LA to find success, and having been there 5 or 6 times, its very easy to see why. there are lots of different events happening on a regular basis, lots of different artists to collaborate with in person, good weather, palm trees and so forth. traffic sucks there though.
OCDJ - What would be your dream collaboration?
EQ - Always wanted to work with Common. one day I hope it will happen.
"Use the velocity when hitting the pads. the swing settings will never match the feel"
OCDJ - Can you share any drum programming or other production tips for a budding beatmaker?
EQ - I guess it depends what type of beatmaker you want to be. I always like to tell folks that the best way to get that soulful groove in your drums is to listen to some jazz music, and to turn off the quantize switch. Use the velocity when hitting the pads. the swing settings will never match the feel. trust your ears and don't rely on just the waveforms and your meters. But ultimately, do what feels right!
OCDJ - How do you prepare yourself mentally before hitting the stage? Do you have a ritual or is just go with the flow?
EQ - I just go with the flow. I try not to over-prepare...depending on the vibe of the crowd, I tend to call many audibles and change direction often. I have a general idea of what I want to play, but if the crowd wants to dance, I may have to inject some faster grooves to keep people happy. It all depends. ultimately I have to trust that I got booked to play for a reason, so I just go with the flow and trust that whatever I play, in whichever order I play things are for the best. Plus, its a lot more fun to play when you haven't already committed to the next song. How do I call an audible and switch from this super fast song to a much slower song that I've never mixed before? all of my favorite shows were the ones where I threw the playbook out the window and just feed off the crowd.
OCDJ - Any last words? Shout outs?
EQ - I could list shoutouts all day lol..but nobody got time for that. I'll say shouts out to Off Centre for the interview, shouts out to my family for supporting me, Gill Breathing, and everybody who has ever supported my music or seen me play live. got lots of new music coming soon, including an album on HW&W. stay tuned :)