May 302012
 

Ian Scot Price’s music under the name The Naturebot is a bit difficult to pin down.  It’s like club music with a lot of plot twists.  It’s experimental without falling into the trap of being obnoxious, and groovy without being predictable.  It’s largely instrumental and structureless but has reoccurring themes combined with subtle song sections, and always maintains a sense of forward momentum.  Judge for yourself with the below song from a recent album entitled Hello World!  Then continue reading for Ian’s articulate take on his inventive process.

[SWB]  For those who are unfamiliar with your sound, give us a descriptive introduction to the music of The Naturebot if you’d be so kind . . .

Well, the Naturebot sound is mostly electronic and dance-oriented.  I often try to create the same feelings of bliss, nostalgia, and being overwhelmed that great gospel, folk, electronic, and outsider music have given me.  I attempt to make music that is an open book and expect it to be accessible as a result, but others may hear it differently!

[SWB]  How long have you been creating music, and what motivated you to start being a musician?  Has that motivation changed over the years?

 I started playing piano young, aping my sister as she took lessons.  In junior high I was deep into music above all else and got a Prophet-600 synth.  I was listening to the most mind-bending stuff I could find and wanted to create my own new worlds.  Music made me a bit of an outsider (I was walking around listening to Klaus Schulze and Faust in between every single class) and it further cemented in my mind that there was a lesson to be had in people coming to terms with music they hadn’t experienced before.  I still hope that people can gain an appreciation of new experiences and appreciate the beauty of small moments with a bit of guidance by music.  The motivation hasn’t changed much in that regard.

[SWB]  What genre(s) would you say your music falls under, if any?

It generally falls under the dance-music hood these days with song structures, textures, and melodic patterns coming from everywhere I can pull from.  The main purpose of the music is not to make people dance, but it’s a fantastically distracting meridian to base things around while slipping other ideas into peoples’ brains.

[SWB]   There are so many sub genres in electronic music these days, in your opinion is it still worthwhile to describe a band’s style using genre references or have you found a better way to get the point across?

It’s an easy way to describe artists who are married to an existing idea, for sure.  Often audiences want to know what they’re going to hear and are seeking a very particular thing.  I’m happy to see there’s a new generation of artists absolutely mauling genre conventions and keeping music alive as a changing organism.  I have a hard enough time accurately describing music that surprises me that I often resort to trying to explain the feelings I get when listening.  Those don’t always translate well to others.

[SWB]  For me the music of The Naturebot has a character that falls somewhere inbetween a band like Download whose emphasis is on sound design and rhythm, and the music of Tim Exile whose style is full of asymmetrically unpredictable melodies.  Your leanings seem organic yet at the same time heavily sequenced . . . I want to call this paradoxical tension something like ‘jazz programming’ or ‘improvised quantization’.  What’s your reaction to those descriptions?  (With the above in mind, all of a sudden the name Naturebot seems so fitting!)

You hit a few spots I think that are very accurate!  There’s a personal aversion to symmetry in structure and I don’t find any comfort in stationary music.  At the same time, it’s hard for me to enjoy music made to be purely experimental (only made to defy convention) or grotesque and I’ve become a sappy guy who finds a real beauty in earnest/cheesy music, hence the ‘organic’ component perhaps.  Sequencing allows me to do complex melodic and rhythmic things that I couldn’t play on my own.  Often I find myself creating breakneck-speed miniature songs or song components for the sheer thrill of programming something quickly that can go through so many movements quickly.  Improvised quantization seems a fitting description in that regard!

[SWB]  Tell us about your previous album releases . . .

I started making albums when I first started making tunes, it was as interesting as actually playing music.  The earliest surviving album is a self-titled collaboration with RyanMath, made 2001-2003.  The next album (The Schnebly) came years later and was almost entirely created while I lived in northern Arizona, in between trips through the desert.  The album has a loose concept around different places I’d explored in the Southwest and is quite restless.  The latest full-length is Hello, World!, which focuses on the melodic and textural ideas I’d played with for years and attempts to nail them down.  As an album, I think it’s wide-eyed, hopeful, and peaceful.  Others might disagree!
Currently I have a series of 3 very dance-oriented EPs coming out on techno label KRecordings, each focusing on different production styles and programmatic subject matters.

[SWB]  How does a new Naturebot song typically come into being from start to finish . . .

As I’m sitting in the shower or being tortured at work I get an itch and try to think it through before I get home and set up shop to try and re-create it.  Most songs come into my head when I am remembering a special time and feel good.  Or, sometimes by just getting dirty with some gear until a pattern emerges and variations start to form, triggering an emotional response that I try to follow to a logical endpoint.

[SWB]  What triggers inspiration for you?

Places I love above all else.  Musically, I get excited when hearing something that surprises me or gives me a sensation I don’t recognize.

[SWB]  What role does production play in your creative process?

Production processes have allowed me to hone in on the overall sound I want with simple ease.  I avoid deep sound design as it is just not as much fun as playing with melodies, song-forms, and attempting to achieve meaning with what is created.  Production is often an afterthought instead of a jumping off point, as I love recording a whole piece straight off a mixer filled with gear.

[SWB]  You also run a record label called Pleasure Boat Records, yes?  What’s that all about?

When I arrived in Seattle at the beginning of 2007 I kept hearing local producers making astounding, surprising electronic music.  There seemed to be no end to the amazing music being made in town, and it became far more interesting to me than keeping up with current trends and ‘ground-breaking’ music that was widely recognized so listening to friends and peers became my main source of musical exploration.  Pleasure Boat formed as a way to push these artists and the idea of electronic music as a vital form of folk art, meaning that we hope to shed some light on artists that form their own rules and worlds.  The label is not solely local artists but I hope that we can combat the ADHD, image-addled world of electronic music and bring it to people from other musical realms while creating outsider music that has a purpose other than existing for its own sake.  It seems like high time for expression through these means to become a non-niche artform and in some ways that seems to be happening in the new information age.

[SWB]  Tell us a little about the equipment you use . . .

I love analog gear, there’s no way around it.  The idea of electronic sounds being organic may seem counter-intuitive, but to hear non-digital sounds that have a possible resolution down to each electron that passes through a circuit has a power unlike any other and has endless possibilities for manipulation and variance.  My most used pieces of gear are probably my Roland Super JX, a DCO analog w/ paired synthesis engines that has a lush sound like nothing else out there.  As far as percussion sounds, the sound of my Jomox Airbase drives me wild (analog and sample-based drumsynths) while the Elektron Machinedrum is the most fun for pure ease of use and wildness factor.  I’ve been building DIY projects for a long time too, and the modular circuits that are slowly being finished (Thomas Henry’s Mega Percussive Synth and SN-Voice, Roland System-100 VCF clone, XR-VCO w/ waveshaper) will be making increasing appearances as well.

[SWB]  I’m particularly keen on your use of vocoder in Naturebot’s music.  Do you approach that as just another instrument or do you think of it more as filling the role of a vocal track in otherwise predominantly instrumental tunes?

Vocoder is something I’ve mostly used live as a way to sing very personal songs without making the audience feel uncomfortably close.  Plus, it allows me to have a vocal component to a track while playing with the character of the sound (and adding harmonies and alien characteristics) that would otherwise have to be pre-recorded.

[SWB]  What’s your current favorite hardware?  Software?

Hardware- Roland MKS-20 (old digital piano unit) and my home-built Midibox SID 6582 (an amazing DIY platform for controlling the Commodore 64 SID chip).  Both have an irreplaceable character but don’t necessary play along with other pieces of gear.  I spend a lot of time making music that has a single part from one of those machines and nothing else.  It hurts to water-down their sound! As far as software, Native Instuments’ FM8 is all sorts of fun and actually gives FM synthesis a workable interface.

[SWB]  How often do you perform, and where?

After a few years of performing regularly around the Northwest and being a resident at my own shows (I helped throw a few series of nights such as Bonkers!, Voltage Control, and Show and Tell) I’ve taken a break to focus on going back to school, spending more time exploring outdoors, and enjoying life with dogs.  I hope to be back with a completely new style of performing next year.

[SWB]  What does your live performance setup consist of?

For the last few years I’ve used Ableton Live to control the course of songs performed almost completely using a rack of synths and effects.  My Novation BassStation has been a long time favorite as it has a beautiful acidic sound and simple yet powerful control surface.  The aforementioned gear has all come into play as well.  Recently I’ve bit the bullet and done my last few live sets using a laptop and a couple controllers, as there’s no practical way to perform a song with 30 layered tracks using gear.  Also- I fucked up my back carrying the 80-pound rack up flights of stairs back to my place, so the novelty turned into a big heavy bother.

[SWB]  Where do you see the business side of music going in the next 5 or ten years?  How much time do you devote to promotion/business as opposed to being creative?

The ability for artists to interface directly with an audience is an amazing new development and allows for people who may have made music their wholes lives but never had the gall to try to find a label to finally find an audience.  It’s a beautiful thing that opens up the possibility of learning through music and relating to others in a meaningful way.  The old notions of gaining an audience seem so rooted in image and attitude, creating an impetus for further posturing.  Just as the new age has shown politicians to all be faulted and rarely the types of heroes and geniuses their campaigns would have you believe, musicians are now more free to be honest people and share their true experiences.
Finding a balance in promoting versus being creative is a never-ending struggle, as promotion is never done.  I have a process that promoting every release goes through (with widely varying results!) that involves creating physical product, promoting to blogs, stations, and publications, sharing with a long list of producers, writers, DJs, and music lovers, and taking care of the processes of mastering, promotional materials such as one-sheets, and overall label branding and representation.  Finding an audience for music that we love because there is no existing audience can be a difficult task, but I’m constantly astonished by the music that has been created for the label and how far-reaching airplay and listenership has been even when things don’t really sell.

[SWB]  What project(s) are you currently working on?

I’m trying to push out a whole slew of new releases for Pleasure Boat (by some amazing artists such as Logic Probe, Crown Hill Repeater, Hanssen, Relcad, and the Algebra of Need).  I’ve also been working on a lot of stuff with a young vocalist named Silky, and there’s a couple releases in the works of our collaborations. Various Naturebot releases are all in the works as well, including 2 remix EPs with many of my favorite artists contributing.  There’s some collaborations that I hope will see some light soon (w/ Relcad, Hanssen, and more).

Check out the occasional tune at Soundcloud.com/Naturebot or go to PBRecs.com where Pleasure Boat music is available (and always free to stream, at the very least).  Also- KRecordings.com. Most digital outlets carry the Pleasure Boat catalog and we hope to be pressing vinyl next year.  That’s enough info for quite awhile, I hope!

May 302012
 

This is a short documentary of the German duo Mouse On Mars in their studio.  I had to laugh when I saw their Ekdahl Moisturizer since that particular piece of gear seems to continually crop up in the studios of people whose music I like.  I’ve been tempted for a long time to grab one for Studio Wormbone, however just recently I scored a large spring reverb tank which may provide similar results when playing the springs percussively.  It lacks the filter that the Moisturizer has, but then if you’ve read this article then you know I’m not for want of analog filters around here!

May 282012
 

Sonic Charge Bitspeek – This is a fun and useful plugin for making vocals (or anything really) have a similar character to the old Speak and Spell toys.  This is similar in approach but different in functionality to most vocoders, having more of a digital flavor and a degraded one at that.  That digital-ness can sound oh so cool with the right settings and in the right context.  I believe I used a sprinkling of this in the Studio Wormbone Cybernetic sound pack.  And don’t forget that this is the company that gave us the Microtonic Drum plugin.

May 252012
 

This is a well written article on the Universal Audio site covering tips and tricks for more accurate tuning.  To seasoned musicians most of this info will be brushing up on basic fundamentals (pun inadvertently intended).  But there are also some lesser known tips and tricks – for instance tuning the top and bottom heads of a drum to different intervals to control excessive resonance.  It’s also valuable to know the tuning challenges associated with instruments other than your own in a band or ensemble setting so that you can better communicate any issues that might arise with the other people that you need to be in tune with.  Enjoy the read!

http://www.uaudio.com/blog/studio-basics-instrument-tuning/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2012_05_zine&utm_source=promo:uad1&utm_content=%2Fblog%2Fstudio-basics-instrument-tuning%2F