It's that time of the year, and once again, Fete De La Musique has everyone buzzing about who's doing what, where, and how or why they're doing it. An overwhelming amount of talent are taking to an overwhelming amount of stages on the 21st of June. One could find oneself looking through the listings and saying “You know what, it's just too much. See you at Temple.”
Alas! We're here to help! You should definitely end up at temple! But before that, consider checking out some of the other performers at other events! Here's an inspirational quotation to further back my point.
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." - Dumbledore, A.
One such event will be held at Meridian Space, kicking off at 8pm, at a reasonable entry cost of free. MengQi, Mohemann, anxt, and thruoutin perform, offering a large variety of electronic soundscapes for the evening.
Chapter 1: "The Introduction"
Brad Seippel, co-owner of Seippelabel, and neo-tradional-revivalist around town, has been making music under the alias “thruoutin” for over a decade. Whilst the music he makes has changed through the years in terms of genre, timbre and instrumentation, the focus has always remained the same: music.
Added to this, having known Brad as a generally encouraging and positive guy (people person) for a few years now, it came as no surprise when his name was popping up on posters all over the place after the release of his latest EP.
When we met, I only had the intention of asking how to pronounce his name, yet ended with an incentive and overwhelming urge to tackle an application that's been occupying valuable HDD space for a long time.
More information about the Meridian Space show, and where to listen to thruoutin's creations can be found at the bottom of this interview.
Chapter 2: "The Conversation"
It's three words in English: thru, like a drive-thru, out, and in, and it comes from a lot of, or some, MIDI enabled synths and stuff, they'll have a routing system. On the Microkorg I was using at university when I first started using electronic music I didn't have an artist name so I looked on the back of the synth and there was “thru”, “out”, and “in”, all in lowercase, and I just put them all together. I just used this name for everything I did after that.
I started in 2006, that was the first time I put out any music under that name, it wasn't really until I came to china that I started doing it more seriously.
It might be a sample that I hear, it might be a riff that i've written on a physical instrument, it might come from bass or pipa, but once it gets to the arrangement in Ableton, I like to start with drums, because I feel like drums are the lines in a painting. I like to get that backbone. A lot of my drums are coming from sounds that I make myself, real drum sets or a mix of some software drums, and I just try to get the drums where I want them. After that, I go for… it really depends. I might grab my bass, play something, then convert that file into a MIDI file, and then put a sub bass on there; using something real and then converting it to something artificial. From there it really just depends, it might depend on the sample I use, I use a lot of field recordings, so I might try to manipulate field recordings to have some sort of rhythmic aspect to it, but it's always something different each time I do it.
Even music you listen to, it changes over time. You always have the stuff that you go to as your source, but you're always influenced by new stuff, you're in different environments, so my music has been influenced by lots of different things. Different genres, different places where I've lived have had different scenes, and music that I was involved with in those scenes would have had affected me in some way during writing.
In the states I was touring, I was playing around in local scenes and putting out... I put out one EP and some mix tapes and stuff but I really wasn't putting out things as a cohesive theme as an album until I came here and had more of an idea of what I wanted to do and that was always changing as well.
I'm always open to hear new things and just hearing what's going on, different labels, what they're putting out, music styles change. Production changes. I think with any kind of artist, you're always looking to get that extra one percent, and I think it's okay to move with the times, but keep some things that worked. Things have changed in the music, but I think that's just a natural part of making music.
As much as people in grammar school have to go to a music class and sing, and learn how to somewhat read music, I don't have a lot of that. I did a bit of chorus in junior high, high school, and when I was in junior high I was also really into punk rock so I wanted to learn how to play guitar… I got a bass, so I learnt how to play bass. I had a guitar teacher that taught me how to read tablature, and then he kind of got bored of writing tablature out so he said “You know you could just like, listen to it, and figure it out?”
Picking up songs by ear was something that I think, you know, if you're playing with anybody, if you're writing, “matching notes” in that classical western way, is really important. I can't read music, I never had any training or anything like that, but I have an idea of what some music should do in my mind.
I'm using Ableton Live, and I've been using it for quite some time, but I had experience in simple stuff such as Audacity and Garage Band, and in university some Protools / Logic, and these are all different programs used for different things, and they're all good in their own way. Your use of them on a basic level to produce music is that it's basic. If you wanted to get a higher technique, it's worth time to go into that. So when people ask me about using software, it's not something that you just learn all of a sudden, it's a lot of little mini things that you learn through trial and error, through watching youtube videos, through hanging out at your friend's house and just looking over his back at what he's doing (what they're doing). You should know the ropes, but you don't have to know everything.
Mammals and Social Boar, and before that another band called Yantiao. It was a different experience because I'd played in bands here and there but it was the first time in Beijing that I stepped out of you know the full conductor of everything, and I was playing bass, and doing a bit of the song writing and singing, and that was all mixed together with other people that had you know, different ideas about time signatures and the way that the song should be written, so I miss it for that, I don't miss how much time it took though.
With a band, one practice...if you really want to do a good show, it's a lot of time that goes into practicing. I miss hanging out with the guys. When you play in a band for a certain amount of time, they're not just your friends, they're not just your band mates, they're like your brothers. So yeah I miss that a lot.
Well, you're compromising in different ways. Maybe something that you think is totally fine, “Oh, just keep it that way!”, When you're with somebody else you have to be open minded and think about what's easier for everybody. Working with a band is completely different, you think about things in a completely different way, they throw things out that you wouldn't have thought of and it has this weird growth that just makes something you just couldn't make by yourself.
I have a pipa, which is the Chinese lute, it's a four string traditional acoustic instrument, and next to it is another pipa, but it's a modified pipa, so it's got electric abilities with some modification through circuits, and that instrument was designed and manufactured by Meng Qi and myself. We made it together, and he took in the more technical aspect of making it work, and I had more of an idea. Yeah, that's the one I use most for live performance. I use lots of other Chinese traditional instruments as samples, or through field recordings, but that's the one I'll actually play if I play it live, or record it in the studio.
On the traditional pipa, I have a mic, and that mic goes into a couple of sound processing effects like reverb, delay and obviously a tuner to keep it in tune with the computer. It's through small guitar effects units. The other modified pipa has two outputs, one is a microphone, like a contact mic pick up, they both have contact mics, and the other one has a crackle box, and that's kind of like a noise generator. It can be joining circuits through your fingers. Those are all connected to the strings, and another board on the body of the pipa. That goes through a completely different line of effects and all of that goes into a mixer. It's kind of technical, but it's just different ways to get sound amplified.
With doing something live, I want it to not be a backing track, I want it to have as little pre-recorded stuff as a whole, so I can always be bringing out stuff. I would say a large percentage is improvised, even in the software, still being looped, taken in and out, and then on top of that I’ll do something that's live, I’ll have a synth, or something that oscillates noise or maybe a physical string instrument. It really depends on the live set.
That week before I’m about to play, I might be practicing, and I’ll just come up with a beat, and be like “well let me try that live...” and it'll be kind of half written, but once I play it live, I get an idea of how this song's going to be, and how it filled the room, and how I felt with it, so then I’ll maybe (the saturday morning after the show) open it up and be like “I like that section” so that will become the backbone of the song.
A lot of times with DJs, or people using hardware, it's hard to really understand what they're doing. Even if you're in that world and you understand these machines and might think it’s really complex, most people in the audience just see you over a computer or a controller. so when you have anything like vocals, guitar, or anything physical you can play, it just adds this live element that I always try to keep somewhere in my live sets. It adds the physical element that people can see and automatically understand.
It doesn't really change that much based on the people. For example if I'm DJing or something and I see that people aren't really getting into it, I might try and play something that's a bit more active, but with a live set you can't really change too much besides the vigour and emotion that you're putting into it, so I'll usually change my live sets depending on the venue. If it's a smaller cafe, I'm probably not going to play something with heavy bass, if it's in a club setting, I'm going to choose songs I've written that are more conducive to dancing, and if I'm play an all experimental or noise night, then it's going to go as follows.
I was doing a China tour once, and I played a small city called Xinxiang, down not too far from Changsha and Wuhan, and there's a punk band called "The Pumpkins", "XiaoNanGua" as they're named in Chinese, and I just knew them from seeing them play in Beijing, and I was like, well, i'm going to be in Xinxiang on tour, I didn't know anyone there, I basically knew the promoter, and them. There were like five people that came out, and these guys from the pumpkins, and I think me and the other touring act, we were the only electronic band that had come to that city. The first. They treated it like a punk show. They were jumping around, they got on stage, were cheering on the last song, so I think for a guy on a laptop to have that kind of thing was pretty unique, and pretty special.
(On a tour in Taiwan, 2014 with Dann Gaymer)
When you're touring, and trying to book these places, if you're with two acts it's a lot harder to book because you always want to have two or three local guys to help support. In order to combat that, Dann and I combined our set, so I did like a ten minute set, and he had at the end of his set ten minutes. In that midd le part which is like 15 minutes maybe, we jumped on each other's songs, so I learnt his songs, and he learnt some of mine, so it was one show but there were two artists, and the sets kind of blended together, and we were able to pitch it to the venues in a better way.
Not to pick, to choose, or to say one is better than the other, but places that are conducive to what I'm doing and the kind of music that I do, currently I really like Dada. It's got a bunch of different feelings with Dada, if you're going there to drink, or dance, or if you're going to see a good DJ, but they do a lot with left field stuff. Sometimes they're pretty open. Dada's up there, DDC, and fRUITYSPACE!
In the end, it's a technique. It's a type of study – you have to go and invest time. When you look at something like a trombone for example, there's wind coming out of there. I can make wind come out of my mouth, but when I pick up the trombone it doesn't make the sound sound that you make because you’ve spent time, you’ve invested time, you've aggravated your parents in high school when you're trying to learn it, the same thing goes with anything that you want to do. Software is one of those. You got to put in the time, and just because you put in the time doesn't mean it's going to be great, but you'll find some things along the way.
If you do it long enough, you figure out this is you know, where I am with it – you don't have to be prolific right away, it just takes time.
You have to look at what your aim and goal is, and if that's what you want then did you achieve it or not. That's how you can judge if you have exceeded in what you wanted to do.
There's a lot of really helpful people, I love Beijing, I think it's a very special scene, i've been to a lot of different places… I haven't been everywhere, i'm not an expert, but Beijing is super special. Is there one person? Not really. There's a lot of really cool people doing a lot of really cool stuff, and shout out to those people, and you’re doing something cool; it’s you.
Epilogue: "The Information"
Building 8, C&C Park, 77 Meishuguan Back Street