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Amenity EP and Biosphere EP (era)
Old 15th June 2016
Gear Addict
MonoTron's Avatar
Amenity EP and Biosphere EP (era)

Hi Mark,

Great you're doing this Q&A and thanks for the great "in detail" answers you allready gave.

My question is about my personal favorites, Amenity and Biosphere.
First a little anekdote: My cousin taped these ep's for me in or around '92.
I still have the tape whit Amenity but I lost the Biosphere tape ages ago.
Amenity is on a tape with only the Black Dog tracks, so i always thought it were TBD tracks. I have been looking for ages for these unknown TBD tracks..
Last year i stumbled on a youtube video of Amenity (i think it was plaid's favorite 1992 tracks or something)
Anyway, finaly found out it were you guys and tracked down the Reload rereleases. I still have to buy Amenity on vinyl, but I will find it in the near future. It really made my day/week/month to find it after all those years of wondering what it was.

My questions:
I always wondered what your main inspiration was for these tracks
Did you know or feel this was going to be a landmark in UK techno and at the foundation of what we now call IDM?
Biosphere is such a beautiful track and than Nemm kills everything in it's path, such a phat track. That 303 line! Just love it there were no "Music style Boundaries" and such diversity on this ep

Also, do you still remember what gear you used to make these ep's and how and with what you sequenced it?

Thanks for being a great inspiration!
Old 16th June 2016
Special Guest
Mark P's Avatar
Cheers Monoton,

Link was one of my names, sometimes Tom Joined As E621 with Reload and later on the Warp 12" Link and E621. Its all pretty unclear on the releases.
Global communication was always both of us.
Reload album was mainly me and Tom joined on a few tracks.

Its Juno 106 on the pad, i can hear the Chorus is punched in. Hi String S950, Percusive metal sounds is TX-81Z. TR-909 Kick in Casio FZ-1 rest of drums sound like They were in the S950. The Choir is S950 as well that comes in at the end.

This one and The Original of Peschi are my favs' i think from the Evolution stuff and The Augar which came out on a side label Symbiotic which there was only one release.

Inspiration wise it was Detroit Techno really, If i had to single one of the Dons out in regard to these tracks it would Carl Craig As i liked the way he would use Breaks as well as traditional drum machines. We named Evolution records after one of his tracks. I also loved Shake and got to meet him early 90s, i saw a flyer that he was playing in Bath! So i drove up on my own, checked the set, almost didn't say hello at the end as there was a load of people around him, luckily i decided to and he looked a bit uncomfortable not sure he was into the people that were around him, he said Mark can i stay at your house please, i said yeah sure so he stayed at my studio in Crewkerne for a week. Got a great insight and stories off him and stayed in touch ever since. It was pretty surreal being a west country guy that was in love with that music, I've been very lucky really and have met a lot of great artists who's music i have loved over the years.

I don't think anyone really knows at the time of making whatever they are doing, i think that always comes much later down the line. I was really happy to find out that my music had made it to Detroit, i had no idea that it would have done. Didn't know until much later when i met Richie Hawtin and a few other people. Pretty nice feeling though, in all honesty that means more than anything really. Same with DJ Rashad when he told me he played Out in the streets thats the kind of thing that keeps me going.

And I'm happy to have inspired some people along the way, thats great, thats what its all about.

Gear wise its pretty much the same in that period as the stuff listed in the reload album post. Kawai Q80 Sequencer - S950 - Casio FZ1 - Juno 106 - TX-81Z Etc. I didn't have loads of gear, A lot more gear came after around 1995 - Vintage Electronic Musical Instrument Auction | Sound On Sound
I was at the first Vemia Auction which was held at a proper Auction house run by Peter Forrest, author of The A-Z Of Analogue Synthesizers.
That was a pretty hands in the air day!
Rhodes Croma
Fender Rhodes
TX816 With Blue controller

Sold them all b4 i moved to OZ for a lot more than i paid for them, Kept the Minimoog and Rhodes though Actually Peter sold them all for me, He's a great guy.

Was a hard decision to make though! But i had to really look at what i really wanted at that point. And of coarse you can always buy more!

Cheers Mark
Old 17th June 2016
Gear Head
safetyfirst's Avatar
🎧 5 years
Link – Amenity

Hi Mark,

Great that you take the time to do this Q&A, already enjoyed many of the other threads.

Amenity is an amazing track and a classic electronic piece for me. It’s great that it is still appreciated by many today and it’s still making its way into closing sets at Berghain. I also come back sometimes and listen to it, thanks for this great feeling!

Even though it’s not my main question what gear did you use to bring it to life? And connected to that do you think electronic music should always evolve in terms of sound just for the sake of evolution? Sometimes I feel that a bit of the soul in electronic music was sacrificed for a better sound design. Obviously it plays a much broader role today to develop a signature sound where as in the beginning a lot of the stuff was kept raw due to all the constraints. So to sum it up what’s your take on how much time should be spend on how it sounds versus the original idea of a track?

Thank you!

<Moderator note: Merged threads>

Last edited by Reptil; 17th June 2016 at 02:10 PM.. Reason: -
Old 17th June 2016
Special Guest
Mark P's Avatar
Cheers Safetyfirst,

Ill go through some of these posts at some point and try and tidy them up, but for now I'm just going to blast stuff down quick, excuse spelling and randomness.

I didn't know it was getting played at Berghain

Gear wise this was around 1992 ish. So the same as what i listed for the Reload album pretty much, i didn't have a lot of gear.

Kawai Q80 Sequencer link Those 8 black buttons where tracks and then the Red button meant that you could have 4 banks of 8.

I didn't arrange a lot of the early tracks i did, i would just have all the parts copied for a while and then just punch stuff in on the Q80 and just put it to DAT. Maybe do 2 takes and pick the best one. This one does sound like i arranged it. By this time i was mixing them at my studio, the first 2 Evolutions where mainly done at other studios.

Samplers - Casio FZ1 and Akai S950. Roland Juno 106, Yamaha Tx81Z, Boss SE-50 Stereo Effects Processor, Alesis Quadraverb Thats all this track is gear wise, the high string is out of the S950 and Choir sound at the end, Synth pad Roland Juno 106 with Chorus in.

Its Naive sounding thats whats good about it i think, didn't know what i was doing I like music that sounds like that, I still like this track, pretty weird listening to stuff you did 24 years ago. But its cool doing this, My partner thanks everyone on this forum, as it means she doesn't have to listen to me prattle on about a frequency i was notching out or that i made i really good snare on my Arp today haha

Music/sound Evolving, both ends of the spectrum have they're issues to keep a eye on. Another hard question to answer!

Soul and vibe can easily be lost when mixing music, the thing thats wrong is more often than not the thing thats giving it energy and interest. Its really hard to do, well for me anyway. My working methods are painstaking, they boarder on insanity.

I spend ages on stuff, but i know what I'm after and i luckily have loads of patience. I A/B against early versions with where am at to make sure i haven't lost something. I can usually notice it and then try and work out what has caused it. Sometimes I'm on a roll and feel clear and focused/Confident. Then i don't need to go back and A/B so much, other times ill A/B more often. Some tracks just fall in to place and your lucky others are total nightmares.

Thats just where am at now after all this time. Not sure i want to go back to working methods when i started. I do consider it though. The danger in that is you end up with a load of tracks that just sound like stuff from 20 + years ago. Some of them though could end up being great and have a good balance of old and new. But thats me speaking of where i am at now.

I Have seen this drive towards people buying modulars and going all Hardware, if you know what it is about a certain area and time of music that was good i would say yeah go for it, if you have the cash, its a fun way of working thats for sure. Some people can pull it off, majority can't for my personal tastes. Or at least i would say its going to take a while to work it out for some people. Its a lot to learn.

For me what people term as soul can be Musicality and also can be something like how a something being off or "wrong" or Raw and rough or the way a snare lands or a Kick Lands with a Bass note. It comes out of some people without them even thinking or even being aware, others have to work at that.

For me what I'm looking for is Timing/Groove, Musicality, Rawness/Edge and Character or combo's of those things and whatever feels right. I like stuff immaculately mixed and i also like stuff that is rough and lowfi. Depending on what it is.

The thing that has caused problems i think when everything went to computers and everything in the box is and lets take Techno for example -

If you have a 808 drum machine the internal timing in that thing feels good and the sounds are good. If you synch a Sh101 off that its getting a clock and is probably going to be very fractionally late and then you shape the lets say bass sound for example so it feels right to you.

Thats in basic terms why people will say oh i like the way old techno or acid sounds or Electro it sounds funky to me or more soulful and then add into that the person is making it is trying to say or expressing.

If you have a computer and you have a load of 808 sounds and a soft synth and you put everything bang on its not going to sound like that. Maybe the sounds aren't that well recorded drums wise as well. Buy Gold baby ones

Again this is just a basic explanation of it - Hi hats hit you faster than say a snare or a kick, there are charts on this stuff. You need to shift them late, Snare needs to be a bit late, Kicks if long and boomy need to be pretty bang on not late. There is no set rule and its down to you where you want it to go, takes practice and work.
Each Rhythm is different and tempo effects this. Play the bass synth in live if you can, or draw it in and then delay it back. Unfortunately Each bass note depending on its length may need to be earlier or later But if you are starting out just shift the whole thing late anywhere from 10 clicks to 160 or something, keep going late and then bring it back to where it feels right to you. If you are lost listen to some music you like the feel of.

How i learnt this was i i heard a story that James brown would fine musicians for not playing things right and lets face it, he had amazing players!
Around the same time i had heard Kenny Dope used a SP12, I liked the swing and feel of his music. I bought a SP12, Had fun playing around with it, one day i decided to record the midi out of the SP12 into my sequencer to see what was going on. Programmed a simple hiphop beat DJ Premier type pattern.

This was into Logic at the time. From memory Snares were 4 clicks late, Kicks were pretty much bang on, Hi Hats were 11 clicks late, Small Kick as i like to call it, the one b4 the 1 121 late. Then of coarse it depends how you truncate the sounds in the machine and the length of each sound all that effects the groove. Thats why when you hear a Pete Rock tune you know its him or Dj Premier using a Akai MPC60 or whatever you know its him. And of coarse Dilla on the MPC as well. The machines have a good feel and sound, then the person using it knew how they wanted it to sound. You can hear those 3 clearly, of coarse many others.

Hiphop people clocked this, some House and Techno people did, a lot since haven't. As i said b4 some people it comes out of them naturally and they are not even thinking about it.

The trick is then is making music that sounds like you.

Watch and listen to James Gadson and what everyone is doing around him.

This very basic explanation can be applied to any kind of music in whatever tempo you want.

Why do i like the sound of 80s 90s digital dancehall? Take Sleng Teng- Because the drums are coming out a Casio MT40 and who ever played the Bass in played it live on those little keys somehow with whatever feel he wanted and the Digital Horn skank is live played by someone who knew what they wanted.

If it all sounds a bit thin and clean run it through a distortion pedal or a amp, if you haven't got one try a good plug in.

I don't think i have really answered you Question, hopefully you can take something from that though. Its very hard for me to explain clearly and simply. There no real set rules to any of it.

You can do it with Hardware if you know what you want and you can totally do it without. Modern gear is pretty neutral sounding and often too clean or too much information. You need to use stuff that has character or if your using plug ins try and run it through something if you feel it doesn't.

I also usually have tape hiss on all my tracks, just layer some in, sometimes really subtle. I have also had good results recently using the Pultec pro in the UAD and Attn 10k if something is sounding too bring or thin. Does it in a really interesting way.

Its a endless journey of discovery thats why we all love it

And before i forget, not totally related but this is worth a listen - 19 Minutes of Mark Hollis Talking About Laughing Stock

Cheers Mark
Old 17th June 2016
Gear Addict
MonoTron's Avatar
Wow Mark! Thanks for this insight in your way of thinking and working.
Thats some great details you wrote!
I actually knew most of your music under the GloComm, Jedi knights and Chameleon monnikers, but somehow Reload stayed under my radar untill last year.

By the way, who is GERT who's name is in the runout grooves of Amenity. Thats a typical dutch name i'd say.

I understand what you mean with naive music, although i wouldn't call it naive.
I guess you were there at the right moment, making your own kind of music, the way you wanted to make it, being inspired be some other great musicians.

Nowadays the world is totaly different. We can find everything about everything.
For information this is really great, for finding your own soul and inspiration inside your own mind and imagination, it can be a killer.
Don't get me wrong, all this information is great, but it keeps us away from making the actual music (speaking from my experience).

In the age before internet you'd have to come up with your own solutions for problems, you'd have to learn the machines yourself be using it, instead of watching a youtube tutorial. It took a long time, but u got to know your gear and it's sweet spots a lot better. This helps in giving soul and emotion in what you're doing.

The great thing about the early 90's music is the way you guys used the machines. For example the Kawai K1 has been used by u, B12, plaid, LFO.
Yes it does sound digital, but come on, this machine has a great soul and it sounds just great when you get to know the sweet spots. I probably was dirt cheap back then it now it still is You don't need expensive machines to make good music!
Old 20th June 2016
Special Guest
Mark P's Avatar
That was Gert Jan Bijl (Gerd) He was one of the first people to interview me early on and probably the first person to bring me over to Holland.

Yeah its a discipline thing really, i didn't know many people that made music so i just had to work it out myself + the thing of getting your head inside gear and learning it inside out. I think it was instilled in me though b4 i started doing music, it wasn't from school though i don't think, from my family i reckon and friends.
I think though now if you can get the right outlook and you are just starting out but really want to do things properly and put the graft in, its a pretty amazing time. Its easy to look back and go well in the good old days it was all better, not all of it was though. And there are a lot of young kids that totally go in and are doing it for the right reasons. Theres just a lot more people doing it now and its swamped, i thought when the music industry started to collapse we would get rid of a load of people that weren't really on it and just copying or putting out bland stuff but the opposite happened! Luckily there are still a good amount of people doing it for the right reasons in all different areas of music, young and old.

Its still a pretty weird time in the music industry thats for sure. I try not to think about too much and just get on with music.
Old 21st June 2016
Lives for gear
lampmeister's Avatar
🎧 10 years
Hey Mark,
I think the club in Bath you're referring to was The Hub, a basement club where I caught Carl Craig playing in April '94, long since closed due to noise complaints from nearby residents.
Cheers for all the info here, great stuff.
Old 21st June 2016
Special Guest
Mark P's Avatar
Cheers Ed, Yeah that names rings a bell.
Old 21st June 2016
Gear Addict
MonoTron's Avatar
Cheers Mark, Gerd's name sounds familiar but i dont think I know his music. As a fellow dutchman i guess i should, so I'll look it up

It wasn't all better in the old days, but i guess most of the solo exploration is history.
I remember having to figure out how FastTracker 2 worked without any help (or internet) and with little knowledge about synthesis or sequencers.
Still have fond memories of those eureka moments I had in the middle of the night trying to figure out how some fx worked and stuff.
Old 22nd June 2016
Gear Head
safetyfirst's Avatar
🎧 5 years
Thanks so much Mark,

Great elaborated answer and lot of great points in there! It is especially great to hear that you are also struggling with the same things as probably everybody is. It's just sometimes hard to find the right balance and also it is probably a thing that I like about some stuff that you can hear that it is more naive because not every sound is worked out to the max. But of course one can control it and if you can it gives a great deal of flexibility and an enormous creative playground.

I was just about to ask if you use a lot of outboard processing but just saw that you answered that recently.

I have to say it is absolutely fantastic that you really take the time to reply in detail. Really appreciated. It is great to get a direct insight in your think and working methods. I'm off now to enjoy some of your other answers. Thanks again for the time and the great music.

Cheers, SF

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