“To hang on those silly ideas and go and explore them”
Daniel Katinsky is an electronic composer from Glasgow. The most fascinating thing about Digital Concrete, his debut tape, is that he made something very coherent out of what seems like chaos.
Why is the album called Digital Concrete?
Okay to answer that question properly I have to talk about the two main influences that went into the album and it should hopefully make sense!
Digital Concrete is my take on ‘Music Concrete’, but purely for computer sounds. When I made the album I was listening a lot to Felicia Atkinson, Kara-Lis Coverdale, Gábor Lázár and Mark Fell (The Neurobiology of Moral Decision Making), Actress (R.I.P), etc. I always found it amazing that they had their own pallet of sounds to work from and they worked with this internalised language that they created, almost like narratives through this digital sound world they were sculpting and they would change some textures from album to album, working from the foundations that they had created- destroying it, progressing from it, turning directions, etc. Something I always loved about Gabor Lazars work was the way the sounds weren’t so different from track to track, but those changes became so small that I would obsessively pick out every texture change, like a slowing down of time that occurs to allow you to absorb the music more meaningfully.
What does the track “Helsinki” has to do with Helsinki?
The track was made in Helsinki while I was on my way to Russia, I had to start taking the bus over from Helsinki to Saint Petersburg and I would usually spend a full night there from 5 pm until 7 am
the following day straight after two flights. “Kampii”, “Helsinki” and “Melting Textures” (Originally was called “Bus Station” or something) were all made during my frequent sleep deprived travels.
Can you tell me what am I listening to when I listen to Digital Concrete?
I don’t think that’s up to me, I can tell what am I aiming for, more so than I can tell you what you are actually listening to. Everyone has their library of references to go off from when they listen to music, so it would be unfair for me to tell what aspects to look out for most in someones music. That isn’t part of the album as an experience of listening. I believe it should be a personal experience rather than one I dictate.
How did you make this record? Which gear did you use? Mainly synths? What type?
I record on my laptop at home with patches I’ve created with multiple stacked sequencers linked to many aspects of a monophonic soft synth and a load of faders and buttons to help control and shape the music. I’m reluctant to tell exact specifics of what I do, not because I’m precious of my ideas, but because I want people to find their own way with electronic music and there’s a bit too much of “oh, what plugin are they using?!” and so forth. If anyone really wants some help or any ideas for their composition, they can message me and I’d more than happily listen to their tracks and give them any direction. The most important thing for me is the concepts behind your music and what you’re striving towards, more so than the tools you use. I was primarily a guitar player and I studied music theory, which is just pure knowledge, I’d always say for people to tackle things like that. People get these little bursts of inspiration and imagination that can usually get shot down pretty easily by ‘practicalities’ etc but it’s the most important thing for anyone to hang on to those silly ideas and go and explore them. The least that can happen is you learn more about yourself and what you want in life, which is always great. People should never feel embarrassed by their musical ideas or feel that a project is too great for them.
Brian Eno puts it quite well when he talks about the modern composer acting as a gardener. I’d say I’m doing something similar with my generative processes. I spent the summer of 2017 creating the patches to allow me to create music freely. A lot of it was trial and error, it was like building a house- or more accurately a virtual environment where I had complete control over all the most attractive features of sound synthesis and effects within the click of the mouse. From there I can just set up a starting seed, load up some LFO’s (or sequencers) to modulate other LFO’s over time and then my job is to attend to this track growing and morphing over time. Me and my friend were talking recently about how pure a sheet of paper with musical notation is, or seeing the notes written down on the piano roll in a DAW, it represents chance and depth of idea and inspiration, it’s not yet played until you hit the play button, it could be anything. And that idea really excites me in music, the fact I’ve made this environment that represents most of the ideas I’ve been working towards for years within my music and it is a tool that only I can understand and use properly to realise the compositional potential of it. I’m constantly maintaining my workflow which is why I try to make a track every day or two just to keep me up to speed with how to work, that element of music making has always been important to me, the discipline.
Is this your debut record?
Yes, it’s a decent start I think. But with anything like this I try to keep rational and forward moving. I’m currently working on the second and third record, with a few scattered ideas for EP’s that may suit some little labels. I put a lot of work into this record and I hope it shows, but more importantly I wanted a start where people can see how I develop my sound, because from here it could either become more abstract, or could become tighter sounding. That depends entirely on where I’m going next. I’m working on a few different live sets for different situations too, so I can start gigging regularly towards next year. Some of the tracks are a bit more minimal than the others and act more like sound synthesis or rhythm studies. I’m hoping at some point someone will take the track and cut it up and do what they want with it. I always want to have an element of open source feel to the music.
How did you get involved with the Conditional label?
The Digital Concrete album is all played live, I set up my patch and then hit record, similar to the way the folks from the Algorave scene works. I created a bunch of demo tracks and sent them off to Calum Gunn from Conditional who seemed really impressed by the tracks. He’s such a lovely guy, I’ve never met him properly, but we talk for a few hours over email chats and he’s been the most supportive guy I’ve ever met. I’m a big fan of experimental music of any kind and Conditional had a good plethora of releases that I thought maybe my approach would fit in with those folks. Calum was really impressed by my music I think and wanted to do a physical release, which I’m really pleased about!
Why a release on tape?
Calum opted for a tape maybe because it’s cheapest? I don’t think anyone would want to splash out on a vinyl release for the first emergence of an artist!
Does a musician still needs a physical release?
Musicians don’t ‘need’ a physical release, but it’s what medium they are aiming for and the context for the music to be on. I think more than anything, the fact of having a tape that’s got these digital tracks in a physical form is quite special.
How did you get in this kind of music? What are your influences?
I always wanted a laptop to be able to create music for years. I’m a guitarist first and never had much money to be able to get expensive gear, I still don’t own a decent guitar amp! I listened to a lot of electronic music, the first thing being Selected Ambient Works by Aphex Twin, and because I’m a guitarist who played jazz lots, I was confused why electronic music seemed to try and ‘emulate’ what physical instruments would do. It never sounded seamless though. You would hear a drum kit played on top of a bass line, and it’s very clearly two separate parts being played and forced together because that’s how we’ve usually experienced music, seeing two people performing locking together. It sort of made sense to me that if you were a computer based musician, surely you would strive for something more abstract and fluid? A monophonic source that sweeps through the human hearing range, take note of how the musical elements were delineated (Melody, Harmony, Tone, Rhythm, etc) and make something that blurs all of those lines. That’s where the computers strong point is for me. It should be like a drone that morphs and nearly becomes music, but just on that brink of persecution that it is both abstract yet graspable by our understanding of what music is.
Another idea comes from speedrunning video games. For inspiration I watch a lot of videos of people completely tearing video games apart to find each and every exploit to aid them in completing the game as fast as possible, you see areas where the screen glitches and you have to be able to work with the issues the game has. To me it’s a kind of beautiful thing that’s not like anything else. Here is a video game that was meant to be played a certain way by the developers but people have in fact found exact values to squeeze through every number and pixel in the game to getting the fastest time possible. A lot of these ideas are also evident in more contemporary Jazz music, where people utilise metric modulation to introduce polyrhythms against the other instruments, they’re finding actual exploits in the music to work against! It’s still the same tune they’re playing but are able to take it apart and dismantle it to the point where they have these parts to build something unique and new while playing the music live! That’s sort of what I wanted to do with the music that I made, there’s a lot of polyrhythm modulation happening in the background of my music. The patches I use to make the music usually randomises random parameters over time, and it’s up to me to hear these changes and work with them as a piece develops, so it’s kind of like playing a glitched out video game anyway. Looking at artists like Takeshi Murata and Rafael Rozendaal really inspires me too.
It struck me around a year or two ago about what audio phasing was, when two waves are off sync and cancel each other out. In a way this magical thing happens, it creates a third wave, a synthesis of the two, but this wave is a rhythm that is born from two waves moving faster to create a pitch. I got this ridiculous idea of the ‘unheard wave’, which creates spaces between what was present and what was absent. I found those gaps to be very inspirational and wanted to create music with these ‘unheard modulations’ going off in the background that would influence the music but not directly effect the audio. This is more of a conceptual approach rather than a practical one, little notions like these keep me feeling inspired and positive about making work because of the elements of transcendence you’re striving for.
– Joeri Bruyninckx
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