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CONTRIBUTORS FOUNDER | PUBLISHER Mindy Seegal Abovitz (email@example.com) MANAGING EDITOR Liz Tracy (firstname.lastname@example.org) CREATIVE DIRECTOR Marisa Kurk (email@example.com) REVIEWS EDITOR Rebecca DeRosa (firstname.lastname@example.org) TECH EDITOR JJ Jones (email@example.com)
COPY EDITOR Bernadette Malavarca
WRITER / PHOTOGRAPHER Shelly Simon
PRINT WRITERS Shaina Machlus, Joe Wong, Lisa Henderson, Gina Ferrera, Carson Risser, Nick Zurko, Amy Klein, Valerie Veteto, Shelly Simon, Marion Tortorich, Zoë Brecher, Miro Lion, Liz Tracy PHOTOGRAPHERS Catalina Kulczar, Michelle Felix, Bill Kennedy, Rachael Wright, Toyoko Iwahashi, Richard Brandon Yates, Emily Alben, Richard Hines, Shelly Simon, Shervin Lainez, Tanya Prasad, Geoffrey Oat TECH WRITERS JJ Jones, Dani Buncher, Morgan Doctor MUSIC & MEDIA REVIEWS Chantal-Marie Wright, Matthew D'Abate, Lindsey Anderson, Kate Hoos, Carolina Enriquez Swan, Rebecca DeRosa GEAR REVIEWS JJ Jones COPY EDITOR Bernadette Malavarca
WEB TOM TOM SHOP MANAGER Susan Taylor (firstname.lastname@example.org) WEB CODERS Revival Agency
WRITER Amy Klein
PARTNERSHIPS Vuk Levkovik
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BRAIN TRUST Rony Abovitz, Lisa Schonberg, Kiran Gandhi, Sean Desiree, Ross Asdourian, Rosana Caban
Tom Tom Magazine ® is the only magazine in the world dedicated to female and gender non-conforming drummers. We are a quarterly print magazine, website, social media community, IRL community, events, drum academy, custom gear shop and more. Tom Tom seeks to raise awareness about female percussionists from all over the world in hopes to inspire women and girls of all ages to drum. We intend to strengthen and build the fragmented community of female musicians globally and provide the music industry and the media with role models to create an equal opportunity landscape for any musician. We cover drummers of all ages, races, styles, skill levels, abilities, sexualities, creeds, class, sizes and notoriety. Tom Tom Magazine is more than just a magazine; it’s a movement.
Anna Geiger (Red Bull), Ima, Rony, Shani, Scoot, My Husband Chris J Monk, George Ferrandi, Angel Favorite, Rucyl Mills, Bond Collective, WeWork, La Moutique, The FRONT, Santo, Rico, Pitz Patz, WFSU Fest, Sto Len, Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels, CORRECTIONS FROM ISSUE 28 · Photo of Kiran Gandhi in Issue 28 was shot by Anna Maria Lopez not David Becker. · Photo on page 37 of Issue 28 of Idgy Dean was mistakenly credited. The proper credit goes to Karel Chladek in conjunction with RBMA. · Sorry to Kelli Rae Tubbs whose name we keep spelling in every possible way. We love you. Thank you for being patient with us! · Copy editor for issue 28 was Bernadette Malavarca
This issue of Tom Tom is themed Digital. We chose this theme to debate the decades long discussion of whether or not digital drums and drummers will eventually make acoustic drums and drummers obsolete. We also used the theme to talk about how the digital age has changed the way we musicians market ourselves, share our art, and navigate the world. In these pages you will read about how to use social media to further your career from a few of the world’s most successful self-promoting musicians, the complexities of digital composition by the guru Amy Knoles, and a complete guide to Digital Audio Workstations. Within the pages and on the cover of Tom Tom, you may have noticed that we often feature lesser known or entirely unfamiliar faces. That is, in part, a byproduct of our subject matter being so niche, but is also very much by design. The definition of greatness or of “deserving of notoriety” has been defined by a narrow group of people who have systematically and systemically omitted females. Along with excluding women, the media has left lots and lots of folks out of the picture (literally and figuratively). What would a world of media look like that presented people with stories of greatness as defined by passion, longevity, kindness and other great traits and not just “the very best” as defined by the fastest or trendiest? This is what we are striving for within Tom Tom. To move away from the notion that only the greatest (as defined by the few) are the only people that will be recognized. We are celebrating the process, the unusual things and the beautiful hardships. We are adjusting the parameters, unpacking the criteria, and re-setting the definitions of “best” and “greatest” within these pages. In Lindy West’s words from her latest book: Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, “We're all building our world, right now, in real time. Let's build it better.” In love, drums, progress and solidarity,
Mindy Seegal Abovitz Publisher | Founder | EIC
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Photo by Lauren Kallen
Photo by Meg Wachter
WHO IS DELIA DERBYSHIRE?
A timeline of electronic music’s reigning queen
AN ARTIST’S TOUCH
THE TOM TOM GUIDE TO DAWS
FROM THE WEB TO THE STREETS
Gina Ferrera plays the malletKAT like a gyil How to use social media to self-promote
Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re reminisces and looks forward How to get Bandcamp to notice you What it’s like to be a musician in post-election America Amy Knoles on the complexities of digital composition Anna Holmer makes a comeback Exploring how gender works on the web Afrika Green talks touring with Pet Shop Boys Sarah Register explains digital mastering Everything you need to know about digital audio workstations
How the women’s marches used the Internet to organize
Photo of Sandunes by Tanya Prasad
I received my first issue the other day and I absolutely love this magazine! It makes me feel not so alone! Thank you for bringing awareness to the music industry that music is not just male dominated! â€”M
THE ELECTRIC PATH OF by Shaina Machlus
On May 5, 1937, the working-class couple Emma and Edward Derbyshire welcome their daughter Delia to the world in Coventry, England. The world is a tumultuous place with the rising tide of fascism: Hitler and his gestapo, Franco’s Spanish Civil War, and Mussolini’s Ethiopian takeover.
At both Oxford and Cambridge universities, only one in 10 students were female. Delia is accepted to both. She chooses to pursue a mathematics scholarship at Girton College, Cambridge. Although she is successful in her studies of the mathematical theory of electricity, Delia confidently changes her major to music.
On September 3, 1939, Britain, France, Australia, and New Zealand declare war on Germany.
In November 1940, under attack by the German air forces, the Coventry Blitz, Delia and her family are forced to move to Preston, Lancashire, for safety.
Despite global tensions, Delia’s intellect is noticeably blooming. By age four, she is not only reading and writing herself but teaching her classmates how to do so. Due to war conditions, she must spend much of her childhood indoors and is constantly listening to the radio. “The radio was my education,” she later reflects in a 2000 interview with Jo Hutton for Sonic Arts Network.
Delia receives her first piano. Hitler commits suicide to the tune of the German troops’ surrender, and two atomic bombs are dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
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After applying for a position at Decca Records, she is told that the company does not employ women in their recording studios, the company stating, “The recording studio is no place for a woman.” She takes a position at the United Nations in Geneva, teaching piano to the children of dignitaries.
Delia graduates from Cambridge with a B.A. in mathematics and music, with a focus in medieval and modern music. She receives a Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music diploma in pianoforte. Not bad.
Back in London, Delia applies and becomes a trainee assistant studio manager at the BBC for Record Review, a magazine programme where critics review classical music recordings. “Some people thought I had a kind of second sight,” she later told Surface magazine in 2000. “One of the music critics would say, ‘I don't know where it is, but it's where the trombones come in,’ and I’d hold it up to the light and see the trombones and put the needle down exactly where it was. And they thought it was magic.”
After being briefly introduced to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which creates sound effects for the radio programming, in April 1962, Derbyshire decides it is where she belongs. Given that people are usually not interested in this department, a confused Central Programme Operation agrees to give Delia a position therein. The fusing of Delia’s mathematical and musical genius can be found in the deceptively simple details of BBC programming. This is from her obituary in The Guardian: “My most beautiful sound at the time was a tatty green BBC lampshade; it was the wrong colour, but it had a beautiful ringing sound to it. I hit the lampshade, recorded that, faded it up into the ringing part without the percussive start. I analysed the sound into all of its partials and frequencies, and took the 12 strongest, and reconstructed the sound on the workshop’s famous 12 oscillators to give a whooshing sound. So the camels rode off into the sunset with my voice in their hooves and a green lampshade on their backs.” In August of that year, while assisting composer Luciano Berio at a two-week summer school, Delia cleverly borrows several dozen items of equipment from the BBC.
In 11 years, Delia has composed over 200 programme pieces. Disillusioned with the path electronic music seemed to be taking and its reliance on synthesizers, Delia quits her job at BBC and disappears almost completely from the electronic music world. During this time, she works as a radio operator for the laying of a British Gas pipeline, in an art gallery, and in a bookshop.
1963 She uses this equipment and her unwonted talent to create one of her first and most famous works, the electronic realization of the score by Ron Grainer for the theme of the Doctor Who series. The theme was the first to be created entirely by electronic means, a very big deal. Mark Ayers explains in “Making of the Doctor Who Theme Music”: “Each sound in the Doctor Who theme was individually created using these instruments and recorded to magnetic tape. . . . Now the fun really started. They had all the sounds, all the notes, and now had to create the music. So each individual note was trimmed to length by cutting the tape and stuck together in the right order.” Delia did not receive any credit initially, as the BBC preferred to keep the composer “anonymous.”
On July 3, 2001, while working on a new album, Delia dies at the age of 64 of renal failure due to chronic alcoholism. Shortly after her death, 267 reel-to-reel tapes and a box of a thousand papers were found in her attic. Due to copyright issues, the world has yet to tune into these brilliant secrets.
Because of the bureaucratic bureaucracy of men, often times Delia is unable to use her real name (lest the world know she’s a lady) to receive credit for her compositions. She often uses pseudonyms like Unit Delta Plus when organizing one of the earliest electronic music concerts in London, and Li De la Russe when producing the cult classic White Noise album An Electric Storm. Delia starts Kaleidophon, a Camden Town-based independent studio, with David Vorhaus and Brian Hodgson. At Kaleidophon, she composes pieces for the London theater and even records a score for a fashion show, the first ever to use electronic music. Despite being constantly told her music is too strange, she plays in many concerts, including one Roundhouse Theatre concert of electronic music with early electronic works by Paul McCartney. ISSUE 29:
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One artist’s road to finding her electronic and organic sound by Gina Ferrera Photos by Bill Kennedy
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In African drum ensembles, each part or counterpart, each polyrhythm, makes up the whole. There is an idea of “collective-awareness” and “individual-togetherness”present in the community that displays itself in the music. Like the liana vine found in the tropical forests of Africa, human beings long for connection, and our sense of usefulness derives from the feeling of connectedness. It is said that the liana vines form bridges in the forest canopy, providing animals with paths to cross the forest. These bridges protect weaker trees from strong winds. The liana vine is thought to hold the whole rainforest together. When one tree falls, they all start to fall. Music can be an embodiment of this concept. To play a part in the music ensemble is to play an essential part in the group.
Honoring a particular seat in a traditional ensemble is a metaphor for interconnection and honoring one’s life-purpose, by serving the community. Western drum-set and rudimental drumming grounded me, but the call of the gyil set my heart ablaze and put me into a trance. Studying gyil required a new mindset in order to take me to new horizons. Master percussionist Valerie Naranjo mentored me for many years. I traveled to Ghana twice where I studied gyil with masters Kakraba Lobi and Bernard Woma. I’m fascinated by the intricate conversations and interconnections in the melody, rhythm, and dance found in the gyil cultural heritage.
DIGITAL WAS AN EMERGING ART FORM, AND I WAS COMFORTABLE STICKING WITH RAW, ORGANIC SOUNDS, SAMPLING MY OWN PERCUSSION TO STAY TRUE TO MY OWN SOUND. or not define itself. I felt a sense of creative freedom come over me. As I was dancing and lasers were firing, I evolved. New wiring in my brain was taking shape. A vision came to me of merging my ethno-explorations, modern dance music, and live electronic percussion. But I was full of questions. How can I merge new sounds with traditional rhythm? How can electronic music creation be an expression of who I am? I wondered what it would be like if dance floor music wasn’t restricted to a certain BPM or time signature. What about other meters? How would they dance in 6/8? What would happen if I played the ancient dance polyrhythms that I know and love? It felt like blasphemy. Parts of me wanted to explore this union while other parts of me struggled with cultural appropriation. A dichotomy existed inside me. Whisperings from my Ghana-based teacher reminded me that “music belongs to no one.” That kept me open to new possibilities.
I was moved by the depth and development of musical styles for corresponding ceremonies: music for funerals, music for celebrating harvest time, music for young people and moonlit evenings. But I was still seeking something more. When I discovered the dance floor, I found my tribe. I was grooving to the edgy guttural dubbed-out wobble and metric modulations of the electronic dance music movement. I felt my chakras open up. It could have been any dance floor, but it was out in the desert where the playa kicked up a creative metamorphosis. The scene was tribal. It was reminiscent of the sacred healing spaces I found in traditional ritual dance ceremonies but with a new culture that was free to define
I was geared up with an analog audio production degree, and my acoustic roots went deep. The DIY movement using laptops for music production was in full effect. I’d already been using ProTools and Reason, and it was time to “go electronic.” Digital was an emerging art form, and I was comfortable sticking with raw, organic sounds, sampling my own percussion to stay true to my own sound. I went from a collegiate drummer to African gyil player to music festival dance floors and back to Philly’s music scene where community support gave me the empowerment and springboard to begin merging these new sounds. I was influenced by Moldover and what he referred to as the “controllerist” movement. I was using pad controllers like the APC40, Korg PadKontrol, Push, and the Softstep. I was curating my own libraries of custom sound samples and recordings of my acoustic instruments. Then I envisioned MIDI trig-
gers being arranged like a gyil. I needed a MIDI instrument to translate my traditional technique to utilize those sound sets, note expressions, and rhythms. I could play the malletKAT like a gyil! However, it became clear to me that using electronic percussion was not about replacing the acoustic instruments; it was about discovering what else is possible. Going digital eased some of the challenges I previously experienced as my sound evolved from an acoustic setup. I was using microphones for a hybrid setup, but digital allowed for ultimate creativity and control of my signal. Alternate Mode KAT controllers opened up a way for me to control my digital environment for live performance. I then began working with the owner of Alternate Mode, Mario DeCiutiis. I dreamt “outside of the box,” as we translated my vision, creating what electronic music could be for me. Concepts for holographic or textural drumming were being discussed. This was a whole new way of thinking about live production. This was a multidimensional way of organizing my templates and performing them by utilizing my existing technique. I built custom drum racks in Ableton that I can replay with my style and technique, giving me the power to manipulate melodies, harmonies, grooves, and loops. I have evolved from acoustic to hybrid to digital and back, bridging the ancient and future. Sound heals me. I now seek to heal others with a transformative multisensory, multimedia, and multidimensional experience where movement, dancers, lighting, visuals, storytelling, and interactivity is expressed between the performers and the technology. I am merging sound vibration with light and touch for future healing modalities.
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Top tips by star drummers for building an online presence by Lisa Henderson Gone are the days when drummers could simply drum. Part and parcel of being a modern drummer is growing a brand, networking, and exposing the world to your talents. The good news is the Internet has leveled out the playing field; nearly every drummer now has the same resources available. The bad news is this means there’s more competition than ever before to land those all-important gigs. With an abundance of platforms and tools at your fingertips, the power is, quite literally, in your hands. The challenge is knowing how to use those tools effectively in the time that you have, so you can get down to the important bit: drumming.
Tom Tom Magazine asked three drummers who have gained stratospheric success for advice on building and maintaining an online presence. YouTube sensation Meytal Cohen reveals the secrets to her success with breaking the Internet, crowdfunding her chart-topping debut album, and touring the U.S. Session drummer who played with the Darkness, Emily Dolan Davies, gives insight into practical promotion. And 22-year-old Bloc Party drummer Louise Bartle shares her tips on savvy social networking. Each drummer has met very different goals, but there are five common denominators to all of their successes.
If anybody is the prime example of working the web, it’s Meytal Cohen. After garnering millions of hits on her first YouTube video, a cover of System of a Down’s “Toxicity,” the sticks woman committed to uploading two videos a week. For seven years, she posted covers every Tuesday and every Friday. “It really comes down to dedication, building a body of work and maintaining a consistent upload schedule that viewers can look forward to,” Cohen tells us. By consistently posting, she was making sure the momentum she had gained from the first video never fell flat. The bottom line is, if you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind, and you’ll be quickly forgotten in the mass of other drummers. Posting consistently will make sure you’re a constant presence on the Internet. 12
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Aside from making some awesome friends and being part of the drummer community, you never know what opportunities may come from supporting your fellow hitters. This is when the phrase “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” comes into play. At the very least, one of your drumming pals might promote something you’ve done, therefore introducing you to some new ears. But at best, you’re a name that a fellow drummer can recommend if they’re too busy to take on a gig themselves.
Photos of Meytal and Emily courtesy of the artists Photo of Louise by Rachael Wright
M E Y TA L C O H E N
SHARE THE LOVE Maintaining an online presence isn’t just about showcasing your skills; it’s also about being part of a community. “I focus on other people, musicians, drummers, and how awesome they are, rather than what I’m up to most of the time,” says Emily Dolan Davies. “Also giving information freely. I’ve experienced people being so secretive about how they do something, but I try to be as honest and open as possible so people can hopefully relate to sometimes difficult things and feel inspired. I also hope that it then gives them support and strength in what they’re doing. I find it really fulfilling to be honest.”
YOU HAVE TO USE YOUTUBE U IS E B A R TL E
YouTube is the one platform a drummer cannot do without. If Louise Bartle or Dolan Davies hadn’t uploaded videos, neither of them would have landed their career-changing gigs. “The whole reason that [the Darkness] even knew about me was because of a video I’d posted on YouTube four years prior,” says Dolan Davies.
Speaking on her success on YouTube, Cohen notes: “YouTube provides a stage for any artist to put their work out there and gain recognition. It’s an amazing tool, which can be used as a launch pad to anything you wish to create. This platform allowed me to do what I love full time. I was getting better and better, practicing my favorite songs, while obtaining a large following and making a name for myself.”
“Bloc Party viewed my playing through YouTube initially and decided to have me audition for the band,” Bartle remembers. “When I have been asked to play other gigs, I have often been asked for any video content that I have.”
BUILD RELATIONSHIPS WITH YOUR FANS
E VI I LY DO L A N D A
This may be the most crucial piece of advice for emerging drummers. Don’t make the mistake of being so focussed on promoting yourself to get seen by “important” people that you neglect the people that are truly important, the fans. It’s vital to remember just how powerful a fan base can be. In Cohen’s case, it helped her achieve some mammoth goals. “I was able to fund my debut album Meytal - Alchemy through Kickstarter. The album charted number one on the Billboard’s Heatseeker chart. And as a result, my band and I got on a full U.S. tour opening for a legendary metal band, none of which would have been possible without the support of my fans!” says the sticks woman. Gaining a following is something that happens automatically. Cultivating a relationship with that following is something you have to develop and to which you must dedicate time. There are plenty of ways to interact with fans, from hosting competitions to simply tweeting people back.
TICK LIST OF WAYS TO BUILD YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE
THE MORE PLATFORMS YOU USE, THE MORE PEOPLE YOU REACH
· USING SOCIAL MEDIA
When we say “platforms,” we don’t just mean a host of social media sites. There are so many different ways to reach new audiences and promote your brand. From writing blogs to podcasting and using endorsers to help boost posts. There are no limits to what you can do. But the more you do, the better.
· YOUTUBE · INTERACTING WITH FANS · MEDIA (DOING INTERVIEWS, FEATURING ON BLOGS)
“Different people like different streams, so someone on Instagram may not be on Twitter, or someone on Facebook isn’t interested into looking at a website,” Dolan Davies tells us.
· ENDORSEMENTS · WRITING BLOGS
And of course, one drummer’s preference may differ from the next. “I have found Instagram to be a good source to showcase my drumming and music,” Bartle says. “It seems to be a place where musicians can discover one another. It gives a quick opportunity for people to see my playing and browse through various clips of me playing songs and little solos.”
· MAKING PODCASTS · FORUMS · COMPETITIONS
MEYTAL COHEN'S NEW PROMOTION PLATFORM “In the past six months, I’ve been co-creating a platform called Erlybird. Erlybird combines the excitement of a crowdfunding campaign and a simple ecommerce site. The idea came through the release of my album Alchemy. “When my album was ready, I wanted to release it in a big way. I didn’t have the support of a label to create a clever marketing plan, but I also didn’t want to simply put the album up on iTunes. So we created a page on my website, which essentially was the prototype of Erlybird.
“The response to the album release was amazing. The album ended up selling more during the one month of the Erlybird release than in the eight months that followed combined. And so in support of independent artists everywhere, we decided to create this platform, which will allow others to have the same tools to premiere their new releases in an impactful and exciting way. The site was just launched. Go check it out!” Visit erlybird.com.
Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re reminisces and looks forward as drummer Mizue Masuda leaves the band
by Carson Risser Photos by Toyoko Iwahashi
Plenty of bands start in college, but not many can claim to have played steadily for 17 years with the same members. Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re can. The trio formed in the Chiba prefecture of Tokyo when vocalist and guitarist Mari Kono, bassist Yayoi Tsushima, and drummer Mizue Masuda were all in the same band club. They covered garage rock trio Blankey Jet City’s songs at first and later put out their own tunes. TSMMR’s songs often combine hard rock with tongue-in-cheek lyrics. There’s “Tea Time Ska,” a slow groove about a boyfriend visiting for tea (“Darling, darling, darling Darjeeling...”) that morphs into screamo and then ska to “Fa** & Fafa,” from 2015’s Abandon Human, an urgent two minutes musing on the dangerous deliciousness of sodas that contain no real fruit. At the beginning of 2017, it was announced that Mizue would depart from Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re. The band played its final show with the original lineup on February 10. We asked Mizue, Yayoi, and Mari about their favorite memories as a band and what their plans are for the future as Mizue pursues new projects and the group continues with a support drummer.
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Tom Tom: Do you have favorite memories of the band? Mizue: There are so many memories, it’s hard to choose. But one thing is that whenever we went, the American tours were always fun! The people I met in America, the landscapes, the customs—they all changed my inner values. Yayoi: In 17 and a half years, we played America more than 10 times! A memory I like is, when we first went on tour, there were no smartphones and our tour van didn’t have GPS. Looking at a map and speaking poor English, we tried to guide our driver Brian and went down a lot of wrong roads. Mari: When we talked a lot on the bus on tour about things I (normally) can’t tell anyone. We talked a lot about love and about the band, and were listening to our CD Shocking over and over so much. Finally, it was after about five hours when I realized we had arrived in Yayoi’s hometown, Toyama, from Tokyo. (Author’s note: Toyama is more than 200 miles away from Tokyo, on the opposite shore of Japan.) During that whole time, I was singing our praises: “Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re is so cool!” I think we are a happy band. I think we are a band with a lot of happiness. What do you think makes Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re different from other bands? Mizue: When the sound from all three of us overlaps during a show, there’s a huge impact you can’t see with your eyes.
Yayoi: We don’t make music where one person acts as the leader; instead the members talk and share the same experiences and within that, make music together. Even though the songs are subtle, the shows are explosive. Mari: Because we became friends in a college band club, as a band, we’re always carrying the emotions from that time. And up until now, we spent more than half the week together, so we spent more time together than with our family. It was a special way to be. Because of that, Mizue’s departure feels very strange. Things like that happen a lot in bands, I think, but it was something I had a lot of trouble believing myself. At first, it felt really lonely, but now, I am looking forward to seeing a new Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re. Your final show is at Chiba Look, which is close to the college where Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re was formed. What memories do you have from live shows at Chiba Look? Mizue: When Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re first performed at Chiba Look, we had a show where we wore handmade outfits. For example, wrapped in a bathrobe and looking like we just got out of the bath (laughs).
Yayoi: When we were still college students and longing to do a show at Chiba Look, we went to the afterparty of a show that our senpai’s band had played. We gave the manager our demo minidisc saying, “We want to play a show!” We were so tense. It’s a sweet memory. Mari: I remember when we sold our first demo CD-R at Chiba Look. That demo was called Hamburger Set. The three recorded songs were, “America No Hamburger” (“American Hamburger”), “Utsubyou” (“Depression”), and “Ochassuka” (“Tea Time Ska”). I drew an illustration of a hamburger. For “Tea Time Ska,” we included a tea bag and a paper cup, and we made hand puppets that looked like French fries and put them in a white paper bag and sold them. I have good memories of the three of us putting these together. ISSUE 29:
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IF YOU ARE FIERCELY PASSIONATE, I THINK YOU CAN PLAY ROCK AND ROLL. I THINK IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT BEING GOOD AT PLAYING MUSIC— YOUR PASSION IS IMPORTANT.
Is there anything else you want our readers to know? Yayoi: With our drummer, we will show you a Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re that will evolve more and more! We plan to write new songs and release a new album as well! Look forward to it! Mizue, you play shamisen but also like heavy rock. What made you want to play drums? Mizue: My grandmother and mother both love music, and when I was small, they taught me piano, singing, and shamisen. Because I loved music, in middle and high school, I joined the orchestra club and became in charge of the percussion instruments. From high school onward, I started to get interested in bands, and when I entered college, I joined a band club and started playing drums. You also like Rage Against the Machine, and of course TSMMR started as a Blankey cover band. Other than Brad Wilk and Nakamura Tatsuya, what drummers inspire you or what musicians who are not drummers inspire you? Mizue: I really respect Nakamura Tatsuya’s drumming, but other than him, there are no
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players I especially want to raise up. In high school, when I listened to Cornelius’ (Oyamada Keigo) work, it really influenced how I feel about music. What do you hope for in your future? Mizue: I hope, as a drummer, I can take on new music pursuits. I would be happy whether it’s in a band or not. I would be glad if my pursuits made it possible for me to come to America again! Yayoi, I read that you are from Toyama, which is known for rockabilly. Did growing up in Toyama influence how you play music? Yayoi: In Toyama, when I was very young, my older brothers and sisters danced on street corners while blasting their radio cassette player. I think that way of enjoying music you can dance to has influenced me. What do you hope for the band’s future? Yayoi: I hope that Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re’s music can be introduced to different parts of the world. I hope people in various countries will hear us and come to live shows. For that to happen, I want to keep doing things that are surprising.
Mari, I read in an interview that you like the Powerpuff Girls because they are cute and tough, like Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re. As well as cute and tough, what image do you want the band to have? Mari: I want us to [be the sort of band] that will steadily continue to challenge [ourselves] to do new things, while carrying the long history of 18 years since our beginning. Do you have advice for young women who want to play rock and roll? Mari: If you are fiercely passionate, I think you can play rock and roll. I think it’s not just about being good at playing music—your passion is important. What do you hope for Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re’s future? Mari: We aim to become the sort of band that can have 10,000 fans gather to see us play on the huge stage at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo. I want to present a style that we think is cool, and increase the number of our fans. For that to happen, joining in strength with Yayoi, I want to create cooler music and performances.
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Bandcamp’s chief curator explains how artists can best navigate the landscape of digital music services Compiled by Liz Tracy
Andrew Jervis is the chief curator at Bandcamp, the online music community where the public can stream and musicians can sell their music. He spoke with Tom Tom about his time at the Groove Merchant record store and his role with Ubiquity Records. He explained how he landed such a cool gig, how he scopes out great artists, and even offered tips on how to really get noticed on Bandcamp. “I oversee label and artist outreach, bringing in new artists and labels and helping them make the most out of the Bandcamp community. I also get to host a 90-minute show, featuring interviews with awesome musicians and their music called the Bandcamp Weekly. “I grew up in the UK with some very musicloving parents. They sang opera and introduced me to Queen. My gran took me to Woolworths to spend pocket money on 7” singles. I made mixtapes from radio shows I’d recorded and would bring the boombox anywhere I could. In my mid-teens, I’d sneak into clubs, and eventually, I started DJing. When I moved from the UK to San Francisco in 1992, the first thing I did was to walk into a record store and tell a slight white lie about just how much DJing I’d done. “I got a job in the store, that day, and the store (the Groove Merchant) became more and more well known as a place collectors of soul and jazz would go to buy vinyl and producers would pick things up to sample. I sold records to everyone from the Beastie Boys to Pete Rock to Flea and Jamiroquai. The Beastie Boys even wrote a song about us. The store gave birth to a label, Ubiquity Records, which I ended up being vice president at for 14-plus years. While there, I signed artists, researched obscure oldies for reissue, wrote liner notes, and curated 20-plus compilations. “While we had some great success, it was also the kind of place where we might all also pack boxes, run the merch table, help with promotion, etc. I was also a longtime DJ at San Francisco community station KUSF, where I hosted The Friday Night Session radio show for over 17 years. And somewhere in the middle of all that, I was editor of On the One Magazine, DJed around the world, lectured at the Red Bull Music Academy, and attempted be in a couple of bands. “Bandcamp is a music community where fans can discover and connect with artists and labels and directly compensate them for their
work. Our mission is to provide artists and labels with a fair and sustainable way to distribute their music directly to their fans and to give fans easy ways to find and directly support the artists and labels they love. “I love my job! I get to chat with some amazingly creative people, including some musical heroes, and maverick artists who are just starting out and doing things their own way. When I’m not working on the Weekly, I split time between trying to bring in artists and labels not on the site, helping out those already on the site, and thinking up ways in which we could be even more useful to the creative community. “I’m obsessed with music: music discovery, new music, old music. And am intrigued by the process of making music, collecting music, how new styles, sounds, scenes, develop, etc. So, what better place to work!?
into genres and scenes that I might be fuzzy on. I read the Bandcamp Daily (I’m not above a plug!) and listen to shows like Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide, or some of the great DJs over at dublab. I just interviewed Sinkane, and he told me about his Sinkane Happy Hour show that he does on a New York station, so now I have to listen to that, too! I’m bombarded with PR pitches, and my social media channels tend to be packed with music-related posts, so I have no excuse to think there’s no new music out there! I’m open to supporting releases from well-known acts, but there’s something special about being able to reveal a new act, a brand new musical gem, something that you feel like you’ve discovered and can’t wait to share. “It’s cool to be curious, and to be surprised by new music, but I always try to keep it personal, as in ‘do I like this?’ because, while it’s tempting to feature music because it’s popular, or
THERE’S SOMETHING SPECIAL ABOUT BEING ABLE TO REVEAL A NEW ACT, A BRAND NEW MUSICAL GEM, SOMETHING THAT YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’VE DISCOVERED AND
“As far as music I’m promoting, I try not to keep count [of male versus female musicians] and to keep the emphasis on just good music, no matter who made it. Features on “women in (insert genre)” always seem to marginalize more than highlight, and the music business can definitely be a boring old boys club at times. I think it’s key to be as inclusive as possible and to not get lazy–leave no stones unturned while looking for artists and music to champion. Some of my favorite female artists from the past year include synth wiz Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, ultra dextrous MCs Noname and Little Simz, legendary Brazilian singer Elza Soares, and L.A. soul singer Jimetta Rose. “I listen all day long [to music on the web]! I listen to my local college station, to new releases, and fellow fan purchases in my Bandcamp music feed. I keep lists. I make time to listen without interruption. I deep dive
CAN’T WAIT TO SHARE. such-and-such DJ played it, etc., being true to your own taste means you’re going to be as enthusiastic and involved as you possibly can be. And that comes across when you’re putting together something like the Weekly.” Ways for artists to maximize their time on Bandcamp: “A few top tips would include: Make sure your pages look as good as your music sounds. Let fans pay more if they want to. Sell your merch on Bandcamp (T-shirts, LPs, cassettes, tickets). Make sure your family, friends, fans, PR people, etc., know that you are on Bandcamp. Be active on the site. Grab a fan account, and start following other bands and labels that you like, and see how they do it. Use your stats pages to see where your fans are based, and use your mailing list to stay in touch with them all.” ISSUE 29:
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TOM TOM MAGAZINE
Photo by Richard Brandon Yates
ART IS MORE POWERFUL THAN IGNORANCE
Two American electronic artists on what it feels like to be a musician in post-election America by Miro Lion It was November 16, 2016, and I anxiously watched the television with my band in an Airbnb in the middle of New Mexico. None of us had imagined that our celebratory champagne bottles would be popped too early in the night for the wrong reasons or that our pantsuits would end up folded away into our luggage. The morning after Donald Trump was elected into the position of U.S. President, we silently loaded our musical gear into the tour van in somber shock. As we spent the day driving to the red state of Arizona, I fretted about the all-ages show we were about to play in Trump territory. Was everyone going to be crying? Were they even going to show up? Or would racial slurs and sexist comments be hurled my way as I drummed? All I knew is that everything had changed. As I stepped onto the stage at the Rebel Lounge in Phoenix, I saw a young, diverse crowd staring up at us waiting to be moved by something, maybe anything.
NIGHTSPACE Ambient darkwave dream-pop artist based out of Seattle and New York City
“I’ve noticed more of a crowd showing up, being loud and outwardly coming out for the sake of art and standing in solidarity with each other. There’re not too many of us, but we’re still here. “Keeping spaces and what we’re doing alive and safe is really most important right now. We really have to show up and be present for each other; we’re all we have. This country’s future will be completely dominated by ignorance, if we don’t keep being loud and making noise. “Art right now should focus on making a lasting yell, not a silent shout. A long vibration, not a first impression. Being an artist continuing to put out empowering work and make a real statement is a very important job, and it’s ours. To keep creating and being present. Art is more powerful than ignorance, and we need to keep inspiring people to be strong. We can’t stay quiet. I want
to work now and make noise now so all the young P.O.C. and baby queers can pick up where we left off. Create, scream, and dance with less fear in us. “I create music to heal. When I play it live, it’s a release. An exchange of energy. I’m giving out something hopefully others can take or find something valuable from. Hopefully the audience can find solace in watching me make noise, moving with me in solidarity. Art is an escape: It’s music, it’s empowering, it’s bonding, it’s love, it’s revolution, it’s coming together, it’s me and you and everything. It’s our tool, and it’s time to build.”
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Photo by Emily Alben
MUKTA MOHAN Co-founder of Honey Power, an allfemale L.A.-based arts collective, and a DJ at independently run radio station KXLU 88.9 FM
“I have absolutely felt a shift in the energy at live shows since the election results. There’s so much at stake, and, as our country changes by the day, there’s a contagious sense of urgency. It’s interesting to notice the environment at shows. I think it depends on where people are at in their own lives. “I’ve noticed some people feel very empowered to take action and be vocal, whereas others feel emotionally drained and are going to shows to renew a sense of self. I have found myself in both instances—sometimes so drained that I can’t imagine having to leave my house to DJ but still do, and other times feeling really inspired and energized by the music and people around me. But overall, it seems like people are more present, more attentive, and more loving towards each other! “The election really activated Honey Power and myself to get more involved in our community and focus on organizing events that raise funds and awareness for local organiza-
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tions that are doing good work. It completely shifted our approach to what our collective is and what kind of work we want to be doing! “When we heard of the fire in Oakland, we threw a last minute fundraiser at my house for the emergency relief fund with Girlpool, Feels, and the Paranoyds. When there was a confrontation at Standing Rock, we organized a letter-writing event at a local DIY music venue and sent out over 200 letters. All of this has happened in a couple months after the election, and I think it’s important that we used our platform and energy to encourage people to take part in supporting their communities and also to provide a way for people to have fun and decompress while still contributing positively.”
A coping mechanism for the digital age by Marion Tortorich
The ever-changing political climate has caused quite the roller coaster of emotions for many of us. In times likes these, it is important to be able to seek adequate refuge in our creative outlets and give others a chance to benefit from what we create. In addition to this deep need for artistic expression, 2017 carries with it the thrill of the latest social media advancements: app updates, hipper-than-hip photo filters, and, of course, phones and computers that are capable of keeping us all constantly connected. We are in a modern age that fosters an extreme desire and need to engage in social media as a means of self-promotion, both as individuals and as musicians. Many of us aren’t in positions where we can have our promotional needs met by somebody else. We often find ourselves focusing so much energy on taking pre-show selfies or preparing for an album release that we run out of time to practice and create. As artists, I believe it is our job to refuse to allow the spirit of creativity and dedication required for writing and practicing to be swallowed by the pull of the social media frenzy. So, how do we accomplish this? How do you calm the inner turmoil created by distraction and connect your busy mind to your creative and focused inner self? First, I suggest doing some stretching, light cardio or working out, or take a yoga class. Many studios offer affordable community classes. This will simply warm you up and
make you comfortable. That will allow you to sink back into your body and breathe for a musical meditation. And that requires getting back to the basics of your health. Next, take out your drum pad and sticks (or other instrument of choice) and sheet music. Close yourself off in a room or even find a quiet outdoor space to travel back in time to some of the most basic rudiments or scales.
ing a small pillow or folded blanket under the edge of your tailbone so that your pelvis tilts slightly forward. Keep checking in on your mind’s connection with the breath. Scan your body for any unnecessary tension, and, as you play, release it on the exhales. Stop when you’ve had enough, or seamlessly transition into
HOW DO YOU CALM THE INNER TURMOIL CREATED BY DISTRACTION AND CONNECT YOUR BUSY MIND TO YOUR CREATIVE AND FOCUSED INNER SELF?
This isn’t time for actually practicing and writing, although that will hopefully come soon after. For now, only reference rudiments and scales that are a piece of cake for you. Then, either in silence, with your metronome, or (my favorite) to music with a slow tempo, begin your musical mindfulness practice. Set a timer, or select a few songs, and have a goal of several or upwards of 30-plus minutes. As you dance across the scales or begin the mesmerizing beats of rudimentary rhythms, become more and more aware of your breath, even make it audible. See if it can synch up with the movement of your hands. Keep the tops of your shoulders slightly back and down, broadening across your collarbones as you play. Be sure your seat remains comfortable, and even try plac-
your practicing and writing session. In the tranquility of your simple movements, may you reconnect, over and over again, to that source of creativity and dedication within you. And, there, may you find the thunderous inner roar that only momentarily was drowned out by the buzz of technology.
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Visual art, life, or music, Amy Knoles discusses the complexities of digital composition
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by Joe Wong Photo by Richard Hines
Over the past four decades, Amy Knoles has established herself as one of the most exciting artists in contemporary music. Her diverse list of collaborators ranges from the Los Angeles Philharmonic to Kronos Quartet and from Flea to Frank Zappa. For 30 years, she served as percussionist and executive director of the renowned new music ensemble California E.A.R. Unit. She is a faculty member at her alma mater, CalArts, where she designed the Electronic Percussion program. We spoke to her recently as she was preparing for an upcoming tour featuring performances of her multimedia composition, “9:8:7:5:4:3:1.” She shared her uniquely insightful perspective on the intersection of art and the digital world. Amy Knoles: As a part of everyday life, digital technology has become a massive annoyance. As a part of my artistic life, it has been a huge inspiration. New technologies have constantly fascinated me, strung me along as if holding a carrot in front of my everhungry mouth. I was a visual artist in parallel with being a drummer from kindergarten through 10th grade, where I was failed by an art teacher for not doing a project the way she wished, so I quit art until finding my way to CalArts.
Tom Tom: Many of the most interesting musicians I've spoken to also have a background in visual arts. Any guesses as to why that is? We are artists, and really art and music have been joined at the hip for centuries. The stark plainness of Gregorian paintings is evidenced in the chant of the same era, still thought of as the official music of the Roman Catholic Church. In the Renaissance, it all became very ornate. [Then] jump to the 1960s, where Minimalism began look at a Stella and listen to La Monte Young! Do you think that music students should have to create visual arts as part of their undergraduate program? The students in my electronic percussion/ musician classes have to create a final project incorporating and triggering live interactive video in their pieces. I feel that it is essential. When did you begin incorporating digital technology into your playing? [When I was an undergraduate student] I started playing the music of Morton Subotnick. Mort was already moving over to MIDI synths at that point. (I did get to study the analog Buchla 400, but I was a ter-
rible student.) Mort brought a MalletKAT to a rehearsal of his opera Hungers for me to play, and suddenly I liked playing a mallet instrument! It could sound like anything that I wished, could sustain, pitch bend (which I would use mostly on voice samples or loops). I could use my technique and didn’t have to sound like a xylophone. Do you approach digital musical devices differently from analog devices? Yes! I started fairly recently getting back into analog gear with the Moog Werkstatt, which led me to my most prized recent possession,
of the numbers in the title as they relate to one another over time. A truly faithful performance of this would take 1,075 minutes, which is about 18 hours. It actually seems possible to sense the process in around 30 minutes. So that is where it sits. There are two fundamental aspects to the work. The first is found in the numerical relationships that lay the rhythmic foundation, which develops simply into one giant groove. The second is my sonification of time, which is always changing. This piece is always changing. I am actually finishing up an interactive visual component for my tour next week. It’s
I’D MUCH RATHER FEEL THE SUN ON MY SKIN THAN LIVE FOREVER. the Make Noise Black & Gold Shared System. At first, I was wondering how to control it with MIDI and realized that it would be best to work with it as it was meant to be by its brilliant creators. My main concern is “playability,” when it comes to electronics, and this system is very performance centric. There are several modules with touch plates in the system possessing infinite possibilities with which to play. What is the concept behind “9:8:7:5:4:3:1”? It was created for the festival TIME 20years BK, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fearless contemporary arts presenter Bludñy Kámen in Czech Republic. It’s is a neototalist piece using deep looping techniques and simple tweaking on a Push and Quneo in Ableton. The work explores the relationships
turning out to be very minimalist where long floating rectangles appear with the sounding of each loop in its own space. I think it works, because the music is in surround. What happened to 6 and 2? Redundant! Is digital technology any more artificial or unnatural than mechanical/analog technology, or simply a natural evolution forward? I suppose it’s a step further away from the natural world. But doesn’t most everyone embrace the digital world these days? Perhaps digital technology feeds fantasy in a more immediate and unbounded way, whereas the analog technology, like the physical world, just wants to be touched.
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Anna Holmer’s timeless experimental album Breadwoman and Other Tales has made a comeback
by Shaina Machlus Photos courtesy of RVNG
Breadwoman lives at the center of the earth. She is so old that she has turned into bread. Artist Anna Homler has channeled Breadwoman’s curious language and wisdom ever since she was a young child. In the 1980s, Homler recorded melodies on layers of synthesizers and created an otherworldly electronic album called Breadwoman and Other Tales. It was met with modest acclaim. Afterward, Breadwoman quietly returned to her home in the planet’s core. Thirty years later, record label RVNG Intl. stumbled upon the recording, and Breadwoman was resurrected. It became something of an overnight sensation among the young, hip, and indie-hearted.
Breadwoman and Other Tales shouldn’t be overshadowed by its rebirth tale; the music itself is an exquisite piece of art. It is a relic from a time that never existed, an intrinsic calling. It is alien and familiar. It has the power to transport you to someplace celestial. If this sounds oversimplified, that’s because sitting down to an incredibly intimate conversation with Homler on how to make something ancient using electronic music is more interesting than any introduction could convey.
Tom Tom: In the origin of becoming an artist, was there a moment, in particular, when you were young, and you were making art, when you knew you were going to be an artist? Homler: Well, I think that I’m a late bloomer. As a child I loved to paint. I had a few very supportive aunts who would always supply me with pads and tapes, so I was always painting. I had an artistic nature, but I didn’t become a singer until the early ’80s. And I never thought of myself as a singer; I thought of myself as a visual artist. And so, I was driving in my car, then literally, the songs just started to come out of me. You know how you hum in the car? I was
chanting in this language that seemed very familiar to me, and those were the days of cassette tapes, so I taped over the tape I was listening to, and recorded my chants, then I just allowed them to come. It felt like a cellular language. It was very authentic and very organic, and it was just something that kept reoccurring, and I trusted it. How old were you during this fateful car ride? This all happened during my Saturn-return, when I was twenty-eight, which is why I say I was a late bloomer. But as a child, I would talk and sing in this language. So, I was bilingual. (Laughs.) Did your family ever say anything to you, or did you keep it a secret? I kept it a secret, but my mother knew, and she just thought that I came from outer space. She would look at me and say, “How did you get to be my daughter?” I have always felt my art, whatever the art was. It was something I could never quite catch up to, but it was my way of making my own path. Because I really didn’t know what I was on the trail of. I was just following my dreams, my impulses, my art. The things that I caught
from the corner of my eye. I mean these were not things that were gonna get me a good job (laughs), or secure my future. On this journey, where did the physical manifestation of Breadwoman come in? Well, she came from several sources. I’ve been singing and recording these songs every time I got in my car, or every time I would do dishes. I felt it like a pulse tick, a rhythm, and then these melodies would come out of me, and I would record them. At the same time, I was imagining this woman who lived in the center of the earth, and who is so old that she had turned to bread. At the time, I was working in a bookstore near a senior home, and I would notice the skin of these elderly women looked like food; they look like bread. A bread looks like skin. And then one day I was in downtown L.A., very early in the morning, and I happen to see a homeless woman whose head was completely wrapped in rags. And this woman, because I couldn’t see her face, was a very powerful image for me.
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And between the two of them . . . It was like a mosaic. It lead me in a direction, and I did my first bread walk in 1982. I put a loaf of bread on my head, and I went to the market, just to see what would happen. The people recognized me. They went, “Breadwoman!” What!? They weren’t surprised! OK, it is kind of weird to see somebody with a loaf of bread on their head, but they recognized me and the being, Breadwoman. So, you put a loaf of bread on your head, and the first reaction from people was to call you, “Breadwoman?” Not like, “Hey lady! What are you doing?” No, they said, “Breadlady” or “Breadwoman.” They were very friendly to me. I’ve always liked the moment when poetry or an image comes into regular life. So, a woman with a bread-head in a market seems to make perfect sense to me. That really encouraged me. That people recognize “Breadwoman.” Like she already existed before you put the bread on your face. Exactly. I think that she is an archetype. Archetypes live in the collective unconscious, and so we all recognize them when they emerge. Breadwoman is a part of us and part of me. Everybody, has characters inside. We are a cast of thousands. I think in daily life we are kind of ironed into these personalities that show up at work. (Laughs.) That’s not a value judgment; we all have different natures, and some people are really suited for that. And some people have a different nature and need to not have a routine. Take me back to first recording Breadwoman. You were recording yourself singing in this other language on cassettes, and then how did that progress into recording in a studio? I had friends recording and they said, “Oh! You should go in a studio and record those chants.” Eventually, I met Steve Moshier, who was in a group called Cartesian Reunion Memorial Orchestra or CRMO for short. It was contemporary chamber music, and it was minimal and beautiful, and it was unlike anything I’ve ever heard. I played him my cassettes. I have drawers full of cassettes of myself singing these chants. He arranged them and gave them a sonic context. 28
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How did it feel to hear your music transformed in this way?
Wild! And are you comfortable with the technology now?
Oh, it was wonderful. It was outstanding. And in working with Steve, who sadly is no longer with us, he takes it to a new level. He created a context for the chants.
I do my own version of technology. My technology is using circumvent toys and using toys that have touch buttons. I really enjoy that, because it is not about numbers or finding your settings; it’s about touching. I play a thing that used to be microphone box. It’s called a crackle box, so you control the sound with the pressure of your fingers or your hand, then it makes a high pitched kind of squealing sound or a growling sound, depending on how you touch the buttons— the touch controls.
Has digital music enhanced your sound? It gives a dimension. It makes it dreamier and more immersive. It’s the joy of reverb and reverse reverb. This is really important to me. After playing a lot of instruments, I agree with Brian Eno that the recording studio is an instrument in itself. This dimension makes my analog a bigger world; it creates a space and a bigger space for me to play my music. There is a special oxymoronic quality to your musical space. Creating something ancient and mystical using digital tools. Steve was able to envision the electronic aspect of the music, and I was there to make the connections. Now, when I’m performing, I work with Jorge Martin, and he’s able to use digital technology through modules to recreate ’80s analog synthesizer sounds.
Breadwoman is listed under the category of dance/electronic, but you still manage to be so analog in so many ways. Hey, I’m old school. I’m just like a sculpture: I’m so set in my ways. I’m an analog sculpture. In an electronic world. Oh, it’s really about the people I work with. It’s not so much about the world. You do the music you do, and then other people find a category for it.
That’s a lot of technology that goes into making something new sound old.
And then what happened when the music was first released?
Isn’t that crazy? So it’s come full circle. But it’s only through this digital technology that I’m able to sound analog.
It was well received. It was the days of cassette culture. So, we were another cassette but vaguely industrial. I think the reception
I PUT A LOAF OF BREAD ON MY HEAD, AND I WENT TO THE MARKET, JUST TO SEE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN. THE PEOPLE RECOGNIZED ME. THEY WENT, ‘BREADWOMAN!'
we are getting now is actually bigger because of social media. In 2016, 30 years later, there is a rerelease of the album. How did that come about? It happened because, in the ’80s, there was this store called Generator in the East Village, and Ken Montgomery, whose store/ gallery it was, he created it. He did an art piece where he re-created Generator, and he doesn’t remember this, but he introduced a cassette of Breadwoman to Matt Werth of RVNG Intl. Records. Matt sent me an email. It said, “I love Breadwoman.” We emailed back and forth, and finally he said, “Oh, I have a label.” He didn’t say that at first. I just thought it was some nice person. And he said, “Would you like Breadwoman to reach a new audience?” And then when you saw all of the success? Oh, I’m really happy, and Steve was very happy, because he thought that Breadwoman is timeless. Breadwoman is outside of time, so it makes sense that she would be embraced now, because she is not timebased. She is not a part of a contemporary art movement.
You were recently in Pitchfork and have done lots of performances amongst a very young, hip crowd. I wonder what that was like to see this new generation of people in a very particular scene, really enjoying your music. I’m more a hippie at heart than a hipster. What’s interesting for me is to come from the improviser scene, where you play for seven to eight of the same people, to go to now playing sold out shows. That is a real contrast. What was the strangest reception you have received from Breadwoman? Well, the strangest and the most uncomfortable reception was actually in the studio years ago with the first engineer I worked with who doubted me. He got really mad, and he said no one will ever listen to my music, and that it was boring. What made you continue?
Your advice would be to find someone who is on your wavelength, who is open-minded? Yeah! And loves the sound and loves to explore and who doesn’t have rigid ideas about how things should be. I would say, don’t be afraid to be different or uncool; follow your own star and inclinations. Do what you love and what nourishes you. I started to play music so I could play with other people. It’s like I could actually meet people halfway. I thought everybody could come into the breadworld. I like to think that I could go into other people’s world. Oof! I love that. The idea of you being this gateway into the ancient breadworld and being there meeting people halfway; that’s perfect. Thank you for being our guide into breadworld! My pleasure. Come back anytime!
I stopped working with him, and then I started working with Ethan James at Radio Tokyo, who is totally supportive. He was willing to enter the breadworld with me and really be a creative partner with me.
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Musicians explain how we experience and explore gender on the Internet today by Shelly Simon
Gender is many things, but for one, it is a broad way to categorize people, just like race and sexuality. Now, being one of the main ways people connect with each other is through the digital realm, it’s important to look at how gender plays out on the web. Do digital devices make gender irrelevant, or is it just another place where white men hold the power? The recognition of digital gender involves elements that don’t necessarily require a physical presence. We are seemingly less able to make judgments on our visual intake on the web. You can’t hear someone’s voice when reading their text. A person’s voice is thus veiled behind a false sense of security, the screen between the person and the ocean of the Internet. SAD13’s drummer Zoë Brecher paints a vivid scenario of their experience on the web. “At the end of the day, there’s still me, with feelings, behind the computer screen. It’s a dilemma, because the Internet can be so opening yet so marginalizing.” Brecher explains their personal take on gender and experience on race: “I guess to me, nothing is that black and white, literally. I remember taking standardized tests in school and having to check off my race, and, because I’m biracial, I never knew if it was okay to check off two; to me, gender is the same thing.” Musicians spend a lot of time on the Internet promoting their music and sharing it with the world. Jacksonville, Florida’s trio TOMBOI shared their experience of the web—which has been liberating. “With the concept of digital gender, we feel the capabilities of the Internet have opened up all new avenues for expressing yourself,” the members say. “The ability to not only broadcast your identity but really shape it to fit what you envision yourself truly being is a revolutionary new tool.” 30
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However, this hasn’t been everyone’s experience. Merilou “Cosmo” Salazar and Jessie Meehan of WASI, a queer dynamic duo from Los Angeles, explain the difficulties they’ve experienced regarding digital gender. “It's interesting, because it feels like with the access to communities, having the Internet available should feel liberating. Yet there have been many times where we were placed on a publication or a show that featured predominantly model-like white lesbians, because we deviate from that norm,” they recollect. “This deviation of being different brings up these continuous feelings of being out of place. We both identify as women and lesbians, but we’ve had to carve out our own space and community outside of the digital gender norms of what we see all over social media.” An already marginalized group of people are thus further marginalized within a framework of supposed safety. It can be even easier to place people in categories on the web. Brecher explains that categorizing people can provide a positive place of support as
well. “There are so many sites out there created by and made for all different kinds of people of different genders. That’s one of the reasons the Internet can be such a great and useful tool for someone who doesn’t have that support or experience in their life.” I work for a site called Homoground (homoground.com), a queer music podcast and media site. I agree that the web is a radical tool for artists to use to reach out to their audiences, who may be very similar or completely different from them. It can help by exposing people to a familiar, comforting entity, or opening the minds of people who may have never thought, heard, or seen material that these artists are showcasing. It was founded by queer media queen and bike advocate busybody Lynn Casper in 2011. At the time, Casper was in North Carolina and sought to create a safe space online for queer musicians to be able to showcase their songs, regardless of the artists’ gender identities. Casper next moved to New York City where the organization continues to live and thrive today. Homoground strives
Photo of Zoë Brecher courtesy of the artist
to highlight the whole spectrum (insert rainbow metaphor here) of the LGBTQA community. There were and are no set of instructions of what that looks like or how that is accomplished. With that freedom of being able to “figure out” the best approaches, Homoground is in the sixth year of success, continuously seeking to host that safe space for artists to experiment with the freedom of gender fluidity. When dealing with musicians who submit to Homoground (to be featured on the podcast or website), the team at hand pulls from what matters: the music. We highlight the fact that people are not allegiant to a specific gender or sexuality, and truly focus on letting them express themselves on a safe and even playing field. Many musicians are not given equal opportunities in the real world or on the Internet based on their gender. Labels and media outlets ask: “What will sell better?” “How does this group look?” “Should
AS A GENDER NONCONFORMING PERSON OF COLOR, I DO NOT CONSIDER THE INTERNET TO BE A SAFE SPACE, BUT I AM ABLE TO FEEL THE STRENGTH OF MY COMMUNITY AROUND THE WORLD. —ZOË BRECHER
we book this band based on the fact it’s all men/women/etc.?” “They will never be able to set up their own soundcheck!” “What? We’re paying them? We don’t have to give them as much.” As an online platform, Homoground listens to and showcases different artists’ viewpoints of gender and other issues highlighted through their music. The motivation behind the musicians’ selected medium is ISSUE 29:
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also a rewarding aspect, whether that be their music or the videos created/inspired by these songs. Brecher reflects, “A great thing about being a musician is you can get your word out on a digital platform for those to see, some who are ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ your message, but then you also get to perform that message IRL for people who it resonated with, and chances are that those opposed aren’t going to pay to come see.” It’s a fun position of power—to be able to produce content that can be put on the Internet for everyone to see, whether they’re into it or not, and then you know who your true friends and fans are when they show up to your gig. WASI agrees that creating a safe space both on the Internet and IRL is an option. “We aim to bring this energy to our shows to create that safe space, and at every show we play, we make sure that we connect with fans on that deeper level of relation.” Even though we have this infinite amount of space on the Internet to represent ourselves and others, there are still many progressive strives to be made. The TOMBOI trio offer this truthful aspect of the World Wide Web: “Sure, it has its downsides; there are still a lot of spaces that only acknowledge male and female pronouns on the web, failing to recognize many trans, intersex, and nonbinary folks. And more space needs to be made for the voices of people of color online. But there is progress and momentum always building. While it’s true the isolation of the Internet can breed apathy, the ability of the Internet to connect us to each other’s stories and identities can breed a greater empathy.” A vouch for this truth comes from New York City’s Bell’s Roar, aka Sean Desiree, who notes, “Explicitly speaking online about your
Photos of TOMBOI by Shelly Simon
gender as a woman, gender nonconforming, or trans person, you leave yourself vulnerable to trolls, cyberbullying, and real life stalkers. Despite this, people put their lives out there, allowing for a variation of genders to be represented. As a gender nonconforming person of color, I do not consider the Internet to be a safe space, but I am able to feel the strength of my community around the world.” These examples affirm the fact that there is some structure for gender on the Internet. On social media sites, it may demand a person select one of two genders (male or female), or on travel websites, the selection
Photos of WASI courtesy of the artist 32
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of a gender is a requirement to fly, and even online advertising takes into account a person’s gender so companies and organizations can accurately adjust their endless stream of bullshit ads and pop-ups. With any level of freedom comes the necessary rules to make sure the freedoms are utilized in correct and respectful ways. With every new space, there is potential for mistreatment of that said space. The Internet has led to some awful outcomes in regard to emotional damage (like cyberbullying). Yet it can be a safe and smart place if utilized properly and intelligently. Freedom is freedom. If it is used in a positive way, it can help foster growth, provide support, and create community. Homoground does just that by utilizing resources at hand— the Internet, streaming services, the website to showcase music videos, photographs, tours, talks, and tunes—and most important, by allowing musicians to exist in a space (the podcast and website) and be positively supported. Music has always been a tool of expression, and taking it to the Internet to showcase those creations is a powerful progression into the future. The Internet has helped us immensely in creating the beginnings of a safe space, producing and sharing positive content that can be consumed globally, and crafting the many levels of support that every musician, fan, and artist deserves.
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Afrika Green talks touring with Pet Shop Boys and proving her greatness by simply playing by Valerie Veteto Photos by Geoffrey Oat
Afrika Green is riding high on stimulation overload. The 26-year-old British-American studio musician has toured with Pet Shop Boys as the bandâ€™s drummer and backup vocalist, a coveted position that elicited one of the most grueling audition processes she ever experienced. How did someone so young land the chance to tour with the UK dance club duo that, since 1985, scored six Grammy nominations and 42 Top 30 UK singles? We virtually crossed oceans via Skype to find out.
Her drumming career began by chance as a 13-year-old self-proclaimed loner at school. “I peered through the [Music Department’s] window one lunchtime, and there was a drum kit covered up with a dust sheet,” Green remembers. “The door was unlocked, so I went in and uncovered it. Found some mismatched sticks and started to tap around. I went back every lunchtime in secret to improve on the previous day’s attempts. “It was mine; I was finding myself and my identity. I did that until I got busted by the music teacher. She came in, and before she had a chance to say, ‘You shouldn’t be in here,’ she instead listened in at the door and said, ‘Oh actually, wow, you can stay and continue, because you’re showing promise.’”
THAT’S MY WAY OF COMBATTING: KEEP QUIET AND PLAY.
After a few more years of practice, Green began gigging at 15, usually with musicians older than herself and mostly with men. “It was hard at first. You’ll just be improvising, and they’ll say, ‘Give me a steady beat!’ And they don’t know that you can play. The only way to show them is to just do it. It was a little bit hard, because people were condescending for awhile, then word got around.”
“I worked really, really hard on playing as many different rhythms at the same time, so I wasn’t picking the easiest parts. It was a threeway coordination, and that was extreme. Some of the rhythmic stuff with the vocals don’t marry up with your hands. I could be playing cowbell rhythms with a pad on my left hand, then on my right, playing hi-hat and snare, and singing on top of that.”
She continues, “I’m all about action rather than words. I really don’t have much of an ego, so people would say ‘I’ll show you how to get into the industry,’ and then I would play, and then they’d say, ‘Oh, I’m really sorry.’ That’s my way of combatting: Keep quiet and play.”
After several nail-biting rounds of audition, Green got the call: She was in. She’d be joining Pet Shop Boys on their international Super Tour.
Along the way, she studied music performance at the Academy of Contemporary Music and performed and recorded with English rappers Goldie, Akala, and Fleur East. During the beginning of 2016, she was contacted by an agent with the simple question: “Hey, how are you with electronics?” Green was bewildered. “I was like, ‘Woah, depends on what it is, but I’m willing to rise to the challenge.” Then, another email popped up with a simple subject line: PSB. “I didn’t know what it stood for. And then the email read, ‘The Pet Shop Boys are holding auditions; do you want to go for it?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely.’” The exhausting audition process had her pitted against some of the best in the industry. But her DIY and scrappy attitude helped her rise past unfamiliarities. “We were given four tracks and had to learn as much of the percussion parts as possible, and that’s all we were told,” she illustrates. “We didn’t know what gear we were going to play on or anything, except it was electronic. So I had a Roland electronic kit and cut all the cable ties and made a makeshift rack. They gave us a hint towards what it may look like, and I tried to recreate it in my living room. I found sounds on a sample pad and replicated some of the sounds I could hear and ran it through a guitar amp and practiced.” Once at the audition, she found more unexpected trip-ups. “The gear was similar to the setup I had, but I didn’t know where any of the sounds were. So the MD had drawn where they were on a piece of A4 paper. Of course they were in different places than I would need to have them for my coordination. So I had to quickly hit and memorize everything.”
A little time capsule context for those not alive in the ’80s: Recently, PSB were mentioned multiple times in a Rolling Stone feature on the late George Michael as being a part of the “AIDS-era comrades . . . vanguard gay solidarity.” The cultural ripple effect from their devilmay-care poptivism, now relevant more than ever, is still revered decades later. The transition to becoming a studio musician for an established act didn’t come without hiccups. “Working with Native Instruments sounds and plug-ins was a new area I had never really explored. I was very embarrassed, because I thought I was holding everybody up, but quickly came to understand how it worked and immersed myself.” After that, she was hooked. “I genuinely love Native Instruments. If I could work with them I would.” She continues, “The strangest thing that I encountered was when we were in Mexico. It seems they really just soak all music up in Mexico. The Boys had already gotten off the flight and were off to where they needed to be, and the [studio] musicians were late getting off. By the time we had to get through arrivals, we were standing and waiting and felt eyes staring at us. Then people were turning around and coming towards us, and before long we were surrounded by fans. They were handing us pens to sign with, even though the Boys [Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe] were gone. We had to be pulled out of this circle of people to get to our SUV. I realized the fans were still following us, and there was this circle of men with bulletproof vests on covering us while walking us to the SUV. I’ve never really had a large volume of people be appreciative of my work, and I don’t know if that’s normal for session players.”
So Afrika Green has had a helluva year, from killing it at an audition for Pet Shop Boys to a whirlwind world-wide tour, to getting swarmed by fans in a Mexico City airport. But how do you take care of yourself when immense change is a constant? “Sleeping, eating, and exercising. They are so basic, but so overlooked. Actually, I’ve used this system called HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired),” she spells out. “They are four things that I look for. If I wanted to see a new area, go for like a six-mile run. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke or take drugs. I’m quite boring. But all these help, and being on the month tour, I lost weight.”
“When I came back, I had a come down. The momentum wasn’t there. I struggled; it made me very wobbly. I was bored with people who were there for me before I left, and that made me feel very bad. Whilst I was away for that month, daily life continued for them, but things had changed so much for me that this gap grew. It was hard trying to repair that and go back into a slower pace of life. The flipside is I want the momentum to continue, because this opportunity, as a session player, it’s not guaranteed I’ll get another one like this. I’ll always try to endeavor towards it, but you never know the next time it will happen.”
The constant shot of adrenaline that comes with new experiences hit hard. “I was anxious when I went, but open. After a while, that stimulation became overwhelming. There’s nothing you can really do. You just keep absorbing and making sure you take regular breaks,” she explains.
She leaves the conversation with advice for women trying to break in. “Ability has nothing to do with gender. I think women need to realize their potential and their weaknesses, and be honest with themselves throughout their careers.”
While not on tour, Suffolk, England, is her home. When we talk, she’s on break with plans to get back to rehearsing with PSB come Valentine’s Day.
And there’s always more room at the top for a fellow female comrade. “I don’t see a lot of girls who are like that, and it can be lonely. It’s a rarity, but when it comes up it’s wonderful.”
Check out Affy's gear setup on page 66
See behind the mystery of mastering with Sarah Register by Amy Klein Photos by Shervin Lainez
A veteran of New York’s independent music scene, Sarah Register exudes a quiet confidence and devotion to artistry that brings the world’s best musicians to her mastering room. Combining deep technical skill with an ability to hear what makes each album unique, this mastering engineer has risen to the top of her competitive craft by listening with empathy and making choices that enhance each artist’s vision Register perceives subtle shades and tones in recordings the way a painter examines a work of art. She has a unique ability to see both the album as a whole—its overall shape and color—and the tiny details within each song—those stylistic elements that make the complete picture uniquely itself. When she applies EQ and compression, edits, and makes choices to create the tones and color that render the album complete, there’s an artist’s hand at work on the board.
With more than 2,000 mastering credits to her name, Sarah has mastered multiple Grammy-nominated records, including Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Repentance and the Shins’ Wincing the Night Away. Holding independent and DIY artists in high esteem, Sarah has also mastered the newest releases by EMA, Cold War Kids, and Lower Dens. She loves that in mastering, “no two things will be the same; every day is unique.” When she’s not in the studio, Sarah contributes her talents as a musician to indie and experimental projects. She has been EMA’s touring guitarist, played bass with Frankie Rose, and released two albums with her own noise rock project, Talk Normal, a band Pitchfork called “bold,” “urgent,” and “relentless.” We sat down with Register to learn more about her 17-year career in mastering and music. With her natural, unpretentious air, she peeled back the veil on the mastering process, an area many musicians see as mysterious, ambiguous, and shrouded in a certain air of mystique. Read on to see how Register got her start, discover how she developed her ear for subtle shades and frequencies, and hear her advice for females who are interested in learning how to master.
Tom Tom: Tell me about a cool project that you’ve been working on recently. Register: I regularly work on things that I aesthetically and personally like a lot, so that’s a unique treat and honor. But I've particularly enjoyed this past week: Trans Am from California, Man Forever from here [New York City], and Chastity Belt from Washington. All three I already liked separately; two I’d worked with before and their new material is uniquely exciting—new and different than I'd imagined.
When you say that the music is different than it was before, does this enable you to do different things with your mastering? Does it push you to try new things? Something I was thinking about a lot earlier today with Chastity Belt was—and this would apply to anyone unless they told me otherwise—the second record doesn’t need to adhere to the first. It doesn’t need to conform sonically. To me, the guitars are brassier, and the vocals are more out front on the first Chastity Belt record, and on this new record, there’s more enveloping sound—it’s more like a quilt rather than a . . . raucous quilt. So definitely there were moments of thinking, “Which direction should I push or pull this?” Same great mixer on both albums (and producer on the second), Matthew Simms, who among other things plays in Wire. When I sent off the tracks today, I explicitly said something like, “I was listening to the old record again, and I want somebody to be able to pick tracks from either album and have them play fluidly and not feel like a different world. But I’m not forcing frequencies that aren’t inherently present in the new one to sound like the old one.”
That’s interesting! So how do you master a quilt? Well, this is a mastering analogy I haven’t thought of, and I have to think of them a lot! But the quilt analogy, at least on first blush, works great, because I’m thinking “patchwork.” There are a number of different pieces that are going into the whole. Those pieces need to manifest as one thing—as an album. 44
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So if you’ve got an overall image, and you want there to be a certain amount of reds or blues, and you’ve got a square that doesn’t have enough reds or blues, then you’re going to weave in more. It’s the same thing if there’s a song that’s coming across as more dull, with not enough clarity or sparkle, especially when compared to its peers with more abundant mids and highs—if you want that song to approach its peers, then you’re going to EQ it with that in mind. You’re going to take out some low-mids if you’re doing subtractive EQ. You could additively approach mids or highs at different places—whatever fits the song uniquely—and that would bring it closer to its friends. You determine project by project, for each client, what healthy compromise between the individual song and the whole picture is the most holistic for the benefit of each thing.
To be able to hear all the differences in these different frequencies, you have to have developed an ear for that over years. How do you feel that you developed this ability to listen in that way? It’s a thing that you progress further and further in by doing. I definitely remember, especially in the early years, that my own experience of listening better, of being more skilled as an engineer, I could see it at different points. There would be touchstones, where I might go back and listen to something from a year before and think, “Oh, interesting! Now I have different tools and might approach that in different ways.” I mean mental tools, not necessarily gear. You know, big ups to gear, but the choices you’re making with it are what really matter. Again, you learn by doing it. I spent the first six or seven years of my career working pretty much 24-hours a day in a very busy facility. It was too much—it wasn’t a healthy pace. But it was an extremely advanced pace, and you know that 10,000 hours you need to become an expert? I condensed that shit into as short a time as possible. It was a very unique way to get a tremendous amount of experience at a high level—a powerful experience.
I do think you only continue to grow in the way that you listen to things, and in the way that you make choices regarding anything that you want to change. So I think that it’s a constantly evolving expertise; 2017 will be 17 years in mastering for me, and I’m pretty proud of that. I don’t think about it that way often, but I can still pinpoint moments 13, 14, 15 years ago where I would realize, “Things are different now. I’m serving music even better. I’m bringing more perspective and more confidence.” I guess when I sit here and think, “It’s been 17 years,” I’m like, “Damn! I’m bringing a lot to the table!”
How did you first become interested in mastering? I studied music and technology at New York University, and I started interning and working as an assistant in studios as soon as I showed up here in New York City at 18. I wasn’t in love with the other stages of engineering that I’d experienced. I’m pretty techy and adept, and so I could get by, but I was sitting there in tracking studios thinking, “Why don’t I love this?” I got into mastering my junior year in college and was doing it out of a studio at NYU. And even though I was very raw and new to it at that point, there were already things that I liked more than all of my previous professional experiences. I liked looking at the whole picture. You’re thinking of these shades and depths and characters in something that already exists, and then seeing what more could or should be drawn out of it. That appealed to me a lot. I felt like I had the right empathy for it. Then also, mastering is this final phase where people can make changes before they release a project, and that takes a lot of psychology to figure out what they want, what they’ve already been through, and how to try to carry them through the experience and give them what they need. Which spoke to my inherent problem solving and nurturing instincts. I had a good base already there to grow from.
I started working in mastering professionally my senior year, and it was like a ball in motion that couldn’t be stopped for a long time. Now I’m just really deep in it.
What do you think are the most important things for a mastering engineer to remember in a world of highly compressed mp3s? Is nuance going to be lost? Dealing with compressed formats, you're still aiming for the goals of the project, whatever they may be—big dynamics, wide stereo image, broad frequency range, whatever is applicable. No matter the goals, you’ll lose nuance once the standard resolution files get compressed, but it’s obviously a compromise that the majority of listeners are fine with. Then again, the options to buck that trend are more and more available now. We’re seeing a long-brewing uptick in both HD music purchases and vinyl. What were once “audiophile-esque” solutions are now more digestible in the consumer marketplace, which is exciting!
Do you ever feel nostalgic for the analog era? Or do you think there are some great benefits to digital sound? Sure. I was talking with a producer today who prefers to work as much as possible only on analog gear and boards and to have his mixes be snapshots of that moment in time. When I hear that kind of story, I'm always going to think, “Delicious. I get it.” It’s just a different vibe. But there are also days where a multi-band digital EQ is exactly what I need, and I trust my choices and tools when I’m making these decisions on behalf of the artists I work with. Digital can be delicious, too. Recall-ability is one of the modern miracles of digital tools—if I do have something that I’ve chosen to stay “in the box” with, it’s the click of a few buttons to recall. Also, deservingly, and to their credit, digital tools can be vast, multifunctional, and easily accessible, and they have only gotten better over the years.
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Fascinating things can happen in either realm—sometimes the best solution can be a little of both. It’s just figuring out where to salt and pepper to taste.
DIGITAL CAN BE DELICIOUS, TOO.
Arguably, I never knew the true analog era. You’d have to go back about three more decades. Digital Performer and other DAWs were in their nascent stages as I was coming up. DATs and DA-88’s were industry-wide and CDs mostly ruled the decades I grew up in. There was still tremendously more analog tape being used in the early aughts than now, but it hadn’t been the only game in town for a long time. Seeing so much change in the profession of audio engineering since I’ve been working from the late ’90s to now is astonishing. It emphasizes the importance of staying flexible and focused on doing the thing that your clients need, however you can best do it.
What advice would you give to younger women or girls who are interested in learning about mastering? It’s more possible to just start doing it than people think. Obviously, learn about it, experiment with it, educate yourself. Don’t preach to somebody that you know what you’re talking when you don’t yet. But especially with the accessible availability of tools nowadays, just start experimenting, and see how things start to sound, and compare to other released records that you like, and see what choices you can start to make to fulfill your own aesthetic. I really like the word “mentor,” even though it doesn’t happen that often. But working with somebody who’s already in the business can obviously be extremely beneficial, especially if they’re open to helping you. Some people are not. I have a whole fiery speech for interns: “Don’t let anybody waste your time.” That doesn’t mean that it’s a waste of time to serve someone, or do a job well, or to go above and beyond. I’ve just seen behind on the curtain on some patterns that I judge to be negative. Bottom line, I think the most valuable thing someone who’s trying to learn can do is fill a role for a person in a “potential mentor position” that they didn’t even know needed to be filled. Make their lives easier in some way, which makes it easier for them to say, “Thank you. I appreciate you; let’s spend some more time talking,” or, “Let me show you this skill.” But I’m very wary of people being in situations where they don’t get anything back.
So it sounds like somebody up and coming could use a good mentor—and avoid a “taking advantage of” situation. Yeah, have some perspective on the give and take of the relationship. Even in the ball-busting music industry, I’d personally advocate for a healthy dynamic. I don’t think just because things historically have been brutal that they should have to be. I mean, eat shit if you’ve got to, but do it for good people.
What’s coming up for you this year? You’re starting your own studio, right? Yes! For years I was renting space in other people’s facilities, and there’s a point where that doesn’t make sense anymore. So now I am myself! Proudly. It’s a good step forward for me, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what will be built out of what I have to offer. It’s going to be an evolution over the next year.
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THE TOM TOM
Everything you needed to know about digital audio workstations by Nick Zurko
Consider this, 20 years ago, what you can now accomplish using a laptop with GarageBand required tons of gear. That gear included a multitrack mixing console, a range of microphones, a host of digital keyboards and synthesizers, effects units of all types, and extremely expensive software to arrange and mix down your songs. Today, aspiring musicians can spend an hour learning the basics of recording using the aforementioned program, or one like it, and release a song online that could turn them into an overnight star. Of course, just because someone has the power of a simple digital audio workstation like GarageBand, Ableton Live, or Logic doesnâ€™t mean instant success. But it does mean musicians of all ages and types can now harness the power of recording technology. This used to be the province of largely male engineers and producers or home recording enthusiasts who spent piles of cash on a home studio and years learning the art of recording.
Photo of Alexia Riner of Madame Gandhi courtesy of the artist
While we can now turn our rooms into recording and production studios with just our drums and a computer and a digital audio workstation or DAW, the prospect of learning the wide range of skills required to operate a DAW can be intimidating for many. After all, a more powerful DAW like Ableton or Pro Tools allow one to record and edit audio, manipulate it with an array of effects, chop it up into small sections, and create beats and songs from scratch using software synthesizers, or soft synths, and drum machine emulators. You can even mix and master your tracks at a professional level. But where does one even start with DAWs if you’re new to recording? As drummer and producer, Maia MacDonald puts it, “It really depends on your goals and needs. I recommend any software that feels intuitive and inspiring.” To help you figure out what that software is, we ran through a brief history of DAWs before highlighting some of the most popular and recommended software on the market. In addition, we’ll give you some tips on how to tackle the often overwhelming prospect of learning a whole new software language.
DAWS: A BRIEF HISTORY In the 1960s, when producer Phil Spector was developing his patented Wall of Sound style of production, he had dozens of musicians record onto a single track. This required hours of labor and thousands of dollars in musician and studio fees. Today, a bedroom producer can simply copy and paste one or several takes and layer them on top of one another to achieve a similar effect. But it is in looking at the history of recording and the rise of DAWs that one acquires an appreciation for just how powerful software can be. Up until the 1970s, studios recorded primarily using reel-to-reel magnetic tape, and then someone mixed those tracks using a fourto-sixteen-track mixing console. As the decade progressed and technology improved, producers and bands began to see the studio not just as a place to record but as a sonic laboratory. It was there that wholly new songs could be created from some pre-recorded parts and manipulated through effects and processing. One early and noteworthy example of this can be found in British band This Heat’s “24 Track Loop” that was created in the studio using only the mixing console and effects.
of new and existing programs like Cubase to reach non-Commodore owners. Since then, DAWs have gradually expanded in power and capability to the point that one only needs a decent computer to gain access to a studio’s worth of gear and tools. In fact, it can often seem like despite there being dozens of DAWs on the market, they all generally tend to do the same thing. But as composer and sound designer Alexia Riner, who first started as a drummer, puts it, “I really encourage all musicians to try and expose themselves to as many DAWs as possible, because each one is geared towards a specific production style.”
It was also in the late ’70s that engineers began to envision a digital version of the studio in which magnetic tape would be replaced by computers that would process the audio, cutting down on the costly tape. In addition, when mixing a recording, engineers had to move the faders by hand, often necessitating multiple hands on the board to achieve the desired mix. The idea that this process could be digitally automated was appealing to many studio engineers, and thus work began on engineering a digital audio workstation. That proved difficult, due to the slow computer processors of the time. With early attempts seen in Soundstream’s digital editing system and Fairlight’s Computer Musical Instrument, the focus soon turned to computers. In particular, these were the Apple II, the Atari ST, and the Commodore Amiga with DAWs like Pro Tools first originating in the early ’80s. But in 1986, there was a major breakthrough in digital recording with the introduction of Musical Instrument Digital Interface or MIDI. It allowed for the digital recording and manipulation of electronic instruments and introduced an accompanying sequencer—a tool that allowed producers to arrange, or sequence, a drum beat or keyboard part. Its design would inform many of the sequencers found in today’s DAWs.
Here are some of the go-to DAWs for musicians and producers of all stripes.
GARAGEBAND Though GarageBand is only available to Apple users, this beginnerfriendly DAW is the reason many aspiring musicians buy MacBooks and other Apple computers as it comes pre-installed. And if you have an older Apple, you can get the latest version of GarageBand for free just by downloading the latest OS for Mac. For a few extra bucks, you get access to a massive number of sounds, including Logic Pro X’s drummer samples. Since Apple makes Logic, the two programs are compatible, making it easy to import projects into the latest edition of the professional software.
Part of what makes GarageBand such a great place to start before investing hundreds of dollars in a more advanced DAW is that it presupposes little recording knowledge, making it easy to record a live performance, arrange a song, or make a beat from scratch using its sizable collection of MIDI instruments, sounds, and loops. You can By 1993, Apple, Atari, and Commodore began to lose their con- also import other songs or recordings and isolate a particular section trol over the DAW market, as Windows allowed for a proliferation in order to sample it. 50
TOM TOM MAGAZINE
Photo of Alexia Riner
I THINK IT'S LIBERATING TO BE OPENMINDED ABOUT THE WAYS YOU USE YOUR INSTRUMENTS AND SOFTWARE. FEEL YOUR WAY THROUGH. READ THE MANUAL IF YOU FEEL LIKE IT. OR DON'T. USE EXPENSIVE STUFF, OR DON'T.
So whether you’re just dipping your toes into the world of DAWs, or biding your time until you can afford one of the following DAWs, GarageBand is a great place to learn a lot of the fundamentals of home recording.
ABLETON LIVE Debuting in 2001 for both Mac and Windows, Ableton Live has become one of the most popular and ubiquitous DAWs due to its interface. You can use it for live performances, as many bands often play backing tracks originally recorded in Live during shows. This is what really sets Ableton apart. The software is uniquely suited for this purpose in that it is extremely easy to run both acoustic and digital instruments through the software. As drummer and producer, KCox from Tallahassee, Florida, puts it, “Ableton is beneficial, because I can perform and incorporate live instruments.” Composer and sound designer Alexia Riner echoes this sentiment, adding “Ableton Live is also very simple to integrate with drums and other instruments, which comes in handy in a band setting.” Live comes loaded with an array of synthesizers, drum sounds, loops, several different samplers, and it allows you to interface with a host of other DAWs, like Propellerhead’s Reason, which is renowned for its soft synths that you can play within Ableton. Another reason that so many producers, both new and experienced alike, are drawn to Ableton is its intuitive and easy-to-use interface. “One of my favorite things about Ableton Live that enabled me to learn it so quickly was a feature that allows you to move your mouse over any object or word in Live and receive an explanation of that object at the bottom of the software,” says Riner, adding that, “you can put songs together very quickly.”
Finally, one important component for many producers and drummers that use Ableton is having a physical interface with which to easily control the software’s different tracks while pounding out a new beat or melody on the fly. Although there are a large number of second-party hardware controllers, Ableton’s push control pad has been adopted by a number of musicians, including Riner. Ableton is available in three differently priced versions, ranging from $99 to around $800.
LOGIC Logic was one of the first DAWs on the market. Apple acquired Logic in 2002 and has made it strictly available for Apple computers ever since. That said, the considerable power that Logic packs has led many lifelong PC users to switch to Apple. With Logic Pro X featuring over 50GB of sounds and effects, users can design their own drum kits and even control the software using their iPad. While Logic tends to have the reputation for being used primarily within a studio and not in live performances, drummers and other musicians tout its impressive drum machines and vast library of instruments that still make it easy to integrate live instruments. Professional drummer Gina “G” Osmar states, “I make my own backing tracks on Logic Pro X to put drums to. Then I don’t have to worry about playing on songs because of copyright issues.” Indeed, DAWs don’t just help drummers to create their own worlds of sound, they also help drummers to expand their vocabulary as players: Using DAWs, drummers can program beats or backing tracks with which they can drum along. And at $200, Logic provides a considerable bang for the buck.
D I G I TA L
Photo of Maia MacDonald courtesy of the artist
OTHER DAWS TO CHECK OUT While GarageBand, Ableton, and Logic may be three of the most popular DAWs, there are numerous other options for the enterprising home recorder and producer. Here are a few others we particularly like. Cubase—Available for both Windows and Macs, Cubase has been around for over two decades, and its easy-to-use grid sequencer has made it popular with dance producers around the world. FL Studio—With its origins in the free Fruity Loops upon which many of today’s biggest dance producers first cut their teeth, FL Studio is a solid introductory DAW that is easy to learn and compatible with most plug-ins and hardware. Avid Pro Tools—Another major early DAW that was a studio staple in the late ’90s, it has a considerable learning curve and price tag, but is also generally considered amongst the best DAWs for recording live instruments.
GOING FORWARD Just as there is no one “right” DAW, as it varies depending on a person’s particular needs and budget, there is no single way to approach learning a DAW. When we look back at the invention of genres like hip-hop, house, and techno—all of which were pioneered outside of a professional studio—we see that they came about through their originators simply experimenting with drum machines and synthesizers and often using them the “wrong way.” As MacDonald puts it, “I think it's liberating to be open-minded about the ways you use your instruments and software. Feel your way through. Read the manual
TOM TOM MAGAZINE
if you feel like it, or don’t. Use expensive stuff, or don’t. Throw away any stress about what you think you're supposed to do. Any sound can be percussive, anything might work as a drum sample. Use a tool for a different purpose than what was intended. Do what feels exciting. It doesn't matter how you get there.” Of course, if you’re someone who does better with some instruction, YouTube is absolutely packed with different tutorial videos for every type of DAW out there. In addition, there are a number of schools and teachers who specialize in music production that offer classes for producers of all experience levels. Regardless of the path you take to find your perfect DAW–and how you use it–learning production as a drummer not only widens your understanding of constructing beats, both on the screen and IRL, but it empowers you to look beyond the kit to a world of musical possibilities. Or as Riner so nicely articulates, “I think when a drummer learns production, they open up an entire world of possibilities for themselves, which allows them to grow as an artist. With production skills, drummers can record themselves, expand their live setup, and further understand the intricacies of their instrument, which can make them much better players. Having production skills also strengthens your arranging skills and can help drummers to understand how different components of music fit together.” So if you’re curious about exploring the world of DAWs and digital production, take a leap, and start experimenting with GarageBand or a free-to-download program, and find the path that’s right for you.
THE DRUMMER’S CHOICE ®
it’s okay to dream.
Collector’s Series® Stainless Steel
1.5mm Polished Stainless Steel shells in a variety of sizes and California Custom Shop drum hardware options. www.dwdrums.com ©2017 Drum Workshop, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
FROM HERE ON OUT, THE INTERNET IS HOW “WE THE PEOPLE” WILL ORGANIZE TO RISE UP AND MEET THE MAN
TOM TOM MAGAZINE
by Liz Tracy Photos by Catalina Kulczar With my newborn strapped to my chest, I walked past the high-end shops of Newbury Street to Boston Common to join 175,000 protesters drawn to the oldest city park in the country summoned by the power of digital communication. On January 21, 2017, nearly 3 million people took to the streets of American cities with others around the world to protest the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States. The Women’s March on Washington and sister city marches mobilized generations of caring people from every background to exercise their civic right to assemble. Later that evening, Boston Parks and Recreation and the Boston Police Department used their official Facebook pages to thank the protesters. The cops noted: “. . .the men and women of the Boston Police Department would like to thank you for the high levels of respectful and responsible behavior on display throughout the day.” Though marchers and police met earlier in the day on the streets, they again met virtually on the Internet through emails and more messages of thanks that evening. Setting aside some post-march commentary on whether or not the reason for these cordial encounters was a result of a largely white crowd, we can all agree that Massachusetts is a liberal bubble and that this was proof that activism has gone mainstream. It also shows the extent to which methods of speaking truth to power (or of “power” speaking to the people in this instance) are evolving thanks to digital media. After November 6, Facebook began to light up with calls to rally. Just like Donald Trump uses the internet to fan the flames of ignorance, his opposition rose up immediately using digital tools to organize in their defense. Freelance marketing and communications consultant Mary Badger was one of the main organizers for the March on Boston. After the election, she was “horrified” by the state of affairs. “I started talking to friends, [asking] ‘What are we going to do?’” When she heard about the Women’s March on Washington, she decided to get tickets to go, but within minutes, she saw on Facebook that people were organizing a Boston march. Just after that, someone contacted her to help organize it. “It blossomed to a group of 50 of us,” she says. They first met in person. “There were 17-year-olds and 70-year-olds, people from every demographic,”she recalls. Next they divided into committees that would handle the different aspects of the march. Badger headed up marketing and communications. But instead of meeting in person again, they met weekly online. “I never met a single person in my committee till the day of the march,” she says. A variety of digital tools were used. They had a Google Doc with a plan for each week; people took on tasks as they came up. After the first week of creation, they blew past their expected numbers for the march. “Our first goal was 7,500 people and close to 200,000 came out. The first permit was for 400 people! We had no idea what we were getting into.” ISSUE 29:
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TOM TOM MAGAZINE
Her committee mostly ended up emailing to plan, though each committee had its own way of communicating. Weekly conference calls helped organizers with less experience interact with those with more.
I NEVER MET A SINGLE PERSON IN MY COMMITTEE TILL THE DAY OF THE MARCH.
She explained that the sister marches and their efforts are separate from the main Women’s March on Washington. Though I was participating in a sister march, much of my family was at the national march in Washington, D.C. Three generations—my parents, my brother, my niece, our cousins and their kids—were witness to one of the largest protests of our time. My parents flew up from their Miami home. “My friends called me and said they heard a march was being planned. I began my own Internet search and went on to register for the march,” my mother, a former teacher and counselor of the deaf and sometime activist, Mary Ellen Tracy relays of her experience getting involved. “The march was extremely inspirational. As soon as we got on the train to go downtown, we started feeling patriotic. The sea of pussy hats on the train gave us a sense of empowerment, that all of these women, men, and children came together for a real ‘happening’. At the Mall, we felt like we were part of history.” The national march drew crowds thanks to both word of mouth, media coverage, and the wise use of Internet tools. Many of the sister marches, about 45 of them, coordinated on Slack and through a Twitter channel crafting hashtags to “amplify the message.” Though the Boston march has a website, not all sister marches do. And as Badger explained, these marches do not all fall under one umbrella. There is some interaction between national and sister marches, but the national movement has an agenda to which not all the sister marches adhere. “But that difference is healthy,” Badger says, there’s some variety. It supports “the idea of being able to put up all kinds of issues you’re related to and all people will support you, even if it's not their issue.”
The Boston march and others used Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and, most important, a Facebook event page. Badger explains that the event tool is “terrible” after 1,000 people RSVP. You can’t edit the event after that point and only three people can manage it. One of those three hosts had a death in the family and had to leave the country, so the hundreds of questions posted to the page were answered only by the remaining two. “It became really clear to us at the beginning of the project that answering questions was hugely important on social media. People didn’t know who we were or if it was going to happen.” But on Facebook, people were volunteering to answer these questions as well. And through this manner, they found a “wonderful person,” Shelly Yen, who helped make the Boston march more accessible to the differently abled. Once their movement got to a certain size, she explains, they could reach out to reporters and state representatives and get them on their side. “The bigger we got, the easier all our communication tasks became. People would share, and that’s how it came about. You see them share posts with their friends. I think that’s how we grew so fast.” They were also asking the public through the Eventbrite page for donations, and it was very effective. From this, they gathered a substantial email list as well and enough money to create green, unionmade T-shirts. Both the national and sister marches continue to take action in many ways. The March on Washington launched 10 actions in 100 days. One of those actions is to organize a “huddle.” After the Women’s March on Washington, my mother is one example of someone who went on to participate in other virtual activism and actual events, like hosting a huddle herself. The huddle is, she explains, “a grassroots effort to keep women talking about the best websites to visit, committing to send emails to congress, and writing postcards of suggestions to the president and of thanks to people like Sen. John Lewis. . . . And then, of course, we ate,” she adds. On International Women’s Day, March 8, the national group launched A Day Without a Woman, in which women strike and the world experienced what it’s like when females fight back and hit them where it hurts—their wallets. The Boston March was still planning next steps at the time we spoke. Badger said they had a lot of ideas, “and they’re really exciting. We’ve leveraged this gigantic network completely informally to bring a [protesting] presence to airports to Copley Square. . . . There’s all kind of actions that people are jumping up to support.”
D I G I TA L
OUR FIRST GOAL WAS 7,500 PEOPLE AND CLOSE TO 200,000 CAME OUT. THE FIRST PERMIT WAS FOR 400 PEOPLE! WE HAD NO IDEA WHAT WE WERE GETTING INTO.
Before and after the marches, many of us found ourselves interacting with policy makers and discussing civics with our friends and foes in new ways. At the marches, we shared images and thoughts on social media. We clicked away photos of seas of pink hats and thoughtful signs. One friend who couldn’t make it to a march began sharing other friends' pictures from around the world on her Instagram to draw attention. But in order to continue on in this active vein, we (the people) began reading and sharing articles on social media, passing around petitions online. Organizations like the Sierra Club or Laura Moser, the woman who manages activist text blast Daily Action, send texts to hundreds of thousands of regular people with scripts and link them directly to the lines of our congresspeople and other governmental agencies. When White House comment lines were shut down, a company, Revolution Messaging, created the website White House Inc. that diverted calls to Trump’s businesses around the world so that he would have to hear what they have to say.
Oddly enough, all this digital work behind the scenes is getting people to physically do something to enact policy changes. With congressional and White House phone lines being cut off or remaining busy (off the hook?) and ignored tweets galore, gathering IRL has caught on too, like in the case of the huddles. People are finally making phone calls and speaking to peons at congressional offices to relay their messages of frustration and fear and hope. Activists are posting their events to the Resistance Calendar online to gather forces. And humans are actually getting up and going to town hall meetings to tell their representatives that they need to listen to our voices. One family friend that doesn’t use Facebook was dismayed because she couldn’t find out more about the movement offline. But others who weren’t as Internet savvy are now using digital tools to come together and continue to gain strength in solidarity of our rights.
ÂŠ2017 Avedis Zildjian Company
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SELF-TAUGHT DRUMMERS ARE MORE CREATIVE.*
THAT TO ANY DRUMMER WHO DIDN’T SKIP CLASS AND THEY’LL SAY THAT’S DEBATABLE. But there’s one thing that isn’t: the new Evans UV1 10mil single-ply drumhead. * SAY 83% of drummers surveyed said they’d switch out their old snare head for UV1. Maybe that’s because they overwhelmingly found that its patented UV-cured coating makes it more durable than the heads they played before. It’s also more versatile. And we’d guess that’d help a player be a little more creative, too.
DISAGREE TO AGREE? JOIN THE DEBATE AT UV1.EVANSDRUMHEADS.COM
TIPS AND TRICKS
FOR PLAYING TO BACKING TRACKS GAN DO
ONE TWO THREE
If you’ve never played live to backing (pre-recorded) tracks, it can feel like a daunting task. Here are a few helpful tips and tricks to make the transition from analog to digital a bit easier.
It is super important that you are comfortable playing to a click (metronome) BEFORE starting to play to backing tracks. If you don’t already practice with a click, then start NOW! Make sure you have headphones, earbuds, or in-ears when you are running the backing tracks live, so you have a direct source to the tracks and/or click. Know what you need to be the most comfortable playing onstage. You might want to hear only click in your headphones and have the backing tracks in your wedge/monitor, or you might feel more comfortable with both track and click in your headphones, or just track. I like to have click in my ears (70 percent) and track in my wedge (30 percent). I’ve also had great success running both click and track through a mixer placed next to me, so I can control each level in my headphones quickly and easily. There are a variety of ways to set up a live backing track situation. My advice is to set it up so you are at the controls: you start and stop the tracks, and you can adjust your levels in your in-ears on the fly if need be. It’s also really important to have a click sound that works for you (cowbell, wood block, etc.). Know your gear and how you have everything wired and running. When you’re playing at a gig with backing tracks, your job is now more than a drummer—you’re also a gear tech. You have moved from the analog realm to the digital realm, so know what might be the cause of any audio problems when playing the tracks live.
POSSIBLE BACKING-TRACK CONFIGURATIONS iPod/CD-player split output (make sure track and click are panned): L= backing track DI box front of house wedge. R = click drummer headphones. Computer audio interface pan channels: L= track DI box front of house wedge. R= click to drummer headphones. (See diagram) DTX-Multi or Roland Octapad tracks stereo out drummer headphones only, no click.
GET A GRIP
Computer audio interface mixer: channel 1+2 are track and click respectively for drummer headphones, channel 3+4 Stereo DI box front of house wedge. Diagram by JJ Jones
D I G I TA L
BOOK REVIEW 62
JJ J O N E
EXPLORING YOUR CREATIVITY ON THE DRUMSET
After reading Mark Guiliana’s new drum instructional book Exploring Your Creativity on the Drumset, I came away with a deeper understanding of the infinite possibilities that exist in rhythm. Unending possibility can inspire wonder and excitement but can feel overwhelming, too. Mark is definitely in the former camp. I tend to vacillate between the two, but Mark’s enthusiasm and the example he has set as a boundary-defying drummer are pulling me toward his way of looking at things! Exploring Your Creativity is organized according to what Mark sees are “the tools that are fundamental in creating new ideas” on the drums: “Dynamics,” “Rate,” “Orchestration,” “Phrasing,” and their combination. In “Rate,” Mark re-creates an exercise renowned educator Joe Bergamini (his first teacher and editor of the book) gave him early on called “Rate Variations” (see Figure 1). Using eighth notes as an example here, in the space of one beat (one quarter note), there are four different variations on an eighth note one could play: both notes, only the first, only the second, and neither. Triplets have eight variations and sixteenth notes have sixteen. That means in the space of one quarter note beat, if one is using only eighths, triplets, and sixteenths, there are 28 different variations that can be played! That’s just one beat. What about when those beat variations are strung together to make a phrase (covered in “Rate”)? What about when those phrases are then orchestrated on a four-piece drum kit (covered in “Orchestration”)? What about when you then move those phrases around so they start and end at different places in the measure (covered in “Phrasing”)? How many possibilities and combinations then? You can start to see the math that’s involved here, but that’s the profound power of the basic premise of Exploring Your Creativity: using the simple to make the complex, the few to make the many, the same to the make the unique. A lot of very simple beat variations can be strung together to make an extremely complex musical Figure 1 statement. And just a few variations of rate and orchestration can make for a huge number of usable combinations. And the same fundamental musical building blocks—rates, orchestrations, and phrasing—can make for a unique creative expression every time they’re employed. A museum curator once said of Picasso, “[He] used the common tools and mediums available to all artists of his time. His genius lies precisely in being able to perform such experimentations with commonly used tools.” Likewise, Mark’s approach in this book is methodical, mathematical, and traditional, but by having complete command of common building blocks, on a very traditional four-piece drum kit, the outcome in his case is the ultimate in uniqueness, creativity, possibility, and to use a phrase of Mark’s, “musical identity.” He writes, “A limited vocabulary doesn’t come from one’s instrument, it comes from one’s limited imagination. Over time, the combinations of these [building blocks] will begin to create seemingly infinite content that is unique to YOU.” Okay, now I’m really starting to tap into the excitement of infinite possibility!
TOM TOM MAGAZINE
Mark Guiliana is an internationally acclaimed drummer, composer, and educator who is most recently known for being the drummer on David Bowie’s last album, Blackstar.
I’m the drummer and half of the band TeamMate. We are a synth-and-drum duo, and being that there are just two of us onstage, we want to maintain a big sound. I do that by incorporating electronics into my acoustic setup in the form of drum triggers and samples. Because our sound is heavily synth-oriented (no guitars, bass, etc.), adding electronic triggers to my acoustic drums allows us to use an interesting (and wider) variety of kick and snare sounds.
INCORPORATING ELECTRONICS INTO AN ACOUSTIC SETUP
NI BU N C
Photo of Dani by Michelle Felix
There are quite a few options out there, as far as equipment, and it’s always best to explore what works for you creatively. I use Ddrum Chrome Elite triggers, which attach easily to both my snare and kick drum, and I route them to a Roland SPD-SX sampling pad, which acts as an interface, allowing me to assign sounds to, and control the sensitivity of, the drum triggers. Ddrum also makes a great interface—the DDTi, that I would highly recommend. While I use the SPD-SX as my interface for the triggers, its other purpose is to sample “one shots” of different and unique sounds such as hand claps, bleeps, and bloops, etc. It’s a nine-panel drum pad that allows you to assign different sounds to each pad.
BEAT IT, NERD
The triggers, the variety of assignable kick and snare sounds from the SPD-SX interface, and the samples I play from the pads, blended together with my Ddrum acoustic kit, are a signature part of the TeamMate sound.
D I G I TA L
GROOVE SCRIBE BY
JJ J O N E
THE FREE, ONLINE, DRUM TRANSCRIPTION TOOL THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE
Imagine if you merged notation software with a drum machine and got a universally accessible, infinitely changeable, instantly sharable online tool that was free and easy to use. Sound too good to be true? Meet Groove Scribe, the new browser-based drum notation tool developed by Modern Drummer’s 2016 Clinician/Educator of the Year, Mike Johnston, in conjunction with famed web programmer Lou Montulli.
DON’T KNOW DRUM NOTATION? NO PROBLEM!
To make and share grooves, just fill in the blanks and Groove Scribe creates the notation for you. This is done through a grid of dots (see Figure 1) where each dot corresponds to a beat subdivision (quarter, eighth, sixteenth, or thirty-second note). You fill in the dots, and they appear on the notation staff below. Hit the spacebar to play it back, and use the BPM slider to set the tempo.
SHARE YOUR GROOVES Incredibly, you can instantly share your groove creations with anyone anywhere. Groove Scribe creates a unique URL link that will open up and play your transcription in any online web browser window. And your transcription can be changed without changing the original—just hit Share again, and another unique URL is created.
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EFFICIENT PRACTICING IS A NO-BRAINER I have a spreadsheet that contains Groove Scribe links for all my drills, exercises, and songs. When I sit down to practice, I just open each link in a browser window and play along, using each transcription as a template and changing the speed or individual notes as needed. No more thumbing through drum books and sheaves of notation printouts; everything I need for practicing is at my fingertips—and I can access it anywhere I have an Internet connection.
TRANSCRIBE (AND HEAR!) DIFFICULT DRUM PARTS WITH EASE Got a complex drum pattern or chart? Transcribe it onto the grid and hear it back in minutes, then play along at any tempo. The hi-hat and snare have multiple sounds to choose from (open, crash, rimshot, ghost note, etc.). You can add toms and sticking patterns, choose the time signature and note values, and copy, add or delete measures. You can even add swing, export to MIDI and print to a PDF.
CREATE AND COMPOSE Create your own grooves (e.g., linear beats and fills, see Figure 2) by filling in the dots and substituting different sounds and orchestrations on the kit. Groove Scribe also has built-in grooves like the Purdie Shuffle and the Bossa Nova, and foot ostinatos like the Samba, so you have a jumping-off place for creating your own. Using mixed subdivisions, e.g., triplets and non-triplets, in one measure is difficult (but doable), and you can’t string together measures with different time signatures, but these are some of the few limitations of this awesome invention.
As a drum teacher, Groove Scribe has completely revolutionized my Skype lessons. I can transcribe a beat, song, or exercise for a student, email or text the link to them immediately, and they are playing along in seconds. PDFs, printouts, and expensive notation software are no longer necessary. Equally important—my students are using Groove Scribe on their own, since it’s free and easy to use for even the most basic beginners, and it’s teaching them how to transcribe beats and read drum notation!
Groove Scribe is the ultimate online digital drum notation and playback tool that has literally changed my life as a drummer and educator. What can it do for you? Check it out at: mikeslessons.com/gscribe. ISSUE 29:
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SHOW US YOUR KITS
AFRIKA GREEN'S SETUP by Zoë Brecher
POP KIDS / SESSION WORK SETUP DRUMS
Mapex Meridian maple shell in a Galaxy Burst finish:
Mapex 700 series hardware pack for the cymbal stands and toms
A) Bass Drum 22"
Pearl eliminator double pedal
B) Snare 14"
Custom percussion drum throne
C) First Tom 10"
Pearl H-800W hi-hat stand
D) Mid Tom 12" E) Floor Tom 14"
CYMBALS 1) Sabian 14" AAX Stage hats 2) Sabian 10" AAX splash 3) Sabian 16" AAXplosion Fast Crash 4) Istanbul 21" Agop Ride 5) Sabian 16" AAX O-Zone Crash
TOM TOM MAGAZINE
HEADS Evans Clear G2s on the toms Evans EMAD on the bass drum Remo coated ambassador on snare
STICKS I’m proudly endorsing Vater, and I play Vater fusions. Such a well-balanced stick and the beaded tip is beautiful.
WHO: AFRIKA (AFFY) GREEN (OF PET SHOP BOYS)
Why did you start drumming?
Do you have a dream kit or cymbal?
It was by complete accident. At school, I was a bit of loner and bored one lunch time. AGE: 26 I walked into a little room just off the side of the music room I peered through the window FROM: UNITED KINGDOM and saw a wine red drum kit covered with an old dust sheet. I uncovered it, found a pair of mismatched sticks, sat down and started to play, tapping random drums. I was compelled What was your first kit? to return each lunchtime and have another go building on the previous day’s attempt. I A CB kit did that for quite some weeks before getting (BD 20"; Toms 8", 10", 12", 14"; Snare 14") busted by the music teacher. To my surprise, It came with an 8" tom that with the factory she said I could continue and encouraged me head cranked up actually sounded like a tim- to seek lessons as I was showing promise. It bale. It also came with some tinny unbranded was escapism from the monotony of school cymbals that pitted and inverted when you hit routine and a chance to find an identity, them with any force. Not to mention those uniqueness and a sense of joy. hideous L shape tom clamps which don't allow How many drum sets have you had? you to angle your toms properly, meaning that you literally have to take a bus ride between Three: CB, Mapex Meridian (my current kit), my Pet Shop Boys electronic setup. the first and second tom. I loved that kit. How old were you when you got it?
Where did you buy your current kit?
I got it when I was 15. I had sell oversized knickers on a market stall before and after school to pay for it. It cost £300 and had an amazing leopard/wood print wrap. I felt like Carmin Appice without the tash!
There’s a great drum shop not far from my hometown called Sound Attak in Colchester, Essex. That’s where I bought my Mapex kit from.
Sonar SQ2 or Mapex Saturn V. I was fortunate enough to do a promotional video for Mapex on the Saturn V. I got it straight from the factory when it was delivered. https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-9YWenxId0. If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only keep one part of your kit what would you save? Definitely my snare drum. I could practice brush work, rudiments and use it as a barbeque to grill fish on. Are there any unique things about your setup? Well, for Pet Shop Boys gig, I have no stool or bass drum pedal. It's a standing gig. That’s pretty unique, I’d say. My vocals become my third limb as such. Having to play multiple rhythms between my hands whilst singing is a different type of coordination. Also, every song on the setlist has a unique kit, each with different samples. At a push of a button, my kit completely changes including the sounds and the pads they are assigned to. Memorizing where particular sounds are is key.
PET SHOP BOYS SETUP DRUMS
A) V-Pad (Snare): PD-128S-BC x 1 B) V-Pad (Tom1, Tom2): PD-108-BC x 2 C) V-Pad (Tom3): PDX-100 x 1 D) Roland SPDSX
CYMBALS 1) V-Cymbal Crash: CY-12C x 2
HARDWARE Tama Stage Master Double Tom Stand HTW39W x 2 Tama ROADPRO Light Straight Cymbal Stand HC82LS x 2 Roland PDS-10 pad stand x 1
HEADS Remo mesh heads
D I G I TA L
Memories Are Now Sub Pop / February 2017
Silver Haze Don Giovanni Records / April 2017
From the first few notes, the title track from the new Jesca Hoop album Memories Are Now is engrossing. Her plucky guitar style is minimal yet intricate, and deceptively catchy. “You haven’t broken me yet, you don’t scare me to death,” she sings, standing firm. Although that first song is the standout single, the rest of the album does not disappoint. Aside from personal strengths and losses, Hoop explores our modern world, our technologies and religion, and our failures, but manages to steer clear of being preachy. Along the way, she gives herself room to breathe sonically, using space as much as sound, with production that is polished without seeming slick.
Aye Nako, the queer-punk foursome from Brooklyn (and beyond) is back with a brilliant gem of an album Silver Haze, their second full length album and follow-up to their 2015 release The Blackest Eye. Their songwriting is as strong as ever, with their signature dissonant indie-punk fuzz captured by sharp production across the album’s 12 tracks. Guitarists Mars Dixon and Jade Payne trade back and forth on vocal duties, delivering personal lyrics, with Payne telling us “I guess there’s only one kind of truth,” in the first single “Particle Mace.” In the fast paced and noisy “Sissy,” Dixon unmistakably calls attention to the lack of safety and visibility for POC, trans, and queer individuals in America, declaring in the chorus, “tell me what I need to stay safe on the streets.” Look for them at SXSW in March. Also lookout for tour dates in support of the record.
Listen to this: while watching snow fall out the window, anticipating spring. —Chantal-Marie Wright
Listen to this: for all of the sharply written personal anthems you wish you had as a teen. —Kate Hoos
Live in Paris Sub Pop / January 2017
New York’s Boss Hog has returned after a 17-year hiatus and they have come back with a vengeance. They turned up the notch on the Southern, dark, bluesy rock they are so famous for. The song “17” has a rattle of cicadas and a swaying of emotion. Boss Hog is creating the parallel of certain cicadas that only emerge every 17 years. This album is all about a rebirth.
It’s fascinating when two gems of the modern world come together and collude for greatness. Two of my favorite things, Paris, The City of Light, and Sleater-Kinney, Portland’s own native daughters, combine in the release of their first-ever live record from Sub Pop (you’ve heard of them).
The talented married duo, John Spencer and Cristina Martinez fluidly create together. Spencer powerfully howls, “this heart ain’t goin to burn in the fire” in “Ground Control” entangled in Martinez’s strong, sensuous vocals. And there’s a Southern-tinged tune in “Rodeo Chica” with a sprinkle of a whip. The band’s rebirth is completed with Jens Jurgensen, Hollis Queens, and Mickey Finn.
Brood X Bronze Rat Records / March 2017
The 13-track LP takes songs from most of the albums in their catalogue (The Woods, One Beat, The Hot Rock, Dig Me Out, and Call The Doctor), now frenzied with verve and raw angst live onstage. Recorded March 20, 2015, at the historic La Cigale in the trendy, underground neighborhood of Pigalle, on their international tour, the album proves one thing that was obvious to any die-hard fan: When these women put their foot down, you hear it for miles.
Listen to this: When you are wearing all black in the desert.
Listen to this: when your blood hits its boiling point from reading any kind of social media these days. This is the only soul band-aid you’ll need.
—Carolina Enriquez Swan
TOM TOM MAGAZINE
STAFF PICK SAMMUS
Pieces in Space Don Giovanni Records / October 2016 I stumbled upon Sammus toward the tail end of 2016 and I kid you not, her music has increased my life expectancy by 30-plus years. The track that caught my ear was “Mighty Morphing” from her previous record Infusion. After screaming about how accurately the tune described my black childhood and adolescence, I flung myself into her entire discography and never wanted to leave. Sammus’s most recent record, Pieces in Space, is nothing less than outstanding. Boldly and accurately opening with “100 Percent,” featuring Latasha Alcindor, Sammus vows that she won’t give anything less than The lyric, which refers to the Dragon Ball franchise, calls attention to the that. Backed by a beat that reminds you of family barbecues and your media’s insidious fixation on European features and the toxic notion that aunt’s endearing cackle, the tune plays to the comfort of old school hip not only are these features more “desirable” but they also provide special -hop while reminding you that Sammus is not here to play games—she’s “perks.” In the case of Dragon Ball, the blonde hair and blue eyes bring the here to produce music that stretches beyond proficient. characters immense power and strength. The chorus to the tune—“black The beats on this record are astounding. I've listened to Pieces in Space girls wanna have a hero too/all kids tryna get that mirror view”—acts as a probably over 200 times (thanks Last.fm) since its October release, and call to uplift the vibrant stories and features of the black, brown, queer, each time, I manage to find something new to cherish about each beat. and neurodivergent, as opposed to the whitewashed narratives various inWhether it’s the ethereal Legend of Zelda-esque chimes in “Comments dustries continue to churn out. Disabled” or the intense level of precision behind the snare hits in “CuSammus has a knack for making music you can Milly Rock to, protest to, bicle,” I can never listen to this record without my mouth falling open in and later on, have a good cry to. Do yourself a favor and check out Pieces utter awe and true black-girl joy. in Space and then her entire discography. As you can see, I can sing SamSammus’s lyrical content eternally has me shook. Rapping on topics from mus’s praises for eons, but I’ll let you go because the music speaks for Imposter Syndrome to anxiety, the Ithaca-based rapper wrestles with itself, fam. each topic—massaging out beautiful and meticulously constructed lines Top Three Tracks Not to Sleep On: of text that you’ll fixate on for weeks. "Perfect Dark," One of the stand-out tracks for me is “Perfect Dark,” which discusses the "Nighttime" (feat. Izzy True) lack of representation in media. If you look at magazines, TV shows, and "Song About Sex" (trigger warning: this song touches on sexual assault) music, it’s clear there’s an imbalance when you see whose stories are being told. Nine times out of 10, the protagonist in a book or movie is white, Listen to this: when you have a jam-packed day and need to muster the cis-gendered, neurotypical, and/or straight. energy to show up and give 100 percent. One of many lyrics from “Perfect Dark” that still sticks with me is the following:
“Do any other black kid think it's all wrong/that Super Saiyan status make’em all blond, blue-eyed/it's odd yeah sumthin’ like an oblong.”
D I G I TA L
MUSIC REVIEWS STAFF PICK LOUD WOMEN: VOLUME ONE
Compilation Loud Women Records / March 2017
In the world of 2017, you would think the playing field for musicians was a bit more even, but as many female artists will tell you, it is far from equal ground. As such, groups dedicated to lifting up women and the work they make are extremely vital. Loud Women is a DIY collective based in the UK “for all those who support putting women on stages, and turning up the volume.” True to their ethos, they hold regular events featuring female artists at the forefront, with many of the events benefiting not only the artists, but also local charities. Loud Women: Volume One is the organization’s first compilation and highlights many of the artists who have appeared at their shows, 21 tracks in all. The songs range in style under the rock and indie umbrella and all have punk spirit flowing throughout. The collection starts off with a charming and raw tribute to DIY culture from Dream Nails with the anthemic yells of, “you are strong enough!” closing the track out, just begging to be shouted along with. Other standouts include Bratakus with a snotty punk romp, “Gladiators Are You Ready?” bringing a song about self love that packs a lo-fi crunch before switching gears straight into a fierce sludgy breakdown, Bugeye with a crisp rocker including touches of post punk and hints of 1980s NME flair with a perfect shout-along chorus, and the Wimmins get-
ting sarcastic with a pointed send-off to lecherous men who feel women “owe” them something because they took them out to dinner—“what do you take me for? that doesn't mean you score.” The collection closes on the powerful spoken word piece “Real Rape” by Janine Booth, which gives us a stark reminder of the prevalence and toxicity of rape culture but also the inspiration to fight back against it. Listen to this: as your soundtrack for screaming "hell no!" in the face of the patriarchy. —Kate Hoos
BOOK REVIEWS MOLLY ON THE RANGE: RECIPES AND STORIES FROM AN UNLIKELY LIFE ON A FARM
By Molly Yeh Rodale Books, October 2016
Molly Yeh didn’t set out to become a food blogger living on a North Dakota farm. But life can take some interesting turns. She grew up in the suburbs of Chicago in the ’90s, eating the typical (crappy) American diet and had an aversion to vegetables. Like many young girls, she fell in love with drums and played with pots and pans in her parents’ kitchen. (She’d later use pots and pans for their original purpose.) After high school, Yeh went to New York City to study percussion at Juilliard, eating the typical (crappy) college student’s diet of pizza and doughnuts. And in New York City she met her now husband, who she adoringly refers to as “Eggboy.” Eggboy is a farmer and whisked her away to a sugar beet farm in the Midwest. During her time in New York and then in North Dakota, she kept in touch with friends and family by blogging about her life and taking deeply saturated photos. More and more, this turned into sharing recipes and styled food shots. It became a very popular blog, which led to a very beautiful cookbook with illustrations by Lisel Jane Ashlock and photos by Yeh. Yeh’s book is filled with recipes inspired by her Midwestern surroundings and from her Jewish mother and Chinese father. One recipe in particular seems to meld all those together—the recipe for schnitzel bao with sriracha mayo and sesame pickles. While I haven’t tried the recipes yet, I’ve got my eye on her falafel and pizza dough recipes. Pick up this book if you like to have fun in the kitchen and enjoy the blending of cuisines. —Rebecca DeRosa
PINK NOISES: WOMEN ON ELECTRONIC MUSIC AND SOUND
By Tara Rodgers Duke Press, 2010
Pink Noises came out several years ago, but for the Digital Issue of Tom Tom, we thought we’d revisit Tara Rodgers’s hefty gem. Interviews with DJs, sound artists, and producers such as Ikue Mori, Pamela Z, DJ Rekha, and members of Le Tigre, are cushioned between Rodgers’s heavily footnoted, academic prose. More than just anecdotal material, this is a thoroughly researched and detailed book about women’s contributions to electronic music from the inception to 2010. Rodgers started the website Pink Noises in 2000 as a place to promote women in electronic music, share resources, and discuss the intersections of gender and music. As a budding electronic musician in the late ’90s, she discovered that information on available technology and techniques were shared in music stores and online chat rooms that were dominated by men. Women’s involvement was often minimized, shut out, and undocumented. Rodgers and many of the women she interviewed found they were the only woman working in a studio or were the only woman in workshops or classes on programming, engineering, and composing. Reading about each artist’s unique process is both fascinating and inspiring. It seems each musician has come to their technique from different areas of study: some are classically trained, some studied math and computer science, some are DJs, and some came out of the punk scene. While this book is no longer current, it still serves as a historical document of women, women of color, and queer women who dared to put their hands on the controls. Rodgers is based in the D.C. area and continues to perform and lecture across the country. —Rebecca DeRosa
D I G I TA L
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GEAR REVIEWS AQUARIAN
REFLECTOR SERIES HEADS by JJ Jones
Long ago a new snare head of mine lost most of its coating only 45 minutes into a recording session. I vowed to find another brand. A drum shop employee suggested Aquarian, and the rest was history—I used their coated Studio-X series religiously for years. The coating never comes off! More recently I switched to their clear Performance IIs, wanting a thuddier, more ’70s sound with less overtones. So, when I happened across a video last month of Eric Moore playing Aquarian’s new Reflector Series, I knew I had to give them a try. Aquarian sent us a set of Reflectors: 10" 12" 14", 14", and 20", along with a 20" Reflector Super Kick II, bass drum head. The heads, tuned using the “perfect fourths” method on my Gretsch Renown Walnut drums (rich, low-end projection with four plies of walnut sandwiching two plies of maple) has been nothing short of awesome. For the first time ever, I’m using no dampening on my toms save for one Aquarian tTAB tone modifier on the bottom head of the floor tom (more on t-TABs later). This means I’m getting the full sing of the drums but with virtually no unwanted overtones. cont. >
D I G I TA L
Reflector heads are made using a 2-ply hybrid construction that consists of a denser black 10mil bottom layer and a clear 7mil top. The result is a head Aquarian touts as, “Warm and musical at low volumes, bright and more articulate when played hard.” If I had any prior concern with the Reflectors it’s that they’d be so thick that, unless hit hard, they’d be almost dead sounding—like, no overtones at all. I play with a lot of singer/songwriters and acoustic artists, which usually means low-volume and using Lightning-Rods (rute sticks) along with various kinds of brushes, so, it’s important I get a full musical tone from all the drums, even with lighter playing. The Reflectors passed with flying colors. I get a nice phat crack on my 5” Stewart Copeland signature snare, with only one tTAB to reduce the highest overtones. My toms sound downright amazing: warm and musical, with a clear fundamental tone. And the kick is awesome, even with no port hole in the resonant head or dampening on the inside (unheard of!), it’s full & deep, with a nice attack and punch. I’m looking forward to porting the front head for even more attack. If all this wasn’t enough, the Reflectors black mirrored appearance, due to the hybrid 2-layer construction diffracting and reflecting light, is SUPER cool. I’ve always loved the look of black heads, especially on natural wood drums, and the Reflectors are the best I’ve ever seen— they’re black AND reflective. Hot. In summary, Aquarian’s Reflector heads are the shiznit. I expected to like them, I didn’t expect to LOVE them. Thank you, Aquarian, for providing the next stage in my drum-sound evolution!
DRUMKIT TOOLS by JJ Jones
Aquarian also sent us several sets of their satin black Drumkit TOOLS, including their proprietary t-TABs, Dura-DOTs, and Kick-PATCH. Combining various configurations of each on my snare, I compared the t-TABS, which Aquarian describes as “tone modifiers”, to Drumdots, which are very similar to Moongels. The Drumdot provided more dampening and muted the overtones to a greater degree, and I preferred that sound when the drum was played by itself. But as soon as I recorded the snare and listened back with other tracks, I preferred the t-TAB. By allowing slightly more overtones to come through, it sat in the music better. The Drumdot made the snare sound too dead with everything else going on. As I said above in the Reflectors review, I eventually settled on one t-TAB on the snare batter and one on the bottom head of the floor tom. This is partly due to how great the Reflectors worked on my drums, but, if one is using single-ply heads with a lot of overtones, say, you can get greater dampening by using multiple t-TABS. (And t-TABS can be played on, unlike gel dampeners). t-TABs have an adhesive backing that allows you to pull them off and on multiple times, sticking them where you need them most. I have no idea how long the adhesive lasts (Moongels tend to gather dust and peel off over time), but it worked great for the session I used it in and I was moving them all around to various locations on the drums and heads.
TOM TOM MAGAZINE
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azriel and the blackwolf
debut single “soviet strangelove” coming 2017
debut single “soviet strangelove” coming 2017
Tom Tom's DIGITAL ISSUE explores the way that the rise of the internet and electronics in music have affected the way musicians live their l...
Published on Mar 20, 2017
Tom Tom's DIGITAL ISSUE explores the way that the rise of the internet and electronics in music have affected the way musicians live their l...