d'Eon and Physical Therapy Interview Each Other

Physical Therapy and d'Eon

Physical Therapy and d'Eon don't live in the same place, but they share a lot of opinions about how electronic music should be motivated and created. Both have released recently via the lovely electronic music label Hippos in Tanks; Physical Therapy delivered </i>Safety Net</i> from New Jersey and d'Eon, came in from Montreal with </i>LP<i>, both of which you can listen to below, along with some other treats they've made. We asked them to interview each other, and here was the result.</i>

d'Eon photo by Stacy Lee; Physical Therapy uncredited

d’Eon:I dunno if we should ask specific questions or just kick it?

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Physical Therapy: I figured I’d ask some general questions and then we both riff on them.

Yeah, totally. I got a couple for you I can think of right away.

OK, I have a couple written down but you go first.

Okay, sick. Well firstly, I really really love the EP, and one thing I have always thought of when I hear your music are acts like the Future Sound of London and the Orb, using sounds from any source and turning it into a piece of original music. Do you relate to or feel any affinity for what those groups were doing with samples in dance music? Do you think your music is a contemporary evolution from any of that stuff?

Thank you! Thats such a major compliment too – groups like the Orb and FSOL were definitely big influences on me. I think that the samples thing was more of a necessity than a choice for me. I don't really know how to play keyboard and I just kind of used cutting and pasting as means to an end.

That makes sense. I also get a spiritual kind of vibe listening to your tunes as well, which I think FSOL and the Orb definitely had as well.

It’s funny – people have been saying that to me but I’m really not that spiritual! I’m like a really satisfied agnostic. Now your record – to me it had such an interesting take on spirituality.

Oh, thanks! I feel like dance music can have an innate spirituality a lot of the time without having any explicit spiritual themes. Personally I really like explicit religious subject matter. (Laughs). It's funny that the jungle track on your record is joyful and heavenly, and my jungle track is kinda paranoid and anxious.

(Laughs) Well, I think that the records obviously have a very different tone coming from a lot of the same influences. I was so excited when you first showed me the instrumentals and they were at 160 bpm.

(Laughs) Yeah, totally.

Wait, I had a question about spirituality. LP feels like its questioning how to reconcile past ideas of spirituality with our current world. For me, it felt really surprising and brave. That kind of literal questioning is so angrily looked down upon by our generation. So first question: did it feel like you were stepping out on a limb, or is that just how you roll? Second question: has there been that kind of scowling reaction to the religious references?

Oh yeah, I knew that it would be a kind of a big risk, of all the God stuff getting totally shit on by music listeners, especially people my age. Religion is a touchy subject with my generation for sure. But I didn't really feel interested in writing songs about sex or parties or whatever, and I really had this stuff in mind a lot while I was recording the record, so I decided that this would be the subject matter of the album. There's definitely a huge chasm of difference between the old religious world and the new digital world, and I feel there are some serious theological implications involved in having a network of endless information, and having this feeling that we as people are omniscient and can do or control anything. But as for criticism of the lyrical content, I was really surprised and grateful that most people who have reviewed it were actually pretty cool with the lyrics and the message. I think the thing that really put people off more than the lyrics was the length of the record. It could have been so easily lampooned for being too serious, not postmodern enough, too emotional, etc. But lots of people were really into it and took the themes seriously, which is a huge relief for me.

That’s awesome. I feel like as musicians we are supposed to be so above thinking about the critical reaction to our music, like the music is so pure that it doesn’t matter. I remember when we first hung out, you were already talking about some of those anxieties and I could totally relate.

(Laughs) Yeah, it's hard. I have totally made music that I wanted people to like and it always ends up coming out a little forced. I think everybody has that worry about what people will think about their music. I think as musicians all of us are at least a little insecure about being made fun of for our work.

People keep referring to my EP as this weird record – and to me it’s funny because in my mind I was making a total pop record.

Ha! me too!! I totally know that feeling. Maybe we, as musicians in our specific social-musical stratum or whatever, don't realize how different our shit is from mainstream pop music? Despite the fact that so many of us love and want to make radio pop.

True. That brings me to another question. I know that your music and the way that you talk about music definitely draws from the mainstream. I kind of wanted to talk about the differences between pop culture reference, worship, and irony. I guess thats not really a question. I mean Vol. 2 (What's My Age Again) – it’s so hard for people to understand how that could have been made without being ironic.

Yeah! Sometimes I can't tell the difference between contemporary indie electronic producers referencing things like trap or R&B with an ironic tone or with a reverential tone. But for the Blink 182 variations, it comes from a place of 100% respect for that song. I feel like regardless of what kind of cultural arena it existed in, I think the chord progressions and the simple guitar riffs in “What's My Age Again” are really restrained and beautiful. And since the song is already so tongue-in-cheek and playful, playing those same chords and melodies on a piano takes away all the cultural baggage that distracts you from taking music seriously, and really allows you to focus on the beauty of the notes. There's no use referencing something that's already silly and ironic in a silly and ironic way. You might as well turn it into something shockingly serious. I also feel a lot of that with your Alicia Keys “Unthinkable” edit from a couple years ago. That song is already really serious and beautiful though, and when you listen to that remix as a member of our generation you can choose to either take it with a grain of irony, or just recognize the pure beauty that the delay effect produces.

Yeah. You have no idea how much I hate the “guilty pleasure” tag that went on to my R&B edits. I feel like we all grew up in this super indie rock/electronica age where we really did feel guilty for listening to mainstream music. But I was really fortunate to meet a group of people in college who were really genuinely into pop music and pop culture and kind of showed me the light.

I think so many of us have the same experience. I went through a period of listening to pretty much only traditional world stuff for awhile several years ago, and after a couple years I fell back in love with contemporary mainstream western music. I feel like there's also kind of a fine line between appreciating good pop music and stylistic fetishism that leads to indiscriminate worship of anything with a trap beat.

(Laughs) Trap is definitely a sensitive Twitter subject right now. I feel like its an example of the cycle of appreciation turning to fetishism to turning to hatred in hyper speed.

It's really really scary. Artists are going to have to be so versatile in the coming years. Backlash and ridicule is kind of a Sword of Damocles that hangs over all artists in this decade. We could all look like a bunch of fucking clowns TOMORROW!

One wrong tweet and its over.

(Laughs) Tweet it and delete it. 99% of everything I say on that thing gets deleted 2 mins later.

Luckily, I’m not a good enough producer to reverse engineer any of these genres. I actually have no clue how to make a trap beat or a juke song.

(Laughs) I feel you on that, too. I wish I could make super super loud banging electro-house or dubstep but I just can't figure out how to use Massive and I use a MIDI tracker so everything I make sounds like it was made for Sega Saturn.

(Laughs) When I saw your working process I was blown away. It’s like watching someone play pong

And you know what, when I saw you warping shit in Ableton I was totally mystified! (Laughs)

On the scale of Abeleton producers I’m a kindergartener. But it’s just a tool.

I need to learn something more modern though, if only for live sets. It's hard to play live with software that could have been run on a Commodore.

I feel like sometimes my lack of technical understanding is an asset – like when I try to make a “bass music” track it ends up being a totally weird muted song.

I think your music comes out really unique. Your record and the previous tracks on the Internet really resonate with what's going on right now in music,but it certainly doesn't tag along with any contemporary cliches that will sound aged in a couple years. I think your EP could definitely be listened to and viewed as tasteful in the future.

Hopefully.

And sometimes for me, the musical theory training I had as a kid sometimes brings me down and prevents me from experimenting more with sounds and notes that might not go together to the ears of a classical pianist but would sound great to people in the club.

I would love to know what notes would sound good to the ears of a classical pianist. Do you ever listen to “The Koln Concert”?

Oh yeah, for sure. Piano is a really good example of something that needs the right notes in order to sound good at all. I love long-form semi-structured improv like that. Exercises in notes…

I was listening to “Music for Keyboards”, thinking how I would love to hear you do a long form improvisation, but with a drum machine. I guess that goes back to what you were saying about a live set.

Yeah, exactly, that's the kind of live set I want! I really like James Ferraro's material from a few years ago, with huge sprawling keyboard and guitar jams that go on for 40-160 minutes. Really monolithic and difficult music.

I have to check those out.

Yeah man. Marble Surf, Discovery, Clear, Rerex, iAsia, Pixarni, so so many huge sprawling albums…

I guess its good that we are all on the same label. 😛

(Laughs) Yeah, exactly. I'm doing a lot of butt-slapping here…

“If you like d'Eon you should check out: Physical Therapy”.

(Laughs)

Oh wait, I had one last question!

Oh, yes please.

How did you record the phone interference sound?

You know what, that's a .WAV sample I found on the Internet. I assume somebody received a call and somehow recorded it from their soundcard?

I always feel like I’m letting someone down when they compliment me on something and I reveal that it’s a sample.

(Laughs) Yeah, I have the same problem with people thinking I'm a synth guru and in reality I have never ever owned a single synthesizer other than a DX7 in my life. I'm a keyboard man. But samples for me at least, are way way more difficult to make sound good with other samples, and it's a lot more meticulous to use samples in an effective way. With keyboards, if it's good it's good, and if it sounds like shit then you can play another note. Samples need to be arranged in really special ways in order to sound good and involves a lot of work.

Or very little work… sometimes. I know lots of gear heads and I think they are great but in the end to me the final product will always be more important than the process.

I agree 100%. I love using keyboard soundfonts. I am no good at the top half of the synth, the “knobs” half. I like to concentrate on the bottom “keyboard” half… and I love presets.

Same! They are preset for a reason. 10,000 screaming fans cant be wrong.

You don't have to modify a guitar to sound completely unique, there are popular guitar tones that are commonly used – this should not be any different for electronic music. If there's a good sound like a bell or an organ, then I want to use THAT sound. Not that I'm in any way in FAVOR of homogeneity in electronic music's sonic palettes or whatever. But if you want a pan flute sound then a pan flute sound is the perfect candidate for that job.

I have almost the same view, except search YouTube for pan flute and then rip it and chop it up.

Right! Same idea.

Pray that I find a sample thats in key.

That's my weak spot right there.Hey one final question for you as well, real small one. That first bass lick at the beginning of “Drone On”, is it a one shot sample played as a melody?

The very first notes?

Totally, the analog-y bass.

No. It’s a native instruments FM8 preset.

NICE one, FM8 is my jam too!

I think you were the one who told me about it.

Sick. It's great, it can make pretty much any sound you want.

Great presets, too.

Hell, yeah. And there's so many that they are hard to identify 😉

My problem is with my cracked version, whenever I save and exit, it leaves the setting on but it doesn’t display what the setting is, so I literally have no clue what voices I’m using.

Oh shitty!Kinda keeps it mysterious though.

Just the way I like it.

I wonder what's more illegal– using samples or pirating softsynths?

I feel like you can go to jail for pirating software – but in terms of the track itself there is nothing un-copyrightable about a track made with pirated software. Either way we are both fucked.

(Laughs) Exactly. Our whole generation's body of work is probably based off piracy, not to mention our music tastes.

Thank god. Napster saved my life.

I remember downloading Final Fantasy music over IRC and waiting an afternoon for a track.

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