“I used the Tascam to record snippets of dialogue from VHS tapes (play/pause on the VCR mixtape style), reversing the cassettes to play backwards solos, home-made junk percussion, early drum machines, chanting, lots of distortion… this was ‘the click,’ when I realised I was more into the creative recording and production side of things than the ‘playing in bands’ side.” ¶ In the interview he gave to journalist Rui Miguel Abreu, musician, producer and DJ Steve Bird spoke about his music, the creative process behind it, revealing how the magic happens.
M —— You played guitar in bands and moved through music as a listener like many other people do, but what would you say was the click that made you want to become a producer?
SB —— When I was a kid, in the early 1980s, the first records I was buying were electro and breakdance imports. Around the age of 11-13, we were massively into breakdance and especially the music coming out of New York, and I was buying and listening to tunes like Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s “Step Off”, Arthur Baker’s “Breakers Revenge” and “Juice” by the World Class Wreckin’ Cru. So, from an early age I had a bit of an obsession with producers, such as Arthur Baker and Afrika Bambaataa, most of them had such cool names…(well maybe not so much Arthur). ¶ Then, in my mid to late teens it was all about indie bands – Primal Scream, Dinosaur Jr., The Pixies, Sonic Youth, to name a few. At this point I had bought a Tascam 4-track cassette, multi-track recorder, and started experimenting a lot with different incarnations of the bands I was in at the time, doing overdubs upon overdubs of walls of noise and feedback. Still got those cassettes somewhere in storage in the UK but I was always a bit terrified to listen to them now and I’d also need a Tascam 4 track again, as sadly the original one was sold long ago. ¶ I used the Tascam to record snippets of dialogue from VHS tapes (play/pause on the VCR mixtape style), reversing the cassettes to play backwards solos, home-made junk percussion, early drum machines, chanting, lots of distortion…this was ‘the click,’ when I realised I was more into the creative recording and production side of things than the ‘playing in bands’ side. ¶ I think a trip to Glasgow in my early twenties, to visit friends studying at university there, brought an encounter with my first ‘bedroom’ studio, belonging to a guy whose name I sadly lost, but I much remember being amazed at what he was doing with these early samplers, analogue synths and drum machines and the music he was creating. After this I managed to get on a course and studied music production and technology for 3 years, many years later I went back to university and completed a Master’s Degree in ‘Creative Music Technology’ at Newcastle University. ¶ My first sampler was an AKAI S2000 and to sequence with an ATARI with Cubase on a 3.5” floppy disk. The sampler only had 32 seconds of sampling time, so you had to be very creative in how you chopped beats and used loops, and somehow I managed to write two albums on that AKAI/Atari set up. I now use Ableton Live, which creatively opens up a wide palette for musical creativity. I’ve used it extensively for the last ten years or so, and I always know that I can make any sound fit with any other sound, create any sound I can imagine, and the only limitations are my ideas and creativity.
photo: vasco colombo
Read the full interview and listen to Steve’s playlist in Mente 01, for free download here: