The First Time I Saw Sound:
I was 10, wearing my black Batman shirt with the yellow logo, when my
brother popped a tape into the deck of his Dodge Raider truck, a red dunebuggy-looking
He turned up the volume on the stereo, two 18" subwoofers installed at
45 degree angles to each other in a plywood and plexiglass box in the open
trunk. The next moment burned itself into my brain.
The tape was a "dub" he had made of a Bobby Brown song. He had MADE a REMIX by himself, with no instruments or musical ability. My mind was blown as my chest vibrated to the bass like the windows of his red Raider with the bouncy suspension. I watched images of kids and pastel-clothed suburban families in the side view mirror blurring at different speeds in response to the bassline and kick drums, as they turned to watch this dune-buggy looking truck with the vibrating trunk zoom by. "You made this?" I kept repeating...
The first time he played Coldcut's "Seven Minutes of Madness" remix of Pete Rock & CL Smooth's "Paid In Full," my mind exploded. If ever there was a defining moment for me, this was it.
All the hilarious, irreverent samples played over that punchy beat,
it was so completely different from anything I had heard. How much
was sampled and how much had Coldcut done themselves?
My brother lip-syncing along with the samples, the Chinese-sounding girl
saying "By George, even longer groooooves" and the white suburban Tv commercial
dad saying "Good night, kids!" at the end of the song absolutely cracked
Back then, nobody would have called it 'making music,' because all I did was cut together different parts of a song and loop them by pausing and un-pausing the record button on my Sony high-speed dubbing tape deck. And it was insane fun.
This was in 1989, already sampling was becoming a thing. Five years later, Beck would release the crazy sample-filled Odelay, produced by the Dust Brothers. That idea of sampling, of taking one thing and turning it into a totally new thing, has informed my whole thought process.
When I was fourteen, I discovered that my old mac computer had a mini headphone jack and a microphone jack on it.
I played a sample from a Pizzicatto Five CD into my computer, using Hypercard, the only application that let you record a sound and then cue it like a sampler. That totally amazed me, it was the first time I looked at a sound.
Then a video editing program came pre-installed on our next computer. I had no videos, but the software had audio tracks. Multiple tracks. So I took a Portished song and remixed it using these multiple tracks.
For my first two or three albums, now only in the hands of a few people, I used samples liberally. Everything was a sample.
I loaded them into a program called "Player Pro" which was a 'soundtracker' program, looking like a vertical MIDI layout, and samples would cue when the cue bar rolled over them to the BPM.
Since moving to Tokyo in 2007, I've been using Ableton. I had the lite version until my girlfriend of the time asked me if I could clean up some audio they wanted to use as evidence in a court case. The audio helped them win the trial and they got close to a hundred thousand dollars out of it. So she kindly put $500 of that towards buying me a full copy of Ableton.
Even then, it took me a good year to actually open it up and start making music. I haven't stopped since. ☊