Percussion Lab News & Updates
Percussion Lab keeps you up to date with news, ramblings, and anything else music related from our sphere of artists, DJs, labels, friends and contributors.

MAY 7, 2013

Our resident DJ, Nooka Jones, sat down with Brendon Moeller to discuss the current state of social media, transitions in life, and staying true ot self. Check out his feature mix, and stay tuned for upcoming releases from Echologist on Prologue and Soul People Music.

Nooka: Morning

Brendon: Good morning, sir.

Nooka: How are you doing?

B: Yeah, not bad, not bad. You?

N: Pretty well. Got a strong pot of mate.

B: Yeah I'm doing fine from the buzz from the first cup of coffee of the day. Seems like it's a nice day brewing. Summer is moving in slowly.

N: So. I currently read that you're residing 60 miles upstate new York. How are things up there?

B: It's great. Basically, we have a nice house that is in a real rural farming area, surrounded by forrest and lakes. Having lived in Astoria for 15 years prior to this, it's nice to have some room to breathe and some space for my wife and I's two kids.

There are times where I wish I was closer to the city and it wouldn't be such a drag to hop down to the local or catch somebody's set somewhere. For the space and having the ability to have my studio set up like it is now, and my neighbor as far as way so I can crank shit as loud as possible. It's good.

N: You've been up there for a few years, so you might not get down as frequently as you'd like to. But I was wondering, you've been in and around NY for about 20 years now, and I was wondering what your take is on how you've seen NYC evolve over the ages.

B: I spent my first few years really soaking it up and getting inspired from everything going on, coming from Johannesburg. It wasn't sort of a cultural wasteland, but it was not as abundant in culture as New York was. When I first got here, I was going to bands, to clubs, buying up CDs and books and collecting. Really soaking it up.

Then it got to the point where I was like, "Ok. Now it's about taking all that in. Not being so consumed by it, and focusing on what it is I'm trying to do and what I have to bring to the table." So I stepped back from that to take things on. I got married, as well, which brings about other circumstances. Now, I will venture into the city if it's something I think is gonna really be something I have an experience. I've become more selective now, and the real joy in my life now is the fact that I get to be with my family, my kids, I get to spend a lot of time with them. 

Getting back to NY. NY never stops, so you can always go into that city anywhere and you're gonna get something great. As far as music, it's still just a hub of inspiration. I miss being able to pop down and catch someone's set. Now it becomes a deliberation. I've become such a studio hound that any time that isn't spent in the studio, I want to spend with my family.

I don't think I've been the kind of person that needs to be somewhere to be inspired. Inspiration comes from inside your head and the rest is just out there to enjoy. You can't say someone is going to be a better artist for being there at that time. I tend to think that you need to look inside.

You could argue that having so much going on, and being presented with so much information and art, can sometimes confuse and get in the way of your peer creative instincts. It all depends on the person and how you go about working.

With our industry, there's a lot to be said for networking. You could argue that being in the world of "club music" is more of a popularity contest than it is about artist statement. The networking and social media politics that drive the scene is crazy.

N: Of course. Do you have a personal opinion on that? Is it good or bad, or something that will change what the scene stands for?

B: Well, I guess, it...

N: It's kind of a loaded question, so I understand if you don't want to answer.

B: Well, it's something I think about a lot. I talk to my wife about this social media world that we live in. Basically, Facebook and Twitter have tapped into two human characteristics or emotions that seem to have run amok. One is exhibitionism and the other is voyeurism. Both of those, combined with narcissism, leads to... it's a trick thing right now. Part of me finds myself wishing I could just walk away from this and let the music be the ultimate communication that I have. Because, you know, I have people contacting me on social media that I don't know, and they talk to me as if we've been friends for years. It's kind of bizarre when that happens. Then I think to myself, "Well if these people really got to know me they might not even actually like me." So it's all based on this flimsy notion. It's not real. It's not built on any realness. That becomes problematic.

Also there's people at your gigs, standing up there with their iPhones filming or taking photos or messaging someone, "Guess where I'm at." It's like it's become more important to tell people what you're doing than doing it and experiencing it.

N: I totally agree. Haha.

B: It's a bizarre stage we find ourselves in. And how it effects the music... it's tough to say. I've certainly seen at my own gigs that it is not so much about the music and more about people being there, or being there because it's been hyped on by somebody that they should be there for that.

But that's the nature of the world we live in. We can go back and attribute this back to marketing/advertising. And what BIll Hick's said about it, that marketing and advertising is the "ruiner of all things good."

N: I think something that's related to this, too, is something I think about in parallel paths - is the growth of social media and its influence on our scene, but also the necessity for people to release continuously in order to stay relevant.

B: Exactly.

N: And something I find interesting with your discography, is that you continue to release a plethora of material, churning our lots of releases a year, and NOT doing it out of some sort of necessity to stay "alive" or relevant, but out of a necessity to breathe out your music.

B: Yes, I'm glad you said that. It's exactly how I feel. That's what I do. I'm a studio musician, and I love recording music and releasing albums. Some of my favorite artists of all time are artists that have release 2 albums a year. By the time I'm done, I want to have a massive discography of recorded music because that's what gets me going. I feel like I have so much to offer and learn, and to share this journey and release this music and have people interested in what I'm doing and saying musically is the ultimate blessing and inspiration. I'm happy with things the way they are.

Going back to what we were saying about social media. You look at someone like Burial who does not have Facebook or Twitter. He rarely does interviews and refuses to do DJ gigs because he feels that ultimately, all he wants to communicate is what he puts out as Burial on that record. The rest is nobody's business. And that is such a rare exception in this game. We all know everything about our favorite people now because it's all out there.

It's going to be interesting in 5 to 10 years to see where we are in this situation. Is being anonymous or just not playing this game, is it possible to succeed?

N: It's almost as if you didn't chose to participate, you would need someone else to speak on your behalf. Or else it would just get lost.

B: Exactly. If you look at all the promotion companies, these are the outsourcing of this by the artists and labels to do what you don't want to do. It's a strange climate for music because you wondering "What's real and what isn't? What's legitimate and what isn't?"

N: And especially, too, as that communication becomes ubiquitous– so people are doing it on their phones, in all sorts of environments– it starts to change, what I've noticed in NYC especially, is how it changes the club scene and people just letting loose, just experiencing a night for what it has to offer, rather than having to be connected and sharing all the time.

B: Yeah. It's a funny thing. Like you said, sharing, the concept is a good thing. But can you call it sharing, or is it an addiction or a habit, where people need to say everything? They need to let you know what you're missing out on, or look how great they are for being there.

N: Well, going back to what you've dedicated your life to, which is music. That's really admiring. Something I wanted to ask– Since music is your dedicated focus, what sort of intention did you have to set, maybe earlier on in life, to say, "I'm not going to pursue a 9 to 5 job. " What tribulations did you go through to come to that, and what motivations did you have to say yes?

B: Well it started around the time when I was in college in Johannesburg, SA. I finally had some friends who decided to form a band. As a kid I had taken music lessons, but they ended up alienating my love of music. I was listening to pop charts on the radio at the time, and wanting to go and make that kind of music, whereas my parents sent me for classical lessons, then trumpet lessons. I had no interest in that, and it sort of killed that desire.

When I got to college, I bought my first drum kit and started jamming. Once I got into the studio and jammed with musicians, I realized, "Man, this is what I need to be doing." At that time I was studying to become a schoolteacher and avoiding the forced military service in what was then apartheid South Africa. All along, I was doing as much as I could in this band, and also become somewhat of a music journalist for some small newspapers.

In my third year of teaching, I was like, "fuck man, I can't do this anymore." I'm supposed to inspire these kids, but I'm not even helping myself out. I'm a teacher who doesn't really want to be a teacher, and I'm a musician.

So I said to the guys in the band, "Let's move to the states and get serious about this." Unfortunately, they weren't into it. I basically realized I'm going to have to do it on my own. Which also coincided with the fact that I was listening to stuff like Aphex Twin and Future Sound of London, who were doing 1 or 2 man operations. So I said, "Why not go by myself and start recording on my own?" So I said fuck it. Fortunately, I had a friend in NY who said if I came over I could stay with him until I got my feet on the ground. That was it. I sold my car, gave away most of the stuff I could, and bought a ticket out.

N: Awesome.

B: I wouldn't say there were tribulations. I would say my parents were slightly upset when their son went from a stable job kind of guy, to a musician. They did understand that I needed to chase this dream. Coming to NY was the best thing I ever did. When I got here, within days of being here, I knew that I would not be going back to South Africa.

N: Great. Thanks for chatting with me, Brendon.

B: It was a pleasure. Enjoy the mix.

APRIL 17, 2013

Percussion Lab: Being the son of Ed Ruscha, did you grow up in a largely artistic environment?

Secret Circuit: I would say it was definitely artistic. I didn't know anything else, really. I didn't really think any of my friends parents were odd or square for not being artistic either. I didn't really think about it. That said I was always making stuff for sure. Mostly drawings or just lost in my thoughts. My dad would go on trips and come back with Dali posters so I guess that really put me on a certain path!

PL: Speaking of environment, do you feel a connection to the music scene happening in LA? I guess it might be difficult to deny some connection at this point.

SC: In a way I do, but L.A. is always erasing things or brushing aside it's past. It's kind of nice in a way. There are certain bands that are definitely considered the L.A. sound like The Eagles or The Byrds, but it's not like N.Y. where things are firmly etched in the books. Really only now are people talking about it. As far as the scene in L.A. at the moment I find it more exciting than ever, really.

PL: How has the Beats in Space label been working out? Secret Circuit was one of their first releases.

SC: So far it's been amazing. I think the amount of exposure that comes from the radio show alone has helped tons. The history of the show already gives the label a firm foothold to start off with. Tim and Matt are both amazing to work with as well so it's a win! I feel very proud to be a part of it.

PL: I know the label is fairly young and still undergoing some changes, figuring things out, but do you have anything planned with them in terms of future releases?

SC: I think we are all just rolling as it goes and it seems we are all happy to work together! The full LP is coming out soon and that's a big thing to work on getting out there.

PL: It seems your productions as Secret Circuit only started getting recognized just this last year. You have a lot of self-released material from before. Any chance we'll get to hear that stuff in the future?

SC: Some of it has been released last year on the label Emotional Response. The album is called Tropical Psychedelics and it's kind of a survey of stuff recorded over the years some going back as far as '97. They are putting another one together now and also a dub remix EP which is really exciting.

PL: Can you identify the psychedelic wizard we know as Secret Circuit?

SC: It's basically a place I go mentally or spiritually. I guess you could say I'm constantly seeking, as it were. Sound, melody and rhythm are what I gravitate too. I guess at times I can be a tinkerer. I can really blast out on a synthesizer for hours but really most of the things I do are fairly immediate. Often times the first sound I get is what I use. There's a certain psychedelic principle to that process in that it's natural. Caves have reverb, mountains have echo, birds sound like birds. I find the music of Kraftwerk to have a very natural sound. Oscillations are natural. I try see things from the other side.

PL: Wearing a full face mask, referring to Secret Circuit as having "invit[ed] one basic member, Eddie Ruscha." Do you try to keep your own identity separate from the music you produce? You know, that whole artist v. art debate.

SC: It's funny but there are certain ways I approach a public persona, but it always depends on mood. Certain tribes wear masks and costumes as a way of inhabiting another being or spirit so that can come into play as well. I saw a heavy movie recently where this religious sect in Africa go through this strange and intense transformation literally frothing at the mouth for hours and thinking they are mighty political figures sacrificing animals, but then they go back to work as upstanding citizens. Answering your question, there has to be some separation. For me anyways. If I blast my brain out with a synthesizer for 5 hours and then step out to grab some coffee, you have to be able to order the coffee, or maybe say hi to a friend. It would be exhausting to inhabit that world permanently. It sounds kind of fun to do for a couple of days, actually!

PL: In terms of releasing on your favorite labels, playing with your favorite artists, creating an aura around your music—do you have an ultimate end-goal in mind for Secret Circuit?

SC: My end goal really is to ride this thing to where it needs to go. I don't visualize an end. It's like making a piece of music. Sometimes it may need a cold ending and sometimes it needs a long fade. I'm still writing it and I don't know what it needs yet.

Check out Secret Circuit's featured "Percussion Lab Mix" here.

MARCH 15, 2013

We've been at this for a while.  We've thrown parties in Brooklyn, in Manhattan, in nightclubs, and dive bars, and rooftops, and warehouses. Tonight, we're taking it to Austin, for our first ever official SXSW showcase. It's a proud moment, to get some recognition for our efforts here in this odd corner of the dance music world we call home.  

We assembled a lineup of friends and family, old and new, performers and producers we've grown with and want to continue to grow with, and people are paying attention. The man like Daedelus, and the homies Machine Drum and Heathered Pearls, have played our events since 2005. Grenier and Archie Pelago started inspiring us during our now legendary residency at One Last Shag in the summer of 2011, and have become indispensable members of our global family. And of course, Praveen will be there to hold it all together.  So if you're in Austin, check us out tonight at Silhouette Lounge, starting at 8.  It's a family thing, you'll figure it out. 

MARCH 14, 2013

An interview with Joe Blind Prophet' Burns, head of Southfork Sound.  You can check Blind Prophet's feature mix here

Percussion Lab: Does Southfork Sound focus more on a particular sound, or on a physical scene, or well, neither?  If it's a sound, what is that sound?

Blind Prophet: I want SFS (South Fork Sound) to be more about the overall vibe rather than a certain sound.  When it comes to signing music to the label, it doesn't matter what the genre is, or the bpm.  Usually what happens is I'll hear something and something inside me goes "I want to release that", it could happen with a house tune or a dubstep tune.

PL: Does the internet help of hinder a small label like yours?  Can a label build a community online?

BP: The internet has helped out tremendously when it comes to SFS.  I had been pretty active on all the major social networks prior to launching the label so I was able to form strong relationships with other producers, DJs, and label owners - swapping tunes, giving / receiving feedback, and just talking about music.  Now that I run my own label, I'm beginning to reach out to numerous blogs and music websites, which has proven to be a bit more difficult.  Since SFS is in its infant stages, we might get lost in the shuffle.  This is where going out to gigs and events and meeting people face to face will always be better than DMing someone.

PL: We went from dubstep to juke and now to trap.  What's next?  Has something replaced 'bass' music? What is 'bass' music?

BP: I'm not sure what will be next, I don't really follow trends in music.  Although, I do hope something replaces Trap because I've never heard a more boring genre of electronic music in my life.

I know some people don't like the term "bass music" since all or most music has bass in it, but I feel it does describe certain songs quite well.  Take early dubstep for example - when I first heard DMZ in 2008, the bass was the first thing that jumped out to me.  That had never happened to me before, I never heard a rock or jazz tune and went, "Damn that bass!"

PL: How and when did you get into this music?  What was the process behind deciding to start a label?

BP: I first got into electronic music after I heard "Untrue" by Burial.  From there, I started scouring the internet for similar music.  For the next two years or so, I listened to nothing but 140 and garage.  Lately, I've gravitated away from dubstep, as the scene is being flooded with unlistenable garbage, and I have gotten really into house, techno, and juke.  My own productions have followed suit.

I started SFS because I felt there were many producers who I thought were creating amazing music that weren't getting the attention they deserved.  Most of the artists I have on the roster are people I have been communicating with for the past three or four years.  I've even been fortunate enough to meet some of them in person, which is always a nice thing in this computer age we live in now.  

Starting the label wasn't an overnight decision though, I had been thinking of it for about a year before I decided to act.  I did some research, seeked the advice of other label owner's, got in touch with producers I was thinking of signing and here we are now.

PL: Does a DJ have to start producing to have a career in the current world of dance music?

BP:  Yeah, I think so.  With the rise of computers, anyone can be a DJ now, so if you're not a host of a popular radio show or a resident at a big club night then my guess is that it would be difficult to become somewhat established.  Playing unreleased tracks / dubs is an important part of being a DJ in my opinion and being able to swap tunes with other producers can help build your arsenal.  I would rather listen to a DJ whose entire set consisted of tracks I've never heard of than see someone play songs I can buy online.  

How that set is presented is a whole other story.

PL: Dream lineup?

BP:  If we're talking only DJs / electronic acts then I'd have to say Pinch, DJ Shadow, Tim Hecker, and A Made Up Sound.

PL: Can you tallk about your local scene/the NYC scene and where it's going/who is moving it forward?

BP: The scene out here on Long Island is lacking.  I think it has to do with how spread out everybody is, it's difficult for people to get together and build something organically.  Although, in the past few years it has been getting better.  I have been involved in putting on shows at a place called Neoteric, which is located in Amagansett.  We had the launch party for SFS there and were able to bring out Policy.  The turnout was quite good too.  This summer I hope to have other NYC-based DJs thru.

Even though I'm not immersed in the NYC scene I feel it is thriving at the moment.  Acts like Archie Pelago are making waves, which is awesome to see because they're friends of mine.  It's been great watching them grow as a group.  Another one of my favs is Policy.  His sound is so unique and quirky, it's refreshing to hear.  I'm also a big fan of kuxxan SUMM and the Styles Upon Styles label has been releasing some great music.