Something has happened to the mystique of the musical artist, as the superstars have faded. It seems people are increasingly interested with understanding process, in understanding what’s inside the magical black boxes of sound.

Jess Gitner hosted Derwin Panda, aka Gold Panda, at National Public Radio’s studios for Morning Edition. She talked to the artist about the basics of how he constructs music from samples. It’s actually quite nice to me to see a story that’s elementary enough that it could be understood by non-specialists — it’s all to easy to forget that for the vast majority of even the music-loving public, a lot of what people do is a complete mystery.

It’s also worth watching Gold Panda in a live version of “You” for KCRW (a US public radio affiliate in Los Angeles). He uses the tried-and-tested Ableton laptop-plus-MPC combination. We spoke to Gold Panda at length about his process back in October, just before his debut album really blew up (entirely and unequivocally having nothing whatsoever to do with CDM):
Gold Panda Interview: Inspiration from Samples, Loved Ones, and Distracting Dogs

Listen to the whole NPR piece:

Gold Panda: Breaking Down Found Sound [The Record with Ann Powers / NPR]

In other news, Rick Moody, himself a novelist and musician, does a wonderful, intimate interview with Moby for The Rumpus. (Thanks, Paul Artz!) It’s ironic that Moody is conducting the interview, as he has been crafting an extended manifesto about why not to use drum machines (though he claims it’s only “rhetorical.”)

SWINGING MODERN SOUNDS #29: The Museum of Broken Things [The Rumpus]

There are some insightful moments; I like this quote:

Not to get too odd and esoteric, but there’s the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi. Do you know what wabi-sabi is? The more entropic something is, the more endearing it is. A bucket that’s forty years old that’s been used by a lady to clean the floors of a house she’s been working in is way more interesting than a brand new bucket from Walmart. A broken down, crummy Wall-E is way more interesting than a brand new robot. And that’s part of my love of these guys, they’re all about entropy. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. They’re all dusty, they have pencil scribbles on them, none of them is cool, and the ones that sort of pretend to be cool are the least cool.

I’m not entirely sure Moby’s history of the drum machine is completely accurate – for one, I’d question whether it’s true that no one makes or is interested in drum machines any more. But it’s worth it for the massive gear lust geek-out.

In fact, if you read just one line of this rambling article I’m writing, read this one:
What would we need to do to resurrect the PAiA 7701 Drummer Boy or some similar design?

Where’s my blink tag when I need it?

Also, if you read only two lines, what’s Moby’s account name, so we know the next time he snipes us on eBay?

As for this business of drum machines:

I can’t stand drummers, and sometimes, other people, generally. I grew up loving the flavor of grape bubble gum, which is clearly an entirely-synthetic flavor barely resembling the taste of sugar, let alone a fruit. So I must be cut out for 80s drum machine collecting. But I’m just saying that rhetorically.

Also, internal combustion engines? So much more awesome than the horse. So much more.

  • Re: the Moby interview, I'm not the seller or anything, but if you search eBay for the Thomas Bandmaster, they have one for sale right now. $99, 0 bids. So maybe it's not that rare, but definitely pretty.

  • While people are more interested in music production, I also think at the same time, with the always on nature of the internet, the private (real or mental) spaces where people used to retreat into to experiment are develop themselves as artists, are shrinking.

    I think that people often feel pressured to produce something and "get it up there" and then a the likes and views roll in, it creates a false sense of accomplishment. And then the process repeats with little progression.

  • experiment AND develop

    typo. sorry.

  • Jonah

    I agree with your first paragraph Peter, but I think it's a real shame. I think one of the challenges of this generation will be dealing with the fact that even though we can google or wikipedia to discover the theory and tools used to create music it doesn't come close to telling the whole story. We don't need superstars, but we do need more romanticism. Music is a force of nature. 

    Great interview with Moby.

    It's funny that the less successful music technology is in it's goal of emulating real instruments the more inspiring it has the potential to be. What are the glorious failures of today? Maybe pitch correction software like melodyne and autotune?

    RE: Good digital drum machines: Yamaha ry30 & Korg S3. There is something special about misusing technology to create wonderful sounds compared to say a machinedrum which was designed with abuse in mind.

  • I saw gold panda playing live some two weeks ago – he does a pretty good job playing live!

    interesting to see on this video is, that he uses the mpc only with midi connected, no audio. so merely a controller for live?

  • ah. I just had a look into the interview from october. obviously I missed that at that point. there he states that the live is only the sampler, the mpc only the sequencer.

  • I love Gold Panda's style, but I think he's better suited to the production studio than to playing live. Tweaking a global filter cutoff and triggering the occasional sample or effect that just sounds somewhat out of place does not an impressive live performance make. I don't deny there is potential for greatness in live electronic music, but I think artists like Gold Panda are better off just doing tweaking in the studio.

  • jessedziedzic

    You couldnt be more precise…