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Staggered Labs Talks Melody Generator Plugin And Debut Album

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Staggered Labs

Innovation is doing new things and Kwame Johnson aka Staggered Labs literally puts into practice this vision. His own MIDI generator plugin, the Aleator has been the foundation behind his debut album, ‘Don’t Say I Never Did Anything For You. Read the full interview here.

1 — What motivated you to develop a melody generator plugin like Aleator?

It was just pure curiosity, I wanted answers to several questions. Why was I was making the decisions I was making as a musician at the time? Obviously, I (like everyone) was predisposed toward using certain chords, progressions, and rhythmic patterns… what did that look like mathematically? Could I encapsulate those tendencies into a codebase and…predict my own songs? How do I introduce variation and chance into that equation? How important is the underlying harmonic structure of a song as compared to other elements like the lead melody, sonic palette, and the musicianship displayed in the individual performances? Can I generate MIDI for drums in a way that sounds good but is still unpredictable? I doubt any of those questions will ever be answered by me but I hope I can make some fun art in the meantime.

2 — How can producers have access to it?

Technically, a producer could load my plugin into any VST-compatible DAW (Ableton, Cubase, Reaper). Of course, for that to be the case, I’d have to get it ready to ship…which I don’t really see happening. It would be a ton of work to get it to the point where I’d be comfortable giving it to users, just from a quality standpoint. Those are hours that I’d much rather spend making music. There are lots of imperfections, bugs, etc. that I’m fine working around locally, but I’d never want another user to encounter them. Also, the algorithms contained in my application are my handwritten secret sauce, I guess I’m kind of loath to share them.

3 — Do you think previous musical education is necessary to start using it? How easy or difficult is it to use?

Yeah, definitely. I think the argument could be made that it’s insanely difficult to use haha, I pretty much had to go back to theory school when I was writing it (not literally). That was another reason for developing it – I kind of wanted a crash course in music theory, I hadn’t had any since high school. I basically programmed the Circle of Fifths from scratch, just based on the underlying mathematical system. You’d need to understand the math behind how chords are built, and how modulation works… you also need to feed harmonic datasets into the plugin in a very specific format, which requires a little programming familiarity as well.

4 — How many ways can this plugin benefit experimental music projects?

Well, so far I have observed three in practice. There’s the obvious studio application we see on the album; just doing hundreds of runs and then editing or manipulating the MIDI output until it sounds almost like the instruments are being played. But that was actually the last application of the technology I thought of. Initially, I used it to create endless generative streams…a concept that is still very hard . for me to explain. Basically, I can set up my environment (including the DAW and plugin) on a virtual machine, let my software run endlessly, and bounce the stereo output directly to a streaming server. The obvious problem with ghost riding the software like that is I am rarely observing the VM myself, let alone do it 24/7. I am dealing with a lot of random elements and probability distribution – it isn’t guaranteed to sound great all of the time. Those streams (Facets and Static Void) are still active and accessible from my site but the whole concept of endlessly streaming is dicey; it’s kind of like a science project with artistic side effects.

One thing that was really fun for me and maybe halfway between the streams and the album was the 80’s mixtape I did a few years ago, Jollies. For that, I deconstructed a few 80s pop songs and created datasets based on chord progressions. Then for each, I did runs targeting the tempo and key signature of the original song and dropped the capella on top. Since I was cloudy on the legality of that endeavor, I didn’t go crazy with a ton of runs as I did for Don’t Say, I just did a couple until I found something I liked. The results are decidedly quick and dirty, but I liked doing it a lot and it gives me a very strange sense of nostalgia and novelty at the same time which is cool.

Finally, you have a live performance. That is going to be amazing once I get it off of the ground. I’m at the end of a development cycle with the Aleator. The issue with it has always been that I had no way to preview what I was doing in front of people – everything was heard by the audience immediately. Like I said, I am dealing with a lot of random elements so sometimes a loop starts, and it sounds like absolute garbage – in which case, I have to retrigger the individual phrases for the various instruments until I have something I can work with. With my recent changes to the Aleator though, I can preview MIDI – I can have one loop playing for the audience and then listen to the next section separately and make any changes ahead of time before I move forward. I guess you could say it’s basically “DJing” live MIDI. So that obviously unlocks a lot of possibilities. I’ve been practicing a lot recently with the new changes and it is awesome to perform “songs” from Don’t Say and have the live version be almost unrecognizable compared to what was recorded, but special in an entirely new and unforeseen way.

5 — If I’m not mistaken your debut album ‘Don’t Say I Never Did Anything For You’ is entirely made with Aleator. When did you realize this material was finished and completed?

That is not entirely true. I would say the foundation of the album was performed by the Aleator but then I went in and zhuzhed it. That includes everything from taking selections to altering the pitch of a series of MIDI notes, copy/paste/deleting whole sections, or adding notes to the piano roll by hand. That last bit is especially true with respect to any fills or solos. My software technically has that capability, but it can sound very awkward and often need to be massaged after the fact.

So, I guess really, the answer is the same for me as it is for any other recording artist. Even though I’m not functioning as a musician in the traditional sense right now, the songs were done when I was satisfied with how they sounded, and I felt like I was seeing diminishing returns on doing anything further with them.

6 — Any word on why there are no vocals on this album? Do you regret it?

Haha no, no regrets at all. I am not a vocalist or a lyricist, so that’s problem #1. I suppose I could go out and find a collaborator, and if I was approached by someone to do music for a project, that is certainly something that I’d consider. I just am not explicitly looking to do that right now. I love instrumental music and at this point, it’s probably the majority of what I listen to. I do recognize that I am alienating a lot of people with this approach, but I’d much rather do that than slap substandard vocals on top of it and cheapen the product. There are enough bad vocals and lyrics out there, the world doesn’t need it from me.


7 — What’s the meaning behind the album title?

It’s just a funny phrase. Friends say that sarcastically when they do something trivial, like buy you a coffee… it evokes the warmth of familiarity but is a little… acidic at the same time. Being that I am working with computer-generated music, I wanted the title to be something accessible to humans, maybe even a little humorous.

8 — Which track took you the longest to produce? Why?

Ugh… “The Burden” by far. I was just lost on that one… there was no focus. That’s actually why it’s called the “Burden” hahaha, it was a fucking burden to produce it. Funny enough… I don’t know if that one ever really felt finished. I just kind of stopped touching it – people seem to really enjoy it though which is great. This reminds me, for this record I was able to work with Ben H. Allen (Animal Collective, Deerhunter, Washed Out, etc.) – he was really great and fun to work with. I didn’t even give him that much direction… he kind of just knew what to do. I can’t stress enough how helpful that was.

9 — What emotions or feelings do you want to evoke through your sounds?

I see the record as representing a lot of moods and emotions across the 6 tracks. In there, I see wariness, hope, resolve, triumph, fear, joy, exhaustion, and determination. Most of the albums I consider to be great display a broad emotional spectrum and I’d hope mine does the same.

10 — What else can we expect from Staggered Labs in the near future?

Shows (whether live or virtual) are my focus right now. I am not quite sure what it means to do this live yet. That will take time as I am kind of in uncharted territory in terms of pulling it off – there is a lot of practice needed and some hardware decisions to be made so it might not be until mid-December. I would expect that between now and then I’ll do some singles that will be alternate versions of Don’t Say songs; by that, I mean songs built using the same dataset as something on the record but with a totally different execution. I think that once people know what that sounds like and how different two takes of the same dataset can be, it will add some intrigue. I’m appreciative of every individual listener and my immediate goal is to stay engaged with everyone. Thanks for listening!


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Hi, my name is Erick Ycaza. I have a BA in Advertising & Graphic Design. This blog is to provide you with daily music news and share my personal style.

Interviews

Exclusive Interview: COY SWEDE & J.O.Y Collab On “Never Ever”

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COY Swede Never Ever
This is the first time COY Swede ventures into RnB by joining forces with J.O.Y. In an instant, you will be blown away as the quality of his new single “Never Everfeels like charting song material. Read our exclusive interview with both artists!

1 — How did you end up working together?

COY Swede: Me and J.O.Y also did “Closer” through Soundbetter platform together. And RnB being one of J.O.Y’s genres I knew we could make another magic track together.

It’s very rare I work with the same singer again. But we speak the same language musically and we connected, even more, this time.

J.O.Y: Me and COY Swede first met up online on Soundbetter (the leading platform where singers and producers meet to finish each other work). He wrote me to be his singer for his track “Closer.” From there on we became friends and collab more frequently together!

2 — How would you define RnB music?

COY Swede:
It depends on how far you go back in time, 50, 70, or 90, and our time. Genre changes very fast in our time and gets a bit blurred or, some genres evolve into something new.

But for me, RnB is still pure Soul and Blues and also can be a flavour of Chill Pop and influences rhythms from Hip-Hop. That’s my personal thinking.

J.O.Y: RnB was my first love in music! I remember listening to greatness such as Joe, Brian Mcknight, and Craig David and was impressed by the runs, variation of tone, and vocal skills these guys have! This made me do a lot of cover songs of the RnB genre and me ending up having my singing style from them.

J.O.Y Never Ever
3 — Collaborative songs are trendy these days, do you see it as a marketing strategy or is it something else?

COY Swede: For me, it evolves me as a producer. Gives me more experience. I work only with the best singers that share my passion among the independent areas.

Over the years I also have learned how to know what I’m looking for around a genre and theme for the song. What vibe do I want to create.

Marketing strategies change all the time and we Indie artists work really hard with the tools we have.

The most important thing for me is to keep going and deliver the music to my listeners. Show interest in other artists, be helpful if I can, and also learn more about how to get my music out there.

J.O.Y: Doing collabs is one of the best ways to showcase your music and learn from it. You learn to see different kinds of colors of music. You are also forced to go out of your comfort zone which allows you to grow.

4 — What new things did you learn while recording “Never Ever”?

COY Swede: Well, it’s actually the first time I produce an RnB track 😊 I would be very happy if the listeners can connect to it. The bells in the intro are actually recorded by an instrument and then I added some effects using “Thermal from Output.”

Every track I make gives me something new. I’m very happy with the variated bridges in this track to be a little technical. And my challenge was, how to make a short song feel longer than it actually is. We also wanted this song to have a good hook and a chorus to sing along to.

J.O.Y made awesome work with his skills as a singer and writer.

J.O.Y: As a songwriter, you always get to learn a new perspective after each song. Especially here I evolved my songwriting by having the hook be a statement and the verses describing my story. I will definitely write more songs like this, where the hook is simple yet catchy and the verses a bit more complex.

5 — Who is the main songwriter of this new track? What inspired you to write the lyrics?

COY Swede: We worked from a theme I sent J.O.Y. And for the chorus, I recorded a sample of my voice. Then J.O.Y did his magic. Just a note, only the VOCAL is mixed together from 15 stems to give you a perspective. 😉

It’s also a love song for people that found new love and how to carry it forward. But as a songwriter/producer you are open to how a listener feels about it. You can, “Never Ever” know. 😊

J.O.Y: COY Swede presented me with the theme of the song, and explained it to me pretty well. From that on I felt inspired and tapped into some of my experiences to replicate this feeling.


6 — Who would you dedicate this song?


COY Swede:
Anyone! It’s about love, new love, or even some things you have clear out before you move on! That can sometimes be very hard!

The unique bells in the song maybe is a slight try to call on that upcoming Christmas vibe. Mariah Carey, are free to make a cover if she wants. 😉

J.O.Y: To all the listeners that go through a tough time right now. It’s that season again when tracks like these are needed.

7 — How would you imagine the music video?

COY Swede:
No plan at this moment. Maybe a lyrics video on my YouTube channel.

8 — Are you planning to drop remixes for this release?

COY Swede: No plans at this moment.

9 — How do you spend your free time when not making music?

COY Swede: Family first, I love to travel around the world, health, training, and love cooking if I have time. I also read everything that has something to do with space research and am also engaged in earth’s environment and climate.

J.O.Y: Coy Swede nailed it. Family first. Sometimes music can feel like a job where all you think of is music. It’s good to have breaks to enjoy with your loved ones. Also, it’s very good for your creativity and finding new inspiration to write music.

10 — Lastly, what are your future plans?

COY Swede: Next year maybe I will try to do some more DJ appearances. I did one this year 2022 in Stockholm. Maybe together with my music bro Alan Walker or, even Tiesto would be really cool!

It would be cool to finally meet them both in real life, and talk about music experiences and future experimental stuff. You “Never Ever,” know! 😊

One thing is for sure I will keep doing this, and create more music. I would also like to try to make a score for movies or TV in the future, would be cool, if one of my released songs were featured.

J.O.Y: Be more active as a songwriter and have a lot more placements with bigger companies or TV/Film. I want to watch a show and hear my music in the background – that’s something I can imagine would be super cool and surreal.


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Blind Mutation Discusses Experimental Music Video “Shadows”

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Blind Mutation music

If you’re into hypnotizing Ambient Techno tracks, then Blind Mutation should be on your radar. Her latest experimental music video “Shadows” was awarded and this exclusive interview explains it all!

1 — If I’m not mistaken, electronic music is your passion. How does this interest has come about?

I actually think my dad’s taste in music really influenced me a lot. He used to put on a lot of quality electronic music for me when I was a child, from classic Depeche Mode to more underground experimental electronic How to Dress Well. So, my interest in electronic music started growing from a very young age. When I became a teenager, my mental health started to get worse, and I started to relate, and thereafter, listen to darker and gloomier electronic music like dark ambient, triphop, or hard warehouse techno. That’s basically how my music taste was formed, and why I love electronic music.

2 — When exactly did you become Blind Mutation?

In theory, I think I became Blind Mutation pretty much as soon as I started producing and composing music which was 2 years ago. I began writing tracks with an emphasis on cinematic melancholic sounds that translated my deep intense emotions, and I still continue to do it exploring more and more ways to express my feelings through music. But, officially, let’s say, I became Blind Mutation when I released my first DJ Mix called “WAVE/PHONK MIX” on SoundCloud almost a year ago.

3 — Musically speaking, who is your biggest influence or inspiration?

I love to answer that question 🙂 I would say that my influences/inspirations have been changing throughout the years. When I was 14-16 my favorite band was Coldplay. I loved their not-that-well-known tracks which were more on the electronic/ambient side, like my all-time favorite “Midnight”. As for now, I very rarely listen to Coldplay. Now I am more into experimental dark emotional stuff like Techno, Dark Ambient, IDM, and Trip-Hop. Some of my inspirations/influences at the moment are Aphex Twin, Arca, Trentemoller, Clams Casino, Hans Zimmer, I Hate Models, and Crystal Castles.

4 — Congratulations on winning Best Experimental Video at the Indie Online Film Festival. Did you ever expect this result?

I was hoping for it 🙂 But I don’t really like expecting something to happen, especially when it comes to receiving awards. Because if you think you would win the prize, and then you don’t, you would probably get upset. But if you don’t really think about it and just let it happen, you get more excited if you win, and don’t really care if you don’t get an award 🙂

5 — Tell us more about how your collaboration with All Around came about.

We met a little more than 4 years ago in college in LA. He was a directing major, and I was an acting major. We’ve been very good friends since that time, and we’ve done small projects together here and there in college and just for fun. Then, when I switched from acting to music and started releasing my DJ Mixes, he began doing all the visuals for them. So, when I was ready to release my debut track “Shadows”, I knew that All Around would be my director, cinematographer, and editor. We have a similar vision when it comes to art (music/video/films, etc.), and so it’s very comfortable and fun for us to work together.

6 — Would you interpret this clip as a short horror film or is it something else?

Shortly, I would say, yes, it could be interpreted as a short psychological horror film. To elaborate: it’s interesting that when we showed the music video to our close surroundings, a good amount of people said that “Shadows” looked more like a short horror film rather than a music video. “Shadows” indeed has a much slower pace than a usual music video. In terms of cinematography, it’s also shot more like a film rather than a music video. But I think I would still call “Shadows” an experimental music video rather than a short horror film, because, in my opinion, it still has a dynamic of a music video, and our initial idea was to create a music video not a short horror film.

experimental music video
7 — What tools, instruments, or software were part of the production process of “Shadows”?

Well, the track itself was produced, mixed and mastered in Ableton. As for “Shadows” music video production, My friend All Around who I collaborated with, has an amazing RED Komodo camera, the music video was shot on it. Also, my face, chest, neck and my arms had to be bandaged in the shot all the time. We needed special bandages, the ones that stick to the skin and to each other. We had 3-4 shooting days, and not all of the bandages could be reused. So, I had to buy lots of them. Was driving from one CVS to another buying the entire available supply of those specific bandages 🙂

We also had a chance to work with an amazing super professional makeup artist, Darya Kholodnykh, who did the make-up for the “demon’s” hand that appears in the music video. She managed to find a creative way to make the hand look realistic and creepy although we had a very small budget.

8 — What can we expect from Blind Mutation next? Are you keen on exploring science fiction themes?

I love science fiction, and I would like to explore themes connected to it in the future. But as for now, I think I’m more focused on expressing my inner feelings and emotions through my music, and treating producing/composing/creating DJ mixes more as a therapy for myself. I’d love to dive deeper into the psychological aspects of our lives and have an influence on people’s emotions and their unconscious through my music. That’s what my next release will hopefully do! It’s a dark ambient track called “I come with the rain”, and it’s coming out in the beginning of January! I’m also working on a new dark warehouse techno DJ mix which will also come out around the same time.

9 — What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t an artist?

I’ve always loved to think about this. I am very interested in psychology, so I would definitely study it in college, and then probably become a psychotherapist (do not mistake with psychologist or psychiatrist), I would do scientific research and come up with new more effective therapies.

I would also love to direct and shoot (be DOP and operate camera) my own film(s) in the future! It’s a big dream! Plus I got my first degree from a film college, so I am familiar with that stuff. By the way, I’m also super interested in graphic and game design! Would love to try doing that in the future too!

And just to top off the list with more geek stuff: if I had another life, I would become an astrophysicist to study and explore space.

10 — Lastly, do you have any specific goals for 2023?

The most important and clear goal is to get the artist visa in order to be able to stay and work in the U.S. Speaking of my artist goals, I would love to get my first DJ gig in 2023! I would also love to explore new music genres in my productions (like trip-hop or hard dark techno)! Finally, I have so many things I still have to explore and discover in terms of production, mixing sound design, etc. So, another very important goal is to just continue learning!


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Bubba Brothers Talk Last Summer And Tribal House EP ‘Basstribe’

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Bubba Brothers
Bubba Brothers
continue to take the Electronic Dance music world by storm. Their latest release, ‘Basstribe’ was well received by listeners all over the world, marking a new milestone for the duo. Alongside impressive releases and powerful live shows, the duo recently celebrated their anniversary by playing at important venues all over the summer.

We found time to talk with them about their summer season, what they were up to and what was coming for them.

1 — Hello Bubba Brothers, how are you?

All good thanks. 😊

2 — Summer is now over, what have you been up to this past season?

This was a fantastic summer… we had great moments. A big thank you to all our fans all over the world.

3 — You released your EP ‘Basstribe’ around summertime, can you tell us more about what it was like working on this production?

It was really exciting; the timing was perfect and it was great to see and hear DJs playing the tracks live around the planet, so yes… ‘Basstribe’ was really fun. 😊

4 — Have you got any summer highlights?

So many… playing in Ibiza, having Oxia at our anniversary party, and sharing the decks… many good moments. And as said, we are very grateful for that.

5 — Which artists were on repeat for you during this summer?

Hahaha… great question! Tube and Berger, Dennis Ferrer, Kolsch, Themba, and many others. 😊


6 — Did you develop new projects or ideas during this season?

Yeah… just came back from Iceland, and a new track is already in the horizon. So, stay tuned! and also 2 finished tracks will be launched in a few weeks.

7 — What’s the last thing you learned over the summer?

To stay focused and humble. Keep your feet on the ground.

8 — Aside from performing, what other activities did you enjoy doing during the summer season?

Like any Portuguese, the beach and anything that involves the sea is our thing 😊 Missing summer already.

9 — What are you looking forward to doing next summer?

Playing in Europe as much as people book us and I hope they will do, a lot!

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