INTERVIEW: TAYLOR DEUPREE: AMBIENTRANCE (1999)
INTERVIEW WITH TAYLOR DEUPREE
by David Opdyke
Busily, happily and quite effectively carving out his own "microscopic" niche in the world of electronic/ambient sounds, Taylor Deupree is keeping busy with his 12k label (which has just released the marvelous optimal.lp
Taylor tells about his (many!) projects, his music and design, and his plans for a bright future. We thank him for his contributions.
AmbiEntrance: You've recorded as Taylor Deupree, Human Mesh Dance, Prototype 909, Drum Komputer, Futuique, SETI, Arc, Tiny Objects in Space... Has anyone else worked under so many different project names? Why so many? Will there be more?
Deupree: i think richard kirk might have me beat when it comes to number of project names.. or maybe wolfgang voigt. it's not entirely uncommon because of the number of labels electronic musicians record for... fortunately, i think i've managed to keep a fairly distinct sound for each project. when i work with savvas it wouldn't be fair to use the same project name that i did when i worked with dietrich... likewise, if the futique CDs were released under the name SETI, we might upset or confuse the SETI fans. all that is changing, however.. i haven't used any other name besides "taylor deupree" for nearly 2 years now.. and i think i'm going to keep it that way since i'm trying to compose and promote one specific sound style now. everyone wants a new human mesh dance CD.. but i'm not so sure it'll ever happen.
AmbiEntrance: How and when did you come upon the "Human Mesh Dance" name; it says so much to me...
Deupree: it was in 1991, i think.. or 92... came up with it rather randomly, actually.. simply because of the way it sounded. back then i had a database filled with words i liked, that i liked the sound of.. i would just mix and match them to come up with song titles, band names, whatever... HMD was one of those... sorry, there's not much more to it than that! of course, the wonderful thing about things like that is that they end up *creating* a meaning, even though they were born from random thought. i approach much of my work that way, actually.
AmbiEntrance: Does your SETI stand for Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (as does Andrew Lagowski's S.E.T.I.)? Have you encountered much confusion between the two projects?
Deupree: yes, that's what SETI stands for. andrew and i became aware of each other's projects at roughly the same time... we got in touch with each other to make sure there were no "hard feelings".. or that anyone would be upset. we started our projects without knowing of each other so there was no malicious intent. there hasn't been too much confusion between the two projects, i think both sound different enough.. and both are top quality.. we each do our part to dispell any confusion.
AmbiEntrance: How do you differentiate between your various projects? At what stage during the creative process do you decide to which a particular piece of music will be attributed?
Deupree: because the sound of them were all different it was determined before tracks were written. for example, if savvas and i were going to do a techno project it would be called Arc. if we were doing something ambient it would be SETI. if dietrich and i were doing techno it would be unit park.. and of course if jason were involved it would be P909. it's like every collaborative team had its project name for each style we did.
AmbiEntrance: What are your cohorts (Savvas, Dietrich and Jason) up to these days? Might they work with you again in the future?
Deupree: savvas is living back in greece and just started a probably very fruitful contract with Tresor.. he's doing techno.. tech-house now.. almost exclusively. we are, however, possibly going to perform music from our Tower Of Winds Cd in athens this summer. Dietrich and jason are both running their own labels.. hidden agenda, and serotonin respectively. no musical projects have been planned between any of us although dietrich and i still perform live on occasion as Unit Park.. once every couple of months. no one is ruling out any future collaborations.. it's just at the moment we're all doing rather different things..
AmbiEntrance: Tell us about your early days as Taylor808 of Human Mesh Dance and Prototype 909. Where were you before then and what started you onto your prolific path?
Deupree: there are quite a few old recordings out there of me under different names before human mesh dance... on some early, early "rave" compilations.. and before that i had a cassette label where i released my own, and other people's music... and had, believe it or not, an even more dizzying selection of band and project names.. that was in the late 80's. before that from about 1986-1988 i have a collection of some 20+ tapes filled with songs and sound experiments all that i did with my first music collaborator, bryan. i was always very prolific, i think. since the day i got my first synth, in 1985, i've been recording stuff to tape.. teaching myself about production and technology.
AmbiEntrance: How do you feel about about the changes in technology since the late '80s?
Deupree: when i look back at my old keyboard magazines from 1986 or 1987 i'm pretty amazed at how far the industry has come.. even more amazing sometimes is just looking back to 1993 or so.. when computers were starting to become commonplace in the studio.. and look how far we've advanced even since then.. with the introduction of extremely fast and affordable computing power this whole revolution of software synthesis and "desktop studios" has been possible. but, like any new technology i don't think it makes anything else obsolete, it's just another tool at our disposal. also, a hugely important advance has been that of the affordable recording studio. the mixers, signal processors and digital recorders that anyone can afford these days offers so much more control and quality than what was available less than 10 years ago where saving up for a 4track cassette recorder was a big deal. it's allowed artists to really take back control of the recording process because everyone can afford to do it in their own homes. the future looks pretty exciting..indeed.
AmbiEntrance: How has the industry changed from then to now? How have you (and your music) changed?
Deupree: i don't think the industry has changed too much in practice but it's always changing its face with the influx of new sounds, genres and artists.. and of course "electronica" is now creeping into the mainstream.. but that's not new or surprising. i always like to remain on the outer fringes, however. my music has definitely changed over the years, in obvious ways. i don't like anything i'm doing to sound even slightly commercial. even early human mesh dance CDs sound too commercial for me as does most techno. i finally feel, over the past year, that i'm finally part of something new.. helping push a new sound, instead of following in other people's footsteps like i often did with my instinct recordings. back then i wanted to be someone else.. today i just want to be me... i've abandoned a lot of my older projects because i think what's exciting lies ahead of me, not behind.
AmbiEntrance: Speaking of commercial, what do you think of Techno/Electronica's current prevalence in TV ads (especially car ads, it seems to have become obligatory!)? Will this help or hurt the genre overall?
Deupree: it doesn't bother me at all.. i think after all the time i've been in this business i've learned not to be concerned with new trends, "commercialization" or anything like that.. i've kind of distanced myself from the "scene" and just concentrate on being myself. most of the car commercial music is drum and bass or 303 acid.. which i don't think has much relevance on underground music anymore anyway... plus it's natural for cutting edge styles to work their way into pop culture... there is something very seductive about electronic music.. it was only a matter of time before the rest of the world found that out. if people want to let it bother them i can understand that.. but instead of worrying about whether it will help or hurt the genre, i'd suggest people just concentrate on keeping one step ahead.. to continue to explore new avenues.
AmbiEntrance: How much have live appearances been part of your music, then vs. now?
Deupree: in the early stages of my career.. live playing was HUGE for prototype 909.. i mean, we were in a different city or country every weekend at all kinds of events. i think it was who we were.. we were a live techno band.. more than we were a studio techno band.. and i think our fans knew that and appreciated it. as we moved away from P909 and my own music became a bit more experimental i didn't play live at all.. or didn't care to. it's a hard niche to be in for a live setting. my music was too experimental for dance parties and too dancy for experimental parties... now, however, i'm beginning to play live again, doing solo shows, at very experimental shows or art events. it all started up again just recently at an incredible show put on by caipirinha and creative time here in brooklyn inside the brooklyn bridge (one of the top 3 coolest places i've ever played at, setting-wise).. the show was to promote the Architettura series on caipirinha and i performed my first solo show in 3 years. it was so successful that we (myself, unit, and datach'i... other caipirinha artists) were asked by the museum of modern art here in new york to supply ambient sound throughout the museum for the opening of a new architecture exhibit at the museum. . so.. now that i have a solo show together, with a mimimum of transportable equipment (very important!) i'm actively seeking out live shows... but, the venue/audience is VERY important to me.. my show is pretty experimental, so i need an audience that is there to listen to and appreciate the music.
AmbiEntrance: You also work in graphics and typography. To what degree is this part of your current schedule? (I'm snatching a typeface from your channelzero! site to decorate this month's AmbiEntrance masthead with... and giving you credit so as not to promote font piracy.) Are you still involved with Andi Jones and channelzero!?
Deupree: graphic design takes up a lot of my time. but it allows me to work at home, make decent money and not have to worry about making a lot money with my music, which i think is VERY important.. because it allows me to experiment and be completely free to create art.. it's very, very hard to balance art and money. i'd rather just be creative and not have to worry about money. channelzero! is the shareware type foundry i started with my cousin, andi jones. he and i have done musical and graphic collaborations for over 10 years.. usually around the notion of post-modernism.. and a lot of early sampling works about information and copyright. (we were very anti-copyright.. feel free to promote font piracy
AmbiEntrance: You've been involved (both musically and graphically) with Caipirinha's "Synthetic Pleasures" film and book; what can you share about your participation with these works?
Deupree: i met iara lee when she was in the beginning stages of synthetic pleasures, she was looking for a graphic designer for the film. that was really the start of my career as a freelancer and allowed me to quit my day job and work at home. i've been iara's chief designer ever since then (for about 4+ years now) through her films and her label. she has also since become my best friend and we spend a lot of time together talking about art, architecture, music... planning new releases for her label or trying to dream up new projects.
AmbiEntrance: Can you name a specific design project you've done of which you're particularly proud?
Deupree: one of my favorite design pieces, to this day, is the original poster for the Synthetic Pleasures movie.. (the white one, not the "commercialized" black one that the distributors made us do).. there's something about that i still really love. i'm also very proud of the design i've done for 12k.. especially the later covers..and of course the work i'm doing with dan abrams in creating very customized packaging.
AmbiEntrance: You've also done design work for many of the instinct releases (like the Chillout Phase 2 comp, one of the introductory releases that really drew me into the world of ambient/electronic, and exposed me to your sounds and visions). Instinct was very formative in my ambient induction, but I haven't heard anything from them in some time... what's the scoop?
Deupree: after their core group of ambient artists left the label (myself, savvas, terre thaemlitz, p909) their electronic/ambient output really slowed down. now they use their shadow records imprint for anything electronic.. mostly licensed trip hop and jungle releases... but their main output is smooth jazz, adult contemporary music now. they do quite well with a few of their releases.. but they really can't be considered a "techno" or ambient label anymore, they've changed, move in a different direction.
AmbiEntrance: How much of your musical work is done on the computer? How many Macs do you own for design and music?
Deupree: i own 2 macs.. a powerbook and a desktop.. i do a lot of my music on the computer now. probably 75% of my sound design is done or processed by software. my writing process often involves creating sounds on my synths, recording them into the computer, processing them (SFX machine/Peak and Metasynth are my favorites) and them dumping them back into one of my samplers for sequencing via MIDI.. i still prefer using midi sequencers as opposed to the digital audio/multitracking features found on computers or in sequencer packages... i also generate a lot of sounds from the computer (metasynth again.. or generator) and again, dump them into a sampler for playback. on the other hand, i've also become very fond of my ever-growing A100 modular synth.. which is so much the opposite of modern software synthesis.. i like combining both but ironically the sounds i create on both sound quite similar.. i guess it's my style...
AmbiEntrance: Did you do your own webwork on the 12K site? How influential has the web been on 12K's development?
Deupree: yes, i do all of the web design.. be it good or bad!.. i like to be able to do it myself. the web was so important for the birth of 12k.. it was the *only* way i sold the music for the first couple of releases.. i was 90% mailorder only.. and then went on to contact stores and distributors via electronic means. i do much less direct selling now and more distribution... i didn't want to end up using distributors too much.. but i've found a nice bunch who are friendly, supportive, and who pay on time.. and i still use the website as the primary means of advertising and getting the word out about the label. it will continue to be extremely important.
AmbiEntrance: 12K is still a relatively young label, and has mainly been an outlet for several of your own releases. Tell us about 12K's birth and growth?
Deupree: it started, technically, because silent records screwed me over on the release of "thesecretnumbertwelve".. so i said i was just going to release it myself. when i did that i didn't really have a gameplan for 12k (which is why that release sounds quite different from the others) i just wanted to start a label that i could call my own from the graphics to the music to the business aspects because at that time i was VERY bitter about record labels, contracts and all of the bullshit associated with that world. i had just gotten out of a year and half argument with instinct to get P909 off the label, screwed around by silent... it was time to go on my own.. and the human mesh dance was the perfect start because the name already had a built in fan base. i recouped my costs very quickly and it allowed me to continue with the label. also, i think 12k is really a unique label.. that there's nothing quite like it in america.
i have a very strict mission with 12k and a very particular sound and style. i'm really concentrating on super synthetic and minimal music. the ".aiff" compilation is really the turning point for the label and only now do i really feel like i know what i want to do with it. i'm very focused with it now, i call what i'm doing "microscopic sound".. as a genre name.
AmbiEntrance: What do you mean when you say "microscopic sound"?
Deupree: microscopic sound is what i like to call the music i do.. it has a few very specific characteristics.. such as ultra-synthetic tones and sound design, minimal compositions.. often rhythmic.. tiny slices of sound.. where great focus is put on each small element with enough space to let the individual elements come through. some artists that i consider "microscopic".. people like ryoji ikeda, noto, the rastermusic label, richard chartier, oval.. stuff like that
AmbiEntrance: Now you're expanding into other artists, like Dan Abrams with shuttle358's "optimal". What's the story behind this (quite lovely!) release?
Deupree: i met dan, surprisingly, through demo tapes. he had sent me a tape well over a year ago and when i heard it i said "wow, this is quite good!".. i got in touch with him and over the course of the following year he kept refining his recordings and sending me more stuff.. eventually we settled on the tracks for the full length. i think it's an EXCELLENT album.. it retains a lot of that classic ambient that i've always loved and then brings it up-to-date into modern, digital ambient realms. dan was also influenced by the ".aiff" compilation which was relflected in the track "optimal" on the album.. a more rhythmic piece. he's exploring that avenue now using mostly software programing techniques. his future material should prove to be very interesting. he's got a very respected career ahead of him.
dan is also helping me on all of the packaging for 12k. he was responsible for the manufacturing of the ".aiff" package and will be doing the forthcoming 0/r package. he's got the resources and knowledge to do this kind of stuff.. so i come up with a basic concept and design and he helps me see it come to light.
release is also from other artists besides myself.. it's a collaboration between richard chartier from here in the states and nosei sakata (*0) from japan. it's a very experimental software-based album. and later this year i have a release planned from komet (frank bretschneider from rastermusic in germany). i've found a family of artists who share the same vision as i do.. and we're all helping each other out.
AmbiEntrance: When will O/r be released, and what should listeners expect?
Deupree: it will be out in mid-august.. as we just finished the packaging.. which will be as unique as ".aiff".. and even more refined. here's an interesting excerpt from a review of one of richard chartier's releases, it describes 0/r as well: "..a remarkable album that seems to be a soundtrack to a wall-socket, or the emissions and discharges from some abandoned powerhouse.".. 0/r is nosei sakata from japan and richard chartier from virginia.. both of their solo music is similar in structure but uses very different sounds. nosei often uses bursts of noise and rough clicking sounds whereas richard takes the more sinewave beepy approach. the 0/r cd is a combination of that. it contains some crazy frequencies... the first track on the CD you can barely hear because of the frequency. it's kind of scary because it registers on the meters of my mixer, yet i can't hear anything, the frequencies meter in at just under 18khz.. just under the top threshold of human hearing. there are very very high and very very low frequencies and arranged in a rhythmic, yet nonlinear way. it really is like a soundtrack to a wall socket. it's an intricate album.. it took me about 5 listens to really get a grasp of it.. and when i did i *really* liked it. i hope people will give it the same attention.
AmbiEntrance: Why do you limit 12K releases to 500 copies? Human Mesh Dance's thesecretnumbertwelve has recently sold out; will you ever re-release it?
Deupree: no, 12k releases will never be re-released. once they're gone, they're gone forever.
i limit the pressings to 500 for a few reasons... many rather pratical.. such as, i don't have room to store too many CDs in my apartment! also, being a small label and because of the competitiveness of labels and distribution it's more realistic for me to keep the numbers low. i'd rather sell out of a title than sit on a bunch that i can't get rid of. i'm also interested in limited pressings for collector reasons. that's also the reason i don't do a lot of advertising and limit my press and radio copies considerably... i want people to discover 12k.. not the other way around... i don't want to be in-your-face about it. i want to keep it very low key and special. i'm not opposed to increasing the number on the pressings but right now it's the best way for me to go about it.
AmbiEntrance: What about your own recording plans?
Deupree: i'm currently working on a collaboration with richard chartier.. and is slated as the next release after 0/r. it's sounding quite good so far...i also just finished a set of 2 12"s for a label in the netherlands called audio.nl. the material is techno.. but not very straightforward.. a courageous DJ would play it on the dance floor. i've also completed an album for rastermusic in germany, which we will finalize when i visit them this summer.. i've been asked to do a solo release on caipirinha next year, as well as compiling another CD for them... and i'd like to do another solo release on 12k before too long.
AmbiEntrance: Any question you wish I had asked, and how would you have answered it?
Deupree: perhaps the origin of the name "12k"...
it first came about when savvas and i named our first Arc cd (on kk records) "12k".. we did so because all of the sequencer files for the tracks on the album ended up having file sizes of 12k. it was an intriguing and mysterious title..so we took it for the album.
a year later when i was thinking of label names i couldn't get "12k" out of my head.. i was looking for a name that was abstract and technical sounding yet at the same time mysterious and would make people wonder what it was about. it was also VERY important that it had to be easy to say, look good on paper, and be able to be understood and pronounced by virtually anyone in the world, no matter what language they speak. 12k fit all of those requirements.
the weird thing was that the first 12k release, HMD "thesecretnumbertwelve" had been named prior to me thinking of "12k" as a label name... definitely some spooky foreshadowing going on there.
AmbiEntrance: What's in 12K's future?
Deupree: to continue exploring the very edge of electronic sound and technology, while creating music that can be appreciated as art. i've found my niche, i've never been happier as an artist than i am now.
AmbiEntrance: I would agree that you've found your niche, and can appreciate the resulting happiness. Thanks for your time and input. Please keep in touch.
Deupree: thank you.. it's important for me right now to be associated with this particular sound.