Posts Tagged ‘dance’

Interview: Excision.

March 23, 2016

Excision (image via

Excision is a Canadian DJ who combines many different styles of dance
music to form his own bass-heavy sound. His music transcends
genres and labels. From a mixing standpoint, he is one of the best live DJs I have ever seen. Excision discussed his first musical memory and his approach to creating a quality live show.
What was your first musical memory?
The first electronic music I heard that stood out to me was the
Prodigy’s “The Fat of the Land.” I loved it, but couldn’t find
anything else even close to it. It wasn’t until 2005 that I
discovered drum ‘n’ bass and the Vex’d album “Degenerate,” which
showed me the extent of what dubstep and all electronic music is
capable of.

I started producing and DJing at the time, dropped out of the business
degree program I was taking at the University of British Columbia and
decided that this was what I needed to do. My parents weren’t too
impressed, but they had some level of faith when they saw I was
putting in 12 hours a day to get better. Living in Kelowna, I didn’t
know a single other DJ for over a year and didn’t meet any other
producers until I was touring in 2007. It was 2005 when I started and
although the Internet had a few places you could read up on various
techniques, it definitely wasn’t like today where there is a YouTube
tutorial for everything. Learning how to produce the sounds of your
imagination is a long, arduous process that I wouldn’t recommend to
anyone who isn’t willing to sacrifice a big chunk of their life.

How is your live setup differ from your studio setup?
The new stage “The Executioner” has been in progress since April of
last year. When we built Xvision, we learned what projection mapping
is truly capable of, and with a bit bigger budget this year we were
able to produce something far more complex. We wanted to get away
from the 2D “trippy visualizations” as much as possible. My team and
I felt that we had learned enough from Xvision to tackle the entire
project ourselves.

I worked with Ben from Beama and went through 66 revisions before we
finally settled on the current design. I then went and hired 50 or so
animators from around the world, created storyboards of what we wanted
each animation to look like, how we wanted it to sync with a specific
song and spent a huge amount of time on each of them really dialing it
in. Justin is our Mr. Fixit guy who knows a lot about a ton of
different things. He handled the window to the DJ booth, which goes
up and down based at the push of a button, as well as the panels that
open and close to reveal lasers within the stage, as well as CO2 jets,
crazy, low-lying fog machines, and even snow machines! A Canadian
crew can’t truly put on a high production value show without snow.
Justin also helped with the Serato/Ableton dual setup.

I wanted to keep everything as close to a traditional DJ setup as
possible, and still have the freedom to play whatever tracks in
whatever order the crowd wants them. We use Serato music videos for
70 songs; usually I get through 55 in a set. Each of these videos stay
in perfect sync with the attached song and the Serato video technology
is perfect so far. Where we ran into trouble was creating a fully
synced lighting show. We bridged Ableton to Serato and hacked a bunch
of things in order to get the time code sent out to the lighting desk
and trigger all the cues. The result is a system that gives me full
freedom to cater to the crowd and still be a real DJ, but at the same
time give a fully synced audio-visual show.

You might think this has been done before, but every artist I’ve seen,
and I’ve seen nearly all of them, have a 100% pre-planned set that
they literally just press a play button at the beginning of the show
and fake it for 90 minutes. Fuck that!

Due to how long it takes for movie-grade animations to be created, I
had to be careful about which songs I had them made for. I won’t ruin
the surprise, but it’s going to be an epic set that stays true to my
roots, but still has enough diversity to make everyone happy. Expect
to leave exhausted.

The Executioner features every bit of cutting edge technology that we
can cram into it, and it’s our goal to deliver an experience that is
as close as you will get to the future of EDM in today’s world. As far
as the future years and years ahead goes, we will always be working
hard to stay at least a few steps ahead of the rest of the industry.

You tour constantly. What have been some of your favorite moments on the road?
The most memorable achievements that first come to mind are headlining
shows playing to 10 or 20 thousand people at epic venues like Red
Rocks in Colorado or The Gorge in Washington. Looking out onto the
crowd and the awesome view and seeing so many people rocking out to
such nasty music is a pretty righteous feeling.

McClain Approved: Underworld “Low Burn.”

March 22, 2016

Underworld is my favorite band. The English duo is composed of lyricist/vocalist Karl Hyde and multi-instrumentalist/producer Rick Smith. Active since 1980, Underworld has always had a more mature take on dance music. It’s still a party, but a weird and wonderful one. I collect Underworld live bootlegs and I have almost everything they have released. Underworld has a very signature sound. Some of their tracks focus on minimal ambient pulses, while others are full blown rave epics. The lyrics often float by in fragments, like a strange dream. Unlike a lot of other dance music, there can be a wonderful subtlety to Underworld’s music.

A recent piece in the Guardian describes a major turning point in Underworld’s career;

The following sounds like a convenient myth, but it’s true: in 1990 Smith’s total income was £120, and his wife, Tracy, convinced him to change tack and make music he liked. “The best thing that ever happened to me,” Smith says. Interested in techno, he started working with young DJ Darren Emerson, and his world turned around. Hyde went along with him: “After 10 years of being conscious of what’s in the charts, what the record labels want, what we think we should be doing, which people didn’t get anyway, the minute our music got honest and personal, it became open to people.”

Being true to themselves helped Underworld connect with people in an honest way. It’s inspiring. Hyde and Smith don’t create tracks with cliche buildups or chase EDM trends. Underworld exists within their own musical space. Their latest album, Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future, showcases many of the qualities that make Underworld so great. It is one of the best albums of the year. The slow building track “Low Burn” is my favorite song off of the album. The stream-of-consciousness lyrics and the rolling beats mesh together beautifully and could only come from Underworld. The future is shining and it will be glorious.

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