What happens when you mix what is - arguably - the world's most interesting record company, with an anarchist manic-depressive rock music historian polymath, and a method of dissemination which means that a daily rock-music magazine can be almost instantaneous?

Most of this blog is related in some way to the music, books and films produced by Gonzo Multimedia, but the editor has a grasshopper mind and so also writes about all sorts of cultural issues which interest him, and which he hopes will interest you as well.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

EXCLUSIVE: Martin Birke from 'Genre Peak' Interview (Part Two)

I particularly enjoyed talking to Martin, because so many of our cultural references are the same.

Anyone who both likes Joy Division and appears to be having a love affair with technology, for the way that it is changing the artistic map of the early years of the 21st Century, has to be OK with me!

Jon: I like the way that the music industry has changed. I think the new technology has given people like you and me a completely new set of values and a completely new set of rules to play by.

Martin: Yeah, you know, in a way it’s really shrunken the world a bit. It’s made everyone suddenly within reach very easily, you know. Especially with Skype, I can talk to you and we’re 3,000 miles away, you know, in real time. It’s pretty amazing actually.

Jon: Yeah the concept of the global village that the hippies were talking about back when I was an idealistic young longhair, suddenly it’s actuallyhappened now. It’s all come together, but not in a way that anybody thought it would.

Martin: No, not at all, but it does and it is curious to see where it is going to go in maybe ten or twenty of thirty years from now.

Jon: I agree. I think it’s really interesting and I think it’s a really exciting time to be alive.

Martin: Yeah absolutely, and I’m curious to see when quantum computers come into play. I was listening to Ray Kurzweil talk about quantum computers - that will be around in about 100 years from now - and we will all be physically linked to them. Computers will be part of our physicality.

Jon: That would be wonderful. I don’t think I’m going to live that long but....

Martin: No I don’t think I will either, but ... you know....you never know, maybe ... if reincarnation exists we might get a shot at it.

Jon: Well I am still amazed at how things have come on only in the last 15 years, ‘cos back in 1997 my business partner and I were really excited when we got a computer that had a whole megabyte of memory, and that was only 15 years ago.

Martin: Yeah, 15 years ago I was doing midi recording with the Cakewalk software and we would string, you know, five or six syncs together along with two drum machines and we’d get this whole, huge song going all in real time and I think the computer was maybe 10 megabytes or something, you know, and we thought then that was really the future of recording. You know, it’s like ‘Wow we can do live midi recording’, you know ‘and with midi we can change any sounds any time.’ It’s funny how archaic that seems now, you know, the Cakewalk software.

Jon: I still use Cakewalk guitar tracks now for things, but – yeah I know exactly what you mean ‘cos I used to play with the midi stuff and things as well. It’s come on so far.

Martin: But now with Pro-tools and Cubase you have full integration of midi and analogue altogether and it’s all in perfect sync and I’ve been doing my recordings in Pro-tools for like 5 years now, and the funny thing is, it’s like musicians nowadays have to basically learn to be their own engineers, and more or less computer techs.

It’s not like back in the mid-80s when I would go to a recording studio and hire an engineer, and we would have reel to reel tape. It’s something I almost kind of resent that I have to be able to be a full-blown software guy and have to learn all the software and everything, ‘cos really all I want to do is write and play. But it’s all par for the course now, you know, everyone kinda has to learn all this stuff, you know, and the technology is getting easier. I mean, for me, there’s always a learning curve because I’m now using my iPad in conjuction with live work. I’m using a lot of music apps in real time right off my iPad live on stage, and that’s been very interesting too.

Jon: So what’s next? What’s the next step?

Martin: Well right now, me and Percy Howard are doing a lot of live performance here in our home town, and we’re trying to get a professional video made. We’ve got some people who we’re trying to round up and we’ve got a nice facility we want to rent. So that’s the story for Hardboiled Wonderland, and I’m sure there’ll be another album in another couple of years. And Genre Peak is basically ....I’m trying to plan a new album for 2015.

I’ve already met a new singer, a guy named Charlie Woodward, who actually sounds a bit like Jon Anderson from Yes, and we’ve talked a couple of times. With Genre Peak the concept of the project is no two albums will sound the same or have the same line-up of musicians. The only similarity is my writing, and that’s what’s exciting about it – how by involving other singers and other musicians it changes my initial demo sounds, you know, to what I think the song is going to be, and it usually changes it quite radically once the other musicians are involved.

And luckily enough I work with a very great engineer and producer named Christopher Scott Cooper who has been a really, really experienced producer, engineer and guitarist and has worked with a lot of famous people and so what I’ll probably do, is I’ll start creating demos over the summer and fall on my home system and when I reach a point when I cannot progress further on, like I don’t record vocals – I only do scratch vocals at my studio ‘cos I don’t have very good mikes, so I’ll take the tracks down to Christopher Scott Cooper and that’s when we’ll try and bring in the other musicians who can, you know, make it to the studio and we basically work from there. Chris really puts all the spit and polish and adds a lot of the ear candy to the music itself and so I really have to give him a lot of credit for making my sound, sound so good.

Jon: Well, what I’m trying to do with the Gonzo blog each day, is I’m .... rather than doing big interviews with people, I want to do what we’ve done today and what I did with Mimi Page earlier, have a sort of quick ten minute chat, but do it regularly. So, you got something new happening in your life, you got something new happening you want to talk about we can do this on a sort of regular basis if that’s ok with you.

Martin: Yeah, absolutely. That sounds great.

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