FIVE STEPS: Memory9
For those of you with a soft spot for all things synth- and Jungle- (or more specifically ‘Juke’) related, this one’s for you. Italian-born Memory9 is ready to release ‘The Abyss Within’ on his own imprint Mnemonic Dojo, an exciting amalgamation of sounds and styles old and new, with Om Unit and H-Sik on remix duties. We caught up with the producer ahead of the release who gave us his Five Steps from the influence of Warp’s Squarepusher, through to the fire-sale of his previous EP and his prolific use of old synthesisers throughout his music.
Step 1: Origins
When I heard Squarepusher for the first time it changed my whole outlook on music. That was just before I went to Berklee, and at the time I was very focused on my instruments, playing jazz, fusion or prog rock; your staple music school nerd. I was also really into jungle, hip hop and beats, but I thought my musical path lied elsewhere. I stumbled into tracks like Beep Street, Red Hot Car, Go! Spastic, Coopers World, and my apparently conflicting musical interests were immediately reconciled: I realised that there was a whole branch of modern music that was both alive and current as well as innovative, interesting and groundbreaking, something as deep as jazz but as relevant to my generation as jungle.
[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yA8MRphI8w” title=”Squarepusher%20-%20Beep%20Street” modestbranding=”1″]
Step 2: Introducing
The first track I produced and released was ‘Ricrit Shiropp’, off my old EP ‘Terpsichore’. I think I was more or less trying to find a happy medium between very cut up breaks and downtempo beats. I wasn’t very good as a producer then, it was all trial and error and everything took me ages. I ended up chopping up loads of live drums and playing a bunch of guitar on this one, and using sounds from Hollywood sound libraries I had stolen from school to create textures. When I was done I had learned three things: that I had a lot more to learn still, that foley sounds can be exquisite musical elements, and that my instrumental skills were actually really useful for making tracks. Good things to keep in mind.
Step 3: Foundation
A track that a lot of people liked is ‘One of These Days’ off Black Dragon. I really just wanted to make some juke because I love the 160-180 bpm range, and listening to the stuff that was coming out on labels like Planet-Mu or Error Broadcast a year or two ago was really inspiring and refreshing. I also wanted to play more with the idea of using modulated kickdrums as the only bass element, I had done that in a remix for DJ Vadim’s ‘Electric’ project, which had worked really well. Black Dragon was the first thing I did with my label, it was cool because DK and DJ Food gave out the first copy live on the Solid Steel radio show. The record sold out in a matter of days so it all felt quite good.
Step 4: Present
‘The Abyss Within’ is quite different from anything I have done in the past. To begin with, the title track was really conceived as an audiovisual piece. I met Davide Bianca, the man in charge at Saizen Media, last summer through our common friend Jim Coles (Om Unit). We realised we both wanted to push our work in a similar direction, so we set out to work on music and visuals in parallel. Not having any budget to play with, getting the kind of quality we wanted took us almost 9 months, a proper labour of love. For the music, I wanted to integrate a lot of foley in there, so that the different subjects and environments of the video would be reflected. I used a ton of different sound tools, sand, water, metal, chains, granular synthesis, prepared piano, all kinds of things. All the bass bits are Reaktor and Yamaha CS-80, then I used a Yamaha DX-7 for the chords. Then there’s the actual foley opening in the video – about 80 tracks of sound design – that was also a challenge.
[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUkB0FqbHnc” title=”Memory9%20-%20The%20Abyss%20Within” modestbranding=”1″]
The title track sets the mood for the rest of the EP. In ‘Escape The Ice’, the jukier 160bpm track, there’s this pretty Fender Rhodes harmony and melody, but I kept playing around with foley samples and went in pretty heavy on the prepared piano stuff. Bunch of half time edits of jungle breaks in there as well as all these gentle snare rolls. Some of the drums are live, it’s definitely the most organic track on there. Then there’s ‘Two Bodies of Venus’, which I love because it’s a modal track. I’m a big fan of modal jazz, and both the harmonic and melodic parts here are loosely inspired by ‘So What’ by Miles Davies, with the dorian scales and the half step modulation and so on. In this track I made heavy use of an Oberheim Matrix 12, it’s an amazing box. I am really lucky because I rent a room in this one studio complex where my friends next door, Iter Research, have a ridiculous collection of vintage gear. That’s how I get to play around with all these fancy machines!
It was great to have Om Unit and H-SIK doing the remixes, they are both amazing musicians and producers and I’m really excited with how they reinterpreted the title track. They both have amazing visions which I find very inspiring, I feel really lucky to have been able to work with them.
[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2rg5PZlC88″ title=”Om%20Unit%20-%20Timelines” modestbranding=”1″]
Step 5: Future
I think a track that will come to be looked at as a bit of a milestone is ‘Fuck a Rap Song’ by Dahlia Black, Blue Daisy’s new project. The beat sound fantastic, the mix is great and the flow is super fresh. To me it picks up where Death Grips left off, but with a ton more class.
[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J29KK5Q1lLQ” title=”Dahiia%20Black%20-%20Fuck%20A%20Rap%20Song” modestbranding=”1″]
As for Memory9, I’m working on some really exciting collabs at the moment, plus I have another EP in the works for the autumn and an album for the new year. Gig-wise, I am very excited to return to Soundwave Festival in Croatia this year, and to tour promoting ‘The Abyss Within’.
And the one ‘Urban Essential’ I couldn’t live without? My 18-speed with frontal suspension. I like big stocky bicycles that can take a beating, have gears and are comfortable. Riding fixed is like one-foot snowboarding: looks cool and all, but why try so hard?
Memory9 – The Abyss Within is out in May on Mnemonic Dojo.