Truancy Volume 64: Iron Galaxy

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The democratization of the music industry should make it easier for talented artists to gain an audience, but if the last few years have shown us anything it’s that this was a blessing and a curse. There seems to be a constant flow of questionable and plain terrible music hitting the web daily, making it difficult for true talent to shine. This past summer Iron Galaxy’sAttention Seeker” broke through the clutter and penetrated many of our social networks and for good reason – it’s emotive, danceable, and memorable. Within a couple of days it racked up a few thousand plays and was eventually picked up by Amsterdam’s Audio Culture. Fast-forward a few a months and Adam is preparing his follow-up record. We were anxious to find out more about him and offered him some time behind the decks to record Truancy Volume 64. Before that we had a chance to speak with Adam about his plans for this year and some of the relationships he’s made over the last six or so months. Without spoiling too much, there are quite a few influential people eager to give him a shot. For the next hour, expect to hear some Canada’s premiere talents in the world of house and techno boom from your monitors.

What have you been up to lately? “Around the New Year I finished up an EP for Born Electric. Other than that I’ve been working my day job and planning a studio move. We just got all the gear to the new place, finalized the layout (though we’re still waiting on a shelving company before that’s done) and now I have to complete the patchbay, order/make cables etc. Last week we started planning some dates in the EU, so it’s looking like I’ll be over there sometime in July.”

You have a pretty interesting day job as a music teacher, correct? Does that affect the way you write or keep you on your toes? “Yeah, music history and technology is one of the courses I teach. I get the Middle School kids to work with Ableton Live as part of that course. I’ve now made the switch over from Logic and that may have influenced my decision to do so. It’s easy to become complacent and teach the same thing to each group that you get. I always try and evolve some portion of the course. Now that I’m more comfortable actually teaching it’s easier to focus on new content and projects. The kids are always asking interesting questions that keep me on my toes or requires me to do some research.

I think my job is going to affect how I write music from this point on though because the new studio space is literally at the school where I work. We wanted to start a media lab, so they generously gave us some space and a bit of money. With video, photo and audio gear money doesn’t go far though, so I proposed bringing my setup to the school if I could have after hours access to it. That way the school didn’t have to buy a lot of the basics and I could get each kid on a real instrument. When they’re learning about using Impulse in Ableton we can go to the studio and fire up some old drum machines to see the origins of drum programming. I’m going to propose a course for the older students next year that’s more production based, maybe post production, foley work or music for film/video. They can collaborate with media classes, the drama department etc. With the new space it should be easier to get down to work. We had a good spot previously, but our friends lived there, so there were many distractions. When working there you would have to consider people’s work and sleep schedules. The neighbours were never a problem, but our friends lived and worked there.”

It’s safe to say your Audio Culture record acted as a diving board for you, what’s next? “For sure, I felt like “Attention Seeker” was well received. It helped put me in touch with a lot of musicians that I admire. I’m hoping people will be into the new stuff. I’ve finished an EP for Born Electric which is run by James Zabiela and his partner Mouj. That’ll be the 4th release on the label and should be out around April/May I’ve been told. About a month or so before that I’ll have a track on a vinyl compilation put together by “Room With A View”. I’ve just started putting together ideas for an EP on Audio Culture and almost have an EPs worth of tracks finished with my friend Dave. There’s a few other projects and collaborations on the go too, but everything’s in the early stages.” We’d imagine putting out a record on James Zabiela’s label is a pretty big deal for you. Did he approach you? “Yeah, I’m excited about the EP on Born Electric for sure. It’s four tracks, and there’s a bit of diversity on there. To be honest, James’ name was familiar, but I didn’t know much about him at first. He’s on another level, with a heavy touring schedule, playing a lot of big rooms. When I speak with him he has a genuine enthusiasm about the label, Born Electric artists, DJing, and the demos I send him. Last year I received a message from his roommate who said James was into my stuff. I think he just found me on SoundCloud. Just before the summer he got in touch to tell me his plans for the new label. James is a technical wizard on the CDJs, but more importantly he’s an all around nice guy who’s supporting a lot of the music I’m into. It seems like it will be a good crew to be involved with.”


Stream: Iron Galaxy – Attention Seeker (Audio Culture)

Canada, particularly Montréal and Toronto, has recently had a spotlight shown on it for its unique and what some would call uncharacteristically playful take on house and techno. How would you describe the scene there? “Whenever I’m asked this I feel a little unqualified to answer because I’m not super involved in Montreal’s music scene beyond what my friends are doing. There’s a lot of good crews putting on shows and after hours events, bringing great artists to the city. There was the Resident Advisor article about Toronto recently that seems to sum up what’s going on over there. There’s a lot of amazing artists who’ve come out of the two cities and are really busy touring and/or releasing records in Europe. It’s great to see people picking up on that. Martyn just released the Dovercourt EP that’s comprised solely of producers from Toronto. Every track on that is a bomb (I can’t believe I didn’t include any of them in the mix!). Label-wise, there’s a few people in Montreal doing interesting things. Turbo is obviously leading that charge, Jacques Greene started Vase recently, there’s Fur Trade, Infinite Machine, Parages Music. I’m sure I’m forgetting some. My friend Jurg just started a label called “Forbidden Planet”. The first release is a great D’Marc Cantu 12-inch that includes a DVS1 remix. It’ll be exciting to see what else they have forthcoming.”

What are the relationships like between other local artists? Is everyone supportive of each other? “DJs in Montreal like Lexis (musicismysanctuary.com) were some of the first people to play my music. He has a connection to Lefto, who supported the first record before it was out. I imagine that’s one of the ways it made it to people like Gilles Peterson. I had been friends with guys like Bordello and Addy from Footprintz before we even heard each other’s music. We’re all excited about what everyone’s up to individually and either have, or are about to, get together in the studio. It’s a small world, so I’ve slowly been meeting a lot of my favourite Canadian producers. Everyone seems very accessible, supportive and down to earth. Brian/Gingy is always willing to critique any demos I pass his way. Local DJs, producers and promoters are starting to invite me to play out with them, which is nice. I’ve DJed for years, but never got into promotion, or hustled for gigs.”

Are there any specific nights or venues you frequent? “Not really to be honest. I’ve sort of toned down going out. When I lived in London several years ago, I would never miss “Movement” Thursdays at Bar Rhumba. Here in Montreal, I’ll just hit up select shows, whenever somebody interesting is in town. When Thomas Von Party puts on an after hours party, you’ll usually find me there though.”

What were your formative years in music like? “I took piano lessons for a short time when I was super young. Around the age of 12 I got into playing guitar. I took lessons for a bit, but then just taught myself by learning songs and trying to solo over a few of my favourite albums. When I was in highschool I bought my first synth and started playing around with production. I think a lot of my early stuff was trying to emulate artists like Solvent and Skanfrom. Around the same time I tried producing Drum and Bass.”

Who were some of the artists you were looking up to (not necessarily electronic)? “Murderecords was a Canadian label I really loved when I was young. The first Local Rabbits record helped me learn the guitar. Thrush Hermit, Superfriendz, Eric’s Trip, Sebadoh and Sonic Youth were big for me at the time. The east coast of Canada was producing a lot of great indie rock stuff. Ian from Thrush Hermit is actually in that band Hiawatha with Egyptrixx. It’s interesting to see those worlds collide. At the same time I would have been into the obvious hip hop stuff like Public Enemy, Tribe, Mobb Deep, Black Sheep etc. I had my friends who were into metal and we would listen to Slayer, Sepaltura etc. The electronic stuff was the first time I really found something that nobody else in my world was picking up on. I started with Warp Records stuff and that led me to Suction Records, Morr Music, City Centre Offices etc. At the same time when I was listening to the “IDM” stuff, I bought turntables and started picking up some French House and DnB records. Soon my record collection was consumed with DnB. In the early 2000s Total Science, Digital, Spirit, Breakage, Alpha Omega, Sonar Circle and the whole Reinforced camp could do no wrong. Bad Company, Virus, Renegade Hardware, Marcus Intalex, Valve and so many more were on the top of their game for a period. I lost interest in most DnB produced after 2003. It’s great to see guys like Marcus and DBridge slowing things down and continuing to make great music.”

Take us into your studio, what’s the creative process like for you? Do you partake in any OCD-like rituals before getting down to business? “The creative process is going to change a bit, because now that we’ve moved I can set up the workflow differently. With our last setup I learned a lot about how I like to work, along with what frustrates me. I’m going to create a patchbay for all the CV and Gate controls now, so we can easily sequence a lot of the old monosynths with Ableton, or with an analog sequencer. Sometimes I come in with a tempo, a sample or a mild vision. Most of the time I just get in there and jam. Once I have a few things happening then I’ll record parts into the computer and edit it down into an arrangement. No rituals, but I tend to waste some time at the beginning, settling in, surfing the net.”

Is there anything you’d like to add to your studio or a skill you’d like to learn? “Ha, well, if money and space were no object there’s a lot I would love to add. I think my music is a product of really liking to work with hardware. I generally don’t buy the hardware to facilitate a particular style of music, but the gear definitely influences the end product. I may be enamoured by the sound or groove of a certain piece of equipment. I either like or hate the interface and that dictates whether it ends up in the studio. Something like the SH101 might not be overly versatile as far as its sound, but I love the sequencer, the fast envelopes and how quickly you can start making something with it. If anything, I need to scale back, but I’d love to have a Jupiter 4. There are wishlist synths like a Synthex, CS80 etc. which of course I would be amazing, but in a collectors market will never happen. I could see myself trying to find a deal on something like an MKS80. I just missed out on one that someone was selling for $1200. Did you see the reissued MS20 mini? The waiting list for that thing is going to be crazy. I think I’d like to pick up some more outboard effects and processors. I found an Ursa Major Space Station for next to nothing and it’s a really unique reverb/delay. I’m still learning many of the things that I already own. This summer I made the switch to Ableton from Logic. I need to put in some time with the SP1200. I just bought an Oberkorn analog sequencer, so I need to figure out everything that has to offer. It came with a modular power supply and a pitch quantiser module, so I’m sure one day I’ll get sucked into the world of modular synthesis.”

Is there a specific element or feeling you like to include or convey in your music? “I definitely know the feeling when I hear it, but I’m still figuring out how to get there. When I finish things i find myself sometimes second guessing the vibe. I like melody and things that are a bit sad or unnerving. I like a lot of things actually. It’s hard to not to go in a million directions. I suppose that’s why people have alternate aliases. With “Iron Galaxy” I want to find the line of having some range in my productions without seeming inconsistent.”

You’ve mentioned a side project with your friend Dave, how did that come about? “We both grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario. When I started getting into electronic music, I didn’t know anybody else who DJed or produced, or who generally listened to the stuff. Some friends told me to see him and a guy named Justin perform as the Ninja Hawkz Sound System. They would quickly write a bunch of instrumentals the night before a show and Justin would freestyle the most hilarious lyrics over top. Dave became the guy I would ask advice from when I wanted to know about synths or samplers. We both ended up in Montreal and decided to pool our gear into a studio setup. We were going to call ourselves “Sex Life”, but are going to be “Iron Galaxy and…”. He needs to lock down a name. He may end up being “Sexlife”.” How would you describe the music you make together? “It’s still melodic, but has given us an excuse to create something a little more on the techno end of the spectrum. So far the arrangements are a bit varied, with an almost song structure. For the next few we’re trying to come up with an idea we can just jam on for 5 minutes. That Bruce Trail track on 3024 is a good example of what we’d like to strive for. A simple groove that has a solid melody, is a little tough or melancholy, but doesn’t get tired.”

When can we expect to hear this music? Do have a home for this music yet? “We’ve been really slow and Dave was busy with design stuff in the fall, so we’re going to try and get on a schedule when the studio is rebuilt. So far we’re on the 4th track with that project. Turbo has asked us to hold a few things so far, so when Thomas returns from India next month we’re going to sit down and figure something out. I think their release schedule is packed until the summer, so who knows when. I’m excited to get it out there though.”

Let’s say your house is on fire, what’s the one record you’d take with you? “Hmmm, that’s different from the desert island discs question. Do you grab the record worth the most on discogs? Hopefully my insurance would allow me to buy back a lot of my favourite records. Spinform’s “Superstjerna EP” and Board Of Canada’s “Music Has The Right…” are probably two of my most sentimental records. If I was near the DnB collection, maybe Q-Project “Slow Down/Spectrum City”, Total Science “Murder EP”, “Make Me Feel EP”, maybe Matrix and Fierce’s “Tightrope/Climate”. Nothing’s organized, so I probably would die of smoke inhalation before making a final decision.”

What’s the idea behind your Truancy Volume? “Although there’s a handful older classics in the mix, I wanted to play some newer stuff this time around. I included some recently released bits as well as some upcoming or unreleased tracks that a few producer friends were kind enough to send my way. There’s so much great new music out there these days, I didn’t even get a chance to touch the surface.”

And of course, what’s your drink of choice? “Whatever happened to Vanilla Coke? I know it exists somewhere in this world. Visiting the States is always a trip because there’s a lot of snacks and drinks that are either banned up in Canada because of the types of fats, sugars or additives they contain. Also, some things just aren’t marketed here. I just found a soda company called “Blue Sky” that makes a “Cherry Vanilla Creme” soda. That’s a pretty solid replacement.”

Truancy Volume 64: Iron Galaxy by TRUANTS

Tracklisting:

Candido – Thousand Finger Man
Clark – Jak To Basics
Pitto – Richklap
Move D – Got 2 B
Severn Beach – Stitches (Forthcoming Audio Culture)
Locked Groove – Wear It Well (Forthcoming Hotflush)
Gingy & Bordello – All Day (Forthcoming Turbo Recordings)
Trikk – Prime Time (Forthcoming Hypercolour)
South London Ordnance – Revolver (Forthcoming Hotflush)
Leon Vynehall – Untitled017
I:Cube – Disco Cubism (Daft Punk Remix)
Brother G – Cold Pass
Unknown – Untitled (unreleased)
Bodhi – Deliquesce
Doc Daneeka – Babylon’s Burning
Tom Trago – Sky High feat. San Proper (Vocal Dub Mix)
Schatrax – The Almighty
Anthony Naples – Mad Disrespect
dBridge – True Romance (Pedestrian Edit) (unreleased)
Jack Dixon – E
D’Marc Cantu – Some Fantasies Are Good (Forthcoming Forbidden Planet)
Gingy & Bordello – Saturday Night Fervor (Forthcoming Turbo Recordings)
Nphonix – Tactix (Forthcoming Audio Culture)
Locked Groove – Hirondelle (unreleased)
 
Jonathon Alcindor

About Jonathon Alcindor

Writer & Techy. My word is bond, whatup doe? Twitter, jonathon@truantsblog.com

Words by Jonathon Alcindor on 11 February 2013
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