The interview took place just a few months before I started experimenting with electronic music production. As a fresh producer, I found it very important to learn the roots. I wanted to know more than just some names and some tracks. I wanted to know the entire story. I wanted to know how it all happened…
There are many artists around the globe and many sources that wrote about them extensively, but I wanted to do a blog post that summarizes the most known ones in one place. Of course, it is not possible to mention every one of them in this column, so there was a selection that had to be made, but the list is long enough.
I started my research with some of the inspirations mentioned by my interviewee (Juana). By following that path, each name I researched led to many others.
The primary sources used for this article were the biographies of the artists from Discogs, Wikipedia, some other journals and blog articles, and sometimes the artists’ websites. These sources are always mentioned or linked throughout the blog. I am not inventing anything new here – simply attempting to summarise what has already been written.
This blog piece is for everyone who is yet unfamiliar with how the electronic music scene started and developed overseas.
PIONEERS IN THE FIELD OF ELECTRONIC MUSIC IN THE USA [Part 1]
Clara Rockmore(together with Robert Moog) were the pioneers of a very unusual electronic musical instrument, that was controlled without physical contact, the ‘etherphone’ or as later named, the Theremin.Clara Rockmore was one of the most famous ‘thereminists’ touring around the USA.
Lev Sergeyevich Termen
The instrument (which was originally known as the etherphone) was invented in 1920 and it was named after its inventor, the Russian Lev Sergeyevich Termen (known in the West as Léon Theremin). After a lengthy tour in Europe, Termen moved from the Soviet Union to the United States, where he patented his invention in 1928.
However, after the Second World War, the theremin fell into disuse as newer electronic instruments were introduced that were easier to play. Nonetheless, a niche interest in the theremin persisted.
Robert Moog,who began building theremins in the 1950s, while he was a high-school student, stayed enthusiastic about the instrument and he credited the theremin experience as leading directly to his groundbreaking synthesizer, the Moog.
Once the Moog was on the market, the experimenting had begun. The very first person who tried to combine her own voice with one of the first Moog synthesizers in the late 1960s was artist Annette Peacock.
Another internationally acclaimed American composer, performer who has explored sound for four entire decades was Pauline Oliveros – forging new ground for herself and others through improvisation and combining electronic music with rituals and meditation.”
By clicking the following link, you can navigate to read Part 2, which summarises the American House and Acid pioneers of Chicago and New York.
Electronic music producer, live performer & label owner: Farron (DE)
About a year ago, on one summer night, I was sitting backstage at Shelter Amsterdam with Niels L.aka Delta Funktionen. I’ve been a vinyl addict for a while and a big fan of his vinyl-only sets, so when I’ve asked for it, he allowed me to go through his records that he prepared for the night. I went through quickly the bag of records, while trying to memorise all the artists that were new to me. Among them, I have come across the name of Farron. When I got home, I could remember perhaps 3 names out of the 30 and his was one of them, so I’ve checked out his Bandcamp account which resulted in the immediate purchase of 2 records (‘Legend of the Bat‘ and ‘Death Duel‘). Shortly after that, I have decided to contact him and asked him for an interview and luckily for me, he agreed to it.
I have talked to Farron a bit less than a year ago about the origins. How he got involved into the electronic music scene, which were his first releases, live acts and why did he decide to create his own label, Shaw Cuts.
Farron:I grew up in a little suburban town around 45 minutes drive away from Munich, Germany. When I was really young, music didn’t play a big role in my life. I was mostly playing outside with my friends from the neighbourhood and my older sister till the sun went down. There wasn’t anything particular that caught my ears until one Christmas eve. I was around seven, when I got my first CD-Player and together with it Michael Jackson’s double CD ‘HIStory – Past, Present and Future, Book I’. I can still remember putting on that CD in the kitchen and dancing around to tracks like ‘Billy Jean’ or ‘Thriller’. In the following months I was listening to that whole album at least hundreds of times. I really fell in love with it.
LC: Any further childhood influences that guided you towards music?
Farron:My older cousin also had a huge influence on me. I was really looking up to him and admired him a lot in many ways. He was a real Hip Hop head and a skate guy in my teenage years and I just wanted to somehow be like him. I wanted to wear baggy pants, big hoodies and skate shoes like him and wanted to listen to his music collection. I think I was around 8 or 9 years old when he showed me some stuff from the Wu-Tang Clan, from Gang Starr, NAS, some 2Pac and Biggystuff etc. Also German rap music started playing a bigger role in my life, but I have to say that what particularly got me was the Wu-Tang Clan with ‘Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’. When it came out, I immediately had to buy the album and got even more fascinated the more I’ve listened to it. The whole raw and dirty vibe combined with all these versatile rap styles totally blew my mind and looking back on it, I think that this album influenced me and my own music a lot. I became a teenager with some sort of music addiction from that point on. I’ve always used my headphones in any moment that gave me the possibility to listen to any music and to build my own soundtrack of the world.
Then when I turned 14, I’ve started skateboarding which has also changed my musical taste. I was getting more into (post)-punk-rock and a lot of music that was used in all of my favourite skate videos and so I started visiting a lot of underground punk concerts with my friends. Skateboarding is also very connected to the hip-hop culture, but that went a bit in the background around at that time.
Farron: I got to know Marco Zenker a bit better through skateboarding and we were also on the same school in the same grade. Electronic music was not really a thing for us at that time, but the years went by and I opened up for other musical genres as well.
When I was around 17 years old, I started hanging out with Marco on a more regular base and we became really good friends. Since we both had pretty much the same taste in music, we’ve listened to a lot of things together and one evening we thought about doing some music, too. We picked some classic Hip Hop beats and started writing lyrics that we recorded later. And damn, we were pretty whack! Marco was rapping in English and I was rapping in German and also in French (even though my French was pretty bad at the time). Making music together was much fun.
LC: So how did the two of you got involved into electronic music in the end?
Farron:Who ‘brought me home’ was actually my sister. She was the one who was into electronic music and was visiting raves regularly at the time. She sometimes told me about her crazy nights out at the legendary Ultraschall.
[ In the spoken language mostly only referred to as U-Schall or Schall was one the most significant clubs of the 90’s techno scene in Germany, next to some other clubs like (the well-known) Tresor and E-Werkin Berlin, the Dorian Gray and Omen in Frankfurt, the KW – Das Heizkraftwerk, Natraj Temple,the Millennium and the (still operating)Rote Sonne – all Munich-based clubs which opened after the Schall. ]
Farron:She also showed me some electro and techno mixes and tracks. Some of this stuff sounded kind of okay to me, but none of them had really touched me deeply at that time.
I did not know Marco’s brother Dario, until Marco told me once that he is a producer and DJ and that he was playing in the same clubs my sister was going to. When I’ve heard that, I thought ‘mhm’, maybe this could be something interesting to see and experience some day.
One night, Dario was playing at the old Harry Klein club in Munich and we took the train to join the party. This may sound a bit cheesy, but that night turned out to be a game changer to me. I’ve never experienced something like that before. The vibe, the sound in such an environment, the open and crazy crowd, the dancing and the impression of freedom – that everybody can do their own thing there was mind-blowing. From that point on we have become regular visitors to Munich’s clubs like Harry Klein, Rote Sonne or Die Registratur. We danced almost every weekend and than usually slept at Marco‘s father’s flat or took the morning train back combined with hitchhiking to our suburban places.
Because of these club-nights, I’ve started to listen to a lot of electronic music at home. Rhythm & Sound (another alias of Moritz van Oswald/ Maurizio / Basic Channel (together with Mark Ernestus), Ricardo Villalobos, Deepchord, Burial and several other artists got a lot of my attention and excitement. But since there was a connection to Dario, I was really amazed by his own music and his label Hometown Music – the forerunner of Ilian Tape.
Farron:Marco immediately got into making his own music and I followed him in that some months later. I was using Ableton and some crappy computer speakers in the beginning. Not to mention the computer I was using at that time. It didn’t have the power to play more arranged channels at the same time, so I always had to edit the arrangement, bounce it, check it and then edit it again, bounce it, check it and so on. Looking back at it, it was a nightmare, but at that moment, it did not matter to me at all – as long as I could produce. I was mainly just experimenting around with sounds, trying to build some loops, arrange them and then try to start the next one – probably the same way how everyone else has started. I chose spontaneously an artist name “LaChriz” which was maybe not well-conceived enough, but in that moment that was the least I cared about.
LC: When did everything start becoming more serious?
Farron:While I was still experimenting, Marco was already doing some solid music that lead to his first digital releases on his brother’s label, Ilian Tape. Seeing that pushed me a lot and so I got more into it with a more serious approach.
There was always a musical exchange between me and Marco and so one day, Marco sent a track of mine to Dario. He kind of liked what he heard and contacted me via Skype telling me that I should keep on doing what I do and that I can always send him new stuff. Some weeks later he got back to me and told me that he is planning a digital remix compilation of Marco’s ‘Namibia Dub’ EP and gave me the opportunity to contribute with a remix to the project. I was working my ass off on that remix and somehow got it signed on Ilian Tape. I cannot even put in words how happy I was about that.
But before the remix EP came out, Dario has already asked me if I was interested in a digital solo EP with several tracks and I’ve sent him some newer stuff. This is how I got my debut with the ‘Purple Mountain Meadows’ EP on Ilian Tape. Looking back it is pretty weird and also amazing to me. I don’t know how I was able to do it, cause my technical production abilities were not on point at all. I didn’t even know how to correctly use an Equalizer or a Dynamic Processor. But Dario heard something in my early stuff and I’m still thankful for that till this day. I was able to do another digital solo EP and two appearances on digital compilations on his label and I’ve totally felt like home with them.Ilian Tapewas everything for me and I could have never imagined to release somewhere else.
LC:After your releases on Ilian Tape, what motivated you to start performing?
Farron: Shortly after the label’s financial recovery, Marco had got his first vinyl release on Ilian Tape. He was already playing live in some clubs at the time and got a residency at Harry Klein. That was another big push for me, so I started building up a live sets, too. I didn’t really expect to get the opportunity to play live at any club, but shortly before Marco‘s birthday in 2010, he asked me if I would like to play live at his birthday rave at the new Harry Klein. Of course, I’ve said yes, but I was also sh*ting my pants. Preparing the live-set for weeks, the excitement and tension grew like crazy. When the day was finally there, I was an emotional wreck. I was so nervous, not being able to eat almost the whole day and even secretly puking in front of the club. But right after the first five minutes of playing, the nervousness was gone and I knew that everything’s going to be alright. I also think that it was the perfect setting for a first gig: the club was pretty crowded, I had lots of really supportive friends there, the vibe was great and Harry Klein was generally a place I was familiar with. I have a lot to thank to theZenker Brothers.
Due to a lack of routine in playing in front of a crowd, I’m still struggling with the nervousness a bit. It’s not as heavy as it was in the past, but it’s still somehow there. I wish that it wouldn’t be that intense before playing, but I guess that I’m not the only one with these issues. I just have to trick my mind and then I’m usually fine.
LC: Which was the next step or milestone in your music career?
Farron: In order to study, I had to move to somewhere else. The city I was living then was pretty boring. There was nothing really going on there and I was far away from Munich. Fortunately, I was lucky with my neighbours. To them, making music all day was no problem at all. I was already having some analogue synths and drum machines and so I’ve jammed a lot in my free time there. I was able to finish another digital EP on Ilian Tape called ‘Belmont High’ in 2012.
Right after that Ilian Tape stopped doing the digital-only releases and so I was trying to maybe get a vinyl record on Ilian Tape, too. I can definitely say that I wanted it so bad that I got stuck and tensed. I was feeling pretty lost with my music and that feeling lead to frustration, desperation and disaffection. That may sound too harsh, but being such a big fan of the label itself, the Ilian sound and the people behind it, I wanted to take part of it on a bigger scale. I was craving for this relief of seeing my name on an Ilian Tape vinyl record. Unfortunately, it never happened. Only when I looked back at it some years later, I understood it better, what has happened. It was a lesson for life, but it was a good lesson that an artist might need.
LC:When did you get to release finally something on vinyl?
Farron: In these past years due to networking in the music industry I was able to make several new connections. I was able to release my first vinyl record on the label ‘Woods N Bass Records’ run by a Columbian friend, that was followed by a record on the label ‘Out-Er Recordings’ with the help of another friend of mine. Right after that I released a record on the label ‘Baud Music’ which was my last record under the old moniker ‘LaChriz’.
LC: And by now, your artist name is ‘Farron’ and you are a label owner yourself. How did you get to this point?
Farron: I’ve started thinking about having my own label already two years before I really started doing it. At first, I had only some few ideas that popped into my mind here and there. And all these ideas and thoughts about it got more and more intense during those two years. I’ve had several nights laying in my bed for hours, brainstorming about it if I should really make that step. I was intimidated by it and I was also asking myself a lot of things: Do I have the time and energy to do it? Is the time right for it? Will I be able to handle it? Do I have enough knowledge to do it? Do I have the money to do it? And how shall I even start with it?
In the end, I came to the conclusion that all these questions will never stop. If I keep on thinking about risks and not doing anything, I will never get to know the answers to these questions and they will just keep circling around in my head. I wanted to create a platform for my own music, but also for the music of other artists who come close to my ideas and my musical vision. Driven by the desire to get more independent, things started to become more specific.
LC:How did you come up with the label name? Why did you need a new alias?
Farron: One of my biggest influences are old martial arts movies. Especially the ones that got produced by the company called ‘Shaw Brothers’. I simply love that kind of stuff! That influence became the main concept and aesthetic to my label. The reference on these movies and the company behind them can be found in my label’s artworks, press texts, the titles of the records, the logo and label name itself and also in the music and sound aesthetic.
While getting deeper into planning the label, I felt like I needed some more changes and so my moniker ‘Farron’ was born, too. I wasn’t happy with my older name anymore and it generally made sense to change it. ‘Farron’ has no deeper meaning. It’s just a name I was coming up and I thought that it suited better to the ‘breaky’ sound that I was getting more and more into.
Some years before I started setting up my own label, I used to work for a big studio in Munich where I was responsible for the quality control of DVD- and Audio-productions. There was this project together with a famous energy drink company for a DVD production of their X-Alps event series contest and one contender taking part was a guy called Pawel Faron. I think I had to watch the DVD 10 times and always thought that his name was dope, every time he appeared on screen. Maybe my brain got branded and maybe that somehow influenced me several years later regarding my new moniker.
Farron: The first release on Shaw Cuts was by me with the tracks ‘Equinox’ and ‘Apo-G’. Jonas Kopp was down to remix the A1, but I wasn’t expecting that he would send me 2 different versions that both blew my mind. I couldn’t decide which one I liked more and so I had to put both of them on the record. This was in 2015.
LC: Who was the next artist you have chosen to feature on your label?
Farron: I’ve always really liked the music of Kaelan(and I still do). I’ve contacted him, we got to know each other a bit more and he was down for my request of him releasing a record on my label. He immediately sent over several great tracks and ‘The Silent Swordsman’ EP was born. Kalean also works under another moniker, ‘2030‘. Truly great stuff that he makes!
Farron: The third record was again my own tracks, this time with four Farron originals. I’ve decided to do a remix EP of that record right after its release that included reworks by Marco Zenker, Poima, Roger 23 and Simo Cell. I always wanted to see Marco’s name on a Shaw Cuts record and I was more than happy that he was down to take part in this.
Poima is a Russian duo that got my attention several years ago. I was browsing through SoundCloud a bit, got on their profile and really liked what I’ve heard. Especially their Boiler Room live set left me speechless. I’ve contacted the guys and we became friends. They were also running a club called Рабица in Moscow (TA: Rabitza had to close at some point unfortunately) where we were able to organise the first Shaw Cuts label night in April of 2017. Simo Cell, the remixer of my track ‘Par-2’ also was on the line-up at that party and played an absolutely outstanding set there. Simo Cell’s productions are super interesting and fresh and his style of DJ’ing is very special. The fourth remixer was Roger 23, a guy from Saarbrücken who’s music was always very influential to me. After we got to know each other, we had several long conversations on the phone. He is somebody that always had an open ear for me. He’s a special and great person with lots of experience, knowledge and talent.”
LC:What happened next after the first label night?
Farron: I will definitely try to keep things going concerning the label. Plus, it is a nice feeling to be able to support other artists. Things like that let me keep going, too. I’m doing this whole thing all by myself. This is my baby and I would love to see it grow and I’m more than thankful for any support, interest and love for Shaw Cuts.
What I’ve learned in my past few years in the music business is, that often it is better NOT to see it as a business, but more as a passion. It will always stay some sort of business, but you can have your own rules in this cosmos. Maybe because of this principle I took some bad decisions and I’ve also missed some chances regarding my own musical career, but I definitely don’t want money to control everything. All I want is to make music and to play music freely, for people who appreciate it. Because that feeling is priceless.