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Compilation Artist

cyberneticOhm is a technological performing arts + modular synth electronica collective.

Cybernetic Ohm

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How did you get into electronic music? Where did it all begin?

Growing up in the UK in the 70's mainstream music of the time was of no interest to me, I certainly back then knew I was more interested in the obscure. During that time my best friend's mother was a regular at the Twisted Wheel (Manchester) and the Wigan Casino, two legendary Northern Soul venues during the 60's and 70's. She had a record collection at home and we had access to it along with an old belt drive turntable. As young boys we would spend hours listening to Atlantic, Stax, Motown and obscure Northern Soul records. I fell deep into the Northern Soul scene and longed for the day I was old enough to actually attend a proper Northern Soul allnighter.

Later in the seventies the punk thing exploded and its anti-social ideology grabbed my attention as well as the music but alas the scene faded away as quickly as it arrived and was replaced by the Modern Romantic era. I can clearly remember listening to Gary Newman and Kraftwork 7" singles I would buy and was fascinated by the sound of the music. It wasn't being played on a contemporary instrument as I knew, it was being played on a synthesiser. That was the sound of the future and I wanted to be a part of it.

The 80's had arrived and I finally began attending Northern Soul all-nighters as I had longed for. I would be dancing from 11pm until 8am on the friday night, sleep and then repeat again on the saturday night. This really was my life for the next 20 years.

Around 1986 two things happened that would change not only myself but the world as I knew it. At many of the Northern Soul gigs I would attend they would have two rooms known as the "oldies" room (soul from the 1960's) and the "newies" room (modern soul, funk and disco from the 1970's). I was always an attendee of the oldies room but would occasionally stick my head in the "newies" room. One weekend I was attending an all nighter at the Brandford Queens Hall and had gone downstairs to the "newies" room and blasting out of the speakers was a sound I knew but a musical genre I did not know, Chicago House had arrived! Perfectly timed that weekend a new drug had also arrived and we all had access to it. The Northern Soul scene was fuelled by amphetamines to keep you up and keep you dancing. This new drug was Ecstasy. I had found my nirvana.

The 1990's brought with it the UK Acid house scene, The Stonehenge festivals and its sad demise with "The Battle of Beanfield". I hi-jacked the traveller scene and became a part of the whole movement. Travelling the length and breadth of the UK attending illegal acid house parties being run by the likes of Spiral Tribe, DIY and Hecati. This would bring about new laws and police powers (The Criminal Justice Bill) after the legendary Castlemorton free festival that I attended.

The new law basically put an end to illegal outdoor parties and pushed the scene indoors. Club culture was born and I was there. I began to DJ, run my own club nights, built a recording studio and began writing my own music specifically designed for the scene and for the drugs being used. It was of course electronic.

Is there one piece of gear that was a real turning point for you?

My first computer, an Atari 1040ST and my first sampler, an AKAI CD3000i both of which I still own. The computer had 1MB of RAM and 196KB of ROM and I could save my files to a 1.2MB floppy disk drive but it had MIDI, rock solid MIDI and with that I could get my synths, drum machines and sampler to talk to each other. I would run version 1 of a new program called Cubase which I would have to load off the floppy. The AKAI CD3000i had 2MB of RAM and I spent a small fortune upgrading it to a massive 32MB. With this humble set up I scored my first record contract having been spotted by Simon Dunmore (Defected) then working as A&R for AMPM records.

Is there a particular instrument or sound source you find yourself drawn to?

I do still love the TB303, it has played such a huge role in my life. Nowadays it's the Modular Synth which I work 100% with. My current setup is much simpler than the old days, just my modular system and the computer.

What does your creative process look like? Are there particular techniques that help your process?

My creative process is just experimentation and learning new techniques on the modular. When I create something I like the sound of I hit the record and then begin to develop the idea further. At various points in my life I have had writers block but with the modular I've never suffered this and find it an endless source of inspiration. In my quest to write music from the future (for the underground) I do actively explore odd time signatures and try to break away from constraints like traditional musical scales. I also try to hand over control to the system and be able step back to listen in wonderment as the system generativity controls itself. I do sometimes like to actively pursue a sound that will emotionally make one feel uncomfortable. If the listener feels something even if it's discomfort then it's done its job. Finally I do like to write songs that will take you on a trip (in your head).

Where do you usually start when creating a new piece?

A couple of strong coffees, light some Nag Shampa, shower, pour a large glass of single malt, turn on the modular system and wait for the oscillators to warm up while sipping whisky. A moment of contemplation before the noise begins.

Do you find that other creative pursuits influence your music?

I do paint canvas with acrylics, play with visuals via MODUL8/MADMAPPER and of course listen to other artists' music. Living life on the peripherals of society is probably the biggest influence on my music.

Do you perform live? How do you translate your music into a live performance?

I have performed live with various bands I've been in (I used to be a Bass player). I also spent 20 years performing as a DJ although back in the day it wasn't really a performance as it sadly is today. I've not yet performed live as a modular synth artist and maybe one day I might.

What is the source of inspiration for your latest work?

Latest work would be "the book of dEON”. Inspiration for this is The book of Enoch and the world pandemic (conspiracy?) experiment we are all a part of. As for the name dEON, that’s the name of our main modular system. Have you read the book yet?

Do you think the town you live (Auckland) in has an influence on your sound or process?

Definitely no in Auckland. When I lived in London it was a definite yes, I'd write music as a soundtrack to the gritty area I lived in.

What is the strangest or most surprising instrument you have used?

The modular synth. It never ceases to surprise me and it is quite strange when the circuits create their own existence and come alive. Sometimes I can feel it breathing, the machine has come alive. A lot of my music can sound LoFi or noisy which I like to exploit as it's the sound of the beast breathing. It's funny to think that when the digital music revolution happened we all would strive for a perfect, clean sound but quickly learned it was sterile. Now if it dont have crackle, noise and distortion it ain't music!

Who do you see as your biggest influence?

Leftfield. Massive Attack. Otis Redding.

What records caught your attention early on and influenced your direction?

I've been a huge vinyl collector all my life and my collection still resides back in the UK. The records I'd buy or promos (handed out like sweets from all the record labels I'd work with during my DJ days) that really influenced me to where I am now would be the American cellophane shrink wrapped imports from Chicago, New York and Detroit. They were the sound of the underground and I still have that mentality to this day. If I had to choose one record I own that Influenced me the most It would be Kraftwork "The model" (12").

Recommend one artist for people to check out (other than yourself of course)

On a modular tip it would have to be Caterina Barbieri. Minimal, Modular and very pure.