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Compilation Artist

Gang Violins make wordless music that speaks to you. Feautres members of Stray Theories and Sora Shima.

Gang Violins

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

Micah: I have been playing music since a young age, also later playing in many bands & music projects. In high school I had the opportunity to experiment with a small school studio/MIDI sequencing setup, which lead to later putting together a small home studio & experimenting with music/audio production.

Jason: Growing up in the 80's I was introduced to electronic music through my dad and his record collection - and I remember being obsessed with Jean-Michel Jarre's Oxygène at a pretty young age. It all just grew from there. In the 90's my brothers and I saved for an Amiga 500 computer, where I experienced my first DAW, the now primitive FastTracker 2. I started making Drum & Bass music at home using FastTracker and bouncing songs through line-out to cassette tape on dad's big stereo in the lounge.

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

Micah: There is not one particular piece of gear that was a turning point, maybe the old Korg X5 I had in my teens that I wrote a lot of tracks with initially, but later there were definitely lots of moments throughout the years where a certain piece of gear (or plugin) inspired a new workflow or new direction.

Jason: My first bass guitar which I got at 13. An ugly old Sammick that had lightning bolt frets! It saw me through multiple metal, hardcore and punk bands in highschool - formative years where I really became interested in creating music.

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

Micah: I am often drawn to guitar or piano/synth as a starting point for writing a track, but overall often I find it is less about a particular instrument and more about how I can manipulate the sounds using effects or layering to create something new that interests me.

Jason: Guitar is definitely where I feel most comfortable being creative and expressing myself.

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

Micah: As Gang Violins, Jason and I often take an initial sketch that either one of us has created, usually, a minimal concept and we use that as the basis for new track, building layers, sharing layers back & forth. We have been working in separate locations this way for a long time and we have found we have been able to identify our sound and build up a lot of material this way.

Jason: I almost never sit down with the mindset that I'm going to create a song. I find that if I do that, it feels forced and unnatural. This method isn't good for timely musical output though, because it means new songs appear very sporadically. Once an initial moment is captured though, anything can happen - it could sit on a drive until I find it again years later, or I could immediately spend a few late nights on it and get a rough structure that I'm happy to share it with Micah. Micah will then bounce it back to me with his layers added in, and we build it from there - at that point it's really taking shape. Vice versa, Micah will share an idea with me and I'll find ways to put my touch on it. I find that ideas Micah sends to me a more fully realised - sometimes I pile in new layers and then remove a lot of them as they're not so needed.

Where do you usually start when creating a new piece?

Micah: Often I start with a simple pad/drone or textural sound, that I use as a basis to build layers or a short guitar or piano chord progression that I will use as a starting point to build an arrangement.

Jason: For me it starts with an ambient piece typically borne from several guitar takes processed at different speeds through reverb and delay into a dense wall of sound - and build on that. Seems counterintuitive because it is usually just a "background" layer, sometimes pushed far back in the final mix, but it's that initial 'soundbed' that always sparks things for me - synth bass and drums generally flow from there. Since we work more in vibe than melody, I think I need that vibe upfront to get me started. I guess the ambient soundscape is the foundation of everything we do, so it's a requirement from the outset. Goosebumps always indicate we're onto something.

Do you find that other creative pursuits influence your music?

Micah: I have always had an interest in Art, Design, Photography although my involvement in music projects & various bands lead me to pursue these further, especially design & video production (creating band posters, video edits & artwork etc).

Jason: Micah and I are both Graphic Designers by day (and night...). For me, there is definitely a relationship, albeit small, creatively between what I do at work and what I do in the studio. Often in a corporate environment, your hands are very tied as a designer - which is actually good because any creativity I have leftover I can simply pour into our music. I also play guitar in a post-rock band, so there's some creative overlap there with Gang Violins too.

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

Micah: When Gang Violins was first formed, it was a live project/collective, playing a handful of live shows, although as time moved on we have kept it as a studio project. I hope that in the near future we will rework some of our material to be able to be performed live and play some shows, I feel like we could easily transfer our more recent tracks to a live format.

Jason: We did start out playing a few live shows early on, and really enjoyed it - but due to the physical distance between Micah and I, it settled into a studio project. We will definitely be looking at doing more live work in future but we need to just get more music out there first.

What is the source of inspiration for your latest work?

Micah: I find myself greatly inspired by the creative process we have, I think Jason & I are on the same wavelength and we can easily bounce off each other & build a track quickly. This is how our latest track evolved.

Jason: We're working on an album right now and the concept is that it's mostly ambient - there'll be very few "beats". We've talked about doing this for quite some time. With some previously released songs, we'd disable the drums and export an "ambient version" for our own enjoyment - and Micah turned it into a great idea: "Why don't we do a whole album of this?".

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

Micah: Yes & No. I will always be inclined to create more minimal sounds, but the quietness/somewhat isolation +natrual beauty of my surroundings (mid South Island) do contribute to the mood as well.

Jason: To be honest, no - not at the city level - but New Zealand itself is so visually epic and surely that helps with getting us in the right frame of mind at the subconscious level.

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

Micah: I am always looking for quirky/odd instruments/sounds that I can sample & use in some way. In the digital realm, all of the VST's created by FreakShow Industries - These plugins are useful, unique & can create some very erratic & interesting sounds.

Jason: You can get some seriously cool drones out of an accordian - I'm not kidding.

Who do you see as your biggest influence?

Micah: I can't think of a single biggest influence, although discovering Brian Eno as a teenager certainly was a significant and later discovering bands/artists like Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, sigur ros.

Jason: For me, for Gang Violins, it would have to be Massive Attack.

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

Micah: I have been inspired & influenced by many different artists, but a few albums that come to mind are: leftfield - leftism, Trentemøller - The Last Resort, brian eno - music for airports, sigur ros (), Hammock - Raising Your Voice Trying to Stop an Echo, Massive Attack - Mezzanine.

Jason: Massive Attack's Mezzanine had a profound effect on me in the 90's, as did My Bloody Valentine's Loveless. But really the one album that shifted my musical direction completely towards epic instrumental music was Mogwai's Come on Die Young - that album is a masterclass in tension and release and it changed my life.

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

Micah: There are so many artists producing amazing work, but one that comes to mind is Ocoeur, beautiful & deep evolving sounds.

Jason: Check out the band Jakob from Napier - I can't find the words to describe how astonishing they are.