interview: Brian Redfern - Drum n Bass in LA

Brian Redfern is a musician who lives in LA. He works with Linux to create dance related music. We talk to him ...

related links:
Los Hermanos De Jazz

M station: >What are you up to? Brian: Ok, currently I've released a new cd myself , all original music, created with my drum machine, some acoustic instruments and two pcs running suse. I first started messing with unix as a space scout at nasa's jet propulsion lab in Pasadena. It continued as I studied cognitive anthropology at UC Irvine. At the same time I played with group in the early 90s called Los Hermanos De Jazz, (, where I spent years delving into live improvisation. This background in improv is the foundation I draw upon in the creation of my electronic music, I lay down tracks in broadcast 2000, and I try to create a conversation between the layers, but I also make more stripped down tracks that cd djs could use as tools. > This is beat oriented music? Say a little more about > 'conversations between > the layers' - is this harmonically? rythmically? > (I'll check the spelling later!). > > Other than knowing and liking Unix, was there > anything else that brought you > to making music with Linux? First and formost is the productivity gained with linux. I started out on the mac, then went to windows, but I was always frustrated by the expensive, buggy software. Even though I make my music with beats, since I've been influenced by rap and electro since 1978, I find that linux programs like DAP and broadcast 2000 and Rosegarden, are just indespensible. No software is ever bug free, but at least with linux I don't have to go broke buying upgrades. I want my music to be a proof of concept that even more traditionally produced "beats" or instrumental funky tracks can be done just with a sampler and a cheap linux box. I'm using it to put myself into business as an artist. I'm too poor to afford expensive windows software, so without linux I wouldn't be able to make my music legit, otherwise I'd have to rely on cracked pc software, as lots of people do. >Yeah, it's very cool that broke artists can equip themselves to do >a lot of things on Linux that they might not otherwise be able to do >legally, although I'm not too sure how much people worry about that >kind of thing. >Did you find when you were working out ways to put things together >that you came up with new musical ideas as a result? Well, broadcast2000 transformed the way that I work, with the ability to mix many more channels of audio than I would be able to work with on my same hardware if I were running windows, so with all those extra channels I can mix very deep layers of sound that wouldn't be possible even with cubase vst. Additionally I've been teaching myself csound, so my newest releases will feature a few pieces made with just csound. I think tools like the unofficial csound for linux and Jmax change the way I think about music, as with midi sequencing its a very note-centric view of music, while csound and jmax are all about timbres changing through time and space. I guess I really want to be a "cross over" csound artist, I mean I'd even love to produce a track for Michael Jackson using csound! >What's your musical background? Influences? I studied composition and jazz improv with flautist James Newton at u.c. irvine, and then studied flamenco guitar with Miroslav Tadic at calarts, indian music with Rajeev Taranath at calarts, suling, gamelan, and balinese dance with Nyoman Wenten, african drumming and dance with Kobla Ladzekpo and jazz improv and composition with Wada Leo Smith, also at calarts. So, I'm trying to merge improvisation from jazz and world music with the open-ended possiblities afforded by linux audio and midi software. While at calarts I created an online performance piece called "balibot", with a digital replica of myself that users could run through different balinese warrior dances, which was shown in 1998 at a new media festival at the university of illinois at champlaign. So, for me I'm learning software like blender to generate 3d audio/visual environments. > Are you now mostly assembling sounds from other > sources or are you inputting > them and then tweaking them in various ways? > > How do you find the process of creating interactive > sounds? Do you find it > easy to maintain cohesion while having many > alternatives? I limit myself to using my own acoustic samples, and the world music instruments in my asrxpro, I don't use other people's samples, but when I play live I mix my music with other records, cds and tape. I used to use more midi gear, but I find that too much gear is overwhelming. I like to use a nice drum machine and synth to create original fragments and then re-arrange them with my sampler and jazz++. Ultimately I'm trying to make music that doesn't try to be completely fragmented, but is engaging and makes a person feel uplifted. > Like to run through a track and tell us how you > input and arrange it? Well, what I do is sample instruments, like an irish or balinese flute, or a guitar or voice into my sampler, an asrxpro, which saves the midi and audio as aiff and standard midi, so I can just take the dos formatted zip from my sampler and mount it on the zipdrive on my linux box, and edit the samples with DAP and the midi with jazz++. Then I put the zip disk back into my sampler and load the finished midi and samples, do some onboard tweaking, and then record the whole mix as a single track in broadcast2000. From there I layer tracks of acoustic sound and samples triggered by hand from my sampler. Where I want to go with it, though, is both adding visual to present my music as experimental video soundtrack, and to work more deeply with csound to create my own samples, especially synthetic voices and weird hybrid instrument models. Then I want to release my samples and midi files through open source sample lsicensing, such as the Yellow license, etc... > Do you have places you can show your stuff off? I've got two different sites, and , the vitaminic page is my latest. I've also got my own site at and I'm creating a drum and bass community site at > There's some funky stuff there. For some reason I > never have much > luck at getting tracks from so I missed > those ones. > Is there a big Drum 'n Bass/Jungle scene in LA? I want to go into "funkyness" a bit. When I mentioned my music being a conversation between layers, I get that from my study of traditional Ewe music and also from studying jazz and new music improv with Wadada Leo Smith and Vinnie Golia. > right. We're talking about elaborations on "call and > responce" are we? Yeah, in a way my music is just really traditional, using modern tech to go for a sound grounded in ancient principles. I'm getting away from using, as they're now charging for use, and I'm going to create my own cds at home as I now have a new credit card processor that will take charges from around the world. Most Americans don't care for my music, I get the best reaction from French, and Swedes. That's what got me into Vitaminic, as they let me track what country my visitors are coming from. The dnb scene is decent, but small compared to NYC or even sanfran. There's some great talent here, like DJ CRS? or RAW, who started the scene here. I like it being small, though, its still big enough not to have met everyone in it yet, while the art music scene in la is even smaller, and I know and have even jammed with many people there, like Vinnie Golia and Nels Cline. I'm into the drum and bass now, because there seems to be some room for experimentation there. I really like what Ronnie Size and his crew do, they're extremely diverse in talent, and he basically has a live electronic orchestra that he can come out with, with two bassists, two drummers, and many electronic instruments, he's really spectacular. This is still a big rock oriented town, and other musicians come here from around the world to try to make it in rock, so as a kid my first introduction to electronic music came through early hip-hop music, like Grandmaster Flash, the Fats Boys, Michael Jackson, Herbie Hancock, and Run DMC. USC also has a classical station that I listened to, that had ambient music like brian eno on their long running "Hearts of Space" show. I have super ecletic tastes, I really love all music as a whole. >Thanks a lot Brian.

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