Name: Deadbeat / Scott Monteith
Current Release: A Deadbeat remix of Rooteo & Mahura's Mettā is available from Made in Green Records. New Deadbeat Album Wax Poetic For This Our Last Resolve available via BLKRTZ April 27th.
Recommendations: I tend to read books I like over and over again, sometimes cover to cover, sometimes re-reading favourite sections or chapters when they come to mind. Though as bothersome as as portable communication devices have become, having access to your entire library in digital form on your phone or other reading device is absolutely wonderful. One of the new books which will certainly be added to this list is “The Book of Joy” by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. My mother recommended it to me just before we headed out for our family Christmas vacation and it is astounding and beautiful in all ways. Though I grew up Christian I am a devote Atheist, but the universal wisdom shared by these two wonderful old men and the pleasure of listening to them share it with one another (not, mind you, without regular disagreement and rigorous debate) is, as the title suggests, a pure and utter joy regardless of your chosen system of beliefs. In terms of visual art, though most well known for their architecture and design work, I think the 1977 film “Powers of Ten” by Charles and Ray Eames carries just as powerful and poignant a message as it did when it was released 30 years ago. In the grand scheme of things, our actions as individuals are as insignificant to the daily goings of the universe as a whole as the individual rotations of the electrons within the atoms by which we are composed are to us. Framed in that sense of insignificance, the power of music to effect each and every person on the planet equally seems all the more powerful.
Website / Contact: If you enjoyed this interview with Deadbeat / Scott Monteith, check out his facebook page and bandcamp profile for more information.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
My earliest experiences of playing music with others was singing in the church choir as a child. I starting playing bass in bands when I was 15 and moved on to DJing and electronic music a few years later. I've always had a very strong physical reaction to music, whether listening to voices harmonize for the first time in those early choir days or the rich harmonic overtones of amplified bass or synthesizers at high volume in later years. I get goose bumps, my heart rate increases, and subconsciously I think I immediately start looking for ways of making that feeling last for as long as possible. In many ways I guess, that has been my life's pursuit for the last 20 years, and thankfully I've been able to make a reasonably decent living at it along the way.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I think that period of emulation is essential and intrinsically linked to the feeling I described above. We like the music we like because it makes us feel good, or “feel” strongly at any rate. I realize that's a gross oversimplification by a wide margin and makes it sound more like a description of junk sickness out of a Burroughs novel, though the addiction angle may not be far from the truth in some ways. When one starts making music, an essential part of the process is beginning to question why that is. What is it about the music I love that makes me feel these things? While this process inevitably begins with a lot of flailing around in the dark, trying to copy the songs you like as a whole, over time one begins to divide music into it's individual parts, identifying the specific aspects at the root of this strong emotional reaction, and finding methods for emulating them.
No counterfeit is ever perfect however, and with near infinite range of possibility modern music technology affords, decoding how an individual sound was actually made can be a long and frustrating experience, more a kin to the alchemists of old dying slow deaths by mercury poisoning in pursuit of the Philosopher's Stone then the simple process of learning the words and chord changes to an old folk or blues standard. Somehow the results of trying to copy an individual sound, rhythm, or melodic line don't sound quite right. I strongly believe it's in these imperfections however that individual musical voice resides. By embracing the mistakes made during the pure emulation phase, and re-framing them as personal quirks to be celebrated, one slowly but surely begins to develop a personal aesthetic vision and technical methodologies for realizing it. While the vestiges of the music that inspired an individual artist's work may still be there somewhere in the shadows, truly devoted artists ultimately transcend them all and develop a voice and language that is all their own.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
The two greatest challenges remain the same to this day. The first involves those rare moments where a musical idea springs fully formed into consciousness, the proverbial “Eureka!” of Archimedes. The challenge here is to get these ideas out in the pure form in which they initially appear, or as closely to it as humanly possible. These moments are a race against time, very similar to waking up in the night and trying to write down a detailed account of a particularly powerful dream in the dark with a blunt pencil. The clear memory fades with each passing second. Take the time to get up and sharpen the pencil or even reach over to turn on the light and you surrender untold amounts of the vivid detail of the initial vision. I've come to realize that much like dreams, the strongest of these ideas stay with me. There are melodies that I have hummed and rhythms I've subconsciously drummed out on tables with my fingers for years before I ever happened to be sitting in the studio, record button engaged when they decided to come bounding back into my consciousness. The secret is to shut your mind off and get the little bastards out with what ever instruments are at hand when they do.
The second is the polar opposite problem, namely those periods where I don't feel like I have anything to say at all, or worse yet that what ever I do have to say doesn't feel worth saying. In my experience the only way through these periods is through diligent, purposeful, hard work. It's imperative for both my creative process and mental health to find a least a little time each day to shut out all the external concerns of family, finance, and the world at large and simply spend time creating. If I can't make it to the studio, I write down ideas for later. I see my complete body of work as a living, breathing, growing entity, and like all living things it must remain well fed, well exercised, and given plenty of time and space to learn, grow, and dream.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My first studio was quite literally a pair of stolen hifi speakers bought off the back of a truck, and a colossal tower PC with an enormous, blindingly bright low resolution screen running whatever cracked software I could get my hands on. It sat on empty beer cases on the floor of my bedroom, which had particularly good acoustics due to the ever growing piles of dirty laundry that occupied the corners. That I didn't go blind, deaf, or contract any incurable bacterial infections from the number of hours I spent in that room is a minor miracle, though looking back the idea that I wrote the better part of 2 albums and several EPs with that set up astounds me even more. I've bought and sold a fair amount of things over the years. Vintage synthesizers, boutique modular gear, an all tube recording console, guitar pedals, and various other outboard effects. In hindsight I believe most of those purchases were driven more by the insidious affliction of capitalism than any real need. At prosperous times I've spent untold amounts of my hard earned cash on gear with the promise of new inspiration and better sounding results, and convinced myself (at least initially) that whatever new shiny toy I had just purchased provided both those things, only to realize a mere 6 months later that it was entirely superfluous, added virtually nothing to my creative process, and I would have been entirely better off putting that money into rent and food.
The computer remains the heart of my studio and I firmly believe that software based music technology has progressed to the point that you really don't need anything outside of software to achieve entirely professional results. There is one great exception to this, which is of course the recording of real instruments, voices, and the world at large. Microphones and microphone preamps have become an increasingly important part of my studio process, to the point where even sources which begin inside the computer are often re-recorded. There is something magical in this process for me, as if the air between the speakers and the microphone diaphragm imbues the sound with some vestiges of the space and time it was recorded in. Here again though, going out and spending thousands on a vintage mic and preamp is really unnecessary. The same magic can be experienced with what ever tools might be at hand, it's the process that creates the magic, not the tools. Of course said magic is amplified when recording with one or multiple musicians playing instruments. It is always a wonderful experience, and will without fail inspire new ideas that would have never surfaced working alone.
I guess in many ways that's really become all I need. Give me a computer, a decent microphone and preamp, speakers or headphones, and a few MIDI controllers to lay my hands on the software's virtual controls and I can quite happily make music in any studio in the world. Throw in a solar powered generator and I'd be fully desert island ready.