Name: Rick Wade
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current Release: Rick Wade's "Techcreep" with remixes from Christian Burkhardt, Jay Tripwire, J Gabriel & Silent Revolt will be out on 3rd April on Moteur Ville Musique.
Recommendations: That’s a tough one so I’ll default to anime. Your readers should check out “Death Note” (the actual anime, stay away from any live action adaptations) and “Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood”. Your readers will thank you later.
Website / Contact: If you enjoyed this interview with Rick Wade, visit his facebook account to stay up to date with new releases and current tour dates.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started off as a hip-hop producer back in the late 80’s (’88-’89), making hip-hop beats for various local rappers. Then, in the early 90’s I started making Ghetto-Tech (we called it “Bass” back in those days.) Back in those days, I was playing both; House and Ghetto-Tech. Ghetto-Tech in the clubs and raves; House in radio mix-shows. One day I was putting together a set for one of my House mix-shows, and I literally didn’t have any new music that I wanted to play. It was at that point I decided to start making House music. Not to sell or put out, but just so I would have some new music that I would enjoy playing every week. That was around spring of ’93.
I was always into music, even as a young child. I remember watching those old 70’s police and action shows with my Dad, and I simply loved the soundtracks. My Dad would just be smiling and laughing, having a great time watching those shows, and I think that’s what solidified my love of disco style jazz tunes and the Fender Rhodes. Also, I grew up in a small country town, not too far from Chicago so we would get all the Chicago radio and T.V. stations, and everyday I would sit with my Mom’s old transistor radio listening to the mix-shows on WBMX and WGCI. Those deep and disco tracks those two stations played were literally music-to-my-ears! LOL!
Fast forward a few years to the mid-late ‘80’s and House music began to take over the mix-shows, and I instantly fell in love with it. Growing up in the country, unless you liked sitting around bonfires drinking warm beer, or hanging out at the park drinking Wild Irish Rose, there was literally nothing to do. Downtown Chicago was only about an hour and a half away, but I was too young to enter any nightclubs, and I wasn’t the most popular kid growing up; considered a “nerd” (it was a pretty lonely time) so I would sit alone in front of my stereo system with the headphones on, listening to and recording all the weekend mix-shows. Let me just say, if it wasn’t for those mix-shows, I would’ve probably gone insane!
Late one Friday night, around 1:30’ish in the morning, while listening to a mix-show, “Never No More Lonely” by Fingers Inc. (Larry Heard) came over the airwaves. My God, up until that point, I had never heard such a beautiful track. Everything about it - the melody, the words - just resonated with me. That track felt like a close friend talking to me. It was truly a life-changing experience. It was at that moment, I decided that I want to be a mix-show DJ and produce music that would resonate with people, and elicit the same sense of joy and companionship that I was experiencing whenever I listened to those Chicago mix-shows.
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 relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
For me it wasn’t so much about copying the tangible elements of other productions, as it was about trying to re-create the feeling that those productions elicited in me.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Since I was already DJ’ing and had been working at Record Time for a few years, I was very familiar with how most tracks were arranged so I never really had any issues composition-wise. However, in the old days I had an analogue studio, and in the beginning it was very hard for me to wrap my head around the concept of Midi and how to get all the gear to work together the way I wanted. Fortunately, Dan Bell came over to my place one evening and hooked all my gear up for me and gave me a crash course on Midi production.
These days I make all my tracks on the computer and the only piece of analogue gear I still occasionally use is my Korg T-3 keyboard for the strings and Rhodes sounds.
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 an analogue studio which consisted of the following pieces of gear: KorgT-3 keyboard, Juno-106, R-8 drum machine w/808 & 909 cards, Roland S-750 sampler, Akai S-01 sampler, Vintage Keys sound module, Sonic Maximizer module, Mackie 24 channel mixing console, and an Alesis MMT8 sequencer. I moved to producing on the computer, in no small part, due to the influence of Mike Huckaby.
Huck was an early adopter of using technology to make tracks, and he was always telling me about how much simpler it is, especially when it came to sampling old disco records. He came over to my place one evening with his laptop and showed me, start to finish, how he uses the computer to make tracks. At that point, I was a believer! I eventually ended up selling off my gear, but I kept the Korg T-3 because I love its strings and Rhodes sounds.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Technology is a tool, and if that tool makes it easier for me to take my ideas from concept to creation, then I think it’s a useful tool.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
For myself, the tools I use are just a means to an end. I have ideas that I want to manifest into reality, and software, gear, sample packs, whatever, are simply instruments of manifestation. Nothing more, nothing less.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I’m not so keen on collaborations in the traditional sense, as I like to create alone. However, in the old days, Huck (Mike Huckaby), Theo (Theo Parrish), and myself would always play our latest productions for one another. We’d gauge each other’s responses and listen to one another’s feedback and suggestions. However, it was the nonverbal feedback that was most important. If you put on a track, and a head started noddin’ (especially Huck, he was hard to impress! LOL!) then you knew that you had something special on your hands.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
By day I’m an Instructional Systems Designer, so most days I’m at the office. In the evenings I come home and spend time with the kids, then once they’re put to bed, I hop on the computer and just start making music (or artwork) as this is a way for me to decompress and shake-off the stress and strife of the daily grind.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
Hmmm … That’s an interesting question. Initially when I first started making House tracks, it was to create something that would make the listener feel a certain way. As time went on, the process evolved to more of a catharsis, meaning, if I was feeling a certain way, I would create a track attempting to imbue the track with the emotions I was feeling at that time.
A perfect example of this is a track I made called “Grimm.” I was in a bad marriage at that time, going through an emotional hell. After a typical night of madness, I went down into the studio, fired up the T-3, pulled up the Rhodes patch, and just started playing. By the time I was finished, all the frustration and anger I had been feeling was gone, and to this day, I can still “hear” those emotions whenever I listen to that track.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Whenever I create a track it’s with the purpose of either creating an emotion (happiness, nostalgia, etc.) or transference of an emotional state (usually frustration, sadness, or anger). That said, regardless of intent, I approach the creative process the same way. I simply try to become “one” (sounds cheesy, I know) with the music, getting lost in the melody and letting it guide my thought/creative process. That’s why a lot of my productions are more like grooves as opposed to full on “tracks” because for me, the most important part of a track is the groove or melody. The groove is the part I like the best, it’s the element of a track that resonates the most with me. It’s that element that makes me feel a certain way.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
I don’t actually “write” music. I can’t read or write musical notes, have no concept of music theory or anything like that. LOL! I didn’t even know that most of my music consists of “minor” chords, until a couple of years ago, one of my sons asked me, “Daddy, why do you always use minor chords when you make music?” and I was like, “Huh, what are minor chords?” When I make music, I simply start playing something and when I feel it’s done, it’s done.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
When it comes to visual art, I like to create things that I enjoy looking at or find visually appealing. For audio pieces, I create things that I enjoy listening to.
As far as the role my creations play in society at large, I only hope that they can provide some amount of positivity to help counteract all the negativity we’re bombarded with every day.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
I think that one day in the not-so-distant future, people will be able to bring a piece of music into existence simply by thinking about it. For example, you put on some sort of neuro-receptive/translative headgear, think of a melody and the types the of instruments used to play said melody, and the musical piece is instantly created for you.