TERJE ASKS SMART PEOPLE STUPID QUESTIONS VOL 2: MORGAN GEIST (ENVIRON / METRO AREA)

Written by Todd Terje on November 3, 2011

TERJE:
Hi Morgan. Let us embrace the nerd in us. First of all, what kind of program or hardware do you use to produce music?

MG:
I use a combination of sequencers and Digital Performer. I don’t want to endorse Digital Performer because it’s a total pain in the ass. It’s a piece of shit in many, many ways and MOTU made some moronic decisions as they “evolved” it, sort of like how American car manufacturers used to change completely unnecessary things with each model year just so they’d have something to advertise. I just have been using it in one form or another since 1991, so it’s habit.

TERJE:
When I think of Environ, I think of old analogue synthesizers and drum machines, I guess you use quite a lot of the real stuff?

MG:
Yep.

TERJE:
Long live recordings or short cut´n´paste samples?

MG:
If I had to choose one, I’d say long live recordings – of course, these can be long recordings of short cut-n-paste samples! Like how I did that? There’s something nice about a drum machine or sampler running as opposed to retriggering an event (like a sample or soundbite) in today’s high-resolution software. I used to think samplers just played events but, maybe because of the inherent shit resolution of MIDI, sometimes there’s a little slop that can either suck or be charming. When nice, it adds a tiny bit of imperfection that keeps us from falling into a deep Abletonian sleep. I guess I’m thinking of sampling drum machines like the SP12. Mostly, MIDI sucks and enhances nothing.

TERJE:
Do you prefer to sync everything for a multitrack recording, or do you just insert every part into your project without necessarily everything being in time?

MG:
If you use tape, I guess you have to get it right beforehand. I’ve also found over the years that there is no substitute for just getting things right going in, and that includes timing, especially if you’re using a live player, singer, or non-recallable instrument or signal path. It’s far easier to capture a nice performance than have to futz around with everything later.

For better or worse, I record with a computer, not tape, so to answer your question: it depends on the song. It also depends on the quality of the sync available. Syncs can differ radically in quality – if you don’t believe me, try triggering from audio or analog versus MIDI. The main thing is to use your ears and your body’s response to the music. Electronic musicians in particular have a bad habit of relying on technology instead of their ears, or not paying enough attention to whether a groove (or pitch, or phase) is making their body tense because it’s off. Today, you can slide shit around in time in your computer, and I do this all the time. But it can mess things up, too, so save often if you’re not sure about what you’re doing.

If you REALLY don’t know what you’re doing, there’s always Ableton and thousands of people who like dancing to the sound of quantized dripping.

TERJE:
Ok. I´ve read somewhere that the 808 rhythms aren´t 100% straight, and that this is allegedly part of the magic. Are the “flaws” random or have they been designed to appear in a certain pattern? Could I do the same thing in Cubase just randomizing small errors in the 16ths? Please shed some light, it’s so dark.

MG:
To be honest, I’ve heard that too, but it makes no sense to me, because I’ve accidentally started patterns on step 2 in the 808 and it’ll sound the same as starting it on step 1. If things aren’t “straight,” meaning they swing, that just means every other 16th is slid back or forwards – so the beat should change radically whether you start it on an even or off 16th note. Or maybe my logic is off? My math is probably at the 3rd grade level, and that’s in the Americun Public Skool Systim.

TERJE:
Favourite drum machine?

MG:
Probably the 808, even though I’m sick of it. It’s just our history, you know. I remember the day I found it in New Jersey, maybe 17 years ago. I was nearly crashing my car because I kept turning around to gaze at it in the back seat. I couldn’t believe I had finally found one! And yes, I had lost my virginity by then, so no jokes. And I mean, like, with a girl.

TERJE:
Favourite tracks using the 808? (Mine is perhaps Mark Kamins’ remix of “Love Tempo” by Quando Quango and/or every R.D.Burman acid bollywood track)

MG:
“Love Tempo” is good. There are too many to pick one. I think early hip-hop and “electro”/bass music was pretty big for me. Miami stuff, Techno Hop records, commercial stuff like “Radio” by LL Cool J and even Beastie Boys stuff was important. “Sexual Healing” is great. 808 State. Freestyle! Severed Heads. Everything. God, I even bought an awful Nine Inch Nails record (“Down In It”) because I heard an 808 in the little break. It’s funny, the 808 has made me buy so many records, even ones I didn’t like.

TERJE:
All time favourite synth (stranded on a deserted island choice)?

MG:
Probably the Juno 106, even though I’m sick of it. I’m defining “favorite” by what gets used the most, not by what I want to answer, which is of course the Koshertronics 7D Modular with the custom Trayf Modulator.

TERJE:
You have a Supiter (Roland MKS-80 aka Super Duper Jupiter), is it totally super awesome?

MG:
I’ve been cheating on the 106 with it. I refuse to read manuals and totally find the “Patch” setting unpredictable. The 127-step zippering of the programmer sucks balls. However, the synth sounds really nice. Oh, and I kick it at least once a day because it stops responding to MIDI. A kick always works (seriously – even restarting it doesn’t). I could just fix the DIN jack connecting the programmer to it, but kicking a $2000 synth is fun, plus it’s in a low rack space and I have a bad back. I kick gently.

TERJE:
Why aren’t more girls into synths?

MG:
I don’t know, but it doesn’t concern me in the least ever since I saw this video:

TERJE:
Who should I bother next? I’ve heard you’re sitting on a interview of Patrick Adams? Would LOVE to read that!

MG:
I want you to interview the guy in that video.

 

EPILOGUE (Terje) tried to check the accuracy of a classic 808 beat: Nairobi´s “Soul Makossa”. I recorded a few bars, guessed the tempo to be 118.25 and laid the audio out in Cubase. Screenshots show that the 16ths are never exactly on grid, some are before, some are after. The deviation isn´t much at any point, but it´s there. This was boring, I should´ve done some actual work instead…

16 Responses to “TERJE ASKS SMART PEOPLE STUPID QUESTIONS VOL 2: MORGAN GEIST (ENVIRON / METRO AREA)”

  1. splitradix says:

    That’s not the best way to test 808 beat deviation. That deviation may be due to the tape they recorded on to, or the vinyl rip of that particular copy, or something else.

    You’d be better off recording your own beat directly from an 808 and measuring that.

  2. JimmyJim says:

    Hey, nice interview! I guess the thing with the 808 is that perhaps many people can’t sense the slight deviation from the 16th but some can feel the difference when it is just too perfect. For me that’s the same with software synths, when filters are perhaps too perfect and therefore sounds a bit “colder” than the analog counterpart. I noticed the “too perfect xxx” vs analog xxx thing with tape and vinyl as the recording medium instead of hard disk recording (with a pc or something). The absence of a bit of gentle noise (and crackling too with vinyl) just feels too perfect for me.On the other hand with digital recording and editing you can mold your “imperfect” sound to you likening like nether before.
    But the geek/nerd in me wants a good tape machine anyway ;)
    Dope blog! Please also interview Moritz von Oswald and get him to send me a complete equipment list (91 – present). I know some pieces but I want it all :)
    Thanks!

  3. Todd Terje says:

    You´re right, this was a bit sloppy. But I think it might be a difference between the 808 in master and in slave mode. I f.i. tried to recreate the Nairobi beat, but realized that it was probably originally clocked by a Roland Microcomposer or something anyway. I chose the Nairobi vinyl because I´ve always had problems beatmixing it, hehe.

  4. Aristotle says:

    Yawn…this was pretty borring

  5. Aristotle says:

    But will keep my eye on this page anyway :)

  6. Jesse Merlin says:

    The is rare in that it triggers all notes in parallel, and has no swing. I think the variation people refer to comes from the analog components that make up the ton subtly changing. The voice stealing on faster patches, and all the little imperfections that create the “magic”.

  7. Fol says:

    Hey Bloggingterje, Awesome Blog! Can’t wait to read more!

  8. Maseratti says:

    i have a Koshertronics 7D Modular with the custom Trayf Modulator for sale..mint!

  9. Davy says:

    You should interview San Proper when you are in Amsterdam!

  10. Ben says:

    THANKS TERJE///

  11. eike says:

    “chicks with synths” I like the idea…

  12. NTEIBINT says:

    soul makossa is a pain to beat mix – i’ve almost made a quantized edit of the track :)

    big up on the interview and the website, really curious to listen to your ARP 2600 adventures!

  13. Farley says:

    Very interesting interview, but Morgan take some time out of that studio, you are SO grumpy!

  14. greggy p says:

    mr. terje this is so great!!!!!! keep it up, this info is priceless, luv it luv it luv luv it!!!

  15. Toni says:

    If you guys are interested in the inconsistencies of the 808 clock you should check out David Lackeys site – There’s an analysis of the accuracy of bunch of different machine’s internal timing clocks http://bit.ly/wsAGHA

  16. t-bag says:

    I was wondering what should I eat for dinner, and decided I’ll read this blog. It’s better than badder dinner, people!

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