The dub techno artist goes off-piste.
Rod Modell is an artist very firmly associated with a particular style, namely dub techno. Since the late '90s, the Detroit native has mined this murky and atmospheric sound, whether on his own or with Steven Hitchell as Echospace and cv313. Though clearly inspired by Basic Channel and its related projects, Modell has always been committed to moving beyond dub techno's old testament, creating something fresh and modern with each new release. These days Modell is moving faster than ever before. He splits his time between Amsterdam and Detroit, and seems completely uninterested in the past, especially when it comes to his own music. Deepchord's latest album, the almost beatless 20 Electrostatic Soundfields, is his most experimental yet.
On RA.390 we see him at his most unhinged, weaving a strange and dreamlike bricolage that's at once completely new and unmistakably Deepchord.
What have you been up to recently?
Just back to Michigan from Amsterdam. Will be here for a few months, then back to Holland after the holidays. For the past three to four years I've been splitting my time between Amsterdam and Michigan. In the studio lately I've been more obsessed with sound design in lieu of making songs. The sound design aspect seems more important at the moment. I think sound design in electronic music is 25 years behind. Everyone's obsession with old analog synths is perpetuating this. Instead of focusing on up-to-date options, everyone is hoping for yet another incarnation of classic gear from the 1970s synthesizer graveyard. It's retarding music.
How and where was the mix recorded?
Recorded in Michigan with a pair of DJ CD players, DJ mixer and outboard filters / FX.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
Lately, I find myself drifting farther and farther away from techno / dub music in favor of the stuff I liked 15 years ago. I haven't bought a techno record in three years. Around my home, I listen to old 1940s/50s music and field recordings. Electronic music overall seems to be stagnating. I can't remember the last truly innovative record that I've heard. Naturally there may be a few exceptions, but they are (too) few and far between. This mix was done in the midst of rediscovering a few boxes of old CDs that I packed away several years ago. They were boxed up when I moved from my last home to the current one (and I've been here for about nine years). Wasn't anything precontrived, just my top tunes for the moment. Since rediscovering some of these old favorites, it's becoming difficult to return to the current glut of mediocre, formulaic grid music.
You said that your latest album is full of quick "audio sculptures." Could you expand on this?
The music on 20 Electrostatic Soundfields was never made with the intention of having it released. Over the years, I found myself dabbling in video a little, and I made music for these video experiments. This is the music on 20 Electrostatic Soundfields. It's a collection of soundtracks. Generally, they were assembled quickly to fit the video. The dance floor was never a consideration. They are sound designs to infuse the visuals with a particular intended emotional vibe. They feel organic because they are primarily unsequenced. It was liberating to sit in a room with an ultra-basic setup—pair of studio monitors, keyboard, looper, FX unit—and record into a twotrack recorder (Alesis Masterlink). No computer. No multitracking. Total flow-of-consciousness style without overthinking or overdubs. Come up with an idea in my head, practice playing it a few times, then press record and do it for real. Much of 20 Electrostatic was done like this.
The picture disc version of the album features some of your photography. What sort of things do you tend to focus on?
My primary goal with photography is to record a certain space that I like so that I can go back there anytime I want. I've done this since I got my first camera at age five. I hate photographing people or objects. I guess I'm more of a landscape photographer, but not of pretty / pastoral scenes. I'd rather capture dirtier, unusual, or metaphysicallycharged places at 3 AM. Night seems to be a recurring thread in my photography. I rarely photograph during the day. I like the places where tourists rarely venture. I feel most comfortable / relaxed in these places. The tourist areas are generally staged for show and not a true representation of a place's real vibe. Like a movie set. The new picture disc features the Amsterdam red light district (near my apartment) on one side, and the beach next to my house in Michigan on the other. Basically the two places where most of my friends reside, and where I feel most comfortable.
What are you up to next?
Trying to come up with an interesting perspective for new music. I never want to revisit something I've already done. It's pointless and gets an artist stuck in a rut. The whole objective is to progress and develop. It would be easy to make another Coldest Season or Lumin (etc) over and over. No challenge in that. I think it's vital to develop a new algorithm. Every second spent working with an old formula is a second wasted. I recently disconnected my studio and stored some main / favorite pieces, then reassembled things with some old equipment that I feel less comfortable with. We'll see how this affects things. I'm trying to break from the familiar, get out of my comfort zone, and make new music that sounds nothing like Deepchord or Echospace.