Etui Podcast #32: Federsen

Etui Podcast #32: Federsen

With his track “Oceanium” San Francisco based sound artist Federsen is giving his debut on Etui Records. His music can also be found on labels such as Telrae, Tiefenrausch, Waehlscheibe or his own vinyl imprint Fifth Interval Recordings. Time for us to have a chat about his analog synthesizers and tape machines.

Do you remember the key moment that got you into house and techno?

I was a teenager in 1989 as acid house and detroit techno hit the shores of the UK which is where I am from. It was a massive cultural musical movement and being right at the centre of it was hugely inspiring. A good friend of mine who was a DJ at the time and very connected to the scene gave me a tape to listen to. It was a demo tape by someone called Derrick May and it took me to another dimension! That combined with the same friend having a great studio with synths and drum machines was my introduction into electronic music.

What is the idea behind you track “Oceanium”? Can you take us through the production process?

I originally wrote this for my live performance with Fluxion in Public Works in San Francisco last year. I wanted to be able to play out a few new tracks live so wrote it for the live performance. I brought it back to the studio and decided to tighten it up for a release. It is based around a simple evolving chord structure and the name reflects the changes in the ebbing and flowing of the chord like an ocean swell as it shifts sonically over time.

I have a a lot of synths and other drum machines that are synced to a super tight midi clock ‘Acme SND’ the heart of my studio. Everything is written and performed with multiple machines working at the same time. I love to use LFO’s on various sounds to allow them to evolve and grow in random directions. Then everything is fed through my SSL desk and into a couple of outboard compressors and I record live dubbing with tape delay, phasing and other FX. I only use the computer at the very end to tighten the arrangement and apply LFO’s and some subtle EQ, FX and compression. I have always found it difficult to sit in front of a computer and write music.

I love being able to walk around my studio as all the machines are running and manipulate and nudge and push each one with live mixing FX on the desk.

Your describe your music as “deep hazy dub influenced techno with vintage tape delays and analog synthesizers”. Tell us about your studio setup.

My studio evolves subtly each year however the centre of the studio is the ACME SND and SSL X desk. The SSL lets me track and sum in and out of my Universal Audio Apollo DA/AD convertors and then into Ableton to record every single machine that is running.

The majority of my music is a combination of samples I make myself from various sound sources. I also spend time with subtractive synth programming and sequencing drum machines and running a lot of Elektron gear all running at the same time but running at slightly different timings to humanize the rhythm. I recently got hold of an old Prophet 5 which has become the main chord synth, It is a truly amazing synth with deep powerful resonance and cutoff frequency for chords. FX are crucial to the process as everything is fed through a chain of FX from old Roland and Korg tape delays to phasers, delay pedals and reverbs etc. I recently got some unique delays from OTO and Polymoon.

From what do you draw your inspirations?

I draw inspiration from living here in the Bay Area, from its beauty and nature to living near the pacific ocean. The drives walks and hikes here are incredible. And then there is the rich diverse culture of SF itself with music art and food.

Musically speaking I’m inspired by an extremely  wide range of musical genres. I do occasionally listen to what is happening in electronic music but really spend much more time appreciating other forms of music from classical to jazz and beyond. Wider listening is a form of musical osmosis for me. My wife Jenny is a classically  trained pianist so I am exposed to a lot of classical. That has inspired me to try to learn to read music and get some more music theory behind me. I’m currently taking lessons to read music with the classical guitar.

Can you name 3 artists that inspires you and why?

As said I have so many influences across a wide range of genres from classical right across to jazz and into Dub. In terms of electronic music producers it would have to be

Moritz Von Oswald

His early basic channel work and especially with Rhythm and Sound had a huge effect on me sonically.  The way in which he was able to control depth, tone, space and effects made me inquire into and push my own sound. I went so see him play live in Gray Area in San Francisco last month and hear him perform with his experimental music and composition performance Akklamation. It was outstanding!

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Rod Modell/Steve Hitchell

Without question a huge influence on my sound. Both as individual producers and as Deepchord and Echospace. There is a depth and tonality to the early and recent productions that are on another level in so many ways. The repetitive rhythmic structures that evolve over time and a kind of atmospheric pressure really draws me deep into the sound space. Gray Area brought Rod Modell across to SF last year as well which was an absolute stunning performance.

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James Marcel Stinson

The biggest influence on my earlier music. His work as Drexciya, Transllusion and especially 

The Other People Place hugely influenced and shaped my early productions. There was a simplicity to the mastery of his productions. He always said he never listened to any other music and his music came right from his soul and it really comes across in his ‘Lifestyles of the Laptop Café’ album.

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San Francisco plays an important role in the history of electronic music. There was Don Buchla and the San Francisco Tape Music Center. Among the first composers to work with the electronic instrument designer was Morton Subotnick. Can you still feel this history in the City?

Absolutely, SF has had a very rich tradition of electronic music. Dave Smith/Sequential  is another local to the area. I have a Prophet 5 and that was developed here in the Bay Area and it is known as the silicon valley of synthesizer. Sequential has its HQ in SF and one of the early team members of the original Prophet is also here and has a repair studio for old Prophets. Then of course there is the VSM (Vintage Synthesizer Museum)  An absolute gem of a place I regularly visit. They have an original  MiniMoog Model D, Korg PS3100, EMS, Korg MS-20, Roland Jupiter 8, a Fairlight, Roland TR-808, Buchla Music Easel, Prophet 5, Oberheim 4-voice and modular synthesizers and many more all under one roof! It’s like a cathedral of synthesis!

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We also have RobotSpeak in SF. A great boutique synth shop that specializes in modular and offers classes in sound design. It’s a small space packed with some gems in analog and modular synthesis.

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Alessandro Cortini & Don Buchla performing “Everything Ends Here” at San Francisco Music Festival 2010
What about the San Francisco music scene nowadays?

The scene itself is also rich with many artists and nights on in the city. Gray Area is a great space for bringing great acts to SF as well as having various workshops and events that explore the boundaries between art and technology.

Do you have any tips to visit in San Francisco? Hidden spots to eat, listen to great music or just watching sunset?

Go to the Vintage synth Museum for sure!  Then you can’t miss the Mission for some Burrito at El Farolito, Pizza in the North Beach and sunsets from the top of Twin Peaks my local hills I regularly climb for the best and highest natural 360 view of SF. And coffee is amazing here. Go to Four Barrels also in the Mission. And the bread and cakes and Tartine are insane but so are the lines and queues! It’s an amazing city with so much on offer for nature and culture. 

I also love when the fog rolls in during the summer months! 

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You are also running your vinyl label Fifth Interval. What is the idea behind the label?

Fifth Interval began back in 2013 as a way to occasionally release my music alongside artist I respect. I haven’t put anything out on it for a while as I have been so busy with other projects and releasing on various labels but I am planning for some 2020 releases on it.

What is the idea behind your mix?

For a long time I have been only vinyl when it comes to mixing as I am an old school vinyl traditionalist. Jenny is also a very talented DJ helped and taught me how to get onto her CDJs for this mix which I absolutely loved working on. For the mix I wanted to play a range of my favorite tracks from 2019-2020.

What can we expect next from you?

I’m really happy to be on the new Winter Camp 5 vinyl and I also have some new releases planned with Grayscale Records. I am also working on other collaborations planned for 2020.

Get it on iTunes.

Tracklist:

Fluxion – Multidirectional (DeepChord Rebuild) – Subway Jpn
Babe Roots – Jah Nuh Dead (forest drive west rmx) – Echocord
Tomas Rubeck – FM1 – Animal Farm Records
Deepcut – Small Hours – Greyscale
Phobos Child – Upwards – Greyscale
STL – Sensimilla – Echocord
Dubonautik – Zelda – Greyscale
Vid – Povestea Ei – Sound of Vast
Ayqix – Ankalli – Greyscale
Delano Smith – The 11th Hour – Sushitech
Fen D’Arioto – Dub Structure (Xdb Remix) – Syncrophone
Deadbeat – Mercy Cage Dub – City Noises
Insect O. – Forest of the Monkeys (Van Bonn Remix) – ETUI
DaRand Land – Souls Awash – Scissor & Thread
DaRand Land – Discover You – Scissor & Thread
Gradient – Harmonic 09 – Greyscale
Grant – Reflection – Duke’s Distribution
Grad_U – A2 – Greyscale

More Information:

V.A. – Etui Winter Camp 5
Federsen artist page
Federsen on facebook
Federsen on instagram
Federsen on soundcloud
Federsen official
San Francisco Tape Music Center

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