Aaron Funk (AKA Venetian Snares) has been pushing the boundaries of electronic music ever since 1999, pioneering a particularly complex, manic and surreal style of breakcore that has placed him at the fore front of underground electronica. Aaron told M3 all about weird time signatures, why a sampler is a musical instrument and the death of culture…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Aaron – Hi, I’m Aaron, I make music.
What inspired you to form Venetian Snares? What is your own musical background?
I didn’t really form Venetian Snares as it is just me so I was already formed. I heard music, I heard music that did not exist, I created it.
What was it that initially inspired you to make music in odd numbered time signatures?
Stumbled onto odd time signatures at some point in the early 90s, had been playing around with chopping up and sequencing breakbeats in my music for a while. One day I discovered if I added or took away steps at the end of the bar it sounded really exciting to me. Took away that comfort zone of knowing where the bar begins and ends. Has really stuck with me. I actually have a pretty hard time making a track in 4/4. It doesn’t really come natural to me. I’ll leave that to everyone else to make 4/4 electronic music.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
I always liked vinyl, but I do also enjoy high bit rate, high sample rate wav files. 32/96 files sound fantastic. It’s laughable to me that most people right now are probably listening to music that is worse than CD quality which is not that good to begin with. Get WAV or lossless files, they sound so much better! Seems like no better time than now with digital music downloads to introduce some very high quality music files. For me, I would always prefer to hear something at it’s highest possible audio quality and I hope we start seeing this soon. Should have been commonplace years ago really.
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
Well I can only really speak from my own listening habits and I still enjoy taking something in as an album, how the artist intended it to heard. If I were to guess though, undoubtedly it’s not as it was 10 or 20 years ago. We are living in a really unique time when every piece of current music and every bit of music from the past is available to everyone. With that in mind, of course people will jump all over the place, because there is so much to take in. It’s a bit sad really, I remember as a kid, buying a new album and listening to it over and over, living in it and getting to know it. Discovering new sounds in it, letting it speak what it wanted to speak to me and basking in that. I don’t do that as much as I should anymore, but I still do it. An album is something somebody has put out into the world to be experienced by you, to clue you in to where they are at, allowing you to share in this, allowing you a new perspective. Not listening to something for what it is and what it wants to present to you is a bit disrespectful to music and it’s cheating yourself out of a potentially insightful, amazing experience. It would be like looking at a great painting for 2 seconds, then walking away. You wouldn’t do that! All you would take from that is “there is a painting there.” With music that would translate to “I am hearing a series of sounds, next, I am hearing a series of sounds, cool drop, next” etc.
Recently, there seem to be a large number of bands offering their releases for free via sites like Bandcamp. What do you think of this distribution method, do you think it is a realistic solution to the problem of illegal downloading?
I don’t really see it as solution to illegal downloading or an alternative necessarily. The way I look at it all, digital music is like busking, you know, playing your instrument on a street corner or in the subway. Everyone can hear it, it’s just there to be heard. Now if they like it and want to support it, they can put some money in that person’s hat. That’s all it is really, if you like someone’s music and you’d like them to be able to eat and continue creating it, you buy some of it. It’s that simple! Long gone are the days of having to pay for music in order to hear it, it is a choice.
Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
To me it’s a bit sad as I grew up going to some great record stores that are long gone now. It was the chain stores that killed them. Places like HMV opening up everywhere and stocking underground music and undercutting the independent stores. Wow great, I can find all this incredible music at this one store and it’s cheaper now. Then once those indie stores had gone out of business, they jacked up the prices of all the underground music and then just stopped carrying it all together. Good attempt at destroying subculture under the guise of convenience. What disturbs me these days is I see a company like Apple coming along and doing the same thing. Offering all these really affordable devices where you can store and experience all your music, all your books, films, whatever. To add to that convenience you can buy all your content from them through iTunes. You can get nearly anything off iTunes right now. But what happens when that becomes the only place to get music and literature? Then they could truly have control over culture, what you see and hear. It’s pretty brilliant when you think about it, on their part. It’s nearly an identical model to what the chain stores did to the independent record shops. If you think all that’s behind it is this nice innocent gift of convenience, you are completely passive and naive. Call me old fashioned but a future of iCulture and iInformation scares the shit out of me. So I don’t really see it as the tragic death of the record store, I see it as the beginning of the death of culture.
Did you begin making music with so-called ‘traditional’ instruments, or were you always drawn to electronic based music? Would you consider a sampler to be a musical instrument, a production tool, or something else entirely?
I did start with traditional instruments, piano when I was very young. Grew up at my grandparent’s home and they had an upright piano I plunked away on since before I can remember. Of course a sampler is a musical instrument as well as a production tool. It allows you control over any sound. You can make music out of a toilet and a Zamfir record with a sampler! I think samplers have been considered musical instruments for at least the past 25-30 years or so haven’t they?
What is your take on the current SOPA/ACTA controversy?
I just see it as another attempt to police and control culture. It’s pretty blatantly obvious.
What do you make of contemporary music, are there any interesting new artists that you’ve discovered recently?
Most of the current music I’m listening to is whatever the latest things my friends have made and sent to me.
So I suppose I have been listening to the music of the future because I’m hearing things always before they are released.
I listen to a lot of great stuff! I’m not going to say what because that would be inconsiderate.
Finally, what does the future hold for Venetian Snares?
Hopefully not being murdered for things I’ve said in this interview. I will continue to create music grinning ear to ear as I make it!
I may also play some gigs.