London based producer Bass Clef puts a whole new spin on dubstep with his experimental and bass-heavy electronica, in addition to running indie label Magic + Dreams. M3 caught up with the man himself to discuss the digitisation of music, and found out why 3D printers are going to be a total game changer in a few year’s time…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Bass Clef – I perform and record as Bass Clef, plus a couple of side projects and collaborations, plus I run my own very small-scale label Magic + Dreams.
What inspired you to start making music? What is your own musical background?
I started the trombone at age 9 (it still features in my live show today) but discovered drum machines and effects pedals in my teenage years, which led me to where I am today.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
They all have their advantages I think and they are all different! I have the most records I suppose so maybe that’s my favourite – a great combination of sound + presentation. MP3s are extremely convenient, but at lower bitrates I find them unpleasant to hear. Tapes have bad sound too – but they suit certain moods and styles of music. Also you can’t really skip tracks so you listen in a different way – more concentrated, ore involved. With MP3s the temptation is to graze, to shuffle, to skip through. Like junk food or a buffet.
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?
Yes it has, but whether this is a good or bad thing I am not sure! I’m extremely attached to the concept of an album – but is that because of when and how I grew up – or is there something objectively wonderful about a really good set of tracks, 45-60 minutes in length, sequenced well and thoughtfully? Remember, the concept of an album was invented by record companies in the 50’s as a means to sell more product. Many people of a younger generation will now grow up with never having listened to an album – are they missing out? It’s debatable.
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?
Well, speaking as someone who spent a large part of their adult life working in record shops, there’s only really one side of this argument I can get behind…. In certain cities at certain times a record shop can function not only as a business but as a hub for interaction / competition / random collision between different factions of a cities’ musical landscape. This is very exciting when it happens. Also well-curated selections of new music that challenge you because they force you out of your comfort zones are very important – blogs can function in this way too, but it lacks something without face-to-face contact.
Many people have claimed that there is no longer any money in record sales, and that touring is the most efficient way to earn an income as a band. How much truth do you think there is in this sentiment?
For artists at a certain level this is very true – in my personal experience I have made almost no money from record sales. But it also impacts on what gets released in the first place – if you think you can only sell 2-300 copies of a vinyl album, (whereas you could have sold 1k in the pre-download era) then maybe the record won’t get released at all, or only as a CD/download. Sure you can do smaller runs of vinyl these days – but you don’t make any money. If you’re lucky you break even.
Do you think that the abundance of easily available record music online has led many people to view the live experience as the ‘authentic’ way to experience music?
I’ not sure – in dance music there is something similar – on some occasions when I have DJ’ed, and you are playing records. Some audience members are so used to people DJing CDs or from a laptop that they stare at records with wonder and curiosity. It makes you feel like you a making a statement, or you’re some kind of museum curator…when in fact you are just playing records!
Do you think traditional copyright laws are still enforceable in the digital age, or do you think we will have to rethink the concept of copyright itself?
I think we need to rip it up and start again. Not convinced by models of subscription or streaming, but I think the next generation needs to write the new rules, people without significant portions of their lives invested in a record collection. I’m a dinosaur, we need the new breed of mammals to take things forward. Same thing goes for TV and films and now books. When 3D printers take over, then the clothing and electronic equipment industries will be in the same place we are. In 100 years the world will be a completely different place than it is now. Internet and 3D printers will be a bigger change than the industrial revolution. So it seems a little churlish to moan about whether I sell ‘enough’ records or not!
Similarly, do you think that copyright legislation could pose a threat to the creativity of artists who make use of a wide variety of samples within their work?
I think we’ve passed that point now – sure if you’re Kanye West taking a huge obvious part of a song and just using it straight up, you still need lawyers and clearance. At most levels below that, as long as you’re doing something creative with a sample noone will come after you. A lawyer costs far more than any potential amount of money you might make from suing a little recording artist.
What is your take on the recent SOPA/ACTA controversy?
First round of a long drawn out title fight. It’s going to get very messy and tied in to the whole Anonymous / occupy / 99% battles to come.
What do you personally believe the future of music distribution will look like?
Completely changed. Probably by some very simple bit of software / hardware that we can’t yet imagine. Also with a totally separate but strong movement of ‘luddites’, punting out vinyl (with no digital release) to a hardcore of physical fans.
Finally, what does the future hold for Bass Clef?
I hope I get to release more records and carry on playing live shows in nice places until I get too old to do it anymore :)