After growing tired of his local metal scene, Rob Tunstall (AKA Rapidax) decided to experiment with more electronic sounds, resulting in a manic cocktail of punk, gabba, metal, speedcore and industrial. M3 asked Rob about free music, the Amen break’s defiance of copyright and his upcoming album on Unrepresented Music…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Rob Tunstall – Hello! My name’s Rob Tunstall, I make music under the name Rapidax and I organise a night in London called Earblender.
What inspired you to start making music? What is your own musical background?
Music has always been in my life, from an early age I was listening to everything from opera to heavy metal (thanks to my parents extensive record collection!), I picked up the clarinet when I was 7 and swapped that for a guitar when I was 11. Blues rock was my first real love, spending hours learning old Hendrix and Zeppelin tunes or just improvising to 12 bar backing tracks. Then Nu-metal came along! This was an exciting time, because I was listening to musicians that were still alive and touring, this meant lots of gigs! From there I progressed onto bands like Slayer/Pantera, then onto Dillinger Escape Plan/Converge. It was around this time that I really got into electronic music through artists like Squarepusher and Aphex Twin, this in turn got me into the rave scene, so I spent a few years hooked on kick drums! Happy hardcore, psy-trance, hardcore techno, anything with four to the floor kicks. After a few years playing around with Cubase & Logic I was starting to crave more than dance music, and so I’ve spent the last few years striving to find artists that don’t stick to sub-genres, and I suppose naturally I now listen to all the above combined!
Why did you decide to make some of your songs available for free download via Soundcloud?
A lot of people these days don’t like to pay to listen to music, this isn’t a moan, just a statement of fact! I see no harm in giving away some music for free, it gives the listener an option to check out your music at no expense. I’m the same as a listener: If Artist X is giving away music for free then I’ll download it, listen to it, if I really like it it goes on my MP3 player and I’ll listen to it wherever I go. If I find I REALLY like it and keep listening to it, I know I want/need more, therefore I’ll go and buy Artist X’s back catalogue! Once at this stage, you’re a fan of Artist X and will go and see them at shows, tell your mates about them – the artist benefits. Sadly, I’m not sure if this would be the case if the artist hadn’t made some music freely available. There’s just too much music out there to buy it all, and so a little taster helps you filter out what’s good and what’s REALLY good!
What benefits and/or disadvantages have you encountered by doing this?
Well I’ve had some feedback from a few people that my tunes were now on ‘playlists’ that they’ve made so that has to be a good thing. I haven’t experienced any problems with it myself. We’re gonna be releasing half of my album for free as well, so people can still get some music, and then they have an option to buy the full album if they like what they hear!
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
Probably CD’s, I guess because I’ve spent most of my life listening to them, but each format has it’s place. Vinyl is the best thing for mixing of course, but I can only do that in one room of my house, and I like to listen to music everywhere! Most of the music I listen to now is in MP3 format, I try and get CD’s when I can but even then I just stick them on the computer and then play them from there or put them on my portable MP3 player. I like to have the artwork of a release but again, these days that can consist of a JPEG that you download with the music. I also listen to a lot of music on YouTube, which gives you the option of virtually any song/album to suit your mood at the click of a button. Each person will have a different answer to this question that’s personal to them, and there is no right answer, as long as the music reaches your ears!
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?
I used to absolutely love going music shopping! Going into a store with the intention of having a ‘quick browse’ and then coming out 2 hours later with £50 worth of CDs! Then you’d stick one album on your Discman for the journey home, and then you’d have an evening spent with new music and normally a new favourite band! That is an experience that I’m sure is now lost to us forever and yes it is a real shame. But I think it’s also important to look at what we’re gaining – teenagers will grow up hanging around each others houses playing each other new music that is instantly available, watching live videos of unsigned bands and contributing to an online community where people can talk about music. Those are things I never had when I grew up, so whilst I think it’s a shame that future generations won’t share my experiences, they have an even more ways to discover what’s out there.
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, and this is something that saddens me. I think you can get more from an artist that is writing an ‘album’. Otherwise it’s just a collection of singles or dance floor fillers. When considering an album, I would expect to hear a range of different music, some fast bits, slow bits, epic bits, frantic bits, weird bits etc. But it seems that a lot of todays audiences only want to hear one sound from an artist, otherwise they’d be ‘changing their sound’. The way I see it, I like to hear an artist surprise me as often as possible and keep me guessing, which you’ll generally get with an album that was made to be listened to start to finish.
Do you think the digital age has rendered traditional concepts of copyright obsolete, or do you think they are still relevant?
In many ways yes, but then, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I doubt The Winstons have seen a penny of the money made from the ‘Amen’ break, but without it, jungle music in it’s current form wouldn’t exist. It’s no different to a rhythm & blues band in the 30’s playing all their songs in a 12 bar format, each using each others ideas but making it their own. Or a covers band that plays in pubs on the weekend and gets paid for playing other people tunes.
What would you say are the main challenges facing an up-and-coming musician/band in today’s cultural climate?
I reckon the biggest problem is that everyone seems to want one trick pony’s. If a band like, say The Killers, are really successful, then your band will only get mainstream recognition if you sound like The Killers. Or if you’re in a metal band, you’ll only get picked up if you sound like Trivium, and it seems to be that way in the majority of sub-genres/scenes, people are generally making music that sounds like something else because that’s the only way you’ll get any recognition. If you sound completely unique then you’re playing to a very small audience, which means that fans of truly original music have less events to go to and a virtually impossible hope of ever making music full-time.
Finally, what does the future hold for Rapidax?
Well I’ve spent the last few months recording, so I’m just looking forward to gigging as much as possible. My debut album is out on Unrepresented Music on September 19th, got some European gigs coming up. Will just be nice to make noise on large stacks wherever I can! Thanks for the questions!