Today's electronic artists do much more that just spin at clubs. Chicago based Rob Bordignon is no exception to this. When he's not performing on an electronic/acoustic hybrid drum set with Chicago based Win and Woo, he's DJing with with his own group Casual DJs, and when he's not DJing he's performing on his own. Thanks to today's powerful and portable laptop based music tech, a DJ can do much more than just spin records in a single set on a single rig. We sit down with Rob to talk electronic music, youth culture and the future of audio.
1. How did you get your start in electronic music?
RB: 2010 was when I first started listening to electronic music. Sampling was what really drew me in. I was really excited by artists who would use bits and pieces of old songs and rearrange them to create something totally new and fresh. After a little research (shout out internet) I pirated my first bit of DJ software, picked up a 50$ DJ controller and started laying a cappella tracks over songs in the same key. I'd spend hours finding the perfect place to blend songs and before I knew it, I was stringing together 40 minutes of live mashup sets. From that point on I moved into the college bar DJ scene and eventually onto Chicago.
2. Your first foray into music was as a drummer. Can you describe the influence percussion has in your relationship to music making?
RB: My experience as a drummer serves as the foundation for any music I write. I start writing most music with just a simple piano or guitar. Once I find a few chords I like I'll sometimes spend hours playing different rhythms until I settle into something. My background as a drummer forces me to experiment with many different rhythms before I can be happy with a chord progression.
3. Tell us a bit about the Chicago music scene?
RB: My introduction to the Chicago music scene was more on the DJ side of the spectrum and only recently have I moved over to what I would describe a music "scene." As far as DJs go, I'd say about 75% of the scene is married to promotion. By that I mean most of the big clubs are more concerned with headcount than tunes. That being said, there are definitely some venues that really understand the power of a talented DJ. That side of the scene, I love.
Lately I've been spending less time playing in clubs and more time in studios. This has introduced me to new people in the musician/live performance scene, most of whom have been super inspiring and supportive. I can honestly say the Chicago's music scene is home to some of the most talented and driven musicians in the country.
4. Why do you think electronic music is so popular today?
RB: Two major reasons why Electronic music has grown to where it is today:
1. The explosion of unique sounds. The pallet of sounds achievable by all of these hardware and software synths is just incredible. Most people are used to hearing songs performed by some combination of guitars, keys and drums. Then when they hear electronic artists like Gramatik or Skrillex, they get excited because they've never heard anything like it before.
2. Its accessibility. Nowadays nearly every kid has their own personal computer and that's really all you need to get started producing and uploading your own electronic music. Couple that with the fact that most of these kids spend hours on the internet every day and you've got a large population of people creating, sharing and listening to electronic music!
5. Why do you think electronic music is the “youth culture” genre?
RB: It has a lot to do with how closely "youth culture" is tied to technology. This explosion of electronic music we've seen over the last few years has sort of piggy backed off the rise of personal computers and smart devices. We're just starting to see the emergence of young musicians who, instead of picking up guitars, are expressing themselves using software instruments in a DAW.
6. Where do you see electronic music in 10 years?
RB: To be honest, I don't think it will be very popular in 10 years. I think clubs will always have techno and Rap will always have the big 808 subs. But I think electronic music will fall in and out of mainstream popularity throughout the course of my generation's lifetime.
7. How much do your shows sound like the music you release online? Do audiences demand an identical mix?
RB: The music I play live sounds a lot like what I release online and yes, audiences demand/expect it to sound that way. It actually has become one of our biggest challenges, taking the music we've produced and breaking it back down into the samples/instruments so that it can be easily played back in a live setting. Not to mention it needs to be packaged in a way that allows us to improvise on and perform off of.
8. Do you think live electronic performances could be better?
RB: Yes, I absolutely do. I would love to see more electronic artists turn the quantize off and play their instruments along with a live drummer. I would also like to see more improvisation in live electronic performances.
9. In the last few years we’ve seen more attention being payed to binaural, ambisonics, HRTFs and head tracking playback thanks to Virtual Reality. What are your thoughts on this new space?
RB: I think it's a really exciting area and that integrating it into our everyday electronics is long overdue. I think it's a matter of time before personal electronic devices support a more immersive audio experience. Additionally, I think that the newly announced iPhone's lack of headphone jack is a step in the right direction for binaural. Wearable tech is no longer a just an option for those who want to listen to music off of their personal phone. iPhone users will have no choice but to use Bluetooth headphones and that will open them up to a whole world of innovative products.
10. Do you think these immersive audio formats have a place in modern music? What about electronic music?
RB: They absolutely do. The electronic music community seems to embrace any and every new immersive audio creation. Over the last few years I've seen a sharp rise in the popularity of Silent Discos, which are little tents set up at music festivals where everyone has a pair of noise canceling headphones tuned into a live DJ. I've also seen quite a few of those subwoofer backpacks that add an additional physical element to the low end bass. I'm excited to see how we will experience electronic music over the next 10 years.
A big thanks to Rob Bordignon for this opportunity to learn more about electronic music and the future of DJing. Make sure to check out his soundcloud and follow Win and Woo to keep up with their latest work!
From One Ear To Another,
Hooke Founder and CEO