Amon Tobin on the perks of technology and why all electronic music is called dubstep these days
What do you think of American dubstep?
It's kind of its own thing. It has grown into huge proportions over the years, and more power to these producers out here making the scene for it. I don't have any thoughts for or against it; I just see it as something that is different. I guess the only unfortunate thing is I feel like all electronic music with bass is just called dubstep to the majority of people. I have heard of drum-and-bass DJs coming to the States and being billed as fast dubstep. It's become this generic term for music, which is crazy to me. In the end, the way people define and talk about music is always different than what producers think about
(when they're) making stuff. You don't have much control overt that; journalists coin phrases. I find there is too much focus on that. I listen to music and I make music, so I don't care what people call something. It's remarkable that all music is called dubstep nowadays. I released Two Fingers and people called it dubstep. I guess it's systematic of it becoming such a big thing, with stadium-style DJ shows. It's inevitable that things will get lost in translation.
I'm definitely guilty of coining phrases or using such terms since I am a journalist, but how else do people research??
I don't know how imporant it is to be accurate, but people get really hung up on [phrases] and have endless debates about sub-categories. Guys love to talk about technicality and genres and what qualifies this and that, and it's this kind of trainspotter mentality, especially in the electronic realm. Nerds like to get into recollecting and reflecting.
How do you view the whole thing?
I've been doing this for fifteen years, and I've seen so many mutations of genres come and go. Even when drum-and-bass was rearing its head for the first time, it was the same thing. People would say, "It's not drum-and-bass; it's jungle. It's not tech-step; it's dark step...step step step." You'd be surprised about the producers who don't care, and they don't even know what a journalist will call it. It doesn't matter. They just make music they feel. The only thing I do feel is that it's a little bit bland when everything gets called one thing. Even the idea that electronic music is dance music -- that's kind of a bit destructive to think of an entire school of music shoehorned into one thing.
The way I look at electronic music is that it really originated with (Marcellus) Schiffer, Pierre Henri, (Karlheinz) Stockhausen, and people who really experimented with sound and electricity into music. It was research-based at some point, and had nothing to do with raves and dancing and clubs.
How do you talk about music, then, to avoid coining phrases?
When I talk about electronic music, I think about this kind of spirit of exploration and experimentation, so dance music is a very small part of electronic music. It's a segment, you know? It kind of depends on how you approach the whole subject. Dance music is a subgenre of electronic music, and dubstep is a subgenre of electronic dance music, so I guess I am kind of an uber-nerd. I wouldn't expect everyone else to see it like that.
Where are you looking for inspiration in your experimentation?
The vital thing that's the stongest in electronic music is to try and discover something. It's always been this kind of music where you can do something new because it's technology-driven. Technology is always changing and making things possible that weren't years ago. It has this thing where you can make new sounds and make something that people haven't heard before. That is really exciting -- very much so.
My whole career has been driven by trying to discover what and how music works and how sound works and how I can push things further than where they were before. ISAM, as a record, was a real important moment for me because after years of dabbling and researching, I did find some elements that really hadn't been tried before, and there were a lot of production techniques that hadn't been explored before -- and ways of making sounds and music. That was exciting to me, so that's kind of what motivates me: the curiosity of the world, and sound and what's possible.
Any final thoughts about the NYE show?
I hope people come down and have a good time. There is nothing too acedemic going on: It's a New Year's Eve party.