Sunday, December 10, 2006

Gabriel & Dresden in Boston

I just got back from an interesting weekend in Boston. I flew down to see a Gabriel & Dresden show, but also to actually meet them, courtesy of a mutual friend.

For those of you who aren't familiar with electronic music, these two are incredibly talented. Among other things, Dave Dresden is a talent scout for Pete Tong, and was a journalist for DJ Times, Mixer, DMA, and Billboard magazine, where he has done interviews with Paul Oakenfold, Moby, Todd Terry, Sasha & Digweed, Puff Daddy, BT, The Crystal Method, Keoki, Josh Wink, the Chemical Brothers, and Deep Dish. Josh Gabriel was the sound designer for the Oddworld video games, was co-founder of Mixman Technologies (remixing software), did work for for Warner Brothers & Sony Music, and was the mastering engineer on Disney's "Aladdin" soundtrack.

As a duo, the two of them are very highly ranked as DJ's (23rd in the world, to be exact), according to the current standings on www.thedjlist.com. They also have their own record label in San Francisco, called Organized Nature. However, they are probably most well known for their production skills, whether it is individually, as a duo, or in partnerships with other musicians and producers (including releases under the monikers Andain & Motorcyle). For the non-electronica fan, they are probably most well-known recently for "Tracking Treasure Down," which was #1 on Billboard a few months ago, in July of this year. Here's a link to the video for that song on YouTube (the link is visible on my real blog, but not in the Facebook feed):



Aside from that well-known hit, they have a very extensive string of other #1 hits over the past few years, and they've worked directly with or done remixes for a huge variety of well-known artists, including Coldplay, New Order, Tiesto, 4 Strings, Paul Oakenfold, Roger Goode, Sarah MacLaughlan, Jewel, Afrika Bambaataa, Armin van Buuren, The Crystal Method, Dido, Nelly Furtado, Fischerspooner, Groove Armada, Annie Lennox, Britney Spears, Depeche Mode, Madonna, and others.

Anyway, the weekend got off to a bit of a rough start when I forgot to go through my luggage carefully before flying. I've probably taken at least 300 commercial flights before, so I definitely should have known better, but I wasn't really thinking. I have a "travel bag" which is always packed, but the last time I used it was when I was just travelling in Canada. Consequently, when I got to airport security, I had to throw out my shaving cream (because it was in an aerosol can), and my drugs (you'll note that I said drugs, not narcotics). Then, the officer going through my bag asked me if I really expected to be allowed to take a wine opener on the plane. I guess the large pointy metal stabbing tool and sharp knife didn't exactly meet regulations.

I got to Boston pretty early on Friday morning, which led to a new dilemma, since it was 10am and I couldn't check into the hotel until 2pm. I don't normally drink before 5pm (unless it is a continuation of the previous night's festivities) but I thought that since I was on vacation, I'd make an exception, so I went to an Irish Pub for breakfast. And lunch. The Pub was about three doors down from the hotel, and there were several hundred students staying at the hotel for a Harvard Model United Nations event, so there were people to talk to everywhere.

After lunch, I went back to the hotel. That evening, Kate and another friend picked me up, and we went out for drinks to a pizza place & bar beside Fenway Park. We were planning to meet Josh & Dave fairly early, but their plane had been delayed in Chicago due to winds, so they didn't get into Boston until around midnight. When we went back downtown to meet them, they were having problems checking in because it was past midnight and the hotel computers wouldn't let people claim their room after midnight, so they came up to my room for about an hour before the show while they tried to sort things out.

The rest of the night was pretty fun. Rise was a fantastic little after-hours club. It was smaller than I expected, about the same size or smaller than the after-hours clubs I usually frequent in the Maritimes, but the cleanliness was unbelievable, and the lighting was incredibly well-done for such a small venue. Rise is a private members-only club (plus a limited number of guests for each member), so I think that most people who were there actually knew each other. Once they got started, Dave & Josh played until 7am, and it was a pretty interesting set since they played a fair number of their own tracks, and I knew quite a bit of the music. They ended the night with their remix of "The Wings" by Gustavo Santaolalla - I think that the original might have been the closing track from Brokeback Mountain.

All in all, it was a lot of fun. It's been a few years since I've been to Boston, but it has so many universities and students around that it completely reminds me of Halifax. There are very few US cities that I'd ever want to live in, but Boston would probably be the one exception (or maybe San Francisco).

Saturday night was pretty fun too, but that's another story. Coming home was fairly uneventful, except that our flight crew didn't show up for the flight out of Newark. It was kind of funny actually, since they eventually had to be paged on the airport intercom system: "Paging flight crew XXX, can you please report to gate C99. We need you to fly a plane."

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Joining the Digital Revolution

All around us, we can see the accelerating presence of computers, digital communications, and digital technology. Today, CNN announced that the Internet has just reached a major milestone of 100 Million websites online. For my own website, I'm just a few days away from reaching the milestone of a quarter of a million hits in the less than five years that I've had it online.

Well, today I lost my virginity.

I have always been a vinyl DJ when it comes to electronic music. True, I've used CD players when playing rock music and other conventional tracks at the club. And I've actually had a Pioneer CDJ pitch-control CD player here in my studio for over a year, although I've never used it except for playing single tracks. However, tonight I felt a little crazy and I mixed a track into a practice session using the CD player, rather than using a piece of vinyl.

I'll admit, I felt a little bit cheap. Once the genie is out of the bottle, you can never put it back. I still hope to stick to mostly vinyl for my live shows, because it just looks more impressive to the people dancing in front of the decks, and it's so much more fun. However, I can't argue with the fact that digital media is far more flexible, portable, and versatile, and essential if I'm going to start playing my own self-produced tracks in my sets.

Anyway, I'm worn out now from the emotional significance of the evening, so I'm off to bed.

Friday, March 24, 2006

GDC 2006

I DJ'd at the Game Developers Conference in San Jose (California) last night, and then flew back up to New Brunswick today. It was a lot of fun, but next year I'm going to have to try to take a week off and go back so I can sit in on some of the seminars. Wow, there was a lot of stuff happening there!

GDC is an annual conference devoted to computer software programmers, or "coders." Quite often, I don't think the general public appreciates just how much work goes into creating software, and just how big an impact computers have had on increasing the standard of living and GDP in the past few decades. The coders are the people who make it all work, and although this conference is designed specifically for developers of video games, people who work in just about every branch of programming should find something of interest.

The show was very well organized by the ShoutCreative team (www.shoutcreative.com). After I played, Uberzone (www.uberzone.net) took to the stage, playing a set based on Ableton Live with scratching and live drumming. It was basically a breaks set with a lot of interaction and effects, and it was really enjoyable. If you ever get a chance to see Uberzone, do it. After seeing that, I realized that I've got to get myself up to speed with Ableton.

One of the craziest parts of the night was the fact that there were combot wars happening at the party. A "combot" is a specialized type of robot, built specifically for these matches. Basically, it's like a hi-tech version of smash-up derby, with remotely controlled machines that are about the size of Fat Forrest (my 110 pound black Labrador). Now I'll admit that I had never seen anything like this before, so I didn't know what to expect. Before the show, I noticed that there was a huge enclosed structure built for the competition, and I thought to myself, "that's a little bit over the top." After all, I thought this was more of a game than a sport (it's only a sport if you can lose an eye). Or so I thought.

Anyway, while I was playing later on, I could just barely see the combot arena from the stage, and at one point during my set I looked over just as two of the combots attacked each other. All I saw was large chunks of wood and metal flying about eight feet up in the air as a huge cheer went up from the crowd around the arena.

All in all, it was a very fun experience, although I don't think in general that the Americans drink nearly as much alcohol as Canadians do. The party had open bars everywhere, and if they had that kind of setup in Canada (complimentary drinks with a thousand people in the room), they would have needed truckloads of beer and liquor!