Chain D.L.K.: So Matt, start by telling us the origin of the name Moldover. Is that your actual last name or you just like that country so much? Why did you pick it to be your stage name?
Moldover: Well actually I “own” that country (Moldova). I own most of Eastern Europe and parts of Mexico too. I thought about using “Mexicover” as my stage name, but then people would show up and expect me to be a mariachi band playing top 40 songs.
Chain D.L.K.: What is the path that led you to be the Moldover you are today, artistically, stylistically, musically, philosophically, as a whole?
Moldover: My path was mostly the yellow brick road and the jersey turnpike. My style is totally Tin-Man-meets-The-Flying-Monkeys and my philosophy is based on illegal left turns (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_jersey).
Chain D.L.K.: What did you do before you did this?
Moldover: I played in bands, wrote songs and pondered the nature of the universe.
Chain D.L.K.: Tell us about your Burning Man performances and installations…
Moldover: I love Burning Man. I’ve been performing there for several years and it’s become the central inspiration for my work. I premiered my Live Remashing project at my first burn and it was a truly ecstatic experience. The following year I built a “nightclub on wheels” called The Interstellar Remix Wagon (http://moldover.com/quicklinks/interstellar_remix_wagon.html) that we destroyed at the end of the festival. In 2005 I prototyped The Octamasher (http://www.moldover.com/index_om.html) installation which turned out so well that I decided to continue it’s development. This year I took a break from the installation/building stuff and spent most of my time performing, meeting people and absorbing the culture.
Chain D.L.K.: How did you come about this mash-up concept?
Moldover: About five years ago I was doing my first experiments with sampling and sound-collage techniques. Back then computers and electronics weren’t a big part of my music. I was just tinkering with various bits of software on a cranky old PC. When I finished my first remix (Stevie Wonder’s “Too High” (http://moldover.com/quicklinks/studio_remixes.html)) I got so much positive feedback that I decided there was something in this for me. Soon after that experience, I read an article about a new piece of software that was designed specifically for live performance. It was called Ableton Live and supposedly could do all the cut-up-type tasks easily and in “real-time”. I started messing with it, realized the enormous potential for computers as serious musical instruments and slowly began developing this performance project. The project started as something like “Hyper-Eclectic DJing” and grew to become “Live Remixing”. When the whole mash-up thing happened I began calling it “Live Remashing”. These days I just call it “Live Cut-Up”, or “Ralphy the Happy Squirrel”.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you also write your own music or is everything based on samples and pieces of other music?
Moldover: I do indeed write “original” music (more to come…), but within this current project, everything is sample-based.
Chain D.L.K.: Since you are in effect mixing other people’s music, do you consider yourself a musician or a DJ?
Moldover: I usually tell people that I’m both, but I could probably argue that I’m neither. This project definitely involves skills you’d definitely associate with musicians and DJs, but it also includes elements of programming, composition, turntablism and instrument design. I like the term “Live PA” which is accepted and understood in some circles. Really though, I like to think this is all a new paradigm for performance. Perhaps I’m a burgeoning “Controllerist”.
Chain D.L.K.: Tell us a little bit about your setup and the technical aspect involved in what you do…
Moldover: I’ll take this as an opportunity to jump on my soapbox and emphasize that it’s not about what hardware or software you’re using, it’s about human creativity. It’s about what you DO with the tools and not which tools you choose. If you want a list of the gear I’m using this month, come to a show and ask me. [steps off soapbox] Me personally? I use a combination of MIDI controllers and customizable software. My instrument is a continuously evolving tool. I spend a lot of time developing simple and intuitive hardware instruments that facilitate powerful and expressive control over the infinitely flexible universe of software.
Chain D.L.K.: What is your live set like?
Moldover: The live set is constantly evolving just like the rig. I have several mixes posted for free download (http://moldover.com/quicklinks/downloads.html). For a while I did these densely-layered, carefully blended and thoughtfully arranged sets. I was using up to eight playback sources at the same time and working hard to cleanly stack them all up and carefully orchestrate them over time. My “Live at Warper” recording is the best example of this “über-mashup” style. Now I’m getting into using fewer sound sources, but doing heavier signal-processing and other drastic manipulations. It’s becoming more like turntablism where I’m bringing sounds in and out quickly, while severely altering them via simple hand gestures. It’s become more about the performance and instrument design concepts than it is about slick mixing and arranging.
Chain D.L.K.: So are you going to patent the live-remashing idea?
Moldover: That might be nice. Unfortunately, creative works like Live Remashing are not compatible with current copyright laws (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright). These laws were designed to help creators profit from their art, but the specific rights they grant are pretty ludicrous and greedy. If you and I sat down and recorded a piece of music, it’s technically illegal for ANYONE to do ANYTHING with ANY PART of that recording until 70 years after both of us are dead. Sure, in a capitalist system we need a way to protect our work so we can make a buck, but think about what this legislation means for creators of sample-based art. Every artist, everywhere, COPIES OTHER ARTISTS. That’s how we learn our craft. As an artist I see little difference between copying song ideas and copying drum loops.
Chain D.L.K.: Although there have been some very mainstream remashing hints in the past, few people do it live the way you do… Who are your peers or competitors?
Moldover: That’s really hard to say. I’m definitely entering this scene (is it a scene?) without having done my homework. It’s mostly through people checking me out and pointing me towards other artists that I’ve found TooManyDJs, Z-Trip, DJ P, Ted Shred, the legendary Steinski, Cold-Cut, Girltalk, The Evolution Control Committee, all the Negativland recordings and glorious Beatallica. I’m sure there are tons of other current artists like these, and countless more if we dig into hip-hop producers, musique concrete and traditional composers. Everyone seems to have a different approach to cut-up performance. As you said, I do try to put the emphasis on it being “live” which for me means there are elements of improvisation, instrumental skills and a meaningful connection with an audience. I want people to hear how I’m altering the music and be able to see that it’s all happening live, under direct human control. I try to accomplish this with my custom instrument designs and by working with familiar, unedited source materiel. Some of the artists listed above take it up a notch by including group interaction, video and traditional instrumentalists. All are worth checking out.
Chain D.L.K.: How much pre-production is involved to make sure all the loops you use can be used and work well together in terms of timing and tuning? Do you do a lot of time-stretching to prepare your Ableton files to be used live?
Moldover: I do a ton of pre-production. Every single sound I perform with has been carefully sampled, re-mastered, tempo-mapped, level matched and organized by key, BPM and musical function. I took the approach that “if it’s not fun, I don’t want to do it during a performance”. For me, things like beat-matching, EQ-ing and cuing up sounds feel more like corrective tasks. I want to be as free and spontaneous as possible when I’m playing. When all the sounds are tastily tweaked before I walk on stage, I can focus instead on heavy layering, arranging, drastic sound manipulation and interacting with the audience.
Chain D.L.K.: You are the inventor of the Octamasher (www.octamasher.com). Can you tell us more about that? What is it? How does it work? What does it do?
Moldover: The Octamasher is an interactive audio installation. It is a multi-user, computer assisted electronic instrument. It is the educational, community-oriented extension of my solo performance concept. It’s fun too. Basically, The Octamasher lets anyone play with sounds the way I do, and it makes it easy for them to collaborate at the same time. To create The Octamasher, I designed eight individual instruments, one for each element in my Live Remashing project (drums, bass, percussion etc.) Each instrument has a few simple controls that are clearly labeled and color coded. They all provide vast possibilities for expression but are still very simple to learn. Because of all the pre-production I mentioned earlier, things like beat-matching and key-matching are taken care of automatically. Octamasher players can easily sync up with each other. They all have intuitive and powerful ways to control their sounds. Really though, the best way to explain The Octamasher is to watch this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6VJ6RXroNE).
Chain D.L.K.: Did Ableton and/or M-Audio assist you or sponsor you or at least send you free Oxygen keyboards to build the Octamasher?
Moldover: M-Audio, Ableton and Native Instruments all helped The Octamasher come together. Theys is good people 🙂
Chain D.L.K.: How did you do the new faceplates for the keyboards?
Moldover: Acrylic sheeting + digital graphics + computer controlled laser cutter = slick faceplates!
Chain D.L.K.: Tell us about the community aspect of the Octamasher. How far do you want to push it?
Moldover: The Octamasher shall be pushed until it falls off the edge. I’m just beginning to put it out there and the response has been very enthusiastic. I’m eager to see it installed for different groups of people; musicians, kids, DJs, repressed accountants etc. I’d also like to see it used more as an instrument and less as an installation. I want composers to write pieces for it, to be performed and recorded. I’d like to gather a group of experienced improvisational performers to learn it and perform with it. Ideas are popping up all the time…
Chain D.L.K.: Are you envisioning or hoping that the Octamasher will take on a life of its own and eventually evolve into something it wasn’t? Do you want it to live beyond its creator or do you ultimately consider it your baby and your instrument?
Moldover: Nah, you can’t be possessive with your creations. The Octamasher was originally designed as a gift for Burning Man participants. I would love to see it borrowed, adopted or re-appropriated. I can see other artists augmenting it with more advanced controllers, lighting, or an integrated surround video element or even entirely new ‘mashers, purpose-built for different applications. Many ideas…
Chain D.L.K.: Speaking of community, you have been (together with Dj Shakey) one of the promoters and creators of NYC’s Warper Party (www.warperparty.com). Can you explain what, when, why, how and what your plans for the future are with that?
Moldover: Shakey and I have been steadily growing Warper for a year now. I don’t think there is another electronic music event in NYC with as much diversity and sweet electro-musical goodness. We have developed a strong community of artists around a free and open forum where anyone can play. When I started performing live electronic music in New York there was no forum for artists like me. In the general night-life community, if you do music, you’re either a DJ or a band. For a performer like me, fitting into either of those moulds presents big challenges Warper has become the community for artists that don’t fit those older moulds. If you’re a live PA, a live looper, a visualist, an installation builder, a one-man band, a robot opera or pretty much anything that doesn’t fall under “band” or “DJ”, then Warper is the place to be. It’s all about meeting people, sharing ideas, teaching, learning, checking out art and doing your thing. Seems like a pretty simple formula right?
Chain D.L.K.: What do you think about today’s live music scene? There used to be a time when there were three times as many venues to play in and people would actually get out to go see shows… Things are changing… Why do you think that is and where do you see the music business going?
Moldover: Live music in this country is an endangered art form. Besides the dedicated few who actively seek and support it, most people have no idea what it’s really about. Music is not a product that you purchase or download. It’s not summed up in the album artwork or the music videos that grab your attention. Music is when is no substitute for personal experience. It works best “live”. Things change slowly in the music business and I’m not sure where they’re going. I do know that capitalism and consumerism swallow culture. By nature, they replace art, community and social consciousness with the false idols and watered down ideals of popular culture. These ideals encourage people to passively consume from home instead of going out and actively participating in culture and community. The music business as a whole does the same kind of things. The big guys mostly promote mediocrity, complacency and serve to widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots. If you want to avoid these things, find alternative sources of information and educate yourself. Think about how much you consume verses how much you produce. Seek and support independent music and better yet, participate in it yourself. Create and play every day, in whatever way you can.
Chain D.L.K.: Are you still doing physical CDs or are you selling all your music online exclusively?
Moldover: I do not sell Live Remashing recordings anywhere in any form. These recordings are for promotional use only. This is part of my whole-hearted attempt to work within this dastardly system. If you have a hard copy of one of my live recordings, you’re a fortunate individual.
Chain D.L.K.: Around this time last year, I reviewed your record, which I really loved (cmp review in the Music Reviews section)… Did you do anything else after that? Are you planning new music releases anytime soon?
Moldover: I released several more live mixes after the original Live Remashing recording. They are all free downloads on my website (http://www.moldover.com/downloads.html). I’m also working on a NEW, top-secret plan for musical world domination which will be executed soon… very soon…
Chain D.L.K.: Any final words, plugs, thoughts?
Moldover: Wikipedia will crush the non-believers!!!
Visit Moldover on the web at:
[interviewed by Marc Urselli] [proofreading by Marc Urselli]