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The DNA of Electronic Music


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Synth Heroes create mixes of their formative electronic music influences

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65

65DAYSOFSTATIC

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For our 65th Synth Hero mix we've got the only band who could possibly mark this musical milestone... 65daysofstatic!

Paul Wolinski, the synthesist behind the pioneering Sheffield based post-rock quartet, has put together a killer selection of electronic tracks based around their love of sampling.

"I was looking forward to making a mix for Synth Hero, but when I stopped to really think about it, I realised that the most important, formative musical moments for me as one-quarter of 65daysofstatic weren't made by synths at all, but samplers," Paul explains. 

"65daysofstatic could never really afford fancy synths. But we had my trusty Akai S2000 Sampler and then later, somehow, we ended up with a second hand Akai S3000 that, legend had it, used to belong to The Pet Shop Boys. Later we sold that one to our sound guy, an eternal regret, but the S2000 has been with me since 1998 and it still just about works. In fact, we used it on our most recent album, 'replicr, 2019'. (Check the sine wave-based keys sound on Trackerplatz).” 

“So, in honour of the mighty concept of 'the sampler', here is a mix of songs that shaped how I thought about and then tried to make music back in the very beginning. It is mostly 90s and it is mostly bangers."

replicr, 2019 is out now. Buy it here.





TRACK NOTES by PAUL WOLINSKI

1. P.W.E.I
Dance of the Mad (00:00)

The whole Stourbridge scene of the early 90s was a little before my time. I caught up with it in my mid-late teens, but by then the two bands I was most into (The Wonder Stuff and Pop Will Eat Itself) had split up. The Wonder Stuff would feature in a whole other strand of musical influences, but in terms of guiding me toward the endless potential of making music with samplers, Pop Will Eat Itself's album 'Wise Up Suckers' was an early education. I liked how PWEI's endless collages of samples felt more like tools they used to build the songs, rather than the central idea that the songs were hung on.

2. Underworld
Pearl's Girl (03:50)

I don't actually know how Underworld made all the beats in Pearl's Girl, but that constant 3-3-2 re-triggering of the main beat sounds a lot like a sampled loop that only ever gets to run its course every four bars. I guess maybe it's complimented by programmed drums too. There are so many songs from this era that I just listened to over and over, analysing every layer I could pick out, imagining how I'd recreate it if I had all the gear that these bands all had. Anyway, this version of 'Pearl's Girl' is from the live album 'Everything, Everything', cos somehow it's even better than the original version.

3. The Prodigy
No Good (09:58)

There's always going to be a special place in my heart for The Prodigy. For a long time, I only had a copy of Music for the Jilted Generation on a C90, copied from a friend in school. Again, I was too young to directly experience the raves, the free parties, the outrage of the criminal justice act, I just absorbed it all through the pages of the NME. This album guided me to new and weird, noisy places of electronic music that I might not have gotten into otherwise, but I'm pretty sure the first version of this song that I actually owned legit was on Now That's What I Call Music 1994. Just after I Like To Move it by Real 2 Real ft. The Mad Stuntman.

4. Boom Boom Satellites
Oneness (15:19)

Boom Boom Satellites were a massive influence on my approach to sampling and production and how to then balance this with a live band. I only saw them live twice but both times it was a live drummer playing along with sampled breakbeats. I love the way that their production feels like that they are very much a live band, but one that's trapped

inside a malevolent, restless remixing computer. It's something we've always aspired to in 65days. Also, BBS's practice of sampling themselves, making composition an iterative process, rather than sampling pop culture or other people's records was really instructive too.

5. The Chemical Brothers
Song to the Siren (17:28)

I drifted away from The Chemical Brothers as they moved from their early sample-based stuff toward their more widescreen stadium sound. I think 'Dig Your Own Hole' overall might have been the sweet spot that was most influential to 65days, but this from their debut album was really instructive in how it can be good to lean into a sample-based approach, letting the scruffy edges of the loops show rather than trying to hide them. That embracing them, making them a feature, can be great. The slowing down drum loops at the end of Prodigy's 'Breathe' are another example of this.

6. Atom Truck
Shitstick (20:44)

The first of a few songs featuring the amen break in this mix. Don't know who Atom Truck is beyond being somebody we shared one of our first releases with, a compilation from a London-based idm/breakcore label called Adaadat Records, 'TRADE & DISTRIBUTION ALMANAC - Volume Two'. Back in the beginning, as much as we felt at home anywhere, it was amongst stuff like this. Somewhere along the way we missed the meeting where everybody else decided we were a post rock band, but really, it was figuring out how to add noisy guitars to hyped up, melodramatic breakcore like this that drove us forward in those early days.

(Also, note here the double speed/half speed smashing up of messy drum loops, a fave technique of early 65).

7. Atari Teenage Riot
No Remorse (I Wanna Die) (22:41)

ATR's finest hour, this. Out of the many times they fell back on the aforementioned, tried and tested amen break sample, this is absolutely their most effective use of it. Combined with those slayer samples and the (presumably?) tracker-based pseudo time-stretching of the vocal cuts...Sampling as an art form right here.

While making this mix I accidentally played this song from three different music apps at the same time. It was amazing.

8. Curve
Chinese Burn (26:52)

Was gonna put a Garbage song in here to be honest, cos their sample-based production was pretty great, but Garbage are so indebted to Curve and Curve were eternally overlooked and this song from their not-very-successful comeback is still a banger. Could only have been made in the 90s. Had this on CD and the breaks at the start of this were one of the first things I ever sampled when I got my Akai S2000.

9. Orbital
Halcyon (Live) (31:38)

Orbital were another massive influence early on. That happened first of all through hearing snatches of 'Snivilisation' on John Peel, then getting fully obsessed with 'In Sides' when that came out. (That obsession has never really stopped tbh). But in terms of direct formative moments, I remember being in the car late one night, my dad was driving me

Somewhere or maybe picking me up, and the radio was on, and they were broadcasting a live Orbital show. I didn't know it was them at the time because it was Halcyon, one of their earlier songs I had yet to discover. Then, out of nowhere, they drop a Bon Jovi sample into it. And then they drop a Belinda Carlisle sample into it! And then the Halcyon melodies and beats all come back in. And it absolutely blew my little mind. This must have been 1993 or 1994, something like that. I'm not sure I'd ever heard music wielded like this before. Many things came together for me in that moment. Like a glimpse of the real potential of music, if only we could free it from the shackles of having to be catalogued as, y'know, individual songs.

10. Clark
Pleen 1930 (39:26)

Once upon a time we took Chris Clark on tour with us. I have a hazy memory of demanding he explain to me exactly how he made this song. I was fascinated by how it sounded like he had such precise control over every single moment of each piano note. It went against what I thought were the limits of sampling at the time. I just didn't get it. I can't remember exactly what he told me, but I remember him being pretty non-plussed, like... he just made it, somehow, using an Akai MPC1000, and it would be unreasonable for anybody to expect him to really understand how he did it. That's not how music making works. And he's right of course. But still. I WANT ANSWERS, CHRIS.

11. Bong-Ra
Peel session, 2002 (excerpt) (39:40)

I've had this mp3 knocking around for almost twenty years now, from Bong-Ra's 2002 Peel session. The sampling/cutting/beat-making dexterity and audacity on display here is obscene. We've played with Bong-Ra a couple of times in some of his other guises, a particularly notable one being Servants of the Apocalyptic Goat Rave whose name, if anything, is kind of tame compared to the kind of noise they make.

I imagine this was made using a tracker. I'm stubbornly trying to make good music using tracker software at the moment, something that has eluded me since I started making electronic music. I was always a left-to-right piano roll kind of guy. Could never remember hexadecimal, and without that trackers are sort of impenetrable. Anyway. I am trying at the moment, but whenever I start to feel like I'm getting somewhere, I listen to this, or Venetian Snares, and realise that I have a really long way to go.

12. Drumsound & Simon Bassline Smith
The Odyssey (45:34)

In the old days, before we could get proper tours off the ground, we would play random shows all over the country, wherever would have us. We'd hire a transit van, stick a sofa in the back with all the gear, and off we'd go, drive across the country, play a show, pack up and drive back through the night, drop the van and head off to whatever random jobs we were trying to hold down to pay for future van hires. The best shows were on Friday nights because, as well as the fact that there were probably a few more people watching us, on the way home we could stick Radio 1 on and listen to drum'n'bass at full volume while barrelling down the motorway, buzzing from the gig. This particular song became a bit of an anthem for those nights and has inhabited many 65days mixes since. And here it is again.

13. Feedle
Her Brain Goes Global (51:39)

Feedle was in 65daysofstatic for about 5 minutes at some point, maybe in 2001. Ish. He wrote Retreat! Retreat! with us, then drifted away in mystery and electronica. There was

This great little bubble of noise-making in Sheffield around then. It was never really a scene, more just a clutch of bands and friends playing shows to each other, but it was invaluable for 65 as a band, having peers and a support network. And in amongst them was Feedle, both in and out of the band, doing weird things with computers. This song is like if Jackson Pollock had buckets of white noise and samples of John Peel and Judy Garland instead of buckets of paint.