Danielle Davis is an awesome writer/philosopher/life-liver who’s been there and back and has now become a trusted SILK associate. ‘Talk Talk’ is a new off-and-on interview series she’ll be doing with various SILK artists/family. In her first installment she gets it all out and goes deep with saucy Aussie Rohan Newman aka our fave Roland Tings.
Roland Tings (behind the mixing board); Graphic designer Rohan Newman by day (view some design projects above)
Michael Ozone, Bell Towers, Tornado Wallace, Event production collective Animals Dancing
ON THE MIND:
Roland Barthes, The Death of the Author 
FAVORITE DANCE VENUE:
Berlin’s infamous Berghain
a narrow diet, to try to avoid absorbing other people’s ideas
TR-707, Juno-106, Software, FX pedals`
TEENAGE MUSICAL WEAKNESSES:
Mid-late 1990’s emo like Hot Water Music and early Saves the Day
the demonoid beasts of H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau
Disillusioned by temporal and spatial confines, Roland Tings aka Mr. Rohan Newman is a musical relativist here to incite a non-revolution. Working as a freelance graphic designer, a burgeoning Melbourne club scene and a ventilation leak of a beat-making neighbor’s tracks sparked the former emo-head’s purchase of a microKORG and a pedestrian interface. During a revelatory Indonesian vacation a few years later, the embryonic fragments of uncertain musical ideas crystallized into the synth arpeggio driven, percussive-sticky house spacescapes of what would become his first single, Milky Way (Sep. 2012). After some unanticipated positive reinforcement from 100% Silk, Newman shut himself in to bust out the rest of an EP, producing a collage of recognizable motifs from golden ages past – from the “primal pulses of early Chicago house to the shimmering keys of euro pioneers” – amidst a charmingly simple tapestry of dreamy atmospherics. Here’s a peek into the inner-workings of the mind behind it all, from the man himself.
~Danielle Davis, November 2012
DD: You were, and still are, a graphic designer, before starting to make music tracks. Being creatively productive is obviously important to you – where does that impulse come from?
RT: It’s all a product of anxiety. Some people exercise and go to the gym, I need to use my brain in one way or another. It’s my way of releasing energy so I don’t drive myself insane. I’ve done it since I was a kid in various ways… little design projects… it all really started when I was going to a lot of shows in Sydney – I grew up in Sydney – I met a lot of people [at the shows] and someone found out that I was able to use Photoshop and got me to design a sleeve for their band. It snowballed from there.
DD: Yeah, there’s a lot of cool record sleeves you’ve done, up on your website. The “Important Information” booklet is also interesting – the description states that you and your collaborator, Ross Paxman, wanted to pose the question “If the content must dictate the form, what happens when the content is completely meaningless?” in a kind of reversal of Bauhaus logic, and that the project “represents a form of visual recycling, a way of making (non)sense of the constant assault of imagery and content available to us in 2011.”
RT: That project was about processing the massive amounts of information that’s thrown at us, about interpreting information that has no use or no purpose and creating something visual from it.
DD: Do those kinds of musings inform your music making as well?
RT: Definitely. I’m thinking a lot about that stuff with music. About interpreting information, signals. About taking in a place, or an idea that originated in a place… everything I read just confuses me more.
DD: What have you been reading?
RT: I was just reading The Death of the Author (Roland Barthes, 1968) and listening to Brian Eno giving a lecture on the dissection of the musical hierarchy and eroding the distance between audience and creator. Barthes touches on a lot of ideas that I’ve been thinking about lately that I was and still am having trouble expressing…he basically says that the author of a text doesn’t really exist at any other moment aside from the time that it’s presented to an audience and that the author isn’t some Godlike figure who just comes up with this idea and dictates to an audience. The author is a combination of all the cultural influences and opinions and norms of society and has no truly original idea. Like sewing together pieces of fabric – pieces that have already been done, and the end product is interpreted by the audience. The audience almost creates the work.
DD: Yeah, Barthes says in that work that every text is “eternally written here and now.” He shifts the locus of power to endow meaning from the creator to the recipient. That kind of post-structuralism has some serious implications for the state of the artist, for the identity and authority of a musician. Do feel yourself personally put into question, then, as a producer?
DD: I definitely feel it on a personal level. After I sent “Milky Way” to Amanda [and received positive feedback], I thought about why she might have liked it. I thought maybe it’s partly because I’m from Australia… it’s just far from everything. Everything has to come to us, and that distance acts as a filter… I was coming at this with a huge amount of naivety, and that’s maybe why it sounds different… because I come from a background not traditionally listening to house music. They’re not my ideas; they’re just a filtering of house music through my set of personal experiences and history. It’s stuff that is dance music but isn’t dance music, stuff that is not of a time or place or a person but that floats in a weird space where nothing exists.
DD: And how do these philosophical reveries materialize in your creative process?
RT: I find it easier to work within defined parameters when I’m working with music – maybe that’s a product of being a designer and having to work within a brief – so for me it’s useful to set parameters for myself. Like using a particular drum machine, restricting myself to certain sounds. And the readings [like the work of Barthes] help set into motion the creative process. Thinking about these kind of questions establishes something I want to answer through making music. Like, what would happen if certain people were transplanted through moments in time? What if a certain moment was transplanted into another location, or some person was taken out of one time and put into another time? And what impact would that have on music and the progression of music history?
DD: Was there a specific catalyst or definitive moment that sparked your seemingly sudden interest in making tracks?
RT: I guess it was a few different things. I had just moved [from Sydney to Melbourne] and in 2007 the whole electro house thing hit Melbourne really hard. Bands like Midnight Juggernauts and Cut Copy were really hyped up, the whole Ed Banger thing had caught on and what was previously the ‘indie’ scene had morphed into a club scene. I was on the periphery of all that, not really involved in any way, but I had been exposed to ‘club’ music for the first time and was really curious about how it was made. Then I was also living next door to this guy called Max Crumbs – he’s an amazing beat maker. I would hear him working on tracks through the ventilation above my stove in the kitchen. I became interested in how his tracks came together – hearing things progress from a sample or a drum loop into a full track. I had no idea where to start, but I saw dudes using microKORGs everywhere, so I bought one, got a shitty interface and started recording things. I had no idea what I was doing: I was using computer speakers, I didn’t know what midi was, I had never played any instruments before, I didn’t know how to program drums. When a friend showed me that if I put an open hi-hat on the offbeat, it sounded pumping, totally blew my mind.
DD: Does your approach to/experience of a live show differ to that of laying down a record?
RT: Well with a recorded track, there’s no one meaning, it all comes back to the listener. But in a live context everything changes: you’re presenting more of a single narrative to people – it’s pretty hard to ignore the fact that your at a sweaty club at 4:00 AM and there’s a strobe light on and people are dancing, though of course people have their own experiences within that context.
DD: Is your goal within that context to make people freak out on the floor?
RT: I just really like when there’s feedback, subconscious communication. A bad show is when it goes from me to the audience. But when that connection is made, that’s when it’s really exciting. So I guess what I’m trying to do is make that connection happen, whether that’s dancing or whether that’s lying down on the floor hugging each other.
DD: That reminds me of what Eno says in that lecture, that life is a negotiation between control and surrendering, where he defines surrender as when ‘I stop being me, and I start becoming us’ and art as one of the few avenues by which to achieve that.
RT: Yeah, that’s what music is for – it’s an emotional connection. It’s the goal of the whole thing. Empathy is like proving you exist.
Favorite Berlin Night Spot
Favorite Dance Venue in the World
Favorite Piece of Gear
Micro Wave XT
Favorite Instrumental Dance Record
Age Of Love – Age Of Love
Favorite Vocal Dance Record
John Rocca – I Want It To Be Real (House Mix)
Favorite Barcelona Artist
Favorite Berlin Artist
Favorite Dance Sub-Genre
Favorite Personal Live-Set
Favorite Fan Live-Set
Favorite Disco Track
Arthur Russell’s “Kiss Me Again”
Favorite Sound on Your Favorite Synth
“Ahhh” preset on my Kawai R1
THE WINTER OF YOUR MALKINTENT
Nick Malkin is an LA Vampire, a Jersey finist, a ‘Deep Web’ surfer, and he sleeps in jean cut-off shorts. We love him. And needed to hear more from him…
SILK: give me the best record or song for the morning, the afternoon, the night, and the super after hours.
NM: it’s something like rock and roll in the morning and drone in the afternoon and jazz at night and then trip-hop real late. but that’s kind of an exercise in self-flattery. i mostly just get interested in one or two things and listen to them all day long for a month. like this Lemongrass record ‘Drumatic Universe’ or Bob Seger’s greatest hits.
SILK: in terms of mainstream radio, who right now in yr opinion is 1) the most prescient, 2) the most successfully comedic, 3) the biggest trendsetter/trailblazer?
NM: this was the first year in a while where i was paying more attention to pop music than anything in the underground, listening to the radio more than i was listening to tapes or records. that said, i don’t think it’s easy to point to one or two people as being especially prescient. maybe people want to believe in the idea of the artist mastering their craft, but i think the thrill of pop music is its accidental nature. someone like Ester Dean writes a few lousy singles over the year, but also writes ‘Super Bass.’ Cristyle wrote ‘Only Girl (In The World)’ along with a handful of shit you’ve never heard. and even Dr. Luke, who has probably done more than anyone else to shape mainstream sonic and melodic aesthetics in the past few years, has recorded plenty of mediocre material, this year especially. i guess i don’t know enough about it to say anything. there are so many teams of writers. whoever is responsible for bringing that euro club thing into every hit on the radio should probably be given credit, though i wasn’t much of a fan of that sound. As far as being comedic, i don’t think there are too many to consider. LFMAO are there, i laughed at that. Nicki Minaj has her moments. i guess tastes are moving back into a more serious and emotional place, which is alright, it goes both ways. the ballads. i was surprised Adele succeeded the way she did, especially with ‘someone like you.’ and i liked that, but on paper it doesn’t seem like something people would want.
SILK: you’re collabing with Octo Octa right now both in LA Vampires and with your own personal project, what’s Mike’s special sauce?
NM: there are a hundred thousand assholes running around making pathetic music, convinced of their genius, expecting immortality. some of them have probably eaten dinner at my house. Michael is making such wild music and he doesn’t act like anything. i don’t know if he’s unaware of how good he is or what. but he has a real light touch and his recordings are beautiful in their subtlety. it isn’t minimalist music, but it comes off that way. there is a quiet melancholy in his songs, even the upbeat ones. i’m partial to that, especially in dance music. he’s also a good driver.
SILK: what’s yr favorite keyboard setting? both for actual sound and/or for the name?
NM: “waterpiano” is one that i like. it sounds, you know, like an underwater piano. “silkyverysilky” is nice for strings, makes everything seem urgent and sad. “lonely brass” is pretty good, but i haven’t used that on any recordings. most of them have better names than sounds.
SILK: would you rather dance music make you want to dance, or make you cry?
NM: both at once, isn’t that what everyone will say? that’s the better catharsis than one or the other. ‘rhythm of the night’ will make you feel like that. when the chorus comes in for the first time in ‘Only Girl (In The World).’ i was at Akbar one night and watched people break into tears when that chorus came around. that seems real.
FROM THE MIND OF MALVOEAUX
SILK: What/Who is Malvoeaux? Where does the word come from and what does it mean to you?
Jason Letkiewicz: A visitor from the present. The name is based on the name of the DC sniper John Lee Malvo. That was a pretty insane time to be in that area.
SILK: How do you sustain so many co-existing musical projects and keep them all as vibrant and distinct?
JL: Everything comes in waves. I work on some projects more regularly than others. I haven’t released a Rhythm Based Lovers record in almost 3 years but it’s still very much active. I might be really inspired to work on one project for awhile, make a lot of tracks, hit a wall and then explore another project for a bit. It’s nice to be able to take a break from one musical project but not music.
SILK: Do you follow a different aesthetic for each one? Are there keywords/vibes/themes that you associate with each
JL: I use different combinations of gear/ processes for the different projects. Malvoeaux is the only one I do that uses samples as the basis. Though they are heavily reimagined. The different projects have different feelings and draw on different inspirations but in the end are all very much connected. My website is Confused House which is also the term I use to describe the music. House is disco, disco is body music, body music is electro, electro is techno, techno is house.
SILK: What was your first musical project? What was your first live show?
JL: My first electronic project was Manhunter with my friend Ari of Beautiful Swimmers. Initially we were more noise oriented and had a ton of gear we didn’t fully understand. Our first show was on our college radio station and took us about 30 minutes to set up and about 10 min to perform.
SILK: What is the instrument or piece of equipment you believe the dance genre could not exist without? What’s your desert island gear, assuming the island has electricity..?
JL: An mpc, 707, juno1 and a casio sk5.
TALK TALK TO MARIA MINERVA
AB: I find you to be very sexy… do you think of yrself as sexy? Do you think of your music as sexy?
MM: Wow Amanda, what a sophisticated question to begin with!! I do not think of myself as sexy, I’m rather awkward in person. I wish that people would perceive my music as sexy, but I’m afraid they perceive it as awkward too.
AB: What do you daydream about?
MM: My coursemate said I’m too uptight and recommended becoming a body without organs. I’m now dreaming about what it would be like.
AB: What’s yr favorite English word? What’s yr favorite Estonian word?
MM: English: collision.
Estonian: imeline (means “wonderful”)
AB: Do you ever feel like yr music is nationalist at all? Like does it evoke images or memories of Tallinn for you? Would you ever sing a song in Estonian?
MM: I have sung in Estonian and it is nice and weird, very different. I miss Tallinn but I do not want to be there; this confrontation between my mental and physical state is where the creativity emerges from. Estonia is a weird place, so many things that people here in the UK or US would never understand, things that I do not understand either.
AB: Does loving Maria Minerva the musician mean the same thing as loving Maria Minerva the woman?
MM: Not really, cause in music I play all these games but in life I would just like to be a genuine person.
AB: You could be a model, I always tell you that – have you ever considered it?
MM: I was once scouted when I was 13 but turned out to be too fat. Had to get into the arts instead:(
AB: We always talk about being boy crazy – do you think that plays a big role in yr lyric writing?
MM: So many words rhyme with “you”, it is easy. Actually I’m very blasé when it comes to matters of the heart.
AB: What’s yr favorite American stereotype? What’s yr favorite Estonian/East-Euro stereotype?
MM: That Americans are fake. That Estonians are slow.
AB: What makes you nervous?
MM: Grocery shopping at Stamford Hill’s Morrisons (in East London).
AB: What’s yr current state of mind?
MM: Here, there, everywhere…
ADDITIONAL RECS FROM MS. MINERVA
I like their mythology around the number “8” – 8 as infinity, but also as a syncope in time, an acceleration, FFW
The saddest song. It was April the 5th yesterday.
Better than witch house.
A Classic. The sexiest bass, the most out-there synths. Dance music for true geeks.
A WORD FROM ITAL 2
Wonderful House Tracks & Very Earnest Comments
Youtube is the best for tracks, and also for comments. People really put themselves out there. Mostly you get a lot of “wow great track” and back-in-the-day type stuff. It’s the later that I most psyched on, people who were “there” freaking out 20 years later and trying to put it down in words. But I also dig the intensity of some of the current reactions, especially from the euros. This is potent stuff, for sure. Enjoy this selection of choice cuts and comments.
“Best days of my life….in the days when you went out on the tiles to enjoy yourselves, with ya crew. Popped a little something to help the night along, and made many memorys to come without realizing. till later on in life. Nowdays its going out on the town getting bolloxed and fighting. Youngsters these days have no idea.”
Carl – UK
“It crazy as am looking at all the oldshool tunes this is the theme running through that young un have it on a plate and have a right attitude and also that we took it for granted ! When me n my mates was 16/17 there was beach parties raves in fields blues clubs warehouse parties had some of the best times of my life ! Only feels like yesterday and also an eon ago ! I go to glastonbury (especially the year it was 20 yrs of acid house) and the odd gig now and again ! What an Era ! ;)”
“Those born 70s used to cry tears and dance all the night through out when frankie was put on deck. I rememember this well when I was a DJ playing the likes of Black Havanna, 49ers, Vision, Sydney Young Blood, etc”
“whow I die for this song.” Stephen – South Africa
“A step in the right direction towards world peace…”
“afterhours extraordinaire_love the people,leave your ego”
“i want more! this is pro groovey chillout lounge music as it should be”
“i remember a long long summer night … awesome moments – i´ll never forget 😉 :-P”
“WOW! this is the one that changed my life totally, because of it I purchased a new walkman, new Porta Pros, an d even a new job.. this is it!”
“Thanks very much posting this corker. I have been searching for this for the best part of 20 years and had given up all hope :-)”
“Work day in big city. Noise, many people, agues, communication problems. But I’m peaceful and strong like a mountain.”
“for those who know the true roots of house music……stripped down bass lines and beats with gospel influenced vocals, obscure movie samples and organ hooks….true music heads know…in the clubs this was what got asses moving! Thanks for posting this. LONG LIVE REAL BEATS!”
“PRAISE GOD. YES AMEN AND THANK U FOR THIS RYTHM HEAR. ITS PURE CLEAN POWER.”
“Can you get any more uplifting. Will have to get a record plyer for al them lonely Eclipse/Shelleys tune in the loft! Kids will think dads gone mad haha”
“the hit lasted 12hrs bloody class these days the things are crap”
“1 person dislikes this. That person is clearly a complete tool. Playing With Knives – Voice Of A Generation!!”
“stillness in time”
“KDJ (Kenny Dixon Junior) aka Moodymann, Theo Parrish, Rick Wilhite. Those three guys are better known as “The 3 Chairs”. Then you should check out artists like: Andrés, Ampfiddler, Norma Jean Bell, losoul, Mick Huckaby, Carl Craig, Brett Dancer, Alton Miller, Rick Wade, Larry Heard… Some labels that came into my mind: Moods & Grooves, Sound Signature, elevate, Planet E, Trackmode, intangible, KDJ, andaemonium, Harmonie Park, Soiree, Alleviated Records…”
A WORD FROM ITAL
Straight from the pony’s mouth:
ALDEN TYRELL – HILLS OF HONOLULU
I first heard this track through Ari of Beautiful Swimmers back in 2005, I think. At that time, I hadn’t really heard much Italo or anything of thesort, and its no-holds-barred ebullience made a huge impression on me. The Dutch have a magic touch when it comes to pure positivity. I can only think of a few things that muster so much unabashed joy. Fast forward a year or so later, and I have just met my future best friend and bandmate Damon, and imagine my surprise when on day one of hanging out, he throws on none other than “Hills of Honolulu.” DAMN.
So now it’s, like, almost four years after that hang and it’s time to get serious about making tracks. I had worked on a few abstract jams on my computer over the years, but none of them seemed to have much staying power. As I sat down with “Ital’s Theme,” trying to imagine what vibe I wanted, a picture formed of a suntanned Fabio god, flowing hair and rippling muscles, shirt unbuttoned more than most would dare, singing his heart out to a beautiful woman. Poolside. I also harkened back to Alden flying over Hawaii, >and all the smiles he and I had together over the years. Never got the crooner into the studio, but I could feel all the CBS robots looking over my shoulder as I sat at the kitchen table last January editing this together.
Here are a few more feel-good classiques in a related groove:
FOOD FOR ANIMALS
The process involved with making these tracks was way too arduous. I used a free-download Pro Tools copy called Audacity to generate sound waves (calculating their hertz by 3/2 divisions of A=440) and then filtering (sine, square or triangle only, no cutoff/resonance) them with built-in effects. If i had midi, or knew how to use a more sophisticated program, things would have been a lot simpler and likely there would be a few more Ital tracks on my record. But that’s life. In addition to Alden, my other guiding star was Ricky Rabbit of Food For Animals. Legend has it he used a free download so primitive that he had to cut and paste every echo onto every track, but stuck with it because of the invaluable infinite pitch shift option. I have no idea how he made shit sound so sophisticated with some bullshit rip of Fruity Loops or whatever, but that’s cool, music is free. Wasn’t able to best his scream-from-within-the-machine mastery, but remain pleased that the cymbal sound on the track is a cut up of me going “pssst” into my computer’s built-in mic.