Fresh off the success of their newly minted Evolution Chamber imprint, Kmag touches down with the Swiss duo known as Task Horizon for a long chat about fighting genre conventions, why drumstep is more retro than futuristic, and how the delicate dance between human and machine leads to evolution in the studio.
While you guys have been on a solid run since your first release eight years ago, there seems to be a resurgence in output and attention in the past year. Have you found a new source of inspiration?
It's not so much a source of inspiration, as in things flowing into us, but rather a much craved for channel for things to be able to flow out of us. And it's not something we've found, it's something we've actively created ourselves.
Obviously we're talking about our recently founded label Evolution Chamber here. Inspiration has never been a problem for us anyway, except that we mostly have too much of it and don't know what to do with all the stuff it generates. Evolution Chamber has started to change all that. It has given us a focal point and strengthened our sense of purpose. As always, when your inner world changes, so does the outer.
Speaking of which, talk a bit about how the label came together and clue us in as to what kind of vibe should we be expecting on future releases.
We founded Evolution Chamber because we were fed up with waiting for label people who kept saying big things to actually come forth and do them. We don't blame anyone, the music business is hard and some of those people were well-meaning. But after two years of empty promises, letdowns and, yes, even rip-offs, we simply had enough and said 'Fuck this, let's do it ourselves!'
The big exception was Optiv from Cause 4 Concern, who during the same period not only signed 'Letting Go' and 'Kill The Pain' to his label in the coolest fashion, but also gave us real support and first-hand business advice when we began setting up Evolution Chamber. We can't say enough good things about this guy. He should be a role model for the entire scene.
In terms of future releases, we can only say that our back catalogue of unreleased material is huge, and musically it's way more diverse than some folks might think or perhaps even like. We don't care. Some style-Nazis sneered because 'Da Vibe' drops into hard drumstep after a liquid-style vocal theme, but they are disproved every time we play it because crowds go totally ballistic, and it's topping out on our sales charts.
All of which to us is a ringing endorsement to stay exactly on our course. Popular styles are formed by good music, not the other way around. We are only interested in the latter and that's what we intend to deliver on Evolution Chamber in future. We think we did a good start already.
Purists no doubt see this as another sign of dubstep diluting the d&b sound. What's your take on dubstep and its influence on the scene, and where do you see drumstep fitting in?
We love dubstep. Folks can hate us now, but personally we appreciate that it's popular. We feel that it has helped the popularity of drum & bass quite a bit thanks to drumstep which fits right in the middle - one of those happy accidents no one could have foreseen.
But on the bottom line, drum & bass, drumstep and dubstep are simply styles to us, each with their own specific musical syntax. We draw upon them mostly out of pure musical necessity, not because they happen to be popular. Of course, we are aware that they are popular and are grateful for this, because it means that we can express ourselves in a way that we like, and which hopefully has some kind of social relevance. As mentioned before, we didn't let 'Da Vibe' drop into drumstep for its own sake, but because that was the only way to make a track with a very strong 90s liquid flavor drop convincingly in 2012.
Musically, we see drumstep as a logical step in the ongoing quest of achieving ever more sonic power. In drum & bass, things seemed to have reached an impasse where you just couldn't get any more acoustic energy without drowning the mix. But the half-time feel of drumstep opens up a lot of space for bigger sounds and also leaves more room for vocals to do their thing, which isn't much of a new concept if you think of it; drumstep is just 60s rock, played by silicon aliens in 2012.
Both bits on this release feature Rina and MC Spyda - talk a bit about the Swiss connection and how you see that playing out in the debut of the imprint. Is there a deeper meaning here or was it just one of those things that came together at the right time?
It's one of those things that just came together in an unforced way, like all really good things in life do. A friend of ours established the connection with MC Spyda and we clicked right away. We wanted to work with him as an artist and not just use his name and reputation as a springboard. So there has always been this pervading atmosphere of mutual respect, trust and friendship, which has led to a wonderful and productive collaboration.
Rina is a vocalist living in our neighborhood, and a good friend of ours. She's always just a phone call away whenever we have a spontaneous idea for a female vocal part, even late at night, and we really appreciate that. She's part of the Task Horizon family.
'Cobra Khan' has that classic Task Horizon flavour - talk a bit about how this one came together.
It's very hard to answer this one because we honestly don't know what that "classic Task Horizon flavour" is! The question runs deep. On the one side you have luddites who think that technology is only a subservient tool, and the artist comes up with his ideas totally independent of it. Marshall McLuhan debunked those guys fifty years ago.
And, on the other hand you have technophiles who, barren of ideas, are secretly hoping for the 'make hit tune' function in their music software. It's all bull. To us, the beauty of cutting-edge electronic music is that it is this magic dance of the human mind with his technology, where it often is impossible to say who is leading.
This is especially prominent in our instrumental tracks where there are no vocals that could interfere. So you might start out with a certain atmosphere in your mind which you intend to convey, but the machine plays something back at you that's perhaps little different, and you take the bait. And thus begins the dance with the machine and you end up with something which you could never have imagined, but still is something that you have created, because the machine obviously doesn't create.
That's why it's so hard to answer this question directly. 'Inspiration' is the wrong word anyway. It's mostly an act of discovery. We never know where we're going. But strangely we always know when we have arrived. We know this sounds weird, but music producers can probably relate.
What else should we be looking for in the coming year? Any plans to bang out a proper LP?
MC Spyda was in our studio two weeks ago and wrote and recorded three new songs in seven hours -a real pro. We also still have other unreleased material from him, so he is definitely going to be featured a lot in future. We've even started talking about playing live one day, although the technical details obviously still need to be hammered out.
The next label release is also in the works, and the idea of an album is something that is slowly germinating in our minds too. Last but not least we have forthcoming material on C4C and Dissected Culture. So yes, all of this is happening, for sure. Prepare for the storm that gathers here.
Words: Chris Muniz
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