Just wanted to let everyone know that I’m the featured artist on FWD.dj this week and have given them my first recorded mix since ending The Red Line Sessions. If you’re interested, you can stream or download it at www.fwd.dj.
Ana+One – Second Time Around [Siteholder UnCut]
Erich Lesovsky – Hello [Keno]
Mike Monday – Catnip [Om Records]
Chris Fortier – Don’t Hide What You Believe (Patrick Zigon Remix) [EQ Grey]
Hanssen – WTFSTEP [Complot]
Modul – The Black [Chi Recordings]
My Favorite Robot – All My Circuit (Jonny Whites Blown Fuse Dub) [My Favorite Robot]
Emerson & Dubnitzky – BBC2 [Kiddaz.FM]
Rift – Frame of Time (TOWMF Remix) [Vellum]
Crazy Larry – Mirapex (Dispater’s “Dis Body” Remix) [Siteholder UnCut]
Daley Padley – Tigerstyle (Mannel & Nikola Remix) [1Trax]
Unknown – The Dark Passenger
Sasha Carassi and Gianluca Luisi – Homer [Plastic Rules]
Alex Troniq – Orville [Microtonal]
Brian Ffar – Billy Bought A Laser (Pan Pot Remix) [Siteholder]
1. What got you involved in electronic music and what elements have contributed to your progressive (conceptually not thematically) and futuristic music motif?
High school is a very influential time for most kids in their mid teens, and it was no different for me. I was into a lot of different music, but was primarily drawn to the beats and samples of early 90′s East-Coast underground hip-hop. The concept of using the voice as an instrument to create rhythm and syncopation was astounding, and there were some that could do it way better than others. Jeru The Damaja, Group Home, Q-Tip, Rakim, KRS-One, Method Man, Nas all come to mind. The Beastie Boys found their way into my tape-playing Sony Walkman next, and what can I say? Sampling at it’s finest – super creative, playful, and inspiring. However, it wasn’t until Daft Punk’s Homework debuted that I decided to become more than just a music listener. As a newb DJ, I went through many different styles of music, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t help but recognize the funky flavor that Chicago house left in my mouth. While I liked deep house, I wanted to carve my own path with my own musical choices as a DJ, and that drove me to look for records that, at that time, were considered fairly unique and avant-garde in the US. Similar to my early nineties hip-hop heroes who used their voice as an instrument, I was amazed to find electronic music artists like Akufen, John Tejada, Krikor, Lusine, Canson, Melchoir Productions, etc. who would use everyday sounds and synthetic experiments to create rhythm and juxtaposition.
2. What started up your stint with the Red Line Sessions show? Why did you halt its continence and do you ever plan to start it up again?
Back in 2002, I managed to hook up with an online radio station called The Voids based in the UK. I had a weekly timeslot where I would mix live through Shoutcast, and there was a small (I mean REALLY SMALL – as in COUNT-ON-ONE-HAND small) community of listeners and Djs that would chat during the show. I practiced many hours a day to become a really good technical DJ – there was no cheating back them! Somehow, I had managed to score a really decent recording of one of the live shows, and used that as one of my very first demos. I did a search on the net, and actually found the tracklisting and date:
Brian Ffar LIVE @ The Voids – December 18, 2002
01) Stax – STR8 Nasty – Classic
02) Soylent Green – Cold Shower – Playhouse
03) Rithma – The Nitrous Blues (Safe in Sound Rerub) – AJA Recordings
04) David Duriez – Controlling – Shva Musik
05) Joshua Collins – Mezmotized – Greyhound
06) Kenneth Graham – Chameleon (Original Mix) – Consigned
07) Brian Aneurysm – Delta – Poker Flat
08) Steve Bug – You Make Me Feel (Version 1) – Poker Flat
09) Rhythm Plate – Lean – Mantis Recordings
10) Fries & Bridges – Headspin (Original) – Robsoul
11) Big Sexy – Close to my Skin – i Recordings
12) Chicken Lips – He Not In – Azuli Promo
A good friend of mine, Daniel Mnookin, had recently started a show on Proton, and introduced me to Sam Packer. I went to Miami for my first WMC in early 2003 and met Sam in person (among many other great people). I told him that I had something for him to listen to on his flight back home, and consequently received an email a week later asking if I would like to be part of Proton. That was the beginning of a 65 month long show that has currently been placed on hold. Sam and the rest of the Proton crew were instrumental in my development as a DJ, and I thank them for that.
I’ve got a lot of things going on in my life right now, both musically, personally, and professionally. I am a father of two beautiful girls (by the time you read this), work a full time job as a structural engineer for a non-profit trade organization, own/run Siteholder Records and all of its subsidiaries (Siteholder UnCut, Siteholder UnCut Limited, and Facet Recordings), own/run a digital distribution company called Abluent Media, and I’m also attending DePaul University’s Kellstadt Graduate School of Business for an MBA in Entrepreneurship. If it were up to me, I would do a million different things, but I reached a point where it just wasn’t physically possible to do everything I wanted to do, and had to make the appropriate sacrifices. I would love to continue the Red Line Sessions at some point, but as of right now, my break is indefinite.
3. How has having a child/family impacted your DJ/Production life? Has it put it on the backburner or just given it a new angle?
Having a family and being a father certainly has impacted my DJ/Production life. I don’t have as much time as I once did to focus on music. However, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Music is, and has always been therapy for me. Even before kids and a wife, I wrote most of my music in the wee hours of the morning when the rest of the world was sleeping. Things haven’t changed in that regard, but school certainly has become a higher priority in recent months taking up most of my time. When kids are young, they do and say the most amazing things, and I don’t really want to miss all that. I’ve cut back on a lot of my travels, but would still like to play out of town once a month if my schedule permits.
4. What hardware/software/sample packs do you use and recommend?
As you can imagine, I’ve got a lot of clutter in my place with a whole family to contend with, so there’s not much room for gear. The core of my studio is a 2.2 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo Macbook Pro w/ 4Gb of RAM and a MOTU Ultralite. I use a super old V1 Oxygen 8 for midi control, and monitor off of the discontinued Event PS 8s.
As for software, I’ve used quite a bit of daws over the years, but have settled on Ableton Live for writing and tapping into the creative process, and Logic Pro 8 for mixing and pre-mastering.
For the most part, I sample a lot of old records for hits that I like, and have used NI’s Synthetic Drums in the past. Like many other producers, I’ve got a HD full of random stuff that I’ve either sampled or recorded over the years.
5. What is the Brian Ffar production concept? How do you know when you are finished with a track? Do you compare your work to your favorite artists?
This is a tricky question. I wish I HAD a concept sometimes as I’m sure it would make things much easier. Every time I sit down and start something new, I start with a completely blank canvas. Most of the time, I have no idea what I’m going to create, and the creative process just happens, and I hang on for the ride. Finishing tracks has always been a huge challenge for me. I really get into creating loops, but that’s where it gets fuzzy. However, I made a rule for myself before I started my very first song ever, and that was to finish what I start – no matter what! I don’t care if I hate the song, or never use it for anything, I MUST finish something before moving on to the next project. I think this work ethic has given me a lot of discipline to stay focused, and to make the best out of anything I write. As an engineer by education and trade, I’m SUPER analytical, and really tend to focus on the details, so tracks can sometimes take me an embarrassingly long amount of time to finish. Quite honestly, the engineering and mixing part of the process is just as fun and exciting for me as writing the track, so it’s never a dull moment.
I don’t compare my work to other artists. I think my lack of free time doesn’t allow me to do so. I don’t have time to listen to DJ mixes anymore, and unfortunately, don’t have as much time as I would like to go see shows. I’m in my own little bubble, and make tracks that make me chair dance in my studio. I’m just happy, and feel lucky that there are some people out there that like what I make.
6. How do you see yourself growing as an artist in the future? How have you changed?
I’m going to continue doing what I’m doing. I will probably remain fairly isolated from the scene whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I am very confident that as an entrepreneur, I will be involved in some exciting ventures that are music/media/technology related and will continue to write music and DJ. If I can ever find some frickin’ time, I would love to put an Ableton Live set together as another way to explore my musical tastes. As for change, I think I’ve become a much more patient producer. I have very good discipline, and feel that I have a fairly good ear for what belongs and what gets the axe as I move through the creative process. I suppose you could call it musical maturity. As a young producer, I would always want to cram 10 pounds of shit into a 5 pound bag. I like to think I have the patience and maturity now to recognize things that sound great on their own, but don’t fit a particular track.
7. Tell us a bit about Siteholder records! You guys have a couple different imprints. What are the different concepts?
I’m always amped to talk about Siteholder as it is truly one of those exciting things in my life that never ceases to amaze me. I co-own and run Siteholder with Billy Dalessandro, Daniel Mnookin, and Paul “Downtown” Brown. We currently have 4 separate “imprints” right now, each focusing on something a little different.
Siteholder Records, our original vinyl imprint, begain in 2007. We’re currently on our 10th vinyl release, Billy Bought A Laser by yours truly with remixes from Pan Pot, Donk Boys, and a digital exclusive by our favorite local gangster Tyrone. Luckily, we’ve been receiving some really flattering support for the label worldwide and plan to keep things going until someone stops us. As some of our promotional materials says, “Siteholder strives to combine the elements of modern techno with the jackin’ rhythms that put Chicago on the map.” There are only two missions for Siteholder: 1) melt panties and 2) destroy dancefloors.
Siteholder UnCut is our digital only label that releases consistently on a monthly basis. Our main focus is to use UnCut as a platform to put out edgier techno with a riskier sound from a wider range of artists (both well known and up and coming). As of January 2009, we have had 20 releases from artists all over the world.
Siteholder UnCut Limited is actually a set of limited edition vinyl samplers featuring the best of Siteholder UnCut digital tracks. We’ve got 4 UnCut Ltd releases out now, and plan to press more when the time is right.
Facet Recordings is our newest venture focusing mostly on non-dancefloor related, experimental material. You can expect to hear a mixture of trip-hop, downtempo, IDM and other non-dance related material. Facet gives us the opportunity to feature eclectic samplers and full length artist albums.
8. How do you think this crazy economic downturn is going to effect the electronic music scene in the US and Chicago? Any social/political viewpoints?
While I have mentioned that I don’t get out much, there is unfortunately not as strong of a scene as I would like here in Chicago, and I don’t think it has anything to do with the economy. Certainly, people are feeling the financial effects of the economic squeeze, but within the local scene that I feel I am a part of, there seems to be a pretty tight knit community where most people know each other one way or another. Guest lists and comps are always available, and promoters here are always friendly and accommodating with their guest lists.
One of my frustrations about this city’s scene is the disconnect between club managers and promoters from a technical standpoint. Turntables never seem to work, sound systems are rarely if ever tested with the exception of Smartbar – my favorite place to see shows and play. Hardly anyone seems to pay attention or invest in one of the most important aspects of a successful show – the SOUND.
9. What does the first half of 2009 hold in store for you?
Early 2009 is busy busy busy! A new baby at the end of January and a quarter of Financial Accounting and Macroeconomics in school (this certainly is an interesting time to take an econ course!). I’ve got an EP coming out in mid January on Siteholder and have a track coming out on the first Siteholder Facet compilation as well as a remix of Victor Gonzales’ “Do It” on Siteholder UnCut. All the mean while trying to find some spare time to run labels and Abluent Media a digital media aggregation company I started with Billy Dalessandro and Paul Brown. I don’t have many gigs scheduled at this point with the new baby on the way, but Mnookin and I will be playing with Claude Von Stroke at Smartbar on March 7, 2009.
10. Do you have any comments about your exclusive mix for the FWD listeners?
This is the very first mix I have done since The Red Line Sessions ended back in August of 2008. The mix is made up of a lot of newer stuff that struck my fancy, and has an interesting global dynamic that takes a few unexpected turns. Some lulls in energy that may come as a surprise, but I like the peaks and valleys. I hope you all enjoy the mix!