Machinedrum Talks Bass Freaks and the Synthesizer That Stole His Name
Travis Stewart, the man professionally known as Machinedrum, is a rarity in the world of electronic music. Nevermind the fact that he produces crazy tracks full of wild sound manipulations and noisy samples. Forget the fact that while he's mercurial behind his laptop, he still knows how to get a party started. The best thing about Stewart is he's totally grounded in the here and now.
So far, the man's music has been featured in the Academy Award-winning film Black Swan. He's released 15 records in 12 years. And he hasn't even hit 30.
Crossfade: How young were you when you started touring?
Machinedrum: I was 19. I toured in Japan with Jimmy Edgar, who was 18 at the time, and Gabe Koch of Merck Records. It was my first tour, some years before doing any type of US or European tours.
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Straight No Chaser and Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox
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What was it like growing up in North Carolina?
North Carolina was peaceful and allowed me to really focus on learning
about electronic music and how to make it since there were very few
distractions. I really enjoyed getting all four seasons as well. Hot
summers, cold winters, wet, warm springs, and foggy, cool autumns with
changing leaf colors.
You're really getting some serious respect and attention on a national level. Do
you feel that we were slow to catch on? Or was it more of a steady growth?
I don't really pay attention to this kind of stuff -- amount of hype or
following in any one place vs another or whatever. It's definitely
nice to hear, though! I guess the appropriate response would be,
"Better late than never," right?
What are you looking forward to in Miami?
I'm looking forward to seeing some of my old friends from Schematic
Records, the beautiful weather, and the bass freaks that come out of
the shadows to dance with me on Saturday!
How did you feel when Elektron came out with their Machinedrum drum
I actually discovered Elektron's Machinedrum when I tried to register
Machinedrum.com back in 2001 or 2002 and they had a placeholder for
it. They didn't even have a prototype for it at the time, so the site
Have you ever used one? What equipment do you like to use?
I have used a Machinedrum. It's a fun toy but I get tired of the
sounds on it pretty quickly. I like using anything I can get my hands
on. I'm a firm believer in the idea of making use of what you have at
the time. If you just have a laptop and a mic, start sampling things
around your house or your neighborhood and play around with using
those sounds in electronic compositions. If you have a large studio
with lots of analog gear, it's more fun to jam on tracks. But [it's] also
easy to get lost in playtime or trying to get the gear to make
sounds you want to hear rather than just focusing on writing a song.
What kind of setting do you like for writing and producing?
Because I am on the road a lot my setting tends to change. I write on
trains and planes a lot, in hotel rooms, and parks. When I'm at home, I
tend to write songs in the living room during the day on headphones
and finish them in my bedroom studio at night.
What kind of mindset bears the best material for you?
I know that some people are very disciplined and have set routines and
regimens they go through in order to maintain productively creative
lifestyles. And it works out really well for them. I, however, have been
training myself to be able to write music wherever I'm at and in
whatever situation and setting I'm currently in. I really think
genius ideas or moments of great inspiration are random and
unexpected. Thus, it's really difficult to predict and schedule a
routine. I try to be ready to capture those moments whenever
they happen. Spontaneity is important to me and makes life much more
exciting than routine.
Machinedrum with Juan Basshead, Animal Krackerz, and Jumanji as part of Get Some. Saturday, April 16. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 10 p.m. Call 305-456-5613 or visit electricpicklemiami.com.
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