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.

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 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

was bare.

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

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Jose Flores