I speak to San Francisco based electronic artist Scott Hansen aka Tycho. Signed to the Ghostly International record label, we were excited to pick his brain on all things audio/visual after the release of his new album Awake.
RADD: Congrats on your new release, there must always be a little bit of nervousness releasing a new record?
TYCHO: Yeah, although this time it was a mercifully short period of blood, sweat and tears – about 8 months we put into it; whereas before it was a long protracted process, this one was a really concerted effort from start to finish.
RADD: How has your music changed from your last album Dive to Awake?
TYCHO: The biggest change is this is definitely a band record and that transition was really inspiring for me. With Dive, and the two records before that (Sunrise Projector & Past is Prologue) I felt like I was getting to the end and accomplished what I was trying to do with a certain space. With this one we really asked ourselves at every step does this need to be here, it used to be is this pretty, does this fit, do these things go together, can this make the transition from this to this.
RADD: Going back to how you got into music; first you were a designer and then you started making beats, is that right?
TYCHO: I mean they really grew out of each other but I was always a visual artist growing up and then in my early twenties, I found music and computer aided design at the same time. Slowly it kind of merged, at a certain point I realised what I was trying to accomplish with the visual side of things was the same ideas I was trying to translate with music.
RADD: What would Tycho’s advice be to a young electronic producer sitting in, say Hackney, making tunes?
TYCHO: It’s a war of attrition, I mean I’ve been doing this for 14 years and we’re finally at a level where we can make a living off of it. So I would say it’s all about keeping at it.
RADD: How do you think ‘digital’ as a platform has affected music distribution?
TYCHO: We’re a product of the digital age, you used to hear stories where people had a trunk full of CD’s and used to drive around trying to sell their records, you don’t have to do that anymore. Now you have this instant giant potential, It’s actually a beautiful thing.
RADD: Are you conscious of the environment that you are putting your music out into?
TYCHO: Honestly no. It’s strange, I feel really isolated, I don’t feel like I’m part of the tight community. In general, I’m exposed to stuff on the blog (ISO50) but especially with this record we had blinders on we didn’t listen to music for a year during that time.
RADD: What are your thoughts on music innovation and new sound’s is that something that you always like to bring to the table?
TYCHO: I don’t set out to be that way but I found that I just naturally they gravitate to certain sounds and instruments but at the end of the day there’s so much manipulation being done it’s almost the process of homogenisation where they all get pushed into this very narrow frame of reference.
RADD: What hardware do you use?
TYCHO: The main ones are a Mini Moge and a Les Paul Guitar which I write pretty much everything on, and a Korg Monopoly that’s has always been a standard. As far as outboard I use two compressors and a space station. I kinda like early digital i.e the late 70’s, the bit reduction and the low quality SP 12,000 samplers. It’s interesting because it’s almost counter intuitive they actually give you this warm sound by being digitally poor. Like now, all the digital converters are so perfect they have this coldness to them. I like to use early 90’s digital equipment.
RADD: How does visual inspiration loop into your beat making?
TYCHO: Design for me has always been a very personal thing. I felt like I learnt it early on and I had my own voice, but music it took me along time to find my voice because I had to learn through other people. I meant the whole Boards of Canada thing, obviously I am a huge fan. They helped me find my own voice, but for design I have always tried to keep my blinders on because I have a specific thing I’m going after and don’t want it to be watered down.
RADD: Do you consider timelessness with your music, like how it will go down in 5, 10 years time?
TYCHO: [laughs] Man, I’m just so grateful that anyone gives a shit about my music right now, so if someone remembers it in 5,10 years that’s amazing.