Inspiring Interviews: Amon Tobin

Monday, August 24, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Amon Tobin with beard, hat, expansive hair.

Amon Tobin with beard, hat, expansive hair.

Amon Tobin has been a huge influence for me. I’ve listened to his tunes for ages. My favorites from him are probably the albums Supermodified and Permutation. Newer stuff like Foley Room and Out From Out Where are much more slickly produced, but the tunes don’t get my blood pumping as much as his earlier bangers — which I keep in constant rotation. I’ve listened through Supermodified four times so far this week, and it’s only Monday afternoon. Four Ton Mantis, I love you.

Now, interviews!

Amon Tobin / Sound On Sound (2003)

Well-rounded interview that covers both the philosophical and the technical. My fave.

“It’s amazing what you can do with filters; I look at it as being a bit like watercolours, when you’ve got various different blotches and then you use a wash to bring it all together. I also use a lot of effects in my stuff for that reason — it’s not particularly because I love delays and reverbs or whatever. Processing is the answer. I’ll take a lot of samples to make a melody, then process it with one type of filter or modulation effect, re-record it, cut it up, and by then it will sound like one sample — but sometimes if it doesn’t, it can be really interesting anyway.”

Amon Tobin / BBC Collective (2004)

Short, but good.

“As far as interpreting my music goes, I’ve given up trying to work out what goes on in other people’s heads because most of the time that has nothing to do with my music anyway. Hopefully it’s dynamic enough to be understood in lots of different ways. But who can say where they get their ideas? Personally I think of frosted sugar lumps when I’m recording.”

Amon Tobin / Kindamuzik (2002)

A bit more colloquial than most; some bits about his background and what movies ‘n’ drugs he likes.

Have you ever taken psychedelic drugs?

“Not really. I smoke a lot of weed, but I never took acid or anything. Well. I have had mushrooms, but it’s not really a source for me to make my music. So I’m not even qualified to make psychedelic music, really. It’s just my idea of it, and however manufactured that idea might be, it’s still an idea. I’m fascinated by the way people from different cultures take elements of other cultures and incorporate them in their own. Like, for instance, the Bollywood people, how they take the sounds of disco and work that into their soundtracks so that it sounds completely different all of a sudden; or the way the Hollywood studios take Eastern music and make their own version of it. It’s their understanding of another culture’s music. I find that very interesting.”

Amon Tobin / Remix Magazine (2005)

Not so much inspiring, as full of technical tidbits. Covers Amon’s software, hardware, and some production nerd points:

I got really interested in these little idiosyncratic tricks for making sounds stand out among other sounds, like not absorbing all the energy of your track with frequencies you can’t hear. I made that mistake in the past; I would have some huge rumble that nobody could hear that was taking all of the energy out of the track. There is a certain amount of headspace to represent all the sounds. And the more you put in there, the quieter each sound becomes because they are all sharing the same energy. It really pays to get rid of things that you can’t hear, just simple things like cutting the bass from 30 to 50 Hz. Everything will become a lot louder because you don’t have this unheard lumbering bass sucking everything out of the mix.”

Amon Tobin / Remix Magazine (2007)

Similar to the previous interview, with a bit more focus on making sounds than studio widgetry.

“I was thinking of the buzzing sound of the surf guitars in that song,” Tobin says, “so the obvious sound to try out was a bunch of wasps buzzing in a jar. Then maybe you mix those together with a motorbike revving its engine — so you get the fast strumming of the guitars picked up by the bike, with the wasps suggesting another crazy guitar sound — and suddenly you’ve got something that really gels.”

Categories: inspiring interviews, sampling

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