Down the Production Hole with The Black Dog

Words by: Lisa Loco
Posted: 13/5/10 15:50

Down the Production Hole with The Black Dog Flying above heads, under radars, and putting the ‘intelligent' in IDM since the late-1980s, with adventures spanning such labels as Black Dog Recordings, GPR, Warp, and Soma, is The Black Dog. A ballsy beast from the steel city of Sheffield, UK, that's never played the music biz in any ‘conventional' way.

Today, The Dog comprises one impassioned founder, captain of reinvention Ken Downie, together with two co-pilots, Martin and Richard Dust (of Dust Science Recordings). A techno-loving trio that has passed through a departure den darkly for their latest ambient album/multimedia art bridge, Music For Real Airports.

Based on 200-odd hours of field recordings, this project drives home their 21st century reaction to Brian Eno's 1978 creation, Music For Airports - and just how these joints have changed. (In fact, in these anxiety-ridden ‘Age of Terror' times, we wouldn't be too surprised if their work was redacted on ‘safety' grounds.)

Anyway, it's a fascinatingly fluid trip, so not a bad time to pass Down the Production Hole to have a pow-wow with this influential bow-wow. Here, among other stuff, we discover that, although Da Dawg is slightly computer blue, they all still enjoy the classic feel of an Oberheim analogue synth. For real...

First, can you tell us something about your frames of reference/what you think makes for a high quality electronic sound recording?
Between the three of us, we all have very different references, experiences and opinions, but they're certainly not based solely on electronic music. There are a lot of different influences that infect our sound. As for ‘high quality sound recording', I don't think any of us worry too much about the sound; we're more interested in the music. If that music comes with a bit of hiss, dirt and grit, then so be it.

What's your current music production set-up like?
PCs running Ableton and Cubase, Nord Wave, Access Virus, 808, 303, the usual culprits. Also Ken's big old Oberheim OB-8 still gets fired up now and again. It's also got a very ‘big' sound and the controls never seem to quite do what you expect. The results can be a little unexpected.

Music For  Real Airports

What is/are your most essential tool/s of the trade within that set-up?
Part of me hates to say this, but these days it's a computer - regardless of the details like desktop/laptop, Apple/PC, Ableton/Logic, etc. As unsexy as it is, it has become the core of the studio, controlling and connecting every element. For us, the ability to also continue working away from the studio using just a laptop has been the biggest benefit. It's great being able to do something when that little moment of inspiration strikes, rather than having to wait until you get back to the studio.

Can you reveal a secret about your production technique/s?
Avoid the latest production tricks and gimmicks as heard in the current top 100 electronic charts. You'll be a late entry to that party and it can quickly date the production.

Do you have a general top tip for budding producers?
Don't worry about analysing every element of the track when bashing ideas out; get the music right first. Fiddling with details in the mix can be a real killer for creativity. Correct the details later, if the track is actually worth it. The music should carry the track even if the mix is a bit wonky. In fact, that wonky-ness can also be the unique element that ultimately makes a track stand out.

Finally, what's your take on the future of electronic music production?
‘Forward thinking' as opposed to regurgitating and re-working what's already been done.

Bonus Mix: The Black Dog – Drifting Ambient Mix May 2010
Bonus Mix: The Black Do
Drifting Ambient Mix May 2010

01. Hands Swollen With Grace – Dakota Suite
02. Music for Falling from Trees, Pt. 4 – The Dream – Peter Broderick
03. Business Car Park 5 – The Black Dog
04. Flutful – Cluster
05. Unprepared Piano – Coil
06. Palimpsest I – Tim Hecker
07. Piano Aquieu – Stars Of The Lid
08. FallingStars – Variant
09. Glass Ceiling – Fennesz
10. Maalstroom – Matthew Florianz
11. Untitled – Aphex Twin
12. The Kindness In Letting Go – Rameses III
13. Subconscious Worlds – Pete Namlook
14. Pattern 4 – Moritz Von Oswald Trio
15. Lounge – The Black Dog
16. Half Speed Love – Nathan Larson


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