Studio Session with Eric Volta

Words by: Marcus Barnes
Posted: 16/10/12 9:41

Studio Session with Eric VoltaA few months ago I got in touch with a man named Eric Volta (well, a man who uses the pseudonym Eric Volta) with the intention of recording an interview – in my typical style. Being the thinker he is, Eric suggested that we hook up in his studio so he can play me some music and I can see where the magic happens – far better than a bog standard 'phoner' or even a face-to-face chat over a coffee. So, we decided on a day and time and got together at his studio not too far from Farringdon station.

It was a nice sunny day when we finally met – though we'd already been introduced briefly by a mutual friend at fabric, this was to be our first real encounter. We meet out on the street, shake hands and he leads me into his underground studio (which he has since vacated for a move to Berlin). He offers me a coffee, but I decline having just picked up a drink from Tesco – he needs it though, having spent the night at the studio working on his music, typical behviour for many music makers. His studio is basically his home, often spending up to eighteen hours at a time there, constructing beats, basslines, melodies and all the other elements that make up his compositions.

As we speak, one of the first things I touch on is the release of his recent single on Maceo Plex's Ellum Audio – the brilliant 'Believe'. “That was actually made two years ago. It's taken that long to come out,” he tells me. I'm not surprised... ever since I was into drum n bass back in the mid-nineties I've known that it can be a long, drawn-out process for music to actually make its journey from the studio and onto the shelves of record shops. I ask him if he's had much attention since Maceo Plex posted up the track on his Soundcloud, he informs that he's been inundated with emails and offers to make more music for other labels, but that's not his bag at all – as the conversation continues, I can tell he is staunch in his ideals, preferring to remain inconspicuous and staying out of the limelight.

I didn't start making music to be known to people. I'm not interested in fame. When I'm at after-parties or wherever, I don't like to tell people who I am and what I do. I don't want to be part of 'the scene', I'm not a scenester.” The success of 'Believe' may have been pretty impressive, though anyone who keeps an eye on the electronic music media will have noticed that Eric never appeared in any interviews. And, I hooked up with him before the single had even been released.

Eric Volta
What Eric is, is a talented musician who revels in creating his sounds, using different aliases to explore different genres, never pigeon-holing himself and becoming stagnant or stuck in a monotonous routine of creating the same old sound. Over the years, he has taken on several different aliases and made music with different members of the electronic music fraternity. For instance, he was making music with Lower East's Cozzy D as D Dub a few years ago. Eric doesn't rely on fame to make money, he simply does what he does to satisfy his inner self. I ask him about his production process – in the studio there are some keyboards, guitars, a microphone and, of course, his computers. He tells me that it wasn't long ago when he was using software almost exclusively to produce his music, “I was an expert with the mouse,” he jokes. But, having used real instruments in his youth (playing in bands and so forth), using just a mouse to make music became mundane, eroding the fun-factor from and transforming it into a more mechanical and emotionless process. In light of this, he took a step back, analysed the situation and decided to return to using instruments, drum machines, synths... helping to usher in a new era.

He then plays me some of the stuff he's been working on. Kicking off with a frenetic, glitchy piece of music that he's made for a friend's short film. Much of his income comes from commercial ventures, making music for advertising campaigns, keeping it strictly corporate – and why not? There really isn't much money to be made from electronic music alone, so scoring adverts and short films is a great way to flex your creative muscle with compromising your integrity and, most importantly, earning a decent wage.

Next up he plays me a couple of more 'traditional' dance tracks, however most of their elements have been recorded live. They sound great, there's something really special about live instrumentation – a raw human appeal that you just can't get with stuff that's been programmed and sequenced to perfection. After witnessing him smash up Room Three in fabric and hearing that most of the tracks he played were his own, it's clear he's on to something with what he's doing.

Through our discussions I discover that one of Eric's key inspirations is the wonderful world of cartoon soundtracks and the use of synths in eighties cartoons in particular. This is something we both have in common, as I'm sure many children of the eighties will be able to relate to. As we get deeper he reveals that, as a youngster, his family moved around a lot – moving from one Far East country to another, meaning he never had a firm base or circle of friends as a child. To counter this, he found a friend in the television – which also meant he could socialise with new children easily, using cartoons and television shows as a means of breaking the ice. “It was a companion to me, but it also helped me to communicate with other kids,” he says.

Studio Session with Eric VoltaFrom there we move on to drum n bass, another common bond. In my teens and early twenties drum n bass was the ONLY music I ever listened to, I hated pretty much everything else – we talk about the fact that it seems as though, in 2012, drum n bass has all but had its day. A crying shame as it was once such an innovative, multi-faceted genre – his eyes light up when I mention super-talented Newcastle duo Hidden Agenda. He then tells me that he has been working on some drum n bass himself, of course with his own distinct stamp on it and sounding oh-so-fresh. He plays me a track and I can't help but be impressed, for all the times I've thought drum n bass was no longer relevant, this track goes a long way to disproving that notion.

With a new EP due on the highly-regarded, recently established Visionquest label and an ever-growing fanbase, it's clear Eric Volta will be around for quite some time. But don't expect to be seeing that name crop up very much longer – he's already planning to 'kill off' that character and replace it with another. As he might do in one of his other side projects – a comic book. Towards the end of my time at the studio we discuss satisfying our inner child. It's something that motivates and inspires many people, achieving the dreams one had as a youngster. Some people are happy to surpress these inate desires for the sake of earning a good living or having an easy life, but some of us chase those dreams – making them a reality when we finally have the ability to do so. Eric invents these musical psuedonyms in order to avoid pigeon-holes, but he also plans to create a real set of characters with his very own comic book, which (somehow) he is doing in his “spare time”... whenever that is. Judging on the amount of work he puts into his music, I would guess that there isn't much spare time at all.

At the end of the session at Eric's studio I walk away feeling as though I've met a likeminded soul, a modest, super talented man with a great future ahead of him.

Whatever guise he releases under next you can be sure it'll be worth checking out.

The Studio
Custom build desk from the BBC from the seventies - Dk4/19Apogee Symphony I/o soundcardSpeakers: PMC, Genelec, NS10, B&W subwoofer + Big Knob studio controllerDrum machines: Machine Drum, Jomox Mbase, Vermona DRM Mk111, Roland HPD 10 + 505Synths: MS2000, Juno 60 +106 , Multivox MX-20, Roland M-VS1, Oberheim, Matrix 1000, Roland GK20 guitar synth + midi pickupsGuitars: Washburn Mercury + Dimebag Darrel signature model, Ibanez and musicman bassesOutboard yummies: thermionic culture rooster, UBK Fatso, Calred RD2600BOSS and electro harmonix effects pedals. Keyboard controllers, knob, faders etc... from Akai, M-Audio, Behringer...
Eric Volta Online
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