On July 1st I will be siting with my old friends Jay Serken & Chris Hardwick talking about our time going across country with Depeche Mode. We all won a contest to be in the movie Depeche Mode 101. The talk will be broadcast on a radio show called Black Door. It is hosted by DJ Andi. It’s live and drinks will be served so expect a few fun stories!
“The Boys on the Bus: DM 101 Revisited LIVE on WFKU RADIO – 8 PM. This special edition of BLACK DOOR will feature the stars from the infamous 101 documentary. OLIVER CHESLER, JAY SERKEN, and CHRISTOPHER HARDWICK will take you back to 1988 to the Music for the Masses tour! For two hours, they will answer your questions, reminisce about old times and play special Depeche Mode tracks!” – Black Door
I was recently contacted by Michaelangelo Matos for Red Bull Music Academy. He wanted to interview me about the start of the NY techno scene in the early 90s. Sometimes in life you are at the right place at the right time and you get to take part in something new. Be sure to click the link below to read the full article.
“That was the mindset Chesler played to under his alias the Horrorist. “Somewhere around ’96, I started to really get an itch to return to new wave and industrial,” he says. “There are really good techno producers with a lot of skill. The only way for me to stand out was to use my own voice and tell my own story. I did my first drugs around that time, so I [wrote] stories about drugs.” Tales such as “Mission Ecstasy” – with its unforgettably blunt tag line, “Because I like fucking drugs” – and “One Night In NYC,” about an NYU student’s trip to the Limelight to pick up a guy who “fucks her all night” in her dorm room, were unsettling. Chesler shopped them to a number of labels. “Nobody wanted them,” he says with a laugh, “so I started my own label.” He called it, hopefully, Things To Come.” – redbullmusicacademy.com
A few months ago DJ Shred (Lisa) invited me to a Depeche Mode party called Home. It’s a regular thing they do at the Sullivan room in Manhattan. It’s been a while since I did a proper flashback night out so last night I was there. I invited Chris Hardwick who was also in the Depeche Mode 101 movie to join and he did. To my surprise the place was fairly packed. As programmed I danced to every song that came out before “Songs of Faith & Devotion” and shunned and complained whenever they played anything newer (which thankfully was not too often). It was nice to be around real DM fans as I still am a superfan myself. The photos above: The flyer for the event, DJ Shred, Miro & Chris Hardwick, DM fans at the Sullivan Room and my mohawked self (Oliver Chesler), Mia Demarco and Chris Hardwick hanging out with Andy Fletcher at the Rosebowl California 1988.
“We are happy to invite you to our next Depeche Mode party back home at Sullivan Room on Friday June 15th. Starting at 10pm with an hour long special video presentation by VJ Johnny_Blitz concentrating more on the ballads of Depeche Mode and featuring the rarely played, down tempo & classic DM music videos and live concert performances, aesthetically altered especially for this event. Following the presentation, DJ Shred and DJ Shunt spin Depeche Mode tracks spiced up with New Wave and Synthpop hits all through the night.” – Depeche Mode Fanclub New York
Here’s some proof I have been making music a long time. I’m the one in black of course next to Peter Lopez and Jay Serken. I don’t know that exact year but it’s somewhere in the late 80s. The photo was taken at Suny Purchase in one of the music building’s practice rooms. Imagine sequencing on an IBM PC? You don’t know how good you have it these days. The Roland Juno-106 in the photo was later stolen. This photo is also proof that extreme hair styles dont make you go bald (I still have a full head of hair). Before you ask… no I never smiled back then.
“Suny Purchase offers a unique education that combines programs in the liberal arts with conservatory programs in the arts in ways that emphasize inquiry, mastery of skills, and creativity. It is dedicated to creating opportunities for transformative learning and training in a community where disciplines connect, intersect, and enhance one another. Purchase College is included in the Princeton Review’s Best 371 Colleges (2010)” – Wikipedia
Now that I released my latest album Joyless Pleasure one thing that has me excited is that I can now talk about the songs. If you don’t mind I am going to make a post for each song going into as much detail as I can about the inspiration, influences and production. There is a reason for all the pro-audio gear lust that happens on this site. The crazy plastic and metal boxes full of buttons and dials are my secret weapons in song-writing.
I recorded a large amount of music and only picked ten songs to release. Narrowing the selection was easy because my criteria was simple. I only picked songs that were completely inspired by true events in my own life. The first song was Modern.
It’s hard for me to label my success as an musician. I don’t sell millions of albums and there are no paparazzi on my front door. However, I can make a living solely from music and I have fans pretty much in any city I go to. The music I listen to and love isn’t popular so I don’t expect my own releases to be on the billboard 100. I can’t make pop music or trance or even Minimal tracks with a purpose to chart. I can only really make my own songs. I’ve tried to conform but all that happens is I pull my hair out and stress. Music like my own had it’s day in the 80s backed by a very different kind of music industry.
As I entered my late 30s I realized I wanted more. I began to see my friends begin to purchase homes, cars and start families. I knew if I wanted to afford more than rent and drum machines I would need to get a day job. I also knew that even though I was a full time musician I only actually worked on music when I was inspired. I could easily take on more in my life. This was the point I decided to move back to NYC. I loved my time in Berlin but if you’re going after large buckets of cash my home town is where it’s at. I crossed the ocean and started looking. My only requirement is that the pay had to be high. I looked into music jobs such as cataloging sounds for Toys R Us or running a Pro-Tools rig at a small television advertising company. Too boring. I decided I needed some help so I looked for an employment agency. I walked into a place called Tomorrow’s Workplace and immediately saw a sign for a job at an Energy Services company. I knew there was green stuff in energy in both senses of the word. I have no idea why I thought I could land the job. Amazingly I got the job on the spot and quickly learned my tech savyness made be popular. I could also sell quite well. Afterall I’ve been selling music for years. A commodity most people don’t even want to buy! Fast foward to today. I left that company and started my own ESCO called ENVEN with a 78 year old ex-lawyer, mortgage broker named Charlie. In some ways we couldn’t be more different. He’s a religous concervative who thinks in numbers. Yet we have become best friends and I’ve unearthed his not so secret past as a party animal. While parts of my job are unfun I am on my way to the things I want.
As my team modernizes around Manhattan I watch the old become new. Many of the things I love about Berlin are happening here. Glass, steel and cool white futuristic lighting replace what’s left of urban decay. I’ve learned more in the past two years than the ten before it. I’ve modernized myself. That’s the inspiration behind this song.
You can hear many of my music influences in Modern such as Kraftwerk and Joy Division yet I think it has my stamp on it. Now let’s talk tech! This song is very much an analog affair. Every single synth sound and the white noise comes from a Yamaha CS-5. It took me about a week to piece the panned layers into it’s repetitive verse chorus. The drums except the kick are from my favorite piece of equipment the Vermona DRM1 MKIII. I think the DRM is so under rated under noticed. The kick is from my Jomox Mbase which is signed by Jürgen Michaelis himself. The vocals were recorded using my API 512c mic pre and Shure KSM32 microphone. There is panned Altiverb on my voice. I used a Lexicon PCM90 Impulse Response. I recorded some NYC street sounds on my iPhone which you can hear in the background throughout the song. Everything was sequenced in Ableton Live.
“All the modern. All the modern. Super Building. Super Building. Growing into a new day. Growing into a new day.”
As I slept last night my new album Joyless Pleasure was moved from the iTunes staging area where new MP3s get prepared for their lives on people harddrives and marked available. Each song took more inspiration and effort than I care to share. You my dear listener are supposed to think it was effortless and that I possess some magic music making power. Truthfully I picked the times when I was feeling the most crazy, upset or happy and forced myself into the corner studio.
I love to talk about songwriting and music tech so it was difficult not to post each one of these songs here as I finished them and tell you the story behind the lyrics and what production techniques I used. In the following couple of weeks if you don’t mind I will go into detail on some of the songs. Of course this is part promotion but it’s also to keep the “I released an new album” feeling going a little longer. So as younger folk say plz leave comments and plz retweet! Buy it or steal it but whatever you do please help me spread it around.
“The Horrorist new album “Joyless pleasure” is out today on Things to Come records. Softer and surprisingly romantic but still full of energy and extremely tortured. You can’t put one style tag on the album. In the 1st track “Modern” the voice will make you think of Ian Curtis, Joy Division. “Joyless pleasure” has a high Depeche Mode feel with ultra pure and detailed synths sounds and effects. “Darkling Lullaby”, “Love sick” and “Lovely Sweet” are islands in The Horrorist universe as they are not dance tracks. “Hostage” takes us on an electroclash direction and “I stand with you” in pure EBM style with a Nitzer Ebb impression. An album more mature than ever, more melancholic. Even if we can compare some songs to other people’s sounds, there is one thing that will always belong to The Horrorist and be unique like this album: it’s his strange stories. Joyless Pleasure is like a jewelry piece but in electronic music.” – morganistik.com
I’ve done a quick interview for They Make Music. Everyday readers of this blog will know pretty much what my answers are like. Be sure to spend some time over there checking out some of the other good interviews!
“Make yourself a studio that’s fun to use. It’s important to be able to get your song down very fast without technology getting in the way.” – Me
Last night I had the great pleasure in taking part of Tekserve’s The Future of Music V, The Craft of iPad Music-Making. First off, Tekserve is one of those NYC places. It’s a place that defines the city just like Katz Delicatessen or The Empire State Building. The fix and sell Apple products and have been doing it long before the Apple stores existed. The large store sits in the flat iron district and it’s full of people and goodies. Not only new glass and aluminum stuff but the shop is filled with vintage cameras, awesome recording gear from the 60s, computer posters from the 80s and it’s a classic Mac museum too. You can tell it’s sits on Manhattan real estate because like the city it’s always packed and the pace inside is frenetic. Numbers and being yelled, tutorials are happening and people are spending obscene amounts of money all around you. The real wonder of Tekserve is the amazing team of what I learned were close friends running the place. Paul Rechsteiner who manages the place flies around the store smiling ear to ear doing what at first seems like mingling but on closer inspection he’s micro organizing everyone like a turbo charged Roomba. I met a few of Paul’s co-workers such as Rob in the A/V dept and operating the on stage camera, Ben Casey who was doing sound who took the time to show me his Elektron Oktopad and Steve Chu who helped me figure out a hardware glitch on this very Macbook Pro I am writing to you on today. It’s a smart bunch and when Paul walked me through the huge back and basement of the store to get me coffee even the managers and CEO smiled at me. This place reeked of pure class.
Around 7:00PM the other presenters of the evening arrived. I’ve know Peter Kirn for a few months now and he brought his new Meeblip with him. I’m fascinated with the energy he puts into his blog Create Digital Music and it’s a kick to talk shop with him. During his performance He used the software Pure Data on his iPad and Midi to control his hardware Meeblip. I met Harry Allen who had a seriously long list of credentials but for the life of me the only single fact I can remember about his resume was that he was the guy who said the line, “Don’t Believe the Hype” in the samed named Public Enemy song. Steve Horelick who runs the popular Macprovideo.com tutorial site and is known for creating the theme song for the television show Reading Rainbow played two ambient pieces. Before the event there was a lot of discussion because Steve really wanted to play a longer piece. In my mind I thought oh boy ambient this is going to be lame. Not only were half the people there solely to see Steve both his live pieces were great. I usually hate that kind of music but it was more Stanley Kubrick soundtrack and hippy dippy burnt guy sounds. Joshue Ott created an iPad app called Thicket. It’s an art toy filled with as my wife put’s it “migraine inducing visuals” and sound. His performance was by far the most futuristic. The generated audio bleeping away with the wild grid lines the app puts out were really stunning when projected loud and large.
For my own performance I used TC Electronic’s Voicejam, a great 360 looper on my iPad. I used an IK Multimedia iRig adapter to bring audio from several iPhone apps into the iPad and Voicejam. I first created a beat using Tweakybeat. It’s a little drum machine app with a heavy swing and random option. Anything Tweakybeat creates could be a Berlinesque minimal track. Next I layered in some Moog Filatron. I set the Moogs analog delay simulation all the way up to feedback and then recorded a loop while I played with the delay time. It creates a sound like 500 samplers all pitching up and down. For the third layer I recorded a vocal saying “I Want Your Body” into an App called iVoxel. It’s a nice sounding vocoder app with a neat trick. There is an edit mode where you can scrub your finger across your recorded and vocoded waveform. Into Voicejam that went to but not just a simple one shot. I recorded my finger swiping across the waveform. I added some white noise toms from a synth App called NNN Mono. Just to impress the crowd I then used an app called Scanner911 and recorded some live Chicago Police department ramblings. Once all my loops were recorded I used Voicejam and put on a quick performance. The wonderful thing about this looper is it’s circular and each loops plays in time where you put your finger. So if you click around the circle at different loop locations your glitching or say time traveling between loops.
Tekserve was notified the New York Times, Rolling Stones and some other big press were at the event. There were certainly enough large still and video cameras around to believe it. On my way out Paul handed me a Tekserve bag with a 1TB portable Glyph drive in it… class operation!
It’s 7:30AM so I have to run out of here to my day job calling. Tonight I will update this post with more photos and eventually the entire video from the night will be online. Thanks to everyone who showed up!
UPDATE: I finally had a chance to upload a full photo set: click here
I had a great time speaking on the “Geek Out” panel at this weekends IMSTA FESTA. The event put on by Shocklee has pro-audio companies show their stuff in different recording studios at SAE Manhattan. As I approached the street entrance a young guy stopped me and asked if I would buy one of his hip-hop CDs. I was surprised because I didn’t think I looked like a good target audience for him. I asked if he was coming inside and I was surprised again when he told me he had no idea what I was talking about. I let him know he should come up and there would be producers, djs and lots of stuff to check out. He looked a bit afraid and I got the idea he was probably 15 years old or so. Anyway I went in without him and wondered if there was anything at all on the CDs he was trying to sell.
On the 9th floor of SAE there were about 10 security guards in the halls. Once I meandered into the recording studios I knew why: there was lots of nice equipment inside! Immediately I ran into Fady Hayek who is the National Sales Manager for SSL. I was a regular at the Club Cubase meeting he ran when he worked for Steinberg in the 90s. James Bernard had a nice audience watching him go through some amazing tricks and tips with Reason and Record. I love watching him demo stuff. He really gets the software, knows the shortcuts and makes you want to run home and do it yourself.
In the VIP room I met Peter Kirn (Create Digital Music) for the first time face to face. We spent some time thumbing through the latest Keyboard Magazine where Peter wrote the lead story about Moog. We instantly got into the Voyager XL and how it doesn’t make any sense and how awesome it is. I met the Micah Frank from Puremagnetik who apparently I had some emails correspondence with in the past but forgot. Sorry Micah! I briefly met Julie Covello (DJ Shakey) from Warper and we moved to the panel room. We decided to each chat about the one thing that’s blowing us away these days. Peter chose Pure Data and explained in other words it’s the code he’s got a passion for. That it can be on his old desktop machine or his phone and it’s been with him a long time. He’s pure geek for sure! Julie picked SoundCloud and YouTube. I didn’t even consider a non-tangible object so props to her because I think we all spend more time in Social Media than making music (shame on all of us!). I thought her pick was a right on. Micah picked Renoise the old school Tracker that was recently updated. I made the obvious choice to everyone that knows me… iPad! What was unexpected is upon polling the crowd we found that only two people there owned iPads besides me. I showed off iElectribe, SynthPond and SoundPrism. We had a short Q&A where we learned Micah translates earthquake data into sample packs. Yep… he’s a geek too. Propellerheads let me give a few shirts and hats away and it was a wrap. Thank you Jo-Anne for inviting me I enjoyed it greatly!