The Burden brothers have been doing things their own way for 20 years, putting out seminal records on Transmat, Underground Resistance and their own legendary imprint, 430 West. It’s been Detroit love the entire way, naturally, even though the home base of Octave One has now switched over to another rich cultural center, Atlanta.
The premise still hasn’t changed; the Burdens are still putting out inspiring, indelible techno music that cannot be duplicated in the slightest. To celebrate the legacy of their long-standing career, Octave One released Revisited (Here, There, and Beyond), a remix retrospective of their classic tracks, carefully reimagined and revamped by artists from techno’s glory days (Luke Slater, Aril Brikha), to current representations of the genre (Sandwell District).
Along with the remix album, the duo have put out a mobile app for smartphones (which you can get at their website, 430west.com) with access to tour dates, exclusive news and media. To commemorate their remix retrospective, as well as show off their technological prowess, the duo offered us a live recording of their set in Bari, Italy, where they dazzled the crowd with a hardware-only live set that is truly stand-alone. Along with that, the brothers took the time to answer some questions about their move to Atlanta, their take on the current state of techno, and their journey to where they are now. Check it all out of after the jump.
URB: Twenty years is an amazing chunk of time to be dedicated to a project
like OCTAVE ONE. How have you persevered through the ever-changing waters of the electronic music scene?
OCTAVE ONE: Twenty years is an amazing chunk of time for sure to be dedicated to a project, but for us Octave One is more than just a mere project. It’s more an extension of who we are as beings, so it’s quite effortless for the group to get our dedication for so long. And our perseverance through these ever changing waters is due to the fact that we always approach it as if it was our first, whilst we try to keep a steady course as to what we like no matter which way the current flows at the moment. So you won’t become trendy to whatever, but consistent to what you believe.
URB: You’ve got an indelible crew of amazing producers reworking your classic tunes, how did you come about finding the right people to work with the tunes that you’ve made?
OO: We set our sights on artist to remix our songs that we either followed ourselves over the years and or we were recently introduced to thier sound and fell in love with what they were doing and how they approach music. When we started we had a huge list of artist that we wanted to approach for the task at hand, but we had to slowly narrow the field to who we thought would give us the most interesting project as a collective. This had to be one of the most difficult decisions that we had to make. We’ve been in the business so long, so of course you get the rest of your friends wondering why we didn’t ask them to remix a track, but we were looking at the project as a whole and we’re pleased with the outcome.
URB: Is there any particular remix that’s special to you or impresses you more so than the others?
OO: Actually, we love them all! The reason they’re all special and impress us is because we know the songs as we produced them, we know the emotions, influences and moods that our track conveys. But we are totally astonished by what some of those thoughts and ideas have inspired other artist to create as their remix works.
When we started, we thought; “this guy is going to bring this kind of remix to the table according to their particular style.” And we thought that we were somewhat familiar as to what type a track a particular artist would choose to remix. And our minds got blown once again! None of them chose the style of track that we that they would have expected, and what they brought back to us was so creative and inspiring, that we’re just completely flattered by their expressions of our material.
URB: You’ve shifted yourselves away from Detroit and moved to another great city, Atlanta. What prompted the move away from Detroit?
OO: We made the move because we just wanted something new! We love the D, even with all of the struggles that it’s going through at the moment we still consider it to be home. But we were really starting to feel the “four-walls syndrome” and greatly needed a new pulse to help reenergize us creatively and inspirationally.
We were already spending a great deal of time already in the ATL with projects and had friends down there so it was just the logical choice for us to make. The only poor decision was that we didn’t do it years ago because we love it so much! The pulse of the city and the pace of life is just so much different in the south and really not what we had expected but glad to have.
URB: What’s your stance on the current state of electronic music, specifically the increasingly expansive techno scene worldwide now?
OO: It’s quite interesting to us actually, because by being in the scene so long we have seen the trends come and go, back and forth throughout the years. And the biggest constant since we’ve been involved in the culture has been Techno music, the branches grow out to here various forms and genres but always seem to come back to the root, Techno.
We see it over and over, again and again without the root the tree is lost.
So when the branches grow out so far that they don’t know where to go, they
go back to the root to its beginning.
URB: Tell us about the live show, how does it all go down?
OO: We’re a completely hardware-based band. It really just goes back to the days when we first started producing. We just like working with machines as opposed to being laptop based. It’s just a more enjoyable interaction and a better stage show for us.
We have designed, redesigned, and redesigned the live setup many times over the years. The most constant thing has been our root sequencer, the Akai MPC.
We have used many models, the 3000, 2000, 2000XL, and now the 1000. We moved to the MPC 1000 because of its size and power. With an aftermarket operating system installed (JJ OS) it’s quite a little beast. Everything on stage gets its timing from the MPC, but we’re running 3 sequencers together, the MPC, Korg EMX1, and a MIDI-retrofitted Korg Monotribe (with an extra filter added for good measure).
Everything we use on tour was chosen because of sound, size, and weight. We bring most of the equipment with us, including an Allen & Heath ZED 22FX mixing console. We have a mix of analog and digital synths, some stock from the manufacturer, some converted for our needs, some custom-built. These days we’re gigging with a couple of Nord Micro Modulars, Korg KP3 Kaoss Pad, DSI Mopho Synth, Mutable Instruments Shruthi-1 Synth, Korg MX-1 MXSD Music Production Workstation, Roland VP9000 Variphrase Processor, Ketron SD2 Sound Module, Akai MPC1000, Eventide Space, Roger Linn Adrenalinn II, FMR Audio RNLA Leveling Amp, FMR RNC 1773 Compressor, and various other bits we care not to name (you have to have some secrets). We recently added a DSI/Roger Linn Tempest Drum Machine to the setup too. After this year’s NAMM, we’re going to change a few things around again, it happens a lot.
URB: How long have you guys played out live and how much of the configuration has changed over the years?
OO: Although we have producing music for well over 20 years, we’ve only been playing live for about 11 or 12 years. Technology has definitely made hardware gear smaller and more stable. We used to bring big drum machines and lot of rack mount gear with us, but now we can downsize the gear and still keep the sound we want, and in many cases improve it.
There are also a lot of small companies out there that make some really cool and unique pieces, like the Mutable Instruments Shruthi-1, it’s an analog/digital hybrid synth made by a very small company out of France. It’s vicious and very customizable. You can add what filters you want in your unit and few other things. Many major manufacturers have also learned that to compete with or compliment the laptop music systems you have to make small, powerful, lightweight products. Korg is a prime example of that.
When we first started, we were super-raw with the sound with little or no processing. That was great for small clubs, where you can feel the intricacies of things, but when you play something like the Love Parade with half-a-million plus folks out there, It just doesn’t work at all. We still try to keep things raw out of the machines but we do a lot of live processing with the audio.
URB: Tell us about the live set that you’ve given us to use for this week’s podcast.
OO: We did a really cool show a few weeks back at this event called Public outside of Bari, Italy. Ton of folks packed in like sardines and a great sound system. A very, very intense night. It was such a cool evening we wanted to share it with a few of our closest friends. So here you go! There were no laptops, turntables, or CD decks harmed in the making of this recording. This is NOT a DJ set. This is live. We hope you like it.
A World Divided
I Need Release (Reprise)
Track 3 (retracked)
P.I.E. (Perception is Everything)
What a Revolution Is
A Better Tomorrow
One People, One Planet