David Noller aka Scratch-D From Dynamix II: The Legendary Pioneer Speaks Out

Dave Noller is one of those names that truly needs no introduction, a household name to die-hard fans of Techno Bass music all around the world, and a pioneer in his own right. Having been behind influential records such as "Techno Bass" on Chaos Records, as well as "Just Give The DJ A Break", "Atomic Age", and "The Plastic Men"; not to mention his own solo works as Scratch-D on labels like Zero One Music, Rephlex, Frajile Recordings, or Dynamix II Music, the man behind the iconic Dynamix II has been on an unstopabble path delivering mega-low bass drops, and ingenious programming to the masses, gaining the artist a reputation of being a sort of "Mad Scientist" for our music. This month, Santino Fernandez had the honor of speaking to him, gaining some insight into his background and accomplishments throughout his career...so with that out of the way, let's get on with it!

 

 

Santino Fernandez: Welcome Dave! It’s an honor to have you spend some time with us to do this Interview. For those who don't know, tell us a little bit about your beginnings, what was life like for you that inspired you to get into making music?

 

David Noller: When I was still a child, each Summer and Winter vacation I spent visiting my grandparents in New Jersey. It was there where I was exposed to the ground-breaking mix shows that were airing on New York’s radio stations like 98.7 KISSFM, 92KTU, 107.5WBLS and WHBI 105.9FM. It was a very magical time back then. Hip Hop culture was exploding all over the air waves on late night radio, and due to the popularity, soon mix shows began making their way onto daytime radio. 

 

There was a mix show on 92KTU called "Paco’s Supermix" that featured custom edited mixes by “The Latin Rascals”, Aldo Marin of Cutting Records & "The Dynamic Duo". I would record these mixes to cassette and listen to them over and over and over until I could predict where the next edit happened. Kiss FM was also airing their "KISS Mastermixes" in the daytime by Shep Pettibone. The best of the best remixers were on the air and I was paying close attention. They were laying down the musical blueprint that I would recall time and time again each time I was in my studio.

 

Interesting, I didn't know your roots in many ways started with the New York scene. So then what was the scene like in Miami back in the 80’s as Electro Funk prior to Miami Bass started to take hold? Were the parties strong and positive, or were there a lot of turf wars and an overall rather competitive vibe going around?

 

In the 80's there weren’t as many promoters as there are nowadays, Electro music was being played in teen clubs and skating rinks. It was there where it made its debut. There were events being thrown by Luke Campbell, who before joining forces with the 2 Live Crew was an event promoter. I remember going to a few of the larger events back then like "The NYC Fresh Fest", and Luke Campbell's (back then known as Luke Skywalker) "Luke Skywalker Def Fest" to name a few, to see the breakers do their thing. It was a different vibe than you would find going to an event today. Electro Music and breakdancing was a “brand-new" thing and everyone was trying to catch a glimpse and be a part of it; including me. 

 

I bet it was amazing, such new and raw energy for a movement that would change the world. The only way I can relate was my first Rave, and getting in a circle and watching the kids breakin'....blew my mind, I knew I had to be part of this movement! 

 

So now let's talk about your act "Dynamix II", which hasn’t just been a tremendous force to be reckoned with for a few decades now, but also at the end of the day sort of a one man show in that you have had a few partners, but always continue at it alone…What has led to this decision if you can talk about that? Has there always been a sense that while there may have been compatibility, that in the end the vision for Dynamix II has always been too personal for anyone else to fit that mold?

 

There is a certain dynamic creative process that happens when you are working with a partner. Amazing things can sometimes happen, and the result is nothing less than magic. Over the past several years I had decided to team up with many talented individuals. Each one of them can, and do stand on their own merit. Without change something sleeps inside us and seldom awakens. I have always felt that in order to grow one has to be able to adapt to change. Dynamix II is no exception to this rule. In order for it to grow, it must and always will follow suit.

 

I can definitely agree, change is not something everyone likes, but truly the catalyst for evolution no matter what the reason. So going back a couple decades, we have “Just Give the DJ a Break”, which was a Gold hit, and not something anyone in this scene has ever been able to accomplish. What were the effects of this on the scene in your region back then? How did it seem to evolve everything including Electro Funk music itself? Undoubtedly this must have helped the music spread like a wildfire.

 

The record was a great experience all those years ago. The records’ beat had been sampled and layered over countless music by other artists ever since its release. It was instrumental in bringing a mastermixed style song with Electro Bass beats to the masses. After this, the flood gates were wide open for the sound of the underground.

 

Let’s talk about the all mysterious label “Techno Bass” for Electro Bass music then. Some people believe it to only be a Detroit sound, while in reality Miami and the rest of South Florida had begun to adopt this years before, after the 1988 release of your hit classic “Techno Bass” on Chaos Records; gravitating away from Booty Bass and into the Intelligent Bass Music and Car Audio market. What inspired you to go in this direction from the beginning, as opposed to the more “hand played” and slower bpm sound of Electro Funk? Is it fair to assume Detroit Techno at this point was already a big influence on you?

 

I had always loved Electro Funk, but had a few records from Juan Atkins (Cybotron) in my crate like "Techno City", "Clear", "Model 500",  "No UFO’s",  and "Time Space Transmat". I was influenced by the sound of Detroit but I felt that it lacked in the 808 Bass department. Being that I was based down here, it only made sense to give the sound a much needed upgrade to a warmer thicker 808 hum over top. It was the combination of the two [sounds] fused with the blueprint of Kraftwerk’s single “Numbers”, that laid the blueprint in its place. The term “Techno Bass” was coined with Dynamix II’s 1988 release “Techno Bass” on Chaos Records.

 

Let's ellaborate on this a little for the sake of educating the masses some. It bothers me a lot when I tell people about the Techno Bass period of Miami Bass music; even often with people in your region, who don't seem to remember the era or even artists like Beat Dominator, Techno Bass Crew, Bass 305, etc. A simple Google search for the word "Techno Bass" brings up oodles of videos with tracks from back in the day, none of them Detroit, and all of them showing what a healthy scene that had become for quite some time before Detroit adapted to this.

 

There, it seems to have happened with your influence and this is admitted even by the guys from Aux 88, but as far as the term, I have never gotten the sense from speaking to anyone there that it had been adopted because of the Dynamix song "Techno Bass", or any of the artists from the time period I mentioned. Talk a little about this era and these artists....did you know any of them? 

 

Techno Bass was the song that coined the term, period. Until that record's release there was no such thing as Techno Bass. It was a fusion of Miami Bass and the Techno sound of Detroit given to us from no other than Juan Atkins himself. It was a moment in time when car audio sound-off contests were in full swing. People would come from all over the US to compete for title of the loudest system. As necessity is the mother of invention, car audio bass CD's began popping up at that time geared towards making music with the lowest bass to meet the demand of the contestants who needed fuel to power those loud car systems. Everyone was hustling to cash in on the bass gold rush. I met a few car audio artists at trade shows such as Neil Case (Beat Dominator), Claudio (Debonaire) and Derrick (Afro Rican).

 

I remember that time period well, I am not sure if people realize that through your influence in taking Electro Funk in this direction; what a lot of people know as "Electro Bass" or Techno Bass in reality, you helped the sound continue forward, where it may otherwise not have survived perhaps given its general worldwide decline in popularity. Even Detroit may not have gone in the direction that it did with their version of Techno Bass music; which was a critical influence as well.

 

Anyway, so moving forward a little bit, you became a huge pillar of influence in the Florida Rave scene, which was another important moment in history. What was that like, was it a fairly lucrative experience for Dynamix II?

 

The scene was exploding and I noticed that a lot of earlier Dynamix II works were being sampled in a lot of Orlando Breakbeat music. I remember going to the edge to hear Icey in Orlando, and that night we heard at least 5 songs that had a beat or sample of a loop from a Dynamix II classic in them. So we were greeted with open arms into the rave scene due to the fact that the DJ's spinning the music were already familiar with the sound of Dynamix II. It was a great time to be in the music business for everyone involved.

 

How do you see the industry right now? Are you satisfied with the so-called Digital Revolution and what it has brought, or do you see some things that need to change?

 

The industry has changed completely in every way. The positive thing it has brought is: the artist is now in 100% full control of their own music. There are no longer major labels taking advantage of artists. The bad thing is there are no more music videos on MTV. Music is no longer making money, and it has become nothing more than a calling card for promoters to look up an artist and book them. Where is money being made? Event ticket sales, licensing and tangible items ie. t-shirts, hats and various swag.

 

What’s your opinion on this thing called “The Loudness War”? Are you also in the belief that music is being over compressed, and Dynamics being lost for the sake of being louder than the next guy?

 

Well, back in the prehistoric days of recording, they just didn't have the luxury of the tools they have nowadays to make everything sound larger and fuller. Now everyone compresses and limits to bring out each sound to its maximum potential to make the overall track sound louder. The louder the track is, the more people will hear of it. We are making music that is to be played on loud speakers in a loud night club/ festival setting, so it would only make sense to crank everything to the max.

 

That's a worthy counter-argument to the current sentiment, Emmanuel Deruty from Sound on Sound made a similar point. So then tell us about the TAL Vocoder you helped create, and as a devoted user of Reaktor, do you see yourself gravitating away from plug-ins for music making and back into hardware as the trend reverts, or do see a specific value in using a software based approach to creating Electronic music?

 

The Tal Vocoder is a plugin vocoder which resembles my SCV350/SH101 rig that I had been using since the early 80's. It is available for free here. It was coded by the genius Patrick Kunz in Switzerland. He is truly an amazing software developer, take a look at his creations here. I use both software and hardware, but see a trend in everything going software as the modeling has been improving daily and sounds amazing.

 

How about this "hardware revolution" happening, do you still have much of your gear from back in the day like the Moogs? Are you being impressed by some of the releases like the Roland AIRA and Boutique lines?

 

After all of these years I still have all of my gear intact and in perfect working order. Virtual and hardware technology always impresses me. As a sound designer, your job is to explore sound and relay your findings to the world. Moog has always been one amazing company. Their synthesizers have a certain character that is nothing less than magic. Roland is great at emulation, they did one hell of a job in emulating their classic synths with the Boutique lines! It’s a great moment in time for music. Today’s sound creation tools are amazing and truly inspiring.

 

What do you see for the future with Dynamix II, the project and the label? Any new releases in the pipeline?

 

Dynamix II Music (the label) will be releasing music for Dynamix II and a select few artists. There is a new track that was just released on the label for the act "HydrashocK" called "INFILTR8" that is available on all digital retailers. There is also a new Dynamix II remix for Afrika Bambaataa on Cut it up Def records. New releases will always be coming, you can listen to us on Soundcloud.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Huge thanks for taking the time for this interview Dave, long live Dynamix II and its legacy. Thanks for all you have done for the scene over the years!

 

 

 

Interviewed by: Santino Fernandez

Edition: 
December 2015