Scott Weiser is known to be a plain-spoken man. And when the "purveyor of the hardcore-Electro sound" gets the opportunity to talk about the syncopated scene, prepare for some lessons from a respectable veteran! For Technobass.net, the co-founder of the legendary Jackal & Hyde project along with long time partner-in-crime Todd Walker goes back into time with me, revealing how he jumped onto the Electro train when he was a child, how he started Jackal & Hyde, and how he judges the current dance Electro scene today. With numerous instant classics on labels such as Hallucination Recordings (owned by the legendary Rabbit In The Moon), Dominance Electricity (Germany), and Dynamix II Records with David Noller (as Dynamix II), Scott has nothing more to prove that he hasn't finished to get talked about!
Chris Nexus 6: Welcome Scott, it’s an honor to have you do this interview with me, I am a huge fan of your music! This might be a famous story, but from my European eyes, it remains untold. Briefly tell me how you got into making music, what were your main influences as a kid? What inspired you to get into making music?
Scott Weiser: I began playing piano at age seven and switched to synthesizer and computers in my teenage years. By the luck of the stars, I always had a knack for music, it’s difficult to explain. I would go see movies with my mom even back when I was six or seven years old, and come home afterwards and play parts from the movie’s score or opening theme from the film on our families piano; all by ear and after only one listening in a theater. After witnessing this strange phenomenon over and over, my family found me a seasoned piano teacher and got me started on actually learning to read and write music instead of just doing it all by ear. The final step was to wash a million cars in the neighborhood and mow a million lawns as a kid in order to get my first synthesizer, a Korg Poly-800. When I finally could afford and purchased this synth, I was instantly and forever deeply hooked into synthesis and the making of Electronic Music.
It's a fact that a band like Jackal & Hyde (that you created) influenced at least two decades of artists. I can easily argue Volsoc, Code Rising, Anthony Nuzzo, Ghosts In The Machine, Analog To Future, Exzakt and many more have been influenced by your sound. But I'm sure you've been influenced the same way when you were a kid. Tell me more about your musical background.
My main Electronic musical influence as a teenager was first and foremost Front 242, they played a huge part in the way my mind works musically; especially in my approach to electronic song arrangement, sample manipulation and sequencing. When I was seventeen, I had a fake ID and would fenagle my way into a local West Palm Beach, FL underground club called Respectable Street Cafe. It was there that its notorious DJs Danny Bled and Kris Jacobi introduced my ears to Front 242 songs "Master Hit", "Head Hunter" and "Welcome to Paradise", and to be honest, my mind was blown. Not just blown because I thought the music was good, but because I had no idea how they were making the sounds they were making as most of it was hardcore sample manipulation. I had been around piano and synthesizers for years and was familiar with those kinds of sounds, but I never had a sampler as a kid, so knew nothing about sample manipulation (which Front 242 were clearly masters at). From then on, I was on a mission to figure out what they were doing and how they were doing it, and it’s safe to say that the aforementioned songs expanded my mind so much, that it was a life changing event for me as a young producer and musician, and took my music creativity into paths I would have never gone into otherwise. Other influences as a child were all of Vince Clarks musical endeavors like Depeche Mode, Erasure and Yazz, and groups like Vangelis, Afrika Bambaataa and of course Kraftwerk.
So should we consider that the industrial sound you developed under the Jackal & Hyde project is due to Front 242?
Who are your masters in Electro music? Who are your masters in music in general? Masters who taught you?
Producers I would consider true masters of Electro? To me the top of the heap would be Kraftwerk, Mark Bell’s LFO (not to be confused with the boy band of the same name), Uberzone, and Justin Maxwell & Jean-Paul Bondys unfortunately short lived Volsoc. General music masters would be everything from Mozart to Pink Floyd to me anyway.
My engineering teacher and master tonmeister was a producer named Tom Dowd. He had a distinguished career from working on the Manhattan project as a physicist during WWII that lead to the development of the Atomic bomb, to producing and engineering songs for The Eagles, Eric Clapton, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Creme, The Allman Brothers Band, Cher, Dianna Ross and Willie Nelson among many other artists. He is also known for popularizing the use of stereophonic sound in music recordings as well as pioneering the use of linear channel faders instead of rotary controls on audio mixing consoles. I was lucky enough to work with him from 1996 to 1999, and received most of my mixing and engineering skills from him first hand. You could not put a monetary value on the education I received from Mr. Dowd over those four years, and everyday I’m thankful that such a wizard appeared in my life and shared his knowledge with me before passing away in 2002.
Priceless for sure! Shame about his passing. So if you had to select one song from repertory that is the most representative of your sound, which one would it be and why?
Probably Jackal and Hyde’s Darkstar. The reason being is it shows the perfect Electro marriage between danceability and heaviness. That has always been Jackal and Hyde’s mission and at times, a difficult thing to pull off. It’s easy to make a fun record going “Get ge ge ge get that booty poppin’ yea yea yea”, and it’s easy to make a dark hard song that slams and can get borderline scary, but finding the middle ground between these two things was always our goal and a challenge we loved. To have the asses shaking in the club, but also with head strong attitude and grit is Jackal and Hyde’s sound; always has been and always will be.
Would you say "Go Bang" is your harder stuff as Jackal & Hyde? How many times did it get repressed?
I wouldn’t say the Go Bang Remix was our hardest stuff no, it was just another example of a fun ass shaker meets a head strong banger. It was repressed many many times and the final vinyl count was nearly 40,000 copies globally; which for vinyl sales at that time, was an incredible amount.
That is amazing. What led you to getting J&H started then? How did you meet with Todd Walker aka Hyde, back in the days?
The truth is, I wanted to make a harder grittier form of Electro music, and my band mate at the time David Noller (Dynamix II) did not; hence Jackal and Hyde was born. Todd Walker had been a studio cat always around Dynamix II studios, making crazy Electronic Music and sound ideas, so I felt he’d be a good match for this new Jackal and Hyde endeavor with me. The sound creations he would get out of his Emax sampler by sampling the craziest stuff imaginable and manipulating it to death with effects are things of legend, especially for the time period, so the pairing made sense. In 1997, we sent our very first demo songs called ‘Beyond’ and ‘Get Down To My Technique’ to Hallucination Recordings, owned by Techno legends Rabbit in the Moon and they signed us straight away. The rest is history.
Tell me more about "Bad Robot" coming out soon on German Dominance Electricity? Is it a tribute to J.J Abrams ? What are your forthcoming musical projects? I heard rumors about a possible J&H album. Is that true? Any new releases in the pipeline?
Jackal and Hyde is back full force and will be releasing either an original song or remix at least once a month from this point forward throughout 2016. In addition to the Electro slammer Bad Robot, there are four new original songs in the making right now and Jackal and Hyde is currently finishing remixes for Omar Santana, Otto Von Schirach, Keith Mackenzie, DJ Fixx, and possibly a Rabbit in the Moon remix of Deeper done in our signature Electro-Core fashion. But that one is still YTBD. I am also co-producing Future House/Electro House with an up and coming producer/DJ called "Mojolefay" here in Charlotte, NC where my studio is located now. A third side project called "Titans and Giants" is in the works with my long time friend and producer extraordinaire Evan Gamble Lewis, so be on the lookout for that as well. This is going to be a full year of killer releases and I’m happy to announce that Bad Robot will be released on actual Vinyl 12” on Dominance Electricity as well as obviously digital download.
We can’t wait for this exciting year!!! So what’s the secret to creating a banging Electro Breaks track? What is your general approach to getting a song started?
As I’ve said on many occasions throughout the years, play your songs for your enemies or strangers and get their opinions, if they say “it’s ok”, you’re doing great! Keep going! Don’t listen to loved ones when it comes to your music, because even if it sounds like a steaming pile of horse shit, they’re going to tell you it’s great, why? Because they love you that’s why. Always take criticism like a champ and have the patience to not freak out about it. Listen to constructive criticism and take another look at whatever it is that you were doing, as criticism can be a powerful motivator to making a bomb ass record by going back over things and polishing etc. That attitude adjustment right there, is a great place to start your path to making better records.
General approach, hmm. Every time I start a song it’s different. It may be a lyric I thought up, or a bassline, or a twisted sound I made on accident on a modular VSTi synth going through a million plugs. That is the inspiration to starting a new jam, one never knows. And that’s just another fun part of Electronic Music, the experimentation of it all, especially when it comes to synthesis and making new sounds never heard before by human beings. Synthesis is a very strange trip, and it never gets old.
Speaking of making a song, how long approximately do you spend in the studio to get a track 100% done? Is the creation process something quite instinctive for you or is it something that needs hours and hours of pain?
I would say generally on average, coming up with the bulk main parts for a song (verse/chorus), takes me a day or two max to get it right in the pocket where I want it, and get most of the sound designing done. Additional edits which are extremely important in Electro, can take up to a week or more depending on the level of program insanity one wants to achieve in the song sequence wise. I usually mix down as I work, so when I think the songs sequencing is totally completed and there is nothing more to do, I’ll focus on finishing up the final 10% of the mixing process and render the song out for mastering. To keep it safe and for this discussion, I’d say approximately two weeks for a bomb ass timeless record on average from start, to the final mastered product. Keep in mind, this time period is for Electro, not other genres. I can mix a Rock song down in a day half asleep. Main Room/Electro House I can make from start to end in two to three days on average starting from scratch, so for me it is program dependent.
Regarding the “pain” you ask about (assuming you mean frustrating "pain in the ass"). Once you hit about 50 records completed, and you begin to master your craft (in my experience anyway), all the “pain” as you call it melts away and things become extremely easy and much more fun. It’s like watching Bob Ross paint a beautiful oil painting in one 30 minute TV show (I’ve been watching his reruns on Hulu lately), there’s no pain involved, its just a master dabbing happy little trees in here and there and ending up with a masterpiece calm as can be.
Let's talk about all this new hardware being released. Are you impressed by any of the recent releases by Korg or Roland's AIRA series for example?
At one point I had around 30 analog synths and drum machines of all kinds, of which I’ve sold over the years past. The whole idea of moving forward with technology was dreaming about a day where you could make an entire record on a laptop, that day is here, and other than having very specialized units or for nostalgia, there’s really no reason to have the old technology. I keep a Studio Electronics ATC-X quad filter around to have access to analog filters by Moog, Oberheim, Roland TB-303 and Arp 2600 + distortion circuit + ring modulator. The nice thing about this unit is its input, enabling you to run software VSTi’s from your computer into it giving them warmth and grit from the various analog filters in those legendary units. Also an analog Schippmann ebbe und flut which I run software instruments through for FSU purposes, or just general sound design. These two units represent the only analog “hardware” I need as of 2016.
There’s an old engineer principal from years past - K.I.S.S, Keep It Simple Stupid. I like to keep my studio lean with only extremely powerful rare units around instead of 3 walls of unnecessary light boxes. To be honest though, with the advancements in computer technology nowadays, even these powerful boutique units rarely see any use in my studio. The Nonlinear Convolution Vectorial Volterra Kernels Technology from Acustica has made it possible to emulate all of the aforementioned analog filters directly within your computer along with thousands of other analog devices. I can set up an Acustica Nebula Moog LP Filter for instance in seconds within my DAW and run a VSTi through it, and get the same desired hardware result in seconds without any outboard gear, patch bay routing, etc.
As far as your question regarding the Roland AIRA…I honestly don’t get it. Even owning and hanging on to an original TR-808 at this point I don’t get other than for nostalgia purposes. For years people have been amassing gigantic libraries, sampling TR-808s through millions of dollars worth of outboard gear, making the 808 sound even better than the original TR-808 drum machine did itself. Deeper, fuller, more depth, harmonic distortion etc. I mean one only has to go preview the samples from www.goldbaby.co.nz (for instance) to hear incredible sounding 808, 808 to tape, 808 ran through different analog filters, drum machines, distortion boxes and high end analog eq’s etc. The 808 drum samples this mad scientist sells are fire, and sound better than any analog drum machine I’ve ever owned because of the time and care this cat puts into every single sample.
So here’s the bottom line. Scenario #1: You own Ableton Live, you go to Guitar Center and buy a Roland AIRA. Now you’re sitting at home with a DAW and an unnecessary Roland AIRA watching the $500 light show and you’re syncing up the big mess (remember K.I.S.S) to play along side in sync with Ableton, and the unit only has stereo outs and two assignable outs, but makes 11 sounds (face in hands); So now you’re going to have to back it up and record the unit multiple times like its 1991. What makes it worse is being on a budget, you don’t own tens of thousands of dollars worth of high end analog gear and tape machines like Goldbaby does, so you can’t even make the Roland AIRA sound fat as fuck like you want it too.
Scenario #2: You own Ableton Live, you go to Goldbaby and buy say… the Super Analog 808 or their Tape 808 for $29. You bring those samples into Ableton Live and build a drum rack with many macros for tune control and sample cutoff etc, and now you have the 808 drum machine from hell dripping with rich harmonic distortion and analog fatness directly in your DAW. Best part is, not only do your records sound better, but you have a dedicated channel for every single sound, and you’ve saved $470 in the process. For the purpose of actually making banging records and adhering to K.I.S.S, I’m going to go with scenario #2 100% of the time. I hope this has answered your question with regards to the Roland AIRA.
Couldn't have asked for more honest advice! So what about vinyl making a resurgence, are you seeing it?
Yea I’m seeing it and I think it would be killer. Humans like tangible things like a piece of vinyl. It’s collectable and fun and can be hung on a wall, unlike an MP3.
A million thanks Scott for this interview. We wish you the best for 2016 with the return of Jackal and Hyde on wax! Keep up the amazing work.
Interviewed by: Chris Nexus 6