Steve Duda seems to be the IT guy (no pun intended) of musicology and production- in common lay terms.  He is known to refine music programs, add his technical creative ability to make programming and sound design look like he does it in his sleep.    Starting at Palo Alto’s Digidesign is where his expertise in music production began to grow.  There is no need for an intro, Steve took the time to give us all the inside scoop on how he has become the “master of practical dichotomies” and worked with A-list rock stars.

Interview done by Dee Sanae

GLOW:    How did you start working with Nine Inch Nails, Rob Zombie, Sugar Ray, A Perfect Circle, and Tommy Lee?

DUDA:    I’ve been interested in the intersection of music and technology for as long as I can remember.  I played with synthesizers as a child and was always fascinated by the sounds coming from computers and electronics.  Through high school I sold synthesizers for income.  I even took private lessons on MIDI and synthesis from a local TV composer.  Out of college I knew my music composition degree wasn’t exactly going to blow open doors for me, so I decided to acquire as much expertise as possible on the technology / tools of the trade.  I took a job at Digidesign, who make a hard-disk recording system called ProTools that was an industry standard for music production, and still is, to a large degree.  I took a job in technical support for the pro products division, which allowed me to develop a lot of industry contacts on the production side.  From there I reached out to Charlie Clouser, the keyboard player of Nine Inch Nails at the time, and ended up taking a job working on The Fragile album.  Working with Trent Reznor was a great calling card, so to speak.  When the album was finished I moved to Los Angeles and instantly started work on Tommy Lee’s Methods of Mayhem album, and about a dozen albums thereafter.

GLOW:   What do you consider your best production?

DUDA:   I don’t think about music in terms of ‘best’.  It’s funny how different people will tell me such-and-such track is the best track, and it’s usually a different track every time.  If I had to pick a favorite though, I guess it would probably be BSOD – Last Life, as it puts me in a mood, is memorable, and simple, but survives repeat plays.  Deadmau5 and I cranked it out pretty fast but the amount of effort you put into a piece of music does not correlate to its quality.

GLOW: Where do you think the music industry is and what are the challenges that it has to make money?

DUDA:   Where the music industry is, well, with the Internet, so much has changed.  Sales have fallen off considerably, the entire distribution paradigm has shifted, and people are able to discover music they wouldn’t come across on mainstream media outlets.

The industry as a whole doesn’t concern me, nor does money…  With that said, the industry people I know are aware that these days income is made on things that can’t be stolen.  Merchandising and consumer products related to or branded by artists, and tours are where the money is getting made.  This isn’t a good thing for the quality and effort put into music; I miss the album budgets of yesterday, because there is an entire studio culture that has dried up because of the lack of album budgets.      When music is no longer the ‘product’ that musicians are selling, well, I don’t see that as a benefit to society but that is where things seem to be headed.  On the positive side, technology has enabled more people to make quality recordings at home than ever before so power-to-the-people.

GLOW:     Where do you think electronic music has impacted artists these days? For example, Tommy Lee, DJ Aero, Missy Elliot with drum and bass, Madonna with William Orbit …?

DUDA:   Artists are aware of club culture, and when they come from a more mainstream world, and discover this underworld where music serves a different function, they get hooked on it, both the sound and the culture.  It really isn’t “hey here’s a way to sell more music with a new sound that the kids will consume”.  I like to believe it is more of an inspiration that they wish to feel a part of, and bring to people.

GLOW:   How do you think music has repeated itself from past eras? Sampling?

DUDA:   That’s a difficult question.

GLOW: I always do! [laughs]

DUDA:    Music in general borrows from the past.  Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, all borrowed from previous composers and folk melodies.  The melody of our national anthem was a popular British drinking song.  Daft Punk probably wouldn’t be known without sampling the 1970’s.  Things get re-contextualized and take on new life, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, as long as nobody is getting totally exploited in the process.  It is still music, still a creative endeavor, still art, and new art at that.

GLOW:  What are some new technologies that you are really feeling right now and you have incorporated in while in the studio?

DUDA:   I’ve been pretty excited by Open Sound Control.  Though it is pretty boring in of itself (network protocol), it allows you to connect various pieces of software and hardware that wouldn’t be able to interface in such complex ways without it.  I’m using it for remote control over software with my JazzMutant Lemur and Monome256 hardware controllers.  It allows me to do things I wouldn’t be able to do without it, such as create music without touching the mouse or computer keyboard at all.  Of course it takes a fair bit of setup, in fact I spent a good year writing my own suite of OpenSoundControl audio processing plug-ins in C++, so I could create and manipulate audio in such a remote manner.  Some of the plug-ins are freeware, and others are really custom-tailored to my own needs.

GLOW:    What made you start making a name of your own as an artist?

DUDA:     I’ve never been after any limelight to be honest.  I just enjoy making music and hopefully inspiring and influencing others.  My major creative outlet was with Deadmau5, as he has a rare talent to take simple musical ideas and make them sound interesting and complete.  His career exploded, which I had a feeling would happen, though I didn’t quite imagine it happening to this extent.  Since he has gotten pretty busy and I get bored of just tinkering on music software ideas, I thought it would be fun to get out and perform with some of my toys.

GLOW:   Tell me about BSOD?

DUDA:     BSOD was a name Deadmau5 and I came up with to call our music collaborations.  At first, we weren’t really making ‘mainstream’ EDM; we were working on some pretty crazy IDM, drum ‘n’ bass, and a whole collection of songs which would classify more as indie rock perhaps.  We started making some dance tunes, not taking it very seriously, and it brought a lot of attention, with a couple of #1’s on Beatport, plays by Pete Tong on Radio1.  We really considered ourselves outsiders to the dance music world at the time, so it was more of “here’s how we think electro should sound” than trying to imitate the latest trends.  I think that helped BSOD standout from the pack.  As we made more tunes we tried to carry that same ethos, of making tracks that aren’t trying to be commercial.  I think that adds credibility; a lot of people go fishing for hits, and even if they succeed, it’s disposable music as far as I’m concerned.  It won’t survive the test of time.

GLOW: How did you meet Joel (Deadmau5)?

DUDA:   I met Joel online testing music software in a private beta testing forum in 1999.  I heard some of his music and was really impressed by it, so I reached out to him, curious to know more about him.  I was completely floored when I found out he was 17 and a beginner.  His music ran circles around a lot of veteran producers, even back then.  We became good friends online, just joking around about various stuff and what not.  He’s my best friend.  Although I miss the days where we had plenty of time to chat about nonsense and make music for fun with zero pressure, I’m very proud of him for everything he’s achieved so far.  Despite the negativity some people have towards him, he really deserves his success.  I’ve never met a guy with more talent, and I’ve worked with some heavyweights.

GLOW:  Any upcoming releases or productions you are working on?  Any commercial remixes?

DUDA:  I’m working on a bunch of new music, I made a track with users online at this website a producer friend of mine started called, The Public Record.  I created a track (Steve Duda – Fish) entirely from user-submitted content.  It was an interesting experiment, and made for a track that I would have never created with the usual tools sitting around.  I might try it again but take a different direction on where I steer the sound/style of the track.      Other than that, I have a half-dozen original tracks I’m going to finish up and release in bunches, hopefully along with some good remixes from other producers.  I also have other exciting music projects planned with a couple of top artists but unfortunately it would be premature to discuss those.  I don’t want to jinx anything.

GLOW:  Where would you like to be in three years?

DUDA:  I’d like to be doing sets that are almost entirely live and improvised.  It will probably take getting other musicians involved as there is only so much a single brain and pair of hands can do in terms of creating live electronic music.  I feel that it’s quite possible and I’ve already created a lot of technology to help push things in this direction.

GLOW:  What can GLOW expect from you and what have you heard about GLOW?

DUDA:   I haven’t heard much about GLOW, being based on the other side of the country but I know there’s been a lot of world-class talent through there, so I’m thrilled to get to come to DC on Oct. 7th to perform for GLOW and see what it’s all about firsthand!        As for my set, I’ll be playing a lot of originals including a handful of unreleased tracks.  Most everything I play is my own production, which makes for a unique experience.  I also freestyle a lot of beats and effects in to the mix, which lets everything have a live and spontaneous sound; I get to feed off of the crowd’s energy and make things a bit crazy and improvisational.

For more information on Steve Duda please go to: Twitter: @steve_duda   

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