how soon is now? just ask jeff mills. the so-called godfather of a legion of contemporary techno djs and producers, mills aptly brought the future to the present with the formation of underground resistance; a music collective he helmed alongside mad mike banks in 1989. if you want to know how it all started, that’s where you look. in fact, if you want to know what “it” is exactly, that’s who you ask. combining the technology of present with the knowledge of the past and a hope for the future, jeff mills’ version of techno is some of the most important, relevant, and — let’s just say it — magical, around.
“i used to live across the way from 8th street records in new york city in 1967,” morton subtonick is telling the audience at the premiere for i dream of wires in berlin. he’s seated next to alec empire and the film’s director, robert fantinatto; they’ve both got the same look on their faces, a mixture of bemusement and fascination. “before i’d even gotten my own copy of silver apples of the moon, i decide to go into the record shop and buy it for myself, and i walk in there feeling as tall as a giant. i ask the guy at the counter, ‘have you got silver apples of the moon by morton subotnick? i’d like to buy it.’” subotnick pauses for a moment, setting up for the punchline, delivered with perfect self-deprecation: “‘yeah, we had it,’ he says, ‘but we’re sold out. people have been buying it up — i don’t know why though, it’s a piece of shit.’”
subotnick has, as they say, done it all. the record in question, silver apples of the moon, was the first longform electronic piece pressed on vinyl, and the first electronic album commissioned by a label, nonesuch records, in 1967. he created the album on a buchla modular synthesizer, the first piece of analog sound equipment small enough to fit on a desk, one that subotnick had a hand in designing. he’s a composer, a sound engineer, a multi-instrumentalist, a performer, a professor of music theory, and a founding member of the san francisco tape music center. he was the first ever music director at the actors workshop in new york. he helped established the california institute of the arts in 1969. his work has been immortalized in the library of congress. he’s lived, it seems, a hundred lives. he’s done “everything but the kitchen sink” — or in this case, the kitchen synth.
subotnick makes a lengthy appearance in the modular synthesizer documentary i dream of wires, alongside pioneers like ramon sender and herb deutsch, as well as contemporaries like carl craig, drumcell, and james holden. the film was five years in the making, and as fantinatto explains in his opening remarks, once subotnick was on board, they knew they had something special. “when i was a kid, i was at the library in my hometown, leafing through the record collection when i saw the sleeve for mort’s sidewinder,” fantinatto recalls, smiling, “there’s a small photo of him working on a modular synthesizer. i thought to myself, ‘man, what is that?’ and that’s where it all started. i was obsessed.”
evidently, that is where it starts for most lovers of modular and electronic music. subotnick has inspired an entire next generation of musicians, composers and producers. the day before his appearance at the wires premiere, where he would be participating in a live Q&A followed by a live performance, i sat down with mr. subotnick to talk modular, dreams, and being “the first.”
“it’s dark,” caolan leander is perched on our coffee table at midnight on a friday. we’re talking about the webshow he wrote and is starring in, untogether. it’s been the subject of probably 78% of our conversations since we moved in together two months previously. “…it’s hard to describe.”
despite his astoundingly eloquent way with the written word, caolan – like me – has more than a hint of social inability when it comes to expressing things out loud. most of our time is spent yelling obscenities at one another, or other people.
about a month and a half ago, i received a text from emily skahan – a good friend and one third of montreal-based folk band, motel raphael (little city’s favourite girl band): “emma! we’re looking for pretty girls to be ghost ladies in our music video for our song ‘ghosts’! are you interested?” caught somewhere between flattery and anxiety, i considered the request. on the one hand, it was so nice of her to think of me, but on the other hand, i’m the most awkward person ever…even more so on camera (a rare but generally always hilariously unfortunate occurrence). i text back: “as long as you don’t expect me to do anything other than stand in the background looking awkward and uncomfortable.” emily replies that “all you have to do is be gorgeous and an ice cold bitch” – perfect. “i’m already both those things! count me in!”
local hero kaya turski is a canadian freeski athlete hailing from montreal – with three winter x gold medals under her belt as well as a spot representing canada in the upcoming 2014 olympics in sochi, russia, kaya is one of the leading female freeskiers at only 24 years old. i had the opportunity to meet kaya at this year’s iF3 international freeski film festival (peep my review here), where she showed (and was nominated for) her webisode, the edge of state of mind. despite being the it girl at iF3, kaya is an incredibly down to earth person – a quality that was powerfully resonant in her webisode, and her demeanor as a professional athlete. we had a quick chat session about what it’s like to be a girl in a male-dominated industry, her webisode series and her iF3 experience. read on!