From the Archives: Awkward ’90s Electronica

mini me
Get in, loser. We’re robbing a candy store.

They say that anything worth doing is worth doing badly. This has been 100% true for my efforts in electronic music.

Here are some highlights from my wobblier days as a dance music producer, from about 1993 to 1997. (Back then I was recording under the name Wix.)

(Also see the Jeweler’s Dive and Oak St Bluesman remasters.)

I was incredibly lucky to be born into an extraordinarily supportive family. Every Christmas and birthday put another synthesizer, drum machine, or effects box into my growing studio, and by sixteen I had two albums’ worth of songs. (Terrible songs, wince-inducing songs, but songs nonetheless.)

I got my hands on my first sampling workstation—the mighty Ensoniq ASR-10—at the tender age of 20. It was 1993, and rave music was ascendant. The really fun thing is that no one knew what the hell rave music really was, except for that you knew it when you heard it. And I knew I wanted to make it. And suddenly the power to make it, however badly, was within my grasp.

ensoniq_asr10_2
The Mighty Ensoniq ASR-10

I bought every stupid rave compilation CD I could get my hands on and started mimicking what I heard. Within a few short years I felt I had enough strong material to launch my first single, The Sweatshop Breaks EP in 1997.

My love of rave music morphed into an obsession with hardcore breakbeat, which quickly evolved into jungle and then drum & bass, and I was done—I spent the remainder of the ’90s taking one stab after another at the perfect D&B sound. (And, you know, a quick stop to see what was up with happy hardcore. Don’t worry about it!)

In 1998 I signed on with California indie record label Cosmic Flux Musiq. After a year or two of making more D&B tracks, the owner of the label encouraged me to branch out into different sounds and tempos. By then I’d grown accustomed to a more lush, polished aesthetic, and I entered my midtempo millennial lounge era.

This kept me busy through the early aughts when I parted ways with Cosmic Flux, and then a few years after that I lost my music gear in a burglary. This put a period on my career with electronic dance music, and I switched over to making experimental and dark ambient music on a wave editor, which required little more than a laptop and a microphone.

But for a few glorious years I lived, breathed, and ate electronic dance music. I’m getting back int it again with my Orbr project, working with sequencers and synthesizers for the first time in years. It’s been a blast and I can’t wait to do more! (Part of me wonders why I waited so long.)

Looking back at my early days as a producer inspires more than a few winces, but it’s part of my story. And I’m super glad I had the foresight to preserve digital masters of most of these tracks before losing my gear!

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