LWE Podcast 158: Brendon Moeller


Photo by Jelmer Gremmen

The passion for their craft is almost palpable in some creative people. For Brendon Moeller it’s visible through his incredible stats: in the past 11 years, there have been eight albums, more than 40 singles and over 120 remixes credited to his various monikers. And that’s without looking at his work with other artists or what he puts in to running his own label. It is that passion that made Moeller leave his native South Africa in the early 90’s and relocate to New York. With the price of music equipment in his homeland making producing near impossible, Moeller moved somewhere where it was affordable. After cutting his teeth working for François Kevorkian’s Wave label, Moeller went on to become almost the sole contributor to the legendary producers Deep Space Media label. Having contributed singles for an array of cutting edge labels, Moeller started his own in 2009, Steadfast becoming another outlet for more of his own productions and increasingly those artists he curates for the label. For many, Brendon Moeller is inextricably linked to dub techno, and while the genre is definitely prevalent in his catalog, the producer has never simply tried to duplicate the essence of Rhythm & Sound. His dub influences also reach back to King Tubby, Scratch, even the digi-dub of Rockers Hi-Fi, but are always applied with a fresh take in his own work. LWE got in touch with the producer to find out more about his label, what’s exciting him in his studio right now and the joys of playing live. He also put together our 158th podcast, a stunning hour of techno ranging from the ethereal to the menacing, the tripped out to the industrial. Download it now and feel your weekend kick back in.

LWE Podcast 158: Brendon Moeller (67:32)

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Tracklist:

01. Cosmic Jokers, “Raumschiff Galaxy” [Kosmische Musik]
02. Joey Beltram, “Step” [Visible Records]
03. Logan 5, “Believe” [Electronic Encounters]
04. Alva Noto, “Uni Iso” [Raster-Noton]
05. Roland Bocquet, “Exotique” [Calm In Tees]
06. Spacetime Continuum, “Transient Generator” [Astralwerks]
07. Sirko Müller, “Submission” [wandering]
08. Octa Octa, “Pitch Black” [100% Silk]
09. Reese & Santonio, “The Sound” [Kool Kat Music]
10. Jeff Mills, “Metaphysical Reaction” [Third Ear Recordings]
11. 04LM aka Oswald, “Young Planet (Brendon Moeller Remix) []
12. Minilogue, “Clouds and Water” (Rrose Remix) [Enemy Records]
13. Ryogo Yamamori, “Black Spray” (Unjin Remix) [Torque]
14. Regis, “Reclaimed 4” [DN]
15. Echologist, “Head On” [Prologue]
16. Sawf, “Skotos” (Henning Baer remix) [M_REC LTD]
17. Developer, “Revisited” [Modularz]
18. DJ Slip, “Everytime It Takes Awhile” (Falko Brocksieper Remix) [Sub Static]
19. Declo, “Fluty” (Dub Mix) [Monique Chronique]
20. G-man & Rob Strobe, “Skotch” [Sonic Groove]
21. Ctrls, “Socket” [Token]
22. Surgeon, “Krautrock” [Tresor]
23. Oscar Mulero, “46” (Antagonists Mix) [Warm Up Recordings]

Your move to New York in the early 90’s was a new beginning for you. It was your new life away from South Africa and it was the beginning of your career into electronic music. Do you look back on your work like a photo album of the last 20 years?

Brendon Moeller: Honestly, I rarely look back at my own work unless I stumble across it by accident or am working on a version of something for my live set. However, I can definitely conceive of my discography serving a biographical purpose.

Your first releases were on the Sm;)e label in 1997. How did these releases come about and who were some of the artists and the clubs that were influencing you at this time?

I began sending DJ DB, A&aR head of Sm;)e at the time, a huge amount of demos until one day he called me up and said, “Lets do it!” At the time I was a becoming a hardcore clubber, so what I was hearing at Sound Factory, the Tunnel, Save the Robots etc. was heavily influencing my work. The stuff I released has a dark dirty industrial frantic/cocaine-fueled vibe to them. I was buying a ton of music at the time, spending hours each week in the East Village listening and researching. Touche, Junior Boys Own, R&S, Instinct are but a few of the labels I was exploring.

LWE first spoke to you back in 2008. At that stage you were doing A&R for Francois Kervorkian’s Wave Music. How did you meet Francois and what were some of the things you feel you learned from your time there?

I submitted a demo to Francois’ then-A&R assistant via a colleague. Some nine months later I finally heard back from Francois that he had been listening and felt there was sufficient material to start working toward an album. Naturally I was over the moon. I met up with Francois a few days later and we had an immediate musical connection. I was looking at fusing dub, Afrobeat, house and electronic music — that was right up his alley.

I owe much to Francois for his amazing input and experience that led to that material becoming what it is. I recall at times getting frustrated because he would not settle on something if he felt it could be better and ultimately he was always right. As an artist one is always eager to get your work out there at the expense of getting it down properly. Francois’ patience and commitment was strong. His willingness to share his knowledge and experience helped me acquire a ton of production skill and sensibility. He also got me back into DJing by affording me the opportunity to play at his Deep Space party.

As FK’s A&R assistant I learned a lot and made a bunch of new friends, and also made some enemies. Rejection is a bitter pill for most artists to swallow. It either makes you more determined or more jaded. We received a ton of demos and I must say it was always tough to say no, but unfortunately there was never enough time and money to take on everything.

To what extent do you feel that position prepared you for starting Steadfast Records?

I guess it was an inevitable and natural progression to want to start my own label. At first it was only going to be an outlet for my own material but as it developed I decided to work with some friends as well. Working as FK’s assistant taught me a lot about the process of signing something and working with an artist toward releasing something great. Patience and perseverance are essential.

What is your aim with Steadfast? Is it something you run with a commercial/financial end in mind or is it purely motivated by passion?

Steadfast is purely to have some fun and hopefully not lose money. My aim is to try and release music that makes me happy and will hopefully resonate with a few like-minded individuals out there.

Among your different monikers you have racked up an incredible amount of remixes. How many are you typically working on each month?

I love being in my studio, so I’m always happy to work on remixes as it affords me an opportunity take a break from my original material. I guess I average a remix a month, occasionally more.

Do you find that remixing other people’s work so much influences what you make yourself?

Not at all.

Being one of your oldest monikers, your Beat Pharmacy output really charts your musical growth, though at the moment your releases focus on your Echologist material and that under your own name. Musically where are you at right now with what you’re making?

My recording studio is set up better than ever and everyday I wake up I just wanna rush in and experiment/jam. Musically I am very much into the experimental and deeper sides of techno, but overall I’m still all over the map in pursuit of my voice, my mark, my signature.

What’s making the studio better? Do you have some new pieces of equipment inspiring you?

I have spent the last two years getting back into hardware and now have the perfect combination of hardware and software. I also assembled a modular synth that is the source of much fun and inspiration at the moment. My favorite bits of kit at the moment are Ableton Live 9, Elektron Machinedrum UW mkll, Elektron A4, Grendel Drone Commander, Boss Space Echo, Moog Minitaur and Zebra 2.

That modular synth looks pretty incredible. Can you tell us a bit about that? Did you build that from scratch yourself? Where did you learn to do that?

I assembled it. I wish I had the skill to build synthesizer modules, but alas… I began lusting after a modular synth a couple years ago and began doing the necessary research, mostly via Muff Wiggler and some friends. I then began planning and ordering the necessary case and modules. It’s not as complicated as it sounds or looks if you put in the necessary research.

It sounds like there’s a shift in your music — not so much away from the dub influences, but more towards harder techno. Do you think that’s true? If so is this a conscious move?

I think it is just the result of me listening to and being inspired by the genre. My first official DJ gig was in 1987 in an industrial/punk nightclub in Johannesburg. I loved this gig to death and was sad to see it come to an end when somebody jumped up into the booth and threatened to stab me for not playing a particular Conflict song. I’m enjoying the resurgence of harder industrial sounds happening in techno. Hopefully live techno is the future of techno! 😉

Speaking of live, when you play live do you actively try and make a bit of a show for people, where you’re playing melodies/sequencing on the fly etc?

I want to connect with people in the audience, I want to entice them to come on an adventure with, an adventure that isn’t predetermined. So much of what we hear in clubs now is formulaic and predictable, so for me, the element of surprise is a vital weapon in my attempt to try and shake things up. It’s a journey and I feel I’m improving every day. I wanna feel justified about calling myself a musician.

And do you find that crowds interact differently with your music when you’re playing live as opposed to DJing?

Definitely. I have realized this more than ever at a few gigs I have done over the last few months. Once people realize that everything is happening in real time, there’s a palpable magic in the air. I guess you can equate this to the anticipation a crowd feels waiting for the DJ to mix in his next tune.

You mention calling yourself a musician. You have come from bands in the past, but do you feel that it’s a natural progression for any electronic producer to shift towards being more organic in their work — to want to use more hardware, play live, record live instruments for their productions?

Well, I can only speak for myself here, so yeah, I feel this is part of my evolution. There’s so much great hardware for electronic musicians, they’re not only meant to be used in a studio. These instruments are made to be played, to jam.

You’ve been doing this for a long time now. How do you feel about the shifting trends in dance music, when all of a sudden attitudes change towards a style of music (ie the rise and fall of minimal techno or people becoming cynical about the proliferation of dub techno)?

Trends have always come and gone. I picked up on this phenomenon even before I began seriously producing myself. Change is good and healthy. Now trends built on hype, well that’s another story! I never set out to be the “dub techno” guy. I try and let my muse lead the way via whatever inspiration, conscious or sub-conscious, comes my way.

Can we expect to hear any further collaborations with Area or Ramadanman?

Yes, Area and myself have some plans and schemes coming down the pipeline. As for Ramadanman, does David Kennedy still use that moniker?

Oh, now that you mention it, it doesn’t look like he does. In terms of collaborations, how do you usually work with other people? Get together when you’re in the same town or send each other files?

If it is possible, I enjoy a good jam session such as the one I had with Speedy J in his Rotterdam studio, which ended up becoming our project called The Watchers. Mostly collaborations end up being a combination of Skype and Wetransfer.

What can you tell us about the mix you’ve put together for us?

Well, as you can see from the first few tracks I had a hankering for some good old 90’s ambient vibes and then decided after I dropped the Jeff Mills track to work things up into a frenzy of techno rhythms and psychedelic frequencies. I think there’s a good balance of old and fresh vibes here.

What can we expect from you and Steadfast over the next year?

As far as Echologist, there’s an EP and album dropping on Prologue as well as a vinyl only EP on M_Rec’s Grey Series. As Beat Pharmacy there are 2 EPs, one on Throne of Blood and the other on Fred P’s Soulpeoplemusic. There will also be a Brendon Moeller EP on Pomelo later this year. As for Steadfast, we have an experimental album by a newcomer dropping later this year or early next year! I hope to be playing some live shows around the globe, but being based in upstate NY has a massive impact on how regularly I can make it to Europe. I’m very much looking forward to performing my live set in Detroit at Movement on May 27th.

Srdic  on April 29, 2013 at 2:10 AM

Talk about a happy Monday. BM’s new EP on Prologue and now this. Awesome ! Moeller’s the man.

jesse  on April 29, 2013 at 8:51 PM

Alright what a funky tracklist, gonna give it a listen. Very truly excited to hear the live set in a month in Detroit! Thank you very much for the jams!

jesse  on April 30, 2013 at 10:30 AM

Rolling beeps the whole way! Superblipped!

chris miller  on May 1, 2013 at 9:36 AM

killer mix. love it.

Greg Swindle  on May 17, 2013 at 10:47 PM

Would love to get a hold of “4LM aka Oswald, ‘Young Planet (Brendon Moeller Remix)’ [].”

cz  on June 19, 2013 at 9:17 AM

somebody oil that squeaky door at 57:00-60! 😉 cool to see “Transient Generator” in the mix though, for sure.

Trackbacks

LWE Podcast 158: Brendon Moeller is archived this week – Little White Earbuds  on February 23, 2014 at 10:00 PM

[…] of techno ranging from the ethereal to the menacing, the tripped-out to the industrial. Be sure to add it to your collection before it’s archived this Friday, February […]

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