#41 - Paul Birken & Freddy Fresh
Following Vessel’s man Lee J. Malcolm bringing us a brand new and exclusive live set, showcasing his new ‘Terrestrial’ project EPM are proud to unveil the next podcast…a mix that could only have been created by the musical compendium and quick mix hands of Freddy Fresh and full force techno know how of Paul Birken.
The tracks included in the mix range from old skool and obscure hip-hop records, raw techno tracks, samples and cut ups from all sorts of oddities and rareties, rock gods, 80s pop, trap and monologues from Freddy Fresh himself. With many tracks lasting mere seconds this is another special from the unique turntablist skills of Mr. Fresh. Freddy’s lightening skills and immense record collection mean that you’ll be scratching your head as Led Zeppelin, Tears For Fears, The Art of Noise, 2 Live Crew, Rihanna, Acid House and even Rick Astley ghost in and out of the mix. There’s plenty of humour too, just check how Freddy’s scratching skills mess about with Snoop Dog. Really, no amount of words can do justice to this mix, you'll just have to listen to it to 'understand it!' At 100+ tracks in 60 minutes, don’t even think of trying to put a tracklist together for this one!
Born and bred in St. Paul Minnesota, Fresh's name is often associated with the London UK scene, to which he relocated in the late 90s after having top 40 chart success with 2 of his songs. Freddy Fresh is among the most active and prolific American underground dance music artists, having released more than a hundred records on dozens of different labels worldwide as well as compiling and publishing the Hip Hop crate diggers reference bible, ‘Freddy Fresh presents The Rap Records’.
Producing and DJing for decades and still running Howlin' Records and Electric Music Foundation, Freddy can currently be found working with Paul Birken (Tonewrecker) on new techno projects which have been picked up by the likes of Blawan, Surgeon et al as well as his work with Vladimir, a Chilean folk singer who is putting together an album of Folk/ Psych/Latin/Electronica. Whether its hip hop, breaks, techno, electro or electronica, Mr. Fresh has been there and got the t-shirt. And this incredible mix shows us why he is as fresh as ever!
Paul Birken is a one-man army of analogue synths, hardware sequencers, bizarre filter boxes and many other magical devices. First exposed to the public via a double-pack release on Woody McBride’s Communique imprint, this sonic warrior continues to impress and amaze techno freaks worldwide from his humble Midwest abode.
A steady solid stream of releases continued throughout the 90s including outings on HiPass, People of Rhythm and Saboteur as well as the mighty Drop Bass Network. The 2000s saw Paul start his own ‘Tonewrecker’ imprint which has now released material from the likes of Woody McBride, Paul Langley, DJ Bam Bam, Tomas Nordstrom, Mark Hawkins and Tony Rohr.
Birken continues to experiment from his Minneapolis based sonic research facility, occasionally venturing out for rare live performances and as you can witness here the occasional and incredible mix experience with long time friend and musical co-conspirator Freddy Fresh.
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Q&A with Paul Birken & Freddy Fresh
1. Please give us a quick run through the show. Where do you even start trying to put a tracklist on this?
This was a musical collage between Paul Birken and myself with a special guest re-edit v Japan’s Nonsectradicals. Just anything goes really…
2. Freddy, you are also teaching at McNally-Smith College of Music, do you think music education is important in school?
Essential the kids today are geniuses with technology (that we never had) at their disposal. Lord knows what they will come up with musically!
3. Tell me about your musical backgrounds. What influenced you growing up?
FF: Many things really from New York’s early 1980s hip hop scene to This Mortal Coil and Joy Division.
PB: Industrial and Hip Hop in the late 80s followed the euro synth pop that initially caught my attention. Also had a Commodore 64 as a kid which showed me that you can create songs by yourself without a band and work at any hour of the day or night as ideas come to you.
4. Hearing the podcast it seems that you are using the mixer or the CD players like a real instrument to create mash ups on the go. Can you tell us something more about your technique and setup you are using?
FF: I was using the MPC 1000 and MPC 4000 and Technics turntables mainly with a bit of scratching via Stanton SCS4DJs while Paul used a bit of everything plus Ableton.
5. Paul, you have released on legendary labels such as Communique and Drop Bass Network. Is the Mid West techno scene still alive and kicking?
I’m comfortable existing within the scene down in the tunnels and these bunkers and networks remain intact and full of artists creating interesting stuff. You can always find things going on you just won’t find a neon sign pointing to it.
6. Freddy - I read that you love the MPC. What is so special about it?
MPC….It basically did what Ableton does today (some things I should say) but in a longer round about way albeit without the streamlining and granular synthesis.
7. Paul, you have been producing techno now for 25 years. How has it changed for you in that time?
Personally, I’ve gotten faster in determining what tools work best for which jobs and tracks that are being written. A lot of trial and error and taking chances as well. Things like resampling used to involve running gear through effects and recording that output to DAT and then playing back the tape into the sampler and creating new pieces from that section. Now you can instantly grab and rework whatever routings are giving you interesting results. It’s very inspiring all the time being able to mix and match gear and processing. The other aspect I’ve noticed the biggest change in is just the distribution of music itself. So easy now to get songs out to the listeners. You can create a song, post it online and have people listening to it at home, or anywhere with their phones these days. That turnaround time to putting sounds and tracks into people’s hands has really made it interesting. I saw someone post that laptop speakers were the new Yamaha NS-10s.
8. Tell me about some of your upcoming projects, do you have any new ones in the pipeline?
PB: More tracks with Freddy since we still have a big chunk of raw sounds to work through. I’m wrapping up a double pack of new Surfin’ Superior tracks for the TSR crew in Sweden who will be distributing it through Harvey and the gang at VETO in the UK. I also have a remix of Dave Tarrida on Elektrax alongside Clemens Neufeld that is wrapping up. Others aren’t close enough to completion yet to comment on.
9. Freddy, Andrew Weatherall once told me, ‘that man knows how to make electro’. With that in mind, what are the key ingredients for you in making an electro track?
808 Snares usually and percussion that changes up a bit as in filter sweeps and I usually like melodic chords as well which pisses some people off I suppose. (Wow Andrew said that hmm that’s nice of him he’s a legend that man). I once tried to pop in at his studio while I lived in London but he was out that day sadly.
10. Please give us your current top 10 favourite records:
Freddy Fresh Top 10
This may really be strange as I’ve no rhyme no reason to my song choices and very few are ever dance style tunes but well here’s some that Im currently listening to. Bear in mind I look through rare psychedelic rock LPs most of the time nowadays and this is where my head is at, hence I rarely play out anymore as its not great dance music!
Neon Steve Featuring MC Zulu- - Killem With The Vibes
Quicksilver Messenger Service – Gone Again
Fotheringay – Banks of The Nile
Mortimer – Take Your Troubles
2 Dani Deahl feat. Sue Cho – Pocket Porn
Autosalvage - Rampang Generalities
Jane III – Way To Paradise
Springfield Rifle – Left Of Nowhere
Deviants – Garbage
Love - Between Clark and Hilldale
Glass Prism - She
Paul Birken current top 10 between 2:02 and 3:03 am.
I’m currently fascinated with “the sounds found around your house which abound.”
1. Alarm clock toggle switch clicking between settings
2. Nylon string lifting shade halfway, but catching on the left side
3. Stub toe yelps on wooden dresser with cotton socks
4. Double ice drops into unfilled ceramic coffee mug
5. 3rd step squeaks under left foot on way up stairs only
6. Loose doorknobs creaking at 9 o’clock position
7. Coins in the washer bouncing in low water
8. Groceries freefalling to floor with reverb
9. Plumbing pipes plinking with cold water
10. Toast crumbs crackle faintly while burning on red hot coils