Artist Highlight – (John Leach, Siam Collective / Gamepak)
John Leach is the man behind psychedelic rap collective Siam Collective (pictured). Out of costume he looks like Damon Albarn circa 1996, and talks like the charismatic head of a hip hop fuelled electronics cult. Along with A4 Sounds’ Andrew Edgar, MarQu VR and ‘Jeff Jeff Jeff’ he runs Gamepak, the group responsible for bringing chiptune gigs and circuit bending workshops to Dublin. I spoke to John in the creepy cosy former Magdalene laundry he calls a home. Here here is, in full mad scientist mode talking about humanity’s cybernetic relationship with the circuit.
And here he is demonstrating the black art of cartridge ripping.
I’m sitting in the basement of Trinity Library, surrounded by studious folks burrowed in their laptops, their little desktop kingdoms defended by troops of empty Monster energy drinks and granola bar wrapper sandbags. On my laptop is a table of my work on Mad Scientists of Music to date. With the exception of a couple of sonic experiments it’s almost entirely been recording, collating and editing interviews: Capturing dozens of hours of ‘tape’, cutting out ems, ahs and digressions and slicing them into clips with names like ‘Quentin Tarantino’s Starwars’ and ‘Alien Language’. I’ve interviewed thirteen Irish electronic musicians, from circuit bending hackers to chiptune pop stars, and recorded several tours of their musical toyshops.
I’ve travelled to Limerick, Liverpool, Brighton, Maynooth and all over Dublin, in the process learning a little something about audio recording and the many many ways you can screw it up. I’ve had to deal with a couple of disasters – several of my preliminary interviews had to be completely redone due to foolhardy mic placement, and a whole week of editing work on a marvellous interview with Ewan Hennelly had to be redone from scratch when I managed to accidentally erase a bunch of files.
Technical mishaps aside, the interview process has gone great. My guests have included theramin robot builders Deathness Injection, the toytronica hackers of Gamepak, Irish hiphop diva Meljoann, and rising chiptune superstar Chipzel. Our conversations have gone everywhere from copyright to UFOlogy. I can’t wait to get this stuff out there. Thing is – there’s a long way to go before this documentary’s finished.
I keep a running tally of clip lengths in my SUPER-MEGA-EXTRA-ENORMOUS-SPREADSHEET-O-DOOM, and (with about half the interviews still to edit) we’re already looking at over 500 individual clips, containing 371 minutes of finished interviews, or enough for 12 thirty minute episodes, not counting music.
Putting it all together, mixing, building a sound scape worthy of the material and generally having fun – not to mention the chop chop chop of cutting the interviews, is going to take a looong time. With that in mind, I’m going to start posting Artist Highlights – brief bios of musicians featured in the documentary, with a couple of interesting / entertaining clips to accompany them. These won’t necessarily reflect the style or substance of the final series, but they’ll help motivate me to keep cutting, and hopefully provide a small thank you to the many musicians that have made the series possible.