I don’t usually write about my “creative process” because it’s mostly nothing more than “hear noises in my head, try to make those noises outside of my head”, however the collaboration with Bit Shifter at Saturday’s Blip Festival Tokyo was such an anomaly I thought it might interest a few people to see how it happened.
After 3 hours sleep on Friday night (more properly, Saturday morning) I crawled out of bed cursing the sunlight and found an e-mail from Josh (Bit Shifter) with a link to a sound file. I quickly put the music onto my iphone and headed out to the venue in Kouenji before it got too unreasonably late.
After everyone had soundchecked we had a short break, so I ran off to a local cafe where the staff all knew me and wouldn’t be too upset by the foreign guy in the voodoo-style top hat silently mouthing words in the corner. I put Bit Shifter’s track on repeat and checked the time: 30 minutes before his performance. Just enough time for 5 runs through, to get used to the structure of the song and see if I had any ideas for vocals.
During the first run-through, the minor-key riffs and licks reminded me a little of old-school goth rock like Fields of the Nephilim or Sisters of Mercy and I thought rather than my usual noise-ragga shouting, it would be challenging and interesting to fit goth lyrics into a drum’n’bass style chiptune track, albeit delivered in a pretty raw and raucous fashion.
The second and third runs through, I tried a few different lyrics and decided on “Lucretia” by Sisters of Mercy because it has a good “quiet bit-loud bit” dynamic and the headlong rush of the Bit Shifter track suited the melody. The last couple of runs through were just getting used to the timing and thinking about where to improvise and where to stick to the lyrics.
I ran back to the venue: opening the door I was instantly flattened by seriously heavy bass and savage wave channel stylings from Bit Shifter, and this snapped me right back into performance mode. On the way to the backstage area I noticed a T-shirt (or was it a poster??) reading “Giant sounds from small machines” and it hit me: the first line of “Lucretia” is “I hear the roar of a big machine”: and it was obvious that I had to flip it and sing about “Giant sounds from small machines” instead. I took that as a sign from the gods of chaos that combining goth, ragga, drum’n’bass and chiptunes was indeed a righteous thing to do, and judging by the crowd reaction, it was.