Blog

The blog that never was…

As the title suggests this blog sucks. My vision of keeping an up to date blog has stalled. Its been a busy few years for us and all of our updates have been through the far-more-active SIRUS facebook page. I’m still undecided on whether I should just get rid of this blog completely. I’d like to start blogging properly about the development of the next release, but I suppose time will tell if that’s a reality or not.

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Evolve or stagnate

What is it with the industrial community hating on Dubstep?

Some people in the scene have really driven me away from them with how vigorously they display their dislike for the genre. I’ve stopped following certain bloggers, reviewers and feeds because the hate seems unjustifiably endless. Its fine to ‘just not enjoy’ certain genres, we all do this, but it seems to me the way things are going, that the scene is going to campaign to have any Dubstep influence punishable by an unnecessarily large firing squad. Now this just isn’t fair. For those of us that don’t like Metal: we’re just happy to sit back and stay out of that scene for the most part, and if it crosses over into our scene, we gladly accept whatever parts we do like. We pick out the more industrial-influenced stuff to enjoy, because there’s some good industrial vibes going on there or whatever. We don’t yell at the top of our lungs how much these two genres shouldn’t be mixed.

And I see modern dark Dubstep as being closer to metal (more specifically Metalcore if you want to get technical) than HipHop. All those slamming halftime grooves, chugging low mids, big fills and even double kicks. In my opinion that sounds like it would work really well with industrial- and hence the next Sirus album will have quite a bit of this going on. Even if its ‘uncool’ to do this or a ‘bad move’ or whatever else I can imagine people saying about it, if I were to ask them- but I don’t ask for people’s opinions, I just write what I want to write. I’m not a generic crowd pleaser: I don’t write about getting fucked up, getting laid or hating my ex-girlfriend. And I’m not sticking to the over-used sound of Aggrotech (as much as I still love it!)

And then there’s the other angle I have seen mentioned often: ‘They’re just jumping on the Dubstep bandwagon, because that’s what is popular right now’ etc. Well let me tell you first of all, listening to Dubstep has really taught me about how effective half-time grooves can be in dark music. That’s why they exist in Metal and have worked well for many years in that genre. I’ve written tracks with Dubstep in them because its new territory for me and its always exciting to seek out new territory. That’s why other producers are doing it too; serious producers are always attracted to music that’s complex to make- and *good* Dubstep is no walk in the park.

Now here’s the sad part. There are also a lot of producers out there that have made a name for themselves producing industrial/electro-industrial/EBM and now they’re trying their hand at Dubstep and failing miserably. Its not an easy genre to master. The issue is that people who think Dubstep influence is crap for our scene can point to these acts and say ‘see I told you so’. But they need to understand that this isn’t a problem with Dubstep, its a problem with people fucking it up. And there are a lot of people fucking it up. Using generic plugin settings and samples, and making wobbles for wobbles sake, not crafting their songwriting around them.

And then bands come along that mention Dubstep influence, put their own unique twist on it, it turns out to be innovative and awesome, and people refuse to give it a chance. The scene really needs to drop some of its preconceived ideas or it will never move forward. We added electro to industrial, and electro-industrial is now a staple; we added pop to EBM, and Synthpop is now a staple. Can you see how adding Dubstep to industrial isn’t all that sacrilegious? If your answer is still ‘NO’ then I’m sure its because you think Dubstep is ‘less musical’ or something ridiculous like that…we listen to industrial music for fuck’s sake. Don’t tell me its less musical.

A well-known individual within the scene posted a facebook status along the lines of “Disappointed to hear Dubstep influence on Front Line Assembly’s new album” – in reference to their AirMech soundtrack for Carbon Games. See what’s wrong with this? They didn’t say “badly made” / “generic” / “unneeded” Dubstep. They just said Dubstep. Like its existence carries with it a prerequisite for shit. [for the record, I really liked AirMech, but not for the Dubstep] A recent release by another well known artist did a terrible job of integrating Metal into their music. But I’m not blaming Metal. I’m blaming the artist for not *using* it properly. The same should be said for Dubstep.

This scene could really benefit from some fresh sounds, and Dubstep is one of many suitable genres to draw influence from; and I haven’t seen one justifiable argument as to why the scene shouldn’t be doing this.

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Writing serious music

Now, whilst we are on the subject of the amount of time and effort required to make an album, I always feel like I need to slap people ‘up side the head sometimes when they compare the production times of different producers. If you are only making non-vocal dance music without a set theme, you can power through inception and production really quickly. If I wanted to do this I’d like to think I could pull together a pleasing sounding track in two weeks. Realistically maybe slightly longer considering my work schedule etc. But the point is that I could produce a lengthy EP in a few months and an album in under a year. But as soon as you add a heavy-focus on a single theme and start writing lyrics (and I’m not talking about borderline-nonsense words with light correlation to some rather blurred ideals!) you enter a world of lengthy internal searching, both thematically and within the realm of audio. Searching for the right sounds, the right style, and fully realizing your stance on the issues you want to discuss is very time consuming.

A few friends of mine seem like phenomenally faster producers, but the replay value of their music is not high. That’s not to say that their music is inferior; what their music is trying to achieve it often achieves very well: to make you want to dance, to rise up and smash things, to get that adrenaline pumping and have fun. I’d like to think some of my music does this too, but with more a of lasting message in there somewhere. Even if its not a clear social/political/personal message, as long as there is an emotional attachment strong enough to pull you into the realm of contemplation, I’m happy. Producing music that has the recklessness of dance, but the depth of something more brooding and anthemic, takes time.

Not all my music is like this however, and there are a couple of tracks on the upcoming album and on Venomous Frequencies that really did come together fast and were just made to be dancefloor fillers. I need to have something slightly more light-hearted on my releases sometimes just to mirror life in general. Its not all doom and gloom and saggy bags under my eyes. I definitely see this need in other producers as well. The ratio of the moody stuff to the lighter stuff needs to be strongly one sided for me to feel properly accomplished however. Most of it needs to be dead-serious or I might as well be writing handbag house music.

All this being said, I’m sure a label or other producer entities interested in Sirus *would like to see that it doesn’t take me decades to finish an album*. You need to have a relatively steady flow of releases as an artist to maintain fan interest. That’s what they tell me. And I’m contemplating that issue right now. Once I’ve finished this album I foresee two EP’s being released next, instead of starting work on another LP. Just so I can feel like I’ve really gotten over the chunky career hump that is Broken Hearts Corporate Minds. Knowing me though, it probably won’t turn out like that- it could end up being another LP if I end up on the concept-album warpath again.

Oh and BHCM is sounding damn good. The closer I’m getting to the end of production the faster I’m working. Its going to be an exciting release, in whatever form it ends up taking!

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Reasons to be patient!

In recent months I’ve had people use their caps lock quite a bit when asking about the release date of the next album. More specifically I think this behavior has been going on for over a year now. I thought I’d do the the right thing and keep everybody informed as to the delay. But first, lets talk a little bit about the album’s progress, as I feel its all been a bit too tight-lipped so far.

The concept for ‘Broken Hearts Corporate Minds’ has undergone many evolutions since I dreamed this particular release up in 2009. As the album changed, I had to cut out certain tracks as they weren’t fitting with the aesthetic I wanted. I took these outcast tracks and gave them some rhythmic noise elements to unify them, and called this lovely little collection ‘Venomous Frequencies’. Its free and you can grab it right now from the Music section of this site. As in independent piece of work it kicks ass, but it didn’t really bring me any closer to finishing the album (actually it put me further behind because I was working on multiple releases at the same time).

I had originally envisioned the album to be be a mix between minimalistic hard electro and metal ‘half-time’ oriented stuff. Not with guitars, but with synths written like guitars. The minimal elements never eventuated, as soon after I finished a couple of tracks I realized I was working on a monster that didn’t deserve to be pigeon-holed. The ‘half-time’ sections became more like dubstep- My idea of good dubstep is music that has more in common with metal than it does hiphop (at some point I feel as if I should expand on this topic). So this progression was really natural, considering Andrew and I had spoken about making a dubstep release in early 2009.

The subject matter of the lyrics haven’t changed much since I thought up the concept, and I’m proud of how closely I’ve followed through from my planning stages here.  When I was dreaming up the album, media coverage of the Global Financial Crisis was at its apex, so there is a large focus on money and greed on this album. From a distance, this might not seem like the most original subject matter to cover- but I’ve yet to hear an album dealing with the GFC that I’ve actually enjoyed. The lyrics are more sophisticated on this release, though at times they can be a little more blunt and down to earth. I hope you will find this to be an interesting mix.

Now here’s the thing that really gets under my skin- and I’m going to be very honest: An album dealing with the GFC fallout, that blends electro-industrial and dubstep with vocals that *aren’t* drenched in effects, would have been a huge cutting edge thing… had it come out in 2010. Alas, the release date still hasn’t been set and here we are 2 years later. Four years after I had the idea.

Now I fear that, when the album is released, its just not going to blow off as many heads. At least not from the ‘cutting edge’ angle (don’t get me wrong- I think many people will still find it to be a very modern sounding release). However I do believe it will be one of those albums that really grows on you. Its had so much time and love poured into it…I truly hope it will be one of those albums.

But to get it to be this good, I’ve had to spend a lot of my weeks working a full-time job so that I can:

  • live somewhere with a dedicated separate room for production
  • buy certain equipment that I *really* need to make those clean(er) vocals sound professional
  • Inject money into the live shows that we play

All this is made harder by the fact that I am paying off an education loan, for an education I only partially received, from an audio college that went bankrupt. The world of music has been hard on me. The above points don’t flow easily when you have a debt over your head- one that never really benefited you from the beginning. I won’t go into this any further, lest I turn into a whiny little goth kid.

I would love to work on nothing but the album for weeks on end, but unfortunately its just not possible. This probably isn’t news to anybody, and I’m aware the majority of bands in my position are doing the same thing. That doesn’t make it any less frustrating, I can assure you! Sometimes I wish there was a more original reason behind all these delays, but this just isn’t the case.

I’m writing an album about money, and its release is being held back by…you guessed it. Its not a unique position to be in as a musician, but the irony is truly classic.

I will rebuild my strife as art.

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Fiendfest Aftermath

Since Andrew hasn’t made a blog login for himself as yet, I’d like to relay his enjoyably upbeat status update from our Facebook page:

THANKYOU! everybody for the support
Last night was epic

the crowd at Fiendfest were amazing.
and from what I can remember the bonus afterparty set we did was crazy

special thanks to Gerry for being awesome and everyone involved in the organising and the running of the festival.

and to the Cyberia crew for letting us gatecrash their club and play on such short notice.

Elliven Designs for making us look awesome on stage ^.^

TrashDolls for bringing the party with their nerf gun powered dance warfare 😛

also extra special thanks to the diehards who came and saw us perform twice in one night.
You. guys. fucking. rock.
and are wicked to party with 😀

I feel like we’ve taken things up a level
We look forward to more Sirus live shows in future!

Prepare yourselves!

–Andrw 

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Analogue forces

Like many other producers, every year I stalk the blogs of those attending the NAMM show (one of the largest music product trade shows in the world) to see all the latest audio gadgets. Its been over a month since NAMM, and people are really starting to get into the pre-orders. This year it seems to be all about analogue synths; inexpensive little ones that would fit right into many a producer’s project studio. The timing with this couldn’t be more bizarre from my perspective. As I recently mentioned, I have just started my own little journey down analogue lane- albeit pensively and without the blind enthusiasm of a 40-something Kraftwerk fan. With that in mind, I’ve been studying the developments at NAMM a little closer than I usually would.

One of the more talked about items revealed was a small analogue synth (100% analogue signal path) made by Arturia, who ironically are famous for making ‘virtual’ analogue synths and plugins. This is the real deal though, complete with a few of their own custom features. These things will end up being sold new for $500 USD which is the cheapest I’ve seen a feature rich analogue synth. The problem is it seems to sound rather awful. Unfortunately all the features on the synth that Arturia are toting as the ‘good bits’ are the worst. Their ‘ultra saw’ feature is a thin little joke and so is their ‘brute factor’ control. That being said the arpeggiator is cool and I like the sub-osc stuff too. If I had a progressive house music project, or an old school techno project *maybe* I would buy this. But any notable (modern) analogue synth should be able to stand on its own in regards to character/timbre- and I think I’d need to feed this through some other hardware/software to make it sound interesting.

Synths like this annoy the hell out of me. And this year has seen a quite a few of these sort of things released so far. Just because it sounds ‘warm’ doesn’t mean it sounds good. Here’s my message to people considering buying any new budget analogue synths- warmed up crap is still crap.

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Bleep Saga

I received my Doepfer Dark Energy yesterday. I was able to test it quickly after work. I’m very happy with it; I does exactly what I wanted it to. No more and certainly no less. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that its even smaller than I visualized. Sure, I had seen youtube videos etc but that hadn’t prepared me for how cute the unit it. In fact, it monstrously sexy. Its definitely one of my best looking pieces of gear. Visually I’d put it up there my Golden Age Pre 73 preamp, which has a harsh Russian Soviet-era look and feel (take a look here).

People have complained about the cramped features, that everything is a little too close together and hence a tad hard to use- but I like this. The slightly cluttered look gives the unit a ‘mad scientist’ vibe, and that’s exactly what I like about something that is essentially a bank of knobs.

The Dark Energy certainly screams and wobbles as much as I could possibly hope for, making great fodder for my Vocoder and sampling etc. I haven’t had enough of chance to make a proper assessment of the filter, but from what I can gather its very good. The unit seems to sound best when doing a lot of Frequency Modulation stuff, and having a square wave shape for the LFOs makes FM stuff turn into stepped bleepy fun.

So I own an analogue synth now. The world didn’t implode and I don’t really feel the inclination to buy any more analogue for the time being. Actually far from it, as I just found out about the Moog Minitaur (an analogue bass monosynth announced 2 days ago). Considering the price tag this thing is going to be very popular, however it just sounds like a warm, featureless analogue synth to me. Not interested.

But I’m sure many people WILL be interested in this unit because it looks very mean and its marketed towards making “bass” sounds. Enough said, check the video below:

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Sirus VS Analogue

I’ll apologize in advance for launching into producer-oriented jargon straight away, but this blog is going to include plenty of geek drama and anybody who doesn’t know what I’m on about probably has a life- so just be proud of that and move on.

Today I finalized the purchase of a Doepfer Dark Energy synth module. Which is a very strange thing for me to do.

I’m not interested in analogue synthesizers, period. For many electronic music enthusiasts this might seem unfathomable, but its true. I always seem to be going against the grain when it comes to my perception of ‘exciting’ audio. I love digital sounds. Not just aesthetically digital but horribly digital. The kind of digital that is so hollow and cold, it threatens to swallow your soul. Nasty stuttering, resampled granular messes. I smile just thinking about it. Sure, the phat bottom end of a Minimoog Voyager is pleasant to listen to, and it can be downright dirty in the right hands, but it has certain… emotional limitations. It can’t be as inhuman as I’d like it to be. The music I produce can be very conceptually dark and ‘warm electronic instruments’ are not exactly my idea of robotic auto-factories repeating a build sequence over and over until there are 10,000 death machines standing on my front lawn.

One could suggest that I put a bitcrusher over an analogue synth and attain instant gratification- and I certainly could do that. But I can’t afford to spend $5000 on something that will sound slightly more authentic as just putting a bitcrusher over a soft synth.

But there are things about analogue synths I like. I like beeps and boops, squelches and high frequency clutter. These are things analogue synths can do infinitely better than soft synths. These are also things I wouldn’t exactly call characteristics of an ‘instrument’ in the traditional sense- so there’s no reason for me to bother with a traditional keyboard and polyphonic sound module combo. That’s not what I’m after. I essentially want a tone generator, one that can just be set to play a note or two and be infinitely tweaked and sampled. I’m not even planning on syncing it to anything. I just a box that can make the aforementioned characteristic sounds and that’s all. The Dark Energy is perfect for this. Just a single oscillator, low-pass filter and ADSR envelope plus two LFOs with ridiculous rate ranges. No distractions.

I will of course be mangling a lot of the sampled analogue sounds beyond anything the Dark Energy could produce by itself. But that really goes without saying.

I’ll speak more on this after the unit has arrived. There are some other evil plans I have for it which I will reveal in time.

Let it be known that somebody did warn me about getting into analogue- apparently once I start this journey I’ll become addicted and I’ll just start lusting over analogue equipment like a crack addict. That doesn’t sound so bad, I harbor no hatred for analogue and many of my favorite artists make use of it…I just don’t want to end up like this guy:

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Hailing all frequencies!

Here you will find the official Sirus blog. Unlike the news feed, this part of the site is going to be rather informal. With that as a starting point, I’ll go ahead and give credit where its due- This shiny new site is all thanks to my partner in musical crime, Andrew Waugh. Whilst I designed a substantial part of the site, it was Andrew’s techno-skillz and determination that made this all possible.

My hopes are that this site will mark a small rebirth for Sirus. As an electronic music act I think we do some things very well, but up until now our web presence wasn’t a strong point. Ironic considering how much interest Andrew and I have in information technology- The truth being that time constraints (we both work, myself full time) are sometimes a battle for us.

The timing for this fresh start is actually very good:

We have just finished an EP, which is available for free in our Discog section. The Venomous Frequencies EP marks Andrew’s formal introduction to Sirus beyond a live capacity. His infectious rhythm sections and sharp saw synths can be heard on our track ‘Antibody’, where Andrew appears under his solo project name Dead Unit.

I am finally up to a point in the writing of my new album where most of the big creative decisions have been made. This will make it much easier to communicate my writing process to the outside world, so expect periodical updates. I’ve also just updated my studio with a couple of cool little items, and we are getting some video stuff sorted out too.

I encourage you to look around the new site- there are already a few awesome things to check out.

– Josh

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