Dudadius was born when Bryan Rheude, a Chicago based scoring composer, set out to make music with no restrictions and no ambitions other than self expression through interesting music. The irony is that the catalyst for this ‘no-restrictions’ music was the discovery of, and restricting himself to, modular and mostly analog synthesis.
We caught up with him for a chat –
How did you get started producing/composing music?
I grew up being fairly serious about my piano studies, then as a teen I got a Tascam four-track, a Korg MiniKorg 700, Roland drum machine (404?) then I was ‘lucky’ enough to get one of the first DX7’s in my area. I would lock myself in the bedroom and produce completely cheesy synth music for days. I had pretty good chops, but pretty dreadful taste I wasn’t a music major in school, but I did study privately w a music professor, and he suggested I intern at a music company/studio in Chicago. They composed music for adverts, tv shows, etc. it clicked for me immediately. I’ve done side projects and produced music for a few random artists along the way, but nothing ever clicked and the day-to-day composing has always kept me occupied.
So how many years has it been now that youve locked yourself in a room to write music?
Um… 30 or so.
And this is your ‘debut’ album?
Yes, first solo album.
Tell us about the album – What can people expect from it?
I was going for music with dynamism and energy, but not overly hyped. actually, I was trying to find a balance in many areas. melodically and harmonically, there’s some sophisticated stuff going on, but I try to shroud it in simplicity or at least keep it accessible. While I used my modular system to create 95% of the sounds, most of the tracks are composed and pretty tightly arranged. I was going for warm analog tones, but also some aggressive distortion or buzziness here and there I put a lot of focus on creating a few inter-locking parts, that come and go and shift together. Two tracks have vocals, but I was more interested in using them as another instrument than as a traditional part. they are vocoded and pitch-corrected and robot-voiced to the max.
Incredible that so much of this album is from your modular synth. Was this something you did intentionally or it just worked out thay way?
The modular stuff was the impetus for the project. I found a method of working that I liked. it feels like you’re making each element from scratch and gives it all a unique sound…hopefully. it also contributes to a more dynamic and organic quality to all the tracks…again, hopefully there are tracks, like one that I’m working on now, that are entirely modular created with very little in-the-box processing or editing needed. everything just has this sound to it.
You just finished this album! What are working on now?
Next album! Actually, I have a couple more ep’s to release with variations from this current album and a couple ‘b-side’ tracks. AND I’m going to release an album of purely modular improvisations. probably only have that one on Bandcamp. those are all ready to go…just letting this album get a little traction first. I made a lot of music in the last 14 months!
Thats a lot of music! Would you say you have been really busy or really inspired?
Probably both and I realized that the only way I was going to get anywhere close to satisfying my creative goals was to just create a ton of music. there’s that concept that Ira Glass riffs on, that he calls ‘the gap’. when you first start on something creative, oftentimes the results don’t match your taste or expectations, but if you keep hammering away at it, you can close that gap. The other idea, which i forget who said it, is that you shouldn’t sit around waiting for inspiration to strike you, but you should set out after it with a club. it’s a conquest!
Great quotes… makes me think about the written word, now your album is mainly instrumentals, why no vocals? Do you see Dudadius’ future being mainly instrumental music or do you think singing, vocals, raps etc may make a stronger presence in future?
I would like to do some vocal collaborations. I have a singer in mind that wants to try something.
Can you tell us some more?
About the vocal stuff?
Yeah… male, female, operatic, rapper, screamo hardcore, lullaby folk???
Definitely lullaby goth… ha, the singer in particular is a girl I’ve known for a while, but nothing set in stone, we just agreed to try something. it will fit within the context of what I’ve been doing.
Great, something else to look forward to. You’re coming out guns blazing. So back to your work in composing music for TV, film etc…. what have been your most prized memories, favourite projects? What clients are you working with?
I’d say – generally – I’m really chuffed with the people I get to work with everyday. It’s a very collaborative environment in which 8 composers and three producers push and prod each other to make great music. We recently did a track with some pretty notable blues musicians from Chicago. that was a hoot. We’ve done work over the last few months for Directv, Canon, Nintendo, AT&T, Nissan, and Microsoft.
Back to Drowzium for a sec, another quality I was trying to capture, was an element of fun, even some silliness. Many of the tracks are in a minor mode of some sort, but I still wanted to keep things from getting too serious. Also, Drowzium comes from the fact that I did most of this music in the wee hours of the morning. I read a lot about how many famous creative people over time would do their best output at that time. You are in a kind of semi-conscious dream state yet alert and sharp.
I totally agree re working through the night and yes back to your debut album Drowzium (which is out now and you can get via Bandcamp).
Your songs are very intricate, layered and detailed, I speak thinking of Disk Is Full Is Not Full, Spasmatic and Pile Driver in particular. Using modular synths to create tracks like these is not an easy task. Tell us about your incredible modular setup and how you go about starting a song and/or patch.
(takes deep breath) let’s start with the modular setup…
It has become a bit of an obsession! I started with a handful of Intellijel and then Makenoise modules, and as I explored each new one, I was so blown away that I wanted to get everything they each make! i’ve organized my system around these ‘voices’. it’s a little more of a traditional synthesis way of thinking (east coast!), but i do plenty of patches that are more sound design-y or west coast oriented..with logic modules and whatnot…letting the modular be a sort of musical partner. after getting the intellijel and makenoise voices, I discovered a few other makers that I liked; so I have a pretty fleshed out voices from Cwejman, Modcan, and now a few Macbeth. They all have their own personality and character, which seems to reflect back to the personality of the designers. It’s such a personal endeavor for them, and it comes through in the sound and interface of each module. It’s part of what’s addicting about the whole undertaking.
As for process, I typically start with a musical idea… a progression, beat, or melody. I’ll flesh that out on a keyboard and edit around with it in Live. Usually just pulling up the most basic softsynth around at the moment (I like the OBXD Oberheim emulator!). I’ll compose 2 or 3 main sections. Then just focus on the main parts that comprise those sections. The bass, countermelodies, etc. I usually get some of the rhythm going here as well, which is mostly the Live drumrack, because I use the Push controller, which is fantastic.
Once I have a bunch of these midi clips that I’m liking, I turn to the modular and start picking away at each part. I’ll set up a patch for say the main melody, then I’ll let the midi clip just loop and I’ll record it playing that patch and futz around with stuff and get a ton of variations on that melody. I go through and do this for each part until I’ve essentially created a clip library of all the components.
By then, I’ve got some ideas on the arrangement, and I start to layout the track. Once I’ve built the arrangement up, I’ll see what parts might be lacking or need to be redone and attack those. Refine the transitions, etc.
As I mentioned earlier, because of the unique character of each sound, I find I have to do very little mixing. It’s more a matter of eq-ing out any conflicting things and fine tuning the balances. I’ve tried a few different summing strategies and I’m still not sure which approach I prefer yet, but I tend to use a lot of submix tracks.
Which are your favourite modules? How did you use them on the album? Which tracks?
From Intellijel: Rubicon is an epic VCO. Great for analog FM type sounds, many of the belly, crispy, complex tones in the high end on Disk is Full are from there. As well as the main chord progression sound (a combo of Rubicon, Dixie, and Makenoise DPO, I think… making a paraphonic patch). Intellijel Dr. Octacture II is a monster filter for bass – super creamy. The main line on Spasmatic is going through there. Makenoise DPO is also a beastly VCO. Hit the modulation inputs with different rhythms/lfo’s and you can get some intense nastiness happening. I think that’s what I did on Pile Driver.
The Intellijel Mutamix is an interesting switch/mixer that I’ve used for a lot of the ambient sounds. I’ll send 4-6 different tones, maybe all playing the same or similar melody into the Mutamix. Then use a combination of sync’d pulses and random pulses… maybe combined in some logic like Plog or Rene… to randomly (but still on some sort of beat) switch the combination of tones.
One of the Cwejman revelations I had was when working on the tight 32nd note arpeggio that happens at 2:57 in JLorbs (the short version). He has an envelope generator called the CTG-VC. I’d never been able to contour a synth like that before. The combination of hold and decay is like a scalpel. And the way it was controlling the MMF6 filter just blew me away. I had to call my 13 yr-old daughter over to check it out. I said “listen to this!’ and she gave me a suitably impressed but slightly bemused grin.
Here’s a good example of different module’s characteristics: Cwejman’s pieces are very exactly and precise, but with a gnarly analog undertone. Many of his filters will saturate. His compressor module will annhilate anything. On the flip side is Modcan. Similarly precise, but with a digital core. Almost cold, but still super musical. Almost everything on Your Pleasant Existence was from the Modcon Triple Oscillator and Dual Delay. The Dual Delay is all over the album. I’m patiently waiting for the Halls of Vallhala reverbs to come to Eurorack so I can spice up my effects chain a little more.
Great info… kids take note.
Looking through your studio photos we also see two amazing synths -the Prophet 12 and an Oberheim OBXa. Did these make it onto the album?
Prophet 12 is in there a lot. Fluffy Bricks. drowzium, etc. just got the OBXA. it’s amazing. This all reminds me of the current ‘gear is irrelevant’ post on Attackmag and philosophically I agree. Limitations are conducive to creativity, but instruments can also be inspirational and spur their own creativity, and for certain things, quality does become an issue. Electronic music gives you a little more wiggle room, but I know for a fact that I just could not have made these particular sounds with any other rig. We all just do the best with what we have and you have to know when enough is enough.
I havent read that piece but to know “when enough is enough…” I think is a hard one for a lot of people. I think a lot of people these days are on a mission to get gear to nail that perfect sound they want… its a deadly mission.
On starting this album did you have a mission or did it just happen cause the modular voodoo took over you? Also what are your inspirations? Music, art, nature, science etc anything.
I had an idea of what kind of system I wanted and it’s pretty much there. Inspiration. just general humanism I think. I was raised in a religious family and slowly came to reject all of that, but I still believe in mystery, that there’s an infinite amount out there that we have yet to learn. so in my time here, I want to do as much with my own talents as I can and hopefully contribute to music, art, whatever in some meaningful way. to push the ball of progress forward.
Thats a great outlook. Mystery is needed, makes life interesting and gives the curious mind fun things to ponder.
In terms of progressing and contributing do you see yourself taking Dudadius on the road? Taking the modular out into the world in any way?
I’m open to playing live, yes. I especially have that in mind with the new music I’m doing. I like the way Holden has used a modular live, or what Jon Hopkins is doing, but I’ll have to see what I come up with. It’s kinda on my schedule to tackle that in the fall.
Yeah those guys have nailed the live show. Well we look forward to seeing amaze the crowds soon too.
Lastly, in a totally imaginary/everything goes world what would be the best way for someone to listen to your album for the first time?
Cruising outside Santa Barbara in a vintage Ferrari with the top down, wearing AKG k712 headphones.
Great image and great album. Thanks for chatting to us and any parting words?
I enjoyed the chat! Thanks for sharing my music and background.
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