- Jon, your albums are really effective at straddling the line between total sonic experimentation and pop arrangements. Beneath all of the burbling and scraping, there are carefully crafted tunes. When you’re writing, what comes first, the song or the sounds?
- You have an immense collection of musical gadgetry. Nerds, we’re talking some real saliva-inducing analog pieces (Roland TR-808, EML Polybox, an Optigan for Pete’s sake!), multiple modular set-ups, and funky digital favorites like the Casio CZ-101 and the Korg Wavestation. Jon, everyone knows an 808 sounds amazing. Tell us about some of the more eccentric pieces. And, humor us, tell us WHY an 808 sounds amazing.
- We’re both fans of the Legendary Pink Dots and Skinny Puppy, and while I don’t think anyone would mistake Travelogue for either of those bands, I definitely hear echoes of both through-out your work. What other artists do you count as having a major sonic influence?
- Not just a collector, you’ve built some pretty incredible pieces of gear too. I’m referring to the daxophone and the solenoid drum machine. Care to tell us about any of your other recent creations?
- Lastly, tell us how the “Fireworks” album came about, and when can we expect it to drop?
- For further bleepings, bloopings, and music purchases, please check out www.artoftravelogue.com
Every couple weeks, we are going to spotlight some of our favorite clients, engineers, and bands that have graced A/D converters of Cauliflower Audio.
First up, Travelogue: the (mostly) synth-based musical outlet of Jon Sonnenberg and Amanda Spayd. Inventive and intensely tuneful, Travelogue have been hand crafting their unique brand of electronic pop for over 10 years. Fans will be enthralled to know Travelogue will be dropping no less than two albums this year; the first, “The Noise is Only Temporary,” was just released last month. Jon was kind enough to answer some questions about the new records, his gear collection, and being a fellow old-school industrial nerd.
Probably the song, but I think that they often sound like an experimentation because experimenting with sounds is what I love to do most. First, I usually plan chords or progressions around rhythms, then add enough changes and textures until I feel that a song is finished. Vocals and lyrics always come last for me.
When I bought the 808, I really thought that I would use the internal sounds very little – I felt that the TR808 sound has been way overused, much like the TR909. I wanted to have more drum triggers to play different sounds and events in my modular synthesizers. I was pleasantly surprised how much you can change the 808 sound to where it does not sound like an 808 at all. Bit-crushing, compression, and filtering really do wonders to its sound. I think that there are practical reasons that the 808 is still sought after 1) it is completely analog and if you play a sound twice in a row, the sounds are not exactly alike. 2) individual outputs for every sound makes processing it extremely versatile and flexible 3) there is no other drum machine that has spanned so many different types of music, from 80′s to rap to hip-hop- to progrock – to techno – to triphop etc etc. the list can go on – even non-techno bands like Talking Heads or Phil Collins have used them extensively. Too much history to be ignored and forgotten.
As far as favorite pieces of gear, I really like the Korg Lambda. I tend to connect certain gear with certain processors and use them together as one unit for a while. Right now, the Lambda is married to my Strymon El Capistan tape echo simulation pedal. It is the perfect combination of lush analog strings/pads/ and old movie soundtrack. I also tend to like chaining phasor pedals together – 3 or 4 of them, all beating against each other and running simple Casios and things like that through them. Some of my favorite electronic instruments are 80′s Casios that I have modified so that I can sync their auto bass lines and such to my other drum machines and sync codes.
Yes, I love those bands – especially the albums that they did throughout the 80s and early 90′s. From that same era, I am also a fan of Clan of Xymox, Severed Heads, Fad Gadget, Cocteau Twins, the Chameleons, the Smiths, The Damned, The Cure, Einsturzende Neubauten, etc, etc. maybe there are just too many to list. Of modern music, I really like bands like White Lies and Phoenix. I also really love modern classical composers like Arvo Part and Gorecky.
I always have too many unfinished projects lying around. I want to build a voltage controlled string instrument. I want to build instruments that have chimes and strings, and sympathetically vibrate to one another. I want to build a modular drum machine where each sound module can be replaced and reconfigured for endless possibilities. I have also had plans for bowed pianos, zither speakers, and various synthesizer concepts in my head for years – hopefully someday they will be realized.
Every 4th of July, I told myself “I have to record these things! – they are incredible sounding”.. you know, the way these loud crashes echo across the atmosphere and surround you with reverb and reflections and shadows of the sound. I love that. it is so powerful. When my wife and I moved to our current location, I was pleased to know that we are right next to a school where they have a huge fireworks display every year. 3 years ago, I set up some sound recording equipment to capture this. Then I separated the sounds and categorized the sounds and sequenced the sounds into rhythms. What started as a 3 song side project has turned into a 9 song album that I will be releasing this May.
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