Baphometrix – The Class of 808 Ninja of The Month

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A close up and personal interview with Baphometrix

I have had the distinct pleasure of collaborating and working closely with Baphometrix and I am continually blown away not only by her music production talent, but also by her ability to communicate highly complex technical topics with incredible attention to detail delivered in a thoughtful final thesis that takes into account many different perspectives on the subject. Baphometrix has also proactively set up an incredibly impactful private Discord for the Class of 808 members and a Class of 808 Track Library for members to share and use in their DJ performances. A longtime stage performer on guitar, bass, drums (and even didjeridu) in a variety of genres from rock to funk to east-west to acid jazz, Baphometrix now produces an infectious and dark blend of festival-oriented bass music that she calls witch bass. In this candid interview, Baphometrix shares all the details from her fascinating journey through multiple lives (both real and virtual). 

Baphometrix, can you tell us about your musical journey and how did it lead you to ill.gates, The Producer Dojo and the Class of 808?

I was a performing musician for a long time, doing the whole band thing and also being the defacto engineer for my bands in our rehearsal rooms and studios. I’d also do the live sound reinforcement engineering for friends bands when they’d play at house parties and what not. Eventually I was getting tapped to help record and produce demos for various bands and singer-songwriter friends who couldn’t afford to pay some local studio to do the work for them.

Over time, as I learned more and got more sophisticated, I ended up with some fairly expensive mixing boards and Tascam DA-38 decks and various outboard gear. At one point towards the end of my stage career the band I was in at the time chipped in together and we spent a year building a full-blown 500 square foot rehearsal studio with a control room in the back yard of our rhythm guitarist’s house, lol. We did everything ourselves except pouring the foundation.

It was during that phase when I was first using some type of early sampler keyboard and a couple DA-38 decks and one of the first Yamaha digital mixing boards to produce tracks that were partly analog recorded and partly sampled and processed. I also remember using one of the first versions of Sonic Foundry Sound Forge to do incredibly primitive mastering and creating CD images of stuff I was producing that way.

Then I finally got tired of the gigging grind and settled down and got married and took about 5 years off. The itch to create never went away but bands are hard, ya know? The politics and the egos and the difficulty of coming to collaborative decisions among 4-6 musicians just wasn’t something I wanted to go back to. So I bought a Korg M3 workstation and a copy of Ableton Live 6 and some Yamaha monitors and taught myself keyboards and tried to make tracks in Ableton (not very successfully) until one day the M3 just died and was unrepairable.

Around this time I had become aware of the more aggressive brostep style of dubstep that was emerging. Skrillex suddenly popped up everywhere and the newer crazy dubstep sounds were everywhere and I was really captivated by it. I knew that producers were doing all that stuff “in the box” and decided I wanted to make bass music too. So I upgraded to Live 9 and started reading everything I could about this type of production. That eventually led to the introductory types of training that Cymatics was experimenting with.

I was aware of and watched some YouTube videos by ill.Gates during this time, but I was just absorbing everything from everywhere. I had kind of hit a wall at this point–self-learning from videos can only get you so far–and I thought I was just in for a long slog to slowly get better. Right around that time, some friends I’d made in the Cymatics community (Philip Goad and Shaun Sokalski of Sinnergy) had jumped ship from Cymatics and joined Class of 808, and I could see them growing suddenly. I’d pick their brains about the stuff they were learning, and realized pretty quickly that it was next-level stuff and the learning format was very different. From there it was just a few months before I jumped in and joined Class of 808 too. I knew I had hit some walls, and it seemed obvious that Class of 808 was the fastest way to break through them.

Where are you from originally? 

I grew up in Los Angeles, California, in various beach towns of that area. Living in Texas now, I miss the ocean and the surf, so I make up for it with my virtual environments in Second Life.

Can you describe your life using only song titles?

My life in song titles? This will be fun, and revealing, lol. In order from elementary school onward:

The Logical Song by Supertramp. Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix. Locals Only by The Surf Punks. Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple. Rebel Rebel by David Bowie. Lola by The Kinks. White Punks On Dope by The Tubes. Third Floor Heaven by Be Bop Deluxe. Mondo Bondage by The Tubes. Axe Victim by Be Bop Deluxe. Come Together by The Beatles. My Sweet Lord by George Harrison. Dear God by XTC. Dialog With the Devil by Bruce Cockburn. Closer by Nine Inch Nails. Zerospace by Kidney Thieves. The Great Destroyer by Nine Inch Nails. Bulls On Parade by Rage Against The Machine. Wretches And Kings by Linkin Park. Nazi Punks Fuck Off by The Dead Kennedys. Fuck Donald Trump by ill.Gates (and friends). Step In My Dojo by ill.Gates. Witching Hour by Rezz. My Name Is by Baphometrix.

You knew I was going to end on that last one!

What made you want to become a music producer? What do you do when you are not producing music?  

I’m driven to create and make music. All those early junior high and high school years spent stoned and listening to albums for hours every day… When I bought my first guitar at 18 I told my friends it was “because my thoughts were in music.” Not like music, but in music. I won’t say it was like synesthesia, but it was… real somehow. It’s like a musical track is always running through my mind no matter what I’m doing. My brain kinda turns everything around me into a soundtrack of music. It’s just always there running in the background. When I need to focus really hard on complex stuff at work, the headphones go on and I’m head bobbing to playlists for hours straight. The heavier the music, the better for my focus and concentration, lol.

I earn my living as a technical writer. I like figuring out very complex systems and explaining them to other people. That’s what I’ve done since graduating college. I always had my day job as a tech writer and my second job was being a semi-pro musician. The other stuff I’ve done/do for fun over the years has been surfing, gymnastics, martial arts, cycling, gaming, movies and reading,  and loving on my furkids (dogs!) and my wife. Lately I also enjoy making producer tutorial videos on YouTube and being helpful in the producer communities I’m active in.

Tell us about what it’s like managing the Class of 808 Discord and the Track lib and what have you learned along the way? Any funny or interesting stories to share?

I was an officer in several large, competitive PvP gaming guilds (in the MMO space) over the years, and that’s a big exercise in herding cats and figuring out how to create and maintain an online community. I also usually end up being the person who champions better online communication and connectivity among local and remote workers at my various software companies over the years. So creating and moderating good networking/community tools comes naturally to me now.

When Philip Goad and Shaun Sokalski (Sinnergy), and I, first joined Class of 808, it was actually Philip who first tried to create a way for the students to connect directly with each other, via a private Facebook group. The 15 or 20 of us in that early group eventually decided to try a different approach, for a variety of reasons. I suggested using Discord for the purpose and volunteered to set it up and run it. Now pretty much everyone is in the Discord, including Dylan and all the mentors.

The main trick is encouraging everyone in Class of 808 to share outward-facing tips and questions and discussion with the broader 9000-member community in the Producer Dojo group on Facebook. We use the Discord mainly for private coordination and support related to the projects we do internally in Class of 808. For example, with every new Cypher challenge there’s a lot of discussion and support to help everyone get the most out of that challenge. But mainly, it’s a place to build camaraderie and get to know your fellow Class of 808 artists better.

I really enjoy seeing the artists there make personal connections with each other. A ton of collab projects are borne there. We all pump each other up and provide moral support and advice when people are hitting roadblocks. We have some looonnnggg technical discussions and debates. We’ve got some regional channels, and that helps artists clustered near each other to arrange social get-togethers and other projects. It was fun to see one of our Canadian artists (Obediah) recently move to the one of the US towns where Tyson Lunn (Nintendeaux) and several other artists are clustered, and she did so with their help and support and friendship. It’s also fun to see the artists in and around a given city organize to go out to dinner with Dylan and hang backstage when he does a show near them. We even had a sizeable crew from all over North America coordinate a big get-together at Lost Lands this Summer where Dylan was performing. There were some great group shots from that!

As for the 808Lib, that was my idea and it’s really grown into something useful. The basic idea was to collect a pool of all our best songs that “you’d be proud to have any one of us play out at a show.” So of course there are a lot of the songs from the Producer Dojo cypher mixtapes and featured EPs in the library. But we have a lot of really good artists in Class of 808 and the library also draws from all the other songs they’ve written before joining Class of 808, and new songs they continue to make after joining Class of 808. We’re up to like 250 songs now after only a few months.

So I do some consistency prep on file names, make some normalized FLAC and MP3 versions, and then create and host a new zip file every month or two with the latest batch of WAVs (and their FLAC and MP3 variants). Any one of us can download the library and use any songs in their sets.  When I play out, I’d say at least 60% of my sets come from my fellow Class of 808 artists.

Not only is the 808Lib a great source of excellent material that your audience has probably never heard before, but it allows us to further cross-promote each other.

You made the switch to Bitwig and you seem to love it.  Tell us why you prefer Bitwig over Ableton. Did it take you long to become proficient in Bitwig after spending considerable time in Ableton?

Bitwig and Ableton share a lot in common with each other. Bitwig was created by a group of former Ableton people. So if you know Ableton pretty well, the switch is easy because most of the workflow concepts and conventions of using Ableton transfer over to Bitwig pretty seamlessly.

I call Bitwig “a better Ableton than Ableton itself,” and I stand by that assertion, but that doesn’t make Ableton somehow “bad.” Ableton is great. I used Ableton from Live 6 through Live 10. Fruity Loops and Ableton Live both totally broke the mold for what a DAW should be. They did it in different ways from each other and they’re both great in their own right. But neither of them follows that old-school, linear, physical tape machine multi-track paradigm that DAWs like Logic, Pro Tools, Studio One, Cubase, and similar all follow. FL Studio and Ableton–and now also Bitwig–follow a different paradigm of what I would call pattern-based composing workflow with heavy emphasis on sound design, which is more natural IMO for the lone music producer. And a perfect fit for electronic genres in particular. All the other more traditional DAWs are a better fit for recording and mixing bands and ensembles–not for lone producers.

Where Ableton and Bitwig distinguish themselves from FL Studio is primarily in the strong focus on the device insert chain for every track, and the ability to have multiple channels/tracks all packed up neatly inside of various “container” devices. So you can easily and quickly create all manner of nested serial or parallel processing for any one sound generator (sample, synth, drum rack, etc.). Especially in electronic genres, a fairly massive amount of signal processing is integral to the sound design and workflow. And Ableton and Bitwig are both built from the ground up to make that type of complex signal processing as easy and fast as possible.

I prefer Bitwig because they were able to look at Ableton and take the best of what still worked well in Ableton after 13 years and 9 major releases, and to discard what didn’t work so well, and then grab a few great features and workflows from other DAWS, and bring it all together into a modern architecture and UI presentation and workflow. I’ve worked in software for way too long, and we have a concept we call technical debt. Basically, the older a product gets, the more its software code gets mired down in bad decisions from the past, and it becomes increasingly harder and slower to keep adding new features without breaking old features.

So IMO we’ve hit that point with Ableton. It’s a 17-year old product, and software development tools and techniques have evolved a lot since then. So the Bitwig devs and architects essentially got to wipe the slate clean and give an Ableton-like workflow, UI, and emphasis on sound design a fresh new start. That’s why the Bitwig UI just looks so good and they are able to crank out really new and modern features fast. That’s also why the sound design possibilities baked into Bitwig itself are just awesome. If you really want all the juicy details about why I like Bitwig better than Ableton, the very first video in my “Bitwig vs Ableton” YouTube series spends a solid hour explaining all the pros and cons Bitwig vs Ableton. I’m up to 17 videos in that series as of now, which are all geared around helping an experienced Ableton user decide whether it’s worth jumping ship over to Bitwig.

IMO the only significant reason to drag your feet and not switch to Bitwig is if you have a lot of bread and butter audio racks, instrument racks, and multisamples in Ableton that you rely on constantly. There’s no denying that it can be arduous and time-consuming to rebuild all those racks and multisamples over in Bitwig. If you are good at building Ableton racks/multisamples and really understand what all your Ableton racks are doing, it’s not so bad, really. I think it took me about 3 weeks to rebuild all the stuff that I constantly rely on over in Bitwig. Including some fairly complicated racks that ill.Gates teaches (and gives) to his Class of 808 students. That 3-week effort made me pretty ace at building nearly anything in Bitwig. I was even able recently to recreate Seth Drake’s somewhat infamous “ORY rack” over in Bitwig. (Seth Drake is Bass Nectar’s engineer, and also produces as Measly).

You are making amazing tutorials on YouTube. Tell us about your journey producing and releasing music production video tutorials.

OMG, making tutorials on Windows is such a PITA. It took me months to get OBS working the way I wanted to capture sound from my DAW and to process my mic voiceover to an acceptable level of quality. I’m hampered by the fact that I don’t want to spend the time or energy doing post-production and editing in a video suite afterwards. Literally all of the video editing suites for Windows are just terribad in so many ways. OSX people have it much easier in this area.  Windows is perfectly good for audio production, but it’s terrible for video production.

But I was driven to get some type of decent workflow in place because I’m a compulsive explainer, lol. It’s why I make a good tech writer. I literally love to help other people figure out complex stuff. I love my day job, even though it’s hard AF.

I don’t make my producer tutorials with an eye towards monetization or becoming big and well-known in the small pool of people producing production tutorials. It’s not about that for me. I really like a saying of Dylan’s, which (paraphrasing) goes like “Be the person YOU needed when you were starting out!” Music production is hard. It takes a huge amount of creativity and technical aptitude. There is so much to learn and absorb. There are so many walls to beat your head on until you finally break them down. So when I thrash hard on any new subject and finally break through to the other side, I feel compelled to do a brain dump and help out the other folks who come along behind me and struggle with the same issues. That’s how us bipedal monkeys became successful and survived and prospered over the millenia. We bootstrap each other up and share knowledge. We are very much a collective species. Electronic music production is awesome and satisfying. Anyone who’s willing to jump into that deep pool is someone I want to help succeed at it, in my own small way.

What are your plans for your music (both near term and long term goals)?

That’s an interesting question. When I started in this latest phase of music production in bass music genres, at first I just wanted to learn how. I had already done the “onstage” thing for a long time. I’d had my fill of performing in front of audiences and the feedback loop of watching a big crowd really getting into your stuff. Even now, I have mixed feelings about putting on live shows of my stuff out at clubs and festivals. Part of me remembers how good that feels, but I also know what a toll it can take.

So I’m exploring a different angle, which is performing live online in streaming environments and virtual venues. That’s where Second Life comes in (which we’ll talk about further below). I currently do live mixing of my own music (and music from other Class of 808 artists) at virtual clubs and events in Second Life. There’s a pretty large thriving scene of electronic music artists there, but oddly not much in the way of festival-oriented bass music. So I’m working to find my audience and my “brand” there. Not so much out in “Real Life,” lol. It’s pretty convenient to put on a show from the comfort of your own home. If VR technology eventually takes off and becomes affordable to everyone, I’m sure there will performance opportunities in various VR spaces too. So I’m angling to be ready to jump on that if and when it happens. Second Life is good practice for that.

I’m also a huge lefty activist in real-world politics and culture, so I’m slowly building relationships with prominent “LeftTube” content producers and working to sneak my music into their videos and to use their soundbites and memes in my music. Thematically, I want my music to be fun in its own right, but also to spread memes and ideas that IMO are pro-social. Back in the days of the labor revolts that gave us the 5-day, 40-hour work week, Emma Goldman was famous for saying “If I can’t dance to your revolution, I don’t want any part of it.” I want to make music that inspires people to be heroes and just say “no” to the current capitalist and fascist bullshit that is slowly killing everyone but the 1%, and wrecking our planet, and trying to dehumanize any outgroups who don’t fit some fictional definition of “normal” in society.

If you could go back 10 years ago and advise your younger self of just 1 thing, what would that advice be?

Don’t buy a Korg M3 or any hardware-based digital synth and try to base your production around that piece of equipment! Digital keyboard synths become obsolete and break down way too fast for the high cost involved. Especially those that have a digital display or touch-screen. Softsynths and soft-samplers are 100% the only way to go for the bulk of your sound generation arsenal. Yes, I know that certain analog synths, like those from Moog, have amazing sound that is unique to voltage-based circuits. I’m not really talking about those. I’m talking about digital keyboards.

The same advice goes for non-traditional controllers too. I have a Maschine MK3 and a Push 2 sitting on my desk, and I love them, but I have no illusions that they’ll break down or become obsolete much sooner rather than later. For example, my Push 2 works with Bitwig–really well!–but that’s only because of a crafty German programmer who’s a Bitwig fan and builds amazingly complex controller templates for Bitwig. What if some day he moves on to something else? My Push 2 effectively becomes a brick to me at that point.

Softsynths today are amazing. I don’t care much for Massive, but Serum is still a solid workhorse, VPS-Avenger is incredible, BassMaster is really tight for making mid-basses and subs, and OMG have you seen Pigments by Arturia yet? I’m betting that’s going to be the synth of 2019.

Do you ever experience writer’s block in the studio? How do you overcome it? How often do you make music?

I don’t experience creative blockages for melodies and riffs and chord progressions and drum patterns, because these things come easy to me after so many years on stage and writing music in bands. I was good on rhythm guitar, bass, drums, and even didjeridu (lol) during my performing years. I make music in my head all the time.

The biggest challenge for me so far has been getting the fleeting ideas out of my head and into a DAW before it disappears. Especially when you’re dealing with the more atonal, rhythmic, heavily processed textures and movement of the sounds common in bass music,  it can be a slower process of experimentation and “happy accident” to simply find a set of sounds and textures that groove well together into a tasty drop.

When you’re writing music for more melodic and simple genres such as rock, pop, funk, country, jazz and so on, all you need to capture is a melody or riff for a guitar or bass or keys, plus a basic drum groove. It’s very easy to use your voice to record simple elemental ideas like that into your mobile phone and you don’t risk losing your inspiration nor translating that later when writing your guitar/bass/keys parts with a band.

But now flip that  around to where your brain suddenly “hears” a really cool bass music drop while you’re showering, lol. You struggle to keep that alive and develop it in your head until you can finish and grab your phone, and then what? You try to beatbox into your phone some semblance of that thing you’re hearing full-blown in your mind, and of course your voice can’t really convey all the nuances of the sound design and pitch fuckery and polyrhythmic groove that you’re imagining. And if you can’t sit down at your DAW until hours later–or next day–you quite often have no real idea what your laughable beatboxing was trying to describe. The idea is just gone.

Fortunately, after a year so far in Class of 808 I’ve learned some amazing techniques and concepts about sequencing and sound-designing bass music drops. Stuff that would never have occurred to me if not explained and demonstrated really well by Dylan and the various mentors. Like, you watch your typical YouTube tutorial and the creator is struggling to make a really short video about a subject because of the fear that they won’t get enough subscribers if they make long, detailed deep-dive videos on a subject. By contrast, Dylan’s Weekly Download videos are often at least an hour long and he explains and demonstrates so many concepts behind the technique he’s diving into. Some of his Weekly Downloads are almost entirely about conceptual stuff and how to think like an efficient producer.

So between that type of deep content plus the ability to spend an hour one-on-one with a mentor every month, I’m finally starting to beatbox the right type of shorthand ideas into a phone and actually know how to translate those days later when I’m sitting at my DAW. And of course how to simply come up with those “happy accidents” in focused sound design sessions much faster and to get those laid out in one or two “palettes” that I can grab days or weeks later from my DAW’s user library and quickly play with my hands on a controller like the Push or Maschine or a MidiFighter 3D to tease out a solid drop.

I think the best analogy for explaining this real breakthrough to newer, struggling producers can be summed up by something a really excellent teacher once told me when I was switching from a rhythm guitar role to a bass player role during my stage career: “you still play your bass like a guitarist. You have to learn to think like a bass player!”

And that was very true. It took me almost two years to really start thinking like a bass player. And the same thing is true of music production, especially for electronic music genres and especially for bass music subgenres! You have to know why and how a tasty drop works, and you have to know the basic sound design patterns for getting various textures and sounds, and you have to know the workflow techniques for combining and using those textures and sounds. And you have to know the engineering techniques for making that all glue together into a loud, heavy, yet dynamic mix without falling apart and turning into overcompressed and lifeless mush.

As for how often I make music, the answer is “every single day of the week.” I try to move forward on writing music (or mixing and mastering my better songs) every morning of the week. Especially weekend mornings. I get up ridiculously early Monday through Friday so that I can get at an hour in before I have to start my work day. And on weekends I usually work from 6am to noon and focus only on song writing. I do all my other types of work (organizing my libraries and presets, sound design, building racks and palettes, testing new plugins and synths, etc.) in evening sessions before bed. And I watch all my tutorial videos on the treadmill when I exercise, and during train rides to/from the office. Even while walking between the office and the train station, lol.

What are your favorite genres of music at the moment and who are your top 5 favorite artists right now?

My music tastes are very eclectic because of my performing background. I grew up loving classic rock and progressive rock and glam rock. From the 80s onward it was a desert, because the music industry was killing off all the real creativity and over-producing the hell out of bands. The only standouts during that period were certain punk/new wave bands like XTC or Joe Jackson or Elvis Costello or The Clash or The Stranglers. And The Black Crowes were amazing. So during that period I was getting more into all the classic 60s and 70s funk and 90s acid jazz stuff because that type of music is hella fun to play on bass and drums, so that’s a lot of what I performed on those two instruments. I also love all the modern rock hybrids that started with Limp Bizkit, Rage Against the Machine, and groups like that. Nine Inch Nails were awesome, as were several lesser-known bands playing in that space like Kidneythieves, Snake River Conspiracy, and Zeromancer.

In the hip hop realm, I gravitate mostly towards the more musical artists. Beastie Boys were amazing. Early Black Eyed Peas. Jurassic Five. And while I think Eminem’s beats are boring AF, his sense of rhyme is incredible. And then in the newer types of hip hop that blend with modern electronic genres, Aesop Rock and Run The Jewels are great. I’m not a big fan of mumble rap. The music is often interesting and well-produced, but IMO rap is about wordplay and ideas and speaking truth for your culture. To me, mumble rap is what happens when hip hop falls prey to capitalism and corporatism. But that’s just me. Nothing wrong with those artists and their fans. Musical tastes are very subjective.

Right now, my top 5 favorite artists all come from the bass music space and hip hop space: Run the Jewels, Rezz, Herobust, ill.Gates, and Grey. I just love the blend of heavy bass music and hip hop that Run The Jewels does. Rezz… wow. She’s very influential for me. Her sense of dark, creepy melody/textures/atmosphere, coupled with those fat and aggro but never harsh mid-tempo drops and industrial-leaning sound design, her great use of the depth and width of the soundstage… She’s incredible. Herobust just has a sense for making nasty tasty, lol. I mean, who can’t listen to WTF without grinning ear to ear and wanting to head bang? ill.Gates is just brilliant at making bass music you can DANCE to, and draws from a deep well of ideas and textures and styles. And I love Grey’s sense of future pop vocal melody and texture coupled with more acoustic sounds and textures. Wings Clipped and Chameleon are just fantastic songs. I can’t wait hear more from them.

What are some of the most valuable lessons that you have learned so far as a member of the Class of 808?

How to think like a bass music producer, like I mentioned earlier. How to actually mix well, to set yourself up to hit a competitive loudness target easily. A great in-the-box approach to self-mastering. How to produce fast, and how to incorporate feedback about a song fast. The monthly Cypher challenges we do internally are just an amazing experience that will get you on point for production and iteration speed. How to build a brand and promote yourself. And some really solid and fast sound design techniques I doubt I would have ever learned anywhere else. Oh, and a deep love and appreciation for all the types of audio processing you have to do for electronic music. It’s no wonder so many of us prefer Ableton (and Bitwig), because the real juice and workflow speed comes from having a ton of re-usable and complex racks at your disposal to deal with all the sound design and mixing considerations in electronic music. And only Ableton and Bitwig are built front and center around making complex rack-centric insert chains easy and fast.

And this is an interesting one: how to “collaboratively compete” with other producers. Among the Class of 808 artists, I never get a whiff of competition or holding one’s cards close to their chest. We share knowledge and tips and techniques with each other constantly. We support each other and help promote each other. When any one of us succeeds, Producer Dojo and Class of 808 succeeds, and that trickles down to all of us and inspires all of us to get better and better. It really makes you understand the power of a collective. We’re all constantly bootstrapping each other up and doing collabs with each other.

Are you involved in any other music production communities?

Mostly just Seth Drake’s Audio Stuffs group on Facebook. Like ill.Gates, Seth is very much about sharing information instead of hoarding information. Also like ill.Gates, Seth is very supportive of female producers and tries to keep the group inclusive instead of turning into a bro-fest.

Being Bassnectar’s mastering engineer for like 7 years now, Seth is also a font of knowledge about mastering (and mixing) for the kind of sound design and target loudness levels we see in bass music. He often shares some great racks that bake a lot of engineering know-how into a simple package. Like, his “ORY rack” (properly named Joes Ory Pack) is pretty amazing at bringing out a crisp, bright “edge” and “definition” to some sounds. When I rebuilt that rack piece by piece in Bitwig, I gained a fuzzy understanding of how it works and why it creates the effect that it does. But I’m pretty much in awe of the original concepts and techniques that Seth decided “this needs to be in an easy to use rack.”

Tell us about Second Life.  When did you first start getting involved in it and what are your words of wisdom for any newbie who would like to explore Second Life.

Second Life is a weird beast. It’s not really a game per se. It’s more like the ultimate sandbox for creating crazy “anything goes” virtual environments and avatars and experiences. It’s a place for visual and modeling creatives of all types. It’s a place for concept artists. It’s a place for photographers and machinima filmmakers and DJs and even live performance musicians. There are dance troupes who put on meticulously arranged and sequenced modern dance extravaganzas with huge dynamic stage sets and lighting effects. It’s also a place for weird and subversive subcultures to thrive and interact. And it’s also got capitalism and consumerism and real-estate speculation bolted onto it too.

I got into it with my wife about 13 years ago when it was relatively new and misunderstood. She’s the main creative type and I just get to enjoy all the crazy stuff she builds and envisions on our virtual plots of land (and in special purpose “skyboxes” high up above ground level). We use a lot of her creations for the visual content in my music videos, and we film all the raw footage in Second Life environments with our two avatars (and sometimes with our friends operating their avatars too). My avatar “Baphy” is basically my artist persona and concept for Baphometrix in a living, breathing form, so to speak.

Since there’s a fairly thriving and diverse music and club scene for DJs, I’m also working on building an audience there and finding the clubs and fans who like my type of music.

My advice for newbies to Second Life is primarily to be patient because it’s like the Linux of “sandbox games,” so the initial learning curve is steep. It’s not like World of Warcraft or any other MMO. It’s more like Minecraft but on mega steroids and already highly built up with roughly 600,000 people’s creations. And Second Life definitely requires a gaming rig with a fairly up-to-date and beefy graphics card to render everything in high quality.

My second piece of advice is that learning to stream your DJ mixing through Icecast or Shoutcast is quite the learning curve too, and requires a good internet connection and upload bandwidth. And my third piece of advice is that it’s nearly as hard there to establish yourself as an artist and gain a following as it is in the real world, so no magic bullets there.

If you were out for coffee with a music producer that was on the fence about joining the Class of 808 what would you tell them?

If you want to break through the walls you’ve hit and progress quickly, there’s no substitute for direct feedback and mentoring from other experienced producers about your work. It’s really that simple. Plus, you will be challenged to work fast and meet a competitive quality bar when you’re ready for that step, in the form of the various cypher mixtape challenges and other label release projects.

Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?

In the wise words of Michelle McNamara: “It’s chaos; be kind.” In other words, Don’t fall for the “let’s you and him fight” trap that the greedy 1% employ to keep us from focusing on the real causes of our individual and collective hardships–them.

We smartest of monkeys have made progress only when we’ve collectively lifted each other up and protected our vulnerable and our marginalized groups. Every time we fall for the trap of dehumanizing “those people that aren’t like us,” we lose ground as a species and inflict massive anguish and cruelty on each other. And now we have a 12-year deadline to stave off a pretty massive problem that’s nearly on the same scale as an impending asteroid crash.

The stars are in reach if we pull together and say “No!” to any politics that protect the interests of the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else (and the planet). Question everything, including what you are told over and over again is “right” and “good,” because more often than not the “heroes” are really the villains, and vice-versa.