The use of hardware in the wrong hands can sometimes come across as more of a gimmicky publicity stunt than a genuine appreciation for the tools. Suffice to say, with Cheshire-based producer Mr Chop it’s a full-blown love affair, one that has steadily grown and grown since his youth.
Having built an analogue studio that could easily double up as a museum for vintage synthesizers sourced from all four corners of the world, Chop’s multi-instrumental dexterity attracted the attention of DOOM, who commissioned him to co-produce and co-write a number of tracks from his 2009 album Born Like This. To further cement his stake as a producer of unbridled originality, Chop reworked jazzy Pete Rock covers that pieced together into a record that became For Pete’s Sake, released through Stones Throw later in the same year. Arriving last year, his free-to-download debut album Illuminate represented a fully-formed distillation of his diverse musical palette, pulling together disparate influences ranging from Vangelis-futurism and Detroit techno to musique concrete, and his renowned love for hip-hop.
Chop’s mix for Bonafide is, as expected, an invigorating and challenging listen in equal measure, including a selection of his own cuts, as well as tracks from DOOM, Edan and Fulgeance who, together with DJ Soulist as Souleance, were the 42nd contributors to the Bonafide Beats series.
How and when did your fascination with analogue hardware begin?
I’ve always been interested in odd machines and gadgets from an early age, my Dad was into old CB ham radio receivers, geeky stuff so thats probably where it stems from. In our house we had this hybrid mutant stereo setup that i wasn’t allowed to touch, but when my Dad would go out, I used to hammer my electro tapes and watch the valves and vu meters glow. I was originally into computer music, electro type stuff and got into guitars in my teens, but didn’t get the analogue bug properly until after the mid 90’s. That all came about thanks to hip hop/trip hop and the longing for where all those samples people were using came from. I started buying old gear mainly because I wanted to make my own music crunchy and lo-fi, like those old records I loved that had been sampled. I began naively buying vintage gear, tape machines, microphones, test oscillators, old synths, anything that had valves inside or looked crusty that I could get my hands on. I really didn’t have a clue how to use any of it, but over time I started figuring things out for myself and started to get some interesting results. I eventually went on to build my own recording studio where I still use most of this equipment to this day pretty much.
What’s the furthest you’ve gone to find gear for your studio?
I purchased a tape machine from Kentucky which belonged to a preacher. He originally brought it to record gospel choirs for his church but never did any recording with it, so it just sat in the church for 30 years gathering dust waiting for me to come along. Most gear I’ve been fairly lucky with and stumbled across online or in music shops, second hand stores and dealers local to me. I’ve been over Europe and collected various odds and ends and as far as Australia but these days I’m pretty lazy and use ebay. But I’m at that point now where I’m pretty happy with my setup and don’t feel the need to keep expanding the studio as much.
What is it about vintage hardware that differentiates it from the newer instruments on the market?
For me its a number of things – sonic characteristics, sound/build quality, general aesthetics and vibe of the machines themselves. Even the history and wondering what music any previous owners would made with these oddities. I like the fact that lot of vintage equipment would have been produced by people who at the time were pioneering new ground and maybe even built by hand, thats takes love and a real passion. Nowadays its harder to come up something purely original that hasn’t already been thought up. Take into account mass production and the evolution of electronics the individuality and character is not as present in newer equipment as in older equipment. I guess the sheer amount of great records made with vintage gear sort of speak for themselves and continue to do so. People seem to appreciate vintage more than ever and now there are plenty of ways to integrate analogue and digital together. Its a good time to be using both technologies, things are now more universal than they have ever been, plus there are so many boutique builders out there making some interesting takes on some old classics.
Have you got any favourite pieces of gear that you go back to for the majority of your tracks?
Yes its probably my EMS VCS3 Synthi, made by boutique electronic company from Putney in the UK. Its an amazingly versatile little modular synthesiser that can be heard on a wealth of great records from the late 60’s to the present day. The company still exists today and continues to still make the same synths, I think it might be the longest running electronic synthesiser manufacturer. Its a repeat goto synth for me because you can do so many different things with it. I use it in a multitude of ways wether creating mind melting sound efx, sequencing parts and melody, processing audio or just using as a straight forward mono-synth.
Would you classify yourself as a producer or a sound engineer first and foremost?
More so a producer these days. My sound is very hands on that has evolved over time, but it requires a fair amount of sound engineering which I’m still learning the art of. For me It sort of all falls under the umbrella of production really.
Who in your opinion is the pioneer of synthesizers in contemporary music?
There are so mainly that pioneered the use of synthesisers, from the early tape manipulations and musique concrete works. I don’t think you can pick out one individual but I’d put the following people/artists in my party list – Leon Theremin, Raymond Scott, Stockhausen, Wendy Carlos, Radiophonic Workshop, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and of course the genius of Bob Moog, Don Buchla and others like them.
You’ve taken on Pete Rock (in For Pete’s Sake) and Can (in the Vitamin C 9″) are there any other artists you would plan to pay homage to on wax?
I’ve not really considered doing anything else, that was a good time and I learnt a lot making those records but these days I’d much sooner work on new material, wether it be my own or with other people.
Can you tell us about your mix for Bonafide?
Some of my favourite modern artists I’ve been listening to of late and some I’ve had the privilege to have worked with. I’ve chosen predominantly electronic works by Free The Robots, Fulgeance, Kelpe, Dimlite, MRR/ADM amongst other projects I’ve been involved in. Hope you enjoy the music as much as I do.
Mr Chop mix for Bonafide Beats track listing
Free the Robots – Ophic feat Jessie Jones
Fulgeance – Neverending
Dimlite – Se Se Sc
Kelpe – Superzero Theme Chop Remix
Chop – Future Past AD/Illuminate All Voltages
Edan – Rock and Roll Ft. Dagha
DOOM – Cellz
Kelpe – Glinterlude
MRR-ADM – Untitled
Chop – Bow Down to The Mutant
Free The Robots – Let Go
Chop – Airhead
Chop – Feedback Dimlite Remix