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Electronic pioneer Amon Tobin's latest masterpiece

Brazilian DJ and producer Amon Tobin has been reinventing his unique sample-laden music time and again. Manipulating previously recorded material to create entirely new sounds, Tobin’s sampling techniques have been evolving to a degree that elevates sound design to a completely new level. This is clearly heard on Amon’s new album ISAM, to be released later this month, and doesn’t bear much resemblance to his previous music. While the early blend of hip hop beats and jazzy bass licks as heard in Bricolage made way for an entirely unfamiliar sound approach some time ago, the compositional structure that was still "intact" in Foley Room four years ago has metamorphosed into something utterly refreshing, once again proving that Amon Tobin is one of the most pivotal electronic sound designers today.

Amon Tobin in his home studio
Amon in his home studio

You recently finished working on your latest long player. When’s the album going to be released? What’s the listener to expect?
This will be my 7th album excluding sound tracks and will be out on May 23. As far as what to expect, it's my current place in re-ordering the sounds around me. I'm taking sounds from all around and combining them into new instruments with a mixture of multi-sampled sources and synthesis techniques.

You’re also working on a remix album. Will it be released this year as well?
The remix album is something Ninja [Tune] put together with Ubisoft to get some different takes from other people on the Splinter Cell soundtrack. It's part of a new Splinter Cell release and I've contributed a couple of tracks but mainly it's remixes by other people like Eskmo, Lorn, Daedelus to mention a few.

Talking about Eskmo, you’re also currently living in San Francisco. Do you appreciate the music scene around SF and LA?
I've never been much involved in music scenes, but I imagine it's healthy. There's a strong sound coming from the West Coast for electronic music in general.

Let’s talk about your studio. Do you produce all your music there?
Yes, everything from field recordings to final mixes is done in and around my studio. It's deep in the woods and I'm the noisiest thing there by far, save the occasional mountain lion.

I've built the studio up over a long period of time with the tools I need to do what I need to do. I'm not a gear collector and am more interested in getting to know a few key pieces in depth. I can't imagine my studio holding much appeal to anyone else because it's so specific to my working methods. I've never been happier with the setup though, and Cubase is still a strong part of my process.

Have you had a closer look at Cubase 6? What features are really helpful or do you like best?
There are some useful new features for live recording now but the advances in MIDI are really fantastic. Being able to edit controller data for individual notes within a group and the flexibility with Note Expression in general is outstanding! Also, the integration between VariAudio and MIDI export is a very interesting feature.

The grouping features are powerful and flexible and the MediaBay has really come into its own lately for me. I also like the cleaner layout and color scheme [smiles].

How do you go about making a song? Is it always a similar process?
I'm learning all the time which is exciting. My working method develops over time and is particular to what I'm doing at that moment. I think it's important to balance techniques that you are familiar with to get something done and stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new approaches.

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Do you do all the mixing and mastering as well?
Yes, although I leave the very final mastering stage to a second pair of ears and a different studio for perspective. In general, the idea is that there is very little to do at the mastering stage although it's vital to give yourself the option to improve the final mix, if possible.

Vinyl collection
Amon's vinyl collection

Tell us about performing live. What gear do you use on stage? Do you prefer hard drives, CDs or good ole vinyl?
I've played DJ sets with a variety of things from straight up vinyl to Serato and even Traktor. The show I'm preparing for [the new album] ISAM will be a whole other thing though: a live presentation of the music still strictly in the realm of electronics while navigating a spaceship through the cosmos.

How big do you estimate your vinyl collection?
No idea... it's not as big as many collections I know of, but it's very dear to me.

Any closing words you’d like to add?
It seems that people take software almost for granted, and there's not enough appreciation for the impact it has. I'd like to take the opportunity to thank your developers for having a large part in my production process since the very beginning.

Amon, many thanks for your time and input.
My pleasure. Cheers.

Visit Amon Tobin at www.amontobin.com.