Hobby or Art?? a.k.a. experimenting with Yasunao Tone’s technique

This is a sort of re-post of something that I had in another blog that I’m about to delete. I’m posting it here because I think it’s an interesting story/rant/whatever. The original date is 22nd March 2016, I edited something though. Enjoy!

As I’m writing this, I’m about to mix the first song I’ve ever recorded after a few months. Despite it’s a spontaneous punk-ish experiment, lately I’m working to create “something new”. The reason of the quote-unquote is the will to create something that’s not just another song or album.

I’ve been thinking about me as an artist for quite awhile now. What’s the future of my art? What can I see from today’s point of view? Is there something that I want to be different? These questions have been spinning in my mind for the last few weeks.

As an electronic artist an artist who uses electronics to record his music, it’s a natural evolution to look at the possibilities of technology.

The point (or problem?) is that I’m too tied to the concept of song. I wish I could be cool enough to create a 70-minute improvisation in a sort of visionary early Pink Floyd-ish style and be enthusiast about that, but the reality is that music for me still has got some kind of structure. At least for now. I can be creative and decide to have no chorus in a song, but it’s still pop music – and by pop I mean music that follows a traditional pattern, no matter experimentation with the pattern. Surely you can’t catalogue it as “experimental”.

I do like to experiment though.

The higher point of my experimentation is the song Perte d’Identité on my album Fallen Down Trees, where ALL the sounds are made with an electric guitar and a bunch of virtual pedals.

My friend Gerhard Graf is quite an example of a combination of pop music and experimental music. He’s somewhat a role model for me, or a Jedi master if you’re geek enough, in a way that I can listen to his music and get that the creativity he has is light years away from my way of making music.

How does he, and people like him, do that?

I’ve been thinking about what I like about music.

The answer is, elements.

When I created Friendly Fire I had a list of elements I wanted to incorporate in the songs. Chiptunes, heavy guitars, samples, and other things.

Now I can use the same principle – combining different elements and collect them in the “ordinary” – to 1) create something, and 2) explore new sounds.

First off, I want to 1) create something that doesn’t exist at the present time.

I want to create an instrument.

Not an instrument like, a custom bass guitar or something like that. Rather something that nobody ever created in history and incorporate it in my songs.

I’m the embryonal phase of that, and I’m brainstorming ideas. The one that at the moment seems the most obvious is a percussive element. Something like a plate played like a snare drum, miked up extremely closely so to be distorted enough. But, no. Too obvious and poorly creative. And, tell me if Einstürzende Neubaten hasn’t already done it.

Probably it will take me years to reach this goal, but I will eventually do.

For no probably the miked plate is not going to be my instrument, I might do it anyway because…

2) exploring new sounds is a necessity for me now.

Here’s the thing. Either music becomes a hobby or evolves into the reflection of my artistic entity – and by this I’m not saying to make a living off of it, because I’d be the first to be surprised by that.

I’ve been experimenting only down few paths actually.

I took my melodica from school and played a little bit, only to heavily manipulated into my DAW. Not really exciting, and I haven’t done again.

I recorded claps and me producing sounds on my couch with the built-in microphone of my MacBook and slapped a delay so to create this weird wide effect. Cool, but not that original. Surely not quite what I want.

I’ve recorded an acoustic guitar with a piezo microphone and glitched the crap out of it in the post-production phase. That was something really cool and by far the most original experiment I’ve done, but still it’s made of two phases: the recording and then the processing.

I want to create something different right here, right now. Not something that gets altered at some point in the future. I can do that now. My wish is to create something that goes onto tape and it’s ready. No need to post-process it.

Last summer I did something unusual.

Yasunao Tone is a Japanese artist who basically played a skipping CD and made an album with it. He destroyed CDs by putting little tapes on the playing side and played them on the CD player. That’s something that really gets me and make me understand how much I suck at creativity.

So I tried.

At first I didn’t know how to “destroy” a CD and still have it playable, hence I scratched the surface. By doing that, I really destroyed and it was unplayable.


Researches showed me more, and I found out the tape trick. So I did it and played on the CD player of my MacBook. Still unplayable.

What I did is playing the same CD in my old computer, a 2008 HP laptop PC. Turns out that modern CD players have built-in sound correction that prevents the sound to skip. Older players miss that feature. My 8-year PC worked perfectly. It’s gotta have one of those old players. I recorded the experiment via Audacity.


Here’s a couple of audio clips result, completely unedited – I think you can tell which CD I used

(if you can’t see Soundcloud players, audio clips are here and here)

The experiment stopped there, however. It’s a start, for sure, and in my mind I can extract samples so to re-use them in your songs. What really makes the difference is the source file, i.e. the content of the CD.

In the future I’m going to be replicating (and documenting, and later posting here) this experiment and I’ll be using two different sources.

1) Field recordings. I wish I could go out there and record my own clips, but time and equipment are short. I’ll stick with some of the many of them over the internet to download for free.

2) Original sounds made via iPad. There are apps like Thicket and variant:SONiC that use the input of your fingers to manipulate sounds. They’re probably going to be effected and then burnt onto CD, which eventually will be “destroyed”.

Sonic adventures from already-done experiments. Yes. However, I’m not really interested in replicating the exact Tone’s effect. I’m more interested into editing his principle.

Editing. That’s all it takes.

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