Call & Response: minisystem

A very cool electronic multi-media event is taking place this Saturday night at The Rivoli. The IAMIC and The Canadian Music Centre have matched up songs from 16 different countries with Toronto producers, who were asked to remix them for Saturday's event - The Remix Concert. Visuals will be provided by blogTO's own Carlos Weisz, who I saw do some amazing work at the Mod Club for Zaki Ibrahim.

Among the six local remixers performing are blogTO favourite Solvent and talented melodic electronic producer minisystem (aka Jeff Lee). Jeff released a fantastically pretty full-length called Madingley back in 2006 and has since released a bunch of solid DJ mixes.

minisystem's remixes for this show are amazing. I had to know how we made them, and we also talked about some computer history and Toronto stuff.

blogTO: Where did the name minisystem come from?

minisystem: A 'minsystem' is another name for a minicomputer, which were intermediate between early personal computers and mainframes back in the 70s and early 80s.

What inspired you to start making electronic music?

Without knowing it at first, I was always attracted to popular music that I heard on the radio as a kid which had synthesizers or other kinds of electronic arrangement. I loved the song "Axel F" from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. It was on the first ever mix tape I made when I was 10 or 11. Years later, I learned that most of the songs I really liked were electronic in nature and once I knew what to look for I began seeking it out. I started collecting records with reckless abandon about 10 years ago and not long after started setting up a studio.

How did you get involved in The Remix Concert?

The Canadian Music Centre is celebrating its 50 year anniversary and hosting a meeting for an international association of music centres from around the world in Toronto this year. To commemorate these two events they solicited submissions from music centres internationally for material to be remixed. They commissioned me and the other artists to remix the submitted material and perform it at the show on Saturday. I got to remix submissions from Britain, Sweden and Denmark.

Your remixes for this show are more "upbeat" than the original productions I've heard from you. Are you making more upbeat music in general these days?

Ha. Well, we were told to turn the original material into 'party music', which was no small feat because it seems modern classical and electro-acoustic composers are especially well represented by the centres. This was primarily what was assigned to me and it was fun but challenging to make a dance track while still representing and respecting the original composition. Hands-in-the-air party music has been a guilty pleasure of mine for a long time, but I don't know if these new remixes represent any kind of trend in my own music making.

Gear question: what did you use to make these remixes (especially the phat basslines)?

With the exception of the samples from the source material I used my usual shtick of analog synths and drum machines to compose the remixes. Almost all the beats are pretty much naked out of a TR-808 drum machine. Basslines are courtesy of a Roland SH-2 and a Moog Minimoog and one of my modular synths. I used Ableton Live to compose for the first time and may have gone a little overboard with a technique called side chain compression, which lets your drums punch through huge bass lines.

How will you perform the remixes live on Saturday?

Live performance is always a challenge when you compose mostly with hardware in a studio. I consider myself primarily a studio musician and don't leave myself much room for performance and improvisation (plus most of my synths are either too old or too big to bring on stage!). That said, I do like to do a little more than stare nervously at a laptop so I'll probably bring a synth and a drum machine to add a few synth zaps, sweeps and some drum fills to my set.

When will the next minisystem release come out?

Nobody knows! As soon as I finished the remixes I had to tear down my studio for a move and as soon as I get it set up again I'll be taking care of my kid full time. Could be a while. Having a deadline with these remixes was a good motivator. My next project is a remix for The Craft Economy, which I hope to have done by the end of the summer.

Are there any new/relatively unknown artists we should check out that sound similar to your music?

I've been a bad music consumer for the last few years, so don't have much to recommend. The last thing I heard that I loved was 2008's Populous with Short Stories - Drawn in Basic on Morr Music. Lovely and warm, nice and synth-y. Toronto's Lowfish has a new album out on Noise Factory called Frozen and Broken, which is also great. The title says it all.

Where do you live in Toronto? What do you like best about living there?

I've been in Leslieville for the last 3 years. It's a great self-contained neighborhood with a ton of good restaurants. If most of my friends didn't want to socialize in the west end, I'd never need to leave! We're in the middle of moving to Church and Front. I'm looking forward to shopping at the St. Lawrence Market everyday.

Hot topic: what should we do about the Gardiner Expressway along the Lakeshore?

Oh, especially topical for Leslievillians. It's pretty handy where we live now, but since we're moving I say tear it down and bring on the hovercars!

What can people expect to see/hear/feel at The Remix Concert?

I don't even know myself. The lineup spans several genres of electronic, dance and club music and each of us will be playing the remixes as well as our own material. I'm excited to hear how the others have turned their respective source material into dance party tracks. Cool visuals by Turbographix (aka noteTOself author Carlo Weisz) will detail what tracks we're playing from which country. The sound at the Rivoli is usually solid, so hopefully people will be able to feel some bass!

Do you know if Solvent will play his remix/cover of "Hung Up"? Love what he did with that tune!

Ha! I love that track too. I hope so. Yell out a request, maybe he'll play it as an encore!

Saturday June 6, 2009
The Rivoli
332 Queen Street West
Doors 9pm
Cover $5

SOLVENT - 1:00-1:45
Canada, France & Italy

MINISYSTEM - 12:15-1:00
Britain, Denmark and Sweden

BARTEK KAWULA - 11:30-12:15
Slovakia, United States, Latvia & Finland

COZMIC CAT - 10:45-11:30
Poland, Nederlands & Canada

ROCK STEADY DREW - 10:00-10:45
Belgium, Ireland & Slovenia

CRAIG DOMINIC - 9:30-10:00

Call & Response is a series of Q&A's with bands/remixers from or playing in Toronto. Photo: Carlos Weisz

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