Octave One talks Expedition
Interview by Maurice Dharampal
The concept of an expedition can be interpreted in many different ways. In the simplest form, it’s an organized journey for a particular purpose. But what that journey or purpose might be, is completely up to the expeditionists. Exploring new sites, venturing through the jungle that is electronic music, setting up camp in surroundings with unheard sounds, we’re stimulating these various interpretations at Expedition Festival. In this final interview, we’ll explore these concepts with Detroit heavy hitters Octave One.
Brothers bonded by the thriving music scene from Detroit were meant to inspire people around the world with their forward thinking sound. The 5 Burden brothers together form Octave One, with Lenny and Lawrence Burden as the core units. Octave One has been essential to DJ playlists for over two decades. The prolific band has produced classic dance floor anthems that continue to resonate as fresh, groundbreaking tracks. And they haven’t shown any signs of slowing down any time soon. We caught up Lenny and Lawrence and asked them about machines, Detroit and, of course, what their views on a musical expedition looks like.
Your live sets and studio sessions seem to be interwoven with each other, unlike any other. Could you take us through that unique process?
We look at each set and session as a unique experience but also see each one as a step in our musical journey. How we interact with each other in the live setting is primarily how we interact in the studio. In both settings with start with a basic musical idea and built and evolve the idea. Reworking and deconstructing the different elements of the composition until we bring together an arrangement that we both feel makes the track complete.
How do you decide which recording from a live set gets a studio rendition?
Many tracks that are part of our live show never make it to proper studio recordings. It doesn't mean that these tracks weren't good enough, rather some tracks work best in there live form. It really just comes down to a feeling when we choose what material gets the studio treatment. Some tracks we feel we can make better in the lab, other ones we feel we finally have an arrangement that will translate well into a proper recording. Sometimes we attempt to recreate the magic from the live performance in the studio but just can't bring all the pieces together. Some moments are only meant for the stage unfortunately.
If you just take one glance at the history of dance music, it becomes obvious that Detroit was a breeding ground for the genre to flourish. What were some key components of this breeding ground and how did they relate to you?
Detroit in the late 80's and early 90's was a perfect storm for musical innovation. We were part of a competitive but supportive group of young producers living in a industrial driven city. The factories the employed the masses of our city were being transformed by the newly commissioned workers made of wires, gears, and steel. One Robot would take the jobs of many human factory workers. The theme of the machine groomed us. The ability of doing a complete song without having a complete band fueled us. The club scene was also very vibrant but with the introduction of the first club in the world that focused on Detroit Techno, The Music Institute, we all found a home. It was a place for everyone to meet other freaks like themselves. We all found each other at M.I. We had some of the most eclectic radio too, hosted by some extremely forward thinking music minds including Jeff Mills, Derrick May, Alan Oldham, but not forgetting the man who lead us all, The Electrifying Mojo.
What part does the audience play for your inspiration during live sets?
We feed off of the energy of the people. There is no journey without the travelers. The unpredictable part of any live equation is the audience. Discovering what moves a particular crowd is the fun part. Moving them from their comfort zone and into our world is our mission.
A tour could be synonymous to an expedition. What are some items you never forget to bring during these expeditions?
Can’t leave the house without the gear: Akai MPC1000, Roland TR8s, Korg EMX-1, Eventide H9s, DSI Tetra, Roland TB-03, Shruthi, Moog Minitaur, and a open but funky mind.
It’s commonly understood that man and machine come together when it comes to music, especially during live performances. Your music embraces these inanimate sounds. What role does the human (i.e. you) play in the mitst of the machines (i.e. live gear)?
Machines are just tools, they do nothing without input. We supply the input. We are the operators. The machine are there solely too help us realize our musical vision, nothing more. Man, by far, is more than the machine.
How is this relation between the human and the machine outside of your life of music?
In life, as in music, machines are just tools. Everyday things are becoming more automated and complex things are becoming easier to do, but without the input of humans, machines have no purpose, but without machines, we humans still will.