The singer and producer Travis Stewart, also known as Machinedrum has released a plenty fold of records. His first release dates back to 1999 when he put out his first twelve inch on Merck called Syndrone. Being rooted in electronic and instrumental music these two genres get connected on his releases in a smart way. The Scottish label Lucky Me released his Many Faces EP. One of his most noteworthy albums was Want to 1 2?. Working together with singers by the likes of Theophilus London he keeps reinventing himself over and over again. Valentin Menedetter talked to him in Vienna.
You’re on Lucky Me which is actually a pretty influential label, when did you start making music?
Machine Drum: Well since as long as I can remember, I grew up with a slightly musical family, my grandfather was in a country band back in the 50s and 60s and up until this day. So he gave me his first guitar and my parents had a piano. I was recording at my grandparents place when I was five or six or something but maybe I started making electronic music around age 12 or 13 I think.
Has music and making music always been a desire in your life?
Machine Drum: Yeah like I said, one of the earliest memories that I have is making music, it has always been there. I can’t imagine life without making music.
»I generally don’t go out that much, I tend to stay at home and work on things. I don’t really have a set way, like a schedule for the day. I’m just around my equipment and I’m always learning about new music and listening to music and sampling stuff. Just getting into a creative mode so when the idea or these inspirations come to me I’m able to grab on to it.« What does an ordinary day of yours look like?
Machine Drum: Every day is different; I try to tend to write music whenever I get a chance, whenever I’m back in New York. I generally don’t go out that much, I tend to stay at home and work on things. I don’t really have a set way, like a schedule for the day. I’m just around my equipment and I’m always learning about new music and listening to music and sampling stuff. Just getting into a creative mode so when the idea or these inspirations come to me I’m able to grab on to it. I can’t force it, it’s not like, at five p.m. I’m gonna make a track and that’s it. Sometimes I sit down but who knows if the idea is going to come then or not.
You mentioned sampling, you are from New York, this city being know as the birthplace of Hip Hop. So the next thing that comes to mind is sampling. Do you actually go record shopping?
Machine Drum: Not as much these days, I kind of tend to dig on the Internet; sound quality isn’t really as much of a concern as it used to be but in the past I used to sample a lot of vinyl. Basically now, it’s just whatever I can get my hands on, I sample sounds from anywhere basically.
How did you get in touch with Lucky Me, since you are an artist from the US, how did that happen?
Machine Drum: I knew a lot of those guys; I played a couple of shows in Glasgow with Ballers. I ended up just going back and forth, sending them new tunes and Dom from Lucky Me just hit me up and asked me if I’m interested in releasing, It was pretty much as simple as that.
When you think of New York and all this trendy stuff that is going on in the music scene and the mainstream that is obviously very present in New York, where do you see the space for the music you are making?
Machine Drum: The thing with New York is that it’s really hard to say that it has a specific scene nowadays. There are so many people from all over the world that are moving to New York and they are there for four or five years and then they make music there and then it becomes part of a New York sound but it’s really hard to define what the New York sound is these days. There’s definitely the Pop kind of mainstream thing going o,n a lot of the vocalists working there, that was actually the reason why I moved to New York – start working with vocalists and produce for different MCs and singers and develop my own songwriting side as well.
What are you currently working on, something that is going to come out in the near future?
Machine Drum: I’m constantly working on new stuff; I never cease to stop working on new stuff. I have a couple of records planned for this summer. I can’t yet say when they are coming out. They will be announced soon. I can announce that I’m releasing an EP on Lucky Me. We haven’t decided on a release date yet. I’m trying to figure out all the incidentals. Trying to get the artwork and all that. Maybe some remixes, but by this summer, end of this summer that will come out and I also have a full length coming out on Innovative Leisure probably in the fall of 2011. It’s a follow up to Want to 1 2; it’s called Want to 3 4. It’s generally the same kind of vibe as Want to 1 2 but a bit more of a Pop crossover kind of thing but the records that are coming out this summer are more of a throw back to my instrumental electronic days; less vocal songwriting based. There are definitely vocals on the tracks but I’m using them more as instruments than using them as a straight up verse chorus verse sort of thing.
When you get down in front of your production tools, how do you see if a song is ready to be released?
Machine Drum: This has actually changed recently. In the past I would be working on tracks like for months and months and just keep revisiting them and maybe try out different vocals on tracks and honestly now I’ve gotten to this point where I’ve become less attached to songs and I’ve been trying to; people say it’s ambitious to be that way – but I start a song at the beginning of the day and by the end of the day I want to be ready to play that song in the club that night. It’s actually a pretty good method. Because I feel that the more time I separate from that first time I sat down and started to work on a song the more disconnected I’ve become from that original idea. So I’m trying to capture as much of a song in that first session as I can. Maybe have one or two mixing sessions after that where I’m defining it and rearranging the song.