Tuesday, October 20, 2009

REALLY REVEAL Vol. 3: Spruce Lee aka Toni Toni Lee

In case you're unaware, Australia's most satisfying DJ has just released his debut EP (the first release on the much anticipated Sounds of Goodgod label) and it's pretty incredible. On this audiovisionary outing Spruce Lee has taken a Bobby Digitalian approach to solo output and slid into the persona of Toni Toni Lee - club king, lounge legend and sultry producer (which is, to be honest, not really much of a departure from reality). I can very easily imagine Toni Toni Lee programming drums in an alter ego supergroup also featuring Jamie Starr and Devin Dazzle on keys and filters respectively.

A few days after his mindblinding EP launch party marathon jam set we had some email dialogue regarding drum machines and West German mixing desks with Spruce to get a sniff behind the curtain on the EP and this is it:

Killer EP, thank you. Is it something that you've been letting marinate for a while or quite a recent effort in terms of writing and production?

It's kind of a combination of both, there's some tracks on there that I've had floating around for a couple of months in various forms and a few that are less than two weeks old.

It's pretty all over the place, ranging from G-House to a bundle of other hyphenated genres that I could invent names for - were you aiming for that sort of variation from the beginning or did it just happen?

Well I guess you could say that this EP is sort of summing up what I've been doing in the past with my remixes, DJing and club production and pointing to the new direction I want to head in as "Toni Toni Lee". I had so much different unfinished material to draw on and I guess this was like a "cleaning out the musical closet" in a way so I can move on to something more cohesive. Saying that, I do like that there is a lot of diversity to the record and I think it kind of shows elements of a lot of digging I've been doing into the history of dance music because I missed a lot of it growing up.

Can you give me a bit of a breakdown regarding some of the gear used on the EP? What other gems make the magic happen beyond the LinnDrum?

I don't have a LinnDrum! I wish I did, it's actually a Sequential [Circuits] DrumTraks 1984 machine, which I love. I think it's on most of the tracks on the EP and it has a very early Prince sound to it, particularly the clap. I also use a Roland JX-3P extensively throughout the EP and I think it's the only outboard synth I used. "Overflow" is completely Jx-3P and the drumtracks and maybe a few external drum samples here and there. The JX is a really underrated analog synth. I use an old West German 70s desk which had awesome EQ on it and nice warm pre-amps for tracking. On some tracks I've used an old budget tape delay that runs off 8 track tapes! It makes some pretty cool delays. Everything that wasn't outboard was sampled, recorded, mixed and arranged in Ableton Live.

Is it you playing and sequencing everything on The Intercom or did some friends get involved?

Beyond any samples all the synthersiser and drum machine programming, playing and sequencing is me. I love drum sequencing. The only person who contributed to the EP was Jimmy Sing and he helped with some of the arrangment and acted as "Executive Producer" seeing as Sounds of Goodgod is his label. But i recorded, mixed, arranged, sequenced, programmed and mastered the whole thing.

Are there things that you can't do right now which you really wish you could? (eg: personally I [Roland] would like to be able to write a bassline that doesn't bore people into a black hole of depressive indifference)

Yes! I wish i could play keyboards like a demon and not have to edit my lines!!! I've been listening to a lot of Dam-Funk and older 80s boogie and funk and the keyboard playing on those records is just phenomenal. I'm gonna start taking lessons so I can step my game up.

Is Toni Toni Lee your Long Beach Ziggy Stardust?

Hahaah I guess you could say that. That is a fair assessment.

What's next?

Next is more Toni Toni Lee! Finishing this record has got my debut out of the way and now I can move forward with a more cohesive sound and style. Saying that, I'm also gonna get back in the studio with Catcall to finish some long overdue tracks and also I wanna get some more work happening with Killaqueenz and K1. I really wanna just get some interesting shit happening locally.

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