“Percussion music is revolution. Sound and rhythm have too long been submissive to nineteenth-century music. Today we are fighting emancipation. Tomorrow, with electronic music in our ears, we will hear freedom.
Instead of giving us new sounds, the nineteenth-century composers have given us endless arrangements of the old sounds. We have turned on radios and always known when we were tuned to a symphony. The sound has always been the same, and there has not been even a hint of curiosity as to the possibilities of rhythm. For interesting rhythms we have listened to jazz. At the present stage of revolution, a healthy lawlessness is warranted. Experiment must necessarily be carried on by hitting anything- tin pans, rice bowls, iron pipes- anything we can lay our hands on. Not only hitting, but rubbing, smashing, making sound in every possible way. In short, we must explore the materials of music. What we can’t do ourselves will be done by machines and electrical instruments we will invent.”
JOHN CAGE, 1939
Radio Boy started life as Wishmountain, a project which set specific compositional parameters and then attempted to frame concrete sounds in a rhythmic context. The basis of Wishmountain was the sampling of everyday objects and the placing of them in structures and rhythmic patterns normally associated with club music. Having been introduced to electronic music for wider appeal through house music in the early 90s and at a time when techno professed to be experimenting with technology as part of the definition of a new sound, the genre seemed a logical home for Herbert’s music. DJs like Sven Vath and Westbam began playing Herbert’s sounds of a broken radio as dance music. The live show, where recordings of pepper pots and packets of crisps were deconstructed and re-presented on stage, continued to be the place where Herbert developed new sounds and patterns, often abstracting the idea of a house rhythm to one or two elements.
When the idea of limiting himself to eight sounds seemed to have run its course, Wishmountain was killed off, the brief was changed and Radio Boy was born. The same sampling compositional process applied, though instead of revealing where the sounds came from, Herbert was now keen to present them in disguise. Track titles stopped being obvious references to the source (‘Radio’, ‘Video’, ‘Jar’ etc.) and became components in a bigger idea. The recording technique also changed. When each track was finished Herbert would record it down on to an eight track and then record seven other parallel versions with different time signatures and EQ, starting on the off-beat and self-sampling the track up to six or seven generations. In its search for the abstracted limits of samples and how far they could travel without losing their sonic integrity, the music became more extreme.
With the title of his 2001 album, ‘The Mechanics Of Destruction’, Radio Boy referenced both the process and the politics behind his assault on the products and protagonists (and ensuing results) of ‘accepted’ capitalist/corporate thinking. The album marked a return to the policy of identifying the sound sources in the track titles, dismantling and recording these sources to create a fierce rush of sound. For more information on ‘The Mechanics Of Destruction’ visit the website.