Nick Dynice is the mastermind behind N.Sputnik, and has been producing electronic music in a variety of styles for more than 20 years. He is performing this Friday, June 18th, at Live Audio Sessions – 3rd Friday: Experimental, taking place from 7:00-10:00pm at the new Exhibit [A] Gallery, now located at 555 Pine Avenue. Also on the bill is Ain Soph Aur and special guest Orlando Greenhill.
Nick grew up in a musical family, and he spoke about his early childhood.
Nick: My dad leaned to play accordion when he was very young, and he would always play it while I was growing up. And we had an organ in the house too. My aunt got me a toy piano when I was probably around 5. I don’t remember this, but I would play by ear on my toy piano what my dad would play on the organ.
I was into drums too. I would set up a bunch of pots and pans and bowls and hit them. My parents got me a Muppets toy drum kit with Animal on the bass drum head. A little later I made tape recordings using the built-in mic on a boom box, playing the organ and drums.
Sander: Did you do the music programs in school, either Jr High or High School?
Nick: In grade school I wanted to play the saxophone but the teacher thought I was too little so they put me on the xylophone. I played that for maybe a year in 4th grade. My siblings were into music too at the time. My brother got more into the drums and my sister liked to sing, and we made silly songs and recorded them to cassettes.
I lost interest in music for a couple years until we found my mom’s acoustic guitar in our garage when I was 16, and I started playing it. Then they got me a Fender Strat and an amp.
I had a band in high school with my bother on drums and my friend Andrew on bass. We mainly just played in the garage and made some recordings on a karaoke machine. Then we started to incorporate keyboards in to the music. We had a sampling Casio and a little Yamaha.
After a few years I took more interest in electronic music production, and took some classes in college. I learned midi and recording engineering at Cypress and LBCC.
While at LBCC I took the opportunity to record the couple of songs we made several years earlier in the garage, which were pretty much just power chord punk type stuff, but was learning about electronics at the same time: Synths, midi, samplers, etc. I bought my first sound module from a teacher at LBCC.
Soon after, I started working at Whittaker Music, then I really started buying all kinds of gear. With my musical partner Mario Escalante, we set up a studio at his house. Stylistically we were moving from Techno over to drum and bass. This was around ’97, and we were going to a lot of raves at the time, so we were inspired by that, but we always incorporated break beats into the techno tracks.
We had a couple DJ friends that would play our tunes at clubs every once in a while. Our DJ friends also played our tracks on Vibeflow, an internet radio website that did live streams, and we would go to the session with them sometimes.
It was really hard to do drum and bass. Not only is it time consuming to come up with mixes and arrangements that work in a DJ’s set, but there were a lot of other good producers competing for attention in a scene that is relatively small compared to house or techno. So, commercially, there were not many successes. It was more of an art scene you would contribute to for the love.
Then, I took a 6 year break from music to study marketing and web development. When I decided I wanted to do music again I thought hard about creating a unique sound based on other styles I was into. A lot of people who had produced drum and bass moved over to electro and dubstep, but I didn’t really want to follow the pack.
Sander: So, where did you go?
Nick: In grade school and high school I was fascinated by the music used in science films that would play. By then they were transferred to VHS but most were produced in the 60’s and 70’s. Then, a couple of years ago, I discovered Boards of Canada who made new music inspired by these sounds. Their name comes from National Film Board of Canada. Their films would have a lot of synth and Rhodes sounds.
The science films I saw in school, from a combination of the recording technology of the time, would have a warped quality too them. The pitch would kind of wander. BoC captured that sound perfectly.
BoC lead me to BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop and Delia Derbyshire, Raymond Scott. The Radiophonic Workshop pioneered electronic music. They made sound beds for BBC radio shows starting around 1958 when there weren’t really established ways to make electronic music. They made it up as they went along.
Sander: How do you produce tracks?
Nick: I have never updated my studio’s underlying technology. When a lot of people were moving to soft synths and all-in-one music production software, I did not, mainly because I was just used to working this way. I use hardware samplers, synths, and effects.
There is metered street parking, and you can also take advantage of 2 hours of free parking at the huge City Place lot that runs from 3rd up to 6th, just East of Pine. The structure stops charging after 10 PM so, if you stay til the end, you should be able to get out without paying a penny! (Sweet, but no guarantees!)