How Venetian Snares' Homemade Modular Synth Inspired His New Album
The veteran Canadian musician proves he's not afraid to reinvent himself with 'Traditional Synthesizer Music.'
Courtesy of Planet Mu
Venetian Snares, a.k.a Aaron Funk, can be an intimidating character—looming over crowds like a fiend, blasting out rapid-fire drum blitzes at unsuspecting bystanders. Hell, just try and listen to "Ultraviolent Junglist" without feverishly glancing over your shoulder in nervous anticipation of some vicious assault. His music is dark, scary, and weird to the core.
When we called Funk up for a chat about his new album, Traditional Synthesizer Music, we weren't sure what to expect. Fortunately, behind the paranoid facade of his music, he's actually a really nice guy. Five minutes into our conversation, Funk has already offered us contact details for his friend Dave in Toronto, a little while later we're talking about his grandmother—who we're assured is a lovely woman.
When we did get to talking about his latest release, Funk had a lot to say about the process. Traditional Synthesizer Music is the first time he's made a record by performing pieces live in one take. Having become bored with 808s and 909s, he set out to build a drum synth, but ended up combining it with some modular equipment he had already. The result is a wired beast of a modular synth that Funk used to record the whole album.
"The modular is really interesting actually," says the artist. "You're spitting stuff at it and it's spitting stuff back, which you then have to react to and then it's reacting to your reaction. It's this real back and forth, like you're communicating with another entity. It's almost like a bandmate, but you somehow have access to their neural network."
The whole thing was recorded at Funk's home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, despite the fact that he named his 2005 album Winnipeg is a Frozen Shithole. "It's cool here," he says. "I've got a house and a nice studio setup that I've built over the years. Winnipeg is such an affordable place to live too, compared to a place like Toronto. It costs about a quarter of the money to live here. Also, Winnipeg's a really wicked place for artists and weirdos that don't wanna have to hustle all the time."
Residents of the Manitoba capital may have even unknowingly seen Funk perform over the last month or so. If you've been to a show headlined by DJ 1997 Rave Flyer then congratulations, you've attended a secret Venetian Snares performance, although chances are you wouldn't even recognize the music. "I was using this Elektron analogue rhythm drum machine and a 303, so I've been sampling and chopping jungle breaks in that thing. I sampled about 50 trailers from YouTube, but just sampling the names of different actors. I set it up so that each time that triggered, it would randomly say the name of a different actor. It was lots of fun."
However Funk's time in the Canadian electronic scene hasn't always been so enjoyable. His formative years were actually a bit stifling. "The 90s were kind of awful for me here," he says. "I'd go to raves and jungle parties, but all those people thought my music just sounded like random nonsense. It was just too much for them. That felt weird to me because I was like, 'I'm making some rad jungle tracks that are even more mental than what's happening right now,' but it really didn't go down too well."
Even now, Canada's love for Venetian Snares pales in comparison to places like Ireland and the UK. It seems that Funk's homeland has swept one of its musical geniuses under the rug. Whatever the reason for that, it's not going to stop the artist, who'll be producing caustic brain-melters until his dying day.
"I'm just sort of compelled to make music. I'll be doing it for the rest of my life, I think. Unless I get stabbed in the ears or something. Fuck, I would be so sad if I got stabbed in the ears."
Traditional Synthesizer Music will be released on Feb. 19 via Planet Mu's imprint Timesig, preorder the album here.
Daryl Keating is on Twitter.