Volume 94, Issue 78

Friday, February 9, 2001


magnetophone makes buzzing music

Keeping jazz alive

Krenek exhibition more than music

Ex-Killjoy member goes solo

magnetophone makes buzzing music

Gazette File Photo
JOHN WAS CONCERNED THAT TED WAS GOING TO BE LATE FOR HIS HAIR APPOINTMENT. magnetophone's John Hanson sheds some light on his career in electronica music.

By Matt Pearson
Gazette Staff

Remember ghettoblasters? John Hanson sure does. And years later, his curiousity about them has finally paid off.

Hanson, who lives and works in Birmingham, England, began experimenting with sounds at an early age. "I've always been fascinated by mixing sounds, but it's changed over the years, from guitars to synthesizers – I've always played around with gadgets," he laughs.

Along with collaborator Matthew Saunders, Hanson has been creating a unique form of electronica since the mid 1990s.

However, when they first started out, the two worked with a vocalist, a figure that has disappeared since they officially became magnetophone.

Yet Hanson maintains the re-emergence of vocals on future projects is a possibility. "I would want the vocals to be more docile than they were, perhaps from a female vocalist. I love the idea of a vocalist and treating their voice like a fine instrument," he suggests.

As a pair of musical collaborators, Hanson and Saunders have a unique formula. Although they meet one or two times a week to jam, Hanson contends the process is independent. "The aim is to surprise each other," he explains.

Known for using rundown synthesizers to produce shifting sounds of electonica, magnetophone also spend a considerable amount of time crossing their fingers and hoping for the best.

"Basically, we felt primitive tools pushed us further creatively," Hanson says, adding that restricting oneself technologically enhances one's artistic output.

Critical and popular response to magnetophone's full-length debut album, i guess sometimes i need to be reminded of how much you love me, has been mixed, a fact that couldn't make Hanson happier. "[The album] is quite challenging for some people because the lack of polished quality can be disturbing, but others seem to love the challenge," he offers.

"We've had a lot of comments about the song titles and the music, but the title suits me poetically because we like to play on expectation."

For an album with such a tender title, one would perhaps not expect buzzing, industrial melodies. Even Hanson admits some song titles may mislead a potential listener.

"I think we like the idea of playing on opposites – something quietly beautiful underneath something industrial," he suggests. "I like to have a juxtaposition between beats and melodies, mixing electronica with organic, and then adding some really dirty piano."

For a band with no lyrics or vocals, magnetophone is still able to effectively communicate messages through their music.

"Lyrics sometimes get in the way," Hanson says. "We strive to create music for music's sake, but we realize people may find it uncomfortable without lyrics. Electronica has its own place and that's an emotional place – vocals can sometimes be distracting."

But this emotional place is in a state of constant flux, according to Hanson. "Electronica keeps changing, but we keep changing, too. We don't want to fall into a pattern of what we're doing," he says, emphasizing the strength of magnetophone's live show.

"Our music is more intense live. We tend to play more user-friendly tracks and I think we're better live than on a record," Hanson explains, adding the audience's reaction is surprising. "The beats are more danceable in a live atmosphere."

magnetophone will spend this spring touring France and the UK.

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