Homemade electronic beats

Steven Harbaugh

Kent man mixes

‘intelligent’ music with computers

Mike Thompson, of Kent graduated with an associates degree from The Art Institute Of Pittsburgh in audio engineering. He uses many programs for his music, such as Sony Acid Pro 4.0 and Sont Sound Forge 7.0. “That’s the best way to describe what I do-sound

Credit: Steven Harbaugh

The thick aroma of patchouli incense exudes from Ghost 13/8’s bedroom. The smell complements sounds of anime voices interfused with eerie electrobeats coming from a computer in the center of the room. Copies of Electronic Musician magazine and Bettie Page memorabilia lie around.

Mike Epyon, a 31-year-old Kent resident and graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh with a degree in audio engineering, uses Ghost 13/8 as his pseudonym.

Epyon is part of a growing culture of electronic musicians who produce their own music using downloaded computer software and sometimes other instruments — synthesizers, guitars and drum machines. Epyon uses 16 music-creation software programs (“the equivalent of a small recording studio,” he said), writes most of his own music and then adds in the sounds of two Fender guitars (one “punk rock guitar for dirty sounds” and one jazz guitar).

Many of these bedroom musicians don’t even play out in nightclubs. For some in the area, it’s a hobby because there is not much of a scene in Kent for their style of electronic music, Epyon said.

“There’s a lot of people just sitting around their houses doing this. I know of about 15 people in the Kent area. I really hope a scene develops soon,” Epyon said. “Six or seven years ago, Kent had a much better music scene. I would like to see more people who want to mix and try to write their own stuff.”

To add to the complexity of his music, he adds dialogue samples from DVDs, TV shows and news reports recorded onto cassette tapes and transferred to the computer. When Epyon hears dialogue in movies, he said, he envisions beats behind it. So he takes the samples and overlays them with loops, distortions, scratches and other effects. Ronald Reagan talking about aliens set to digital beats is on one song. Another features clips from Cowboy Bebop and other Japanese anime films.

Michael Elam, sophomore education major, also produces electronic music in his bedroom under the name, “The Lazarus Plain.”

Elam uses a multitude of computer software and more than $2,000 in external synthesizers, drum machines and samplers. Elam, like Epyon, also does not play out in local venues.

“It’s more like something for your house. It’s not real club music,” Elam said. “It’s electronic, and it’s got a beat, but it’s more like trance, I suppose.”

Epyon describes his music in a similar fashion, calling it “intelligent dance music” — a more cerebral, melodic and artistic sound than the techno dance music heard in most nightclubs.

Epyon and Elam said their music is more suited for a chill-out atmosphere or a different venue other than a nightclub. Both plan to eventually play in places like martini bars, coffee shops or cyber caf‚s.

Ironically enough, both musicians have been in rock bands in the past. Epyon’s previous band Blood Red was an “old-school, hardcore speed metal band,” and Elam’s previous band Septimus Bean was a similar style.

Epyon shares his music with friends online through Instant Messenger and MySpace.com, letting friends remix his tracks and send them back to him (“I like collaboration because I’m a killer sound editor,” he said). He also did the background music for a commercial in southern Ohio for a computer services company.

Elam provided the soundtrack to a low-budget independent film called Stoner.

Both refuse to ever go mainstream. Epyon’s mantra: “Support the underground.”

“I’m not playing the Clear Channel game,” Elam said. “I would not work this hard to express myself to hand it over to someone and have them pollute it with a capitalist agenda. I hate record labels.”

All music, specifically rap, hip-hop and industrial music, is incorporating more digital elements. Epyon points to OutKast, Wu-Tang Clan, Pigface and Skinny Puppy as examples. Eventually, electronic music will become more prominent, Epyon said.

“I consider this the new classical music,” Epyon said and laughed. “DJs are basically conducting digital symphonies in their bedrooms.”

Contact religion and culture reporter Steven Harbaugh at [email protected].