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Exclusive Interview with Cub'b, New Album Setting/Context

Producer Chris Cubbison, or as he is known by his stage name, Cub'b, has just released his debut LP, Setting/Context. You can purchase it for as much or as little as you want, or just give it a listen, at his Bandcamp page.

The Man Himself

I would try to sell you the album, but I think the music sells itself. Plus, Cub'b himself agreed to sit down for an interview and can do a way better job of explaining the album than I can.

Ozone Shack: Talk about the platform you chose to release this album. The way you released it is something that’s becoming more of the norm these days, where you put it up on a website and the customer chooses how much they’re going to pay for it, or if they pay anything at all.

Chris Cubbison: First ,as a listener,  I love that it’s going that way. I love the internet with music because taste and genres can become incredibly specific, you can find any sort of genre online, and depending on how much effort you put in, you can immerse yourself in an online culture where you can find multiple like-minded artists. Just last night I was searching through multiple websites – online labels- just pressing download button after download button. Just as a listener, I really appreciate that. It also kind of changes things for the artist, because your tastes and genres can become so specific, and so dense I guess, there’s kind of an oversaturation on the internet, and it can be hard to find artists, and not only that, but it can be difficult for an artists to get noticed or get some kind of following. It kind of changes the game. It makes it a different playing field.

OS: You mentioned downloading music. I feel like a trend that’s happening a lot, with Grooveshark, Spotify, YouTube, where people don’t actually need to have a copy of the recording, they can just access it through the cloud. But it seems as though you like actually having the music. I’m one of those people myself. What are your thoughts on having the music on your hard drive and getting it from the cloud?

CC: I kind of see with things like Spotify it’s blurring the line. I don’t know if I see much of a difference between streaming something on Soundcloud and having it on your hard drive. It kind of blurs the distinction between the two. Recently, I’m appreciating the fact that artists are putting their music online. And with Spotify and Soundcloud, it’s nice that it’s up there. I think it’s also interesting to think about the social connection, just because Spotify kind of take music and make it social

OS: And not only that, but there’s the added element where people can see what you’re listening too.

CC: They can see your taste, and that’s interesting too. People delve into things for different reasons too, maybe to be seen as liking this, this and that, but I don’t know, I think at the end of the day it has to come down to your own personal interest and whatever you want to get out of it.

OS: Well as for the album itself: Talk a little bit about what went into making it.

CC: Basically, I started working on all the songs at the end of last school year, during finals week. I was just starting to do some new tracks, wasn’t really thinking about where they were going. It feels like I get my best creative moments during the worst times, like during midterms or finals I get something and I’m like “dammit I really want to work on this.”

Everything on it was basically me, I think there were two tracks on there that feature a couple friends of mine, but it’s interesting the way that I did it. A lot of my friends are kind of describing it as collage music, and I think that kind of makes a lot of sense when I take a step back, because I’m working with a lot of samples, but not exclusively with samples, it’s kind of balance between pulling from other sources and putting in my own kind of stuff as well.

The equipment I use: An SP 404, Roland drum sampler. That piece of machinery is extremely conducive to sampling, because you can just plug in anything into it. On the album itself I pull from different sources for sampling; I sample vinyl a lot. That was a lot of fun. There were times when I was home in San Diego and I might be bored so I would go to a record store where I would buy ten used records for ten dollars or something. I would try to choose things that were random, where I look at it and go “what the fuck is this?” or this looks like it could be interesting.

OS: So it’s almost like a found art element?

CC: Definitely. It’s interesting because I think that the idea of found art or even collage isn’t really limited to one medium. But with music, the idea of sampling has kind of changed the way I listen to music at the same time too. I feel as though, as a listener, there have been times when I’ve been like “I don’t really listen to this genre” and then slowly I become more familiar with it and like it. I think the idea with sampling is that it broadens your perspective and your taste, because I feel like I’m not really listening to things with the mindset of “I like this” or “I dislike this,” but “what parts can I appreciate from this?” I like to think that there’ a positive you can taek away with everything you sample or everything you listen to, and it’s also about warping that or changing that. Basically this summer it was a way to stay entertained. I basically see the 404 as a big toy, I feel like a kid when I’m playing with it.

So yeah, I’m sampling with the 404, and then I also add in other instruments, like keyborard, bass, and guitar. The sampling itself is a balance from vinyl, other sources like youtube clips – a lot of time for the samples I’ll take clips from youtbue and warp them or change them in some way – and then there’s also an element that I really like of live sampling, or field recordings. There are a cpule tracks on there where I was out and about and I had just a microphone, I would hear something and record it and try to integrate it into a song. There were a copule on the album that included field recordings. On the track Aquarium I actually got a lot of sounds from the Birch Aquarium in San Diego. There’s this kind of water art installation outside and I just kind of recorded stuff on my iPhone and transferred it all to the 404. Also with the track Lunar Beach, for the beach noises, I was actually at Campus point. I was just sitting there with my microphone. I felt really silly when people would walk by.

OS: What about the spoken samples?

CC: A lot of those came from YouTube, movies or speeches, or just certain authors that I like who had readings online. I balanced that with my own vocals too. There were certain songs where I felt like it was appropriate for me to sing instead of pulling something from somewhere else. And with vocal samples, I feel like I have a lot of fun with that, because I feel as though – not just with vocal samples but with samples generally – it’s kind of a way to stack meanings and stack messages within your songs and kind of embed different meanings within them. I think that’s something I think about a lot. It can really shape a message when you’re trying to get that through in your music.

OS: Do you get to the point now where you’re listening to music or just in the world and start hearing everything as a potential sample?

CC: I feel as though I’m starting to look at the world that way, yeah. I even think that listening to music, I’m starting to break it down to individual noises that I’m hearing, not just a whole collective song. I might listen to a song and be like “oh, I really like the snare,” or “that hook is really good.” I’m starting to break it down and dissect different aspects of music – not just technically but in terms of meaning and in terms of voice.

OS: Let’s talk a little bit about how you perform this stuff live. When you do this stuff live you have your samples and then you’re playing some kind of instrument over that. I’ve seen you do it while playing bass and also with bongos. Talk about what that process is and how it’s different from creating material for the album.

CC: The live stuff is definitely different. I’ve only performed [the material off this album] once or twice. I think that can be kind of difficult as an individual just because I feel like I have to compromise certain parts of songs, just ecase I can’t physically do them all at once. It really depends on the way it was recorded when I’m trying to figure out how to play it live. A lot of times I’ll just have certain parts of songs or certain aspects of the songs that will be playing and then I’ll play a specific part up against that with backing tracks. That can be difficult, but it forces me to prioritize what I want to do. Ideally I would be able to make every single noise live, but I’m still in the process of learning how to do it.

OS: And then you’re also using real instruments.

CC: Yes.

OS: We’re sort of entering an epoch where real instruments aren’t really perceived as being necessary anymore. How do you feel about that shift?

CC: I’ve thought about this a lot. I try to come to a balance in my head. I think that a lot of people are turned off by the fact that everything is going digital, and that certain genres are going more towards computer-based, and I think there’s something to be said for that. I think that there’s something that can be appreciated for physicality of music, even with recorded music vs. digital. But also at the same time with live music, I feel like live instruments add a certain element of finesse or technical ability. I’m saying this very humbly. I’m definitely not the most talented when it comes to that. I think that at the end of the day it’s not what you use, it’s how you use it. As long as you’re pursuing something that’s on part with whatever you want to do, that’s the goal. I think that people today kind of get caught up with how things are made; they add a lot of significance to programs or instruments instead of the person using them. The way that I approach music is not really computer based. I’m recording onto a computer and I’m recording into Ableton, but all the beats I’m making and all the noises I’m making either stem from samples on the 404 or from instruments. It’s not like I’m making noises on the computer and using them as a crutch.

OS: It sounds like what you’re doing is a healthy blend of using the electronic medium but also creating the music yourself. I guess I would say that’s something I have a lot more respect for than a DJ who just splices and kind of creates a Frankensong. Now I’d like to ask what your diet of music, so to speak, was like growing up.

CC: Yeah, my taste in music has changed a lot and I think that happens with everybody who kind of digests music. I try to listen to a lot of different types of music. I’m not trying to listen to something just so I can say “oh, I’ve listened to this,” it’s really kind of a self-motivated thing.

OS: You’re trying to integrate it into your musical being; you’re trying to grow.

CC: Yeah. I think that a lot of times, with music, when people say “I don’t like this genre,” you’re kind of building a wall between what it is you like and what you don’t like. When you say “I don’t like rap” or “I don’t’ like R&B” you’re building a wall between yourself and what you can enjoy from that genre. I really try to give everything a fair chance. To more specifically answer your question, lately my music tastes have greatly diversified. I think that has a lot to do with my friends.  With my friends from back home, listening to music is a way to stay connected. I think at first, before I made music, it was a way of keeping up with my friends, you know, I would listen to something and we would talk about it the next chance we got to catch up. As I started making music, that’s also become a way of staying connected, you know, sending each other tracks and noticing musical progression without actually seeing each other.

I don’t know, I listened to a lot of 70’s punk in middle school, and I appreciate the way that was made, you know, it’s music from below, not music from some kind of established realm. High school when I met a lot of my friends I started diversifying. In the last couple years I’m really starting to enjoy beat music and experimental music. The more time you spend listening to any genre the more you understand it.

OS: Anything you’re particularly digging right now?

CC: There’s a lot I’m digging. I’ve been listening to a lot of my friends’ music, from different areas around the United States. I’m getting into Beat Music and experimental ambient and kind of weird house music, and techno. In the last week, I’ve listened to Andy Stott, he’s a British producer, I’ve been listening to a lot of Soundcloud artists. There’s this one community called the Astral Basement, they make a lot of experimental beats that I feel are up my alley in terms of listening and producing at the same time. I try to follow a lot of young guys on the internet that are doing a similar thing to me, maybe in a better and more depth extent. There’s this producer in Ohio, he’s like 19 years old, his name is Contact Lens, he’s released a lot of stuff. A couple San Diego artists, there’s this 15 year old kid called Television Sky, and he’s really good, he’s released like 12 albums.

OS: And that wouldn’t even be possible ten years ago.

CC: It really wouldn’t. And that’s just a sign of the times. People can make music on their own; they don’t need to worry about getting the record contract to be noticed first. It’s more of a self-motivated process today, or at least it can be.

OS: Any artists or bands out there right now that are doing something right? We’ve talked a lot about the role of the artist in our conversations, and I’m wondering if there are any musicians out there who you think are really fulfilling that “artist’s role.”

CC: So many. I think the role of the artist today is to make something that nobody else can make, and to be really unique with your sound and be sure that when somebody is listening to that, they’re listening to you. There are so many people doing that today and that’s the thing about the internet. If I may do a shameless plug, my friend Austin Cesear up in the Bay, he’s doing a lot of really interesting stuff. Another friend who’s in New York, Lotide, is going to be having a lot of really unique stuff coming out soon.

I don’t know, I think that a lot of people when they’re making music get caught up in the accessibility of it. They might make something to pleasure an audience or to fit within a genre. The way that it’s going today, I don’t’ think that the artist should approach something and be like “I’m going to make this kind of music” or “I am going to be this kind of musician.” I think they should be making the music and letting it speak for itself.

OS: Yeah, you know, the one area where I’m more of a Platonist than an Aristotelian is in regards to music, because in Platonic philosophy, the things below are representative of some pure thing that’s up above. I should listen to how the music sounds instead of what it sounds like, you know? That’s how I should evaluate it.

CC: Yeah, that also comes down to how it’s enjoyed. If someone is going to a concert and they have a premeditated notion of what it should be, I think that’s also setting yourself up for disappointment. People should be going into music with no expectations of what it should sound like, that way it’s more fulfilling.

Once again, Cub'b's debut LP, Setting/Context, is available for download from the following Bandcamp page:

Send him some love, Ozone Nation.


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