Irwin's Conspiracy
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Irwin's Conspiracy

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The best kept secret in music

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You couldn't ask for a better opener for a Ninja Tune show than Irwin because he does with wired drums what they do with turntable: he builds a dynamic wall of sound that mixes sequenced and live performance into a new but immediately engaging style. Though far more danceable than either of the Ninjas, Irwin is perhaps even more experimental, because the songs evolve not only between, but during shows. "I try to create tracks using whatever I have in mind at the time- I'll improv loops, or I'll make a sequence beforehand and trigger it, but I'm trying to make more set-ups that I can play and be musical with on the spot, and hopefully get lucky with it. If I have a loop that's going well, then I'll keep building on it through the show, looping things and deleting sections and playing live electronic drums on top of it, and I'm getting into playing with effects live, as well.” For the Ninja Tune show, Irwin is devising "sounds that play themselves," which mutate as the track develops. "I'm trying to keep it interesting for myself, at the same time and I think that's what this kind of music is about, trying to keep it fresh, and moving forward and not approaching things in a traditional or consistent way. Trying to keep things on an experimental tip, but also doing some thing that you're happy with."
Irwin's chameleonic approach also applies to performances, as his style shifts to fit whatever space he plays in. “I don't want to pigeonhole myself with my music, and I'm into the fact that I've been asked to play ambient music in cathedrals, and traditional drum & bass gigs where it's all DJs, and maybe a week later play a more intimate, artsy situation, where I can branch out more into different ideas." Right how, Irwin's music is still evolving too rapidly to be recorded and marketed, but this has only given him a mandate to continue to change. "For selling things, I don't think that's a good way to go, but artistically I think it's the best thing, to keep with the diversity, and not try to hone in on (for example)just drum & bass, because that's not what electronic music is all about.. It's about the 'new unknown' that our generation is getting to experience. This is our form of jazz."
It is for this reason that Irwin thinks electronic music is the future. He and the Ninja Tune artists don't hope to replace the moribund pop styles clogging up the present, but he envisions a world where the borders between electronica and the rest of the music world will collapse, as they have recently between rock and hip hop. - Cody Goodfellow


The Guardian was denied an interview with Irwin because of his shy disposition. However, information of his past and present musical endeavors helps to make sense of the experience of Irwin's live performances.
Irwin has played with The Beastie Boys; David Navarro of Jane's Addiction and The Red Hot Chili Peppers; Will Cooper of Mazzy Star; Fred Wesley from James Brown's band; Karl Denson and Herald Todd, who played with Lenny Kravitz; and Rickie Lee Jones and John Cale of the Velvet Underground.
Irwin lives close to the UCSD campus and is airing out his latest twist on music at the Che' on March 7. If Irwin's last performance is indicative, anything is possible at his next show. Irwin's last performance was a chaotic mix of groaning samples lifted from porn flicks, beautiful serene soundscapes, backwards analog-synthesizers and intense live drumming.
It could be characterized as a cross between the sounds of drum 'n' bass, electronica and sex in the rain forest.
Irwin typically utilizes MIDI-theremine and a digital echoplex to create live sound loops, electronic and acoustic drums, a sampler and occasionally a sequencer. Latey, Irwin's shows have been a solo performance.
When asked if his Che' performance will be a solo effort, Irwin's only answer was a short story about how he recently got a ticket for having his dog on the beach.
Along with the music will be an exquisite visual show provided by Gregg Lepper of Opticus Organicus. Leeper also does the visuals for the national touring band The Electric Sky Church. - Sandy Link


Stories are told of a mysterious denizen of the San Diego underground who squeezed symphonies of bowel-throttling bass out of thin air with a wave of his hands, and pounds live wired drums faster then a gabber turntable. He strikes without so much as a flyer on your windshield, and leaves no recordings in his wake, and like many shady and insidious characters throughout entertainment history he's beloved by the French. Irwin's Conspiracy plots gigs in secrecy and plays out in unusual venues, such as Project Cathedral, an experimental ambient show set for Sunday, February 24, a St. Paul's Cathedral (6-11pm; on 5th & Nutmeg; admission $5 at door). Still a mystery in the city he calls home, the man behind Irwin's Conspiracy turns out to be simply an artist too submerged in his own noise to reach out and grab from publicity.
"So far, it hasn't been about music for sale," Irwin explains. "When i first started experimenting with sounds, and ways of making music, I didn't really care about recording anything, because I knew that every time I played, I'd be doing something different, so I didn't feel like tracking my growth so closely. Now, I don't care, people come with tape recorders, and elaborate recording systems in Europe, because they know they can't get anything unless the come and record it themselves."
While it's less of a headache to lump Irwin into the electronica genre, earwitnesses and Irwin agree that his sound constructions are far more open-ended, though no less intense, than sample-based dance tracks. Irwin makes a living as a studio musician with an astounding resume, but he wants none of it to cloud the space he's created for his own music, which mutates with each performance. "If there's a vibe in the night, hopefully I can catch it. If you can tap into that, you can create something for the audience, rather than hashing it (music) out day and night in a rehearsal room, and spewing it out on the audience and moving on to the next show. I've done it before, and it's much better to leave it open to the night." It's hard to actually describe the sound of Irwin's Conspiracy, because I've never heard it. He uses drums wired to MIDI samplers and synths, and a mad scientist gadget called a theremin-a box with antennas that resonate to the player's hands in the air around them. 91X Loudspeaker listeners describe his October '99 in-studio set as fast and intense, straining at the frequency range of the FM signal and human hearing, and Irwin himself professes a deep fascination with deep subsonic bass. "I know it's popular now, but I don't care. I try not to really think too much about with I want from a sound, I just try to think in terms of what's right for a certain piece of music." In trying to reach out to an audience, Irwin's found it's something best to bypass the ears altogether, and go for the guts. "It depends on the venue. If they're not set up for ultra-low frequencies and you go to use it, it can be a real buzzkill." Army experiments on both sides in World War II sought methods of disabling or at least soiling soldiers' shorts with ultra low frequency sound. "I was warned by sound engineers that I could do that, because I've had shows where I've bombarded the crowd with layered low-end and inaudible sub-low frequencies, that I could cause a mass shitting."
Irwin's Conspiracy seldom plays locally, but he toured Europe twice last year, and is going back in four months. "I'd been playing in San Diego and San Francisco, and I felt like getting away, and a few people told me the Europeans would really appreciate what I was doing." Without publicity or recordings, Irwin turned one show into eight, with an appearance on Paris's Radio Alegre, and the return tour, on word-of-mouth alone. Shows in Paris have brought future bookings in Australia, but at home, Irwin's Conspiracy will be playing an unannounced show at a cathedral.
In any town but San Diego, this might seem strange, but Irwin has tried this town long enough to know how things work. "I think it's starting to change, but the San Diego scene isn't really interested in electronic music, right now." Early on, Irwin had a hard time finding a club that would take live electronic music that was neither disco for jazz. "The response was actually favorable," he says, "but the crowds were sparse at first, because word doesn't travel fast here, I couldn't find one club in San Diego that would take a slight risk with me. Now it doesn't sound so strange, but back then, it was like a conspiracy." After a long struggle with the dark forces of club mediocrity, Irwin's Conspiracy found a proper venue at Che Cafe at UCSD. "it took me a long time to get in over there, but the were good about letting me play. The idea was live, spontaneous improv, electronic fresh music. There were some fucked up moments, and there were some really amazing moments. People who were there to see it got a show." Irwin de - Cody Goodfellow


Weeks later, still enthralled by Irwin's Ole' Madrid gig and his use of the Theremin as a conduit for sound samples, I pay him a visit at home. Irwin greets me at the door. Though the apartment is poorly lit, I can see the room is littered with an array of percussion instruments and various winged contraptions. Irwin gives me a brief tour.
'This one is a bank teller bass slide," says Irwin proudly. The instrument is an art piece by Pasadena artist Jeff Levitz. Made out of a discarded bank teller's counter, bass strings are fastened to it. Irwin pushes a metal guitar slide along the string, plucking a few notes.
"This is almost more interesting," he say, moving over to a small unfinished wooden table in the corner that has a set of steel guitar strings fastened to either end of it. "This is a double table slide guitar. Someone sits here, and someone sits (at the opposite end)." The room is filled with a twang reminiscent of an old Robert Johnson riff as Irwin demonstrates the guitar.
"This is where it all started." says Irwin in the claustrophobic confines of the downstairs head. Propped against the wall sits a two by four with one lonely guitar string nailed into it. Irwin plucks the string up and down the length of the board.
I follow Irwin upstairs to another dark room where his Theremin is stored. The walls are lined with framed artwork from various CDs Irwin has played on.
Irwin seems to be having a problem getting his Theremin to work. "I haven't touched this since the show I did at the Dragon Lounge. I'm going to run it through the amp to make sure it's (functioning)." The theremin remains silent. "This is not a good sign," says Irwin. There is a little low volume radio distortion. Suddenly, Irwin grabs the theremin and begins to shake it. I jolt from my seat like a jack-in-the-box as the theremin starts screaming through an amplifier behind my back. It sounds like an orca in pain.
"What was the problem?"
"I don't know. I just shook it a little bit (now it works). It's like hitting a television or something." We both laugh. "All right, sit down and we'll create some stuff over here." lrwin changes the sample to something that sounds like an alien spaceship hovering over a cornfield.
"I'm going to get a sample of [your voice], and then you'll be coming through the theremin... Hopefully, you're not too inhibited because I want you to hold 'Aaaahhhh' for a while... maybe four or five seconds." I hold the tone, noticing a variance in my pitch. Irwin fools with a few buttons on the sampler and then proceeds to play the sample back to me. I cringe.
"I know." he acknowledges. "I can't even hear myself own voice on the message machine... Now here's what that looks like. See how (the wave) gets bigger?" Irwin cranks a small knob on the sampler that cleans up the cracks in my voice. Beyond that, Irwin descends into an underworld of technical jargon. To avoid any lengthy clarification of points missed, I simply nod.
Soon my voice begins to come back through the amplifier(theremin)- Ahh-ahhh-ah-a-a-a-a-a-ahh-ah
"Tell me if this is making you uncomfortable"... - Pat Sherman


At the Dawn of the 20th century, the Russian physicist Lev Sergeivitch Termen created a sonorous instrument in the form of a wooden box with antennae. By 1922 Lev would present his invention to Vladimir Lenin, who saw immediate potential for this cacophonous motion detector as a security system to guard the Kremlin against intruders.
some 70 years later, there is a conspiracy afoot in the combined form of a modern Theremin (anglicized from inventor Terman) and it's constructor, Irwin.
Irwin's Conspiracy has been in circulation for over half a decade, and grows stronger by the day with his Theremin heralding a new dawn for live electronic music. Much of the din put forth during a live performance comes from the collective mix of a sampler with sound module, a bass station, an inverter which allows the Theremin to access MIDI, and an echoplex for live sampling and improvisational loops.
Offered up for your consideration, Irwin's Conspiracy will commence performance on Friday, October 16th from 11pm onward at The Dragon Lounge (entrance behind The Baja Brewing Co.) - Rex


From the live KPBS radio interview

Irwin is considered by many the most innovative and talented live electronic act in the world. Typically sandwiched between D.J.s, Irwin has highlighted many club and party events since 1996. Recently on the merits of word of mouth, Irwin performed to sold-out clubs in Europe and opened for Roni Size Break Beat Era/D.J. Die, as well as The Ninja Tune Tour with Kid Koala and Amon Tobin in the U.S. Irwin's live shows consist of live electronic drumming, midi theremin loops, fresh samples and sequences; all melded together to create an incredible audio and visual experience.

- Dirk Sutro


Partie noctambule du festival Viva Cite, Ie Zanzibar op-ere pour la seconde année consecutive avec une affiche toujours aussi pointue en matière de musiques nouvelles. Les nuits des 23 et 24 juin vont titre longues, dansantes et nous entrainent dans un parcours musical qui traverse plusieurs pays pour s'arreter a Sotteville-lès-Rouen.

Viva Cite, tout le monde connaît! Onze ans que ce festival des arts de la rue illumine le paysage normand, et notamment le bois de la Garenne a Sotteville, avec des dizaines de spectacles plus fous, poétiques, tordus, drôles ou majestueux les uns que les autres. Depuis deux ans, it s'est enrichi du Zanzibar, un lieu éphémére instate a ('Atelier 231 et dote d'une programmation musicale laissant une large place a la découverte. Cette année, l'équipe du Zanzibar s'est associée a celie du Café Curieux (Rouen) pour concocter deux soirées atypiques, partagées entre modernité et culture ancestrale, révélatrices de quelques nouveaux courants musicaux. Comme lors de ('edition précédente, la part belle est donnée a la musique electronique avec des concerts de drum'n bass, de dub ou d'abstract hip hop. Indian Ropeman avait enchanté le public en 1999 DJ Vadim

devrait faire de même le 24 juin prochain en compagnie de Mr Thing des Scratch Pervert et de Kela, boîte à rythmes humaine et tchatcheur en simultané. Le DJ, hébergé par le label Ninja Tune, et ses deux acolytes réalisent un mix a cinq platines. Le set dépouilié, technique et experimental, base sur du hip hop old school et des breakbeats samples dans le funk, a rapidement conquis la planéte techno. Avec Super Collider, les avis sont beaucoup moins unanimes. ca passe ou ca casse comme on dit! Certains adorent, d'autres détestent, mais it est rare de trouver le juste milieu. Le trio anglais -machines, chant, go-go dancervoyage au coeur de 1'experimentation sonore sur des rythmes assez groovies, vite casses par des structures passées au hachoir. On pense a un Jamiroquai sous acid découvrant la magie d'un vocoder, au Prince (puisqu'il a repris son nom) des annees 80 remixé par un DJ bruitiste! Beaucoup plus facile d'accés, Irwin's balance un drum'n bass, a la foil énergique et mélodique, presque rock sur certains morceaux, avec des sonorités sixties pour les claviers et des basses trés proiondes. Irwin a joué avec les Beastie Boys, les Red Hot ou encore John Cale... Ceci expliquerait cela ! Un style assez dansant made in USA. Ouelnues DXs Suhsonic. Klute. Aeon 7.
pour pousser le dance floor jusque tard clans la nuit.

Programme assez different la nuit précédente avec les musiques du monde a I'honneur, qu elles soient en version acoustique ou électronique. Purement traditionnelle, la musique d'Alemu Aga parle de I'histoire populaire éthiopienne de religion ou révéle ses propres poémes, le tout joué sur une baganna, grande lyre a dix cordes. Une musique meditative et poétique. un retour aux sources assure... Avec U-CEF, marocain installé a Londres, c'est le gnawa revu et corrigé a la sauce drum n bass. Une basse encore plus présente dans le dub d'inspiration techno d'Iration Steppas. Toujours I'Angleterre en vedette avec le sound system Aba Shanti qui officie aux frontiéres du reggae roots et du dub. Une affiche complétée par les mixes de Krimau et de Daktary Hi-Fi..

le Zanzibar 2000 promet de belles soirées musicales et quelques surprises de taille telles que la venue de la troupe de Au milieu des choses. performance de bistrots plutot rythmée, ou I'espace sonore et visuel concu par Bertran et Berrenger. Les nuits vont titre longues.


Renseignements au 02 35 63 60 89.
- Les nuits vagabondes du Zanzibar


‘Live electronic’ musicians blend jazz improv with computer codes

When Bird and bebop took jazz out of the dance halls in the 1940s, they framed a revolution. Musicians transferred their musical labs to dark, intimate clubs where technical precision and experimentation surpassed showmanship and entertainment, transforming jazz into music as much for the musician as it was for listeners.

Look now to small venues in San Diego—places like the Roseary Room downtown, the Whistlestop in South Park or Kadan in Normal Heights—and you’ll find the same electric buzz of improvised creation.

It’s the budge of fresh aural art. It’s “live electronic.”

Live electronic is electronic music exploded, the way Bird exploded the sax and transcended it night after night.

“Software has advanced and sort of blurred the lines between DJ’ing and playing live,” says DJ Jon Baker, of San Diego’s BrokenBeat Collective. “Pieces of songs/loops—original or someone else’s—can be put together and reformed dynamically creating a completely new piece of music. When a traditional vinyl DJ is ‘in the mix,’ this same idea is used. However, software allows for many more options.”

And possibility rewards as much as it disappoints.

Baker uses a turntable, laptop and chaos pad (an outboard effects machine) to “give it extra flavor, extra spice… options for adding synth-type sounds on top of a track, or affecting the track that I’m playing in my laptop.”

These composer-performers are also technicians, masters of the magneto, channeling the cosmos into the sound of the city, the music of the grid.

“You can use a shitload of external hardware—the spectrum is really broad,” says Irwin, of San Diego-based Irwin’s Conspiracy. “I don’t think that’s ever been the case in the history of music, for a genre to have such a broad scope of equipment that you can throw on stage and call ‘live electronic.’”

Irwin should know. He hotwired his first midi-theremin 10 years ago. He still uses one, along with electronic drums he can loop through a laptop and “other modules,” if he desires.

Baker expands: “Now there’s becoming an overlap where you’ll see someone who actually programmed an effect or a music program, and then he’s also creating music, so he can actually get into some programs where you get into the code and tweak a program and reprogram it using computer code, and use that to play live, which is mind-blowing.”

“In this field,” Irwin says, “you do look over people’s shoulders and you look at what their strengths are, and you give private props to the people that are doing extra.”

They are smooth grunge ridemen, an electromagnetic counterinsurgency, faces lit by the bluelight hum of a laptop, while listeners lean in to watch, fascinated.

“We’re actually creating an event for people to go to where they can see this,” Baker says. “People that use their laptops to create music don’t really go out to clubs. If we can get them to go out, then that becomes a hub, a place where people can meet, and that’s when [you get] kind of a sound of San Diego.”

People who attend these events where electronic music gets its bebop on share the risk involved with publicly tinkering with an accepted genre.

“You have to have that skill to be able to roll with whatever happens,” Baker says about dealing with split-second changes in volume and effects.

“I can have a disastrous night,” Irwin admits, “and it shows. You can hear it, you can see it. And then other nights I get lucky and really create something that only happens at that time because I was making the music at that moment.”

Baker agrees: “If the musician starts to struggle, the crowd kinda pulls for him, and if he pulls out of it and recovers, then it’s kind of like a roller-coaster ride that everyone takes together. The more risks you take together, the greater the reward if it works well.”

This shit hits hard, with sounds fading in and out, woven into complex, seamless mixes. House, original beats, industrial, hip-hop, all synthesized, united in the moment.

“I don’t think there’s been a truer genre since jazz,” Irwin says. “Live electronic truly is very reflective of the whole jazz mentality. There’s not a lot of structure, it’s all about your own structure and your own arrangements [and] there’s very few rules.”

It’s a 21st century sound, for sure. And it just might be the sound of the 21st century—technology in harmony with spontaneity, music that breathes, speaks, and most of all, acts.

“Affecting change rather than being effected,” says Irwin.
- by R.L. Buss


For those who find football too soft, there are extreme sports; for those who think dating too cushy, there's extreme dating (10 seconds or less: go!). Now, for musicians who just can't get enough, Irwin comes to Pianos with his liver-then-live act. Irwin doesn't just play his electronic (music) - he makes it on the spot, creating all the beats and sounds right in front of you... see it if you dare, pussy... - PaperMag


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Irwin has been at the frontier of live electronic music since '96, and headlined over two hundred shows in the U.S. and Europe, as well as opening for acts such as Roni Size- Breakbeat Era, Photek, Super Collider, RJD2, Z-Trip, DJ Die, Optical, Ed Rush, Amon Tobin, Kid Koala and the Ninja Tune Tour. His performances have merited four return tours to Europe and praise from the most critical among new music and art aficionados. With over 200 performances, not a trace of sound or video has been marketed to the public, yet most shows are sold out purely by word of mouth.
-KPBS- "Irwin is considered by many the most innovative and talented live electronic act in the world."