/\ . . . . . . . . .
/__\ s s e m b l a g e techno \/ music V 1.1
/ \S S E M B L A G E rave /\ culture NOV 92
issue editor russell potter firstname.lastname@example.org
_Assemblage_ is a deliberately ephemeral, occasional, mobile
journal that will publish reviews of techno/rave music, raves,
dances, along with articles on the social implications of this
music (if any). Freelance reviews, signed or unsigned, are
Robert Campanell email@example.com (cyberpunk)
Michael Pisano firstname.lastname@example.org(theoretical articles)
Russell Potter email@example.com (reviews, theory)
Bob Crispen firstname.lastname@example.org (record reviews)
Frederick Wolf Frederick.Wolf@um.cc.umich.edu (Detroit scene, reviews)
Robert Hooker email@example.com (the theoretical side)
Arthur Chandler firstname.lastname@example.org (reviews, thought pieces)
Laura La Gassa email@example.com ("The Flux Tube" (NE Rave Scene))
Andy firstname.lastname@example.org (reviews, scene stuff)
Johan Dowdy email@example.com (reviews)
taylor808 TOD3253@ACFcluster.NYU.EDU (tech,cyberpunk stuff)
Joe Turner firstname.lastname@example.org ("Kickin' Phase" (Tech Tips))
I S S U E 1 C O N T E N T S
Columns [Assemblage part 1] :
Kickin' Phase: "Techno: The 12-Point Program" -- Errata Stigmata
The Flux Tube -- The East Coast Rave Scene as Seen by Laura La Gassa
Articles [Assemblage Part 2]:
Russell Potter, "DANCE: Music, Body, and the Reign of the Senses"
Robert Hooker, "Reflections on the Rave Generation"
Arthur Chandler, "Have We Been Here Before? -- Hippies & Ravers, 60s & 70s"
Music Reviews [Assemblage Part 3]:
The Techno Sound of Berlin, Swamp, Radition, Acid Drill, Lords of
Acid, Underground Resistance, World Power Alliance, Sysex,
C.Y.B.E.R.F.U.N.K., Circuit Breaker
[reviewed by Andrew Crosby and Russell Potter]
Halloween Rave, Greensboro NC -- Reviewed by email@example.com
*Assemblage* 1.1. Copyright (c) 1992 by *Assemblage* for the contributors
(unless otherwise noted); this text may be freely shared among individuals,
but may not be reprinted without prior permission from the author(s).
K I C K I N' P H A S E
b y E r r a t a S t i g m a t a
TECHNO: The 12-POINT PROGRAM
TECHNO - the sound of ten million whining chainsaws melted into a
disco record with a bad attitude on speed. Must be easy to make one
o' them there thangs, eh? Hrmph! About as easy, as they say, as root
canal -- but fun nonetheless, and you CAN do it if you want to.
Techno, while ultimately very diverse, is actually a very rigidly
defined style. Your first Techno song, if you're not a latent genius,
will probably sound pretty derivative; don't fret, and don't give up
if you suddenly realise your creation uses the same changes as the
latest Twin EQ disc. Just as a lot of rock sounds interchangeable (on
the surface) because it's just two guitars, bass, and drums, a lot of
Techno ends up sounding similar because of the ingredients needed to
"Writing" a Techno song doesn't follow any of the same patterns as
writing a pop song. Techno, with very few exceptions, is based on the
jam-in-the-studio method of writing: you get in front of the drum
machine and keyboard, and you just go nuts. Whatever works, you keep,
and then change/modify until you like it (or you hate it and throw it
away). If you don't like something, save it anyway; having old ideas
around often lets them "compost" in your head, and they may come out
later in a different and better form.
The process of writing a Techno song is very linear, if you're having
a really good day and the muses are with you. A basic drum pattern is
created, then a simple bass line is added over it, and then a main
chord or sound to fill it out gets laid over the top. Frills can then
be added on, such as samples and effects. The samples can come
earlier in the process, if the sample is integral to the song.
The kick drum is almost always the first thing to be written. Techno
uses a beat called "four on the floor" almost exclusively. What that
means in english is that for each measure of a song, there are four
kick-drum beats. You know, THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP. You can
experiment with this, and play around with syncopating it a little.
Variety is the spice of life -- but if Fred the Raver can't dance to
it, it won't do well. Be inventive but know when to stop. The choice
of kick drum is also important; make sure you use a sound that has a
good fast attack and isn't flabby or hollow. Most drum sound sources,
depending on whatever you're using as a drum unit (you can use a
sampler with drum sounds loaded, or a drum machine), will have a
variety of sounds to choose from. The Alesis SR-16, for example, has
about 25 kick drum sounds.
Once you have the kick pattern set, start experimenting with hi-hat
patterns and snare drum fills. Use the snare very sparingly, if at
all. Keep it low in the drum mix (most drum machines will let you
control the volume of each drum individually), and avoid heavy,
rock-like drum sounds (unless you are going for a particular one-time
effect). Keep the drum line percolating but simple -- the urge to
make a very complex drum line is strong, I know, but less is truly
If you are going for a stereotypical hardcore Techno sound, you will
probably want to put that grindy REEET-REEET sound in that everyone
and their mother uses (if you're not sure what noise I mean, and
through the printed medium I'm sure some people won't, just grab your
ancient copy of "James Brown is Dead" and fixate on the annoying buzzy
grinding sounds). Take your sampler and the nearest heavy metal
record you can find, and sample a bit of pure guitar noise. Just a
half-second will do, just enough to loop. (You should read your
sampler's manual if the term "sample and loop" confuses you; basically
it means "take the sampled sound and have it play over and over and
over if you hold a key down". The shorter the sample, the more
unearthly the loop usually is.) Pitch-bend that sucker to hell.
If you're going for something a bit more housey or trancey, any good
analog or digital synth will do. Moogs are nice; Juno 60's are
better; Jupiters are worth killing someone for. Go nuts with
bloopy and blorpy arpeggiated sounds. If you're lucky, your unit can
control how fast it arpeggiates by looking at how fast your sequencer
is going (by looking at MIDI information), and you'll have some snappy-
sounding acid basslines.
If you have listened carefully to *any* Techno, you may have noticed
that not only are chords optional, they're usually nonexistant. This
doesn't mean you have to make something totally atonal; however, don't
concentrate on figuring out how to get from the Lydian mode in the
break back to Dorian mode in the main section. The ravers won't care,
and so shouldn't you. Most Techno does not vary from one or two
chords over the course of a song, so don't sweat it.
Vocal samples are fun, but optional. They can either add to the
recognisability of a song ("I'm the One and Only Dominator!", "Shut
the fuck up, bitch, you can't sing!") but they can also get incredibly
annoying if used too much ("...Dominator" and various Public Enemy
samples being prime offenders in past years. Hey, anyone remember
"this is a journey into sound..."?) A whole book could be written
about attempting to match the rhythm of your sample with the rhythm of
your song, but in general, don't worry about speeding the sample up if
you have to, or slowing it down. Most DJs will adjust the speed of
their turntable, anyway.
Your song should groove, but it should also change and build. Don't
be afraid to put breaks in. "Break" can either literally be a silence
of so-many beats, or it can be short for "breakdown", where you strip
the song down in an interesting way -- take the kick out, let the
piano glide byt itself for 4 bars, or whatever. DJ's like breaks,
especially in intuitive places (try to keep things in even numbers of
bars) and when they can hear it building. The chances that your
record will be played by itself in its entirety is pretty slim, so
make it interesting; don't just let it sit there and grind away for
Now that you understand the basics of the process, you must
meet two major requirements if you have ANY pretentions about making
Techno: nearly infinite patience, and nearly infinite money.
Money first. Forget all the hype about LFO plopping a Casiotone down
on tape and having instant success with it; the equipment needed to do
all the stuff I just described ain't cheap.
If you plan on doing a housey-trancey song (much easier than a
hardcore samplefest), you will need:
o A sequencer ($200/$400 used/new) -OR-
o A home computer such as a Macintosh, IBM-PC, Amiga, or
Atari ST ($700/$1500 used/new) plus
good sequencing software ($200).
o A drum machine ($200/$400 used/new).
o A synthesiser ($300/$1500 used/new). Most newer
digital synths are MIDI-fitted; some older
analog synths are, also. Some VERY old synths
may need a MIDI "retro-fit", which can be VERY
o A multichannel mixer ($25-$150/$50-$500 used/new).
Four channel at least, six channel is nice.
Radio Shack sells a good six-channel mixer;
don't beleive anyone who tells you that you
need twelve channels.
o An open-reel audio tape recorder ($500/$1000 used/new)
for sending your gem to the mastering plant.
o Buttloads of audio and MIDI cables ($50-$200). This
is the hidden cost that everyone forgets
If you don't want to wear headphones, and your neighbors are 80 and
deaf, you can also get:
o A PA power amp ($200-$500/$500-$1000 used/new), at
least 100 watts a channel.
o Two PA speakers which you should call "cabinets" or
else you'll look like a total neo ($200/$500 per pair
used/new). Make sure they have good bass, and that
they'll match the amp you buy.
If you DO want a samplefest, then you can also count on buying:
o A sampler! ($400/$1000 used/new) Make sure it has
enough memory to choke an elephant. Most samplers
will have enough to sample about 15 seconds in mono.
o Lots of disks ($50) -OR-
o A hard disk drive ($200/$400 used/new) to save
samples on. Some home computers have "sample library"
software and can store samples on disk, and modify
If you just won the lottery and have money to burn, don't forget your:
o Multitrack recorder ($250-$7,000/$500-$20,000
used/new). Four-tracks are useful, but eight-tracks
are better for doing some really inventive tricks.
o SMPTE time-code reader/writer (if you have to ask,
you can't afford it, used OR new). Hook this up to
your sequencer and record many tracks of synced-up
music. Useful only if your synth is limited or if you
want to do VERY layered stuff.
You may pick your jaw up from the floor now -- but put it back down
because even for bare-bones stuff, getting even 1000 records pressed
requires $200 for mastering and EQ, plus five cents per sleeve, plus
about $700 for the actual vinyl.
IT'S NOT CHEAP. Unless you traffic in stolen goods, or unless you
have lots of generous friends with equipment to loan, you will end up
blowing close to $2000 on a basic set-up.
This is by no means a complete guide; rules were made to be broken and
Techno definately breaks a LOT of rules. Read the manuals then throw
them away and play intuitively. Listen to a lot of Techno and then
put a Patsy Cline album on before you go into the studio. Be calm but
take risks. Play things for your friends, and send demos to anyone
and everyone. Go to raves and really talk to DJs about what they like
to play. Listen carefully to your friends jizz over what they've
bought and what they like. Remember: it will sometimes take 20 bad
songs before you write that first good one.
...and fer gosh sakes, keep a sense of humor about it all. Ain't
nothing less fun than a pompous musician!
The Flux Tube
A Column Depicting the East Coast Rave Scene as Seen by Laura La Gassa
This issue's topic: A Raver's Map of the North East
Raving on the East Coast often involves a lot of driving, and the core
of dedicated ravers will travel anywhere from one to eight hours for an
event. This results in a lot of good friendly parties since a portion of
the people will have made a special effort to be there, and because the same
faces keep popping up, lending a small neighborhood feel to a large geographic
area. Interstate 95 links the major cities on the East Coast, and as such
links the major rave centers. Let's take a drive . . .
MAINE: Way up north in Portland, K.C. and the Sunrise Gang throw raves
about every two months. These are generally small (compared to the huge New
York and Washington raves) and breakbeat oriented. I have never attended any
of these raves, but a reputable raver reports that the last party, CRUSADE
held on October 10, was excellent.
MASSACHUSSETS: The Boston rave scene as such is pretty much non-existent. A
large number of enthusiastic ravers live in and around Boston, but they have
been able to have very few rave parties within the metro-Boston area. There
are decent clubs with good techno nights (Venus and Axis), but everything must
close down at 2.00 am so it's difficult to get an all-night vibe going unless
it is at a private party held in someone's apartment. Occaisionally
after-hours parties are thrown at underground locations, but these are prone to
being busted. I attended a good after hours party Labor Day weekend, thrown by
self-proclaimed Boston scene leader Debo and DJ'd by Debo and Long Island's
trance god Onionz, but it was closed down at 7.00 am because of noise. The
exception to all this is a legal Fridays-only after hours club called The
Loft, which runs from midnight until about 6.00 am. The Loft is a beautiful
space, and a welcome addition to the
now-overrun-by-overly-drinking-college-student Axis, but it lacks the
atmosphere and energy of a non-club rave. Debo planned to throw a warehouse
rave in Boston proper, but moved the location 45 minutes west to Worcester
after someone else tried a non-rave-related party there and got busted at
Worcester has had two other sucessful raves, both called BOLD. I worked the
door at the second one, held October 17. Over 160 ravers turned up from
Hartford, Providence, and Boston, as well as from the immediate area. The
DJ list at BOLD II was spectacular if you are trance-oriented: Dave Trance,
James Christian, and Dante. Other DJ's spun breakbeat and acid as well.
RHODE ISLAND: Providence, aside from being Rhode Island's rave capitol,
is the defacto center for the Boston rave scene. It is supposed to be
easier legally to throw raves in Providence than in Boston, and three
seperate organizations ensure that there is at least one party in the city
every month. Word of mouth tells me that the best raves are the QUEST raves.
I was at their first rave and thought it was wonderful. They had an excellent
location near a 24-hour donut shop, and allowed re-entry so hungry ravers could
fuel up. The music was a mixture of styles, from the hardcore of Adam X
and Jimmy Crash to the breakbeat of Mayhem to the trance of James Christian.
The ORACLE organisation held their first rave October 9. I did not attend,
but heard that there were underage kids blatantly drinking beer outside
the front door and that the rave was busted around 3.00 am. The organizer of
the ORACLE rave was arrested and taken away in handcuffs for selling food
without a license. The third organisation, MICHELANGELO, has also had two
raves. Word of mouth says that their first one was really bad, but their
second was an improvement.
CONNECTICUT: I am under the impresson that Connecticut ravers travel
a lot, because I know there are lots of people in Connecticut that
rave but I never hear of any raves out there. I could be wrong . . .
they could just be very underground. I never claimed to be *that* well
connected with the rave scene . . . .
NEW YORK: New York seems to always have to do everything the biggest and
the best on the East Coast, and raving is no exception. It was announced
that the last Storm Rave in New York City drew over 5000 people, but one of
the promoters told me that there were only about 1670 paid admissions. This
discrepancy seems very odd, because I was at the rave in question and it
looked to me that four to five thousand seemed like an accurate count.
Offshoots of the Storm Rave Organization frequently throw raves of their own,
so there is ALWAYS something going on in the metro-New York area.
Since I adore deep deep trance techno, Sattellite Production's raves are a
welcome addition to the Storm Raves. This group is based upstate in
Poughkepsie, and have had two good parties so far: SPUTNIK and SPUTNIK II.
At SPUTNIK there were two dance areas, one featuring mostly hardcore and
the other with trance/breakbeat/house. SPUTNIK II featured a wide range
of DJ's, opening the night with housey happy breakbeat, moving into
hardcore, and finishing off with two of the most amazing trance sets I
have ever heard: DJs Rob Sherwood and Onionz should be cannonized. All
the Sattelite raves are held in roller skating / skate board parks, which
is a neat twist from spending the night in a place with no real bathrooms
(okay, so I'm a wimp). Their next rave will be December 5th, and is called
NEW JERSEY: The New Jersey scene is incredibly underground, so underground
that members of the raving community there don't even admit they are part
of it. I will respect them and not name names and places here until they
get things off the ground and go a bit more public. They've had a run of
bad luck lately: every rave they've thrown since August has gotten closed
down, and in September their sound equipment was seized.
PENNSYLVANIA: Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are the rave centers. The two
main groups in Philadelphia are the Vagabonds, who host parties in various
clubs on various nights around town, and Dead by Dawn, who have held at least
two raves in the city. Dead by Dawn's last two raves have had police
run-ins. At the first a raver was stabbed (by someone not connected with
the rave or raving) outside the rave location, and the second (at a
different location) was closed down around 1.45 am. They will try again.
I'm not too sure exactly what's going on in Pittsburgh, except that a group of
people who I know out there are throwing a nice big rave November 13th.
Pittsburgh ravers travel a lot also, frequently going down to Washington and
DELAWARE: The Delaware ravers I know usually travel to Baltimore,
Philadelphia, and Washington. If anything else is happening, I haven't
heard about it . . . yet.
MARYLAND: It seems to be easier to stay open late around Baltimore, so
several clubs have late night parties with techno music. Also, a number
of the raves advertised in DC are actually in Maryland.
WASHINGTON, DC: The Catastrophic organization puts on the most and the
largest raves in Washington. They get amazing lighting effects, including
argon lasers, and draw all the top DJs. I've never raved down in Washington
either, but I heard that the last two Catastrophic raves were excellent as
far as huge raves go. In warmer weather a number of smaller, simpler,
outdoor raves happen under bridges and in parking garages.
[END *ASSEMBLAGE* PART 1]