Electronica and the rise of machines in music, like machines everywhere, are moving to include, eclipse, and displace people and the human touch. iPods replace DJ's in clubs. A buddy of mine pointed out that from Broadway to Las Vegas, living musicians are being replaced by synthesizers and drum machines. Karaoke is now considered an art form and folks who pay $50 to $500 to see a "live show" see a "band" playing computer music. And if there is a live band, as in the case of, say, Beyonce's ongoing tour, the musicians interface with and are subservient to, the almighty machine in the form of click tracks, videos and other special effects.
On new his EP 'Four Keys To Zen', Mashed Buddha, a.k.a John Corda, flies in the face of this trend. In his last record, 'Subdue Your Mind', he added various tempos and feels and actual compositional elements such as recognizable melodies and arrangements to a barren mechanoid music style. On this new EP, he adds something else to the collection of his trademark mix of drum 'n' bass, soundtrack funk, hypnotically swinging grooves, and electro jazz.
[Kirby]In what ways is this EP and your forthcoming full length CD a departure from your last release 'Subdue Your Mind'?
[John Corda] The biggest difference is the addition of more improvisation over the grooves and beats that I create. These new tracks were created with fewer restrictions on me in terms of song form and trying to tackle any particular style. I think the music flows better this way and, ironically, the compositions themselves seem tighter. There is a dichotomy of complex vs. simple beats from one track to the next.
There are also some guest musicians, which there weren't on 'Subdue Your Mind'. I have a percussionist laying down a plethora of world rhythms on some tracks, and some funk guitar from my bandmate, Brian Leccese. I also plan on further fleshing out a couple tracks with help from my drummer and sax player.
With regard to the keyboard soloing on this record, I have been playing piano for more than 20 years and have been performing live on various keyboards for over a decade. When I first started Mashed Buddha, it was really all about the composition and an interest in the large array of subgenres of electronic music. Basically, now I'm combining that approach with live keyboard jamming interspersed appropriately.
[Kirby] The opening track to 'Four Keys To Zen', "Hype," picks up where he left off on 'Subdue Your Mind': humanizing electro grooves and mining the various styles of electronic music to recombine and produce something fresh. "Hype" nods back to the '90's, the classic era of electro jazz and jazz house groups like Black Jazz Chronicles or Innerzone Orchestra. Corda kicks an intensely mellow groove of mid-tempo jazz-funk drums and Fender Rhodes electric piano mixed with rushing and stuttering electronic sound bursts. The song builds and glides as Corda, in his unique fashion, uses interlocking synth melodies, chords and percussion to ebb and flow in a sophisticated musical and compositional way. It also has vocals by the legendary O.G. guru of all things enlightening and bender of spoons Uri Geller waxing hypnotic and poetic.
Why Uri Geller?
[John Corda] He has a compelling voice and a unique career that has reached people all over the world from many walks of life. He agreed to let me use his voice on "Hype" and I was able to alter it to make it perfectly rhythmic with the music.
[Kirby] "Mystery Dropper" is a stoner's delight. It starts out with disembodied microchips of sound, and a simple, spacey cycle of ringing Rhodes chords, of lush mellowness. A smoothly driving drum 'n' bass drum beat emerges in a trance state from underneath this sonic cloud, as the piano licks become more aggressive and spin off into a solo that builds, like a blues or Indian sitar solo, on simple, emotionally charged melodic statements. The song then shifts into a half-time, downtempo backbeat of drums, hollow wooden sounds that flutter in and out of the mix, and keyboards riffs that flow from the bass heavy to lighter and sharper. The drums then shift to the staccato original beat, as the keyboard plays sounds and melodies that drift and dissipate like fog in the sun.
Another highlight on the 'Four Keys To Zen' is the last cut "Temptation." Showing yet another aspect of Mashed Buddha, Corda waxes funky in a style that draws from the essence of Stevie Wonder circa his 'Talking Book' album. The song starts with some funky clavinet that sets the pace for the bass and an easy-going groove. The simple theme is then orchestrated with layers of synthesizer chords and voices adding whimsy and movement to the piece. The clavinet solo sits in the middle and is answered by tripped out sounds in the break. The image this piece evokes is that of breaks dancers and robots having a dance off. The drums on this cut and throughout the EP have swing and soul; the beats breathe with the life of a real live funky drummer.
[John Corda] I changed up my approach to drum sounds and beat making considerably by playing almost all the beats on a 16-pad Trigger Finger instead of the keyboard, and using almost no loops other than those created by me naturally in the process. The sensitivity and percussiveness of the Trigger Finger allow for more complex patterns and subtle ghost notes, or if I prefer, simple rock style beats good for dance music.
[Kirby] Another thing that Mr. Corda is doing differently is having a virtual record release party in the cyberworld know as MusicWorld3D. When one goes to the site, it seems to be a less tabloid and Fox-like version Myspace with aspects of a video game. Instead of interacting with a page that is part diary, part newsletter, MusicWorld3D is more of a world. For musicians it seems to offer more possibilities for creative expression within the sight.
What is the story behind your deciding to have your record release event in the virtual world of MusicWorld3D?
[John Corda] Just like myspace was unheard of just a few years ago and is now a monster, MusicWorld3D is poised to take the world of internet music by storm. As it catches on and gets more populated by music fans as well as musicians, it will be great to be a part of it from the beginning. It's quite unique to do a live audio/video broadcast displayed to visitors in that virtual world. I have plans to do a regular and informal show with them, performing live over grooves I've already created or showing my approach to creating and recording music on the PC.
[Kirby] Mashed Buddha continues on the 'Four Keys To Zen' EP reinventing electronica by adding a variety of musical elements and humor. One can only hopes he continues.