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Interview with: NODE
Date: September 24 2010

 

A passion for vintage technology and extreme electronic atmospheres: an interview with Ed Buller & Dave Bessell of Node


Node live at EMMA festival, September 24, 1994 (courtesy of Graham Getty)

How did you guys get started with electronic music anyway? How did you meet, what made you all decide to form the band after all?
Dave: I met Ed when he was at school. I used to pick him up on a motorcycle at night and we would party and play music. Then the next day he would fall asleep in class, ha ha. So I was probably partly responsible for the downfall of Ed's education.
Ed: It started really as a result of Flood and I talking at our managements Christmas party's. We both had a common in treats in synthesizers and as producers we where fascinated by the business of improvisation in the studio.

Can you share a bit of the background of each of the members?
Dave: I’ve played guitar in various formative bands, some including Ed. I’ve worked live and in the studio with quite a few bands, including Killing Joke as well as occasionally helping out on sessions with Ed over the years. I studied classical orchestration at the Royal College of Music and jazz guitar with John Etheridge. In addition, I have a Phd in music and do computer research in to software synthesis. Finally, I compose avant-garde classical music, sometimes using electronics alongside conventional classical instruments.
Ed: Flood is a well-known and successful producer you will know about. Dave was an old friend from Reading. I met him when I was in boarding school there and he worked in town in a record shop. We became good friends and I've played in several bands with him over the years. Gary engineered a lot of the records I made in the early nineties.

So are there specific tasks discernable to every member of the group?
Dave: Sometimes listening to playback it is hard for us to remember exactly who did what. The only agreement we had when playing was not to comment on what each other played. The idea was that if any member of the group thought it should sound different then they should add what they thought was needed themselves. Usually before playing each piece we agreed on a short motif, a kind of musical seed to grow from, then it was dive in and see where it goes.
Ed: Sort of. But pretty much due to the equipment we have rather than anything else. I tend to most of the sequencing other than the low stuff. That's Flood. He will do most of the percussive stuff too . The hit noise bits are probably me. Dave and Gary fill in the middle. But we don't examine too much what we do. It would just spoil it....and we like to be surprised.

Node’s music is all about the creative process, "expect the unexpected". So how you guys start making music at all?
Ed: Well, we discuss the idea for a piece in the loosest terms really. We might say "big beginning, meltdown slow bit no rhythms, end on a sequencer frenzy". We also will have some set melodies which we learn. Really no more than 6 notes, with maybe one variation. That way there will be some thematic development. We also will be very careful picking a key and mode. Having a restriction in available notes gives a cohesion that can really help if the sounds are very diverse.

So in the approach and vision of Node, the analogue sequencer must be an interactive instrument…
Ed: Yes, very much. A lot of effort goes into setting up the patch so there will be enough room to maneuver and change things. The main reason for the size of the modular systems is having enough things to vary.

What’s the toughest part in this whole process, getting things in sync etc. ?
Dave: Ed and Flood's sequencing shared a common clock but had quite a degree of rhythmic independence, Gary and Dave played in real-time. Some of the things that may sound synced were flown in by hand. Maybe the biggest technical challenge was keeping the vintage analogue gear in good shape - I remember Ed's Moog catching fire during one recording session.
Ed: Ha, tuning is and always will be.....a bitch!!

Ed, what do your think is the ideal balance of chance and intention in electronic music?
Well.....by it's very nature it's impossible to predict. You know when you listen back if you got the balance right.

Ed, for years you and Flood (aka Mark Ellis) are accomplished producers for. I imagine this may be tricky and difficult when switching to be a musician again in a band…
Not at all....it’s actually very easy.

So expertise and brilliance does each member add to Node?
Dave: Modesty prevents me from commenting, ha, ha.
Ed: We really frown on examining what we do individually. You'll never hear " dude ...lay off the pitch bend !!" or "you call THAT a guitar solo ??". Part of what makes it work is its up to each of us to contribute what WE feel works at any given time. The direction the music takes is therefore determined by the way we all think it should go. Maybe Flood is being dark and industrial and Dave is being light and romantic. It will either work or fail based on how they pull it off. We will play a track 4 or 5 times to get the best out of it. Resetting all the equipment back to the starting points. And trying to play the same thing. This gives us a chance to really capture an idea without destroying it .

What do you feel the difference between group interaction and solo electronic music
Ed: Well, solo music usually has to be somewhat composed . Therefore it can sound a little less inspired...unless the composer is very good.
Dave: One interesting aspect of group improvisation in this style is that musical sections rarely if ever repeat. Of course the sequencers produce hypnotic repetition but there are no repeating verse/chorus type structures at all, just continuous development.

What do you recall from the live-sessions at Paddington Station in 1995? How did that special gig happen anyway, with what goal did the band perform there ?
Dave: I recall having no sleep, and also looking down from the stage to see a member of the government standing and listening for a few moments before continuing with his daily commute. All a bit surreal really.
Ed: yeh, we where all soooo tired. It was a dream come true for me as I had always wanted to do a gig there. I wish we had gotten more sleep.

This brings me to the cd-Ep "Terminus". It’s cover says to contain an outtake from live-recording at Paddington Station, but I heard it isn’t, as it was recorded after the gig…
Dave: There is a mixture of material on "Terminus", some from Paddington (you can hear the station announcements at a few points.) and some from other rehearsal sessions.


Gary and Ed, Wessex, December 1994 (copyright Ed Buller)

In 1995, Node also played at the famous EMMA festival. What recollections and anecdotes do you have of that event and that period?
Dave: I remember the gasp from the audience when they first saw the amount of vintage analogue synths on stage.
Ed: That was a fun gig. We where very lucky as we had a lot of help from the organizers so it was relatively easy . It was only the second time we'd played live.


Ed Buller, Wessex, December 1994 (copyright Ed Buller)

Ed, I read on a vintage forum you had a new custom-made analogue system built recently, which included some custom Moon stuff as well. Please tell me all about this vintage "monster"..
My new system is really just the old moog equipment re-housed with Moon modular sequencers and trigger generators. I also have custom Moon modules that help with all the control voltage bussing and mixing. It is now very easy for me to set up the kind of patch I need.


Ed’s old rig

After a long hiatus, there finally seems to be a new Node album due out soon. What can you tell about it? Is there a possibility for any live-gigs in the future
Ed: There is a new album, we are just finishing the art work for it. We are also trying to schedule some gigs. But we recently learned so many people asking for a cd of the new release instead of Itunes. We wanted to do both at the same time, so the artwork was then expanded. The outcome should be out soon, but I really can’t offer no further information at the moment.
Dave: Those live events are not completely impossible, but it is difficult to organise because everyone has many other demands on their time.


Discography:


Node (1995)


Terminus (cd-single;1995)

In addition, there are also several single tracks of Node made available on various compilations:
"Alternator" is from the "Trance Europe Express 4" compilation.
"Swamp" appears on Astralwerks "Excursions In Ambience" (The Fourth Frontier). "Pliers" is from "Future Music Magazine cd, January 1996" (this cd also includes a very short video of Node live at Paddington Station).
"Olivine" appears on "Volume 12 (Winter '94)"

Website: www.facebook.com/nodesynth

© Bert Strolenberg

 
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NODE September 24 2010 A passion for vintage technology and extreme electronic atmospheres: an interview with Ed Buller & Dave Bessell of Node.
 
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