bpmf is a button pushin mother f*cker living in beautiful West Philadelphia. With a career spanning back to the 80s that has seen him rock shows across the world, we sat down with the hardware wizard to discuss his new album Abide the Glide, keeping the funk (and glide) alive, and of course, music gear.
bpmf has been doin’ the thing for a little while now. Pictured here with Prototype 909 (P-909).
When did bpmf first start playing with hardware?
bpmf has always been about hardware. I got the name from Skip McDonald of Tackhead who came to my studio to check out my skills with an eye for helping his band mate Doug Whimbish produce his solo album. I was told that when Doug asked what he thought of my work on the Akai S-900, Skip responded: “Man that is one button pushin mutha fucka”.
The first time I ever played live was in ’86 with The Free World. The two of us basically dismantled the entire studio and brought it to the space. I wasn’t thrilled to ever do that again, so it wasn’t until ’93 in Prototype 909 where we had six hands and an arsenal of Roland gear that I got the bug for playing live. We started Rancho Relaxo All Stars in 94 and I’d bring my SH-101, TR-606, DX-100, and Prophet 600 and we’d put all our gear together and jam. Each of us would often solo out for 10 minutes or so and then mix in a record. So in this way I feel like I was very fortunate to ease into playing live solo with a lot of extra gear and a little help from my friends.
Despite making techno for a decade as bpmf and with P-909 and playing live with them over 70 times, I never really played Techno live by myself until I hooked up with Rizumu in 2015. I had gone to a few parties with some amazingly talented young people working the machines, some shows having more than one, or going all night live. This really got to me seeing these young people going at what I had never really had the courage to do. I had some newer, smaller gear that certainly made it easier to bring along everything I thought I needed and to work it more easily than what I had done in the past. So the time was right.
Prototype 909 live in action with the infamous Prophet 600 in tow.
You’ve got two labels: Serotonin & Schmer. What’s the style for each?
By 94 I was starting to feel that techno was getting a bit too unfunky for my taste and that year I had met John Selway at Satellite records and realized that we both had a love for the funkier electronic dance music of the early eighties: electro, electro disco, new wave, funk. We thought we should help to bring it back, so we started Serotonin.
I wasn’t done with Techno so the next year I started Schmer. We brought Serotonin back because we wanted to get some of the old releases that hadn’t been digitally released re-released and because John and I were sitting on tracks that we had made for Serotonin over the years that would never find a better home than our own label. We also had never stopped receiving demos and some of them amazing and better than anything we had yet put out. Seemed pretty obvious to us.
As for Schmer, it was simply a matter of having an outlet for the kind of stuff I was making and since its pretty far outside the mainstream of modern techno its very unlikely anyone else was going to do it. When Nina Kaviz put a DJ RX-5 track from Schmer-003 out on her Fabric CD that was just the straw that broke the camel’s back on that decision.
DJ RX-5 “Like A Boogie”, as featured in Nina Kraviz’s Fabric 91 mix.
What’s your favorite piece of gear? If you have one.
Well my “love piece” as my buddy Abe Duque would say, is the Sequential Circuits Prophet 600. It’s the sound of “Button” from the Button EP on Rancho Relaxo. I took it everywhere in the 90s and there’s hardly a bpmf track from back then without it. I still have it and I still love it but I wont take it out because its just too big and impractical. Especially when my new favorite “love piece” the Roland JP-08 Boutique is so small and compact.
What’s the worst thing about electronic music coming out today?
Much of what they call “techno” today I don’t recognize as such. You can make electronic dance music using almost all the same gear and techniques employed in techno, but if the music has no soul, no funk, so sexy feeling or no house feel then its not what I call “techno”. Let’s call that EDM, regardless of what the label, or producer claims it is. House is a feeling and techno is a sub-genre of house, therefore techno needs to have a feeling, when its not there its just whatever.
Also, there are too many jerks. Yes, they are misogynists and there needs to be more woman in our scene and great progress is being made; but only by getting rid of the jerks will we make room for a lot of the people who’ve been left out or put out by jerks at the top.
bpmf rocking it solo at a recent live gig.
Is this your first album? I thought albums were “dead”.
bpmf released two ambient albums, “Parousia Fallacy” in 2007 on Serotonin and “Solaris” on Telepathic Bubblebath in 2016. Albums aren’t dead, I think they are a very useful form helping the artist to focus energies and themes. The fact that consumers get to pick it apart and just take the tracks they like shouldn’t discourage the artist from thinking in terms of an album. Just like we put four tracks on an EP for you to only play one. The album is still the artist’s best chance to be a DJ and take the listener on a journey with their music selection and programing. In addition to the tracks, I intend to release a mix of the album so people get another insight into how I thought these tracks should work together.
Abide the Glide was conceived and produced as a series of 3-4 track EPs starting in 2016. The 4th one is the only one to be put out on vinyl and it comes out in August, its Schmer-008. The other 3 had been on bandcamp for a while but I’ll be releasing them on the album instead with the mix to follow. The theme is portamento. You must abide the glide if you’re gonna get down on this.
bpmf’s album Abide The Glide is available now.
What were your major influences on the album?
Oh man… well first of all, the gear itself. Got a preenfm2 from Xavier Hosxe so that I could do FM parts with portamento, because the volca FM don’t glide. This brought me back to when I had the Yamaha DX-100 with p909 and I always tried to rock these Relief Records glide lines into the mix. When they worked, nothing worked better.
So you could say a big influence was Lester Fitzpatrick, Green Velvet and everyone else in Chicago in 90s rockin that glide sound. Also as for the 303 itself, my favorite patterns are the ones where the bends get you moving so those are the ones I gravitate to.
The mood rises from a meditation on the acceptance of reality and the need to go with the flow. Each of us was put on this earth for a purpose, even though our contribution may be small in the grand scheme of things there is something that you are the best at or are only person that can do it. Right now I’m here to bring the glide back.
What do you love and/or hate the most about the TR-606?
What I love most is its size. Its perfect. Put separate outs on the drums and its even perfecter. I love the hats and cymbal, they are piercing, dangerously so. I can’t put into words the feeling the sound of the toms give me and that tight sharp snare is the best Roland snare EVER. There is nothing I hate about it, I have accepted it and embrace it for what it is. It is perfect, as perfect as piece of gear can be. I was very sad when Ikutaro Kakehashi passed away this year. He is my hero, he is to me like an uncle I never knew. This entire techno journey would have been impossible without him and I owe him a debt that can never possibly be repaid.
What’s your favorite thing about techno ?
It never ends so it’s always there.
What’s the button pusher’s favorite post-rave snack?
Hot wasabi peas.
Keep an eye out on both Serotonin Records & Schmer Records for the latest tunes from bpmf & friends.