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Gold Panda

Gold Panda

Interviewed by
Martyn Pepperell
Wednesday 6th March, 2013 8:48AM

UK based electronic music producer and performer Gold Panda (real name: Derwin R. Powers) started releasing music four years ago. In that time, through a close association with American independent record label Ghostly International, regular releases and a steady global touring schedule, he's become a respected figure in the contemporary beats underground, both online and offline.

This week he brings his bell toned melodies, cybernetic drums, shimmering textures and woozy bass line pressure to New Zealand for two live shows in Wellington and Auckland. I recently connected with via email with the aim of casting a greater degree of illumination on both his musical processes and the ways in which his life has changed since 2009.

You started releasing under Gold Panda four years ago. How have your musical tastes shifted (if they have shifted) over this time? Has this had any influence on the music you make and how you perform it live?

I got bored of clean well produced music. Especially dance music that sounds like it is a software demo. I moved to Germany and the shop near my flat called Oye does a lot of good house music. Well, I am not sure what it is really but I usually buy anything where I can name a drum machine and sounds a bit messy and unpolished.

Have their been any key individuals, places, events, ideas, songs, albums, films etc that you've come across over the last four years that have influenced your development? What have this triggers been, and what has your relationship been with them?

Film has been pretty crap in the last few years save for Jason Statham movies. Musically I've been exploring more stuff from the 90s and feeling like most of the interesting electronic music (for me at least) was made then. Touring has been a big inspiration, not playing shows. I'm not really a show person, but meeting people and seeing interesting places I thought I'd never get to see has definitely been quite inspiring. [Also] seeing how other people in other parts of the world live.

Prior to releasing music as Gold Panda, how much of the world had you seen? Now, having released records and had the option to tour, how much more of the world have you seen? What have been some special places to you? What have you gained from this?

Not much apart from UK and Japan. I doubt I'd travel if I didn't tour. Basically doing music has enabled me and maybe even forced me to travel.

Traveling is expensive and I'd probably just be working a day job with no money to travel. I also feel like you need to be quite self-confident to travel alone and I'm not.

Could you explain your relationships with Star Slinger and Simian Mobile Disco?

Basically we're all in some way related with the label Wichita Recordings in the UK. For some reason it says we are related acts on wikipedia. Darren (Star Slinger) remixed Marriage and we've hung out a few times. He is a nice guy but I rarely see him although we're doing a couple of shows together in Japan in April so it'll be good to catch up. James Shaw from SMD I became friends with through touring with them in Japan. I was pretty new to this whole music thing then and I don't think it went down too well but SMD were really supportive and I ended up mixing Lucky Shiner with James in London. Actually I mix everything with James now because we get to drink tea/coffee and eat lunch and muck about in his studio for a bit. He is also actually really good at just making my tracks sound better without changing my sound.

You've worked closely with Ghostly International. How did this relationship come about, and how has it developed? What is it about them that makes them suitable for what you do?

Sam from Ghostly groomed me on MySpace back in the MySpace golden era of 2007 and said he was interested in my music. When I had an album done a few labels were interested but I think just meeting the Ghostly guys made it feel right. They're very passionate and focused. I was also interested in being on a US based label and it opened up a lot of opportunities for me there. I think it is nice that they constantly encourage me as I'm pretty hard to deal with. They always say to me something like "that is just how you are and that is fine, Derwin" when I'm feeling down or not very confident in my music. It is nice to have people believing in what you do even if sometimes you don't.

Is the MPC sampling drum machine still a crucial work tool for you? What is your relationship to it, how long have you been using it for, etc? If not, what are you working with now, what equipment or software has become crucial to your process?

Yeah I love that machine. Well, the MPC2000xl at least. I'm not sure Akai exist any more. I got the new MPC Studio and, well, I just find it useless. It doesn't even work after a week, it just says "hardware not found". I use the 1000 for live because of its size but it isn't a patch on the 2000. Plus the buttons are all in stupid places which makes live performance a real task. The 2000xl is too big to tour, I hate carrying too much stuff so I compromised. I think the problem with a lot of modern equipment is that they try to make it do everything and that is not really what I'm after. I'm after a machine that can sample and edit samples well and sounds great. The 2000xl gives me that. I've used it for well over ten years and I'm still enjoying it. I don't use much else at the moment. Some synths and drum machines. I haven't used Ableton for over a year, I've got nothing against it, I just don't find it very inspiring.

How are you performing live these days? How will you be executing your sets live on this tour?

Two machines doing drums, an MPC1000 and a loop pedal. I'm mainly playing with sequences and muting samples in and out. It is pretty random and free and noisy. I started out not making it dancey but then people started dancing so I've made it more dancey and now they've stopped! I use a laptop for quitter's raga at the end if I have time. I'll be executing live sets badly, baldlingly and sweatily.

What is your relationship to New Zealand? Do you know much about this country? Is there any art, music, film or anything like that you feel an interest in, or connection with? What are you looking forward to about visiting here?

I know nothing about New Zealand which is exciting. I like the film Braindead. I go to a coffee shop in Berlin called Antipodies run by a NZ couple who are lovely and put up with me breaking their ash trays and complaining about my electricity bill. Oh, I vaguely know about this guy

Gold Panda New Zealand Tour
Wednesday 6th March, SFBH, Wellington
Thursday 7th March, Cassette Nine, Auckland

Click here for more tour and ticketing information.



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