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banco de gaia
(by lisa mcgee)
autumn 2001

banco de gaia, aka toby marks, has always been known for his wide-ranging influences and his latest album, igizeh, carries on the trend. as he told us in a mini interview a couple of months ago, banco has always had his music labelled as 'world' or 'ambient' so what's he doing with two tracks on a 'chillout' collection, and are these labels at all appropriate for his music?

"what i do is a combination of the different things i like," banco begins, "so labels like 'world' are part of the picture but not the whole. at the moment i seem to keep being described as 'trance' which can really only apply to certain aspects of certain tunes. i prefer to think of it as 'global-ambient-techno-dub-with-a-hint-of-minimalisation-and-western-classical-combined-with-the-timeless-beauty-of-the-panpipe'!

"it's good to see the gentler side of electronic music is fashionable again," reflects banco, "although i'm not sure how long it will last. 

the two banco de gaia tracks you can hear on the 'chillout' album - b2and glove puppet - are from igizeh, and they may not be what you expect, as banco explains: "both tracks are from the slower end of the spectrum, but the album ranges from totally ambient to more dancefloor moments."

as these tracks are slower, this obviously has an effect on banco's music-making technique, especially as glove puppet features vocals, courtesy of jennifer folkes. "glove puppet is a departure for me," banco explains. "it was surprisingly easy to get the vocal performance down, but that was more to do with finding the right singer for the song. the string arrangement involved starting with some basic chords then playing about with solo lines to build them up.

"b2 was based more around the groove, although the end result might hide that. it started with ideas involving a big kick drum and just developed in a fairly random way until the combination of sounds and samples made sense."

living live

over the summer, banco played at various festivals and live gigs, so how does his mac-based set-up change from studio to stage? "i used to take pretty much the whole studio on the road and run it from a powerbook," banco begins, "but after a while i got sick of carting around 1,000kg of equipment just so i had the option of changing the level of the marimba in a chorus or something.

"recently i've been submixing the main elements of eight tracks of adat which still gives us a degree of control over the mix but allows all my kit to fit in the back of a car! as i'm now playing a lot more guitar and guitar synth on stage, i don't need so much control over every detail of the mix. i'm now planning to get rid of the adat and run all the audio from the laptop."

and is there any difficulty in balancing the live stuff with studio work? "not really," he smiles, "although there comes a point where i have to start turning down gigs and stay in the studio for a while. i've always been a live player, so i will never give it up, but obviously i have to make time to write new material too."

gearing up

despite the reliance on the macs, banco's favourite bit of gear comes as a surprise. "if i could have one thing," banco muses, "it would be an acoustic guitar, although logic might be the thing i missed most. the roland samplers i still love but i have to stay they are starting to really look old compared to the latest akais and emus, and software samplers too, but they still sound superb. (anyone from roland reading this? bring out a new one before i have to swap sides!)"

knowing what a workaholic banco is, it's no shock to know that the man is heading straight back to the studio already. so are there any secrets he wants to share with us? a new project? a hint on what the next album's going to sound like?

"i'll tell you when it's finished!" banco jokes. "i am also toying with the idea of going abroad to do some writing, to see how a change of scene affects what i come up with. and i am planning to work with more live musicians. hang on, didn't i say that before each of the last three albums? well, we'll see, but i certainly want to work with singers again and so some more songs with proper english words."

selected kit list

  • alesis midiverb

  • aleses quadraverb

  • apple mac g4 running logicaudio

  • apple mac powerbook

  • boss se-70

  • clavia nord lead

  • joemeek vc3

  • kork ms2000

  • roland jupiter 8

  • roland sh-09

  • various guitars

  credits

reproduced without permission from future music (issue 115). to be used for private and research use only.

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