MusicMakers is an interview series from Adafruit that explores the intersection of the DIY music and maker communities. We’ll be talking to some of our favorite musicians about art, tech, DIY, gear tips and more. Along the way we hope you’ll find some great new music as well as some ideas and inspiration for your own projects. This week we have the immense pleasure of speaking with renowned drummer Ian Chang.
Photo by Isabella-Ferraro • Edit by Kasumi-Chow
Chang has performed and recorded with such a vast assortment of groups and artists that his face-melting musicianship is essentially inescapable. Resistance is futile. The list includes Son Lux, Landlady, Body Language, Brazos, Dave Douglas, Matthew Dear, Com Truise, Joan as Policewoman, Rubblebucket, Vacationer, and so many more that this begins to read like the credits of a Sofia Coppola movie.
In the midst of all this recording and touring, he has also found time to put out an EP of his own music, Spiritual Leader, which just so happens to push the boundaries of composition and expression in electronic music as we know it.
Chang is a pioneer in an ever expanding community of artists working at the intersection of acoustic and electronic performance, and we hope this quick peek into his story inspires even more folks to head on out to the frontier and see what they can come up with.
Where are you based?
What was your introduction to music?
I’m fortunate that my parents started me on piano lessons when I was 6. I started to get really into listening to music at about 10 or 11, I believe the first CD I bought was Now That’s What I Call Music 5.
What have you been working on?
I’m currently on tour with a band I’m in called Son Lux. We’re wrapping up a long year of touring an album “Brighter Wounds” that we put out in February. I’m also working on a new album of electronic solo music under my own name.
What impact has new technology had on your work since you first started out?
It’s had a massive impact! My solo project was actually born out of beta testing Sunhouse‘s Sensory Percussion, which is an electronic percussion platform that translates all the nuances of acoustic drumming to customizable sample-based electronic environments. It has completely changed the way I make music, both in the studio and on stage.
How have you seen technology change the creation and consumption of music in your lifetime?
Technology is constantly shifting the way music is created and consumed. On the creation side, I remember that when I first started incorporating electronic elements to my setup on the drums in 2009, I would get a lot more questions from venue crew and audience members. At this point, it’s almost become unusual for a drummer to not at least have an SPDS or a laptop for playback as part of the setup. On a broader scale, technology has enabled many people to make albums on their own without a big budget, it’s not all good or bad, but I think this is mostly a positive thing. It’s interesting, there are so many “content creators” out there, that it’s become easier to sell a sample pack than it is to sell an album, especially with streaming as the main source of music consumption now.
Describe your recording or production setup:
My setup is very minimal. I have my MacBook, ableton 9, a focusrite Scarlett 18i8, a 3rd generation Oxygen 25 midi controller, and my sensory percussion set up on a four piece kit with all mesh heads.
Any tips for gear or customizing your workspace?
My main tip for gear is to not get too much of it too quickly, and to go deep on the tools that you do have and feel most expressive or creative on. I think that limited tools can be a catalyst for creativity, and that having a deep relationship with the tools that you do have allows for more seamless and freer expression of ideas. Expanding a minimal setup that really works is always easier than starting with a bunch of different pieces of gear that you have no existing relationship with. The one thing I do recommend (and I need to get on this myself) is to not skimp on setting up a good monitoring situation.
What’s one song that everybody should hear (from a favorite artist or exciting newcomer)?
“Short Court Style” by Natalie Prass. It’s just an undeniable fun pop song
Who do you think we should ask these questions next?
WILLS (Will Johnson)
You can learn more about Ian Chang on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Twitter, and Instagram.
Check out more MusicMakers Q&A’s (feat. Wallace, Pearl Crush, Okin Osan, Superknova and more), TrackTalk and the Adafruit Artist Spotlight for DIY tips and music discovery.