Many of the talented folks working in the GY&K schoolhouse also pursue ‘independent studies’ to flex their creative muscles outside office. It turns out we have enough musicians here to form an Arcade Fire cover band.
One such musician is GY&K’s Director of Digital, Dustin Ruoff. In this Q&A we learn more about Dustin’s love of music and why he pumped out more than thirty-five hours of original music in the month of February!
Q: How long have you been making original music?
I’ve been attempting to create music since the early 90s, and bought lots of gear when I should have been paying rent or tuition. It wasn’t until 1997 when I teamed up with a friend to record an album as a band called “Minds of Minolta.” We did a few shows at the legendary Stone Church in Newmarket and The Elvis Room in Portsmouth, and had fun entertaining the folks who attended. He moved to NYC and I wound up going solo as “Mosfet” in 2000. It wasn’t until 2005 that I really kicked it into gear and got serious in trying to establish myself locally. I played shows and parties, and during the first RPM Challenge in 2006 I recorded my first album, which was pretty much an EP, but set the tone for my future sound. I like to call what I make ‘darkwave electrobeat ambient funcore’. It’s all those things in one.
Q: Are you professionally trained in any instruments?
Oh, I wish – I can barely play the same melody twice on a keyboard. I am more of a producer who has an ear for combining elements. I would love to learn how to really play keys or drums, but just haven’t had the compulsion to take lessons or practice. When I get the itch to work on music, it’s all about just noodling around to find melodies and riffs, creating beats and using MIDI sequencing to store that information in software. Then I can combine, mix and layer the results and really delve into tweaking digital audio and virtual synthesizers. I used to have a ton of ‘real’ synthesizers, drum machines and the like, but wound up selling everything for a much more consistent and portable laptop set-up. I am a big fan of the old-school analog electronic sound (think Emerson Lake and Palmer or Styx) and it’s really amazing how closely the software available now (specifically Ableton Live) can replicate that sound.
Q: What is the RPM Challenge?
The RPM Challenge is a creative experiment that challenges participants to create an album during the month of February. It must contain 10 songs, or 35 minutes, worth of previously unreleased material. The event was created by The Wire, a Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based community newspaper.
Q: What drew you to the RPM Challenge?
Well, I was already in New Hampshire’s Seacoast music scene, and knew all the organizers. I also was eager to record my own album. I was in the debut class of participants in 2006 and one of the 165 bands who submitted an album. I also got involved with the online RPM Jukebox back then, and worked with some co-workers at my (then) job to create a really slick Flash-based player that was fed by XML. It was really cool! Then over the years I grew to be their ‘web guy’ and ran the site with the main organizers for several years, until I just got too busy with family and work. I am now just a participant, even though my heart is still with the core of the challenge. I love the concept of taking the bleakest, shortest month of the year, and doing something really creative and unexpected. The challenge pushes me on many levels in ways I don’t push myself normally!
Q: What’s the hardest component of the Challenge?
It’s all about finding the time in my busy life. When I can focus and work, it flows quite nicely! Back when I had a lot of gear, it was all about getting things (equipment) to work properly that had likely been sitting idle for months. Now with the laptop set-up and the deep familiarity with Ableton Live, it’s really easy to get cranking when the time allows.
Q: What’s your all-time favorite original track that you created?
Wow, that’s REALLY hard. But I gotta go with the final track called “Elf” off my 2nd RPM album – Hemetite Fragments. I’d have to say that THAT album is likely my favorite album of all RPMs. It was my most authentic work – not sure how it really came out of me. That album has a lot of nostalgic aspects to it as my daughter was 2 months old and I recorded most of it holding her late at night. Also the tracks are all named after really sentimental things. My daughter is named Stella, and one of the tracks is named Stellaluna for example. Elf is named after my obsession of elves and Iceland – it goes on and on. Check out the album and let me know what you think!
Q: Stuck on a desert island, what three albums are you taking with you?
Impossible! I like everything from Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, to MGMT and Interpol, to Autechre and Orbital, not to mention all the classical music and everything I listened to while DJ’ing at WUNH 91.3 for 6 yrs in the 90’s. I can’t even imagine only having 3 albums! I rely so heavily on Pandora now for music….ARRGH!
Dustin’s 2012 RPM Challenge Album, Solar Bliss:
Dustin Ruoff is the Director of Digital at GY&K. You can follow his music career and other musings on Twitter.
To hear more and meet the participants, attend the annual RPM Global Listening Party Saturday March, 24th at 6pm at the Portsmouth Music Hall.