• Gabby Bortolot

A chat with Reuben Cumming

At the height of Melbourne’s lockdown last year I was lucky enough to take part in Hobsons Bays Up Music & Audio Production online workshop where I was introduced to the talented Reuben Cumming. The west-based musician, composer and sound engineer took some time to chat with us about playing in Melbourne, musical endeavours and up and coming local DJs.



Hey Reuben, welcome to FW zine! Tell us about yourself.

Hey, thanks for having me and congrats on your amazing work putting together the Zine! I really enjoyed the first edition and it’s great to connect, share and reflect on young west-side artists and communities. I’m a musician, composer and sound engineer who currently spends most of his time playing with synthesisers and making computer music. I have been playing instruments since I was 5 or 6 and I’ve been obsessed with music since I fell in love with the guitar and Bob Dylan a few years later. I played in bands throughout high school and I still play guitar in Honey Bucket. I also picked up some knowledge of audio technology by operating sound systems for our local group of bands in the inner west. Towards the end of high school, I discovered my love for electronic musical instruments after experimenting a lot with guitar pedals, looping and making sounds in Logic Pro.

At the moment I work primarily across sound engineering and production and I study composition.

You’ve played across a plethora of Melbourne venues, tell us about your most memorable set?

Blend @ Lounge in 2018

This was a really special time for me musically and it was exciting to play to a packed club when I was so new to electronic music and production. When I listen back to the recording of this set, I laugh at a lot of my stuff ups and my at times horrific taste and artistic judgement however it’s also those humorous, human and vulnerable moments in a live electronic performance which I love and which interest me the most. At this stage as a producer, I had hardly developed any of the judgement and analytical baggage which comes with knowledge and experience, I was playing purely out of excitement and stress, trying to keep all of these machines under control and I can only imagine that is what it feels like to ride a horse for the first time

About a year ago you dropped the very groovy ‘Free Trial’, how did the track come about?


This track was made early on in the first lockdown when I think a lot of people started, or returned to, producing music. A lot of developers were releasing their software for free as well as extending free trials which made the tools much more accessible. I downloaded a few of these free plugins that were being shared around and while I was testing them out in Ableton I came up with this gritty, heavily modulated synth sequence which quickly turned into a full track. With my production these days I tend to end up limiting myself to specific instruments. Often that means working ‘outside of the box’ with specific hardware synthesisers/drum machines and sometimes such as in this case the track was made completely ‘in the box’. There is a lot to be said for becoming well acquainted with an instrument, learning it deeply and mastering it to the point of virtuosity but when making electronic music, I think there is also a lot of magic in first experiments with an instrument. When you are completely unfamiliar with the instrument itself but allow yourself to freely explore its sounds, follow your ear and embrace the mistakes then it can often take you to new and interesting places sonically as well as compositionally.


What do you think about Melbourne’s techno scene at this moment in time, has it changed over the past 12 months with the changes to the way the community engages with live music (live streaming events/covid-caps/closures of small club venues)?

I must say I don’t feel like I have a very good sense of Melbourne’s techno scene more broadly but I do have a bit of a sense of what has been happening around me, amongst friends, colleagues and the local community. Things have definitely changed. Last year I saw plenty of the horrible effects of the virus on local live music and the audio industry. We sadly lost my favourite venue (The Night Heron) last year which all of my friends, the west-side artistic community and myself will miss terribly. It was of course sad to not play a gig or work as a sound engineer at all for most of 2020 and I know so many people working full-time in the industry suffered much more than me and lost their income, community and the central part of their life. I send my love out to anyone who lost their job or were separated from their passion and community last year. We need much more support for the arts in general and particularly after the effects of covid I think government response and support was abysmal.

I’ve also seen a lot of positives in the local techno scene more recently and I think a lot of young producers and DJ’s have been developing their sound and approach and making great music over the last year which I have been tuning into recently. I also hope that over the summer there has been a bit of a reshuffling and rebuilding of the techno scene and broader music/audio industry for the better because there are many aspects of the community and culture which I think have needed refreshing for a long time. In terms of the way we engage with live music, from a completely personal point of view. I wasn’t too bothered by the restrictions of lockdown and covid safe events. I was quite happy as an introverted and nerdy music fan, to be watching the many variations of live streams and other interesting approaches musicians took to performing and sharing their music online. When venues first opened back up, I also quite enjoyed attending a couple of gigs with reduced capacity and a sit-down audience. I would love to see more of these relaxed, sit-down/lie down events which encourage a more meditative form of listening and calmer environment for socialising and communing.


Are there many techno producer/DJs like yourself emerging from the west and if so, who would be some of your favourites?


I’m really amazed by some of the electronic music coming out of the west at the moment, particularly by young artists! Four artists that come to mind are;


Surana

Lucky Pereira has been a hugely important influence on my music and is almost largely responsible for me falling in love with techno. His DJ sets/mixes have been some of the most inspiring, entrancing and groovy that I’ve heard. Under his new moniker ‘Surana’, Lucky has been producing some really incredible tracks recently and I am always excited to hear what he’s come up with.


Different Shades

Anis (Different Shades) is a fantastic and integral DJ in Naarm’s club/electronic music scene. I admire how she embraces and combines a broad range of styles and genres in her sets - from ambient through to techno, bass music and trance – and always manages to nail it! Her recent b2b with Sina @ Bunker was a really fun set. It was great to hear some genres and tempos which are different to what we are used to hearing at a techno focussed event. She has also been producing some great music and released an awesome track called Nasus on Fluxx last year.


Connor Wall

Connor produced one of my favourite local techno releases earlier this year which came out on Connection Verified. He’s also a fantastic DJ and I hope we can work together on some new music soon! Highly recommend listening to his one!


Myshka

Maggie is an awesome muso and artist who produces and plays theremin and I had the pleasure of playing a live and improvised ambient set with her just before lockdown last year. She has a few projects in the works including a new live set so I’m really excited to here what she has been making! She released an album on soundcloud last year that you should check out!


Reuben Cumming

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