From "prepared" piano experiments to modular synth mastermind, Ian Boddy has spent the last 42 years exploring the sonic universe.
For ten-year-old Ian, the internal parts of his grandmother's piano were more interesting than banging on the keys. The unusual sounds that could be made fascinated him and led to many "prepared" piano experiments. By his early teens he was experimenting with cassette recorders and audio tape, but it wasn't until the late '70s when Ian went to university that he was able to experiment with analog synthesizers. "By then I was really into German electronic music like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze. A friend of mine told me about this place called the Spectro Arts Workshop which had an experimental sound studio with VCS3's and Revox tape machines", he remembers. "That discovery is where it all really started for me". It was there that Ian taught himself how to use analog synthesizers and recording equipment by experimenting with new ideas and situations. Those experiments led to the release of Ian's first three albums on cassette, Images in 1980, Elements of Chance in 1981, and Options in 1983.
Although the VCS3 isn't a traditional modular synth, it influenced Ian to purchase a modular synth of his own. In 1982, he bought a Roland System 100-M, which he used to create his first vinyl release, Climb, and began his long musical journey. By the end of the '80s, Ian had released seven solo albums on cassette, vinyl, and CD. As new opportunities presented themselves, Ian decided to take a job with Akai, and from 1990 to 2002 he traveled around the world demonstrating their products, including many of their classics like the S1000 and MPC60. Throughout this period, Ian met many interesting musicians.
Another opportunity Ian chose was composing library music for DeWolfe Music. Intended to be used for commercials, films, documentaries, television, and radio, these short pieces are created based on subject matter or genre and are licensed to creators to use in their productions. "I'm given a title such as space, underwater, the weather, etc. and then I'll produce 15-20 tracks, usually with the computer and Ableton Live. If any of them get used then I'll earn a royalty for that track", he explains. Currently Ian has over 500 tracks in the DeWolfe catalog, and his music has been used for television, film, and radio all over the world. "It has been a really good experience in enabling me to be very concise in what I do when needs be", he says.
Throughout the '80s and '90s, Ian continued to release new albums on various labels. "I had been releasing music on cassette, vinyl, and CD in a rather haphazardly way on a variety of labels", he remembers. "I really wanted a more focused route to release not only my solo work, but also my collaborations and other artists I admired". In 1999, Ian decided to start his own record label, and DiN Records was born. With over 100 releases in its catalog, DiN Records has worked with artists like Scanner, Robert Rich, Erik Wøllo, Markus Reuter, Tetsu Inoue, Node, Mark Shreeve, and many collaborations. Offering digital downloads, vinyl LPs, and CDs, DiN focuses on exceptional music and impeccable design. "Right from the beginning, album artwork was an important factor at DiN. I've never been that keen on the use of sci-fi or outer space imagery often associated with electronic music. I wanted to feature a more abstract design aesthetic on the label", he explains. Now with offices in the UK and the USA, DiN is helping to move electronic music forward. In fact, Ian has created a sub-label on DiN specifically for modular synth music. Named Tone Science, he has produced a number of compilation albums featuring DiN artist who work predominately with modular. "I am also organizing the first Tone Science music festival, for next spring, with five artists who have been featured in the Tone Science series", he says.
Ian has always been a big proponent of modular synths. I asked him what he thought of the explosion in popularity with modular synths today and he said, "I think it is great. I love how it's giving so many more people the chance to experiment and do interesting music in the studio and on stage". Ian still has his Roland System 100-M, in fact, he has added two more racks, as well as various Eurorack systems, a large Serge modular, and a Buchla Easel Command. "Whilst they all have their own character, I can treat them as one big instrument. So, I will often have them sending signals to and from each other to create one huge patch which I can perform on", he explains. "Sometimes, in a live setting I will add an iPad with Samplr or Borderlands, if I want an extra sound source in a compact setup".
Collaborating with other artists is also a big part of how Ian works. "It's always fun to collaborate with another musician as you definitely go places that perhaps neither of you would have traveled on your own", he describes. "All of the musicians I have worked with different musical personalities and rather different sonic aesthetics that I find fascinating. You never quite know where you are going to end up, but it is certainly a journey worth taking".
Ian has a very wise attitude when it comes to the future of his career. "It's always tempting to want to do more, to rise to greater heights, and to sell more albums, but I am very content and happy with what I have achieved. Life is precious and all too short so I just want to continue on my current trajectory for as long as I can. While music is my job, it really doesn't feel like it, it's more of a lifestyle. One I am not ready to give up yet". I couldn't agree more.
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