When researching music, I often get the feeling it’s turtles all the way down. How much there is to discover is exactly proportional to the amount of active research you’re willing to put into it.
Take, for today, a track I came across by a new British act called Zen Death Squad. These three guys from Oxford are making incredible glitch hop, which when done right is some of the best electronic music out there right now. So I’m listening to their tracks on Soundcloud and come across this one:
Which is a dripping wet synthy funksplosion of a remix of a song by someone named Roger Troutman, whom I immediately looked up on Wikipedia. Turns out he’s the California Love guy, which is neat. I then came across this video of him performing with his band Zapp in Cincinnati in 1988:
Holy crap. I mean, let’s just take a moment to talk about stage presence. Look how much fun he’s having, how interactive he is with the crowd, and more than anything, listen to the quality of that music! I really wish we had more acts like this nowadays.
Roger Troutman used the Electro Harmonix Golden Throat talkbox. Researching those, I’ve learned that they do not work the same as a vocoder. A vocoder digitally mashes up two separate signals, while a talkbox pipes music up a tube-speaker into your mouth, which is then shaped and sung out through a regular microphone. That is weird. And awesome.
Listening around to Roger Troutman, it’s clear he was a huge influence for Dr. Dre in the 90s, and you get that great feeling of hearing classic samples performed at length by live instruments in seventies. Music is always leaving these endless breadcrumbs around for us to follow, and I think it’s wonderful. I love discoveries like this. Thank you, internet.