Bad tuner is a Brooklyn-based artist and creator with a love for making people dance. In search of that timeless sound, bad tuner creates progressive, colorful house music. In this interview, he tells us about his creative process, his use of various languages in his tracks, as well as his collaborations with artists from across the world, and what it was like to share a stage with TOKiMONSTA.
Hey, thanks so much for the chance to talk, bad tuner! You've been in New York since 2015, how has it been?
I love the music scene here, I think it's incredible. I think there's awesome DIY venues. You have a full range of venues, really. The musicianship is top-notch. There's a studio in every basement and everyone's being creative here so it's a good environment to be in. It's so expensive to pay for a studio and living, so people are just kind of forced to make it work.
A lot of bedroom recording going on then?
Of course, I do all my writing and recording in my bedroom.
What do you have set up in your bedroom as your studio?
Speakers, a synth, a microphone, bass, a guitar. Very stripped down but really all I need right now. Eventually, it'll be awesome to have more space, but having a keyboard is the main thing.
What is your creative process like?
Usually, I’m listening to something and I feel super inspired to write something. Going to museums and seeing paintings, that’s also a medium I like to make, but when I go home I just make music because it’s made me excited. Usually, I start with drums or synths and then I’ll do vocals and bass. I try to be mindful about giving myself limitations so that it’s not just an endless process. Knowing when to call a song finished, or how many tracks or instruments you’re using. Having those limitations is actually helpful. Having a computer, it’s endless what you can do. The more you do it, the more you realize your rhythm, your patterns, what works, and what doesn’t. The beginning stages, the first hour or two are always the most fun. Creating the sounds and writing different melodies, that’s the most fun. And then it’s just editing, refining and arranging, mixing…
It seems from your music videos and collaborations that you’re involved in a more encompassing art scene outside of just music, there’s a lot of other disciples in there.
I hope so. It’s all connected, you know, the artwork, the video, dancing, it all comes together with music. Rarely do you see a movie that doesn’t have music or dance pieces, or artwork, It’s all one thing.
Do you aim for a sound that makes people’s bodies move?
If they’re not moving while they’re listening to the music, I’m not doing my job right. I feel it’s a balance of dance music, but also, hopefully, a little bit more introspective and listenable as well. I do think it makes most people move.
That’s what had me hooked when I first heard “Sourire” - the danceable sound.
My goal is to essentially create time with music that can be listened to 20 years from now, 30 years from now, and still have a cool energy to it that doesn’t sound dated. I don’t want it to sound too trendy, I just want to create music that I dig.
And what is that, what kind of music do you dig?
“Anything from electronic music and some ambient stuff, like some of Aphex Twin’s more ambient stuff and drum and bass and anything in between. Obviously, classic house records. They’re always inspirational because, for example, François K (Kevorkian) and Frankie Knuckles are so raw and powerful because the equipment they use is unrefined and I really love that quality of not over-processing things to death.
There’s a lot of overprocessing with new music. It gets a little overwhelming.
It’s just bombastic. I like some things to be exciting in the production, but that shouldn’t necessarily make the song.
What would you say is the most important element in your music?
I think it’s how it comes together. One doesn’t work without the other. If you’re working from a drum track first and then you have the vocals that are bouncing in and out of it and the bass needs to fill in this… you know, it's a puzzle. I love synths, I think synthesizers are really important to my sound. I think vocals are really important, I love working with different vocalists. I mostly work with spoken word or prose.
How do you choose the prose or vocals?
For my last release, I worked with an artist from Colombia [Sofia Luna] and I worked on a poem in English and sent it to them and they translated it to French, recorded it, and sent it back. The internet is such a cool tool these days that if someone reaches out to me from a different country and expresses interest in me getting involved and sends something over, a poem, them talking and then I try to incorporate that in... If I find samples that use that feel, I’ll use those, as well. Digging through stuff on the internet - it’s endless.
Why translate it to French?
I guess it was I didn’t have any songs in French yet, to be frank. She told me she spoke French and also Spanish, but I already have a song in Spanish and she was studying French in school at the time. It just worked, I was working on the track simultaneously and they just lined up nicely.
Are you trying to have a song in every language?
Not necessarily the goal, but why not? The thing is obviously, a lot of people speak English so it makes it easier to relate, but then again, when hearing a song in a different language, people almost automatically put their own meaning to it, which is fun.
You made a remix with TOKIMONSTA last year, what was that experience like?
I had a relationship with her previously through her label, Young Art Records and I put out a song on her compilation, and then she signed another single of mine, called “Weather Report.” Then I actually went on tour with her after that so we kind of built our relationship and we had a national tour together planned, and then COVID came. It was a huge opportunity and I was super excited about it, but there’ll be more.
Do you two still keep in contact?
Yeah, absolutely. I send her stuff once in a while for feedback and she’s been super supportive. I recently signed to another label and she’s still been supporting those records, which is great. I love all the music she puts out herself and on Young Art. To get to the remix - it was an amazing opportunity to work with her production, put together stems from her production, and chop it up, remixing is really fun. It’s a really good way to see how other producers are making their stuff because you get an inside look through the files, which is really cool. It also allows you to reinterpret the song. It’s always a mystery, right? You hear the record but you don’t know exactly all the ingredients that went into it. As if you went to a chef’s kitchen and they’re pulling everything out and showing you how to do it.
Do you feel like that tour would’ve brought you closer to where you want to be as an artist?
That would’ve been an awesome experience. I went on tour with her in 2019 for select dates on a Young Art tour and that’s when I got a taste of what playing substantial audiences in real venues is like and I was hooked. I feel confident that we’ll be playing again together.
That was your first time playing for a live audience?
Yup, I played a couple small, DIY spots in Brooklyn, but nothing crazy.
Since you can’t be live - how has the quarantine had an effect on you and your production? Are you more or less productive?
I have a fair amount of releases throughout the rest of the year, I have a remix coming out in March and late spring, so I’ve been staying super busy. I broke my arm on New Years and I’m starting physical therapy today, so I’ll be able to play more keys. I’ve been a little slow writing new songs.
I have to ask, how did you break your arm on New Years?
I went snowboarding and I fell. But I’ll be up and running soon and I’ve been staying productive regardless.
What are you doing when you’re not making music and art?
Beyond music, I like to paint, I spend a lot of time painting. Snowboarding… but now I’m on a break. I really like walking around Brooklyn and New York a lot and getting to know it that way. It’s such an amazing city.
Anything you want to add?
I’m doing a monthly radio show. It’s on Mamba Radio and I host it. It’s fun, I get to play some new demos and things I’m working on and get feedback on that. Other than that, everyone just stay safe and be responsible so venues can open up soon.
Thank you so much for your time.
Thank you for taking the time and thanks, everyone for listening!
Check out bad tuner's latest video "Coming Down," with fiery Geronimo Angel.