As the Dalston radio station turns two, we speak with DJ Meta who remixes NTS's archive live on his show.
The winky-smiley-face named TNS is a weekly show hosted by DJ Meta on London radio station NTS. The premise of the show is simple – remix the station’s archive – yet the results are startling, ranging from delightfully chaotic to absurdly graceful. At the height of remix culture, it’s a lovely example of the poetry that can be found by dragging a net through the broadcast waves. As NTS’s 2nd birthday celebrations on Saturday 20th April draw near, it only seemed right to have a chat to the mysterious Mr Meta himself (check the spooky composite picture above). Listen to his latest show below, and scroll down for the lowdown on how he does it.
Where did the idea for remixing the NTS archive come from?
“I like the idea of making a radio show out of nothing; a meta radio show.” DJ Meta
DJ Meta: I had done a few shows on NTS before I had the idea of remixing the archive. Mostly I was looking for ways to produce a radio show that was different, or experimental in some form. There’s a place for regular radio shows such as talk shows, or a hour of blues etc, but that doesn’t really interest me. I wanted to make shows that could maybe reveal something else, perhaps about a process or way of thinking about things outside of the ‘normal’ radio space. Once I went into the NTS studio with nothing; no records, no CD’s or other content with which to make a radio show and simply started playing the studio. I miked up and broadcast the sound of the fader, recorded it on one of the computers, looped it then added some feedback from the mixing desk with it’s output connected to one of it’s inputs. I also received the broadcast stream with a computer and rebroadcast it, with the inherent latency associated with mp3 streaming technology. After NTS got a much needed studio upgrade last year, the options for exploring these more experimental avenues was effectively closed off to me as the equipment was now under lock and key! So I guess that brought me to remixing the archive… it’s not such a ‘dirty’ way to reconfigure things and is done entirely in software rather than hardware.
How do you do it and is it all done live?
DJ Meta: The show is entirely live. Much like turning up to the studio with no records or CDs I simply turn up with a laptop which has no audio content of it’s own – just a Pure Data patch which connects to the archive via the network. I then surf the archive, pausing on content which I find interesting. I can then manipulate the audio fragments and apply some simple processing.
Do you make aesthetic choices or is it very random?
“I surf the archive, pausing on content which I find interesting. I can then manipulate the audio fragments and apply some simple processing.” DJ Meta
DJ Meta: Both! There is a large random element in that the tracks (or rather entire shows) that I sample are selected at random. Also, rather than working with long 1, 2 or 3 hour shows I further select a 10 second section at random. This is then copied over to my laptop and I begin a process of flipping through the archive, one sample after another. As soon as one is loaded another is requested, so that the network latency governs the length of the sample that is played back to some extent. There is a rapid crossfade from one sample to another, but if I hear something interesting, I can pause it and just work with 2 loaded samples. This is where it becomes very much an aesthetic decision making process and there is a lot of room for decisions.
The effect is often like flipping through an old radio dial, tuning in and out of stations. Was this an intention?
DJ Meta: Yes, I think that is very nice effect of the software and something that I was conscious of as I was beginning to make the patch. I wanted the show to be representative of NTS, and completely democratic in it’s selection of audio, like spinning a metaphorical dial through the archive. Also it’s probably worth noting that it is maybe only now, after 2 years of NTS that it is possible to make a show like this, now that such an archive exists.
Are you naturally drawn to sample-based music and, if so, why?
“It’s worth noting that it is maybe only now, after 2 years of NTS, that it is possible to make a show like this.” DJ Meta
DJ Meta: To be honest, I don’t have a great deal of interest in sample-based music! I enjoy a lot of different music, but usually not electronic. I do have a keen interest in technical systems and processes though, and I suppose an inspiration comes in part from artists such as John Oswald and Joseph Hammer whose work I like. The politics of sample-based music is interesting in terms of ownership and the public consciousness, but I also like the idea of making a radio show out of nothing; a meta radio show.
What do you do when you’re not being DJ Meta?
DJ Meta: This is all DJ Meta does.
And what are your future plans with the show?
DJ Meta: The patch that I use is in constant development and I am currently looking at ways to detect certain qualities in the audio, for example only selecting audio below a certain volume threshold. It could be a quiet show! I am also keen to automate the show, so that it doesn’t require my presence.