I started getting into electronic music listening and making pretty early (my parents took me to ‘keyboard lessons’ with a cheap keyboard [yamaha? casio? cheaper knockoff?] in 4th grade, i started doing cassette tape collages in 8th grade), but my first love and trained instrument is percussion/drums, and I’ve played them in classical, jazz, rock, and experimental contexts for many years. a drumset is still the most musically dynamic and expressive thing I’ve ever encountered, and it pains me that most rock drummers play a single velocity of around 11 out of 10 when it’s such an instrument capable of texture and atmosphere if you can just dial things down and keep the ‘fucking loud’ moments to a rarity and a surprise. in retrospect I got really into the mathy/complex./polyrhythmic stuff in drumming pretty early, and that kicked into overdrive once I heard what Squarepusher, Aphex Twin, and uZiq did with their feverish, microstructural drum programming, where it seemed like there were entire song ideas tucked away in single bars. was into dense lit like Joyce and Beckett around the same time and everything solidified into a very inspiring moment, and my acoustic drumset work around the time was pushing further and further to getting as fast, complex, and crazy as “Boy/Girl Song”, “Journey to Reedham”, Lunatic Harness, and other music the IDM scene was putting out at the time. I still have a bunch of recordings of that drum work, though I didn’t know any musicians or band people at my high school who could do anything with the stuff I was producing, so all I had was drums and nothing else.
The downside was that I found myself bored with the limited timbre of the instrument, even with the wide variety of techniques and mallets I used. The only way forward would be to follow one of my drum instructors and inspirations, Glenn Kotche (famously of Wilco as well as great solo work) and literally invent my own weirdo singular drums and percussion instruments for getting into interesting timbre and texture, but that’s a lot of work, knowledge, and trial & error in itself, maybe more so than building a modular synth or programming in Max!
Got further into electronic music production starting in college (dorm room = no drumset), initially with the intent of going that Squarepusher route of complex percussive/rhythmic insanity, but I found any form of drum programming to be unbearably tedious, mechanistic, and frustrating (why would I take a month to program what I can improvise in 5 minutes with my kit?) and no controllers or electronic drumsets were really doing much for me at the time. I hadn’t figured out how to work with MIDI in a good way, but it was limited for what I wanted to achieve anyway. But I liked ambient music too, and out of necessity and pushing sonics further I drifted toward beatless ambient and noise, which has been the bulk of my work.
I lived in small 1-bedroom apartments (and thus couldn’t play drumsets outside of practice spaces which I’d go to once a week or less, usually for band practice and not solo time, so I lost my chops and interest in pushing the envelope) almost exclusively from the age of 22 up until literally last month at 36, and can finally start making use of a private home where I can get loud, with a dedicated lovely space for music setup and recording.
But I’m in deep with electronic music after all those years growing with it, and the modularity and timbre and depth that come with it. Discovered MPE a few years ago, which (via Madrona’s excellent Soundplane) allows for much of the expressivity and dynamism my favorite percussion instruments allowed. The BopPad is something I bought recently but haven’t really spent time with yet, and it appears to fit a lot of my interests at once - expressive, improvisatory drumming, but with MPE providing x/y/z axis customizability and instant modulation and timbre movement/alteration, all of which can be very easily patched up to samplers, modular, etc. through my other newfound love, Bitwig. I think I’m closer than ever to finally making a complex drums-heavy electronic record for the first time ever. But who knows… maybe it’s time to get back into the acoustic world that by default (even for my baby banging his hands on a kitchen pot) offers musical expression most synth heads can only dream of…