UK electronic musician Gold Panda recently released his first album in six years, The Work, on City Slang (order yours), and it’s another great collection of the kind of glistening, gorgeous production work that he’s been churning out for over a decade. To get a better idea of what inspired Gold Panda during the making of this album, we asked him for a list of ten influences, and he chose two classic rap albums (De La Soul‘s 3 Feet High and Rising and Mobb Deep‘s Hell On Earth), veteran electronic act Ensemble‘s 2000 album Sketch Proposals, a book, various pieces of specific equipment and software, and more. Read on for his full list and his commentary on each item.
Also, a new Skee Mask remix of Gold Panda’s “Plastic Future” is out today and you can stream that here:
1. De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising
I have to thank this album for my entire career and method of making music. The way samples from various other records are all put together informed the way I make music today. My friend Rob and I were obsessed with it. We absorbed every beat, lyric and sample. We still quote parts of “Cool Breeze On The Rocks” to each other via phone messages. I could recite the whole of “Tread Water” when I was around 10. On what other rap albums would you hear “gargled with my gargle cup” and “Hi, I’m Mr. Fish!”?. I think the fact that it was also funny really made it very accessible at our young age. I was unaware of hip hop music as a genre at the time but it would be the music I would follow with a passion until about 2005. My name “Derwin” also features as a character in a track on “Jenifa Taught Me (Derwin’s Revenge).” I met De La at Heathrow once and asked Maseo about it, he said “ah Derwin was just someone we knew from the ‘hood, short guy, big dick” to which my mate Pete turned to me and said “ha! the opposite of you then!”.
2. Mobb Deep – Hell On Earth
This record has such a claustrophobic sound, with a haze of record crackle all over it. There is absolutely nothing nice about this album, no R&B choruses, no let up in the oppressive snare drum that used to make my eyeballs jump ‘cos I had it up so loud on my walkman. In the track ‘More Trife Life’ there is what I imagine to be a boat moored at some docks on a gloomy autumn night. I don’t know what it has to do with the track, but at one point near the end it is left to run for a moment before the drums come back in. I always think about this record when I’m sampling vinyl and I think about cleaning the crackle out… this record reminds me to leave it in.
3. Ensemble – Sketch Proposals
I’m a big fan of the 1998ish to early 2000s “glitch” or “microsampling” era. I suppose its influence manifests in my way of sampling and especially on my new record the drum sounds are very short and small. There are lots of chopped repetitive motifs too.
I’ve heard very few albums as delicate as this. The tracks sound like they could fall apart at any minute. One half of the duo Chanelle Kimber is a total enigma, I can’t find anything about her, it seems she has disappeared into thin air, or maybe the liner notes are wrong…. but i’d love to meet her if she reads this! This album and the track “Before I Leave” by Fennesz definitely encouraged me to leave the phase “clicks” on my samples in.
4. Programming Electronic Music in Pure Data by Johannes Kriedler (book)
After hearing the Ensemble record I found out about Miller Puckette and his program Pure Data (PD). Years after messing about and not knowing what I was doing and not getting anywhere I got this book by Johannes Kriedler. I took it on my first USA tour with the band HEALTH who thought it was hilarious that I was reading a book called “loadbang”. I’ve made visuals and some nice little tunes in PD thanks to this, its so fun to just start with a blank page and see where the patching takes me. Aside from everything PD can do it just looks so damn beautiful. The book is a bit dog eared now and has some highlighter pen marks, it’s like an old friend. I made the drums for “New Days” in PD.
5. Akai MPC1000 (equipment)
This has been my main bit of kit for a while. I know my way around it pretty well, its limitations, what it’s good at. I’ve tried both older (great) and newer (shit) models but this is the one I like at the moment. I actually keep finding new tricks on it. Limitations bring out the best in me. I’ve also been using it for live shows up until recently. The majority of the album was made with it. The MPC has been so integral to my work, its hard to find another machine that can do the same and better, believe me I’ve tried. I think because an MPC was one of the first pieces of gear I used, it basically became the way I thought about putting music together.
6. Max/MSP (software)
This is software originally made by Miller Puckette who ended up making Pure Data. (There are a lot of similarities.)
I’ve done some music with it here.
I’m still a beginner but for this album I was able to make a patch that added some functions that my MPC couldn’t do. Specifically probability-based triggering of midi notes and a sort of ratcheting function. It worked great. I just sent the midi from the MPR through it and then to…
7. Rossum Electro-Music Assimil8or (equipment)
…which contained all my drum samples. It’s such an amazing bit of kit. I haven’t really delved into the phase modulation on this but I like that it has “Ass” in the name.
8. Focusrite Clarett ADAT (equipment)
Boring but so useful. It’s basically another 8 channels to record into my computer with. So I had 16 mono channels set up and just recorded my tracks live as one-takes then did some editing after. There’s no way I would have finished an album without this, I used to make tracks but record them stereo out thinking I would never use them and then later I would have to go back and re-make the track and record all the separates bit by bit. But by doing that I lost the “magic”. This thing has revolutionised my recording process because now I have all the files ready to be mixed and edited immediately rather than having to go back and re-do it (not as well as the first time and losing the magic). I think if I record live I make braver choices which result in unexpected happy mistakes and interesting arrangements, improvisation is also a great time saving tool!
9. Artist’s Sketch Book / Notebook
My wife got me a pocket sketchbook a few years back for my birthday, think it was from Magma. I filled that and now I use a Daler Rowney Ivory Artist’s Sketch Book which is even smaller. I use it for jotting down ideas, quotes, observations, inspirations, drawing characters, track titles, how I’m feeling, what I need to get from the supermarket etc. I try to take it with me everywhere. It’s good for keeping ideas around but not in my head as there isn’t much space left up there. I have a nice pen to use with it, a Sakura Pigma Micron 08, made in Japan, naturally.
People think I’m obsessed with tea but I try and keep caffeinated tea to a max of 3 cups a day. One when I wake up, one around 9/10.30ish when I’ve done the nursery run and errands like shopping, post office etc. The one at 3/4pm is the most important, preferably with something sweet. I look forward to that everyday. I use PG Tips leaf tea, a slice of ginger and a dash of whole milk, that’s the way my grandmother makes it and she’s from Assam so who am I to argue? The cup has to be a specific size and the tea a certain colour…oh and the cup has to be a certain colour too. I don’t like a cup too big, it fucks up the water/tea/milk ratio…. ok maybe I am a bit obsessed. My favourite cup at the moment is one I got from a charity shop for 50p. I love the ceremonial aspect, the boiling the kettle, warming the tea pot, leaving it to steep, I think water boiling for tea is one of the best sounds in the world. A tea before making tracks and a tea break after. That’s the way to do it.