The year was 1989 in post-industrial Northeastern Pennsylvania when Shawn Rudiman and Ed Vargo created Total Harmonic Distortion, Rudiman’s first introduction to making electronic music. The two artists became self-taught creating a band that became a solid influence in the world of Electronic Body Music, a varied Belgium-born genre that takes influences from electro, punk and post-industrial.
Currently based in Pittsburgh, Penn., Rudiman is fervently creating and exploring the techno world. Why techno?
“Music is the best escape, therapist, and consoler I’ve ever known. Techno is forever the future, alternate reality and unwritten parallel universe that will always have a hold on me. It’s home.” – SHAWN RUDIMAN
During the 1990s he developed an affinity for vintage hardware and is now known for his solo work performing live analog sets. His rig consists of: Roland TR-8, Access Virus A, Alesis MMT-8, Korg Electribe Sampler 2, Arturia MicroBrute, Future Retro 777, Future Retro SWYNX, FMR RNC Compressor, and the Boss DD-7. This hearty collection of gear allows him to take things anywhere stylistically, he says. When he is not performing with them, Rudiman is maintaining, fixing and modifying vintage synthesizers.
“Analog is as valid as any other form of synthesis really. To me … it’s just where I fell into. I’m no purist. I’m more a road warrior or rogue samurai looking for the most comfortable sword or weapon. I can’t expose one form of synthesis over any other, since they all have purpose and times to shine,” he says.
This free-flowing way of performing for Rudiman means breaking through structure and playing off-the-cuff, allowing emotional adaption during a live set.
“I started out 17 years ago now, playing sets that were very formatted, and rehearsed. It’s crushing to me. And massively limiting. I can’t play a set more than once. It’s boring. I don’t want to be bored. I never want to have to play that way with techno. To me, techno is always on the edge of failure — that thin razor edge. That’s what gives it feeling, not perfectly rehearsed or choreographed. It’s raw, wild, and possibly a car wreck. But also enthralling, gripping and demanding your attention. It’s responsive and operates on the crowd’s output, as well as my own feelings.”
He now has releases on 11th Hour Recordings, Bleepsequence, Cache Records, Detroit Techno Militia, Integrated Recordings, and Minimalsoul Recordings. Additionally, he established the store and label HyperVinyl Records with Trevor Combee, leading to a friendship with the notable Detroit techno musician Anthony “Shake” Shakir.
Along with Jwan Allen and Adam Ratana, Rudiman runs Technoir Audio out of Pittsburgh, Penn. He has toured internationally playing in places like Detroit, New York City, Berlin (like the Berghain and Tresor) and other areas of Europe; his most recent performance was held earlier this month at the Great American Techno Festival in Denver, Colo.
“Honestly some of my favorites aren’t the big or famous clubs. This past year playing Movement at the festival itself was one though. It was a life goal for me. Another was a gig in Glasgow, Scotland about 10 years ago. Just great people and crazy, wild times. Those are the ones that you cant put a value on, for me,” he says.
Rudiman will be performing alongside Sam Kern, aka Sassmouth, this Saturday, Oct. 17 in Rochester, N.Y. for the next Signal > Noise installation. Not only are the two friends but they have worked together professionally with a recent release by Rudiman under Kern’s label, god particle.
“Sam’s one of my favourite humans. It was complete chance we met really. I can’t say enough good things about her. She’s family. She’s easy to work with, to me, and we see fairly eye to eye. She picked those songs from a pile I sent her; she chose wisely. Working live with her on the decks and me on my crap is easy — she can feel flow and knows how to make it happen. She reads the crowd. So we work well as a duo going back and forth. We are on the same page so it makes it easy,” he says.