Scott Sterling brings a deep love of rhythm, drums, and dance to his distinctive style of electronic fusion.
As an expert percussionist specializing in the Mediterranean family of instruments (framedrum, tamborine, and arabic tabla), he weaves traditional rhythms and contemporary bass sounds into finely sculpted grooves, equally inspirational to the dancefloor and the on-stage performer.
A Drumspyder set connects the audience with rhythm in all its modalities – a journey from slo-mo, slinky bass, through mid-tempo funk to high-energy tribal house. Originating in San Francisco’s crucible of bellydance, bass culture, and world music fusion, Drumspyder has released 3 albums worth of original music and is a prolific remixer, lending his signature live percussion and melodic touch to the Desert Dwellers, the Spy from Cairo, Mirabai Ceiba, and various traditional Arabic ensembles, with many more on the way.
In addition, his music has been featured in numerous dance DVDs and theatrical productions. The past year has seen Drumspyder appearing at festivals throughout North America, including Enchanted Forest, Photosynthesis, Gratifly, Shambhala, and MEME, as well as the Hadra Trance Festival in France.
Q: When did you first become interested in music?
A: When I was very young I had the propensity for drumming on household objects, and I actually recall an early fascination with making recordings of the sounds as well, but my first real instrument was the piano. But in college I turned back to banging on things and starting playing the drum set in rock bands.
Q: What were your early influences and how did they change over the years?
A: I have mainly been inspired by the drummers in whatever genre I am currently into, first rock but then more tribal and experimental styles, then percussionists in the Arabic styles such as Hossam Ramzy and Souhail Kaspar . Right now Glen Velez and David Kuckhermann are big inspirations because I’ve become focused on the framedrum. Another early interest was medieval European music, and lately I’ve circled back to that – it has so much in common with Arabic and other styles of music around the Mediterranean region.
Q: When did you first get into producing electronic music?
A: Very gradually – when I was a percussionist in dance ensembles I started adding electronic sounds and beats, then moved into making complete tracks. I’ve always been into the “live” aspect of it, having electronic drums and devices on stage; I’ve never been a DJ or exclusively a studio producer.
Q: Have you been formally trained in middle eastern percussion? As it features heavily in your music…
A: I have always been primarily self-taught , but when I first took up the Arabic tabla I had some introductory lessons from drummers with strict technique; I think that got me started in a good direction. Lately I’ve been practicing with David Kuckermann’s frame drum and riq (tamborine) DVDs , which I highly recommend.
Q: Can you briefly describe your composing/producing process?
I always start with a rhythm played by hand on a drum, and most often this basic groove gets looped and goes into a sample rack to form the basis of the beat. Following this I like to do the sound setup, to get the synth sounds and basic mix in order before I start writing melodies and bass lines, or working with the melodies of a remix. The last thing to be recorded are the lead percussion solo parts which I will play live. Everything is mixed down within the laptop; no real outboard gear besides the drums.
Q: What instruments do you use, both analog and digital?
I play acoustic framedrums made by Cooperman – my current favorite is the Glen Velez Mediterrasian Tamborine , a hybrid of the Italian tamburello and various other tamborines from the region. My live gig drum is the Korg Wavedrum Oriental. I use midi controllers made by Keith McMillen – the Quneo and Qunexus.
Q: What kind of music software do you work with?
A: Exclusively Ableton Live and its internal instruments, most often Sampler and Drum Racks. Part of the approach that really works for me is keeping things simple, and not using a dozen different soft synths and plug ins.
Q: What do you feel computers and technology bring to the art form?
A: Portability! I love having the capability of putting multi-track electronic compositions into a laptop, working on them or playing live, and also the advent of the electronic drum, which brings so many classic drum sounds out on the road without all the micing hassles.
Q: Your music is amazingly good at getting people to deepen in their process, be it dance, yoga, work or play… What elements do you think lend themselves to this, and why does music often work so well at setting the stage for a particular activity or process?
A: Here is where things get into the intangible elements of the artistic process – what gives music a particular vibe? How do you create that? I think it it’s something that can’t really be done with too much deliberation ; it just has to come out of who you are, the kind of energy that you embody in your life. When I became more committed to yoga practice (Ashtanga and Kundalini) I found my music circulating among ecstatic dance and yoga people. To say something more specific: I do believe that there is a connection between hand-played drum rhythms and dance (as well as yoga) – something about the physicality and the feel of a real drum rhythm speaks to the body in movement.
Q: What would you say to a beginning producer who was just starting out – what’s a great way to begin making music with computers?
A: As I mentioned, I’m a fanatic about Ableton and I highly recommend it. More generally – pay attention to the fundamentals of music and don’t get obsessed with fancy software and plug-ins. I think every experienced producer has a bit of nostalgia for the old days when they just had simple, scrappy gear to work with – so if you are in that stage now, enjoy it!
Q: Any new music our listeners should be aware of coming up? How can they hear more from you/get in touch?
A: Remixes of Deya Dova, Subaqueous , and Numatik are ready to drop, and an EP of original tracks is in the works for early 2015. The primary site for my music is my Soundcloud page.