Hans’ Hit List: Music Picks From Our Staff Musician

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As some of you will remember, this isn’t the first time this blog has highlighted the work of ChefSteps audio director Hans Twite—Twite told us all about his covetable job in this post from September 2013. What you might not know: One of the perks of working with Hans is that he’s a veritable wellspring of awesome music recommendations, and he’s always enthusiastic about sharing the stuff that inspires him. So we asked him to share that stuff with you. Below, Hans details the weird and fascinating tracks he’s listening to right now. Enjoy, and please share your own current favorites in the comments.

Shabazz Palaces: “They Come in Gold”
Ishmael Butler and Tendai “Baba” Maraire, the amazing duo known as Shabazz Palaces, are never far from reach in my record collection. This track—from the highly anticipated, recently released Lese Majesty—is just a taste of the amazing and creative production that these guys have to offer. The feats of musical ingenuity they pull off in the studio are also on display during their captivating live shows . 

Oneohtrix Point Never: “Ships Without Meaning”
Daniel Lopatin, also known as Oneohtrix Point Never, is lauded for his minimalist, yet multi-layered, experimental music. I am constantly gravitating towards his stuff and admire his ability to take simple patterns or arpeggiated synthesizer lines, and completely breathe life and feeling into them with his arsenal of musical machines.

Iska Dhaaf: “Happiness”
Nathan Quiroga and Benjamin Verdoes are two Seattleites with a long history in the local scene. Known locally for his successful hip hop group called Mad Rad, Quiroga found himself looking to expand his musical and artistic outlets, and formed this duo with drummer Verdoes. This hypnotic and honest music is some of my favorite to come out of Seattle in recent years.

NetCat: “The Internet is an Apt Motherfucker”
Hilarious song title, right? NetCat (Brandon Lucia, David Balatero, and Andrew Olmstead) are definitely on the edge of where technology and music meet. Equipped with both musical and computer programing backgrounds, these guys are pushing the limits of live improvisation, and humanizing the technological world of modern music production.

Swans: “Screen Shot”
Michael Gira and his band Swans are not for the faint of heart. But they are influential and compelling to me, thanks to their willingness to completely commit to whatever they are working on—no matter where that work leads them. They have come a long way since the early days, when they played with nothing but a tape recorder of samples and a wall of amps.

Tim Hecker: “Amps, Drugs, Mellotron”
A lot of my life is about plugging and unplugging cords, setting up microphones, moving amps, restringing guitars, and attempting to tune old synthesizers. When I am actively working in my studio, I need to concentrate. But I want to still listen to music. Enter Tim Hecker, who creates the perfect atmospheric background music for when you need to be able to think, but also to keep moving.

P.J. Harvey: “Black Hearted Love”
Polly Jean Harvey has always been a musical innovator—and a subtle comedian. She has the ability to make some of the most earthy and natural-sounding recordings sound completely fresh and of the future. I chose this track, from an overlooked album she created with John Parish in 2009, because it really demonstrates her thematic writing, not to mention her dry humor.

Beck: “Wave”
Morning Phase, a late follow-up to 2002’s Sea Change, has been a welcome addition to Beck’s already substantial discography. This direct and atmospheric piece exemplifies my favorite aspects of Beck’s music: his ability to find the essence of a song; his ability to craft that perfect melody on top of his music; and his ability to get out of the way of the music when the occasion calls for it.

Ben Frost: “Venter”
Are you going on a long road trip, or driving very late at night? Put on some Ben Frost to transform your journey into an epic cinematic experience that keeps you alert and makes you feel like you’re in some weird and awesome Icelandic movie.

Death Grips: “Black Quarterback”
Death Grips just broke up! I really wish I could have seen them live, but from what I have heard even if you bought the ticket, they may not have shown up anyways! These guys were pretty much the essence of punk in a hip-hop world. Vicious, unrelenting beats and polyrhythms assault your senses, but they still manage to engage listeners and create something completely unique.

Robin Guthrie: “Some Sort of Paradise”
Guitarist and founder of Cocteau Twins, Robin Guthrie and his use of live looping have always been a huge influence on what I do. I got into Cocteau Twins much later than many of my musician buddies because I sometimes found the vocals distracting when I wanted to hear more of what Robin was creating in the background. This album is always around, and a great one to listen to when you are relaxing late at night.

David Bowie “TVC15”
David Bowie—where to begin? This guy is pretty much the reason I try to do what I do. His drive to keep pushing for new ideas, and ability to never settle on a technique or hit neutral on his “gear box,” are completely inspiring. I could tell you how I feel about the albums Low, or Aladdin Sane, or Heroes, but instead I give you “TVC15” from Station To Station. I DARE you to try and get that chorus out of your head!

So there you have it folks, a new playlist for yahs from a guy who pretty much lives for this stuff. To hear Hans’ own inspiring creations (and get access to recipes, techniques, and our lively forum), join the ChefSteps community. Then, check out original Twite tracks like this recent Starburst-Style Chewy Candy composition—featuring Macklemore trombonist Greg Kramer—or the breezy, evocative score to our Kouign-Amann video.

Sounds from the Kitchen

My name is Hans Twite, and I’m the audio director for Chefsteps.com.

I have always been drawn in and mesmerized by music and sound. Early on, I thought I wanted to be Louis Armstrong, so when it came time to select an instrument for 5th grade band, I chose the trumpet. My relationship with the horn didn’t last long, but my very encouraging parents bought me a guitar and my first true musical voice was born.

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I obsessed over music, wanting to know the history and influences of my favorite artists. I spent many years playing in bands; developing my skills as a guitarist, and working with incredibly talented people. The more I played in bands, the more interested I became in the mechanics of making music. As I spent more time in the studio, recording albums, I learned that the studio itself could be a living, breathing musical instrument.

To support my growing interest in composition, production, and sound engineering, I started working in restaurants, eventually moving up into bartending. It was a great job for me—I loved the physical nature of creating intricate cocktails, the chance to be creative, and the fun, social environment.

Ryan Matthew Smith and Grant Crilly were regulars at the restaurant where I worked and we would talk at the bar about the various projects we were working on. They shared their vision for ChefSteps with me, and it was easy to see how driven and passionate they were about their project. I explored their work with Modernist Cuisine, and was particularly impressed with Ryan’s photography, which, to me, was remarkable because it conveyed so much of the content in just a single image. Ryan’s creativity and passion as a photographer and Grant’s proficiency and knowledge as a chef were inspiring to me. I also learned about Chris Young and his proficiency not only in the kitchen, but with science and mathematics, as well. The combination of art and science seemed to go comfortably hand in hand with the team they had assembled. I was eager to collaborate with people as creative as this, so I gave them access to my various websites so they could explore my past musical projects, and when they told me they needed someone to handle the music for their online content at ChefSteps, I jumped at the opportunity.

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So here I am, working with an amazing team of dedicated people. I create and record the music to the online modules and high-speed videos for Chefsteps.com, but I also self-produce everything that I create, so the recording, mixing, and mastering is done in my studio. I have collaborated with local musicians on some of our videos, and record and edit the lectures and presentations we make as well.

One of my ongoing challenges is to find a way to musically convey the essence of the content we produce. I’ve created a database of sampled sound recorded around the kitchen at ChefSteps, which I then incorporate into the music I make. The object itself, like a sharpened knife blade, liquid nitrogen gas rushing out of a tank, or a kitchen sink, can become a musical object. We get to experience the essence of the object in a new way and with a different perspective.

What I do at ChefSteps is not a new approach by any means. It originates from the musique concrète concept of the early twentieth century, which was developed into a compositional practice by Pierre Shaeffer in the 1940s. In 1955, Hugh Le Caine—another pioneering composer—made an entire piece of music entitled Dripsody using the sound of a single drop of water hitting a sink, and hand splicing it into extremely intricate rhythms and pitches.

This approach is central to my musical philosophy here at ChefSteps: Both for the historical perspective, and for the appreciation that science and art coexist in wonderful ways that can surprise us and take us into uncharted territory.

I look forward to evolving and refining my approach for you as I continue my journey here at ChefSteps, and I couldn’t ask for a better team to inspire me to do so.

Cheers!
Hans