How would you describe Fidgital music?
Fidgital is electronic pop that draws inspiration from jazz, big band, techno, and an ever-widening range of genres. We (Producer/remixer Keith Gillard and vocalist Ryan Slemko) work with a cast of talented electronic and jazz musicians from Vancouver, Canada and all over the world to create progressive, unique, and ultimately catchy pop music.
Keith, what`s your musical background?
Keith: I began seriously writing and recording in the mid to late eighties. While my own synth-pop project `Tinmen` did quite well nationally, I also wrote, produced & remixed for a long list of bands throughout the nineties, including Landscape Body Machine, Color Theory, Daytona, Seraphim, & many more.
By the end of the last decade, I was heading the music department at a video game company and continued to do commission work as a music producer in my spare time. I was increasingly required to work in an eclectic variety of genres, ranging from orchestral to hard-core drum`n`bass, so that really forced me to expand my horizons. My production style changed dramatically over that period and that`s when the trademark Fidgital sound was born.
Ryan, what is your musical history?
Ryan: I hated playing the violin but I liked to write songs and sing, so in the mid nineties I formed a band called `Front & Centre` with an analog-synth wizard by the name of Matt Danforth. Independantly, we ended up moving from Lethbridge, Alberta to Vancouver, British Columbia, where we reformed and enjoyed an exciting amount of success, with three songs hitting number one on commercial radio charts. Between that and joining Fidgital, I took five singing lessons, and among other things, spearheaded a number of experimental music / adult puppet shows.
How did you guys meet?
Ryan: I met Keith through a few people, but I think we first really clicked when Keith co-produced a song for my synth-pop band `Front & Centre` in the mid-nineties. We`ve been good friends ever since. Lots of people ask why we waited until now to work together and all I can say is that we were both just figuring out who we were and what we like, musically speaking and otherwise. We both have demanding professions and many hobbies, so that also has a great deal to do with it.
Anyway, on his own, Keith released the first Fidgital single `Social Disease` to CD & vinyl, and that was really well received. After co-writing two songs for `Spyglass`, the first full-length Fidgital album, I joined as a permanent member. `Spyglass` hit #1 on the Canadian national Electronica charts by radio play, & its spin-off single `Hit&Run` enjoyed similar success. The `Condo Life` album is the first time we`ve fully collaborated on a project from beginning to end and we`re both itching to start working on the next.
Keith, what ever happened to your band, `Tinmen`?
Keith: It was great while it lasted, but we all just sort of drifted in different directions. I took a break from making music for myself until eventually I couldn`t take it anymore and started what has become Fidgital. I`m still friends with both Geoff Shellard and Jason `Bad Boy` McKenzie, and they`re doing great. I even worked with Jason briefly during my stint in the video game industry. Geoff now creates experimental/ambient music under the name `Prometheus` and did a remix for both Fidgital`s `Social Disease` and `Hit&run` singles. Listen to those remixes under the `Listen` section, or check out some of Geoff`s original music under the `Links` section.
Ryan, what happened to your previous band, `Front & Centre`?
Ryan: I`m constantly surprised by the number of queries about Front & Centre I still get. Front & Centre was totally fun but Matt Danforth (the other half of the band) and I had very different visions of where we wanted to go next musically. We really did put our heart and soul into that one album, but that was that. I haven`t really heard much from Matt in the past few years but I hear he`s moved back to our hometown of Lethbridge, Alberta, and has apparently started composing again. I`m planning to make a Front & Centre website, and if possible, I`d like to dig up and post the very first Front & Centre song- an unreleased track that Keith actually helped us produce. It`ll be a while before I can get around to that though, since Fidgital is taking up so much of my time.
Are you in a homosexual relationship with each other?
Keith: No, but occasionally I catch Ryan staring at me just a little too long.
Ryan: As if.
Exactly how do you guys go about writing your songs?
Ryan: Well, there aren`t any steadfast rules of course, but typically speaking, either:
Keith will compose something instrumental (perhaps with a vocal melody in mind, perhaps not) and I will add my own vocal melody and lyrics to it (`Any Other Way`, `You Know Me Better Than You Do`)
...or, I`ll come to Keith with a vocal idea and he`ll write some music to it (`Whatever, Whoever, Whenever`, `How Can I Go Wrong`)
Sometimes it goes back and forth so much it`s hard to say what happened (`Brand New Wave`) In any case, the songs are rarely complete from the get-go, so they really do evolve. It just goes back and forth until we`re both totally satisfied.
What was the idea behind the `Spyglass` album?
Keith: That`s a pretty eclectic album, largely because I was so excited about writing music for myself again after a long break. It really was about experimentation and honing in on the Fidgital sound. We eventually described it as big band techno, and it`s a sound that excited me and continues to excite me, even though I think it`s evolved beyond that simple description.
What was the concept behind the `Condo Life` album?
Ryan: There`s obviously some musical carry-over from `Spyglass`, but thematically speaking, we decided early on that this album was going to centre on living in a condo in cosmopolitan Vancouver. We`re proud of our city, for many reasons- including its beauty and cultural diversity- and we really wanted to play that up. Along the same lines, the album was also going to be about being connected but independent: you`ll notice there aren`t any standard love songs. We also made a conscious decision to stay entirely away from the four on the floor of house music (yes, pun intended).
What`s the Fidgital `Live` set like?
Ryan: Keith`s seizure-like dancing alone could whip a blind man into frenzy. Seriously.
Keith: Unlike many synth-oriented bands, the majority of our set is in fact live. Fidgital `Live` consists of me on keyboards, Ryan crooning at the mike, our splendid drummer Craig Burdes, and our remarkably fashionable bass player Brian (Rex) Barry.
What equipment do you use Keith?
Keith: Here is an extensive list of almost all my gear, complete with exciting commentary. As a chronic synth-lust-sufferer, I`ll of course be updating the list regularly, so be sure to check back occasionally. It`s very loosely ordered in terms of most used to least. Enjoy!
This is my sampler workhorse. After editing & chopping samples in the computer, I send them to this for additional synthesis. It`s not really about that though- I mostly just like to play everything.
This is the most modern of my synths. No samples- just modeling of analog, acoustic & electric instruments, with a splendid assortment of real time controls. When we play live, this is my main axe `cause NOTHIN` solos quite like it.
Moog Opus 3
This pre-MIDI analog synth is from the days when it was pretty hep to have a keyboard play two notes at the same time. On this, I can play as many notes as I want & still hear them ALL!
The first synth I ever bought. More than a decade later, I still use it to sweeten tracks, though I very rarely use it on its own anymore.
The quintessential digital classic- noisy, non-intuitive, full of cheesy overused electric piano sounds. Still, I keep it around in case of nuclear war, as it will undoubtedly make for a good radiation shield.
Sensing a Korg theme? This is the most recent addition to my collection. I picked it up at a very cool vintage records store in San Fran, complete with custom flight case. It`s kind of on its last legs, but it`s still good for sampling.
Casio VL Tone
The sound of `Da Da Da` (I should prepare a tribute to Trio with this) Doubles as a calculator- seriously!
While still in the video game industry, this quick investment really helped in finishing an urgently needed soundtrack for a reasonably large game. It`s a wheelbarrow full of the cheesiest drum loops ever made, but like the M1, is very useful in other ways.
After producing dozens of songs exclusively on the M1, I decided to expand my sonic palette with this fan-`effing-TAStic rack unit. (Fun quiz: Guess one keyboard brand I`m fond of.)
The `Super Quartet`! I bought this off my high school. In grade twelve, I recorded some fourty songs using this, a JX3P & a DX21. After graduating & moving to Vancouver, I thought, `I bet no one uses this crappy thing,` but I continue to use it, & I still love it.
This was a gift from Greg-Lawrence Fill, because I had loved using it on a track I produced for him in 1993, called `People`. He gave it to me the night he told me he had AIDS. Thank you, Greg you`re missed.
This outstandingly versatile little unit has given me some of my best-effected synth sounds. When I use the M1, it`s often through this, so nobody ever recognizes it.
`Space Echo`. Roland certainly loved the sci-fi themes in the late seventies, early eighties. It even has the feel of vintage sci-fi. When you open the hinged top, it looks like someone took a pair of scissors to an especially unfortunate Dr. Who set.
Fender Rhodes 76
I used to run a jazz club (Jazz@Raffels) in downtown Vancouver. Great experience. Lost my shirt. I DID however gain this Rhodes when we closed the club & nobody would claim it.
Ace Tone Organ
This actually belongs to Graham Meek, heir to the Joe Meek legacy. Graham & I do a lot of work together (he co-wrote `Escape my love` & `Brand New Wave`) so I let him slip me his organ ;-) The bass on this unit is club-shakingly powerful.
Yamaha ProMix 01
This digital mixer has automated sliders so you can freak out your friends. (Ryan still finds it creepy!) It`s been terrific, but I now need way more inputs than it can handle.
Various microphones, Fender Squire P-Bass, Vector electric guitar, Casio DH-100 MIDI saxophone, Titano accordian, Hohner accordian, Olds silver bell trombone, didgeridoo, bala laika, tabla, mbira, various ethnic percussion instruments, bla bla...
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