Adrian Belew is one of the most accomplished and ubiquitous players in the history of the electric guitar. With a career spanning decades and hundreds of album credits ranging from Frank Zappa and David Bowie to Talking Heads, King Crimson and Nine Inch Nails, Adrian has kept constant pace with both pop music and music technology. His newest release has come in the form of an app, called FLUX, wherein hundreds of snippets of sound are recombined into new and varied ways so that the music is never the same twice. Accompanying that release is another app, FLUX:FX, a professional, playable multi-effect audio processor for the iPad. We caught up with Adrian to talk to about his career, his influences and his two new apps.
For starters, can you tell us who you are and what you do?
I am Adrian Belew. I am a recording artist, international touring musician, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, part-time painter, and full-time father….phew!
[Check out this video of Adrian’s “Life in a Nutshell” for a deeper look at his very impressive career]
Where did the idea for the Flux and Flux:FX apps come from? Which came first?
The idea for FLUX music: (never the same twice) came to me in June 1979 while touring France with David Bowie. The idea for an audio processing app was presented to me two and a half years ago by Nick Mueller from MobGen and Daniel Rowland. Nick headed up the designing of the software for both apps. Daniel is my recording engineer and the builder of my guitar system (among other things).
Has the advent of Flux:FX done much to change your rig?
It has added an iPad to my rig, a small addition physically but wow, what a huge tool for making sounds! It has certainly given me a larger sonic palette to work with.
What was the creative process driving the recording of the sound snippets for the Flux app?
From the beginning the concept of quick random sounds from any source (found sounds, everyday common sounds, sound FX, electronica, special guitar moments, etc.) were a hugely important ingredient to insure the music would never play out the same way twice. “Snippets” are the “interrupters” which randomly affect the flow of the music, but they are also the glue which holds it all together. And so much fun to make!
You’ve spent your entire career ablaze at the forefront of guitar technology, do you have any predictions for what’s to come? What would you like to see next?
I like that word “ablaze”. Forward movement has always been crucial to my music and technology has helped accommodate change more than any other single factor. I have vague predictions for the future but I’m sure it will involve more iOS-type devices, software, etc. I would like to see my traveling guitar rig shrink down to something I could carry on a plane anywhere in the world (i.e. a laptop, iPad, and small foot controller), thereby assuring myself my tools will always be there in working order so I can do the best show possible. Overall, for music itself, I seriously encourage “new” over “same old”.
What’s been inspiring you these days?
As much as I love performing, nothing juices me up creatively like being in my own studio for an extended period as I am doing right now. Songs, ideas, even paintings are pouring out of me currently. My inspiration and usual subject matter: life.
Anything else on your mind you’d like to talk about?
I would like to take advantage of this moment to say a sincere thanks to Keith and others like him who are devoted to furthering the future of music with such amazing products as K-Mix and SoftStep. Without those geniuses I’m not sure what music I’d be making. But whatever the future holds, I intend to be in the front row!
Here’s a video of Adrian using the FLUX:FX app with a SoftStep: