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MTF Podcast

MTF Podcast

The MTF Podcast features interviews with some of the most brilliant minds from the worlds of technology, innovation, music, creativity, arts and sciences, academia and industry. Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Latest episode:

100. The Universe in a Grain of Sand

This 100th special edition compilation episode of the MTF Podcast brings together a series of highlights and makes for a wonderful introduction to some of the brilliant minds of the MTF community that we've captured in conversation over the past two years. From...

100. The Universe in a Grain of Sand

Lisa Lang

The Universe in a Grain of Sand

by The MTF Community | MTF Podcast

This 100th special edition compilation episode of the MTF Podcast brings together a series of highlights and makes for a wonderful introduction to some of the brilliant minds of the MTF community that we’ve captured in conversation over the past two years.

From neuroscience to embroidery, digital sampling to government policy, AI ethics to storytelling, pop stardom to climate change, space travel to fashion design - and all the wonderful characters and human stories that connect them.

Have a listen and feel free to dig into the archives to explore more if anything piques your interest!

Transcript

Dubber Hi, I’m Andrew Dubber. I’m the Director of Music Tech Fest, and this is episode 100 of the MTF Podcast. And because that feels like quite a milestone, I wanted to look back over the past couple of years, pull out some highlights and favourite moments. Not as a greatest hits, because that doesn’t really make any sense in that context, every single one of these are my favourite episode, but more to create something of a taster show. Something that highlights the breadth and depth of the MTF community and the brilliant minds of the artists and scientists, academia and industry, that go to make up that community.

And, of course, you’re only ever really going to skim across the surface in something like this, and the whole point of the MTF Podcast is to get to know these amazing people in our community rather than just get them to talk about their work, but maybe there’s something in here that piques your curiosity and encourages you to dive in a bit further. I’ll tell you who’s talking along the way so you can go back and find their episode, but hopefully this will also make for an enjoyable compilation listen all by itself. It’s not a catalogue, but a bird’s-eye view of MTF.

From neuroscience to embroidery, digital sampling to government policy, AI ethics to storytelling, pop stardom to climate change, space travel to fashion design, and all the wonderful characters and human stories that connect them. This is the MTF Podcast, episode 100. But more importantly, this is MTF. Enjoy.

Dubber Let’s start with a few words from ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus.

Dubber One of the things that people observe about your songs is that, on the one hand, obviously, they’re incredibly catchy pop songs, but also they’re incredibly intricate and thoughtful and complex.

Björn    Yeah.

Dubber To what extent is that the ABBA trick, is that there is the complexity hidden within this simplicity of melody?

Björn    Always searching for that wonderful, simple melody, that’s what we did. But that wonderful, simple melody doesn’t necessarily have only three chords. It can have more chords. And especially if you explore it in a studio, trying various styles and trying various ways of doing it. And above all, backing vocals. Intricate backing vocals. Things that you couldn’t write down as an arranger, but you can only try. The girls would do something, and you’d say “No, try that instead. Just that note there.”, and suddenly something happens. And that’s where the intricacy comes from, I think.

Dubber Right. In harmony, particularly.

Björn    In harmony, particularly.

Dubber Right, wow.

 

Dubber This is Dr Kelly Snook. Inventor, instrument maker, and rocket scientist.

Kelly     Kepler says something in this book which is really funny, and I’m just going to paraphrase because he writes in 400 years ago language. But he says something like “I’m laying this out for you. God has finally revealed his grand order through these mathematics. Use your art to express this in the world. And I’ve laid it out there, even if it takes 100 years for technology to catch up.”, basically. And it’s been 400 years, and technology is just at the point where we can make this into something that you can experience viscerally. With your ears and with your eyes and maybe other senses as well, like feeling tactile feedback from this instrument. But that is the whole point, is to take something that has been reduced to boring mathematical equations and make it mind-blowing again.

I worked for a very long time at NASA, and there’s something weird about the way that we present things sometimes, especially to other scientists. That if it’s super freaking cool, then it’s for the kids, or it’s not actual science, or… You have to make it sound dry and boring in order for it to be legitimate, in a way. So I wanted to switch that up a bit and give people permission to experience the incredible, intrinsic harmony that we have in our reality. One place where it’s expressed just so simply is in the movement of the planets, but it’s really everywhere and in every structure that we have in life. And so eventually I’d love there to be musical instruments that you can play or that you can experience that give you insights into all sorts of different truths through beauty.

In a way, these are both concepts that have gone out of fashion. Truth and beauty. Truth, people are even asking “What is truth? Is there such thing as truth? Does truth matter?”. This is actually a conversation that’s happening in the United States. People are claiming that “Actually, there is no truth. It doesn’t matter.”.

 

Dubber Former Executive Assistant and right hand to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Ann Hiatt.

Ann       I took it very, very seriously to double their output, and that meant I needed to be on par with what they were doing. In the early stages, I did that by reading everything they read. For example, Jeff Bezos every morning came in with three newspapers, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Seattle Times, so I started reading all three of those every morning, cover to cover. I read every briefing document that came across his desk, every single email, listened to every phone call. I leaned in. I googled every term I didn’t know, every person’s name who I didn’t know.

And so going onto that next level allowed me to be more proactive in my relationship with him instead of reactive. I could come to him with ideas, opportunities, and even share some of my talents he didn’t know I had or areas of interest where I would volunteer for a project that would normally be outside my role. And that gave me an amazing opportunity to really grow, and the job was so much more fun too. Nobody wakes up excited about calendaring or putting together research documents and things like that, but…

So my role with Eric Schmidt was very much that. It was extremely proactive. It was very high risk because my job was to aggregate all of the requests across the company, evaluate those for where Eric could have a deep impact, and rank those and make a recommendation to him on how he was going to spend his time or focus. Or maybe a weakness that we had, an area of expertise we hadn’t yet developed, and come with a proactive plan of how we could get that knowledge or those relationships that we needed. And so it very much became a business partner relationship with him, and that’s where it’s really fun. Also terrifying because sometimes you’d get it wrong, and it’s a billion dollar company, so the impact is large in successes and failures. But that was a risk I enjoyed.

 

Dubber Probably my favourite recording artist in the world today, the wonderful Jan Bang.

Jan       In the mid-’90s, I found, by coincidence, a way of putting my studio gear on stage. Being a producer in the mid-’90s using samplers in order to create songs and do remixes and productions and so forth, I was invited by a friend of mine… I just had done a remix of Bugge Wesseltoft, the Norwegian jazz player, and he was interested in getting in touch with people from the electronic music. So he asked me “Jan, what could you do?”. I was thinking “Well, I have this sampler that somebody gave me. Why don’t I…? Instead of sampling records, I could sample your musicians on stage.”. And that was in ’96.

And we did one concert, and I realised in the soundcheck that this is just a new route. This is a new possibility for myself to discover new things. There’s fresh sounds every day, fresh from the baker, and as a composer and as a musician, that’s quite a present. So by meeting him, then he introduced me to other, more freeform players. And from there I never really returned to the studio that I was working with. Working in, as a producer. I just left the studio. My big American case and everything with it.

 

Dubber Hackademic, Gabriella Coleman.

Gabriella So a trickster figure is probably familiar to most just because trickster figures are common in many different societies and cultures around the world, from Coyote in Indigenous Native American societies to Loki in Nordic societies. And they’re figures who are willing to transgress boundaries. They tend to also be identified with an inability to filter speech, often willing to trap others, and in the process get trapped themselves into problems, and historically they tend to be identified with myth and stories.

And the myth and stories around tricksters are valuable because they tend to offer moral lessons, both about the importance of transgressing boundaries but also the problems when you go too far in transgressing boundaries, as well. They’re a rich area of anthropological study. And I thought, and I still do think, that they apply extremely well to the field of hacking or Anonymous, and it’s, again, because of the willingness of hackers to transgress boundaries. And so I think that model fits well.

I think one of the big problems, and this gets to the baggage part, is that, in part because of the Disneyfication of the trickster figure, I think some people believe tricksters are always good, and that’s not necessarily the case. The point of the trickster is to make clear the moral stakes of transgressing boundaries, let’s just say. And then, because of that clarity, you could say “Oh, this is good. This is helpful. No, this is bad. This goes too far.”. And, for example, Loki, I think, is a good example of a trickster who… He’s terrifying, and he’s a jerk, and he’s horrible. This is not necessarily someone to celebrate. Whereas Puck, on the other side, is a much lighter side of tricksterism that we can live with.

Dubber Much more fluffy.

Gabriella Exactly, and the world of hacking has both sides. And so I use the figure not simply to celebrate hacking but actually to show that this domain, like the trickster figure, provides an arena for us to rethink questions of boundaries and norms, not simply to blindly accept everything that comes from the world of hacking.

 

Dubber Composer and polymath, Nitin Sawhney.

Nitin     Music is a healing thing, from my point of view. I was listening to Mary Anne Hobbs’ show last night, and she played, actually, a piece that I did with Anoushka Shankar for Ravi Shankar’s centenary. And she played some beautiful music which I found really soothing. And I’d been in a difficult mood all day because I just was getting frustrated with all of this. I’m not technically in the high-risk group, but I am asthmatic, and so I’m keeping myself pretty much in isolation. And so, from that point of view, it’s great when you hear music that opens up your feelings and your mind like that. So music is…

You could get into the technical side of it, and there are parts of the brain that respond literally in a pleasurable way to music. And there’s a part of the brain called oscillatory phase-lock which they find in chimpanzees, as well, where they respond like we do to consonance and dissonance in different ways. So dissonant intervals in music actually create unrest and irritation, but whereas, with the chimpanzees, they actually respond really well to consonant intervals. So Mozart, for example, would go down really well with a lot of chimpanzees because a lot of the intervals are consonant intervals. And that’s to do with the ratios and so on.

But it’s very soothing and very healing to listen to great music that you can empathise with. It’s not just the technical side, it’s also nostalgia, it’s also… It evokes so much feeling in us. Whereas in animals, primarily they’re using music for survival, reproduction, and communication, we’re using it in so many different, nuanced ways to actually really enhance our moods.

And, in fact, I talked recently about, and I was talking to a psychologist, the idea of EMDR, which is eye movement desensitisation reprocessing. And that in itself is about left, right… I suppose stimulation, in terms of the hemispheres of the brain, and it’s alternating in the way it works. And my psychologist was saying even walking or running or playing the piano or doing anything where you use your hands in alternating ways can actually really enhance your mood and do a lot for working through problems that you have in your life.

 

Dubber Textile artist and arctic crafter, Deirdre Nelson.

Deirdre I was involved in a lab in Glasgow, and I’ve forgotten the name of it now, but they brought together coders and makers together, and we did separate projects. And it was an amazing way to work because we realised, in loads of ways, we work in very similar ways. I think there’s a real craft to working with coding and working with Arduino and all of these things. And through being involved in the repair lab in Glasgow, I’ve realised that… I watch some of these guys fix computers and electronic… They’re working with their hands in a really skilled way and in a… Particularly something like embroidery is very fine-tuned skills, and I can see those same skills in the guys working on circuit boards or… So I think maybe we need to do a circumpolar tech traditional skill lab or something. It would be fantastic.

Dubber It sounds like something Music Tech Fest should take on.

Deirdre Yeah, definitely. It would be amazing. And also just, I think, with any of these things, you need time to experiment. And the informality of the way we worked in the Circumpolar Crafters Network would be a really lovely way to work with technology as well.

 

Dubber Maker and children’s author, Helen Leigh.

Helen   Hand made things and how that fits in with technology, often in the media you’ll see them pitted against each other. Robots vs craft or hand made vs mass-produced. But I actually think that’s a false dichotomy, and that there’s so many beautiful things happening in the intersection between craft and technology. And I really wanted to write a children’s book that celebrated that and used craft as a way into technology and technology as a way to augment craft, because it’s not a one-way street, of course.

Dubber You only have to look at a knitting pattern, and this is programming.

Helen   Absolutely it’s programming. And, in fact, I think often these crafts are undervalued, and the history of them is destroyed. There’s a fascinating book that I read recently called ‘Subversive Stitch’, and it’s all about the feminist history of embroidery. And also I read a really interesting article on knitting spies. So in the World War II, they had ladies knitting things and dropping stitches to pass secret messages on to other people. It was a form of communication. Of course it was code.

So, anyway, this book is called ‘The Crafty Kid’s Guide to DIY Electronics’, and it teaches the basic concepts of technology but through sewing and through papercraft and origami, and through DIY robots and wearable things. It’s very much project-based. It’s not a textbook at all. You do learn something in every project, but it’s set in the context of a project. Things like making a moving origami ladybird that buzzes around or a secret mood signal badge that teaches you the basic concepts of binary. So these imaginative projects.

And I can’t actually take full credit for all of these projects. I worked with an advisory board of 200 girls to write this book. And they were on my mailing list, and I would send them hundreds of ideas, and they’d come back and vote on their favourite ones. So, actually, the inclusion of every single project in that book is thanks to a group of girls and not thanks to me at all. In fact, lots of my favourite ideas were completely designated uncool by the committee of girls.

 

Dubber Musician and technologist, Tim Palm, aka DJ Arthro.

Tim       Yeah. So my diagnosis, basically, it makes my joints unable to move. It’s at like 30 degrees movements in the arms and legs. And because of that, my muscle is also losing strength. So it’s a two-part situation. So I’m sitting on a special built wheelchair, and I’m performing with my nose, mostly.

Dubber Right. So you have limited range of motion of the limbs but a flexible face, so you can actually operate gear like that.

Tim       Yeah, it’s something like that.

Dubber So let’s talk about your gear. Somebody like me who recognises that it’s an iPad but not necessarily the software that you were using, what’s actually in the rig?

Tim       So we start with the iPad. The main application is called ‘touchAble’ which is an app built to integrate with Ableton, which is the main software I use. So it’s fully integrated, so I can control the MIDI software, can control the CC and the… Everything. Fully functional. Launching clips and changing BPM and everything. And I can rearrange it however I want. Or if I want big buttons, I can get big buttons if I want. So I have this template that I use to perform.

Dubber Okay. But there’s more going on than an iPad on your rig.

Tim       Yeah. Then I have a… It’s a big one. It’s a half-circle of gear.

Dubber Yeah, it’s right around… It’s like Rick Wakeman kind of…

Tim       Yeah, exactly. So there’s a synth as well. It’s a Yamaha reface synth, which is the only synth I’ve found with no knobs, only up and down sliders, because turning knobs with your lips is quite difficult.

Dubber I can imagine.

Tim       You can’t make a 360 with your head.

Dubber That’s true.

Tim       That’s impossible.

Dubber Yeah, for sure.

Tim       So having just up and down sliders for everything gives me full control over the synth. And I found it four years ago now, I think, and I was like “I have to buy this one.”, because it’s quite boring to just have these software synths.

 

Dubber Science fiction author, blogger, and activist, Cory Doctorow.

Cory     If we want to know how Google shapes our behaviour, it’s by being the only search engine anyone uses and deciding what goes on the front page. But that’s not mind control. That’s a very cheap trick if it’s a mentalist act. That’s like the mentalists who have hidden cameras that watch what people write down on the card when they say “Think of a word and write it down on the card.”. It’s a bit of technological virtuosity, but it’s not mind reading.

So I think that big tech wants you to think the reason that their sector is concentrated is because first-mover advantage and network effects and globalism are what count, and I think it’s that the Apple II Plus came out the year we elected Ronald Reagan, and he promptly dismantled antitrust enforcement. If it was first-mover advantage and network effects, we’d all be searching AltaVista with our Cray supercomputers.

One of the things that we know about tech is that you can accumulate a technology debt. If you’re married to a certain approach in technology, when the technology changes, you have this huge institutional crisis in convincing the people who work in your firm to stop making supercomputers and start making minicomputers, and stop making minicomputers and start making PCs. These are huge problems that firms wrestle with, and being a first-mover sucks.

And network effects are great, but you live and die by the sword. If your network doubles in value every time someone joins it, then it halves in value every time someone leaves it. Which is how Myspace can be on top of the world one day and on the trash heap the next day with Rupert Murdoch sitting on top of it with his thumb up his ass.

Dubber Is this the safety net for something like Facebook having all this power? Is it the fact that there is a fragility built into these things?

Cory     No, because this is where monopolies matter. So Facebook lost 17 million 12 to 34 year olds in 2017, up from 9 million, I think, in 2016. They are haemorrhaging users to Instagram.

Dubber Right, which they own.

Cory     Which they own.

 

Dubber Professor of responsible AI, Virginia Dignum.

Virginia   AI is software, is an artefact that people build. It’s not magic, it’s not something which happens to us, it’s not something which comes out of outer space and happens. It’s something which is consciously developed and engineered by people to do some purpose which is also determined by people. So that is, I think, the most important part to understand. Then, how does it work?

What distinguishes it from other types of software is basically the capability that these techniques have to be able to analyse patterns in current situations and current contexts and use that analysis to come up with potential new suggestions or new insights. I don’t really like to talk about predictions. I don’t think that AI makes any predictions whatsoever. It can correlate or extrapolate from existing data, but the prediction is something that we might, or not, decide to do ourselves based on what AI is identifying.

 

Dubber Philosopher, author, composer, multimedia producer, and turntablist, Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky.

Paul      You are not your data. The fun part about our time is there’s a separation between analogue media, playing vinyl, going out to social spaces with actual, real human beings, and then the digital mirror that people are just pillaging for financial gain. So how does that work with your everyday experience? This is something I think we’re all queasily realising.

Your data is being used in all sorts of unanticipated ways, whether it be for computational propaganda during the 2016 election or stuff like Cambridge Analytica or The Internet… What was the IA group out of Russia, in St. Petersburg? They have a very generic name like The Internet Agency. Something really, really generic. But really freaking evil.

So that’s on one hand, but then on the other hand we’ve seen an explosion of all these platforms and routes for getting work out. More people are creative than ever before. More people are being freed from the norms of how they think about expression, their work, or getting it out.

So we’re seeing a renaissance of many, many different approaches, but at the same time, there’s a Darwinism in effect with all these… Like I said, the furious five. Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Google. Five companies that dominate the landscape. Meanwhile, if you’re in China, you’ve got the China versions of those. Youku, Alibaba, stuff like WhatsApp, etc., or WeChat.

Dubber The Tencents of the world. That sort of thing.

Paul      Yeah. And I feel like, as an artist, these are intriguing. Personally, I could do without social media. I would love to delete everything and just sit across from a person and have a glass of tea, or whatever medium they’re into, and actually have a human dimension there. But you then realise, why limit yourself? Because you have all of these different platforms. Let’s play.

 

Dubber Senior Data Scientist at Axel Johnson, Celine Xu.

Celine  90 percent of data in the world created after 2010. And all this abundance present a big problem, the paradox of the choice, because we have so many choice, and we need to spend too much time trying to pick one. And sometimes we try so hard, but at the end, we actually pick something wrong. And the recommendation engine is actually using machine learning technology to help companies go over all the possible options and learn what we, or as a customer, like, and recommend the options we would love best. So this machine, or system, provide us an option. Having the abundance of the options, at the same time have a certainty in our decision.

 

Dubber Artist, teacher, and instrument maker, Tom Fox.

Tom      I wanted to start building instruments just because I loved collecting instruments. I’ve got a passion for lots of different types of instruments. But I realised that if I start building them and I do it wrong, it might be a massive waste of money and resources, so I just started building them from recycled materials. I really limited myself to just focussing on making sure everything was found or recycled or reclaimed. That actually led me to be more creative with the stuff I was making. So I ended up using recycled electronics and motors for pickups, and that led to developing instruments based around the things I found, as well. So I started a whole organic process of building instruments based around the stuff I found, and it spiralled out of control from there.

Dubber Because most of the things that you make don’t look like musical instruments.

Tom      No, not at all.

Dubber Some of them do, but they’re actually books that have been turned into guitars, or… But, typically speaking, I’m thinking of your spring thing.

Tom      Yeah, the spring thing. There’s a law of physics which is Faraday’s law of electromagnetic induction, and that’s my favourite law of physics because you can do all sorts of bonkers stuff with it. It’s how motors work, it’s how speakers work, it’s how electric guitar pickups work, and they all use the same bit of physics. So you can manipulate that piece of physics to have them all interact with each other to create really interesting sounds and really interesting ways of playing music, as well.

 

Dubber Head of Operations at Ericsson ONE, Matilda George.

Matilda We have seen that it’s three reason why ideas or start-ups tend to fail, and one of them is that you develop something that no one wants. So for us, it’s very important to support them with the business aspect because if we have a very creative and talented person who only wants to focus on the tech aspect, then we need to support them with other kinds of competencies as well. And that is something that we are doing from Ericsson. We are bringing in a business person, for example, to help them with that. But also educating them on how you can do it in a very easy way, and it can be something like going out and asking people if they would buy or test your solution. So that’s a very easy way to actually test the business case of it.

But also one of the other three things that make ideas fail is that you are mixing teams poorly. So maybe you have a team of only developers, so you also need to add in the person with another background, so business or design or HR or something else, so that you have the diversity within your own group when developing the technology, from the beginning.

And then the third thing is that you lack focus. I think that it becomes your obsession, but if I have one idea, maybe I found ten different things that I want to do around my idea. So I think that to really keep focus on what I need to do to get what I want with my idea, that’s also a very important part of the journey in going from idea to finally an emerging business. So that is the advice that we usually give to start-ups.

 

Dubber Sound diplomat, Shain Shapiro.

Shain   To me, what’s great about music is how it impacts everything around it. Music is a way to have a conversation about all sorts of things. About getting to know each other better, about conflict, trying to reduce conflict, even, about equality across gender, race, ethnic, discipline, so on and so forth. I think that music is a tool that we have. I think music and food are the only tools that we have where we can cross any boundary and still find something to unify us.

So, for me, I believe that we underestimate the power that music has, but yet we’re using its power every day without recognising it. And it doesn’t matter what political affiliation. Even Trump going on stage to songs he’s not allowed to play, he’s uniting people via music, and I think that’s an incredibly powerful thing. Whatever you believe in, there is something positive that music can bring you. And if we recognise that better, if we create policies around that, then I think it can improve everyone’s day-to-day.

 

Dubber We would say Senior Recruiter or Chief Head Hunter, but her business card simply said “Alchemist.”. Cheline Jaidar, formerly of Apple.

Cheline    I was brought in, and that was that trip to San Francisco, to work with the industrial design group. So that was the first official group that I worked with as a full-time employee with Apple, and that dominated most of my time. And so I was looking specifically, at that time, for industrial designers. So that’s how it started. And as I, working as a lone ranger with them for… I’m trying to think. I don’t even know if it was a year. People would reach out saying “Oh, she does creative, she works with designers. Can we have her over here? We’re redoing the graphic design group. Can she come and work with us for a little bit?”.

So I went to work with graphic design. Helped them. They were a splinter group of different external and internal teams, and some people wanted to leave, and they didn’t have a clear leader. They were looking to find another more creative leader. I was brought in to help them find that role, and then I started working with that group, and then I was dividing my time between industrial design and graphic design.

And there were more things like that. I started working with iTunes Europe. That was really almost a start-up. It felt like a start-up. As the graphic design, in some way, felt like a start-up as well because they were recreating it. When I think back on my career, other than the industrial design group, some of this work really feels like you’re starting a start-up within a very established company. But it still has that essence of building something from something very small or nothing.

 

Dubber Improviser, academic, author, and solo bassist, Steve Lawson.

Steve    The experience of being on Myspace was a great learning experience. I joined Myspace in the same way that all musicians did, with this incredibly narcissistic focus to just friend loads of people and build a big audience. And the futility of that and the way that that killed the conversation about the music became apparent very quickly. So at that point, I started to conceive of a use of social media that was genuinely social and that wasn’t a marketing tool, and it wasn’t all the things that all the people were writing about. “This great new way for musicians to network and do this.”. It was like “Well, no. It’s just about creating a story around what you do.”. And so I think the whole idea of storytelling came in fairly early on.

And one of the big advantages I had in that mid-noughties period when blogging was an incredibly important resource for musicians was that I’m a writer as well. I’m a journalist. I wasn’t trained as a journalist, but my partner from back in the ‘90s, she was a sub-editor and a very good journalist, and so she taught me how to write. She would edit what I was doing, going “You can’t write a 150 word sentence. That’s ridiculous.”. And so I developed this set of skills, and I got to practice in magazines and harness that for this process of storytelling.

So as that storytelling process fragmented away from being about long blocks of text on a blog and became about Twitter and Facebook and Myspace updates, I got pretty good at writing in small chunks and diarising my musical life in a way that people could engage with as an unfolding story rather than as a set of marketing tools that were cynically planned to promote a product.

 

Dubber Digital plumber and creator of websites for famous pop stars, David Peris.

Dubber ’99 hits, Napster comes out, everything goes into a panic. How did that affect what you did?

David   It was dramatic and swift. And I’ll tell you my first interaction with Napster. It’s interesting. But I was 24/25, and I was dating someone who was in the midst of college. And I walked in her dorm room once, and she was really busy on her laptop. And I looked at her, and I was like “Well, what are you doing?”. “I’m playing with this thing. It’s called Napster.”. And I was like “What’s Napster?”, and she said to me “Oh, it’s great. You type in a song, and you hit submit, and you can download it.”. Mind you, there was no streaming or anything at this time. So I know this sounds primitive, but you could download it. I was like “Well, how do you pay for it?”, and she said “No, you don’t pay for it. You just download it.”. And I immediately got on the phone and called my boss. I was like “Have you heard of this thing called Napster? Oh my god.”, and she was like “Yeah, everyone in the dorm is using it.”. Because in the colleges, obviously, it was one of the few places you had high-speed bandwidth. Even, I think, the bandwidth at the college was better than what was in the office, if I remember right.

So I was just blown away. Like “Oh, wait. This MP3 thing…”. And I think this is around the time of the Rio Player and all this, so MP3 was still in its infancy. But just this idea that kids were making playlists with music that they didn’t buy from iTunes and… It was wild.

So the next thing that came along, of course, at the record label was “Oh my god…”. There was some MP3 trading, of course, on the web, “Click here to download the MP3.”, and we would have to call our friends at the RIAA and shut that down, and this and that. It was a whack-a-mole. It was cat and mouse. But this changed the game because it was decentralised, of course, as everyone knows. There was nothing to shut down. So the label and everybody else went into a panic, and it was crazy times.

 

Dubber Audio networker, Matthew Hawn.

Matthew  So it was an operational role. I think I was VP of Digital Operations, I think, or something. It was that point I’ve got some ridiculous title that they give out. But it was digital business, was the group at there. And it was in conflict, to be honest with you, with the physical distribution guys, who were the mobsters you’d expect them to be. It was a very rough and tumble place where it was about how many units of vinyl you shipped. That was the point. And the way we measured our business was very different than we did digitally.

So as that world was falling off and dying, I’m in the fast-moving, shiny group, and my suggestions are not really… Because I’m fairly senior at that time, they’re… I get to go to all the meetings, but I make suggestions they don’t like to hear, like “We should digitise the whole catalogue and put it on Napster, because it’s like radio.”. And I got not invited back to certain meetings after that.

Dubber Right. Because I see you as, again, being somewhat counter-cultural within that corporate environment.

Matthew  Well, it was harder with Sony than it was… It was nice because we were building something fast, and there was a lot of money happening quickly. And once we’d built the team out… And it was about 45/50 people who did the operational thing, but it was working with small partners. We worked early on with Last.fm, where I ended up going later. We worked with Spotify. We worked with Vodafone. We were working with all these new companies who… And to try to figure out how we were going to get music to their customers and our customers. But we were still treating it like a distribution method. We were going to ship units to them, and they were going to sell them to customers. We were not actually doing direct to consumer sales, which is what I asked to…

Before I left Sony, I was in charge of direct to consumer at Sony where we built out a way for Beyoncé to sell you stuff directly, and Bruce Springsteen to sell T-shirts, and Christina Aguilera to sell perfume, which we did. So there was always a bit of a new thing, but at some point after eight years at Sony, I was like “I can’t do this anymore.”. There’s a little red dot in front of my desk. I’m like “What is that? Oh, it’s where I’ve been banging my head for the last eight years. We’re just not going fast enough. This is not fun anymore.”.

 

Dubber UK Music Publishers Association General Manager, Lucie Caswell.

Dubber I’ve got 1,000 questions, but they would boil down to “Is copyright fit for purpose?”.

Lucie    Copyright or copyright law?

Dubber Good question. Copyright law is what I’m talking about. So is current copyright law fit for purpose? Do we need to amend it, or do we need to throw it away and start again from first principles?

Lucie    This is exactly the conversation that we’re having now, but it’s more than that. It’s also, as I say, the law is much slower than creativity, so there comes a point where you have such a change in consumption, in the way that the market works, it would be weird not to update your law in alignment with that. So this process has to happen. It always happens in markets over different generations and different evolutions. Doesn’t mean it’s an easy conversation, because you have to understand the push and pull that you describe. But everybody is living in the same ecosystem, so we’d like to think we can find a solution. But that solution has to make it sustainable to keep producing that music.

Dubber Right. I’ve had a lot of conversations in the past with copyright reformists, and I would kind of consider myself one, to a large extent. But there is a real debate, I think, to be had about whether the thing to do is to update copyright or to start again and go “Right. What are we trying to achieve with this? What are the first principles? And what can we achieve if we write the rules again from the beginning?”.

And it does seem to me, very much, that legislators, because of… Whether it’s about lawyers trying to keep their income ticking over, or whatever the agenda might be, but it very much seems like every time we have these conversations, we end up just going “No, we can just make a tweak. We can make another tweak. We can make a…”, and it seems like we’re just adding features to something that actually really isn’t doing the job that everybody would really like it to do.

Lucie    Well, maybe that’s why the conversation, that’s only about Europe, has happened for over two years, because it’s more than a tweak. But it also is because it is a conversation that includes so many people, and music is just one part of that. And that, thankfully, has taken time. And I say thankfully because otherwise it would be a tweak or just a single action. But we do also have to remember, in the same way as we have to remember this business isn’t in one city, we have to remember that this is a global conversation.

 

Dubber Innovation leader and Lean and Process Manager for Lufthansa, Marlies Endres.

Marlies I have a very strange background, so to say, but it’s a background that may mirror many realities for Venezuelans. Both of my parents are from different nationalities. My mom is from Costa Rica, my dad is from Germany, born in Venezuela but from German parents, and I was born in Venezuela. So when I was growing up, I was basically a culture mixture, so to say. And that gave me, from a very early age, a different perspective on how things were, in theory, supposed to be done and how they would actually happen, because I was taught at home certain things. For example, punctuality, and if you say your word, you have to keep it. And in a culture where punctuality is being two hours after the time you agreed, or agreements is more something informal instead of something formal.

So, basically, it was already a clash of values that made me understand that one of them is not necessarily right and the other one is wrong. It’s, basically, if you mix both of them, you can do something very interesting out of it. And that has a lot of similarities with innovation, so to say, because it’s about cutting with the strict rules of “This has to be done this way.”. You actually break those barriers and try to see the blank spaces, like we said in the innovation course that we just had. It’s try to see in between the gaps that you have and how those different types of knowledge mix each other.

And, for me, it was a huge cultural crash when I came to Germany, which stereotypically is known as a very innovative country with a lot of new ideas, and instead what I found is not that it’s not there, but it’s in a very controlled environment and very conservative environment instead of a flexibility that I was used to. It’s where our role in Latin America could be more interpreted instead of followed, here, rules are to be followed. And these rules, of course, also mean that you probably are going to be able to see things only through the eyes of this rule instead of challenging the rule. And with this, I’m not saying to go against the rule, but it’s, basically, understand what the rule is trying to accomplish, and understand “Can you do the same that you wanted to do with the rule in other ways?”.

 

Dubber Swedish innovation agency and funding body Vinnova’s Head of Strategic Design, Dan Hill.

Dan       Streets are now run by traffic engineers, pretty much. And I have this diagram. If you put ‘traffic engineer’ into the street, traffic is what comes out. The clue is in the name. And you can get more or less of it, but basically that’s what it produces. If you let gardeners govern the street, you get gardens. So we don’t. We let traffic engineers do it.

So I’m just saying “Okay. How many different perspectives can we get into this complex thing called ‘the street’? And let’s see it as a complex thing, but in a beautiful, everyday kind of way.”, and then we can see that as a real, powerful multiplier of all kinds of diverse activities. Music, festivals, businesses, life in general, greenery, everything. And traffic is one of the things that happens there, for sure, but it’s not the point.

Dubber What you’re saying is, rather than divide a large city up into its functions, you divide a small amount of city up…

Dan       As a powerful generator of possible things. Again, I imagine if you had a Department of Gardening running the streets, you’d have a very different kind of city coming out of that. So I’m not suggesting that, but I am suggesting that is one of the…

Dubber Does sound like a nice idea.

Dan       It’s not bad, yeah. And, funnily, not to namedrop, but this is where I had a chat with Brian Eno about this, because I was part of a commission in the UK working for the government on the industrial strategy, and, one reason or another, too long to go into, Brian and I ended up in the commission. And it was fantastic having him in the room, as you might imagine, because the bunch of the rest of us were so-called experts in our areas. Me, now, as an urbanist sort of expert.

And I was responsible for coming up with some challenges to the government around mobility, and one of the things I was talking about was streets and so on. I was heading that way. But I was also, I realised in retrospect, playing it safe a bit because I knew the Department of Transport and others were on the end of this, so I can’t walk in there talking about gardens straightaway. They literally would laugh me out of the room. I was heading that way, but meandering that way. Brian instantly just subverted the whole thing beautifully at one point, in this afternoon in this boring committee room in UCL in London, when he said “This is all great, but what if we could imagine a city where people just slowed down a lot more and things moved a little less?”. And it was just [explosion sound].

 

Dubber AI ethics philosopher, Professor Charles Ess.

Charles   The arguments I’ve heard for autonomous vehicles have been very strongly in the direction of utilitarian ones. That if we dramatically reduce accident rates, then what’s the problem? And, prima facie, yeah, sounds great. The problem… There are several problems that line up.

One of them is it turns out that autonomous vehicles can, and probably ought to be, programmed in such a way that if the choice is between saving the driver or five people, it’ll save the five people. Now, are you as a driver going to go buy a car that you know might literally kill you if it thinks that’s the best decision? Not many of us are going to step into that kind of context, I don’t think. And there’s also a question of rights that are raised by that.

I’m rather confident that in the US, if you could produce those kinds of vehicles, then you might have a stronger chance at making that kind of utilitarian argument. The flipside is that they’ve found in some studies that people really don’t want to give up driving, especially in the US. For many people, it’s their flow experience. It’s one of the places they have control over their lives. And so there’s other things going on in there besides just running a vehicle down the road. And I also wonder…

There’s, I think, a really fine movie called ‘I, Robot’ with Will Smith, and there’s a scene in there that literally gets to the heart of this where the Will Smith character is in a car accident. The other vehicle has a driver and a 13 year old girl. A robot sees this, and the robots are programmed to save human lives, and so the robot calculates that Will Smith has a 45 percent chance of survival and the 13 year old girl has an 11 percent chance of survival. Simple. And what Will Smith says, after this is all over, is “She was somebody’s baby. 11 percent was enough. Anybody with a heart would have known that.”, approximately. “They’re just difference engines. They’re just lights and clocks.”. And that’s a little bit harsh, but what I find, obviously, moving in that is this sense that we know something in our ethical judgement, that has to do with relationship, that we’ll take chances that machines wouldn’t. And you could maybe reprogram the machine and say “Let’s save little girls rather than old men.”. Okay, fine. I’m still a little sceptical.

 

Dubber NYU music tech Professor and President of AES, the  Audio Engineering Society, Agnieszka Roginska.

Agnieszka       My philosophy is that technology and art go hand in hand, and one has to drive the other and vice versa. I think because the technology is evolving, it is giving new ideas and new forms of expression and creativity to artists, and artists are taking these technologies and running away with it and doing things that they wouldn’t be able to do before. But vice versa because now artists are creating new ways of making things, technology is catching up. So it’s this constant evolution moving forward. Technology goes forward, art, creativity goes forward, and so on and so on. And so I think that we are doing different things that we were not able to do before.

And even thinking about just now, the specific situation that we’re faced in where people don’t get together as much as they used to. So now we have to be able to make music together across distances. Like at NYU in our department, all the ensembles, orchestras, jazz ensembles, percussion ensembles, everything had to be taken online. So now we have to be creative of “How do we create music together, make it sound good, and perhaps create new forms of music that not just allow us to do the things that we’ve been able to do before, but let’s think of new ways of making music. Let’s use this. Let’s use this in a way that we wouldn’t be able to use this before. The fact that we cannot get together anymore, which means that we can get together in a remote setting with people that we would normally never get together before and make music before.”. So now the geographical boundaries are gone.

 

Dubber Digital media lawyer and music tech business advisor, Cliff Fluet.

Cliff       One of the core differentiators about law is it is not a law of nature, it is not a law of science, and it’s not a law of God, i.e. it’s made up by men as they go along. And I still get to meet lots and lots of people in their lives who just say “Well, the law says this.”. I go “Well, the law doesn’t say anything. The law is applied and construed and interpreted. It doesn’t say anything.”. And then, actually, in many ways, you can bend it to your will. So that, very much, has a lot of how I did the rest of my career, which is essentially understanding that the law does not stand still, and it has to catch up, particularly when it comes to music technology.

So 30 years ago, I’m starting my university. I’ve never been out of London very much. I’m a couple of years in. I didn’t have lawyers in my family. I didn’t get to do work experience at places or anything like that with family friends. And outside my lecture hall, I had a conversation with three other lawyers… Well, law students. We were not lawyers. We were anything but lawyers. Where somebody told me that there were these lawyers who in their offices had fridges with beer in it, and they were lawyers at record companies. I was like “Why does a record company need lawyers?”, like “Well, you know, artist contracts and stuff.”.

Flash forward to 25 years ago, I’ve now qualified to be a lawyer. I have decided that I’m going to become a real estate lawyer, of all things. I’m going to be a property lawyer, and that’s what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. And I picked up my roommate’s copy of The Times at 3 a.m., stuck on a boring transaction, and I saw an ad for a job at a record company, and I thought “Huh. I wonder if they’ve got those fridges?”.

 

Dubber MTF’s Founder and the Chair of the Industry Commons Foundation, Michela Magas.

Michela   You have seen examples where the data from music… Because the data from music is widely available, it’s highly complex, it comes with all of these different challenges that are really well known. And then when we use it in test environments, we can actually use it in test environments that are to do with something completely different, like finance. But if you used finance data, well, you couldn’t access it because of GDPR. And then if you did access it, it would be without certain elements because of GDPR.

Dubber Sure. People’s financial data, people’s medical data.

Michela   And then it would be expensive, or rather it would be a problem for the bank to be releasing things like that. There would be all kinds of legal issues and whatever. Instead, we just take music data, which has very similar characteristics. It also has proportion, maybe particular variables on there that are comparable to the case study that we are examining in the other domain, and therefore is entirely replaceable.

Dubber Is this why the creative sector is so important in the midst of this? Or is this just one kind of element of what makes music industries, creative industries, more broadly, central to this? Because it’s become central to this. And I really want to talk about, that’s been the payoff of you going to Brussels and working with the European Commission, is that now the creative industries are a central pillar to all of the ways that these industries are thought about. Is that a large part of it? It’s because nobody dies if you mess up the metadata on an MP3?

Michela   I don’t think that the creative industries have become this important just because their data is easy to use. I think that the creative industries have really grown in importance because, essentially, what we are facing at the moment are so many unknown unknowns that creative practitioners are the ones who are trained to investigate unknown scenarios, and they have methodologies to tackle these new, surprising scenarios. Let’s face it, every single time that we run our labs that involve AI neural nets and any kind of system that’s complex, where the human being is interacting in an entirely new way, we get…

Dubber Blockchain, neuroscience, robotics…

Michela   Yes, this combination of new things. Because the prototypes that we now build, their effects are so fast, the results come up so fast, the amount of different surprises that come out of these new scenarios, they really are overwhelming. And no linear problem-solving system, no prior training can prepare you for those, unless you are a creative practitioner who has been, by default, trained to do problem-solving by looking at things from completely different perspectives.

 

Dubber Enterprise Development Manager, Jeni Oliver.

Jeni      I think that the creative industries is in every other industry. Every other successful industry is engaging with the creative industries. But what I would say is it’s less about what these other industries are doing. I fundamentally believe it is that, for the creative industries, it’s content. Distributors, platforms, they are slightly different. I’m always interested in “Who’s generating intellectual property, and where are they taking that intellectual property?”. What intellectual property assets they have. How can we get that keeping going?

And it’s about keeping those stories moving. Keeping those stories engaging and involving and relevant. That’s where the creative industry sits for me. We can wrap it up in all sorts of other industries, names. We can wrap it up in all sorts of different definitions, but, fundamentally, I think that what sits at the core of all of this, and has for thousands of years, is stories. Stories influence the direction of travel for human nature, our economies, our politics, everything. It comes from stories.

Dubber Because that was going to be my next question, “Why are stories important?”, but you think it’s because stories drive everything else? Is it how we’re wired?

Jeni      Stories drive decision making. When you find a story that you engage with, when you find a story that resonates with your value sets as an individual, then you will migrate in that direction. Sometimes where your value sets are almost aligned. Sometimes you can see a little bit of a nudge coming through on that, and you see people evolving in their own value sets and their own thinking, and that’s very clever creative industry strategies if somebody’s deliberately trying to do that. But I do believe that story is at the core. And we can call it anything we want, going forward. Anything we have in the past. Fundamentally, people are telling stories.

 

Dubber Session CEO, Niclas Molinder.

Niclas   I started when I was young. School was nothing for me. And I hated school, to be honest, and I didn’t fit in. And the funny thing with music, I cannot find anyone, except for my grandad, in my family that played any instrument.

Dubber So not a musical family.

Niclas   No, not a musical family. My parents, they listened to ABBA when I was young.

Dubber Of course.

Niclas   And now it’s funny that I partner with Björn Ulvaeus, which is pretty cool.

Dubber They must be very impressed.

Niclas   Yeah, they are, actually. But I always loved music. And, actually, my mum, she has a picture of me when I was three years old, next to my grandad because he was playing the accordion. And I’m sitting there on the picture, and he’s playing the accordion, and I have a tambourine in my hand. And there’s a lot of people around. The family was standing… And mum sometime was telling me about this picture. Everyone was so impressed how I, as a three year old, could actually play in tempo as a three year old. So maybe that’s when my music interest was born. I have no idea.

 

Dubber Podcaster and science journalist, Arielle Duhaime-Ross.

Arielle  When I was a climate change correspondent on TV, I knew that I was not necessarily going to be the person to change someone’s mind about anything. When you watch a documentary TV segment about climate change, you’re going to take away what you want from it. And if you’re already convinced, you’re going to say “Okay, this is further evidence that supports my view of the world.”, and if you are not convinced, you’ll somehow find a way to take a sceptical view of it, or go “Oh, but…”. To nit-pick.

And so what I have learned over the years, and also what one of our recent guests talked about, Liz Neeley, who’s a science communication expert for a non-profit called The Story Collider, is that a lot of the way that people change their minds is through the people that they have surrounding them. That what you hear in the media and what you read on the news, if you’re an avid Fox News listener, that’s one thing, but you also really care about the people around you and what they think. And so if you have somebody in your life that is sceptical of climate change or that believes that 5G cell phone towers are somehow inducing the symptoms of coronavirus, as opposed to an actual virus, you can play a role in guiding them away from that thought process, and…

And the way to do that is not just saying “You’re wrong, and here are all the articles that prove that you are wrong.”, because that won’t work. The way to do that is to have a conversation with those people and to take them seriously, and to be empathetic and to say “Okay, explain to me why you feel the way that you do.”, and really listen. Really listen to the entire thing, all of the arguments, which might be hard. And then at the end of that, you can… What you will most likely hear is fear. What you will most likely hear is a problem with uncertainty. And those are the threads that you can take and use and say “You know what, I understand why you’re scared. I understand this is scary and…”. Don’t repeat information that is incorrect, don’t repeat the 5G coronavirus thing, but you can say “Here’s what these experts, that most people trust, are saying”. And that’s not always going to work, but if you are somebody that that person trusts, it might.

And so I think that we all have a little bit of a responsibility, within reason, to talk to individuals in our lives who may have views that are leaning towards conspiracy theories. That said, I will say that those kinds of conversations can be taxing, and I believe that they are all really only worth it under specific circumstances. Circumstances where somebody might, for instance, be harming themselves or harming others. And so you’ve got to pick and choose your battles, basically, because it’s self-preservation. You have to take care of yourself, as well.

 

Dubber Beatboxer, researcher, and AI vocal expert, Harry Yeff, aka Reeps One.

Harry    I ended up doing quite well in school basically because… I hope she doesn’t listen to this because I don’t think I’ve recorded this story. Because of my girlfriend at the time. I was deeply in love, in a puppy-like way, and she was top two percent in the country. Super bright girl. And, basically, her mum sat me down and was like “If you don’t do well in your GCSEs, you’re probably not going to be able to stay with Steph.”.

I was winning chess tournaments at the time, which was great, but when it came to these things that normally I’d just be like “I just can’t get my teeth into…”, I remember sitting down in my space at home, and I was like “Okay, Harry, you need to absorb this information.”. And I remember spending 24 hours looking at my geography textbook, and I was on the edge of crying because I just could not absorb it because I wasn’t, in my heart of hearts, interested.

And what’s happening there, and this is a proven idea, is people that have this type of process, there is a chain of intention, and even if your conscious mind is saying “Okay, Harry, mum and dad said that this is important. X, X reason. This is important.”, there is almost a physical pain. There’s a physical block that can happen, and you can’t control that. Nobody wants to do things that they find boring, but people that have this type of process, there is almost a pain that you could associate with it, and there’s a disharmony which is extremely dysfunctional.

And in adult life, I’ve totally mastered my ability to overcome that. But as a young person, you can get hit with a lot of “Oh, just get on with it.”, “Oh, stop being stubborn.”, or “Stop being an idiot.”, but there are other things at bay. And that’s one reason I really love to talk about my story and how I overcame some of those internal blocks.

Dubber There’s another thread to that story though, which is that you’re a massive romantic. That was so important to you to be who she wanted you to be…

Harry    Man, god, I really… When you’re a teenager, that’s something else, at that point. And I desperately wanted to just nail it. And eventually, it did kind of work out. I did well. But it was just a perfect example for the point I’m trying to make, is that when you have that type of mental process, even if every fibre in your conscious mind desires to absorb it, there is something else going on which can just put up a wall.

 

Dubber Artist of science, Marta de Menezes.

Marta    And all you need to do then is to add to it a guide or a template, and that template will tell the DNA of the cell how to repair that piece that was cut off. And this is why CRISPR is so effective at altering, genetically, the cells. And this is why it’s so revolutionary as well, because you can change cells without changing the whole organism.

Dubber Right. I have two questions about that. I don’t know which is easier to address, but one is what are the affordances of that? What does that allow to happen? And the second part of that is what are the ethics of this? How does that play out?

Marta    It’s very different. So the technology itself is very promising, and it’s evolving tremendously. So now there’s a lot of technologies which are based on this one which are probably an advancement on this. When this was found, it was tested and it was used wildly, but this means that also it got improved wildly. And it’s still improving.

But there are two main paths for it. One is this thing that it can alter parts of a body without altering the whole body. And this is interesting because the ethical issues around this are a lot less complicated than if you alter the whole body because altering the whole body means altering the germ line, and so that organism will propagate this into the offspring that it gets, and it’s a whole line of manipulated organisms. So you have two main lines which have very different ethical issues.

The one that seems to be more promising in terms of disease is the one where you can alter only cells. And because you can alter only cells, you can aim it at specific cells. It can be about disease, but it can also be about changing your eye colour, for instance. So this is just an example. I don’t know of any lab who’s trying to do this. So the issue with this technology is that you could, in principle, change your eye colour by administrating the molecule, the guide RNA, and the template into your iris.

 

Dubber Musician, Mark de Clive-Lowe.

Mark     “Touring has gone, and it’s not coming back, ever.”. And I don’t know if I believed that, but I behaved like that, and I think that was good. So once I had a clear head, I got out my notebook, listed down every potential revenue stream I feel like I could get, whether I wanted to or not, just still within the greater parameters of music, just so I could at least have a visual. And I fleshed them out a little bit, and I had, essentially, an action plan. I didn’t know it was an action plan, but essentially an action plan.

I’d say to friends what I was doing. I was like “I’m acting as if…”, well, I would say “Touring’s never coming back.”, and they’d be in shock. And I’d always say “Well, if it comes back, when, if, however it comes back, if I can improve these other things I’ll be in a stronger position to be more sustainable.”. And it was just really interesting because there were all manner of things on this list.

For example, one of them, I’d been thinking about doing a Patreon for years, and I never did it, and I didn’t do it because I thought “Well, I’m always on the road. I don’t want to commit to deliverables on a monthly schedule.”. It’s the same reason… I’ve had radio show opportunities. I’ve said “No.” because they want a weekly show, and I’m like “No. I don’t know where I’ll be.”. So suddenly I’m like “Okay, well, there’s no more touring. I’m in one place. Let me start a Patreon.”.

And then… I’d been working with an online festival, La Ceiba Fest, and they gave me the opportunity to basically get my rig together for live streaming and forced me to have to learn that really quickly, which was great. It started to feel like “Okay, there’s real possibilities here.”. And once I set up my rig and tweaked it a bit, but essentially my live rig, which I’d never set up at home, I set that up at home, and once it was all set up I realised “Wow. I’m not going to break this down for a long time.”. And the more time goes by, I’m like “I don’t want to break this down for a long time.”. So it’s been a relief.

 

Dubber Artist and glovist, Kris Halpin.

Kris       I often find when I’m performing I can… Like I say, I went to art college. This is art with a capital A. At the risk of… I’ll die on that hill, man. I might be a bit pretentious for some people, but I’m trying my best here. This is meant to be the real thing, and I pour so much into these performances. And you finish a song, and then people in the UK are like “So is it Bluetooth or WiFi?”.

 

Dubber Author, Derek Sivers.

Derek   I like being a little bit famous. I don’t want to be super famous. I don’t want to be as famous as Tim Ferriss or Tony Robbins, or maybe not even Seth Godin, but I really like the little tiny bit of fame I have now because it opens doors where… Whenever I read a book I love, I always email the author and tell them that I loved it, and almost every time they email me back and are open to talking with me and meeting with me because I have some kind of public profile myself. That’s amazing. It’s so cool.

And then because I have a bit of a profile, I hear from… 20 to 40 strangers every day send me an email and introduce themselves. And often it’s some guy who’s, I don’t know, whatever, building log cabins in Finland or somebody who’s an investor in Uruguay, and I just find such an amazing sense of both connection and security knowing all these people from around the world. It’s such a nice feeling that if I ever get on a plane to go to Uruguay someday, I’ve got a list of 55 people I know in Uruguay just because they’ve emailed me and introduced themselves. That’s an amazing feeling. So I like that my profile is just high enough that I meet a lot of cool people.

 

Dubber Music producer and television composer, Doug de Angelis.

Doug    I remember recording the guitars on it. We used a Yamaha REX50. Do you remember that box?

Dubber Vaguely.

Doug    It was sort of like an SPX90, but it was flat. It was a tabletop version of it.

Dubber Oh, right. Wow.

Doug    It was like an SPX90-light. It was a tabletop version. It had a patch that was distortion. All those guitars on ‘Head Like A Hole’, that’s just straight through that box. There’s no amps. It was just a tweaked out version of that processor making those just ripping tones. And so much of it was just the way it was processed, the way it was done.

I remember my favourite part of that whole session. If you know that record, in the song ‘Terrible Lie’ there’s a moment where everything mutes for a second then comes back on. Literally, it pauses. That was a mistake of trying to hit the mute button and hitting the solo button by accident, and it wrote in the automation. And that weird move stayed all the way through the final version of that, and it’s still in there. And that always blows my mind because that’s one of those moments where… It’s like so much of innovation comes out of accidents.

Dubber And it’s my favourite song on the record, so…

Doug    So much weird stuff comes out of accidents.

 

Dubber Fashion technologist, Lisa Lang.

Lisa      Electronic embedded textiles are going to be super important, of course, for space travel. It’s because you need to monitor those astronauts, what they’re doing up there, but also you want to… When you digitise your garment, your garment can talk with all of the electronics around you. On Earth, we call it IoT, Internet of Things. Up in space, it helps you to survive. Good argument. So, again, it’s like space is so exciting and so inspiring, and it makes us focus because we have to deal with very little resources, and we have to be very innovative. And also we are forced to think from a complete different way, and if we think in that context, we actually can find solutions to help us on Earth.

So little examples. One of those issues is when you wear any kind of the normal kind of fabrics we know in space, they give up fibre, and that fibre clogs up the air ventilation, which is a disadvantage if you want to breathe in space. So the astronauts actually have vacuum cleaner duties where they have to clean up air ventilation. Also because their skins and their hair and some things find their way in. Anyway, so this is one thing. So of course, on one side, you want to have a garment which doesn’t give up fibre. On Earth, we have the microfibre issue. Same issue, same solution.

The astronauts have to train their muscles every day, otherwise they will lose their muscle power. They sweat, but they can’t change their clothes because their suitcase is not big enough, so they have to wear garments over and over again, which of course is not comfortable, because there’s no space for a washing machine. Kind of essential. So one of those things, like “Well, how about we can make a full cradle, cradle-to-cradle?”. For instance, you somehow generate your garment in the morning if it’s… I don’t think 3D printing is the solution because everybody who is excited about 3D printing has never worked with 3D printing, because of how a pain it is. But I like spray technology a little bit better.

So imagine you wake up in the morning and a fabulous garment gets knitted, sprayed, whatever, on you. You wear it. When you wear it, what happens? You move, you sweat. What is in your sweat? Minerals. So you wear it, you move it, and at the end of the day, you actually nurtured your textiles with so much water and minerals that you can actually use it as a fertiliser for your garden on Mars.

 

Dubber NASA scientist, Ben Feist.

Ben       This was the raw material that was used to make the Apollo 11 film that was in theatres last year. Stephen and I were involved in that, and this restoration of this audio was my contribution to the film. Part of it, anyway. And Stephen then took it, and his job was Archive Producer, so he was grabbing all the archive. And then once he realised that you could synchronise in this way, the way you just described, now that we had a wayfinding mechanism to say “I think that’s the Flight Dynamics Officer, and it looks like this footage was shot just after launch.”, and you see his lips moving, Stephen would then go look for action on the flight dynamics loop.

And it took him a long time. I think it took him about 18 months to add sound to the silent footage that had not had any sound to it before. We even got moments like Gene Kranz saying “CapCom, we’re go for landing.” now synched with audio. No one’s ever seen and heard Gene Kranz say that before, and we were ecstatic that we got this kind of material. And Stephen delivered all that to the filmmaker, Todd Miller. He then edited through it and made a film out of it, leaving a huge amount of it on the cutting room floor.

 

Dubber Vocal sculptor and sound artist, Jason Singh.

Jason   I have been creating music since I was two, and that started off with rhythms. It started off with drums. And I never had the inclination or desire to be an artist. I never wanted to be a musician. Never wanted to be like “Oh, I’m going to go make records.” or whatever. No interest in that. My only burning desire, and to the point of an absolute obsessiveness, was to make beats and make rhythms.

And as a child, before you could communicate that, my mum said to me, she goes… She bought me a drum when I was two years old, and she goes “You just started playing rhythms.”, and she goes “And I knew then, you’ve got music in you.”. And I come from music people, so it’s in our family. And then growing up, I’ve just obsessed over beats. Just completely obsessed over beats. And just for the thing of hearing rhythms, hearing grooves and stuff.

And when it became a thing, I’d say, is when I came to Manchester in ‘93. I was 19, and I started DJing. I grew up with sound systems, but it was only… That was part of our upbringing. All our friends had sound systems. You help out and… Being exposed to all of that music. And that was just part and parcel of it. There was no desire to be something-something.

And then came to Manchester when I was 19, and then that’s when it was like, oh, I’d go to University, but that didn’t work out because I was still DJing. Oh, I did a job, something else. I was a van driver for a year or so. I was still making music. And then, just slowly, it was more, and then opportunities started coming in. I was teaching DJing skills, and I was doing things in music production, and then I was doing… But then also beatboxing, and I had a band, and I was running club nights, and it was just stuff. It was just all…

There’s never been a plan, you know what I mean? There’s never been “I am going to do this.”, or “This is my five year duh, duh, duh.”. I’ve never done that. And it’s weird because, in terms of the time we’re in now, I’ve had these reconfigurations that have happened after certain periods of time. A community of people know me as an artist that does this, somebody else has known me for that, then I did another project which then changed my course of stuff. So the whole thing has just always been some strange journey of this, this, and that, and I just run with the passion of whatever I’m feeling at the time. There was never a plan.

 

Dubber AI and robotics professor, Danica Kragic.

Danica I’m very much against building robots that look like humans or are direct replicas of humans. We have that. We have that in Japan. We also have, now, that in UK, or Hanson Robotics and Sophia and so on. Why am I against that? Well, at least for some time, until we have robots having all the abilities of humans or even more or better abilities than humans, because if you are an untrained user, and by untrained, I mean somebody that is maybe not in the technical area, somebody that is potentially scared from the beginning, anything that looks like human, you have human expectations on.

And we know how it is for us humans when we meet another human that maybe doesn’t speak our language, that comes from a different culture that doesn’t have the same values and things like that. We become reserved. So it’s also between us. It’s not only between us and technical systems. So I would like to avoid fuzzing people, if I can say like that, especially now in the beginning when the technology is still very, very young. So that’s one thing.

The second thing is we can’t completely disregard human body or be inspired by human body, and that has a little bit to do with the environment around us. So everything that we see around us has been adapted to our bodies. The ability that we can sit, make the chairs of certain size and of certain shape. The ability that we drink or use mic or a pen. If we didn’t have any fingers or we just had just one, the world around us would probably look completely different.

 

Dubber Jazz pianist, Grammy winning TV composer, and educator, D.D. Jackson.

D.D.      I was always flirting with a fascination with technology. If anything, I really had to avoid dealing with it too soon because I knew I would just never become a jazz musician at the time because I knew I was just such a tech person and so into that. I was into earlier analogue keyboards, which ironically, to me, or humorously, maybe, to me, have become cool, retro things now.

That studio where I was doing some work with The Roots, that retro studio that was modelled after, as I was saying, 8-track tape machine, all the 60s technology, I think there was a Juno-106 there. And that was one of my first synthesisers, and I’m like “Well, this was in my father’s place, under my bed back at home now, but now it’s considered cool.”. Even the M1 and all those things.

Dubber Not just cool, but expensive.

D.D.      And expensive, yeah, and desirable. So I was into it early on, but then I really became very serious about first classical piano then jazz. And, again, when technology became accessible, and right around the time I met you a couple years before, I just dived in whole hog and started to really get into that world, very much, and have really never stopped, I would say.

Dubber Because you were on the internet more than most of your peers at the time.

D.D.      Yeah. It’s funny, I still remember the old… Not to completely date myself, but the old rec.music.bluenote newsgroup.

Dubber Usenet.

D.D.      Yeah, exactly. In fact, not too long ago I was curious, and I was like “Yeah, I was definitely posting at the dawn of the internet.”. Yet another parallel with this desire for people to go back and be nostalgic for what was happening back then, my son, who’s 12 now, is all over Reddit. And I’m like “That’s basically Usenet all over again.”. And he’s trying to explain “Well, you can go and post things to discussion groups, and people will respond to you, and…”. I’m thinking “That’s old school…”.

Dubber Yeah. BBS, forum. We’ve done that.

D.D.      Yeah, exactly. Not to mention, of course, somewhat tangentially related, there’s the show ‘Stranger Things’ on Netflix which is all about ‘80s culture, so now my son is totally into ‘80s music. So he’s basically listening to the same music that I was listening to when I was his age, and introducing some of it like “Hey, man, dad, you should check out Sting.”, and I’m like “Okay, I’m already familiar with the dude.” and all of that. So it’s pretty fascinating how things come around.

Dubber Wow, fantastic.

 

Dubber Former CEO of Native Instruments, Daniel Haver.

Dubber Is that your big advice that you give for people, is “Do the thing that really drives you.”?

Daniel  Yes, absolutely. It’s a cliché, “Listen to your heart.”. I think you need a certain fire that really burns in you, but if you feel that, follow it. I know a lot of people that just never felt the fire, and then my advice is not great because it doesn’t work for them because they just don’t have this thing that they are so passionate about.

Dubber Is it that you are passionate about this one thing that you do, or is it that you have a fire to do something in the world and this happens to be what it is?

Daniel  It’s a bit of both. I think, in general, I’m a rather passionate person. I really want to do something in this life because I believe I have just this, and there is nothing after it. And I’m absolutely certain about that part. But at the same time, I was also always lucky to then find things that I’m just in love with and that get me fired up, and Native Instruments was such a thing. I don’t know if we want to jump there. I’m just saying when I see something that gets this fire burning up, then I’m all up for it, and then I can do it.

 

Dubber The Southbank Centre’s Senior Contemporary Music Programmer, Bengi Ünsal.

Bengi   My father… We had vinyl at home. We had a record player. I was born in Ankara but I was brought up in Istanbul in Turkey. So I remember listening to his record collection, from Pink Floyd to Cat Stevens to Ruhi Su, who is a huge folk artist in Turkey, and just jumping up and down over the seats, playing games with my sister, and that’s probably where my love comes from. But then again, I can’t say that I learned everything about music from my dad. Not at all. I don’t know.

I just loved listening to music, or whenever I can, but I didn’t have as much, growing up. The first cassette I bought was probably when I was 13/14 years old because we didn’t have that accessibility to that music. It wasn’t easy. So I was just asking my father “Could you please get me a cassette?”, and he would just go and get it, and it’s Duran Duran ‘Arena’, for instance. But I didn’t specifically ask for it. I remember asking for Rick Springfield.

But, yeah, it’s a cousin. It’s someone that you admire who is older than you listening to a piece of music and you go “Yeah, I want to be like them.”, and you start listening to music. I think that’s how I started.

And then my knowledge probably came through… We had satellite TV, and we had Sky. There was this guy. His name escapes me now. He had this two hour radio-show-like TV programme with a very static background, and we used to listen to his voice, and he would just put on videos, as well. And then MTV we had through the satellite, so I’d listen to a lot of mainstream pop music growing up.

 

Dubber Oscar winning visual effects artist, Ian Hunter.

Ian         Getting an Oscar, to me, is Richard Branson’s definition of luck, which is… Branson was asked “Do you feel lucky being a billionaire?”, or whatever he’s worth these days, and he said “Well, luck…”, to him, was when perseverance meets opportunity.

So I’ve been in this business for a long time. I’ve always strived to do a good job. I don’t want to cheat people on what I’m providing them. I’m an audience member, so I want to look at my work as an audience member and do a good job and be impressed by it. So I’ve been very fortunate over the years to work with some good directors and great directors, and Christopher Nolan’s one of them. And by maintaining that quality of work, you start to move up, and you start to get noticed for what you’ve done.

And it culminated in the work for ‘Interstellar’ where we got the visual effects Academy Award for that, along with the other three supervisors. So that was great, but, to me, that was like “Okay. Well, this is because we’ve all worked towards the same goal, which is to do good quality work. And we’ve maintained that quality throughout the years, and now we’re being recognised for it.”. And then very quickly on the heels of that, I worked on ‘First Man’. And ‘First Man’, again, was another film that received the visual effects Academy Award, and I got one of those too. So now I’ve got two for doing space movies. I don’t want to be typecast.

But both instances, which was good, was we were working with great directors who had visions, and who could communicate those visions to their crews, and who had that respect. So I think it’s just this convergence. Christopher Nolan’s made good movies. I happened to work on some of them. Damien Chazelle’s made good movies. I worked on his last one. They’re brilliant movies, in my opinion. But they’re brilliant movies, good movies, and these guys encourage good artists to do good work.

 

Dubber The Founder and Chair of Musicians Without Borders, Laura Hassler.

Laura   I don’t think that history is linear. I think that there are cycles, and you see this very often. If you think that there were huge movements against nuclear weapons which really put a lot of pressure on political leaders to work towards accords, and that was, to some extent, happening. That hasn’t happened in a long time. And now you see, again, this rise of militarism, and, again, some resistance coming up. But we lost that. I think we lost the power of activism for a number of decades, and I think it’s being rediscovered. And the big question, of course, always is “Well, are we on time?”.

Dubber That is a really good question. Is that something that you’re optimistic about, or is that something that causes you to despair at night? How do you interpret that?

Laura   Both, I think. There’s a very interesting saying that I hold onto, which is that “Hope is merely the decision to act.”. I think that we’re living in a time in which we’re seeing a number of stories playing out at the same time.

 

Dubber Sound artist, musician, and Head of R&D for disability arts organisation Drake Music, Tim Yates.

Tim       My background, actually, as a musician is that I studied classical music. I studied classical guitar, and I got quite far. I was doing a master’s at Royal College of Music in classical guitar, which is when I started doing this kind of stuff because I got frustrated. I was also doing compositions. I actually studied composition as well, and I was then switched to a composition master’s because I got frustrated with the limitations of a traditional instrument because I started to experiment with materials and found objects and sound and toys and things like that. And if you’re playing a quarter of a million pound Stradivarius or whatever, then you can’t scrape it with a piece of metal and bash it and hit it because people get upset if you do that kind of stuff. You’ve got a Steinway, similarly…

Dubber Well, you can, but not twice.

Tim       Exactly right. That’s it. So I got frustrated with the classical guitar in particular, so I put that down and took that exact opposite route. And I was going to just build instruments that I could build myself in ten minutes for five quid and still make incredible music with and explore that area. And from that, I’ve just gone on to do all sorts of… I’ve done installation art and things like that. So that’s where I come from, in terms of making.

 

Dubber Record producer and multi-instrumentalist, Graham Massey of 808 State.

Graham   Well, at that time, we were into space rock and making all kinds of outer world sounds. We’d grown up in the Pink Floyd era. We’d grown up with bands like Gong, Faust. The early Virgin Records was such an important part of British music culture when Virgin Records, the label, started, and their eclecticism and Europe-facing view. A lot of German bands, a lot of French bands.

It was an interesting mixture of music that we were exposed to through our local record shop, which was the Virgin Records shop. Again, a very grassroots mail-order system, that started out as. It was a gathering place for the punk community of Manchester. They had three listening booths in there, with the headphones, and there was usually about 30 people in the three listening booths. It was a place for exchanging ideas.

A guy who was in our band, his auntie managed that shop, so he had a Saturday job. A guy called Colin Seddon. And he used to bring home all this fantastic music that was coming through that shop from America. First hearing bands like The Residents and Devo, and some of the more outré stuff of the punk movement. We got sick of the three-chord thrash. Got really boring to us really quickly. Obviously you had pub rock, a lot of your traditional punk. But once… The New York thing was filtering through into Manchester, and we very much sided with that. There was bands in Manchester like A Certain Ratio, for instance, that were very on par with that. They were taking funk and dance elements alongside electronics and a deliberate lack of skill.

People would always play the trumpet in these bands. You always had to have somebody that couldn’t play the trumpet playing the trumpet in a post-punk band. Throbbing Gristle has it, 23 Skidoo has it, Cabaret Voltaire has it. And we had a trumpet amongst the two bands that shared our rehearsal room, and we used to pass it around. These non-instrumental players playing instruments was part of that scene, so long as you had enough processing. And that was a point, also, about post-punk, is it became very much a studio craft.

 

Dubber Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and pioneering internet scholar, Nancy Baym.

Nancy  My dissertation was about a discussion forum on the internet where they were talking about soap operas. This was in the early 1990s. I believe it was the first dissertation about online community. So I have a long-standing interest in audiences, and I had really avoided dealing with music for a very long time because I love it so much that I didn’t want it to be work. You were just talking about “I don’t want my hobby to be my work.”. I thought “Oh, no. If it becomes my work, I’m doomed. I’ll never have pleasure again.”. But I found myself in a situation where it just kept coming up.

It actually started with an interest in Swedish independent pop music, because in 2005 I had fallen in love with all these Swedish indie-pop bands. And I was living in Kansas, and I said “How is it even possible that I am sitting in Kansas and I know more about Swedish indie-pop than most Swedes?”.

So I wrote a series of papers about the fans of this music and the ways that the independent labels and artists at that time, here, were really supporting peer-to-peer formats and were really supporting MP3 blogs, and really supporting the circulation of their materials outside of the market. And so I wrote a series of articles about what was going on there from the point of view of, first of all, what was happening, and then what was the fan’s point of view, and tried to enter into that discussion of “Is this exploited labour? Is it a labour of love that they’re happy about?”, and the answer is yes, and about the musicians and the labels and what their ideal was in supporting this kind of view.

 

Dubber The CEO of Bandcamp, Ethan Diamond.

Ethan   I wanted to be very familiar with the process of making vinyl and coming up with the packaging and listening to test pressings, finding a good facility, and all of that, because it felt like “This is going to be an important part of the business.”. But also just because that’s what I grew up listening to. My parents’ record collection was on vinyl, and that’s how I mostly listen to music just because it gives me that feeling. It’s not an audio quality thing for me, personally. For me, it’s a tactile thing, and also just a process thing. I like committing myself to a whole record and going through that.

So, anyway, like I said, about half the business now is physical goods. And vinyl is the biggest part of that by far, and it’s also growing the fastest. So we’ve taken a lot of the things that we learned from doing those couple of early tests and have used that to create this service that basically allows people to press vinyl without a lot of the… Well, first of all, without the risk, because you don’t have to front 3,000 dollars. The way the system works is the pressing is funded by your fans who are ordering the record. And also just taking away, or at least trying to make a lot friendlier, the domain expertise you have to have to press vinyl. So we’ve built an interface for letting you specify a record that tries to demystify some of that, and we’ve been in a pilot phase with that now for quite a while. There’s a lot of tweaking to do. And we’re getting ready to roll that out really, really soon to a lot more artists. I’m excited about that one. I think it’s going to be fun.

It also, I should mention, takes away the hassle because we do all the fulfilment. So when a record gets returned because of a corner ding or something like that, that’s…

Dubber It comes to you.

Ethan   It comes to us. We handle that. We happily handle that. I feel like this is a good service for the world. I once, in the early days, ordered a record on Bandcamp that came back to me, and it was packaged exclusively in a single sheet of newspaper. Somebody had taken a single sheet of newspaper, wrapped up the record, put postage on it, and it made its way from… It was Norway. It made its way from Norway to San Francisco, and it was completely destroyed. But it’s one of my favourite records. It’s this amazing record. It’s by a band called Koppen. I don’t know if I’m saying that right, but it’s K O P P E N.

Dubber Okay. Yeah, Koppen sounds right.

Ethan   It’s so good. But the record… The jacket is just peeled off, more or less. Anyway, I like the idea of trying to get as many records as possible to people in proper packaging so that that happens to fewer people.

 

Dubber Music journalist, author, and Goldblade vocalist, John Robb.

John     For some people it was a very political movement, some people it wasn’t. For some people, like a band like the Ramones, two-thirds of that band or three-quarters of that band would be voting for Donald Trump if they were still alive. It wasn’t quite this super right-on movement that people think. Of course, The Clash had a vague left-wing politic, but the Sex Pistols didn’t really sing political songs. Their songs are more about a personal psychodrama of John Lydon, which makes them utterly fascinating. It’s almost like a nervous breakdown when you listen to them. And, in a way, that could be political. It’s not party political, it’s not manifesto political, but it reflects the feeling of the time.

Britain felt claustrophobic. It felt like it was all going to blow up any minute. It’s what it feels like now, oddly. It’s that same kind of feeling. It’s a very claustrophobic place. There’s no space in Britain. Everybody’s on top of everybody else, and everybody’s always very angry about something.

It’s like Brexit. No one cared anything about Brexit. Five years ago, you say to the same people “Do you want to be in or out of Europe?”, and they’d go “I don’t know. I don’t care.”, but now it’s become this life-defining issue that’s split the country up forever. In 100 years time, the country will still be split over it. It’s two different Britains, now, just trying to squash into one island, and that’s… Punk caught that feeling, but an older version of it. That very claustrophobic pissed-off-ness of Britain.

I like punk, but, obviously… If I had to define myself, I would define myself more as a post-punk person. I’m part of that generation that were totally captivated by punk, tried to do their version of it, and came out completely wrong and different. That’s what post-punk was. We never learned to play music properly.

The original punk bands, they all did covers. They learned to play properly. They wrote verse, chorus, verse, chorus. They were great bands. I love that music. But the bit I’m fascinated in is the people that came afterwards that could just play one riff on a bass for ten minutes, and just about trying to make a verse and a chorus and having no idea how to do it, but somehow making that into music. And I’ve always been really interested in that. To this day, I’ve been playing music for 40-odd years, and I still can’t play a cover version.

 

Dubber The Director-General of the Swedish Media Foundation, Anette Novak.

Anette  So media and information literacy, to me… It’s an area which has a lot of traction at the moment. A lot of the people who are in, I would say, the debate don’t understand how wide it is. A lot of, I think, teachers and librarians that I meet, they talk a lot about source criticism, which is good, but source criticism in their interpretation is very much leaning towards the old media landscape.

Source criticism today means that you have to understand that certain data sources are owned by big conglomerates. That the data you see has been filtered in a way that you don’t understand and you don’t know, and it has business logics in it. One talks a lot about that the platform companies, they give you the user experience that you want, but you don’t make informed choices. There’s no transparency into how the algorithms work.

All these things are something that an aware media consumer needs to learn. And if you don’t know, and if you don’t learn these things, I would claim that you will not be able to exercise your citizenship. You can easily become a useful idiot of someone. And I think, unfortunately, that some of the forces that is moving the world at the moment is way ahead of the democratic forces who want the citizens to be empowered in this sense. They’re making a lot of money on it.

And, of course, that’s why it’s important that we that represent democratic states, and there in those positions, we want to guard the common good, if I may say so. It’s a big word, but still. Some kind of idea of “We’re doing this for you guys. We want to have expertise so that we can try and make you understand what you need to learn.”.

 

Dubber Critical theorist and author, Jon Greenaway, aka TheLitCritGuy.

Jon       The reason that a lot of people who’ve been through very traumatic incidents in their own life find horror a rewarding thing to watch is because it reminds you that monsters can be beaten. Maybe not all of us make it, maybe not all of us survive the masked man with a chainsaw, but monsters can be beaten. Vampires can be thrown back into their coffins. We should know that they’re going to come back, but we should also know that we’ve dealt with them before.

 

Dubber Official storyteller to NASA, Jay O’Callahan.

Jay        I think the wonderful moments in our life are when we’re part of something bigger. Could be the birth, could be the death. The death of a parent was huge when my dad died, but it’s part of… Life is also death. It’s also loss. It’s also birth. It’s also discovery. It’s also surprise. It’s also going to this play. “Wow, amazing. How do they think of that?”. Emily Dickinson, how did she think of that? “The cricket sang and set the sun.”. She does that all the time. Crickets are these little, ordinary things, and then set the sun. She jumps to the cosmic. So, in a way, she is us. She is lightning.

Dubber The universe in a grain of sand.

Jay        Yes. The same thing. In a grain of sand.

Dubber Fantastic. Jay, thank you so much for your time today.

Jay        Thank you. You’re a wonderful interviewer. This was such fun.

 

Interviewee     Thanks so much for having me.

Interviewee     Thank you.

Interviewee     Thank you for having me.

Interviewee     Thank you.

Interviewee     Thank you.

Interviewee     Thank you, Andrew.

Interviewee     Thank you.

Interviewee     Thank you so much for having me.

Interviewee     Thank you very much.

 

Dubber And thank you for being part of the MTF Podcast and part of this incredible MTF community. Special thanks to Clutch Daisy, aka Thee Manual Labour, for helping to compile all these clips for this episode. To the team, Jake, Michela, Sergio, Mars, Run Dreamer.

The MTF Podcast is now going to take a little break to take a deep breath, and we’ll be back soon with more conversations with brilliant people just like this. In the meantime, feel free to go digging through the back catalogue. As you’ve heard, there’s a lot in there to explore, and we’ve had to leave out far more than we could include. So stay safe, take care, and we’ll speak soon. Cheers.

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100. The Universe in a Grain of Sand

A compilation of some highlights from the past two years of the MTF Podcast, showcasing the brilliant, diverse and fascinating people of MTF.

100. The Universe in a Grain of Sand

Lisa Lang

The Universe in a Grain of Sand

by The MTF Community | MTF Podcast

This 100th special edition compilation episode of the MTF Podcast brings together a series of highlights and makes for a wonderful introduction to some of the brilliant minds of the MTF community that we’ve captured in conversation over the past two years.

From neuroscience to embroidery, digital sampling to government policy, AI ethics to storytelling, pop stardom to climate change, space travel to fashion design - and all the wonderful characters and human stories that connect them.

Have a listen and feel free to dig into the archives to explore more if anything piques your interest!

Transcript

Dubber Hi, I’m Andrew Dubber. I’m the Director of Music Tech Fest, and this is episode 100 of the MTF Podcast. And because that feels like quite a milestone, I wanted to look back over the past couple of years, pull out some highlights and favourite moments. Not as a greatest hits, because that doesn’t really make any sense in that context, every single one of these are my favourite episode, but more to create something of a taster show. Something that highlights the breadth and depth of the MTF community and the brilliant minds of the artists and scientists, academia and industry, that go to make up that community.

And, of course, you’re only ever really going to skim across the surface in something like this, and the whole point of the MTF Podcast is to get to know these amazing people in our community rather than just get them to talk about their work, but maybe there’s something in here that piques your curiosity and encourages you to dive in a bit further. I’ll tell you who’s talking along the way so you can go back and find their episode, but hopefully this will also make for an enjoyable compilation listen all by itself. It’s not a catalogue, but a bird’s-eye view of MTF.

From neuroscience to embroidery, digital sampling to government policy, AI ethics to storytelling, pop stardom to climate change, space travel to fashion design, and all the wonderful characters and human stories that connect them. This is the MTF Podcast, episode 100. But more importantly, this is MTF. Enjoy.

Dubber Let’s start with a few words from ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus.

Dubber One of the things that people observe about your songs is that, on the one hand, obviously, they’re incredibly catchy pop songs, but also they’re incredibly intricate and thoughtful and complex.

Björn    Yeah.

Dubber To what extent is that the ABBA trick, is that there is the complexity hidden within this simplicity of melody?

Björn    Always searching for that wonderful, simple melody, that’s what we did. But that wonderful, simple melody doesn’t necessarily have only three chords. It can have more chords. And especially if you explore it in a studio, trying various styles and trying various ways of doing it. And above all, backing vocals. Intricate backing vocals. Things that you couldn’t write down as an arranger, but you can only try. The girls would do something, and you’d say “No, try that instead. Just that note there.”, and suddenly something happens. And that’s where the intricacy comes from, I think.

Dubber Right. In harmony, particularly.

Björn    In harmony, particularly.

Dubber Right, wow.

 

Dubber This is Dr Kelly Snook. Inventor, instrument maker, and rocket scientist.

Kelly     Kepler says something in this book which is really funny, and I’m just going to paraphrase because he writes in 400 years ago language. But he says something like “I’m laying this out for you. God has finally revealed his grand order through these mathematics. Use your art to express this in the world. And I’ve laid it out there, even if it takes 100 years for technology to catch up.”, basically. And it’s been 400 years, and technology is just at the point where we can make this into something that you can experience viscerally. With your ears and with your eyes and maybe other senses as well, like feeling tactile feedback from this instrument. But that is the whole point, is to take something that has been reduced to boring mathematical equations and make it mind-blowing again.

I worked for a very long time at NASA, and there’s something weird about the way that we present things sometimes, especially to other scientists. That if it’s super freaking cool, then it’s for the kids, or it’s not actual science, or… You have to make it sound dry and boring in order for it to be legitimate, in a way. So I wanted to switch that up a bit and give people permission to experience the incredible, intrinsic harmony that we have in our reality. One place where it’s expressed just so simply is in the movement of the planets, but it’s really everywhere and in every structure that we have in life. And so eventually I’d love there to be musical instruments that you can play or that you can experience that give you insights into all sorts of different truths through beauty.

In a way, these are both concepts that have gone out of fashion. Truth and beauty. Truth, people are even asking “What is truth? Is there such thing as truth? Does truth matter?”. This is actually a conversation that’s happening in the United States. People are claiming that “Actually, there is no truth. It doesn’t matter.”.

 

Dubber Former Executive Assistant and right hand to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Ann Hiatt.

Ann       I took it very, very seriously to double their output, and that meant I needed to be on par with what they were doing. In the early stages, I did that by reading everything they read. For example, Jeff Bezos every morning came in with three newspapers, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Seattle Times, so I started reading all three of those every morning, cover to cover. I read every briefing document that came across his desk, every single email, listened to every phone call. I leaned in. I googled every term I didn’t know, every person’s name who I didn’t know.

And so going onto that next level allowed me to be more proactive in my relationship with him instead of reactive. I could come to him with ideas, opportunities, and even share some of my talents he didn’t know I had or areas of interest where I would volunteer for a project that would normally be outside my role. And that gave me an amazing opportunity to really grow, and the job was so much more fun too. Nobody wakes up excited about calendaring or putting together research documents and things like that, but…

So my role with Eric Schmidt was very much that. It was extremely proactive. It was very high risk because my job was to aggregate all of the requests across the company, evaluate those for where Eric could have a deep impact, and rank those and make a recommendation to him on how he was going to spend his time or focus. Or maybe a weakness that we had, an area of expertise we hadn’t yet developed, and come with a proactive plan of how we could get that knowledge or those relationships that we needed. And so it very much became a business partner relationship with him, and that’s where it’s really fun. Also terrifying because sometimes you’d get it wrong, and it’s a billion dollar company, so the impact is large in successes and failures. But that was a risk I enjoyed.

 

Dubber Probably my favourite recording artist in the world today, the wonderful Jan Bang.

Jan       In the mid-’90s, I found, by coincidence, a way of putting my studio gear on stage. Being a producer in the mid-’90s using samplers in order to create songs and do remixes and productions and so forth, I was invited by a friend of mine… I just had done a remix of Bugge Wesseltoft, the Norwegian jazz player, and he was interested in getting in touch with people from the electronic music. So he asked me “Jan, what could you do?”. I was thinking “Well, I have this sampler that somebody gave me. Why don’t I…? Instead of sampling records, I could sample your musicians on stage.”. And that was in ’96.

And we did one concert, and I realised in the soundcheck that this is just a new route. This is a new possibility for myself to discover new things. There’s fresh sounds every day, fresh from the baker, and as a composer and as a musician, that’s quite a present. So by meeting him, then he introduced me to other, more freeform players. And from there I never really returned to the studio that I was working with. Working in, as a producer. I just left the studio. My big American case and everything with it.

 

Dubber Hackademic, Gabriella Coleman.

Gabriella So a trickster figure is probably familiar to most just because trickster figures are common in many different societies and cultures around the world, from Coyote in Indigenous Native American societies to Loki in Nordic societies. And they’re figures who are willing to transgress boundaries. They tend to also be identified with an inability to filter speech, often willing to trap others, and in the process get trapped themselves into problems, and historically they tend to be identified with myth and stories.

And the myth and stories around tricksters are valuable because they tend to offer moral lessons, both about the importance of transgressing boundaries but also the problems when you go too far in transgressing boundaries, as well. They’re a rich area of anthropological study. And I thought, and I still do think, that they apply extremely well to the field of hacking or Anonymous, and it’s, again, because of the willingness of hackers to transgress boundaries. And so I think that model fits well.

I think one of the big problems, and this gets to the baggage part, is that, in part because of the Disneyfication of the trickster figure, I think some people believe tricksters are always good, and that’s not necessarily the case. The point of the trickster is to make clear the moral stakes of transgressing boundaries, let’s just say. And then, because of that clarity, you could say “Oh, this is good. This is helpful. No, this is bad. This goes too far.”. And, for example, Loki, I think, is a good example of a trickster who… He’s terrifying, and he’s a jerk, and he’s horrible. This is not necessarily someone to celebrate. Whereas Puck, on the other side, is a much lighter side of tricksterism that we can live with.

Dubber Much more fluffy.

Gabriella Exactly, and the world of hacking has both sides. And so I use the figure not simply to celebrate hacking but actually to show that this domain, like the trickster figure, provides an arena for us to rethink questions of boundaries and norms, not simply to blindly accept everything that comes from the world of hacking.

 

Dubber Composer and polymath, Nitin Sawhney.

Nitin     Music is a healing thing, from my point of view. I was listening to Mary Anne Hobbs’ show last night, and she played, actually, a piece that I did with Anoushka Shankar for Ravi Shankar’s centenary. And she played some beautiful music which I found really soothing. And I’d been in a difficult mood all day because I just was getting frustrated with all of this. I’m not technically in the high-risk group, but I am asthmatic, and so I’m keeping myself pretty much in isolation. And so, from that point of view, it’s great when you hear music that opens up your feelings and your mind like that. So music is…

You could get into the technical side of it, and there are parts of the brain that respond literally in a pleasurable way to music. And there’s a part of the brain called oscillatory phase-lock which they find in chimpanzees, as well, where they respond like we do to consonance and dissonance in different ways. So dissonant intervals in music actually create unrest and irritation, but whereas, with the chimpanzees, they actually respond really well to consonant intervals. So Mozart, for example, would go down really well with a lot of chimpanzees because a lot of the intervals are consonant intervals. And that’s to do with the ratios and so on.

But it’s very soothing and very healing to listen to great music that you can empathise with. It’s not just the technical side, it’s also nostalgia, it’s also… It evokes so much feeling in us. Whereas in animals, primarily they’re using music for survival, reproduction, and communication, we’re using it in so many different, nuanced ways to actually really enhance our moods.

And, in fact, I talked recently about, and I was talking to a psychologist, the idea of EMDR, which is eye movement desensitisation reprocessing. And that in itself is about left, right… I suppose stimulation, in terms of the hemispheres of the brain, and it’s alternating in the way it works. And my psychologist was saying even walking or running or playing the piano or doing anything where you use your hands in alternating ways can actually really enhance your mood and do a lot for working through problems that you have in your life.

 

Dubber Textile artist and arctic crafter, Deirdre Nelson.

Deirdre I was involved in a lab in Glasgow, and I’ve forgotten the name of it now, but they brought together coders and makers together, and we did separate projects. And it was an amazing way to work because we realised, in loads of ways, we work in very similar ways. I think there’s a real craft to working with coding and working with Arduino and all of these things. And through being involved in the repair lab in Glasgow, I’ve realised that… I watch some of these guys fix computers and electronic… They’re working with their hands in a really skilled way and in a… Particularly something like embroidery is very fine-tuned skills, and I can see those same skills in the guys working on circuit boards or… So I think maybe we need to do a circumpolar tech traditional skill lab or something. It would be fantastic.

Dubber It sounds like something Music Tech Fest should take on.

Deirdre Yeah, definitely. It would be amazing. And also just, I think, with any of these things, you need time to experiment. And the informality of the way we worked in the Circumpolar Crafters Network would be a really lovely way to work with technology as well.

 

Dubber Maker and children’s author, Helen Leigh.

Helen   Hand made things and how that fits in with technology, often in the media you’ll see them pitted against each other. Robots vs craft or hand made vs mass-produced. But I actually think that’s a false dichotomy, and that there’s so many beautiful things happening in the intersection between craft and technology. And I really wanted to write a children’s book that celebrated that and used craft as a way into technology and technology as a way to augment craft, because it’s not a one-way street, of course.

Dubber You only have to look at a knitting pattern, and this is programming.

Helen   Absolutely it’s programming. And, in fact, I think often these crafts are undervalued, and the history of them is destroyed. There’s a fascinating book that I read recently called ‘Subversive Stitch’, and it’s all about the feminist history of embroidery. And also I read a really interesting article on knitting spies. So in the World War II, they had ladies knitting things and dropping stitches to pass secret messages on to other people. It was a form of communication. Of course it was code.

So, anyway, this book is called ‘The Crafty Kid’s Guide to DIY Electronics’, and it teaches the basic concepts of technology but through sewing and through papercraft and origami, and through DIY robots and wearable things. It’s very much project-based. It’s not a textbook at all. You do learn something in every project, but it’s set in the context of a project. Things like making a moving origami ladybird that buzzes around or a secret mood signal badge that teaches you the basic concepts of binary. So these imaginative projects.

And I can’t actually take full credit for all of these projects. I worked with an advisory board of 200 girls to write this book. And they were on my mailing list, and I would send them hundreds of ideas, and they’d come back and vote on their favourite ones. So, actually, the inclusion of every single project in that book is thanks to a group of girls and not thanks to me at all. In fact, lots of my favourite ideas were completely designated uncool by the committee of girls.

 

Dubber Musician and technologist, Tim Palm, aka DJ Arthro.

Tim       Yeah. So my diagnosis, basically, it makes my joints unable to move. It’s at like 30 degrees movements in the arms and legs. And because of that, my muscle is also losing strength. So it’s a two-part situation. So I’m sitting on a special built wheelchair, and I’m performing with my nose, mostly.

Dubber Right. So you have limited range of motion of the limbs but a flexible face, so you can actually operate gear like that.

Tim       Yeah, it’s something like that.

Dubber So let’s talk about your gear. Somebody like me who recognises that it’s an iPad but not necessarily the software that you were using, what’s actually in the rig?

Tim       So we start with the iPad. The main application is called ‘touchAble’ which is an app built to integrate with Ableton, which is the main software I use. So it’s fully integrated, so I can control the MIDI software, can control the CC and the… Everything. Fully functional. Launching clips and changing BPM and everything. And I can rearrange it however I want. Or if I want big buttons, I can get big buttons if I want. So I have this template that I use to perform.

Dubber Okay. But there’s more going on than an iPad on your rig.

Tim       Yeah. Then I have a… It’s a big one. It’s a half-circle of gear.

Dubber Yeah, it’s right around… It’s like Rick Wakeman kind of…

Tim       Yeah, exactly. So there’s a synth as well. It’s a Yamaha reface synth, which is the only synth I’ve found with no knobs, only up and down sliders, because turning knobs with your lips is quite difficult.

Dubber I can imagine.

Tim       You can’t make a 360 with your head.

Dubber That’s true.

Tim       That’s impossible.

Dubber Yeah, for sure.

Tim       So having just up and down sliders for everything gives me full control over the synth. And I found it four years ago now, I think, and I was like “I have to buy this one.”, because it’s quite boring to just have these software synths.

 

Dubber Science fiction author, blogger, and activist, Cory Doctorow.

Cory     If we want to know how Google shapes our behaviour, it’s by being the only search engine anyone uses and deciding what goes on the front page. But that’s not mind control. That’s a very cheap trick if it’s a mentalist act. That’s like the mentalists who have hidden cameras that watch what people write down on the card when they say “Think of a word and write it down on the card.”. It’s a bit of technological virtuosity, but it’s not mind reading.

So I think that big tech wants you to think the reason that their sector is concentrated is because first-mover advantage and network effects and globalism are what count, and I think it’s that the Apple II Plus came out the year we elected Ronald Reagan, and he promptly dismantled antitrust enforcement. If it was first-mover advantage and network effects, we’d all be searching AltaVista with our Cray supercomputers.

One of the things that we know about tech is that you can accumulate a technology debt. If you’re married to a certain approach in technology, when the technology changes, you have this huge institutional crisis in convincing the people who work in your firm to stop making supercomputers and start making minicomputers, and stop making minicomputers and start making PCs. These are huge problems that firms wrestle with, and being a first-mover sucks.

And network effects are great, but you live and die by the sword. If your network doubles in value every time someone joins it, then it halves in value every time someone leaves it. Which is how Myspace can be on top of the world one day and on the trash heap the next day with Rupert Murdoch sitting on top of it with his thumb up his ass.

Dubber Is this the safety net for something like Facebook having all this power? Is it the fact that there is a fragility built into these things?

Cory     No, because this is where monopolies matter. So Facebook lost 17 million 12 to 34 year olds in 2017, up from 9 million, I think, in 2016. They are haemorrhaging users to Instagram.

Dubber Right, which they own.

Cory     Which they own.

 

Dubber Professor of responsible AI, Virginia Dignum.

Virginia   AI is software, is an artefact that people build. It’s not magic, it’s not something which happens to us, it’s not something which comes out of outer space and happens. It’s something which is consciously developed and engineered by people to do some purpose which is also determined by people. So that is, I think, the most important part to understand. Then, how does it work?

What distinguishes it from other types of software is basically the capability that these techniques have to be able to analyse patterns in current situations and current contexts and use that analysis to come up with potential new suggestions or new insights. I don’t really like to talk about predictions. I don’t think that AI makes any predictions whatsoever. It can correlate or extrapolate from existing data, but the prediction is something that we might, or not, decide to do ourselves based on what AI is identifying.

 

Dubber Philosopher, author, composer, multimedia producer, and turntablist, Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky.

Paul      You are not your data. The fun part about our time is there’s a separation between analogue media, playing vinyl, going out to social spaces with actual, real human beings, and then the digital mirror that people are just pillaging for financial gain. So how does that work with your everyday experience? This is something I think we’re all queasily realising.

Your data is being used in all sorts of unanticipated ways, whether it be for computational propaganda during the 2016 election or stuff like Cambridge Analytica or The Internet… What was the IA group out of Russia, in St. Petersburg? They have a very generic name like The Internet Agency. Something really, really generic. But really freaking evil.

So that’s on one hand, but then on the other hand we’ve seen an explosion of all these platforms and routes for getting work out. More people are creative than ever before. More people are being freed from the norms of how they think about expression, their work, or getting it out.

So we’re seeing a renaissance of many, many different approaches, but at the same time, there’s a Darwinism in effect with all these… Like I said, the furious five. Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Google. Five companies that dominate the landscape. Meanwhile, if you’re in China, you’ve got the China versions of those. Youku, Alibaba, stuff like WhatsApp, etc., or WeChat.

Dubber The Tencents of the world. That sort of thing.

Paul      Yeah. And I feel like, as an artist, these are intriguing. Personally, I could do without social media. I would love to delete everything and just sit across from a person and have a glass of tea, or whatever medium they’re into, and actually have a human dimension there. But you then realise, why limit yourself? Because you have all of these different platforms. Let’s play.

 

Dubber Senior Data Scientist at Axel Johnson, Celine Xu.

Celine  90 percent of data in the world created after 2010. And all this abundance present a big problem, the paradox of the choice, because we have so many choice, and we need to spend too much time trying to pick one. And sometimes we try so hard, but at the end, we actually pick something wrong. And the recommendation engine is actually using machine learning technology to help companies go over all the possible options and learn what we, or as a customer, like, and recommend the options we would love best. So this machine, or system, provide us an option. Having the abundance of the options, at the same time have a certainty in our decision.

 

Dubber Artist, teacher, and instrument maker, Tom Fox.

Tom      I wanted to start building instruments just because I loved collecting instruments. I’ve got a passion for lots of different types of instruments. But I realised that if I start building them and I do it wrong, it might be a massive waste of money and resources, so I just started building them from recycled materials. I really limited myself to just focussing on making sure everything was found or recycled or reclaimed. That actually led me to be more creative with the stuff I was making. So I ended up using recycled electronics and motors for pickups, and that led to developing instruments based around the things I found, as well. So I started a whole organic process of building instruments based around the stuff I found, and it spiralled out of control from there.

Dubber Because most of the things that you make don’t look like musical instruments.

Tom      No, not at all.

Dubber Some of them do, but they’re actually books that have been turned into guitars, or… But, typically speaking, I’m thinking of your spring thing.

Tom      Yeah, the spring thing. There’s a law of physics which is Faraday’s law of electromagnetic induction, and that’s my favourite law of physics because you can do all sorts of bonkers stuff with it. It’s how motors work, it’s how speakers work, it’s how electric guitar pickups work, and they all use the same bit of physics. So you can manipulate that piece of physics to have them all interact with each other to create really interesting sounds and really interesting ways of playing music, as well.

 

Dubber Head of Operations at Ericsson ONE, Matilda George.

Matilda We have seen that it’s three reason why ideas or start-ups tend to fail, and one of them is that you develop something that no one wants. So for us, it’s very important to support them with the business aspect because if we have a very creative and talented person who only wants to focus on the tech aspect, then we need to support them with other kinds of competencies as well. And that is something that we are doing from Ericsson. We are bringing in a business person, for example, to help them with that. But also educating them on how you can do it in a very easy way, and it can be something like going out and asking people if they would buy or test your solution. So that’s a very easy way to actually test the business case of it.

But also one of the other three things that make ideas fail is that you are mixing teams poorly. So maybe you have a team of only developers, so you also need to add in the person with another background, so business or design or HR or something else, so that you have the diversity within your own group when developing the technology, from the beginning.

And then the third thing is that you lack focus. I think that it becomes your obsession, but if I have one idea, maybe I found ten different things that I want to do around my idea. So I think that to really keep focus on what I need to do to get what I want with my idea, that’s also a very important part of the journey in going from idea to finally an emerging business. So that is the advice that we usually give to start-ups.

 

Dubber Sound diplomat, Shain Shapiro.

Shain   To me, what’s great about music is how it impacts everything around it. Music is a way to have a conversation about all sorts of things. About getting to know each other better, about conflict, trying to reduce conflict, even, about equality across gender, race, ethnic, discipline, so on and so forth. I think that music is a tool that we have. I think music and food are the only tools that we have where we can cross any boundary and still find something to unify us.

So, for me, I believe that we underestimate the power that music has, but yet we’re using its power every day without recognising it. And it doesn’t matter what political affiliation. Even Trump going on stage to songs he’s not allowed to play, he’s uniting people via music, and I think that’s an incredibly powerful thing. Whatever you believe in, there is something positive that music can bring you. And if we recognise that better, if we create policies around that, then I think it can improve everyone’s day-to-day.

 

Dubber We would say Senior Recruiter or Chief Head Hunter, but her business card simply said “Alchemist.”. Cheline Jaidar, formerly of Apple.

Cheline    I was brought in, and that was that trip to San Francisco, to work with the industrial design group. So that was the first official group that I worked with as a full-time employee with Apple, and that dominated most of my time. And so I was looking specifically, at that time, for industrial designers. So that’s how it started. And as I, working as a lone ranger with them for… I’m trying to think. I don’t even know if it was a year. People would reach out saying “Oh, she does creative, she works with designers. Can we have her over here? We’re redoing the graphic design group. Can she come and work with us for a little bit?”.

So I went to work with graphic design. Helped them. They were a splinter group of different external and internal teams, and some people wanted to leave, and they didn’t have a clear leader. They were looking to find another more creative leader. I was brought in to help them find that role, and then I started working with that group, and then I was dividing my time between industrial design and graphic design.

And there were more things like that. I started working with iTunes Europe. That was really almost a start-up. It felt like a start-up. As the graphic design, in some way, felt like a start-up as well because they were recreating it. When I think back on my career, other than the industrial design group, some of this work really feels like you’re starting a start-up within a very established company. But it still has that essence of building something from something very small or nothing.

 

Dubber Improviser, academic, author, and solo bassist, Steve Lawson.

Steve    The experience of being on Myspace was a great learning experience. I joined Myspace in the same way that all musicians did, with this incredibly narcissistic focus to just friend loads of people and build a big audience. And the futility of that and the way that that killed the conversation about the music became apparent very quickly. So at that point, I started to conceive of a use of social media that was genuinely social and that wasn’t a marketing tool, and it wasn’t all the things that all the people were writing about. “This great new way for musicians to network and do this.”. It was like “Well, no. It’s just about creating a story around what you do.”. And so I think the whole idea of storytelling came in fairly early on.

And one of the big advantages I had in that mid-noughties period when blogging was an incredibly important resource for musicians was that I’m a writer as well. I’m a journalist. I wasn’t trained as a journalist, but my partner from back in the ‘90s, she was a sub-editor and a very good journalist, and so she taught me how to write. She would edit what I was doing, going “You can’t write a 150 word sentence. That’s ridiculous.”. And so I developed this set of skills, and I got to practice in magazines and harness that for this process of storytelling.

So as that storytelling process fragmented away from being about long blocks of text on a blog and became about Twitter and Facebook and Myspace updates, I got pretty good at writing in small chunks and diarising my musical life in a way that people could engage with as an unfolding story rather than as a set of marketing tools that were cynically planned to promote a product.

 

Dubber Digital plumber and creator of websites for famous pop stars, David Peris.

Dubber ’99 hits, Napster comes out, everything goes into a panic. How did that affect what you did?

David   It was dramatic and swift. And I’ll tell you my first interaction with Napster. It’s interesting. But I was 24/25, and I was dating someone who was in the midst of college. And I walked in her dorm room once, and she was really busy on her laptop. And I looked at her, and I was like “Well, what are you doing?”. “I’m playing with this thing. It’s called Napster.”. And I was like “What’s Napster?”, and she said to me “Oh, it’s great. You type in a song, and you hit submit, and you can download it.”. Mind you, there was no streaming or anything at this time. So I know this sounds primitive, but you could download it. I was like “Well, how do you pay for it?”, and she said “No, you don’t pay for it. You just download it.”. And I immediately got on the phone and called my boss. I was like “Have you heard of this thing called Napster? Oh my god.”, and she was like “Yeah, everyone in the dorm is using it.”. Because in the colleges, obviously, it was one of the few places you had high-speed bandwidth. Even, I think, the bandwidth at the college was better than what was in the office, if I remember right.

So I was just blown away. Like “Oh, wait. This MP3 thing…”. And I think this is around the time of the Rio Player and all this, so MP3 was still in its infancy. But just this idea that kids were making playlists with music that they didn’t buy from iTunes and… It was wild.

So the next thing that came along, of course, at the record label was “Oh my god…”. There was some MP3 trading, of course, on the web, “Click here to download the MP3.”, and we would have to call our friends at the RIAA and shut that down, and this and that. It was a whack-a-mole. It was cat and mouse. But this changed the game because it was decentralised, of course, as everyone knows. There was nothing to shut down. So the label and everybody else went into a panic, and it was crazy times.

 

Dubber Audio networker, Matthew Hawn.

Matthew  So it was an operational role. I think I was VP of Digital Operations, I think, or something. It was that point I’ve got some ridiculous title that they give out. But it was digital business, was the group at there. And it was in conflict, to be honest with you, with the physical distribution guys, who were the mobsters you’d expect them to be. It was a very rough and tumble place where it was about how many units of vinyl you shipped. That was the point. And the way we measured our business was very different than we did digitally.

So as that world was falling off and dying, I’m in the fast-moving, shiny group, and my suggestions are not really… Because I’m fairly senior at that time, they’re… I get to go to all the meetings, but I make suggestions they don’t like to hear, like “We should digitise the whole catalogue and put it on Napster, because it’s like radio.”. And I got not invited back to certain meetings after that.

Dubber Right. Because I see you as, again, being somewhat counter-cultural within that corporate environment.

Matthew  Well, it was harder with Sony than it was… It was nice because we were building something fast, and there was a lot of money happening quickly. And once we’d built the team out… And it was about 45/50 people who did the operational thing, but it was working with small partners. We worked early on with Last.fm, where I ended up going later. We worked with Spotify. We worked with Vodafone. We were working with all these new companies who… And to try to figure out how we were going to get music to their customers and our customers. But we were still treating it like a distribution method. We were going to ship units to them, and they were going to sell them to customers. We were not actually doing direct to consumer sales, which is what I asked to…

Before I left Sony, I was in charge of direct to consumer at Sony where we built out a way for Beyoncé to sell you stuff directly, and Bruce Springsteen to sell T-shirts, and Christina Aguilera to sell perfume, which we did. So there was always a bit of a new thing, but at some point after eight years at Sony, I was like “I can’t do this anymore.”. There’s a little red dot in front of my desk. I’m like “What is that? Oh, it’s where I’ve been banging my head for the last eight years. We’re just not going fast enough. This is not fun anymore.”.

 

Dubber UK Music Publishers Association General Manager, Lucie Caswell.

Dubber I’ve got 1,000 questions, but they would boil down to “Is copyright fit for purpose?”.

Lucie    Copyright or copyright law?

Dubber Good question. Copyright law is what I’m talking about. So is current copyright law fit for purpose? Do we need to amend it, or do we need to throw it away and start again from first principles?

Lucie    This is exactly the conversation that we’re having now, but it’s more than that. It’s also, as I say, the law is much slower than creativity, so there comes a point where you have such a change in consumption, in the way that the market works, it would be weird not to update your law in alignment with that. So this process has to happen. It always happens in markets over different generations and different evolutions. Doesn’t mean it’s an easy conversation, because you have to understand the push and pull that you describe. But everybody is living in the same ecosystem, so we’d like to think we can find a solution. But that solution has to make it sustainable to keep producing that music.

Dubber Right. I’ve had a lot of conversations in the past with copyright reformists, and I would kind of consider myself one, to a large extent. But there is a real debate, I think, to be had about whether the thing to do is to update copyright or to start again and go “Right. What are we trying to achieve with this? What are the first principles? And what can we achieve if we write the rules again from the beginning?”.

And it does seem to me, very much, that legislators, because of… Whether it’s about lawyers trying to keep their income ticking over, or whatever the agenda might be, but it very much seems like every time we have these conversations, we end up just going “No, we can just make a tweak. We can make another tweak. We can make a…”, and it seems like we’re just adding features to something that actually really isn’t doing the job that everybody would really like it to do.

Lucie    Well, maybe that’s why the conversation, that’s only about Europe, has happened for over two years, because it’s more than a tweak. But it also is because it is a conversation that includes so many people, and music is just one part of that. And that, thankfully, has taken time. And I say thankfully because otherwise it would be a tweak or just a single action. But we do also have to remember, in the same way as we have to remember this business isn’t in one city, we have to remember that this is a global conversation.

 

Dubber Innovation leader and Lean and Process Manager for Lufthansa, Marlies Endres.

Marlies I have a very strange background, so to say, but it’s a background that may mirror many realities for Venezuelans. Both of my parents are from different nationalities. My mom is from Costa Rica, my dad is from Germany, born in Venezuela but from German parents, and I was born in Venezuela. So when I was growing up, I was basically a culture mixture, so to say. And that gave me, from a very early age, a different perspective on how things were, in theory, supposed to be done and how they would actually happen, because I was taught at home certain things. For example, punctuality, and if you say your word, you have to keep it. And in a culture where punctuality is being two hours after the time you agreed, or agreements is more something informal instead of something formal.

So, basically, it was already a clash of values that made me understand that one of them is not necessarily right and the other one is wrong. It’s, basically, if you mix both of them, you can do something very interesting out of it. And that has a lot of similarities with innovation, so to say, because it’s about cutting with the strict rules of “This has to be done this way.”. You actually break those barriers and try to see the blank spaces, like we said in the innovation course that we just had. It’s try to see in between the gaps that you have and how those different types of knowledge mix each other.

And, for me, it was a huge cultural crash when I came to Germany, which stereotypically is known as a very innovative country with a lot of new ideas, and instead what I found is not that it’s not there, but it’s in a very controlled environment and very conservative environment instead of a flexibility that I was used to. It’s where our role in Latin America could be more interpreted instead of followed, here, rules are to be followed. And these rules, of course, also mean that you probably are going to be able to see things only through the eyes of this rule instead of challenging the rule. And with this, I’m not saying to go against the rule, but it’s, basically, understand what the rule is trying to accomplish, and understand “Can you do the same that you wanted to do with the rule in other ways?”.

 

Dubber Swedish innovation agency and funding body Vinnova’s Head of Strategic Design, Dan Hill.

Dan       Streets are now run by traffic engineers, pretty much. And I have this diagram. If you put ‘traffic engineer’ into the street, traffic is what comes out. The clue is in the name. And you can get more or less of it, but basically that’s what it produces. If you let gardeners govern the street, you get gardens. So we don’t. We let traffic engineers do it.

So I’m just saying “Okay. How many different perspectives can we get into this complex thing called ‘the street’? And let’s see it as a complex thing, but in a beautiful, everyday kind of way.”, and then we can see that as a real, powerful multiplier of all kinds of diverse activities. Music, festivals, businesses, life in general, greenery, everything. And traffic is one of the things that happens there, for sure, but it’s not the point.

Dubber What you’re saying is, rather than divide a large city up into its functions, you divide a small amount of city up…

Dan       As a powerful generator of possible things. Again, I imagine if you had a Department of Gardening running the streets, you’d have a very different kind of city coming out of that. So I’m not suggesting that, but I am suggesting that is one of the…

Dubber Does sound like a nice idea.

Dan       It’s not bad, yeah. And, funnily, not to namedrop, but this is where I had a chat with Brian Eno about this, because I was part of a commission in the UK working for the government on the industrial strategy, and, one reason or another, too long to go into, Brian and I ended up in the commission. And it was fantastic having him in the room, as you might imagine, because the bunch of the rest of us were so-called experts in our areas. Me, now, as an urbanist sort of expert.

And I was responsible for coming up with some challenges to the government around mobility, and one of the things I was talking about was streets and so on. I was heading that way. But I was also, I realised in retrospect, playing it safe a bit because I knew the Department of Transport and others were on the end of this, so I can’t walk in there talking about gardens straightaway. They literally would laugh me out of the room. I was heading that way, but meandering that way. Brian instantly just subverted the whole thing beautifully at one point, in this afternoon in this boring committee room in UCL in London, when he said “This is all great, but what if we could imagine a city where people just slowed down a lot more and things moved a little less?”. And it was just [explosion sound].

 

Dubber AI ethics philosopher, Professor Charles Ess.

Charles   The arguments I’ve heard for autonomous vehicles have been very strongly in the direction of utilitarian ones. That if we dramatically reduce accident rates, then what’s the problem? And, prima facie, yeah, sounds great. The problem… There are several problems that line up.

One of them is it turns out that autonomous vehicles can, and probably ought to be, programmed in such a way that if the choice is between saving the driver or five people, it’ll save the five people. Now, are you as a driver going to go buy a car that you know might literally kill you if it thinks that’s the best decision? Not many of us are going to step into that kind of context, I don’t think. And there’s also a question of rights that are raised by that.

I’m rather confident that in the US, if you could produce those kinds of vehicles, then you might have a stronger chance at making that kind of utilitarian argument. The flipside is that they’ve found in some studies that people really don’t want to give up driving, especially in the US. For many people, it’s their flow experience. It’s one of the places they have control over their lives. And so there’s other things going on in there besides just running a vehicle down the road. And I also wonder…

There’s, I think, a really fine movie called ‘I, Robot’ with Will Smith, and there’s a scene in there that literally gets to the heart of this where the Will Smith character is in a car accident. The other vehicle has a driver and a 13 year old girl. A robot sees this, and the robots are programmed to save human lives, and so the robot calculates that Will Smith has a 45 percent chance of survival and the 13 year old girl has an 11 percent chance of survival. Simple. And what Will Smith says, after this is all over, is “She was somebody’s baby. 11 percent was enough. Anybody with a heart would have known that.”, approximately. “They’re just difference engines. They’re just lights and clocks.”. And that’s a little bit harsh, but what I find, obviously, moving in that is this sense that we know something in our ethical judgement, that has to do with relationship, that we’ll take chances that machines wouldn’t. And you could maybe reprogram the machine and say “Let’s save little girls rather than old men.”. Okay, fine. I’m still a little sceptical.

 

Dubber NYU music tech Professor and President of AES, the  Audio Engineering Society, Agnieszka Roginska.

Agnieszka       My philosophy is that technology and art go hand in hand, and one has to drive the other and vice versa. I think because the technology is evolving, it is giving new ideas and new forms of expression and creativity to artists, and artists are taking these technologies and running away with it and doing things that they wouldn’t be able to do before. But vice versa because now artists are creating new ways of making things, technology is catching up. So it’s this constant evolution moving forward. Technology goes forward, art, creativity goes forward, and so on and so on. And so I think that we are doing different things that we were not able to do before.

And even thinking about just now, the specific situation that we’re faced in where people don’t get together as much as they used to. So now we have to be able to make music together across distances. Like at NYU in our department, all the ensembles, orchestras, jazz ensembles, percussion ensembles, everything had to be taken online. So now we have to be creative of “How do we create music together, make it sound good, and perhaps create new forms of music that not just allow us to do the things that we’ve been able to do before, but let’s think of new ways of making music. Let’s use this. Let’s use this in a way that we wouldn’t be able to use this before. The fact that we cannot get together anymore, which means that we can get together in a remote setting with people that we would normally never get together before and make music before.”. So now the geographical boundaries are gone.

 

Dubber Digital media lawyer and music tech business advisor, Cliff Fluet.

Cliff       One of the core differentiators about law is it is not a law of nature, it is not a law of science, and it’s not a law of God, i.e. it’s made up by men as they go along. And I still get to meet lots and lots of people in their lives who just say “Well, the law says this.”. I go “Well, the law doesn’t say anything. The law is applied and construed and interpreted. It doesn’t say anything.”. And then, actually, in many ways, you can bend it to your will. So that, very much, has a lot of how I did the rest of my career, which is essentially understanding that the law does not stand still, and it has to catch up, particularly when it comes to music technology.

So 30 years ago, I’m starting my university. I’ve never been out of London very much. I’m a couple of years in. I didn’t have lawyers in my family. I didn’t get to do work experience at places or anything like that with family friends. And outside my lecture hall, I had a conversation with three other lawyers… Well, law students. We were not lawyers. We were anything but lawyers. Where somebody told me that there were these lawyers who in their offices had fridges with beer in it, and they were lawyers at record companies. I was like “Why does a record company need lawyers?”, like “Well, you know, artist contracts and stuff.”.

Flash forward to 25 years ago, I’ve now qualified to be a lawyer. I have decided that I’m going to become a real estate lawyer, of all things. I’m going to be a property lawyer, and that’s what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. And I picked up my roommate’s copy of The Times at 3 a.m., stuck on a boring transaction, and I saw an ad for a job at a record company, and I thought “Huh. I wonder if they’ve got those fridges?”.

 

Dubber MTF’s Founder and the Chair of the Industry Commons Foundation, Michela Magas.

Michela   You have seen examples where the data from music… Because the data from music is widely available, it’s highly complex, it comes with all of these different challenges that are really well known. And then when we use it in test environments, we can actually use it in test environments that are to do with something completely different, like finance. But if you used finance data, well, you couldn’t access it because of GDPR. And then if you did access it, it would be without certain elements because of GDPR.

Dubber Sure. People’s financial data, people’s medical data.

Michela   And then it would be expensive, or rather it would be a problem for the bank to be releasing things like that. There would be all kinds of legal issues and whatever. Instead, we just take music data, which has very similar characteristics. It also has proportion, maybe particular variables on there that are comparable to the case study that we are examining in the other domain, and therefore is entirely replaceable.

Dubber Is this why the creative sector is so important in the midst of this? Or is this just one kind of element of what makes music industries, creative industries, more broadly, central to this? Because it’s become central to this. And I really want to talk about, that’s been the payoff of you going to Brussels and working with the European Commission, is that now the creative industries are a central pillar to all of the ways that these industries are thought about. Is that a large part of it? It’s because nobody dies if you mess up the metadata on an MP3?

Michela   I don’t think that the creative industries have become this important just because their data is easy to use. I think that the creative industries have really grown in importance because, essentially, what we are facing at the moment are so many unknown unknowns that creative practitioners are the ones who are trained to investigate unknown scenarios, and they have methodologies to tackle these new, surprising scenarios. Let’s face it, every single time that we run our labs that involve AI neural nets and any kind of system that’s complex, where the human being is interacting in an entirely new way, we get…

Dubber Blockchain, neuroscience, robotics…

Michela   Yes, this combination of new things. Because the prototypes that we now build, their effects are so fast, the results come up so fast, the amount of different surprises that come out of these new scenarios, they really are overwhelming. And no linear problem-solving system, no prior training can prepare you for those, unless you are a creative practitioner who has been, by default, trained to do problem-solving by looking at things from completely different perspectives.

 

Dubber Enterprise Development Manager, Jeni Oliver.

Jeni      I think that the creative industries is in every other industry. Every other successful industry is engaging with the creative industries. But what I would say is it’s less about what these other industries are doing. I fundamentally believe it is that, for the creative industries, it’s content. Distributors, platforms, they are slightly different. I’m always interested in “Who’s generating intellectual property, and where are they taking that intellectual property?”. What intellectual property assets they have. How can we get that keeping going?

And it’s about keeping those stories moving. Keeping those stories engaging and involving and relevant. That’s where the creative industry sits for me. We can wrap it up in all sorts of other industries, names. We can wrap it up in all sorts of different definitions, but, fundamentally, I think that what sits at the core of all of this, and has for thousands of years, is stories. Stories influence the direction of travel for human nature, our economies, our politics, everything. It comes from stories.

Dubber Because that was going to be my next question, “Why are stories important?”, but you think it’s because stories drive everything else? Is it how we’re wired?

Jeni      Stories drive decision making. When you find a story that you engage with, when you find a story that resonates with your value sets as an individual, then you will migrate in that direction. Sometimes where your value sets are almost aligned. Sometimes you can see a little bit of a nudge coming through on that, and you see people evolving in their own value sets and their own thinking, and that’s very clever creative industry strategies if somebody’s deliberately trying to do that. But I do believe that story is at the core. And we can call it anything we want, going forward. Anything we have in the past. Fundamentally, people are telling stories.

 

Dubber Session CEO, Niclas Molinder.

Niclas   I started when I was young. School was nothing for me. And I hated school, to be honest, and I didn’t fit in. And the funny thing with music, I cannot find anyone, except for my grandad, in my family that played any instrument.

Dubber So not a musical family.

Niclas   No, not a musical family. My parents, they listened to ABBA when I was young.

Dubber Of course.

Niclas   And now it’s funny that I partner with Björn Ulvaeus, which is pretty cool.

Dubber They must be very impressed.

Niclas   Yeah, they are, actually. But I always loved music. And, actually, my mum, she has a picture of me when I was three years old, next to my grandad because he was playing the accordion. And I’m sitting there on the picture, and he’s playing the accordion, and I have a tambourine in my hand. And there’s a lot of people around. The family was standing… And mum sometime was telling me about this picture. Everyone was so impressed how I, as a three year old, could actually play in tempo as a three year old. So maybe that’s when my music interest was born. I have no idea.

 

Dubber Podcaster and science journalist, Arielle Duhaime-Ross.

Arielle  When I was a climate change correspondent on TV, I knew that I was not necessarily going to be the person to change someone’s mind about anything. When you watch a documentary TV segment about climate change, you’re going to take away what you want from it. And if you’re already convinced, you’re going to say “Okay, this is further evidence that supports my view of the world.”, and if you are not convinced, you’ll somehow find a way to take a sceptical view of it, or go “Oh, but…”. To nit-pick.

And so what I have learned over the years, and also what one of our recent guests talked about, Liz Neeley, who’s a science communication expert for a non-profit called The Story Collider, is that a lot of the way that people change their minds is through the people that they have surrounding them. That what you hear in the media and what you read on the news, if you’re an avid Fox News listener, that’s one thing, but you also really care about the people around you and what they think. And so if you have somebody in your life that is sceptical of climate change or that believes that 5G cell phone towers are somehow inducing the symptoms of coronavirus, as opposed to an actual virus, you can play a role in guiding them away from that thought process, and…

And the way to do that is not just saying “You’re wrong, and here are all the articles that prove that you are wrong.”, because that won’t work. The way to do that is to have a conversation with those people and to take them seriously, and to be empathetic and to say “Okay, explain to me why you feel the way that you do.”, and really listen. Really listen to the entire thing, all of the arguments, which might be hard. And then at the end of that, you can… What you will most likely hear is fear. What you will most likely hear is a problem with uncertainty. And those are the threads that you can take and use and say “You know what, I understand why you’re scared. I understand this is scary and…”. Don’t repeat information that is incorrect, don’t repeat the 5G coronavirus thing, but you can say “Here’s what these experts, that most people trust, are saying”. And that’s not always going to work, but if you are somebody that that person trusts, it might.

And so I think that we all have a little bit of a responsibility, within reason, to talk to individuals in our lives who may have views that are leaning towards conspiracy theories. That said, I will say that those kinds of conversations can be taxing, and I believe that they are all really only worth it under specific circumstances. Circumstances where somebody might, for instance, be harming themselves or harming others. And so you’ve got to pick and choose your battles, basically, because it’s self-preservation. You have to take care of yourself, as well.

 

Dubber Beatboxer, researcher, and AI vocal expert, Harry Yeff, aka Reeps One.

Harry    I ended up doing quite well in school basically because… I hope she doesn’t listen to this because I don’t think I’ve recorded this story. Because of my girlfriend at the time. I was deeply in love, in a puppy-like way, and she was top two percent in the country. Super bright girl. And, basically, her mum sat me down and was like “If you don’t do well in your GCSEs, you’re probably not going to be able to stay with Steph.”.

I was winning chess tournaments at the time, which was great, but when it came to these things that normally I’d just be like “I just can’t get my teeth into…”, I remember sitting down in my space at home, and I was like “Okay, Harry, you need to absorb this information.”. And I remember spending 24 hours looking at my geography textbook, and I was on the edge of crying because I just could not absorb it because I wasn’t, in my heart of hearts, interested.

And what’s happening there, and this is a proven idea, is people that have this type of process, there is a chain of intention, and even if your conscious mind is saying “Okay, Harry, mum and dad said that this is important. X, X reason. This is important.”, there is almost a physical pain. There’s a physical block that can happen, and you can’t control that. Nobody wants to do things that they find boring, but people that have this type of process, there is almost a pain that you could associate with it, and there’s a disharmony which is extremely dysfunctional.

And in adult life, I’ve totally mastered my ability to overcome that. But as a young person, you can get hit with a lot of “Oh, just get on with it.”, “Oh, stop being stubborn.”, or “Stop being an idiot.”, but there are other things at bay. And that’s one reason I really love to talk about my story and how I overcame some of those internal blocks.

Dubber There’s another thread to that story though, which is that you’re a massive romantic. That was so important to you to be who she wanted you to be…

Harry    Man, god, I really… When you’re a teenager, that’s something else, at that point. And I desperately wanted to just nail it. And eventually, it did kind of work out. I did well. But it was just a perfect example for the point I’m trying to make, is that when you have that type of mental process, even if every fibre in your conscious mind desires to absorb it, there is something else going on which can just put up a wall.

 

Dubber Artist of science, Marta de Menezes.

Marta    And all you need to do then is to add to it a guide or a template, and that template will tell the DNA of the cell how to repair that piece that was cut off. And this is why CRISPR is so effective at altering, genetically, the cells. And this is why it’s so revolutionary as well, because you can change cells without changing the whole organism.

Dubber Right. I have two questions about that. I don’t know which is easier to address, but one is what are the affordances of that? What does that allow to happen? And the second part of that is what are the ethics of this? How does that play out?

Marta    It’s very different. So the technology itself is very promising, and it’s evolving tremendously. So now there’s a lot of technologies which are based on this one which are probably an advancement on this. When this was found, it was tested and it was used wildly, but this means that also it got improved wildly. And it’s still improving.

But there are two main paths for it. One is this thing that it can alter parts of a body without altering the whole body. And this is interesting because the ethical issues around this are a lot less complicated than if you alter the whole body because altering the whole body means altering the germ line, and so that organism will propagate this into the offspring that it gets, and it’s a whole line of manipulated organisms. So you have two main lines which have very different ethical issues.

The one that seems to be more promising in terms of disease is the one where you can alter only cells. And because you can alter only cells, you can aim it at specific cells. It can be about disease, but it can also be about changing your eye colour, for instance. So this is just an example. I don’t know of any lab who’s trying to do this. So the issue with this technology is that you could, in principle, change your eye colour by administrating the molecule, the guide RNA, and the template into your iris.

 

Dubber Musician, Mark de Clive-Lowe.

Mark     “Touring has gone, and it’s not coming back, ever.”. And I don’t know if I believed that, but I behaved like that, and I think that was good. So once I had a clear head, I got out my notebook, listed down every potential revenue stream I feel like I could get, whether I wanted to or not, just still within the greater parameters of music, just so I could at least have a visual. And I fleshed them out a little bit, and I had, essentially, an action plan. I didn’t know it was an action plan, but essentially an action plan.

I’d say to friends what I was doing. I was like “I’m acting as if…”, well, I would say “Touring’s never coming back.”, and they’d be in shock. And I’d always say “Well, if it comes back, when, if, however it comes back, if I can improve these other things I’ll be in a stronger position to be more sustainable.”. And it was just really interesting because there were all manner of things on this list.

For example, one of them, I’d been thinking about doing a Patreon for years, and I never did it, and I didn’t do it because I thought “Well, I’m always on the road. I don’t want to commit to deliverables on a monthly schedule.”. It’s the same reason… I’ve had radio show opportunities. I’ve said “No.” because they want a weekly show, and I’m like “No. I don’t know where I’ll be.”. So suddenly I’m like “Okay, well, there’s no more touring. I’m in one place. Let me start a Patreon.”.

And then… I’d been working with an online festival, La Ceiba Fest, and they gave me the opportunity to basically get my rig together for live streaming and forced me to have to learn that really quickly, which was great. It started to feel like “Okay, there’s real possibilities here.”. And once I set up my rig and tweaked it a bit, but essentially my live rig, which I’d never set up at home, I set that up at home, and once it was all set up I realised “Wow. I’m not going to break this down for a long time.”. And the more time goes by, I’m like “I don’t want to break this down for a long time.”. So it’s been a relief.

 

Dubber Artist and glovist, Kris Halpin.

Kris       I often find when I’m performing I can… Like I say, I went to art college. This is art with a capital A. At the risk of… I’ll die on that hill, man. I might be a bit pretentious for some people, but I’m trying my best here. This is meant to be the real thing, and I pour so much into these performances. And you finish a song, and then people in the UK are like “So is it Bluetooth or WiFi?”.

 

Dubber Author, Derek Sivers.

Derek   I like being a little bit famous. I don’t want to be super famous. I don’t want to be as famous as Tim Ferriss or Tony Robbins, or maybe not even Seth Godin, but I really like the little tiny bit of fame I have now because it opens doors where… Whenever I read a book I love, I always email the author and tell them that I loved it, and almost every time they email me back and are open to talking with me and meeting with me because I have some kind of public profile myself. That’s amazing. It’s so cool.

And then because I have a bit of a profile, I hear from… 20 to 40 strangers every day send me an email and introduce themselves. And often it’s some guy who’s, I don’t know, whatever, building log cabins in Finland or somebody who’s an investor in Uruguay, and I just find such an amazing sense of both connection and security knowing all these people from around the world. It’s such a nice feeling that if I ever get on a plane to go to Uruguay someday, I’ve got a list of 55 people I know in Uruguay just because they’ve emailed me and introduced themselves. That’s an amazing feeling. So I like that my profile is just high enough that I meet a lot of cool people.

 

Dubber Music producer and television composer, Doug de Angelis.

Doug    I remember recording the guitars on it. We used a Yamaha REX50. Do you remember that box?

Dubber Vaguely.

Doug    It was sort of like an SPX90, but it was flat. It was a tabletop version of it.

Dubber Oh, right. Wow.

Doug    It was like an SPX90-light. It was a tabletop version. It had a patch that was distortion. All those guitars on ‘Head Like A Hole’, that’s just straight through that box. There’s no amps. It was just a tweaked out version of that processor making those just ripping tones. And so much of it was just the way it was processed, the way it was done.

I remember my favourite part of that whole session. If you know that record, in the song ‘Terrible Lie’ there’s a moment where everything mutes for a second then comes back on. Literally, it pauses. That was a mistake of trying to hit the mute button and hitting the solo button by accident, and it wrote in the automation. And that weird move stayed all the way through the final version of that, and it’s still in there. And that always blows my mind because that’s one of those moments where… It’s like so much of innovation comes out of accidents.

Dubber And it’s my favourite song on the record, so…

Doug    So much weird stuff comes out of accidents.

 

Dubber Fashion technologist, Lisa Lang.

Lisa      Electronic embedded textiles are going to be super important, of course, for space travel. It’s because you need to monitor those astronauts, what they’re doing up there, but also you want to… When you digitise your garment, your garment can talk with all of the electronics around you. On Earth, we call it IoT, Internet of Things. Up in space, it helps you to survive. Good argument. So, again, it’s like space is so exciting and so inspiring, and it makes us focus because we have to deal with very little resources, and we have to be very innovative. And also we are forced to think from a complete different way, and if we think in that context, we actually can find solutions to help us on Earth.

So little examples. One of those issues is when you wear any kind of the normal kind of fabrics we know in space, they give up fibre, and that fibre clogs up the air ventilation, which is a disadvantage if you want to breathe in space. So the astronauts actually have vacuum cleaner duties where they have to clean up air ventilation. Also because their skins and their hair and some things find their way in. Anyway, so this is one thing. So of course, on one side, you want to have a garment which doesn’t give up fibre. On Earth, we have the microfibre issue. Same issue, same solution.

The astronauts have to train their muscles every day, otherwise they will lose their muscle power. They sweat, but they can’t change their clothes because their suitcase is not big enough, so they have to wear garments over and over again, which of course is not comfortable, because there’s no space for a washing machine. Kind of essential. So one of those things, like “Well, how about we can make a full cradle, cradle-to-cradle?”. For instance, you somehow generate your garment in the morning if it’s… I don’t think 3D printing is the solution because everybody who is excited about 3D printing has never worked with 3D printing, because of how a pain it is. But I like spray technology a little bit better.

So imagine you wake up in the morning and a fabulous garment gets knitted, sprayed, whatever, on you. You wear it. When you wear it, what happens? You move, you sweat. What is in your sweat? Minerals. So you wear it, you move it, and at the end of the day, you actually nurtured your textiles with so much water and minerals that you can actually use it as a fertiliser for your garden on Mars.

 

Dubber NASA scientist, Ben Feist.

Ben       This was the raw material that was used to make the Apollo 11 film that was in theatres last year. Stephen and I were involved in that, and this restoration of this audio was my contribution to the film. Part of it, anyway. And Stephen then took it, and his job was Archive Producer, so he was grabbing all the archive. And then once he realised that you could synchronise in this way, the way you just described, now that we had a wayfinding mechanism to say “I think that’s the Flight Dynamics Officer, and it looks like this footage was shot just after launch.”, and you see his lips moving, Stephen would then go look for action on the flight dynamics loop.

And it took him a long time. I think it took him about 18 months to add sound to the silent footage that had not had any sound to it before. We even got moments like Gene Kranz saying “CapCom, we’re go for landing.” now synched with audio. No one’s ever seen and heard Gene Kranz say that before, and we were ecstatic that we got this kind of material. And Stephen delivered all that to the filmmaker, Todd Miller. He then edited through it and made a film out of it, leaving a huge amount of it on the cutting room floor.

 

Dubber Vocal sculptor and sound artist, Jason Singh.

Jason   I have been creating music since I was two, and that started off with rhythms. It started off with drums. And I never had the inclination or desire to be an artist. I never wanted to be a musician. Never wanted to be like “Oh, I’m going to go make records.” or whatever. No interest in that. My only burning desire, and to the point of an absolute obsessiveness, was to make beats and make rhythms.

And as a child, before you could communicate that, my mum said to me, she goes… She bought me a drum when I was two years old, and she goes “You just started playing rhythms.”, and she goes “And I knew then, you’ve got music in you.”. And I come from music people, so it’s in our family. And then growing up, I’ve just obsessed over beats. Just completely obsessed over beats. And just for the thing of hearing rhythms, hearing grooves and stuff.

And when it became a thing, I’d say, is when I came to Manchester in ‘93. I was 19, and I started DJing. I grew up with sound systems, but it was only… That was part of our upbringing. All our friends had sound systems. You help out and… Being exposed to all of that music. And that was just part and parcel of it. There was no desire to be something-something.

And then came to Manchester when I was 19, and then that’s when it was like, oh, I’d go to University, but that didn’t work out because I was still DJing. Oh, I did a job, something else. I was a van driver for a year or so. I was still making music. And then, just slowly, it was more, and then opportunities started coming in. I was teaching DJing skills, and I was doing things in music production, and then I was doing… But then also beatboxing, and I had a band, and I was running club nights, and it was just stuff. It was just all…

There’s never been a plan, you know what I mean? There’s never been “I am going to do this.”, or “This is my five year duh, duh, duh.”. I’ve never done that. And it’s weird because, in terms of the time we’re in now, I’ve had these reconfigurations that have happened after certain periods of time. A community of people know me as an artist that does this, somebody else has known me for that, then I did another project which then changed my course of stuff. So the whole thing has just always been some strange journey of this, this, and that, and I just run with the passion of whatever I’m feeling at the time. There was never a plan.

 

Dubber AI and robotics professor, Danica Kragic.

Danica I’m very much against building robots that look like humans or are direct replicas of humans. We have that. We have that in Japan. We also have, now, that in UK, or Hanson Robotics and Sophia and so on. Why am I against that? Well, at least for some time, until we have robots having all the abilities of humans or even more or better abilities than humans, because if you are an untrained user, and by untrained, I mean somebody that is maybe not in the technical area, somebody that is potentially scared from the beginning, anything that looks like human, you have human expectations on.

And we know how it is for us humans when we meet another human that maybe doesn’t speak our language, that comes from a different culture that doesn’t have the same values and things like that. We become reserved. So it’s also between us. It’s not only between us and technical systems. So I would like to avoid fuzzing people, if I can say like that, especially now in the beginning when the technology is still very, very young. So that’s one thing.

The second thing is we can’t completely disregard human body or be inspired by human body, and that has a little bit to do with the environment around us. So everything that we see around us has been adapted to our bodies. The ability that we can sit, make the chairs of certain size and of certain shape. The ability that we drink or use mic or a pen. If we didn’t have any fingers or we just had just one, the world around us would probably look completely different.

 

Dubber Jazz pianist, Grammy winning TV composer, and educator, D.D. Jackson.

D.D.      I was always flirting with a fascination with technology. If anything, I really had to avoid dealing with it too soon because I knew I would just never become a jazz musician at the time because I knew I was just such a tech person and so into that. I was into earlier analogue keyboards, which ironically, to me, or humorously, maybe, to me, have become cool, retro things now.

That studio where I was doing some work with The Roots, that retro studio that was modelled after, as I was saying, 8-track tape machine, all the 60s technology, I think there was a Juno-106 there. And that was one of my first synthesisers, and I’m like “Well, this was in my father’s place, under my bed back at home now, but now it’s considered cool.”. Even the M1 and all those things.

Dubber Not just cool, but expensive.

D.D.      And expensive, yeah, and desirable. So I was into it early on, but then I really became very serious about first classical piano then jazz. And, again, when technology became accessible, and right around the time I met you a couple years before, I just dived in whole hog and started to really get into that world, very much, and have really never stopped, I would say.

Dubber Because you were on the internet more than most of your peers at the time.

D.D.      Yeah. It’s funny, I still remember the old… Not to completely date myself, but the old rec.music.bluenote newsgroup.

Dubber Usenet.

D.D.      Yeah, exactly. In fact, not too long ago I was curious, and I was like “Yeah, I was definitely posting at the dawn of the internet.”. Yet another parallel with this desire for people to go back and be nostalgic for what was happening back then, my son, who’s 12 now, is all over Reddit. And I’m like “That’s basically Usenet all over again.”. And he’s trying to explain “Well, you can go and post things to discussion groups, and people will respond to you, and…”. I’m thinking “That’s old school…”.

Dubber Yeah. BBS, forum. We’ve done that.

D.D.      Yeah, exactly. Not to mention, of course, somewhat tangentially related, there’s the show ‘Stranger Things’ on Netflix which is all about ‘80s culture, so now my son is totally into ‘80s music. So he’s basically listening to the same music that I was listening to when I was his age, and introducing some of it like “Hey, man, dad, you should check out Sting.”, and I’m like “Okay, I’m already familiar with the dude.” and all of that. So it’s pretty fascinating how things come around.

Dubber Wow, fantastic.

 

Dubber Former CEO of Native Instruments, Daniel Haver.

Dubber Is that your big advice that you give for people, is “Do the thing that really drives you.”?

Daniel  Yes, absolutely. It’s a cliché, “Listen to your heart.”. I think you need a certain fire that really burns in you, but if you feel that, follow it. I know a lot of people that just never felt the fire, and then my advice is not great because it doesn’t work for them because they just don’t have this thing that they are so passionate about.

Dubber Is it that you are passionate about this one thing that you do, or is it that you have a fire to do something in the world and this happens to be what it is?

Daniel  It’s a bit of both. I think, in general, I’m a rather passionate person. I really want to do something in this life because I believe I have just this, and there is nothing after it. And I’m absolutely certain about that part. But at the same time, I was also always lucky to then find things that I’m just in love with and that get me fired up, and Native Instruments was such a thing. I don’t know if we want to jump there. I’m just saying when I see something that gets this fire burning up, then I’m all up for it, and then I can do it.

 

Dubber The Southbank Centre’s Senior Contemporary Music Programmer, Bengi Ünsal.

Bengi   My father… We had vinyl at home. We had a record player. I was born in Ankara but I was brought up in Istanbul in Turkey. So I remember listening to his record collection, from Pink Floyd to Cat Stevens to Ruhi Su, who is a huge folk artist in Turkey, and just jumping up and down over the seats, playing games with my sister, and that’s probably where my love comes from. But then again, I can’t say that I learned everything about music from my dad. Not at all. I don’t know.

I just loved listening to music, or whenever I can, but I didn’t have as much, growing up. The first cassette I bought was probably when I was 13/14 years old because we didn’t have that accessibility to that music. It wasn’t easy. So I was just asking my father “Could you please get me a cassette?”, and he would just go and get it, and it’s Duran Duran ‘Arena’, for instance. But I didn’t specifically ask for it. I remember asking for Rick Springfield.

But, yeah, it’s a cousin. It’s someone that you admire who is older than you listening to a piece of music and you go “Yeah, I want to be like them.”, and you start listening to music. I think that’s how I started.

And then my knowledge probably came through… We had satellite TV, and we had Sky. There was this guy. His name escapes me now. He had this two hour radio-show-like TV programme with a very static background, and we used to listen to his voice, and he would just put on videos, as well. And then MTV we had through the satellite, so I’d listen to a lot of mainstream pop music growing up.

 

Dubber Oscar winning visual effects artist, Ian Hunter.

Ian         Getting an Oscar, to me, is Richard Branson’s definition of luck, which is… Branson was asked “Do you feel lucky being a billionaire?”, or whatever he’s worth these days, and he said “Well, luck…”, to him, was when perseverance meets opportunity.

So I’ve been in this business for a long time. I’ve always strived to do a good job. I don’t want to cheat people on what I’m providing them. I’m an audience member, so I want to look at my work as an audience member and do a good job and be impressed by it. So I’ve been very fortunate over the years to work with some good directors and great directors, and Christopher Nolan’s one of them. And by maintaining that quality of work, you start to move up, and you start to get noticed for what you’ve done.

And it culminated in the work for ‘Interstellar’ where we got the visual effects Academy Award for that, along with the other three supervisors. So that was great, but, to me, that was like “Okay. Well, this is because we’ve all worked towards the same goal, which is to do good quality work. And we’ve maintained that quality throughout the years, and now we’re being recognised for it.”. And then very quickly on the heels of that, I worked on ‘First Man’. And ‘First Man’, again, was another film that received the visual effects Academy Award, and I got one of those too. So now I’ve got two for doing space movies. I don’t want to be typecast.

But both instances, which was good, was we were working with great directors who had visions, and who could communicate those visions to their crews, and who had that respect. So I think it’s just this convergence. Christopher Nolan’s made good movies. I happened to work on some of them. Damien Chazelle’s made good movies. I worked on his last one. They’re brilliant movies, in my opinion. But they’re brilliant movies, good movies, and these guys encourage good artists to do good work.

 

Dubber The Founder and Chair of Musicians Without Borders, Laura Hassler.

Laura   I don’t think that history is linear. I think that there are cycles, and you see this very often. If you think that there were huge movements against nuclear weapons which really put a lot of pressure on political leaders to work towards accords, and that was, to some extent, happening. That hasn’t happened in a long time. And now you see, again, this rise of militarism, and, again, some resistance coming up. But we lost that. I think we lost the power of activism for a number of decades, and I think it’s being rediscovered. And the big question, of course, always is “Well, are we on time?”.

Dubber That is a really good question. Is that something that you’re optimistic about, or is that something that causes you to despair at night? How do you interpret that?

Laura   Both, I think. There’s a very interesting saying that I hold onto, which is that “Hope is merely the decision to act.”. I think that we’re living in a time in which we’re seeing a number of stories playing out at the same time.

 

Dubber Sound artist, musician, and Head of R&D for disability arts organisation Drake Music, Tim Yates.

Tim       My background, actually, as a musician is that I studied classical music. I studied classical guitar, and I got quite far. I was doing a master’s at Royal College of Music in classical guitar, which is when I started doing this kind of stuff because I got frustrated. I was also doing compositions. I actually studied composition as well, and I was then switched to a composition master’s because I got frustrated with the limitations of a traditional instrument because I started to experiment with materials and found objects and sound and toys and things like that. And if you’re playing a quarter of a million pound Stradivarius or whatever, then you can’t scrape it with a piece of metal and bash it and hit it because people get upset if you do that kind of stuff. You’ve got a Steinway, similarly…

Dubber Well, you can, but not twice.

Tim       Exactly right. That’s it. So I got frustrated with the classical guitar in particular, so I put that down and took that exact opposite route. And I was going to just build instruments that I could build myself in ten minutes for five quid and still make incredible music with and explore that area. And from that, I’ve just gone on to do all sorts of… I’ve done installation art and things like that. So that’s where I come from, in terms of making.

 

Dubber Record producer and multi-instrumentalist, Graham Massey of 808 State.

Graham   Well, at that time, we were into space rock and making all kinds of outer world sounds. We’d grown up in the Pink Floyd era. We’d grown up with bands like Gong, Faust. The early Virgin Records was such an important part of British music culture when Virgin Records, the label, started, and their eclecticism and Europe-facing view. A lot of German bands, a lot of French bands.

It was an interesting mixture of music that we were exposed to through our local record shop, which was the Virgin Records shop. Again, a very grassroots mail-order system, that started out as. It was a gathering place for the punk community of Manchester. They had three listening booths in there, with the headphones, and there was usually about 30 people in the three listening booths. It was a place for exchanging ideas.

A guy who was in our band, his auntie managed that shop, so he had a Saturday job. A guy called Colin Seddon. And he used to bring home all this fantastic music that was coming through that shop from America. First hearing bands like The Residents and Devo, and some of the more outré stuff of the punk movement. We got sick of the three-chord thrash. Got really boring to us really quickly. Obviously you had pub rock, a lot of your traditional punk. But once… The New York thing was filtering through into Manchester, and we very much sided with that. There was bands in Manchester like A Certain Ratio, for instance, that were very on par with that. They were taking funk and dance elements alongside electronics and a deliberate lack of skill.

People would always play the trumpet in these bands. You always had to have somebody that couldn’t play the trumpet playing the trumpet in a post-punk band. Throbbing Gristle has it, 23 Skidoo has it, Cabaret Voltaire has it. And we had a trumpet amongst the two bands that shared our rehearsal room, and we used to pass it around. These non-instrumental players playing instruments was part of that scene, so long as you had enough processing. And that was a point, also, about post-punk, is it became very much a studio craft.

 

Dubber Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and pioneering internet scholar, Nancy Baym.

Nancy  My dissertation was about a discussion forum on the internet where they were talking about soap operas. This was in the early 1990s. I believe it was the first dissertation about online community. So I have a long-standing interest in audiences, and I had really avoided dealing with music for a very long time because I love it so much that I didn’t want it to be work. You were just talking about “I don’t want my hobby to be my work.”. I thought “Oh, no. If it becomes my work, I’m doomed. I’ll never have pleasure again.”. But I found myself in a situation where it just kept coming up.

It actually started with an interest in Swedish independent pop music, because in 2005 I had fallen in love with all these Swedish indie-pop bands. And I was living in Kansas, and I said “How is it even possible that I am sitting in Kansas and I know more about Swedish indie-pop than most Swedes?”.

So I wrote a series of papers about the fans of this music and the ways that the independent labels and artists at that time, here, were really supporting peer-to-peer formats and were really supporting MP3 blogs, and really supporting the circulation of their materials outside of the market. And so I wrote a series of articles about what was going on there from the point of view of, first of all, what was happening, and then what was the fan’s point of view, and tried to enter into that discussion of “Is this exploited labour? Is it a labour of love that they’re happy about?”, and the answer is yes, and about the musicians and the labels and what their ideal was in supporting this kind of view.

 

Dubber The CEO of Bandcamp, Ethan Diamond.

Ethan   I wanted to be very familiar with the process of making vinyl and coming up with the packaging and listening to test pressings, finding a good facility, and all of that, because it felt like “This is going to be an important part of the business.”. But also just because that’s what I grew up listening to. My parents’ record collection was on vinyl, and that’s how I mostly listen to music just because it gives me that feeling. It’s not an audio quality thing for me, personally. For me, it’s a tactile thing, and also just a process thing. I like committing myself to a whole record and going through that.

So, anyway, like I said, about half the business now is physical goods. And vinyl is the biggest part of that by far, and it’s also growing the fastest. So we’ve taken a lot of the things that we learned from doing those couple of early tests and have used that to create this service that basically allows people to press vinyl without a lot of the… Well, first of all, without the risk, because you don’t have to front 3,000 dollars. The way the system works is the pressing is funded by your fans who are ordering the record. And also just taking away, or at least trying to make a lot friendlier, the domain expertise you have to have to press vinyl. So we’ve built an interface for letting you specify a record that tries to demystify some of that, and we’ve been in a pilot phase with that now for quite a while. There’s a lot of tweaking to do. And we’re getting ready to roll that out really, really soon to a lot more artists. I’m excited about that one. I think it’s going to be fun.

It also, I should mention, takes away the hassle because we do all the fulfilment. So when a record gets returned because of a corner ding or something like that, that’s…

Dubber It comes to you.

Ethan   It comes to us. We handle that. We happily handle that. I feel like this is a good service for the world. I once, in the early days, ordered a record on Bandcamp that came back to me, and it was packaged exclusively in a single sheet of newspaper. Somebody had taken a single sheet of newspaper, wrapped up the record, put postage on it, and it made its way from… It was Norway. It made its way from Norway to San Francisco, and it was completely destroyed. But it’s one of my favourite records. It’s this amazing record. It’s by a band called Koppen. I don’t know if I’m saying that right, but it’s K O P P E N.

Dubber Okay. Yeah, Koppen sounds right.

Ethan   It’s so good. But the record… The jacket is just peeled off, more or less. Anyway, I like the idea of trying to get as many records as possible to people in proper packaging so that that happens to fewer people.

 

Dubber Music journalist, author, and Goldblade vocalist, John Robb.

John     For some people it was a very political movement, some people it wasn’t. For some people, like a band like the Ramones, two-thirds of that band or three-quarters of that band would be voting for Donald Trump if they were still alive. It wasn’t quite this super right-on movement that people think. Of course, The Clash had a vague left-wing politic, but the Sex Pistols didn’t really sing political songs. Their songs are more about a personal psychodrama of John Lydon, which makes them utterly fascinating. It’s almost like a nervous breakdown when you listen to them. And, in a way, that could be political. It’s not party political, it’s not manifesto political, but it reflects the feeling of the time.

Britain felt claustrophobic. It felt like it was all going to blow up any minute. It’s what it feels like now, oddly. It’s that same kind of feeling. It’s a very claustrophobic place. There’s no space in Britain. Everybody’s on top of everybody else, and everybody’s always very angry about something.

It’s like Brexit. No one cared anything about Brexit. Five years ago, you say to the same people “Do you want to be in or out of Europe?”, and they’d go “I don’t know. I don’t care.”, but now it’s become this life-defining issue that’s split the country up forever. In 100 years time, the country will still be split over it. It’s two different Britains, now, just trying to squash into one island, and that’s… Punk caught that feeling, but an older version of it. That very claustrophobic pissed-off-ness of Britain.

I like punk, but, obviously… If I had to define myself, I would define myself more as a post-punk person. I’m part of that generation that were totally captivated by punk, tried to do their version of it, and came out completely wrong and different. That’s what post-punk was. We never learned to play music properly.

The original punk bands, they all did covers. They learned to play properly. They wrote verse, chorus, verse, chorus. They were great bands. I love that music. But the bit I’m fascinated in is the people that came afterwards that could just play one riff on a bass for ten minutes, and just about trying to make a verse and a chorus and having no idea how to do it, but somehow making that into music. And I’ve always been really interested in that. To this day, I’ve been playing music for 40-odd years, and I still can’t play a cover version.

 

Dubber The Director-General of the Swedish Media Foundation, Anette Novak.

Anette  So media and information literacy, to me… It’s an area which has a lot of traction at the moment. A lot of the people who are in, I would say, the debate don’t understand how wide it is. A lot of, I think, teachers and librarians that I meet, they talk a lot about source criticism, which is good, but source criticism in their interpretation is very much leaning towards the old media landscape.

Source criticism today means that you have to understand that certain data sources are owned by big conglomerates. That the data you see has been filtered in a way that you don’t understand and you don’t know, and it has business logics in it. One talks a lot about that the platform companies, they give you the user experience that you want, but you don’t make informed choices. There’s no transparency into how the algorithms work.

All these things are something that an aware media consumer needs to learn. And if you don’t know, and if you don’t learn these things, I would claim that you will not be able to exercise your citizenship. You can easily become a useful idiot of someone. And I think, unfortunately, that some of the forces that is moving the world at the moment is way ahead of the democratic forces who want the citizens to be empowered in this sense. They’re making a lot of money on it.

And, of course, that’s why it’s important that we that represent democratic states, and there in those positions, we want to guard the common good, if I may say so. It’s a big word, but still. Some kind of idea of “We’re doing this for you guys. We want to have expertise so that we can try and make you understand what you need to learn.”.

 

Dubber Critical theorist and author, Jon Greenaway, aka TheLitCritGuy.

Jon       The reason that a lot of people who’ve been through very traumatic incidents in their own life find horror a rewarding thing to watch is because it reminds you that monsters can be beaten. Maybe not all of us make it, maybe not all of us survive the masked man with a chainsaw, but monsters can be beaten. Vampires can be thrown back into their coffins. We should know that they’re going to come back, but we should also know that we’ve dealt with them before.

 

Dubber Official storyteller to NASA, Jay O’Callahan.

Jay        I think the wonderful moments in our life are when we’re part of something bigger. Could be the birth, could be the death. The death of a parent was huge when my dad died, but it’s part of… Life is also death. It’s also loss. It’s also birth. It’s also discovery. It’s also surprise. It’s also going to this play. “Wow, amazing. How do they think of that?”. Emily Dickinson, how did she think of that? “The cricket sang and set the sun.”. She does that all the time. Crickets are these little, ordinary things, and then set the sun. She jumps to the cosmic. So, in a way, she is us. She is lightning.

Dubber The universe in a grain of sand.

Jay        Yes. The same thing. In a grain of sand.

Dubber Fantastic. Jay, thank you so much for your time today.

Jay        Thank you. You’re a wonderful interviewer. This was such fun.

 

Interviewee     Thanks so much for having me.

Interviewee     Thank you.

Interviewee     Thank you for having me.

Interviewee     Thank you.

Interviewee     Thank you.

Interviewee     Thank you, Andrew.

Interviewee     Thank you.

Interviewee     Thank you so much for having me.

Interviewee     Thank you very much.

 

Dubber And thank you for being part of the MTF Podcast and part of this incredible MTF community. Special thanks to Clutch Daisy, aka Thee Manual Labour, for helping to compile all these clips for this episode. To the team, Jake, Michela, Sergio, Mars, Run Dreamer.

The MTF Podcast is now going to take a little break to take a deep breath, and we’ll be back soon with more conversations with brilliant people just like this. In the meantime, feel free to go digging through the back catalogue. As you’ve heard, there’s a lot in there to explore, and we’ve had to leave out far more than we could include. So stay safe, take care, and we’ll speak soon. Cheers.

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