The Possibilities Of Going Electronic

The music industry is changing. Some for good, some for bad. For every band that comes out with something fresh and real, there's dozens who want to play the industry's formulated game. Unfortunately, for the time being, very few that don't "play the game," get heard.

GodboX has found a way to gets its sound out, while keeping its vision uncompromised. Its formula has been web promotion, word of mouth and playing out.

The duo of Luana, the band's founder and writer, and her percussionist Dave Halpern, also of Highway 9, have created a sound of textural layerings with raw lacings of sensuality and melody dripping underneath. With a darkly musical foundation, Luana uses a variety of instrumental tools and her inner self to bring listeners closer to her soul.

Despite the industry's shortcomings, it's hard to count Luana out of the mainstream race. She realized she wanted to be a singer at about four and hasn't turned back since. The singer/songwriter/guitarist has used any means necessary to transfer melodies from her mind to her music.

After her first band, Psychic Noisebox, disbanded in 1996, Luana eventually began to use a sequencer to further create. Her first release, "Dark, Damp & Cold," came from painful life experiences, Luana said. She had previously experienced a traumatic car accident. The physical pain from that was too tough to treat physically, so she used music, and the help of Halpern and producer Andres Karu, to help her heal creatively.

While her goal is not to please industry executives, many electronic music fans have pinned GodboX as the genre's next big thing.

Look out Trent Reznor, here's Luana.

Does playing electronic music allow you to express things you normally wouldn't be able to lyrically and instrumentation-wise in straight-ahead rock music? How much extra songwriting range does it allow you?

It's all rock, isn't it really? I just never felt "straight ahead" in my style of thinking or dressing or expressing myself. I've always felt somehow alien from the people around me, not thinking inside the 'box'.

Gaining the ability and knowledge of electronics only made the music that much more vast and modern. I didn't have to learn violin to use it in my songs. Sequencing was extremely freeing for me as a songwriting tool, because there was no need to depend on other musicians to interpret my song.

I was able to write from a different place; this place was dominated by space between very grooving notes and not by chords or melodies, which I was previously used to. I was able to obtain instant inspiration by dialing up a sound and manipulating it in such a way that a groove happened. Then, I became free to create melodies that I wouldn't normally write on guitar.

What other genres of music do you draw from?

I grew up on rock. I just didn't seem to sound like any single band in particular when I wrote, even less so with the genre thing. I can tell you that I have been getting great response from crowds and websites that call themselves metal, goth, darkwave, electronica, drum & bass, trip hop, industrial and alternative.

Do you ever try incorporating styles completely different than electronic, like blues or jazz, into your genre? If so, how do you do so?

I love acid jazz, and jazz. It teaches about balance and schools your ear [to] understand the structure of the music. When I hear the intense 'pocket' in music, like M'shell Ndegeocello, I hate it when that pocket isn't there. So many musicians don't understand that! Really, you think that they do, and they should, but then you jam with them and they're putting notes in these spots where they just don't feel right.

It's all about layering the notes in such a way that they're not overwhelming the groove. The space between the notes is key. Knowing different genres of music helps you to see that all genres are interrelated. All good music has the same elements to me.

How do you go about arranging instrumentation to your songs? What types of instruments are used and what types of colors can each one create? How can effects be used to touch up and polish your songs?

Somehow my brain gets all these production ideas, especially when the song has had time to mature in my skull. I usually don't even write the song the first or second time it comes to me, I just acknowledge it is there and hum the melody or play a chord structure and put it down. Later, if it comes back to me again and it's really dying to come out, I will finish it. I think this is how I know my good songs from the mediocre ones. When I'm really in the mood of a certain song, I get some red wine, turn off all lights, get out candles and something to burn that smells good, and I start to explore sounds on the keyboard. All my senses wake up and I will write a sequence for a bridge or a groove to back my guitar.

Occasionally, a song will start with a keyboard groove, as in the case of "Eclipse." I find that space where notes need to go and I find the correct instrument to fill that space and when that happens I know it. The mood is concocted through the choice of sounds and mating with the 12-string guitar and vocals. Each instrument or sound chosen creates a specific vibe, depending upon the mood of the song being constructed.

There have also been odd times when it doesn't "just happen" and I feel like kicking my instrument against the wall repeatedly. It's nice to just walk away. I don't like to be frustrated when creating it blocks me. I feel that creating should be the opposite of frustrating, but that's not what some great songwriters tell me. I've been told that sometimes you have to sweat over a song.

I have done this, ripping a song apart, changing it a ton of times, playing it in different ways with different chorus or verse style[s]. Usually, it ends up going back to the way it started out. But, it is nice to explore a bit; it allows you to know that the colors you've chosen are truly the right shade.

Then, I bring it to my drummer, Dave Halpern. He usually says something like "do you realize your writing in a 5/4 time signature?" and I usually say, "uh, no, I didn't think about it." Then he lays out a groove, I sing what I have and he tells me if it makes sense to him structurally. We work together on final arrangements because I value his opinion and he really knows his shit, having worked with great musicians and producers over the years. Andres Karu gives us production input and has always added miscellaneous instrumental coloring in the studio that has been invaluable to this project.

How did you and Dave meet and begin working together? What has he added to the project? How important is strong percussion to this style of music?

Dave and I met because everywhere I went he was there! I kept saying who is this tall, adorable guy that I keep seeing? Eventually, a friend introduced us and we have been teaching each other ever since. It was like fate, and it has proved to be many years of respect and mutual musical adoration. We began working together when I was with Psychic Noisebox; he came and jammed with us and taught us what a good drummer was. But, he was touring and didn't have time for a commitment. Dave and I stayed in touch and when he heard my solo songs, he made time to make music with me.

Have you ever tried to find a really tight drummer? If you have, you know exactly what it's like not having one. It just isn't. That's how much he's added to this project. I don't think it would have been nearly as good without him.

Electronic music is perceived as a tough style to reproduce live. How have you found that task to be? Was it tough to get used to at first?

The task of reproducing the studio vision live was a bit daunting at first, especially when thinking about doing it with just two of us. Fortunately, I had a great producer that knows this stuff. I was able to pick his brain about his experiences on the road with electronic shows and have him do live mixes with an experienced ear. He knew stuff about the way an audience hears through the PA that I wouldn't have thought of.

I did a bunch of research about the type of electronics and decided to use a kick-ass MP3 player to keep it very modern. I found the Nomad Jukebox from Creative Labs and thought that would suffice better then the average DAT player. This medium is not something that has been done a whole lot yet on a professional level, but this player had an amazing feel and has worked out great for GodboX.

I wouldn't settle for playing this music if it wasn't the way I heard it and produced it in the studio. I didn't want to play acoustic, it didn't feel right. Reminiscent of using a click in the studio, when playing with electronics you may feel like it's a bit restrictive at first. But, then, hopefully you get used to it and then you find ways to work around it and allow the humanness to become a part of the machine. You definitely cannot screw up, though. Don't get off the sequence. You'll be very sorry and it will sound like a train wreck live. It really makes you a better musician. People may beg to differ on this, because you cannot go off on a 10 bar tangent unless it's well-planned, but we do not sound exactly like the CD live. We sound better! We have our own ways of making the sound that [is] much different and richer in the live show. I hope you get to see it soon.

Are you and Dave able to communicate during a live show over the music or is that all worked out beforehand?

We communicate constantly live. This is pertinent! Not only are we connected by the music; we are welded together by the machines. Making eye contact periodically so we know we are both on the same page, ready for the same count and able to be exact so that everything goes smoothly. Besides, we are jamming and making this music that sounds so huge [coming] from two people working together with machines. It's really a trip. An eye opening, sometimes a bit scary, but always exciting, trip.

Is there any way that rehearsing electronic music differs from rehearsing rock music? Are there ways to improvise in this style or does everything have to be worked out in sequence beforehand?

There are definitely ways to improvise within the boundaries of the electronics. We find the holes and put little live inflections in them that switch it up a bit. Of course, the drummer can always jam on rolls and certain parts. Some of it is worked out beforehand and sometimes it comes on a whim. But, it always has to come back on the one.

What type of interest has your music generated? Where do you want to take it?

The music has generated a lot of interest, even though I haven't pursued the music business per se. Most of the interest comes from fans. Of course, I have had two independent filmmakers use my music for their movies. It's been used [as] a background in a T.V. show. I have won a contest to reproduce 1000 CDs online, which was helpful.

Within the electronic community, we've had numerous remixes done of a bunch of the GodboX tunes and voted one of the "most likely to get a record deal" amongst the electronic musicians. We got a great review in "Power Play" magazine because a street-teamer from Netherlands sent them the GodboX CD. We have numerous web pages and interviews of us online. Garnering over 7,700 web hits in one month at www.godbox.org, people are hearing about us from somewhere.

So far, I haven't found that one person to champion the music to the industry. I don't know if I even believe in the music industry that much right now, with the way it's structured. I get e-mails practically every day from one "A&R" guy or another. I haven't found anyone who's telling me what I want to hear yet.

Where do I want to take it? I would like to live up to my talent. I don't quite know what that means yet, but I'm sure, as with the music, it will become more defined with time.

[ Website: www.godbox.org ]

Josh Davidson

Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and njcoast.com. He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.