One of the ultimate gigs, according to Randy Garcia, would be to compose music for video games: melodies repeated so frequently throughout play (á la Tetris) that they have to be well done. Therefore, it's no surprise that most of his electronic music (recorded under the name R_Garcia) includes the blip and bleep sounds familiar to games.
"All the early Atari and Nintendo titles are pretty influential to me," he says.
Welcome to the IDM world. A subgenre under the electronic umbrella, IDM started as an acronym for "Intelligent Dance Music." The name initially seems a bit contradictory, as the music was first popular in the early 1990s among ravers who were too tired to dance. IDM tends to offer more of an intellectual stimulation -- for the brain to dance, so to speak -- than a physical one. Mainly composed on computers, IDM is characterized by its complex but structured rhythms and its changing meters and timbres. Like free jazz, IDM incorporates a vast amount of improvisation, and this, as well as the music's complexity, makes it more of an avant-garde art form than traditional dance music.
With his Orlando-based homespun label, Nophi Recordings, Garcia has taken quite a foothold in IDM as he uses the label to showcase his own and others' talents. He also takes a role in organizing ezRPM ("Egyptian Zombie Robot Party Machine"), a weekly collective of electronic musicians and DJs and a big presence in the small but growing local IDM scene.
In the summer of 2001, Garcia and fellow musician Mic (pronounced "Mike") Mell moved to Orlando from their hometown of Fort Lauderdale with little more than their musical equipment and computers. Having known each other since their youth, they had quite a musical history; Garcia says he plays "everything," which includes drums, guitar, bass and baritone guitars, keyboards, piano, synthesizer and, of course, the computer. (Along with electronic, he also plays jazz and rock.) As soon as they could, he says, they pushed their way into the local music scene.
"We were kicked in the face when we first got here," Garcia says, speaking figuratively. "I said to `Mell`, 'I'm not gonna do this anymore: I'm not gonna play for free.' I mean, we were shit-broke, eating cold corn out of the can. We raised the bar, and for once we started turning offers down."
This starving-musician perspective has given him a full appreciation of his fellow musicians: "I'm never going to ask anyone to work for free," he says.
Maintaining this professional attitude, Garcia also runs Nophi as a sort of collective; his goal is for it to sustain itself, him and every other artist on the label.
Even though several of Nophi's CDs were pressed at large-scale manufacturing plants, the label is indie in its purest form; some of the discs are still hand-burned, as they were in the very beginning: "The label consisted of a CD burner Ã? we'd drive to Kinko's in the middle of the night to make CD sleeves," Garcia recalls.
He keeps the label's slogan: "Homemade, so you know it's fresh."
In the past few years, Nophi has put out nearly 20 releases, although its current catalog only includes 11. Of those, three are Garcia's own, two are compilations and the rest are from other artists: Mic Mell, Barcode Lounger (a collaboration between Garcia and Mell), Reed Rothchild, Tokeo, Color with Sound. He's looking to also release vinyl.
At age 26, Garcia himself has already composed an impressive list of 44 musical projects he's either headed or participated in. Although some of the projects are reincarnations of each other, the list still exemplifies Garcia's prolificacy.
"I'm always working. When I loaf around, I don't really get anything done."
That's not to say he doesn't have fun with his work. A lot of his song titles have a sort of wacky humor, such as "Washing My Pants" and "Invisible Mayonnaise." Mell's newest release (on Nophi) is titled "Muff-ucker." Garcia also hails one of the perks of working at Back Booth (doing ezRPM) as "all the PBR `Pabst Blue Ribbon` you can drink." This isn't curing cancer, in other words.
Premiering about a month ago, ezRPM is an evolution of the "PUSH" nights which took place Thursdays throughout the latter half of 2003 at AKA Lounge.
ezRPM is also a collective -- even more so than the label. Recent performances include Chairman Hao, Colour with Sound, Machine Drum, The Deep Element, Kudante and Music Concrete Ensemble/Normal Music. There's a bit of a computer-nerd vibe to the shows, with laptops onstage and software talk floating about the predominantly male crowd. (Ladies, take note.) But this is overruled by a more artistic vibe, complemented by on-screen visuals and artist improvisation. Garcia says that his own sets are about a 50/50 mix of improvisation and already written pieces.
In contrast with a lot of IDM, which is strictly for the head, some of Garcia's music, as well as that of the ezRPM and Nophi DJs and musicians he works with, is danceable. He also stays away from booking music that falls too heavily into the noise category.
"I'm not a software geek at all," he says. "It's not so much about what plug-in I have, but what notes I am using. I try to use pop sensibility as an artist. I want to have a CD that everyone who likes music likes to listen to. Even my parents listen to my music.
"We have a real strict policy `at ezRPM`: If you come, you have to bring beats. We want to create an atmosphere for people to dance. We also want to stay away from the rock thing; we want to pull something together that has not been done."
If your ears are virgin to IDM, the ezRPM website (www.ezrpm.com) offers some music for free download. Says Garcia, "I love to have somebody come up to me and say, 'Hey man, I downloaded a track of your music and I want to buy your album.'"
Garcia has also started a sister label, One Constant Pitch, through which he intends to release more live electronic music (the label already includes one live set from him: Thank You), as well as experimental jazz.