Do you even archive? is a regular column where we’ll talk to labels and artists about their archiving, cataloguing and preservation practices.
For this edition of Do you even archive? we spoke with Dutch DJ and producer Boris Bunnik. Based in Rotterdam, Bunnik has been active for over a decade since his first release in 2007 on Rush Hour as Conforce. With multiple aliases and releases on some the most influential Dutch labels, Bunnik is a curious mind, exploring all elements of electronic music. With such a large melange of influences and outputs things can get pretty overwhelming thus requiring structure, organisation and clear workflows.
With a fresh release out, Dawn Chorus, his 5th release for Dutch powerhouse label, Delsin we asked Boris Bunnik, do you even archive?
How do you organize your whole collection both digitally and physically?
To be honest I think vinyl is a pain in the ass to organise. For me it’s a love hate thing using it. I often find myself moving records or re-organising my studio and things fall over each other, records drop out of sleeves, gravity forces a bunch of records into fruit bowls etc. It’s also part of your carbon footprint. Which is good to be aware of nowadays.
Apart from that, there is a lot of craftsmanship involved in the production, and of course it gives colour to the sound yet the whole chain of quality controls can make or break it too.
So I’m also selective because of this but also because I want to keep my collection tight and filled with music that I like to play at home or has emotional value, but I would say my collection of old and new/rare electro records is the biggest.
When it comes to more functional music (I hate that word), I tend to go digital. I also don’t have the space, money and time to stack 10.000 records, there is no point and I’m not that obsessed with “Things”. I don’t want to have too much stuff around me. I’m not obsessed with it anymore like I was years and years ago. I love music but I came to a point where I’m happy with what I have and selectively add things to my physical collection. Memories attached to music are sometimes more important than wanting it all.
In the future, I think I want to even further minimise my collection to a point where only the records that really captivate me remain.
Digitally it’s a similar approach but more detailed. Actually I’m still in the middle of tagging my digital collection more specifically. I also organise things by labels even though when buying new music I’m never specifically going back to certain labels.
I try to add images to most releases but that is a time consuming thing. It’s like vinyl, a sleeve sometimes activates my photographic memory. I can lose someone’s name but once I see him or her I know it right away. It is a similar thing with sleeves, you have a visual picture and the sound pops up in your head.
How extensive do you get with your metadata? Are there any things you’d wish to improve to make your life easier?
I wish I could write my own code and hook it up to a music database with all ID info and images. I’m surprised this hasn’t been invented or is a standard function in iTunes. Maybe it is for some commercial pop stuff. Like if your image cover is missing it will automatically search for the cover and add the cover image. Or a label is missing and it will add it. I wish I could simply readout the Discogs database. They have all that data.
Temperature, moisture and even positioning can all have a negative effect on vinyl. Do you take any measures to preserve yours?
They are organised in the studio in a closet standing against the back wall functioning as a diffuser. So I play melodies for all those records from my synths, giving something back to them. Our cat often drops by and gives them a head stroke. I often take them out and put them back. They rest on the shelf like a bottle of wine ageing for the right moment to be played sometimes. Some records are special and have these ugly plastics around them that make them look cheaper than they actually are. It’s like a condom but it does prevent the sleeves from damaging a bit at least.
My own collection of self-produced records are kept in a golden safe with a turntable in special waterproof, fire and dustproof container buried somewhere in the dunes on the island of Terschelling. I have the GPS coordinates and in case of another big bang I hope that these will survive and new species will be able to discover them.
Do you digitize all your vinyl?
I have started digitizing a lot of my records some years ago, it is a linear job but at the same time a good opportunity to listen through your catalog and listen back the things that you’ve bought.
There is a part of my vinyl collection that I haven’t digitized and wont digitize. These are the more experimental soundscape and non-electronic things I have. This way I still have enough reason to play a record in my living room and stand up every 15 minutes or so.
I bought this NAD converter. I’ve been told it was one of the best tools to get your records neutrally recorded without any colouring. I’ve been spending a lot of time on checking needles. I’ve used different ones that had harsh high frequencies, some sounded dull… So needles color your sound big time. If your needle is old and overused… Imagine what effect this can have.
I think recording records is not ideal but back in the day things weren’t so loud and over compressed, so if you record records you still have some freedom/headroom to process these masters and re-adjust things to your standards.
So you need to know what you’re doing when recording. Things can sound incredibly dull or incredibly harsh and bright. I think it’s not ideal but in some cases inevitable necessity.
How do you go about defining certain presets, tracks or versions?
I use two methods:
Method A: I have a list with words phrases and ideas in my notes that I keep filling. If I find something that speaks to the imagination or it could be potential title I write it down. Sometimes, not always, this can even be a starting point. So whenever I find an interesting title, word or phrase I just put it in that list.
Method B: Make a name based on the used tools for example I’ve used a Roland TR-808, Eventide H9, Digitone and DP2 it could become something like: EVT_808_DIGI_9 or AJU2_PRCS_H3
It can also be just a reference to something from the past by another artist, as a reference point. That way I know the type of vibe when reading it. I can’t keep track sometimes because I produce a lot.
Here are some titles of tracks for an album that is currently in the making.
I then use the simple vinyl sides as a starting point to also organise the structure as vinyl is still the main goal/medium.
Sometimes, in an early stage if I already feel that I’m heading in a Versalife or Conforce or more ambient directions, then I already pre-organise EP or LP folders with ongoing projects. Things often get swapped from folder to folder until it makes sense all together. It’s something that helps me organise things.
Versions: Final, Final of the final, Finalest final version 3 final, Finalv1take3final_of_thefinal_of_the_finals_that_were_final_before_this_version_and_because_i_wasn’t_satisfied_I_made_a_new_final_Version_v3.44445666
Preset effects section:
When it comes to those I generally create my own preset section based on existing effect names with CFC in front the names so it’s clear these are self made/edited presets.
When it comes down to the KSP8, a very versatile effects unit with a modern preset manager I sometimes just come up with a variation on the original preset name. It has the ability to save chains of presets like one would do in Ableton Live for example.
The it comes down to VST presets and chains I categorise this ins Synths->Chords, Pads. Or Effect Chains, Self Modulating Patches, Send Effects. With a specific preset name I always try to describe with a few words what this could be.
With Bass sounds for example this could be something like, Sub Bass Sine or FM Dist Perc for example.
It’s good to have some of these chains and presets ready but I do not tend to use sounds again after they played a prominent role in a finished track.
All tools also have separate sections like Max4live plugins, I define/order it by type and function.
This is part of your workflow. It’s important that I don’t spend too much time programming fiddling around otherwise I get frustrated and lose focus and inspiration.
I hate it when plugins crash, there is too much beta stuff around on the market.
My advice is also, if things are running smoothly, DO NOT update.
Tracklists: plain and simple, location of the show.
Can you speak a in a little more detail about how you structure stuff in Rekordbox?
I don’t use Rekordbox to organise my digital music library. You might think I’m old-fashioned but I use iTunes to categorise and organise my music. iTunes is the place were all music gets a tag, group (label) and genre or rating. I don’t import the music, it’s all connected to a web of slightly unorganised folders. So the idea is to give it structure via iTunes. I organise all music per year, then it goes into iTunes and gets organised. I can see what I bought in what specific year but I also mess things up completely with the old. My vinyl collection is a separate folder that is connected to iTunes index.
I just use Rekordbox to import playlists to USB drivers, preparing sets happens through iTunes playlists.
Whenever I play hybrid DJ sets in Ableton Live, I simply structure my music visually with colours.
I honestly dislike the CDJs, I have no visual feeling with my music on this tiny screen. Colours in Ableton Live help me visualise my music and put marks in my brain. It’s not like a pre-programmed set at all, it’s about visual memories. So for me it works much better than a tracklist.
Still colours do not always correspond with the strength, type or impact of a track but in general it helps me. I want to be able to mix my music without having to pre-listen, I should get familiar with it.
I like the idea that I’m able to mix music visually and not having to always put loads of pressure on my precious ears that suffer from heavy tinnitus now for 16 years.
Are there things you’ve lost throughout the years that you really miss?
No, I’ve been very consistent in making back ups and properly organising things. However, sometimes I’m too impatient with projects that are under construction. I made a special folder for these things now that suggests these are removed but every half a year I just go back and listen to things back and judge them one last time. Sometimes you have the right elements but the shittiest beats on earth or the other way around. Sometimes there is one good element that can spark a new idea. I used to throw sketches away very quickly because they were blocking my creative process; best is to start something new.
I think I’ve dumped a couple of potential bangers but I didn’t feel them at that particular moment.
When it comes to backups I have double backups and want to start doing remote online backups. However, that idea still doesn’t make me feel comfortable.
The good thing is that my personal best results make it to vinyl so in case of an electrical EMP storm I definitely will not lose them.
And it’s funny that in the previous answer I’m taking things that were once digital from an analog medium back to a digital medium whereas here I’m going from a contemporary digital medium onto a classic physical medium. If I think about it, it doesn’t make sense but vinyl is something sentimental and emotional. It’s the craftsmanship around it, it’s love / hate.