“Making stuff is not the hard part,” says Tony Barkodarian. “It's putting it out.”
Last February, Barkodarian, otherwise known as producer Eraserfase, embarked on a month-long challenge in letting go of his music. Every day, he went to work on a Teenage Engineering OP-1 portable synthesizer with the goal of knocking out a new beat in one take. He released the results daily and, after the experiment was done, the work was compiled on the cassette Analog Rituals (a daily beat series) and released through Dome of Doom Records.
Barkodarian, 31, has been making beats for more than half his life. He started at the age of 15, while a student at a high school in Calabasas, simply by recording conversations with his friends, chopping them up and turning them into techno pieces.
His influences are diverse. Barkodarian's uncle was the conductor of the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia. As a kid, he would secretly listen to Power 106 mixes from DJs like C-Minus and Richard “Humpty” Vission. A little bit later, he gravitated towards rock, thanks in part to groups like Rage Against the Machine and System of a Down.
When the latter comes up in conversation, it's almost with a sense of awkwardness — is it stereotypical if a journalist and musician both of Armenian heritage start talking about the world's best-known band from the Armenian diaspora? But they played an important part in Barkodarian's evolution as a musician. “Hearing them in high school, that was one of those moments where I thought, well, they can do it,” he says. And if they could do it, then maybe so could he. “For a a lot us, we looked at it like, damn, it's possible. The self-image of an Armenian was different before System of a Down than after it.”
When it comes to electronic music, Barkodarian's interest starts with Squarepusher, the British artist whose future-minded beats pushed him to the cutting edge in the 1990s. “It was electronic music from the perspective of a live musician,” he says. “He really gave me the taste for electronic music.”
Still, Barkodarian went the rock route after high school, providing vocals and percussion for various different bands. On the side, though, he continued to work on solo electronic projects. When his last band, the prog-rock outfit Odessa, split five years ago, he decided to focus on his solo work.
Initially, he made dubstep, but that eventually morphed into beat music. He has toured extensively, including stints on the road with Del the Funky Homosapien and Awol One, and has played L.A. beat center Low End Theory.
Inside a Lake Balboa donut shop, Barkodarian describes the OP-1 synthesizer/sampler as a “small little guy” roughly comparable in size to the keyboard portion of a laptop. He picked it up two years ago, after meeting the instrument's creators through the music trade show NAMM, and takes it out on the road with him.
“There's so much waiting,” he says of the travel involved in touring. When Barkodarian has to wait, he gets to work on a beat. He says that there are “hundreds and hundreds” of beats on his hard drive. “Deciding that they're finished and putting them out is challenging,” he says.
One day, after installing new software in the gear, an old beat caught his ear. Barkodarian figured he should do something with it. He went to work on the beat, then moved on to another and then another. “Before I knew it, I had made five or six of them in one sitting,” he says. That's when the producer realized that making one every day for a month would be a fun project.
“Peach,” the 24th daily beat, stands out as a favorite for the producer. He describes it as “romantic and dreamy.” He's also quite fond of the third beat in the challenge. Called “In the Room,” it's a heavier, dancier number that revolves around a sample he grabbed off of L.A. radio station KPFK.
Not long after the release of Analog Rituals, Barkodarian hit the road for a short tour. Live, he also performs as an emcee and works with a projectionist, Ashta (Armand Kambourian). More recently, though, he's been holed up in the studio, working on some collaborative projects. His latest Eraserfase track “Sapphire” is up on SoundCloud. He's also at work on his next big release, although he's not sure if it will be an EP or a full-length.
The 28-day Analog Rituals project taught Barkodarian not to second-guess his work. “Once you let it go, it's not yours anymore and that's terrifying,” he says. “At the same time, that terrifying feeling is why you do it in the first place, I think. That's what makes it so exciting.”
Catch Eraserfase at Bananas in Leimert Park, Tuesday, Oct. 20.