Mechanical Techno - Graham Dunning at Music Hackspace

Graham Dunning’s Mechanical Techno is a masterpiece - he has played Boiler Room Live in London, Music Tech Fest in Berlin, and his demo video has had over a million views. Graham works in art, music and sound, and shared the inspiring story of Mechanical Techno at a packed Music Hackspace.

Graham Dunning at Music Hackspace - pic Kitmonsters

Mechanical Techno - Graham Dunning

With a background in experimental music, Graham likes to set himself restrictions on his projects - hearing his honest account of how he developed Mechanical Techno over four years was fascinating. He makes his live techno using stacks of customised vinyl to trigger sounds, and it all works off just one turntable.

“It was born out of experiments and accidents. I started messing around with records and sellotape, and I focus on things it can do that you wouldn’t do if programming on the computer”.

Graham knew that DJs sometimes put stickers on records and he looked at different ways of making loops, “I use a more brutal way, with thread and a counterweight to stop the arm sliding to the middle.”

Graham Dunning customised vinyl - pic Kitmonsters

He is not aiming for perfection and the music has a very organic feel.

“As a way of making electronic music, it should sound wonky, I like the pops and clicks”, he said.

Graham described experimenting with cutting into records to make textures, and dividing one into eight segments aiming for a hi hat sound. A key development was finding ways of blanking out parts of the vinyl, and he moved from tin foil to acetate and more recently copper strips.

He is always adapting and expanding his creation, and adding things to the discs from acrylic to drawing pins and metal studs.

Graham Dunning Mechanical Techno rig - pic Kitmonsters

There is always a lot of trial and error, but some basic principles remain key.

“I decided to limit myself to white labels - short runs, test pressings, I get them in charity shops for 50p. There’s something quite sad about them, they would have been the cornerstone of someone’s record collection.”

Re-purposing things for the mechanics is another principle, whether it’s using a beer glass from the venue, parts from a tambourine, a paintbrush handle to mount a microswitch on, or the brain from an old drum machine.

Graham Dunning’s prisms - pic Kitmonsters

One of his key pieces of gear is a Pico Paso synth from Bleep Labs which is light controlled and has two triangle wave oscillators and square wave LFO. Graham has a very particular way of triggering changes in light and sound when he performs, and he saves it for the end of the show.

“I bought some prisms on eBay and a grasshopper in a plastic block. For the climax the lights are killed and the prisms go round.”

Graham finished his talk with a brilliant live demo that showed just why Mechanical Techno is such a hit.