Created in 16 years ago in Seattle. Laptop Battle is an event that pins bedroom producers against each other in a competitive format. As the years have gone on the event as risen even further in popularity with the boundaries of live performance electronic music consistently being stretched. We were lucky enough to talk to the Laptop Battle team ahead of the 16th edition of the Seattle competition.
When was the idea for Laptop Battle created and what was the inspiration behind it?
Kris Moon originally got the idea from events some local producers were traveling to perform at. He brought the idea to Zapan aka Zach Huntting of FourthCity, which was a thriving arts collective in Seattle. Ableton was in version 2 and already changing the way producers were creating and performing music. And there was lots of experimental computer music that was unique in Seattle at that time. Not long after, Sean Horton (an early competitor) was starting Seattle’s innovative Decibel Festival, which has grown to selling out nearly of it’s shows every year, while booking extremely fresh world-wide talent. It was a hotbed of creativity at the time. Playing live on a Laptop was fairly novel and the computer was just starting to be adopted by DJs on stage with various early control setups.
This year marks the 16th edition of the event. Are you able to list some of Laptop Battles most famous alumni since it started?
There’s been some seriously amazing artists. Some of my favorites include Vytear, Starkey, Velepean Screen, Cygnus, Pezzner, m.O., and tons of others. Most of those are champions…It’s crazy how many bad asses have lost in their first or second round. I’ve seen KJ Sawka lose a couple times, and he’s one of the world’s top drummers. It can be such a wild card.
How has the event evolved over the years in terms of performance? Has finger drumming risen in prominence for contestants?
Finger drumming is certainly rising in popularity. It’s very much a stage show, so there’s lots of antics, too. Since it’s on a huge sound system, sound design plays just as big of a role as the instrumentation – and the way your track unfolds is also really important. It needs to have an emotional arc to be compelling. It gets really nerdy. Artists like Vytear and Velepean Screen were triggering their own patches and randomized sequences and creating these generative and programmatic sequences. Sometimes it’s really mind blowing what’s happening. There were times I was felt like I’d time travelled. Originally, the style had a very glitchy aesthetic and I feel like it’s evolved to more of a drop oriented bass sound. I love the chip tune influence…it’s still relevant.
What has been the most bizarre/memorable on stage performance that has happened in the history of Laptop Battle?
We had this contestant from Atlanta who was some kind of weird dark magic wizard emerg from a basement after many years of training. He went by the name Dr. Maximillian Reinhardt…and I’ll never forget him…he was finger drumming on a Korg PadKontrol like a mad man in some sets…and one time he busted out a DDR footpad controller and marched a beat to the Oompa Loompa song from Willy Wonka. It was f*cking mind blowing. That controller was totally illegal according to the rules, but no one cared because it was so dope. We encourage rule breaking. This is kind of the WWE of music.
In one sentence describe what people can expect from this years event?
Bring earplugs, the KV2 sound system will be ridiculously heavy.
So if you are in the Seattle area we suggest you come on down and get among one of the coolest events going on in Electronic Music.