Techno mechanics tune up live show 

It's been almost a year since the release of Cirrus' second album, "Back on a Mission." During that time Long Beach, Calif., beat mechanics Aaron Carter and Stephen James Barry have experienced changes (part-time collaborator Rene Padilla is out; full-time drummer John Fimple is in) and celebrated triumphs (new single and video, worldwide distribution deal with Epic/Sony -- Moonshine in the U.S. -- and loads of video-game soundtrack offers). And they've also been perfecting a high-energy live show that will cap the Memorial-weekend offerings.

"What you'll expect to see in Orlando is more of a different format," says Carter from The Cloud, the group's "pimped-out" Long Beach studio base-camp. The addition of Fimple not only infused the show with live beats but lifted the band's spirits, says Carter, of the new kid who was already a huge fan of the electronic duo. "Before, we were about 70 percent live, now we are, like, 85-90 percent," which is unusual for techno.

Cirrus is equally psyched about dropping "Stop and Panic" (released May 18), the second single and video from "Back on a Mission." Carter considers the dance-floor call-and-response track an attempt to create a new genre of dance music. The detailed single took more than two months to record, created from an unbelievable number of hand-crafted samples -- more than 50. But don't try and pick them out.

"We take somebody's sample and manipulate it to no end. I couldn't tell you what samples we were using on what songs," says Carter. It would be difficult. It might even be incriminating. The legalities surrounding sampling are a tricky business, although Carter has a handle on it.

"If you've taken the original piece and manipulated it enough to where it is unrecognizable, I don't think any fees are due to the artist. But if you straight jack a loop and put it over and over behind your music -- pay up. Somebody else wrote that," he says.

The CD single includes some impressive remixes of "Stop and Panic" by top-notch tweakers DJ Dan, Paul Grogan, Micro and Deepsky. (The video clip is a lo-fi collage of footage from the high-profile Moonshine Overamerica 1998 tour.) But big names do not impress Cirrus. What does? Hard work.

"We refuse a lot of `remixes`. It takes like, three days -- maybe a week -- to do a remix. But sometimes you get it back and it's like this guy spent eight hours on this. Totally unacceptable. ... On 'Stop and Panic,' all the DJs that did their remixes put 110 percent into it."

Like electronic alchemists The Crystal Method, Cirrus is successfully licensing its music to video-game manufacturers. "Back on a Mission" is on the soundtrack for Apocalypse, the best-selling PlayStation game, starring Bruce Willis. That same track found its way onto another PlayStation game (Carter's unsure of the title). "Times Running Out" is another cut going the way of the game (again, the title eludes him). And Cirrus is talking with Sega reps eager to work the band's funky techno into a game or two.

But the past year has not been all fun and games. At the recent KROC festival in Long Beach, things got a little "out of hand," says Carter. Cirrus was the closer at the outdoor show, and before going on, the police lectured them on what not to say. Onstage, the defiant Carter immediately yelled something nasty about the police. The show was over in three minutes. Upset after waiting all day, the crowd started a near-riot.

And there's the Michael Jordan incident. A half-hour into Carter's DJ set in a hometown club, several girls from Jordan's entourage requested old funk and hip-hop. "I don't give a fuck, tell Michael Jordan to come up here himself," Carter responded. "Finally the manager comes up and excuses me from the turntables."

Carter will get his revenge. In August, Moonshine will release a yet-to-be-named Aaron Carter/Cirrus mix CD. The turn-table whiz says the disc might catch listeners off-guard with unexpected "hard acid-house -- a lot of distorted four-on-the-floor type of shit."

With plenty on its plate at the present, Cirrus knows it must always look to the future in order to stay one step ahead of the game.

"Even though they are just now releasing the second single," says Carter, "here we are already working on the new album. It probably won't be released until the summer of 2000."

More by Mark Padgett


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