The Demix, Demystified



Words by Erin Wolf

Since 2003, Paul Fuhr (aka ‘The Demix‘) has been creating the audio stuff that nightmares are made of, playing out his love of noise rock through electronic trappings, creating sounds and mixing samples that invade the imagination and quicken the heartbeat. The Demix’s 2008 release, “Escape From Jones Island” adds a dark shade of Milwaukee’s industrial underbelly to the Demix’s hazy, subconscious trip through various samples, sound bytes, roiling electronics and spaced out distortion, all inspired by a chance encounter with Milwaukee’s small concrete jungle of Jones Island

A recent opening stint (round two, to be precise) for the spooky and innovative Secret Chiefs 3 at Turner Hall Ballroom (featuring Trey Spruance of Mr. Bungle fame), found the Demix in his element. Fuhr states that without Mr. Bungle, there would be no Demix. Lucky for Fuhr, Spruance just happens to have the same stars in his eyes for his Milwaukee opening act. Fuhr and Spruance have chatted it up at both shows, and are fellow fans. Fuhr talks to Fan-belt about getting praise from a childhood hero, just who ‘the Demix’ is and about introducing his dark electronica to a 70 year old harmonica player from North Carolina this Saturday at The Ring

“When I started doing this, I think it was 2003, there was no laptop: just two turntables, two CD players, a sampler and all this stuff that I lugged around everywhere with me. I never wanted to be that guy that just stared at a laptop, but eventually, I broke most of my stuff, I got tired of lugging it around and I don’t have a car, which makes it worse,” Fuhr says. From full rig to a streamlined laptop setup, The Demix has also evolved in sound.

“The first show I did was just as myself,” he says. “I called it ‘acid rock deconstruction, because it was really based on Pink Floyd, The Doors and Sonic Youth, and on psychedelic rock and noise rock more than anything else. The name ‘the Demix’ just came to me. I had taken a weekend to record music, and I was trying to figure out what to call it. A lot of people think that it’s a take on the word ‘remix’, which I understand why they would think that, but it’s not. It has to do with deconstruction and decomposition. To me, when I hear that name, it puts a visual in my head of some weird, little creature — a sinister alien ghost-creature that lives in my head. If I had more time on my hands, my web site would be a whole, huge world of where this thing lives.”

The Demix indeed capably creates distorted, unearthly and invasive worlds of compositions. This is not ‘easy listening’. “You’re on the trip that I want you to be on. Generally, I don’t care. If an audience is loving it, that’s one thing, but I don’t look up during my set and try to figure out what people want to hear. Either you’re going to love this or hate it,” he says unapologetically. 

Fortunately, this attitude of creation and performance caught the attention of Spruance, whom Fuhr has been a fan of since the early days of Mr. Bungle. “I’ve been listening to his music since I was twelve. The Demix would not exist without Mr. Bungle or bands like that. Bungle, and anything that Patton does, or Trey does, or John Zorn, and all those guys are direct line of influence on me. People are like, “well, what DJs do you like?’ and I like DJs like DJ Shadow, but although electronic music and DJ music influences me, it doesn’t as much so as weird, freaky rock noise music. My stuff goes better with Secret Chiefs 3 than it would at Three.

“I was more relaxed this time. The first time I played with them, my set was perfect, but it was too perfect. I was very nervous. At that time, I had my setup set up so mistakes wouldn’t happen. I had my half hour very calculated. This time, I was much more loose. To me, there’s a lot of pressure, but it’s very satisfying playing to that audience, because that’s the audience I should play for, and they really appreciate it. I knew that going into it, so I knew that I could just totally be me, and not have to worry about anything and just go. It felt great.

“Trey immediately approached me, and was like, ‘Yeah, I liked it. I liked it even more than last time’, and we had talked last time, and he was into it, and I would hope that he thought it was better, because I thought it was better, and I wanted it to be better, and I wanted to get his attention, and everyone’s attention, so it was like ‘mission accomplished?’. We had a really good conversation, and exchanged contact information, so we’ll see what happens. He’s on tour for a few more months, so I don’t expect to hear from him for a while. He was very interested in wanting to know more about me and my music.”

In the meantime, the Demix is sitting on a bunch of releases, all streamable/downloadable at his web site, particularly of which, “Escape From Jones Island” has gotten attention in the local scene. Perhaps it’s its tie with an eerie local landmark or perhaps it’s its fascinating climb into the subconscious or its ever-changing nuances that don’t allow for a relaxed zone-out. Fuhr is just happy with it. “I recorded it late December and threw the mix online in January. It’s been floating around and lots of people liked it, so I decided to make a physical copy and actually have something to give people. That’s really one of the least labor-intensive things I’ve worked on, which is weird, because people like it so much. It’s more of a DJ mix than a live mix, but it still works, so it’s cool. The production on it’s weird. Half of it is a DJ set, and then there are parts that I sat down and re-edited, as a DJ, not looking at it as someone who’s a producer. And then there’s some stuff that are my own songs, so it kinda comes together as a big collage.”

Check out the art of a live collage when the Demix plays The Ring this Saturday. It’ll be a mixed bag: “It’s me and five other very different bands and artists, so it should be a very interesting show. Invade Rome is playing, Paramedic, this band The Dark Clan and some guy from North Carolina [Dr. Eugene Chadbourne], who’s like 70, who’s playing harmonica. So, you’ll have that guy, and you’ll have me.”

Straight up blues and rock paired with electronic sampling? Fuhr is cool with that. He just might find some new samples to add to his next audio creation. “It’s kind of like I’m always writing music, or I’m always thinking about what samples I can take, or what songs I can throw together, or what different sounds from different songs I can put together. Literally, on my computer, I have hundreds of folders of sounds.” 

This endless library of sounds might also take Fuhr to the next level in soundscapes: “I would really love to do a movie soundtrack or a videogame soundtrack, or even sound design. I never have, but I’m pretty sure I could do it.”

The Demix plays The Ring (113 W. Virginia) on Saturday, May 13th. Also playing: Invade Rome, Paramedic, The Dark Clan and Dr. Eugene Chadbourne. All ages. 6:30 p.m. Check out music by The Demix on his web site.


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One Response to “The Demix, Demystified”

  1. John Says:

    Why does the Demix get so much exposure when there are far better electronic acts in the city? All he does is get high and use other people’s music as his own, and unfortunately those who don’t know better buy into it.

    Can we please hear about the others for once?

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