But after Libman gets home to his Southeast apartment, sheds the shirt soaked with the smell of your cigs-beans-beer-bullshit, and sits down at his PC, he is a worker bee no longer. Here, as Portland's electro artist Copy, Libman commands a library of sound to create complex compositions that allow him to lord over another space, the one between the stage edge and the back wall. There, his dense and melodic electro beat-frenzies have been ordering Portlanders to dance, much to Libman's surprise.
"People will come up to me and say, 'I can't believe you got everyone dancing," says Libman. "And I'll say, 'Neither can I.'"
Libman, who moved to Portland from Kirkland, Wash., five years ago, claims to have no idea how he's doing it, but he is, boasting a debut LP, Mobius Beard, that can be played from front to back without a single miss rearing its head.
I asked the beatsmith to run me through his creative process.
To many, the process Libman has honed since moving to Portland is no big deal. Audio-editing software, like the somewhat outdated Acid program Libman uses, is ubiquitous, and the setup is relatively simple. The overhead for creating digital compositions—which requires a computer, turntable and records—is a hell of a lot more manageable than being in a band, which requires instruments, a practice space, a van, and an ability to deal with other musicians' ideas and unsavory habits. On the other hand, attending a band practice is a hell of a lot more exciting than watching Libman at work in his home/studio.
Sitting at his computer, Libman pulls up the file for a song called "See You Around Maybe" and walks me through the song's 16 tracks. Three are break beats from live drum-kit sounds—"two from late-'70s disco tracks, and I nabbed a kick-drum sound from an early-'80s synth-pop song"—while another five are rhythm tracks pulled from digital recording of garage sounds, which are basically random clacks, scrapes and clicks. On top of that, Libman has written eight separate melodic tracks on his MIDI keyboard, which emits a squelch that gives the song a texture of an 8-bit video-game soundtrack. It is all painstaking and, to me, boring work, but when Libman loops his tracks, lines them up and then pushes the beats-per-minute into the red, he can coerce a crowd to dance as though their vibrating bodies were serving some necessary utilitarian purpose. Making honey, perhaps.
Copy plays with Bobby Birdman, Panther and Truckasaurus Friday, Jan. 13, at Holocene. 9 pm. $5.