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Wishdrone : Genie performs Friday at 9pm as part of the Looping Festival.

Strum, Rinse, Repeat

Santa Cruz gets into the rhythm of the Looping Festival.

By Curtis Cartier

Talking with Rick Walker ... Talking with Rick Walker about looping ... Talking with Rick Walker about looping is like putting your brain on repeat. The 55-year-old multi-instrumentalist has finished hatching this year's Y2K8 International Live Looping Festival, and he's promising a cutting-edge lineup of sonic engineers and crazed music manipulators. In its seventh year, Walker's festival has become the longest-running live looping event in the world, and with 55 artists from eight countries set to play over three days, it's one of the biggest experimental music festivals around as well.

Looping is the technique of recording sounds and samples and playing them back on an extended repeating pattern. For example, a looper will record a guitar riff and set it to repeat, then add in a drum pattern, keyboards, another guitar and so on, all the while building ever more intricate layers of music. Pedals are stomped, buttons are mashed and knobs are twisted while a host of advanced software and hardware allows the sounds to be cut up, rearranged, played backward and with a multitude of effects and filters. For musicians, looping is the ultimate do-it-yourself method for the one-man-band.

"It's really just one more way for people to be creative," Walker says. "And it's extremely liberating. The sky is truly the limit with this stuff."

One of looping's newest disciples is none other than Santa Cruz indie heartthrob Jordy Topf, best known as frontman for local rock troupe the Vox Jaguars. He picked up a basic Line 6 DL4 looper about a year ago and will be performing Sunday afternoon at the festival. He says while the Jaguars' sound is too bare bones to add heavy effects, when it comes to solo projects, all bets are off.

"I've always admired the [local] band Giraffes? Giraffes! They use a looper and kind of inspired me to give it a shot," says Topf. "Looping really sets you apart as a musician because you don't need to add another guitar player, you can just do it yourself. It's all about experimenting; there is a million different ways of using the equipment, so you just have to experiment and see what's right for you."

Headlining this year's festival are San Francisco beatboxing champion Genie, Italian guitar virtuoso Roberto Zorzi and the drum/guitar duo of Kribophoric. Walker will also play as "Dayglo Orange Plastic" in a live performance involving plastic object percussion, an act he took around the country and to Europe over the last year.

Walker's brother, Bill Walker, is also a longtime Santa Cruz musician and looper. He'll be performing in the last slot of the first day and is also hosting a looping clinic at Union Grove Music on Oct. 15 with demonstrations on basic and advanced techniques.

"The clinic should be really fun, and people might even learn something," he says. "Looping is working its way into the mainstream. With technology today getting cheaper and better, more and more people are picking up looping equipment and a lot of musicians you know are using it in their music."

Ani DiFranco, Imogen Heap and KT Tunstall have all used looping in live concerts and recorded albums, and DJ outfits like Modeselektor, Aphex Twin and Squarepusher are known to incorporate live looping into their sets. Locally, Walker says each year more people want to know how to loop--something he's all too happy to share.

"This festival is more like a convention with nonstop music," Walker says. "Besides the performances, which will be amazing, all the people there support each other the way people who share the same hobbies do. It can be really quite touching."

Y2K8 INTERNATIONAL LIVE LOOPING FESTIVAL gets down Friday, Oct. 17, at 8pm and Saturday-Sunday at noon at Pearl Alley Studios, 120 Pearl Alley, Santa Cruz. Shows end at midnight. Tickets $10 at the door. A LOOPING TECHNIQUES CLINIC will be held Wednesday, Oct. 15, at 7pm at Union Grove Music, 1003 Pacific, Santa Cruz. Visit for more info.

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