The Strength of Good Sound

You’ve probably been to your fair share of shows and concerts around town. Whether at one of the many venues in and around campus or even just an open mic at a small cafÇ, most of our readers are familiar with the live music experience in Champaign-Urbana.

What you might not be familiar with, though, is the lack of sound quality at many of these shows. Rory Durkin, of Maximum Strength Sound System, is dedicated to providing the best sound quality possible at every show he sets up, and surprisingly, that’s not always the case with other local sound systems.

“One thing that I’ve always had an interest in is sound that is not only powerful and physical in the bass, but also clear-sounding and pleasing to listen to for long periods of time,” Durkin said. “I’ve been to numerous places where the sound is blaring, distorted high-end, with little to be said for the lower frequencies. It’s almost as though the people responsible are saying, ‘We just need some music. Who cares what it sounds like?’ Ugh.”

After realizing this great need for solid sound production, Durkin went about assembling professional audio gear and building equipment aimed at putting together a top-notch arrangement.

“We’ve finally arrived at something that I think sounds and looks respectable. It’s less a pile of loose speakers/amplifiers and more of, as the name might imply, a system,” Durkin said. “All of the individual parts are designed to work with each other. I still feel like there is a lot that I can improve, but people who play on and listen to the system have had mostly positive feedback for us, so we must be on the right track.”

Durkin puts his technology to work at his DJ performances, playing bass-heavy jungle, minimal and techno and house music. It’s a sound he describes as “a bit like old Nintendo music with a dance beat.”

And while Maximum Strength Sound System is a relatively young project, Durkin has been around the Champaign-Urbana music community for a while. His presence at dance, techno, and electronic shows over the years has given him a unique perspective on the local music scene.

“I think in this area, rock music has traditionally had more of a mainstream presence. The number of venues and bands and promoters for those types of events seems to far-outnumber those that cater predominantly to electronic music,” Durkin said. “Lately though, I’ve been to some shows where it’s hard to say where the music falls on the techno-to-bands scale.”

Later this month this type of cross-genre music experience will be on full display in CU. On July 29, Durkin and co. will be putting together the sound for the IMC’s “Beglitched” event, featuring live music from a number of different genres. It’s a perfect chance to hear the difference a good sound system can make.

“I’m excited about Beglitched, and I’m hoping that this event will bring a lot of people out, old and new,” Durkin said. “The IMC is an awesome space for shows and there will be some quality acts in town that night. Expect a wide variety of sounds being played on a hand-built sound system, and probably a bunch of other stuff that I can’t predict.”

For Durkin, the music scene is best described as “cyclic,” and with a number of artists enjoying recent crossover success, it would seem things are looking up for electronic music.

“It seems like right now the line between live and electronic music is much less defined than it has been in the past, at least when it comes to the shows that I’ve attended or worked on. Prior to that, it seemed like live bands were more popular among my circles of friends. Even before that, it was mostly electronic dance music. So what does the future hold? Honestly, I have no idea. If enough like-minded people continue to meet up and work together, I think the scene will continue to grow and evolve.”

And while no one can perfectly predict the patterns of music evolution, one thing is certain about the future of electronic music: if Rory Durkin and Maximum Strength are involved, the sound is going to rock.

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