"I had a Commodore 64 computer when I was six and haven't gone more than four months without a computer since then," says 27-year-old Liz McLean Knight, who says she spends anywhere between seven and 16 hours a day behind the gleaming silver keys of her laptop.
But Knight is not just wasting time on Myspace or feverishly trading on eBay–truly a product of the computer age, her work is entirely predicated on technology. She runs an online magazine called Modsquare, dedicated to profiling the IDM/experimental techno scene via interviews and event reviews. Under the name Zelle, she designs jewelry made from MIDI cables, diodes and microprocessors. Knight also runs a record label called subVariant, for which she has released several albums of minimal techno and lush, melodic IDM tracks (inspired by Autechre and early Aphex Twin) under the name Quantazelle.
"My first songs were done in Impulse Tracker–this sequencer [program] where you had to learn hexadecimal just to put reverb on a few notes," says Knight, who started making techno tracks four years ago. "[It's] the sort of thing that people would have used to score early videogames. It had a bit of a learning curve but it's awesome." Knight has since moved on to sequencing in Cubase VST with a keyboard nearby for sketching out quick melodies.
Somehow, in between circuit bending and stringing together capacitors, Knight has also found time to DJ at Chicago techno events, produce more 4/4 tracks to play in her DJ set and assemble a compilation for subVariant, featuring beat surgery from the likes of Kero, edit and Quench. What makes all this possible? Knight says she couldn't do it anywhere but Chicago.
"[In Chicago], I can really focus on my work without being overly stressed about the basic standard of living costs, and there are a lot of great people here doing things–from holding software workshops to festivals and fashion shows. People from other labels based here (like Hefty, Consumers and Chocolate Industries) have been helpful with their advice and experience. And the city is big enough that we get a lot of great acts coming through–there's pretty much always something to do."