Polyphia’s Tim Henson Discusses How AI Impacts Music Today, Suggests It Will Soon Be Able to Write ’Polyphia-Type’ Riffs

Recently, guitarist Tim Henson of Polyphia visited Rick Beato on his YouTube channel. Among other topics, the two touched upon the issue of AI in music and how it will affect artists and their art in the near future.

They came to the topic while talking about TikTok, and social media in general, and how it’s important for artists’ promotion these days. Reflecting on the whole thing, Tim said (transcript via Ultimate Guitar):

“Just like in every era, there’s always going to be changes. And there’s going to be the people that can figure out those changes as they happen. And I guess, currently, we’re in the TikTok era.”

“And I’m wondering how… Because every label — they just try and push you to make TikToks so that your song possibly pops and then you get radio playing streams and whatever else. And I’m wondering how much of that is going to translate to hard ticket sales and things like that.”

Rick then asked Tim whether he knows anything about some supposed changes in the TikTok algorithim that’s apparently promoting talking content over music, Tim replied:

“I don’t. But that doesn’t surprise me. It’s moving quicker than ever. And it’s like, how can you adapt? How can you change? Is the art that you’re making going to stand the test of time through each platform? [Laughs] There’s people that made Vines. And how long was Vine around?

“And it’s really weird because you see incredible artists like Steve Lacy go play his concerts, and everybody really only knows, like, the 15 seconds of the thing, and then just do him really dirty on the rest of the song. And it’s just like very odd. And it gets even weirder.”

Polyphia | G.O.A.T. (Official Music Video)

And, of course, there comes the inevitable yet widely unexplored issue of the artificial intelligence and machine learning in music. Although it’s not a new thing at all — many have been experimenting with it for a while now — it’s been seeing its rise both in popularity and effectiveness during 2022. Henson offered:

“I guess I’m a subject of things changing really rapidly. Me and Scott [LaPage, the band’s other guitarist] were talking to this yesterday, but like AI. I’m pretty sure that here in the next few months or the next year, we’re gonna have like riff generators that can generate Polyphia-type riffs. [Laughs]

“Everybody’s curious as to whether or not they’re out of a job. I see, like, copywriters no longer have a job because the AI can just generate copy.”

Polyphia - Ego Death feat. Steve Vai (Official Music Video)

But this isn’t something that worries Tim, at least not at this moment. As he explained further, the whole AI thing reminds him of sampling. And years ago, this was considered a sort of sacrilege. He continued:

“So me and Scott were with this artist Break Ins the other day, and this kid is insane. It’s very cool musical stuff. But we were talking about how in like the ’70s and the ’80s when hip-hop kind of started, young people were sampling records.”

“And I could imagine a vast majority of music people were like… As it was a new form of creation and expression… ‘You can’t do that. That’s somebody else’s music.’

“And now it’s like how creatively can you sample? Pretty soon, it’s going to be how creative can you use the AI. And the next big artists that are going to be who can prompt the best. [Laughs] And it’s going to be a really weird thing to see.”

“Obviously, the AI can never… Well, who knows, actually. But… The emotion that a human can channel into artwork. Because you look at a lot of the AI art and you can tell that it’s AI art. It almost looks like stock images.”

Photos: Delusion23 (Polyphia – Manchester, UK – 6 February 2019), David S. Soriano (Artificial General Intelligence Illustration)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

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