"Keyboard Tech"

Radiohead live in Berlin

After 27 shows, Radiohead's 2008 World Tour was about two thirds over when the band came to Berlin. The last time they played in Berlin was the evening of September 11, 2001, which, as the band stated on stage, created a special bond between the city and them. The concert had been sold out immediately after the announcement, and most of the 20,000 people filling the venue had been following the band's appeal to use public transportation traveling to the concert and thus put less strain on the environment.

Radiohead's keyboard technician Alan 'Russ' Russell

 
We met Radiohead's keyboard technician Alan 'Russ' Russell during some last-minute preparations for the show, where he gave some exclusive insights into the band's setup. Russ's workplace comprises of an Apple Macbook Pro that sits on a rack of daisy-chained audio interfaces. The computer receives MIDI from two keyboard stations on the stage, operated by band members (and brothers) Jonny and Colin Greenwood. They play their parts on their respective controller keyboards and MIDI floorboards.

On his computer, Russ runs Kontakt 3 as the main instrument for all sample-based sounds in the show. Both keyboard stations are routed to Kontakt, with each song having it's own monolithic multi. "Kontakt is great to work with", says Russ. "It has allowed us to completely get away from all the frustration of hardware samplers. Editing and importing becomes quicker and easier, which allows the band to make changes or try new ideas without delay or fuss."

KONTAKT 3 plus backup

 
Russ switched Radiohead's setup to Kontakt during the preparation for the 2008 world tour. "The band wanted to replace some old hardware from previous tours and consolidate those sounds into one central system.

For the live versions of the songs on 'In Rainbows', I worked with Kontakt. I used material from the studio production, and I also adapted some sounds from the Kontakt library - the Crumar Orchestrator gets quite a bit of use. After that, I basically went through the entire Radiohead catalogue and converted all the old sample material for Kontakt. I sampled a few hardware instruments and created multisamples. It's just made the organisation of all the keyboard sounds so much easier."

Jonny Greenwood's live set-up

 
During the show, Radiohead play all songs entirely live - no backing tracks or sequencers are used except for songs with a more electronic aesthetics, such as "15 Step", where synchronised percussive loops are triggered in real time by Colin and Jonny. In addition to playing sounds on Russ's computer via his controller, guitar and keyboard player Jonny Greenwood operates a mixture of analog devices and his own laptop running experimental patches in Max/MSP on his tech station on stage left. During the show, Jonny manipulates the synths and outboard devices by hand and foot.

Radiohead's KONTAKT 3 instruments set-up

 
Bass player Colin Greenwood uses more of a conventional setup for his keyboard parts, comprising a controller keyboard and floorboard. All the changes in sound selections during or in between songs are operated directly by Russ, including some sounds from Pro-53 and other software synthesizers.

Playing such a central part in the show, Russ's rig has to be entirely failsafe, which is why he runs a second rig with identical setup. He has a nice big "panic" switch to change over to his backup system in case of a failure. "I did have to hit this switch a couple of times during the tour," says Russ smiling, "but it's never been a problem with the software. Kontakt has proven to be very stable.

 


"Behind the Scenes with Interpol, : Obsessive Details of Hardware, Kore Software Rig."

By Peter Kirn, Aug 07 2008,

Kore, onstage. Jonathan writes: Here is the Interpol Keyboard riser for the festival show in Gdynia Poland.  A midi loom containing 4 cables provides both keys input to the laptop and backups.  I also ran my own power extension to the keys from my line conditioners, in every country.  The keyboard setup includes a brick 9 volt power supply for both controllers.

Interpol, the superstar, New York-based band (not the international anti-crime organization) have been touring the world with an intensive, live rig, powered by Kore. Our friend Jonathan Adams Leonard aka sleen, a technological superstar himself, put together their current digital setup, and sends along copious notes on the hardware and software rig. Jonathan has plenty more to share as far as how to make Kore work for live players, but first let’s have a look at the details of the rig itself.

And yes, prepare yourself for some serious hardware and software pr0n from one of the world’s best live bands. No DJ sets here.

(For our previous chat with Jonathan, see Free, Modular Power Tools for Kore 2: A Guide to the Reaktor Toolpack, covering his must-download Reaktor ensembles for use with Kore.)

The Hardware

Rack designed and built by Keyboard and Playback Tech Chad Miller(Lenny Kravitz) with assistance from Guitar Tech and Stage Manager Ally Christie(QOTSA, Mogwai).

It all starts with the controllers.  Here are 2 Maudio Keystation Pro 88’s getting setup for a concert in Belo Horizonte Brazil at Chevron Hall.

Here is the rack for the keyboard system.  It features 2 Macbookpro laptops 1 primary and 1 as secondary backup.  Everything else is 2-fold and separated into distinct systems to the power supply.  The items in the rack from the top: Furman Power Supply, Presonus Firepods, Sliding Shelf with Kore 1 controller, Glyph Drives, Motu Microlites, 3 sliding drawers.

This is the back of the keys rack.  Inside are 2 USB hubs and a Radial Pro D8 direct out box for the 4 stereo keyboard outputs.  The hubs accommodate dongles and drives.  There are also numerous power supplies with different configurations.

Here is a shot of Kore 2 from the stage in Gdynia Poland.  To the left is the keyboard tech for Jayz getting ready.  I usually pulled up the performance preset for song ’scale’ to do line check.  Further downstage is the Interpol Keyboard riser.

Here is the venerable kore1 controller showing the current performance preset, Pioneer, with the cued preset, Narc.  This controller is on a shelf  that locks in place.  Using the wheel you can cue a preset and then hit enter to load.  Its best to hit enter at least three times to ensure correct loading.

 

Here is a perspective shot of the three racks including the 2 playback systems I also ran and that were built by Chad and Ally.  The keyboard rack is on the left, and then playback 1 and playback 2 racks.  Between the playback racks in the distance you can see Bobby Schayer of Bad Religion holding up a drumstick to demonstrate correct line of site with the drummer, and further to the right Ally working on a guitar.

 

This is a picture of the keyboard and guitar risers for Interpol backstage at Gdynia Poland.  This is a good example of outdoor summer festival production where setup and especially changeover times are limited.  Your whole band including drums will be moved out on risers at once on one side of the stage, while the last act is emptying out the right.  The keys are covered for protection against sun and dust.

The Software

 

 

The starting point: Interpol had a rig put together in Kore 1, as seen here. The challenge: migrate a Kore 2 setup, improving and extending it in the process.

Kore 2 by Native Instruments
Kore 2 Performance Programming and Design by jonathan adams leonard

 

This shows the All Off performance preset which the performance loads into.  This is also a convenient starting point for building new presets.  In the Controller area at the top we see knobs for different songs that switch instruments dynamically by changing the channel bypasses. Next down in the matrix you seen source channels for the 4 kontakt output pairs.  Only one instance of kontakt is used on the left, and the remaining represent outputs created by using the command, add additional output.  On the right in the matrix are the kontakt dummy midi source channels for receiving, then processing before all going to the one kontakt instance on the left.  The dummy channels have no audio connections and are midi only for recalling kontakt instrument settings.

Here is the Interpol performance preset ‘Pioneer’.  It shows numerous source channels have become enabled with some still bypassed that will get switched dynamically with a knob.

 

A closeup of the kontakt dummy midi source channels.  Each contains a midi filter, transformer and program change intergrated effect.  By adding them to each channel, you can store all the effects settings and recall them in a performance preset.  They may represent settings for internal plugins, or external hardware.

This is a view inside the kontakt instance handling all the sample based instruments for the Interpol Live show.  The kontakt multi contains 6 banks each on different midi channels and receiving program changes from the dummy source channels mentioned above.  By placing all the sampled instruments in a single multioutput instance of kontakt, the best memory optimization is used by minimizing samples and DFD buffers loaded.

This is a nested koresound containing all the required instances of Mtron needed by the performance presets.  This sound is in the leftmost channel, in the third slot down.  The next matrix level down shows its contents. Since the plugin could not support dynamic recall of all parameters, it was necessary to pre-load it explicitly for all the sounds needed.  Each performance using a sound here will enable the appropriate slot by changing the bypass.  Note how I am not using the source channel bypasses.  Instead, I created a page of bypasses for each plugin shown above in the controller area on buttons.  Kore by default does not provide or include the plugin bypasses in its recall scheme.  By adding them, I allow them to be recalled in a performance preset.  I use plugin bypasses because they work consistently on recall.  When using source channel bypasses, the recall is inconsistent and causes ‘no output’ issues.  Overall it is better to have only 1 plugin instanced and try to dynamically recall only its settings.  But in situations where you have no choice you can at least keep the redundant instances from cluttering the top matrix by using a nested koresound.

This last one shows the fx busses and direct outputs to hardware.  The gain staging of the performance design was planned by using standard decibel units and increments.  Balancing was done to provide emphasis and power, without any potential overloads.  The direct output pairs were organized in instrument groups:

12; Keys(AP, B4, EP)

34;Orchestral(Kontakt)

56;Synths(VSM,ProphetV, Mtron)

78; FX(Integrated, Guitar Rig).


Wickens with B4 on stage (enlarge...)
Wickens with B4 on stage (enlarge...)
Paul 'Wix' Wickens is a composer and keyboard player who has worked with Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Bon Jovi and many other renowned artists. Currently he is focused on producing music for film and TV. During Paul McCartney's 2003 World Tour Wix used the B4 Organ live on his PowerBook – including during a spectacular concert on Red Square in Moscow.

Interview by Bela Canhoto
You’ve been in and out of the studio for the past few months. Have these been independent projects or collaborations?
I’m just doing a few sessions really, keyboards for a new girl called Anna Kelley, an Irish girl, with a couple of friends of mine. We’ve been recording some accordion and organic stuff for a new album. I’ve done 4 tracks today and I’ll be back in tomorrow and probably do some more.

At the moment I’m doing 2 things. I’m writing music for motion picture and doing compositions for TV and films. I’ve been trying to move more towards films, which I do in my studio at home. I started out as a songwriter really, so now I’m moving more towards collaborating with people and doing some more composing in my free time. I did a thing called Hamilton Mattress for the BBC, which is the follow up to Wallace and Gromit. The company who did Wallace and Gromit is the same company who did Chicken Run. They’re an English company that moved to America, and the people who stayed here did other shows. It’s a half-hour animation. I did a thing for Nickelodeon called Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big, which was a computer animated cartoon, a short. So no blockbusters yet, but you never know.

Throughout the years you’ve written music for artists of all ages and genres. Looking to the future, are you hoping to spend more time scoring and less time producing other talent?
I did a lot of pop music sessions through the eighties, so I never want to say goodbye to that really, although it’s changed quite a lot with the boy band, girl band kind of thing. It’s very dance-oriented, which isn’t so much my bag. But, there are still bands using real instruments like Travis. People like that who want that kind of skill around in terms of arranging and playing instruments. I like writing songs with people and with a lot of the people I have worked with I was doing the arrangements and keyboard related stuff so
I don’t think I’ll ever stop doing that sort of thing.

You’ve played live with Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and many other great artists. How often do you play live and will you be touring again anytime soon?
I don’t really go on tours much anymore. I began working with Paul in 1989 and I did the 2 world tours and varying albums. Until now he hasn’t done a world tour since he stopped in 1994.

I went out about 3 years ago with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. I played on a record with them and they asked if I’d go out and play and I thought, you know, it’s been six years since I’ve done any touring, so I went out with them for a couple of months and it was lovely. I do get called to do gigs quite often. I play keyboards in the house band for the Queen’s Jubilee gig. And I did a big thing with Bob Dylan Joni Mitchell Bon Jovi and a bunch of people from a Japanese temple outside of Osaka. So I get offered some big events, but I tend not to go out on a lot of the tours.
Wickens on stage on Red Square in Moscow (enlarge...)
Wickens on stage on Red Square in Moscow (enlarge...)
I heard you were using the B4 on the McCartney tour. How long have you been using the B4 and how did it work for you in a live setting?
I’ve been using the B4 since it came out. I love it. I really think it’s great. Compared to lugging a real Hammond around! Although, luckily I don’t have to do the lugging about these days, but the B4 is very controllable with my little setup. I have a Titanium Powerbook dedicated to it that I use exclusively as a host for B4. I tried to do a lot more with virtual instruments to use live, but I couldn’t find a host that was stable enough, and because I really wanted to use the B4 on tour, I ended up giving it it’s own designated laptop. It comes out a MOTU 828 firewire interface and that’s all that laptop does, it’s just the organ. And to its credit, it never really let me down at all.
B4 and PowerBook on stage
B4 and PowerBook on stage
What other NI programs are you using and what type of set-up are you running in the studio?
I’m also using Absynth, FM7, Reaktor, the Pro-52 I’ve been using for a while. I’ve been digital for a while. I use Logic; a lot of people use Logic over here. I’ve got 2 O2Rs linked together and they all go through Pro Tools, but I just want to simplify. I want to do more in the computer I just want to pull that down to one that will do surround for me, 5.1.

Has the software had a fundamental impact on the way you work at home or in the studio?
It changed it immensely because I have a digital system with total recall. If you’re working on a lot of different things that you do when you’re composing as well as writing, as well as playing on an album. You’ve got to flip between them and for me I don’t want to learn any more about engineering than I already know so I don’t want to sit there and have to reset the desk and bring all the faders up. With the software, it just comes back to how I left it, which is great. I want a quick means of being able to get the great sounds that I’ve discovered and mess with it in the studio.

Basically, I want something that will make this seem more streamlined and smaller. I’m a bit of a collector. Never throw anything away and it all sits somewhere. It must have been about 10 or 11 years ago, whenever they first brought that out the O2R and I could afford it. I didn’t have to spend a quarter of a million pounds on a digital desk. Just the programming of digital when the DX7 came out was incredible. I used to demonstrate for Yamaha. So I had that and the TX816. I was a hardware sequencer person before I got into computers and if you can deal with them and a DX7 then you have no fear.
I’m up for trying new gear. When I first started out I was a real purist. I played a real Hammond, real piano, but since my first synthesizer many years ago I’ve embraced technology and I’ve got a lot of old analog synths and like I say I’m going to pack a lot of them into storage and go naked, because I don’t think most people can tell the difference. What matters is what you do with it rather than the fact that it’s not an original Moog.

Do you do a lot of work when you’re on the road? Do you actually produce on the laptop when you’re traveling?
I just write and fiddle and play around with the plug-ins that are around. It’s amazing what you can do in a hotel room even on headphones or with just a pair of powered speakers, a laptop and a keyboard.

You seem to spend a lot of your time working in the UK. Are there any plans to work abroad? Is there anywhere you like to be creative aside from your hometown?
Well, we’re due to do some recording with Paul McCartney in September to October, so I’m basically going to take these next few months to work on a few things at home, sort my studio, finish a couple of little projects that are sitting in there that I want to do before I rip it all apart, have a little bit of a holiday and maybe take a trip. Twice a year I come over to Nashville and up to L.A. I’m not really ready to arrange a set of meetings in L.A. to try to put my foot through the film door there yet, but I have a lot of friends in L.A. So it gives me an excuse to go to Nashville and pretend to do some work and go to L.A. and pretend to do some work and enjoy the weather. (Laughs)

Wix, thanks for taking some time out of your session to do this interview.
Sure Bela, thanks for talking.
 

David Newman (left) and Marty Frasu
David Newman (left) and Marty Frasu
David Newman is not only one of Hollywood's most highly acclaimed film composers, he's also one of the most forward thinking: He's leaving behind the more conventional means of music production to jump on the newest digital music technologies available, which he hopes will one day melt his studio down to a laptop.

David and Marty Frasu (his technical engineer since 1991) believe that FM7, Battery and Kontakt are revolutionizing the way they program and produce music for film. The intuitive interfaces allow them to manipulate and mold their music on the fly, which is crucial to the fast paced rhythm of film scoring. If you listen carefully, you can pick out a B4, FM7 or Absynth sound creeping through the films.

In 1989, the soundtrack to the deliciously dark comedy "Heathers", with Winona Ryder and Christian Slater helped establish Dave as a prominent composer in Hollywood cinema along with the 1997 academy award nomination for his score of the animated legend "Anastasia". The success continues with his most recent project, the box office hit "How to Lose a guy in 10 days" as well as "Ice Age", "Death to Smoochy", "Bowfinger" and "Brokedown Palace".

Bela Canhoto recently sat down with Dave and Marty for a little Tech Talk.

Photos by Margaret Malandruccolo
Dave Newman
Dave Newman
When did you start the Dave Newman studio and what was the first major project?

Dave: The first movie I did was “Critters”, which was like a horror movie, but I didn’t really start a real studio until a movie called “Heathers” in I think it was 1988. I had an a-track Tascam tape machine when I started.

When did you officially open this studio?

Dave: Well, this is really my personal working space. It’s really not a commercial studio or anything like that. It just evolved because you have to demo stuff. When I first started you would just play on a piano or something, you wouldn’t demo anything but now it’s become really elaborate and you have to demo up everything. We’re using streaming samplers because we need these big huge files. I’m willing to pay any amount of money within reason for a product that works and a company that’s committed to all levels of the market, that’s committed to the professionals as well as everybody else. I think your company makes incredible stuff and they seem to be interested in the music aspect of it and the fun of it.

Could you explain your main composing set up?

Marty: Logic is the sequencer we use, and we have TDM options so he’s using ProTools hardware which takes some of the DSP off his Mac and puts it on the ProTools hardware, because Dave needs these things to get as big as it can possibly get. He might have 80 tracks or 90 tracks and that’s a lot of stuff going.

Are you using Mac or PC or both?

Marty: Mac primarily. We have PC because we had Gigastudio and that’s the only thing they run on and that’ll soon be replaced with Kontakt, which means we won’t be stuck with PCs, which I’m not fond of. Troubleshooting on them is difficult. We’re both sort of Mac guys, and particularly for music
.
Dave Newman
Dave Newman
When did you start using our software?

Marty: I bought Dynamo a long time ago and started playing with it and then it just sort of snowballed. You get one thing and you go ‘This is good!’ so you go and get more and then it got to the point where Dave said, ‘I want everything these guys make!’ We tried to get everything that’s come out since at least 2000 for sure.

Which NI products are you using at the moment?

Dave: You’re looking at it, we’re lovin’ the FM7, Absynth, and Battery, I’ve used the B4 too. I haven’t used Reaktor…yet! We’ve used Kontakt a bit. Battery I’ve been using a lot lately and it’s great, and all your soft synth stuff is absolutely great. You can see that I have a fair amount of hardware boxes but I hardly ever use them at all anymore. My only problem is running out of CPU. We have digital video that we use and we tend to run out of CPU power.

Marty: If you would have seen our setup 2 years ago I would say there was much, much more hardware, there wasn’t much software. It was in it’s infancy, but I’m finding now that you go to do anything and your first stop is getting into some of these soft synth sounds, because they sound great, they have some unique characteristics and the manageability.

Dave: You don’t even have to store this (points at FM7)! You can edit it and not even store it if you want. You can save it in the sequencer that saves all your settings. This stuff is almost idiot proof, I mean I’m a classically trained musician, I played the violin when I was 7 years old, I played in orchestras my whole life, I went to school for piano and violin, you know, I’m not techy at all. But now with film I needed to learn this stuff to do what I needed to do, and this is a way easier, better paradigm for me to use to whiten and sculpt sounds and for the music to do whatever I want to do.

Marty: And the tempo of the stuff that Dave does goes really fast, you’ve got to have a couple of things a day, you’re opening songs, you are closing songs, there might be a couple of cues a day that might be vastly different and just the managing of all this stuff means you’ve got to create methods.

Dave: What I have Marty think a lot about is just how to manage files. You get a product and what’s the first thing you want to dò? You want to save it and be able to get it back again, so it’s really complicated to do that because the people that normally program, it’s not an issue for them, they’re not doing that, they’re not racing through under pressure trying to get music made. They’re coding and things like that. So THIS soft synth stuff is just so much better with that, and it just sounds so much better, I mean it just seems so much more direct and it’s so much easier to manipulate. And your guys stuff sounds incredible! I’m sure you know that.
 
What are your favorite features?

Marty: What we just mentioned would probably be numero uno: The recall ability! I know that’s not a sound feature but just by the very nature of soft synth. If you can make edits to a sound that can be saved within the sequence, that is such a huge thing. It sounds simple on the surface but when you actually start working with this stuff that makes the big difference. That’s why you start going for them first because you open up a song and there it is, the way you left it.

Marty: Not to mention lets say I had a DX7, or any synthesizer and it costs $1800. I’d have one synthesizer and it would cost $1800, where with these soft synths I could pull up another synth on this channel and onother one and another one.

Even though the graphics in your software are different, they all seem to operate the same. There’s a library of sounds you can just click on, even without an owners manual you can pretty much get by and get around on these things, where any of these things (points at the modular boxes/analog gear) they’ve got a manual so thick and you have to study a whole other mindset of the way that they do everything. But your software in a way is all similar in operation, you can see everything, it’s visible, there’s not menus you have to dig way down into to get it all. It’s pretty much available to you. The interface is great!

Dave: Yeah, the interface is a really important issue. Any moron could use it and you want any moron to be able to use it! What I believe about this stuff is there’s usually good and bad stuff in terms of teaching kids about music, but the easier this stuff is to use, the easier it is to get people excited about making music, they might write or play some music that they otherwise might not. Some of them will think wow this is really cool, I’m going to really learn about music and it helps out the more amateur music culture and therefore everyone becomes a little smarter about it and then all of us get to listen to better music instead of it being dictated by a few people who don’t give a crap about music. And you guys really care about it, at least that’s how it seems to us. I mean, I’m a pretty simple person and it seems to me that like they are really interested and use it and it’s fun for them, and that’s what’s exciting for me about all this.
 

How much creative freedom do they give you when you work on a soundtrack?

Dave: (laughs) Well, you know, it’s all relative. It depends on the movie and director but it’s definitely collaborative and it’s a functional, quote on quote, art form. I mean, it functions to tell a story and make the movie better, so the movie isn’t about the music although it can end up that way in certain instances. It’s definitely a collaborative job and it’s definitely a big stressful deadline job, and a job where you have to think on your feet. And when you really have to think on your feet is when you’re there with the orchestra. 90% of all the movies are basically 19th century orchestra music meaning it’s very tonal, pretty and eclectic. So there’s a lot of pop elements in it and so a lot of times you have to actually change things there too, so you have to be able to think on your feet.

What are some of the more difficult or maybe challenging films you’ve worked on so far

Dave: They’re all sort of difficult and challenging in their own way. Sometime it’s because of the people and sometimes it’s because of the project, but it all ends up being about the movie. With some movies even if the people are or aren’t difficult it ends up that some movies are just inherently harder to figure out where to put the music. Sometimes people are very unobjective about their movie and don’t like a certain part or scene and it doesn’t need music or in fact music would make it worse but they put music over it because they’re so scared of it that they feel they have to put music on it. Or the producer or studio will want to put music over something and it’s a big huge hierarchy of the way it works but that’s part of the job. It’s very well paid, you have incredible resources and you get to hear the music you make played almost immediately and there’s nothing else like it in music, and it’s orchestra music. That’s what I grew up with, I love orchestras, just hearing an orchestra tune is thrilling to me.

Dave: I would venture to say from a technical standpoint whether you are dealing with comedy, drama, dark comedy, romance, it’s more difficult from a technical standpoint because there’s all kinds of giving away jokes and they want crazy stuff, they want you to parody stuff sometimes, it’s all over the place and it also happens fast. I think rather than in a drama where they’re looking out over the vista and you can play your big song there, I’d say that’s easy, not from a purely creative standpoint like writing melody but just from putting it in sync into the movie. Hitting all of these other things and making it all work as a piece of music is a technically difficult thing to do.

Is the process of working any different when you do animations to movies?

Dave: No it’s still just a movie, it’s a cartoon but still a movie, so if it’s a feature film you still use the same resources if not more and they still use a big orchestra.

Marty: One of the things about animation that might be different is that because it takes so long to make the frames it may be a very crude unfinished animation when you write the sound.

Marty Frasu
Marty Frasu
What sort of products would you like to see from us in the future?

Dave: I mean, everything you guys do is really great. I'd definitely like to see KONTAKT blow away the other samplers on the market!

Marty: I think within the context of how David puts this stuff together, your synthesizers are like the spicing in the cooking! The orchestra might be the meal itself but then you want to spice it up and give it an exotic flavor and these do that really well, these synths provide exotic textures. Even in the movie ‘Scooby Doo’, there were a lot of beat loops and things like that.

You’ve mentioned a couple of times that you love the way these sound. So, do you notice a difference between the analog and digital sounds?

Dave: I wouldn’t be caught dead with analog! I think it’s a big bunch of crap now - analog (Dave sighs) - I mean, 96k 24bit digital is like…(pauses) I really don’t understand this whole analog thing. When it was 16bit then maybe you could make a case because it would be a trade off for clarity and warmth, but once we went to 24bit I was completely sold, and that was at 48k and now that we’re doing 96k, it’s unbelievable!

Marty: For us it’s not even an issue. For guys making pop records, what it does is that you’re using analog tape recorders and it compresses the sound and does some things that they like, it’s kind of like an effect. For us that’s a non issue, because we can take these digital files and copy them onto another drive and give them to somebody else and then it goes right out on to cinema for the dubbing stage…and so it’s a non issue. Digital is the only way to go for us. I can play you some stuff that was done on the finest million dollar console analog tape recorder from the 90’s and you tell me which sounds better!?!


Dave Newman’s Filmography

Death to Smoochy (2002), Ice Age (2002), Life or Something Like It (2002), Scooby-Doo (2002), The Affair of the Necklace (2001), Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001), Flamingo Rising (2001), 102 Dalmatians (2000), Bedazzled (2000), Duets (2000), The Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas (2000), Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (2000) Bowfinger (1999), Brokedown Palace (1999), Galaxy Quest (1999), Never Been Kissed (1999), Anastasia (1997), Out to Sea (1997), Jingle All the Way (1996), Matilda (1996), The Nutty Professor (1996), The Phantom (1996), Big Bully (1996), Operation Dumbo Drop (1995), Tommy Boy (1995), Boys on the Side (1995), The Flintstones (1994), I Love Trouble (1994), The Cowboy Way (1994), My Father the Hero (1994), The Air Up There (1994), Coneheads (1993), The Sandlot Kids (1993), Undercover Blues (1993), Hoffa (1992), Honeymoon in Vegas (1992), The Mighty Ducks (1992), That Night (1992), Other People's Money (1991), The Marrying Man (1991), Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991), Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead (1991), Paradise (1991), Rover Dangerfield (1991), Talent for the Game (1991), The Freshman (1990), DuckTales: The Movie - Treasure of the Lost Lamp (1990), Fire Birds (1990), Madhouse (1990), Mr. Destiny (1990), The Runestone (1990), Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989), Disorganized Crime (1989), Gross Anatomy (1989), Heathers (1989), Little Monsters (1989), R.O.T.O.R. (1989), The War of the Roses (1989), The Brave Little Toaster (1987), Malone (1987), My Demon Lover (1987), Throw Momma from the Train (1987), Critters (1986), The Kindred (1986), Vendetta (1986), Frankenweenie (1984).

Photo by Lissi Andrew
Photo by Lissi Andrew
Marius De Vries first entered the music business in the 80's as a keyboard player for the British pop-funk band Blow Monkeys. Shortly thereafter he found himself behind the controls as a producer/programmer for huge acts like Madonna, Björk, U2, Massive Attack and Robbie Robertson, a role in which he knows no stylistic boundaries or limitations. The high point of his success so far has been his role as music director for Baz Luhrmann's ambitious music film "Moulin Rouge", which starred Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. He was busy with that project for two full years. De Vries had already worked with Luhrmann as co-composer and co-producer of the original music in the film "Romeo + Juliet". The soundtrack sold more than five million copies worldwide. He received Grammy nominations for Madonna's "Ray of Light" LP and Robbie Robertson's "Contact from the Underworld of Red Boy", on which dance sounds are fused with blues, folk, country, rock and Indian music. De Vries broke new ground with his work as co-producer on the "Bombay Dreams" album for the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical of the same name. Together with the legendary Bollywood composer and musician AR Rahman he fused Indian music with western dance sounds. The premiere of the musical was received in London Westend with standing ovations. Marius De Vries is an enthusiastic user of NI software, which he integrates perfectly into his projects. Soon his legendary sound design and programming skills will be something everyone's talking about as well. Joachim Landesvatter spoke with Marius De Vries. Pictures: Lissi Andrew.

You worked as journalist and were a member of the Blow Monkeys in the 80ies, how did you switch to producing other musicians?
My work with the Blow Monkeys, which was initially as a touring live keyboard player, expanded gradually into the studio during the course of their second and third LPs. This led me to do other projects with their producers at the time, Michael Baker, Stephen Hague, Leon Sylvers, and Julian Mendelssohn, and this was the beginning of my career as a freelance studio programmer.

How did your career as producer develop? Who was the first artist you worked with?
The first artist I produced – beyond the little bits of production I did for the Blow Monkeys – was a band called The Soup Dragons in the mid-eighties.

What attracts you most about working with an artist? How important is your musical taste?
I like to work with artists who have something to say and who have an individual way of saying it. Beyond that, there are very few areas I’m not prepared to go stylistically. I guess my tastes veer towards the stranger side of the pop music spectrum and that will now and then influence my decisions on whom I whould work with.

What´s your main impact on the records you programm for?
I don’t really do that much programming outside of my production and writing work these days. I guess looking back on it all the mark I left on the records I have programmed might have something to do with a willingness to explore sonic territories which might be considered to fall outside of the genres I’m working in. Plus an ear for a good groove and a good bassline inherited from my time with Danny D and Nellee Hooper, both of whom were very influential in this area.
Photo by Lissi Andrew
Photo by Lissi Andrew
What do you like most working as co-writer, as a keyboarder/programmer or for doing the final mix?
I like the earlier stages of the writing and production process better, I think, when things are coming into being. The final mix is always a little stressful!

For “Moulin Rouge”, you were Musical Director and Co-Composer. What did your work mainly consist of?
Many things: helping Baz to choose and arranging all the musical numbers, working with the actors to record and develop their vocal performances, working with the screenwriters to integrate the music into the storytelling process, directing the musical performances on set, co-ordinating the inputs of all the various different composers and arrangers we had working on the project, helping to identify and working with the artists we involved in the soundtrack LP such as Norman Cook, David Bowie, Missy Elliott, and Beck…. It was a very complex job.

Looking back on “Moulin Rouge” what was the main attraction about this project for you? Would you do it again?
It was insanely ambitious, very complex and challenging. That was both the main attraction and perhaps the reason I’m not sure I would do it again! Maybe there’s only room for one in a lifetime.
 
You´ve been working with Björk for a long time. What was your contribution for her latest album „Vespertine“? What´s special about working with her for you?
On Vespertine I arrived quite late in the process and my contribution was mainly to do with helping her organise a lot of complex material gathered from a lot of different sources, and helping her preserve the tone that she was trying to set for the album, which was a very specific feeling of intimacy. What’s special about Bjork? Her uniquely poetic view on the world, her endless curiosity, her charm, her amazing voice. She’s one of those artists where working for them is a privilege that you know you will look back on in years to come as being pivotal.

How do you manage to get into so many different styles of music, eg for Madonna, for Massive Attack, for Melanie C or for the Robbie Robertson album “American Natives?
By being open-minded!

How did you get into contact with A R Rahman for the “Bombay Dreams” cast album? How did your cooperation look like?
Rahman and I have mutual friends and we met up as a result of this; we got on well, he had seen Moulin Rouge and Romeo and Juliet, and it was at this first meeting that he suggested I might like to help him with Bombay Dreams. Our co-operation was characterised by a very inspiring exchange of cultural influences.

How does your work as programmer for a record look like in the preproduction pahes? What do you have to prepare?
It looks like a pile of samples and sounds and melodic ideas which I think might have something to bring to the material; and a pile of CDs which I think might prove inspirational; and a pile of instruments which I think might sound good in the context.

How do you put together soundbanks? Which sound generators and samplers do you use?
I tend to organise my sounds on a project by project basis – I’m not a very talented librarian. Although every synth I use has a basic bank loaded into it of sounds that I’ve developed or become attached to over the years.
I use a number of different instruments ranging from old ARP and EMS synthesizers to more contemporary staples like the JV1080 and the K2600; and a lot of software synthesizers which I run on a separate computer to my sequencer; samplers are Akai S3200 and S6000s together with KONTAKT (newly added and doing nicely) and the Logic EXS sampler

Which sequencer software do you use?
Logic. Always.

What´s your opinion on software instruments and samplers?
I’ve been getting more and more excited by what they can do.
Photo by Lissi Andrew
Photo by Lissi Andrew
Which NI applications do you use and how do you use them in your productions?
I use most of them! The synths are always on hand and I would say I use them as much as I do my hardware. I’m getting into the intricacies of Kontakt and it’s complimenting my other samplers nicely. BATTERY is handy – I have a few banks of my own sounds always at hand and the sample banks that NI do for it have been useful. I like playing with SPEKTRAL DELAY for those abstract moments, and REAKTOR is always an adventure.

Which NI program is your favourite and why?
I’ve been a huge Absynth fan since way before NI picked it up, and it remains one of my very favourite musical instruments.

What kind of software would you love to see from NI?
More of the same. I know you can design your own stuff in REAKTOR, but REAKTOR always seems quite processor-hungry, so ……a good polyphonic minimoog emulator? A virtual ARP2600? How about a VCS3? Maybe a good basic multitimbral S+S unit, as if there was a JV1080 in the computer?

What are you currently working at and what are your plans for the future?
Currently finishing off some tracks for Melanie C’s LP, Skin’s LP, writing with Natalie Imbruglia, just about to start an album with Rufus

 
Gareth Jones has worked for Depeche Mode, Erasure, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds and many other influential acts from the Synth Pop and Alternative scenes. Not always in the spotlight, he was nevertheless very much involved with each track as Engineer and Co-Producer, a role that allowed him to leave his distinctive stamp on the sound and song arrangements.
For Depeche Mode he worked on the 1983 LP “Construction Time Again“, followed by “Some Great Reward“ in 1984 and then “Black Celebration“ in 1986. For last year’s “Exciter” LP he shared production duties with Mark Bell, and was already involved in the pre-production phase with Depeche Mode songwriter Martin Gore in developing the song basics. Consequently his contribution to the album goes from the actual recording to selecting and obtaining the equipment. Also surely of interest is his studio work for legendary German bands like Einstürzende Neubauten, Ideal, or Paris Schaumberg during the 80’s, which took place in part in Berlin’s Hansa-Studio.
Gareth Jones is especially in-demand for his outstanding knowledge of Logic Audio, but is also extremely well versed with NI software like FM7, BATTERY, and ABSYNTH.


Interview by Joachim Landesvatter.

How did you get into what you´re doing right now as an engineer? I have had a passion for music and technology since I was a small child, and I enjoyed making tape recordings at school, as well as playing different instruments. I love listening to music and it was a natural progression for me to want to help create recordings for others to enjoy. I was a small town boy and had no idea how to get into the (glamorous!) world of recording studios. I managed to get a job at the BBC and also worked in a tiny 8 track commercial recording studio. I was lucky to meet some great artists and things developed from there.

What´s fascinates you mostly when you record bands? The vibe!! - for me, it's about capturing performances, and creating a definitive version of a song by helping to create a special unique atmosphere

What is most important for your decision to work with a band? If they ask me and of course if I love the music/the attitude of the band.

I used to have 3 criteria:
1) lots of fun
2) a great learning experience
3) loads of money

Although the third reason is not so important any more. Sometimes you get all 3 together and that is great!

Is it essential for you to have a close relationship to their music or the band members? It is important (for me and the band) that I have a good feeling
about the music. Also the band and I have to feel comfortable with each other, otherwise it is no fun! Working a long time on a project where everyone is pulling in the same direction often creates close relationships.

How would you describe your influence on the records you engineer? Positive I hope. I am very interested in atmosphere - the feeling that a recording
occupies a certain emotional and physical space. I hope that is apparent in some of the recordings I have made.

Do you also have a creative input on arrangements etc.? Sure - arrangement is everything!

When working with Depeche Mode or Erasure do you become sort of a extra band member? Not at all! Bands have very special internal relationships. I am outside of that. I have known DM and Erasure for a long time however and we have become good friends over the years.

How do you choose in which studios you want to work with the bands? I prefer that the bands choose the studios. I will offer suggestions if necessary, but I am happy to work anywhere that the band feel is creative. Also of course the studio itself is less and less important at the recording stage - very often what is needed is a supportive enjoyable space and that can be built in a lot of ways.


What is the best way for you to approach their individual working methods? Listen to the songs and listen to what the band want. Listen a lot in fact.

You also worked with legendary German bands like Palais Schaumburg, Ideal, Einstürzende Neubauten and artists like Holger Hiller and Rio Reiser. How did you get into contact with them and how did your work look like for them?

I met Palais Schaumburg thru' Thomas Fehlmann, who enjoyed my work on "Construction Time Again", and I was able to help them record an LP
for Phonogram. We had quite a large budget so we were able to work in London, Hamburg and Berlin, and even used a huge orchestra on a couple of tracks. It was a great experience for me and the start of my long friendship with thomas.

I met the bass player from Ideal, Ernst Deuker, in Brixton a couple of times when I was living there, through a mutual music business contact, and he invited me to meet the band and help record their third (and final!) LP. We recorded in Wien and the band's management introduced me to Hansa Studio where I mixed the record. This was also the start of another long friendship with the singer and writer, Annette Humpe.

After I discovered Hansa Studio I suggested to Daniel Miller and DM that we mix "construction time again" there , and that was where I met Einstürzende Neubauten. My work with them felt like a great cross-fertilisation. I was able to bring a working knowledge of sequencers and samplers to their world and their awesome power and work with "found sounds" (as opposed to "conventional" instruments)
massively influenced my world. See "Yu Gung", "Halber Mensch", "People are People", "Master and Servant". Also we had already recorded "Pipeline" in London completely with samples from a scrap yard, so there was a lot of synergy and Zeitgeist in these relationships.

Working with producers like Mark Bell for the last Depeche Mode album, what was your job for "Exciter" in comparison to his contributions?
I did everything of course, and tried, as much as I could, to prevent mark from ruining it, by putting too many genius beats on it. :-)

Actually, for me, one of the highlights of Exciter was meeting and working with Mark Bell - a man of huge talent and musicality and very warm, modest and witty with it. He had the massive responsibility of finishing the record and he took what we offered him, and ran with it! All credit to him.

Were you mainly responsible for supplying/setting up the technology and recording the best possible sound quality? That was part of my role - I was also responsible for planning co-ordination, data management, incense supply, sound creation and programming, brown rice, candles, good vibes, emotional support etc...

What happened in the pre-production phase? We helped Martin develop his rough demos into something he felt able to play the band and the record company. this was an intensive extended and enjoyable experience in his home studio in the UK.

 

 
In your opinion, what has most significantly changed technically over the years concerning your work? The shift from Analog and linear based recording to Digital Random Access.

Is the shift from hardware to more software based and more mobile systems one of the most important tendencies of the last years? It has certainly had a huge effect on my working life and methods

How do these developments affect your work as an engineer? I don't line up Multitrack Analog machines anymore, I have become a Logic Audio programmer!

What do you most like about using software synths? I like the portability, reliability, recall capabilities, price, sharing of patches on the Internet, automation capabilities and of course the possibility of really new sounds that emerge from genius creations like Reaktor. It all blows my mind.

Why do you prefer Logic to other sequencer software? It is just something that I am very comfortable with. When I moved to Logic (via Studio Vision and Cubase) many years ago a lot of problems disappeared from my life. And now it has become a much loved tool that has accompanied me on a great musical journey. I don't really know what other sequencer software has to offer anymore - Logic's stability and reliability, as well as the constant stream
of great updates has captured my attention. It has helped me earn a living too.

What do you most like about NI software? The sound!!

And what do you use them for? I love the new sound worlds that Reaktor has opened up for me - this is still a really exciting journey, as I am a Reaktor novice. And also I find Battery a fantastic sampler - as amazing as my original AMS sampler actually and just as much fun. (I look forward to Kontakt). I never really enjoyed my Yamaha DX modules, but FM7 is great for me because I can easily adjust some of the parameters, which makes it very tweakable. NI's emulations of the Pro5 & B3 are really useable too. I look forward to trying my new tonewheel sets for my B4 when they arrive.

I have used them in order to be able to lighten up my life - I have sold a lot of hardware synths over the last few years.

Do you create Reaktor ensembles? no I don't - I take premade synths and create my own sounds with them. tho' that might change now I have got Len's book ;-)

Do you also use Reaktor as a sampler? 6dex has had a lot of use, yes.

Which ensembles do you like most? Also I love newskool, but I think there is much for me still to discover.

What are your plans for this year? As always looking out for new and interesting projects where I can play a useful/creative part.

What´s happening with the new Erasure album? Recording is finished, we are looking for person/people to mix it right now, release next year.
 

Picture by Ph. Soriani
Picture by Ph. Soriani
You probably wouldn’t expect much use of NI software in Jazz music, – except for the B4 –but this style of music has traditionally been open to experimentation and the use of new technology. And then there’s no chance of getting by modern audio software. The records by Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer are a perfect example of that. He’s released his first two solo LPs “Khmer” and “Solid Ether”, and they are already milestones in the fusion between Jazz and club music. Both LPs appeared on Universal Records’ well-known label ECM, which is also famous for releasing records by Jazz legends like Jan Garbarek, Pat Metheny and Keith Jarrett.
Molvaer had already released records on ECM with artists as diverse as the more folk-esque singer Sidsel Endresen, the Modern Jazz formation Masqualero or the percussionists and specialists in modern experimental music Robyn Schulkowsky, and had always been interested in the fusion of electronic and acoustic sounds.
After playing in harder Rock bands in the 80’s, mostly in the style of neo funkers Defunkt from New York, it seems like he’s still following in this style on “Khmer”, but on a more engineered level.
“Massive beats and throbbing grooves underpin the Norwegian trumpeter's fiery solos in a project that forms a bridge between ECM's improvised soundscapes and the brave new world of trip-hop, drum'n'bass, ambient/illbient, techno, industrial, electronica and samples. Nils Petter Molvær may be best known for his jazz work … but he also has vast experience as a rock sessioneer. Khmer brings jazz's freedom and pop/rock's sound potential together.” (quote from www.ecmrecords.com)
As an almost logical consequence of the advanced use of technology, the remix album “Recolour” was released, for which Rockers Hifi, Matthew Herbert, The Herbalizer and many more processed the “Khmer” material and made it even more suitable for clubs.
As an outstanding Jazz musician and as a user of the NI software REAKTOR and ABSYNTH, Nils Petter Molvaer is a very interesting conversational partner. Joachim Landesvatter interviewed the Norwegian trumpeter.
How did your career as a trumpeter start?
I started to play when I was 6 years old,and after a period (9 to 15 years) when I was more interrested in football and rock´n roll,I started to study
the trumpet on a on a more serios level when I was aproximately 17 years old.I still like football and rock´n roll though.

What were important influences for you back than and what still influences you?
Good music. Sounds. Voices.

How would you define your style of playing the trumpet? Do you improvise a lot? What is essential for the feel to it?
Improvisation is the essence,and the sound...or voice if you like.

How did the idea for the "Khmer" project develop after you played other
styles of music with different artists like Robyn Schulkowsky, Sidsel Endresden or the group Masqualero?

I´ve always liked different styles of music, as long as I think it´s good. When I started to think about doing a solo project, I wanted to do something else. More like a production, but based on improvisation and a feeling of the things that has been infuencial to me since the beginning of the 80´s. Brian Eno, Bill Laswell, Jon Hassell, Michael Brook a.o.

What was your concept behind "Khmer"?
It was basically to make a record with music I like.

How did the contact to the remixers for the "Recolour" album come about and how were the remixes done? What excited you about having your material remixed? What is your favourite remix and why?
I sent them CDs ,and then I called them, or in some cases Universal contacted them. I don´t have any specific favorites. I think they all have different qualities that I find inspiring.

Isn´t it "hard" to be somehow placed between the Jazz and the club music scene or do you think the listeners and the music industry are more open minded these days?
I don´t think it´s "hard". Sometimes it´s difficult to play for a hardcore "straight jazz" audience, so I try to avoid that. The music industry seems to be very openminded. At least the label I´m signed to: Universal.

How important is the use of modern technology for your music? Isn´t it difficult to play your highly engineered material live?
I think modern technology is a tool. A great tool,but it doesn´t make music. It helps the musician to create music, and you can create sounds and colours that you can´t do acousticly. I like to mix acoustic and electronic sounds. To make it an organic whole. Also I would like to say that concerts and studio is two different things. I use some samples from the CD live, but it changes over time,so after 20 concerts...the song is different.

Live on stage you're playing also with a laptop musican and a DJ. Can you describe what the two are exactly doing live? What kind of records/sounds is the DJ playing with?
Raymond Pellicer is the sample and laptop man. He´s playing samples, loops and electronics. DJ Strangefruit is more ike a free agent. He´s playing everything from Danish Yoga records from the 60´s, to Coltrane.
Nils Petter Molvaer live
Nils Petter Molvaer live
Which NI applications do you use in the studio and onstage?
In the studio I have both Reaktor,Pro 52 and Absynth. Live with my band we are working to integrate Reaktor 3.We just have to find a system where we can link up all the other stuff also. For our tour
next year we will use it. Now I sample stuff,and put it into a Roland SP 808. I think it´s also good to have knobs to turn and twist. I look forward to it. I have used Reaktor as a standalone on several ocations though. With Bill Laswell for example. There´s a lot to get into. I also like Absynth alot.
.
What are you using Reaktor for and what are your favourite ensembles?
I don´t really have any favorite ensembles. Í use reaktor mostly for
rythmical things. In the lower register.It has a beautiful FAT bottom. If I should mention anything the DSQ is interresting. Also the random stepshifter, but there is alot to discover.I haven´t been through all of them yet.

How big is the impact of audio software in general or a programm like
Reaktor on modern Jazz music? Is there still a bride gap between playing an instrument and programming sounds?

For me it feels natural to mix these things. Both Eivind Aarset (git.), Raymond Pellicer and Audun Erlien(bass) are using computers. For me this is as natural to use in my music as the trumpet.

What are your plans for the future?
Finish my new CD. It will be released this spring,and I will stay home until May 2002. Try to live as normal familylife as possible. Learn more about
music software...and hardware.

Interview with Aromabar

They come from where the flavour is
Vienna’s downbeat scene has become the global source for jazzy, frequently instrumental tunes with a more laid back feel than most techno and drum & bass tracks-- supplying a steady stream of loungey, coffee-house style grooves. Although the sound is often categorized as acid jazz, trip-hop, nujazz, or downbeat, the Viennese scene is remarkably multi-faceted Amongst the biggest players are well-known artists, DJs, and remixers like Kruder and Dorfmeister, Waldeck, Patrick Pulsinger, Gerhard Potuznik, Walker.Moestl and the Sofa Surfers. Just to name a few.
Aromabar is a vital part this scene, even if their sound is somewhat poppier and -- especially on their forthcoming second album-- more song oriented than many releases by their fellow producers from Vienna. The band itself consists of singer Karin Steger, multi-instrumentalist Roland Hackl, and Andreas Kinzl aka DJ Scott. On their first album, “1”, they showed the versatility of their talents. Their crossover sound between dance and vocal tracks was quickly described with the term “Pop Couture”, and the new album “Milk and Honey” takes this concept even further while also refining the “pop-meets-club” appeal of the first LP.
Aromabar uses almost all NI tools both live and in the studio, but their music is reason enough for us to interview Karin, Roland, and Andreas. Joachim Landesvatter did just that.
 
What’s especially important for you when you are composing/producing a song or a track?
Andreas: We see a fundamental difference between songs and tracks: with songs the whole production must be matched to the mood, the content and the message. During tracks it’s the functional that stands to the fore. However we’re certainly always trying to combine these aspects, though the weighting differs according to the current production.

Karin: It’s difficult to put into words but that’s perhaps a good clue. Our way of writing and shaping songs is something like a combined musical search for the things that trigger euphoria in us.

Roland: For me it’s important to have as many ideas as possible for a piece before we’re in the studio. Mostly there are so many possibilities available in producing a certain song, in relation to tempo, rhythm, harmony etc. For us, these things make up the ‘outer dress’, the packaging of the song. We hold on to the ideas we have for a short while whilst we subsequently develop different versions of the song. Only later on do we decide which beginning we’ll then produce-out.

 
Karin Steger
Karin Steger
What atmosphere should the music evoke, what should the lyrics transport?
Karin: Whoever listens to our new album will be accompanied through the most varied moods. There are pieces that are almost soul, and then again cool, electronically worked tracks. There are fun numbers tempt you to dance and there are very melancholic, sad songs with lyrics that I write only because that’s exactly how I am at the time and that’s just what I’m feeling.

How do you divide up your work?
Karin: That’s changed a lot. Two years ago, Roland and Andreas used to make instrumental layouts, I’d then listen to them, take them with me, think for a while and then somehow write something to accompany them. We’d record that and of course that’s exactly how it sounded. Roland also used to change the original instrumental track a little but that would be it. Since then you can be confident to hear a new Aromabar title without the feeling of listening to two pieces at once- a vocal and an instrumental track that somehow, by chance, have connected themselves. For a long while now we’ve been very song orientated, and composing is, in most cases, a very intertwined process between Roland and I. We work in turns, then together and then in turn once more- Roland continues and I pull-back and write new lyrics, text passages, missing fragments and melodies, then we join-up again pull something new together and experiment further… and wait, like I said, for that magical moment in the studio…
 
How much do you react to and take part in musical directions like Trip-Hop, Two Step or the “Vienna” Downbeat scene? What are your influences?
Andreas: Influences come really from all areas, both consciously and unconsciously. In the end it’s about giving individual moods the strongest possible expression.

Roland:<hv> New musical directions always change listening habits, and you react to that internally - that’s then reflected in the details of a production. For example, the choice of sounds/sound-design. During the mix, new ways of working like the use of software synthesizers, make an important contribution. Without them many of the new sounds wouldn’t be possible.
 
How do you see the musical progression from the first to the second album? Has the compilation of the tracks changed, so that the new LP has more stress on songs?
Karin: Yes, for sure, but that was the goal we set ourselves. We wanted to write more songs. In the context of a CD-Album, pure Club music is, in our judgement, sometimes a bit problematic, despite the unclear boundaries. But we simply wanted that our music could extend out of the club scene and be sung along to. That’s not our concession to the so-called evil - commerce - but rather the simple wish to develop this project further, and, in our eyes, to become better. The authenticity with which we go about things has not changed, quite the opposite, it has, I think, become stronger.

Roland: Beside that we wanted a more direct and compact sound for “Milk and Honey”, as if we were getting a step closer to the listener. An organic mixture of ‘natural’ and purely electronic sounds was also important for us, in the sense that we’ve set natural sounds in an unnatural context, more an intertwined than a side-by-side combination of wood and plastic. We’ve also got Leonard Richards on the new album as a guest singer on three titles.
 
Roland Hackl
Roland Hackl
Which equipment do you use to create and work on the beats?
Roland: Principally we arrange the beats in Logic Audio. During the production of the new album we were constantly shifting the sounds from Akai-synthesizers to software-samplers because of the better timing. Regarding the beats, I’m now really happy working with NI’s Battery, because it provides optimal access to all the relevant Drum/Percussion parameters. Above all I value the visual control of sample start-points and the waveforms. As soon as I have set-up an organic group of drum sounds, I transfer the individual elements to individual channels within Battery, so I can fine tune the sound direct from there. The drum sounds themselves are manipulated single-hit samples as well as self-created electronic sounds that are later layered together. In this instance we use a real mixture of sources, for example Reaktor (the Drumatik-ensemble), the Oberheim Matrix 6 or a Yamaha DX7.
 
Which equipment do you use to generate synthetic sounds?
Roland: That’s a many-sided aspect too. Fundamentally I try to use whatever equipment is available. It doesn’t make a difference if it’s analog, digital or virtual-analog. I like to build the overall texture of the music out of many smaller parts. For that reason I work a lot on the arrangement and less on the individual sounds. How a component in the production sounds depends strongly, from my point of view, on how it is employed within the texture. In our pieces there’s not really a special sound upon which the whole mix depends. On the software side we use NI Reaktor, NI pro-52, the Emagic ES1 and on the hardware front, the Matrix 6, a MAM MB33, Roland JD990, Roland DS50, Korg MS20, Yamaha DX7II and the Akai-Sampler in conjunction with simple waveforms.

Which of the Reaktor Ensembles do you particularly value and why? Do you create your own Ensembles/Instruments?
Roland: The sound and the sound-manipulation possibilities are really good in all the ensembles. I took an instant liking to the Plasma-Ensemble, with that you can generate excellent surfaces with a surreal touch. The Nanowave synthesizer for chords is very warm but it can still push to the front. Often I will take really simple structures. Since I’m used to programming sythesizers, I’m quick to find the sound I’m looking for even amongst different user-interfaces. We’ve seldom needed to program our own ensembles from scratch, preferring to make small modifications to the existing ones. I find it great that the possibility to build your own instruments is there, and in the future I’m sure I’ll look in to it, but for me actual use in the production has priority over experimentation.

 
Which Instruments and Ensembles of Reaktor did you use on the new album and in which songs?
Roland: The bass on “Cupid and Orlando”, for example, came from the 3-Osc Ensemble. Before version 3.0 Reaktor wasn’t optimised for Logic-Audio so we simply recorded the notes and then used the Emagic EXS-24 Sampler to play them out. On the new album we have used many orchestral textures. In these textures I mostly integrated manipulated layers that were created with the Rampler or Plasma Ensembles in conjunction with multi-samples of classical instruments, for example in “All I Want” or “I Promised Myself”. I sometimes used the Formantor Ensemble to make layouts for backing and harmony vocals that Karin then sang later. On the vinyl version of “Some Didn’t Even Know My Name” we kept the Formantor Ensemble in the mix because we really liked it’s electronic vocoder sound.
 

Andreas Kinzl

Andreas Kinzl

What else do you use from NI and in which songs?
Roland: Apart from Reaktor, Battery, Pro-52, Dynamo on a second computer and B4. We used Reaktor/Dynamo a lot and also Pro-52 and Battery. I can’t remember in which songs anymore... The B4 we haven’t used until now.

How do you present yourselves live?Is everything played by the band, or do parts and sounds come from computer?Roland: There are definitely parts that come from computer because it’s the only way that we can present important components of our sound when playing live. We’ve changed our live concept around quite often. At the moment as well as Karin [Vocals] and Andreas on the decks we’ve also got our percussionist, Frederic. Myself, I play a Korg MS20 live.
 

Air Liquide are Cem Oral, aka Jammin Unit, and Ingmar Koch, aka Walker. For 10 years they´ve been releasing electronic music on labels like “Rising High”, “Blue”, “sm:)e”, “Force Inc.” “Harvest” on EMI and now on the BMG Köln Sublabel “proof!”. Together, and as solo artists, they´ve played a part in hundreds of records.
In the beginning the Air Liquide sound was influenced by Techno and Acid House. Since then it has slowed down and become more intense and varied. Their style could be called electronic downbeat, but their beats and sounds always have a rougher edge than their competetors´ stuff. Air Liquide deliver neither lame TripHop grooves, nor worn out jazz samples and standard beats.
On their newest LP “X” they once again deliver a large variety of styles. Massive basslines, trippy percussion arrangements and vocals by Mary S. Applegate and Sketch create a unique flavour. Highlights include Tolga´s Ragga toasting and an intimate French cover-version of the Air Liquide classic “If there was no gravity” by Stereo Total.

Air Liquide was interviewed by Joachim Landesvatter.
Pictures by Markus Schulze & Walker.

 
Jammin Unit & Walker (fltr)
Jammin Unit & Walker  
After ten years of Air Liquide, what still excites you about making music?
Cem: It’s the spirit, the mission and the fun we have with each other. It began like a hobby and more and more it’s become a career.

How did you start to produce music and what were your important influences back then?
Ingmar: At the age of 14 I heard electronic music for the first time and knew right away that I too had to do something like that. I recorded my first record when I was 16, an ugly Italo Disco 7” on blue vinyl.
My most important influences were: HipHop (Public Enemy/ Eric B & Rakim/Ice T/NWA) and UK Synth Pop (Heaven17/Human League/ABC/Cabaret Voltaire/Eurythmics) and of course Holger Czukay and Can, especially their production techniques.

Do you make your music without worrying about what’s cool at that moment?
Cem: I wouldn´t say so. We’re listening to music all the time, and are influenced by it. Maybe our style of music is a little more timeless.

Ingmar: We don´t follow trends, we just make the Air Liquide sound.

Cem: We weave our own sound in and always make our own experiments.

How was Air Liquide founded? From where do you know each other?
Ingmar: We met in a sound studio in Frankfurt (Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany). We were sound-engineers for commercial Hip-House productions. At night we used the down-time to experiment and push the equipment to it´s limits.
 
What was the first release by Air Liquide and how would you describe your sound at that time?
Ingmar: The first Air Liquide record was “Neue Frankfurter Elektronik Schule” in 1991, which was made during those night sessions in the Artlab Studio in Frankfurt. Back then, we wanted to produce a psychedelic tripout sound with lots of surprising moments. That’s still true today.

Has your way of producing changed over the years? What is your prefered approach?
Ingmar: In the past, we had more machines running synched together and we used many more instruments. Nowadays we are more focussed. Now we rarely do a jam session for 90 minutes and then edit that down to a five-minute track: we produce tracks with a clear goal.

What’s the excitement about having your older tracks remixed, like for your single “Space Brothers”?
Ingmar: We make very personal music. We made these tracks during very important phases in our lives. Probably we´re just too sentimental to let them go, or we simply want to make them again and again. That’s true of our favourite tracks, which we update every few years.
 
Is it true that you’ve also produced music for a German TV crime series?
Ingmar: Yes, that´s true, although it didn’t happen quite like that. For example, we did a commission for the soundtrack for a documentary called “Verhüllter Reichstag” (“Wrapped Reichstag”).
Then there´s the new European media law: when a TV series is made, they can simply choose your music and use it. You get paid for it, of course, but you can´t turn it down. The strangest things happen - like Air Liquide being used on “Wolffs Revier” (German TV crime series on the Sat1 channel).

Cem: One of our tracks was also used in the background for “Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten” (soap opera on German TV station RTL)!

Ingmar: We also produce music for films and would love to do a science fiction movie, where we could really let loose. There was a request from the director Emmerich for “The 13th Floor” but EMI lost that.

 
What happens in the German-speaking Forum “dr.walkerz psychedlischez kochstudio” on musicplayer.com which is moderated by Walker?
Ingmar: Craig Anderton (creative director of www.musicplayer.com and author of our Battery seminar) is a good friend of mine. We`ve played live together a few times and made a couple of records together.
Apparently people lacked the opportunity to talk in a certain way. In the forum there´s little talk about music instruments and much more about the lifestyle; the forces behind it, ideas, and ways of looking at the world. These are the things that are relevant in today’s world. You can make music in so many ways, but the reason why you´re doing it and how you do it is much more important than talking about technology.

You often play live. What´s so special about that for you?
Cem: The attraction is the direct contact. It´s important for us to experience what we are doing and the sense it has. You notice that when playing live because the crowd reacts to your performance, and that´s essential. It would be an immense restriction for us if we couldn´t play live.

 

 
Would you say that technology prescribes certain ways of producing, limiting creativity as a consequence? How can a person make their approach individual?
Ingmar:That´s a very complex question. With the production techniques available and software engines like Reaktor, you can optimise your working environment to suit your own ideas. It took me a pretty long time to put a set-up together that´s completely suitable for my way of working.

Do you think that despite more becoming possible technically, music is not getting better or richer in variety?
Cem: That’s a law of nature. It’s not a question of variety. What is missing sometimes is a certain quality, a spirit, an idea. And that’s what is essential.

What about the possibility of having a complete studio in a computer?
Ingmar: It’s a really good idea. As production equipment becomes cheaper, more talented people are able to present their sound to an audience. Today two thousand Deutschmarks are enough. Buy a PC and a soundcard and you can start to make music right away. In the past you needed studios, today you need almost nothing. We’ve reduced our own equipment considerably and are now using only the few machines that have proved themselves over the years. We don´t take part in the ‘arms race’ any more. Naturally, new, good, audio software is coming out all the time and we use it, but we no longer buy any new machines.

What do think about the idea of switching from hardware to software instruments completely?
Cem: It is possible to work as minimally as you want, but we still have our studios. Sometimes you really want to expand the possibilities. Some tracks are so complex that it´s fun to be able to realise everything you have in your head.

Ingmar: I once had 240 synthesizers but recently sold 200 of them. You always end up using the same machines anyway, those that are the best and suit your style of playing. My passion for collecting in this field is over. I prefer to collect life experiences now rather than synthesizers.

 

 
How does the Air Liquide live set-up look?
Live we use:
Akai MPC2000 with 32MB Ram
2 x Jomox XBase09, one original, one with TR808 samples
Yamaha DX200
Future Retro 777
Technosaurus Microsyn 2
Clavia Nord Modular
Roland JP8000
Line6 Delay Modeller
Boss Delay Pedal
Yamaha RX5
Elektron Machinedrum
A few other small pedals

Ingmar: In the future I´ll also take along a Sony Vaio Laptop with Traktor.

 
Which NI applications do you use?
Ingmar: Pro-52, B4, Battery, Traktor, Spektral Delay, Reaktor and Dynamo. I´ll produce my next solo LP completely with plug-in synths on the computer. Battery comes pretty close to the extreme demands I make from drum programming. There could be more groove features, and a pad controller that can be plugged into the computer is definately missing. I love my MPC 3000, but I will mainly use Battery for the drums on my new album. Traktor is easy to use – right now I´m doing an Air Liquide megamix with it.

What do you wish for in the field of audio software?
Ingmar: I´d like to see more phat controllers. Making music with the mouse is a pain. In our Syncom crew we came up with ideas for a few controllers, but it´s really difficult to find a company that will build them…

Keep on Surgeon

Anthony Child aka Surgeon is best known for varied challenging Techno releases and exciting DJ sets. Meeting fellow Birmingham producer Regis of Downwards records in 1994 spawned Child´s first releases as Surgeon ("Magneze" and "Electronically Tested") to immediate worldwide acclaim. Expressing the feelings, stresses and reactions to urban living today, the recordings come from a very real, autobiographical base: reactions to and within his environment. Launching his own label in 1997, "Dynamic Tension" built a platform for Surgeon´s own club experiments, exercised to effect in Berlin throughout his three-year Tresor Club residency. His close connection to Berlin followed-up "Basic Tonal Vocabulary" in 1998 with "Balance" (Tresor Records) and a wider set of ideas.
Long-held friendship with former Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris (Scorn) introduced Harris´ name to Techno fans with a heavy dark hand in three notorious remixes of Surgeon´s Tresor material. Recording and performing in their band “Certain Beyond All Reasonable Doubt” marked a sway towards Tony´s non-dancefloor work, releasing the Anthony Child / Dr. Andrew Read and Certain Beyond All Reasonable Doubt (live in Berlin) albums, raising ears and eyebrows across 1998.
In January of 1999, recording his third Tresor album, Surgeon reinforced the theories gained in the previous year´s experiments drawing carefully on the parallel between loud music´s ability to cross cultural differences and the opposing swing toward experimentally contemplative music played quietly to produce a different perception. Sentimental with a high emotional content while sometimes simultaneously brutal, "Force and Form" brewed a powerful physical experience at club level decibels. (shorted version of text by Marc Snow on www.tresorberlin.de) Surgeon was interviewed by Joachim Landesvatter.

How did you get into Techno?
I've been drawn to electronic / processed music for as long as I can remember. I got more interested in techno when I heard records like the
first LFO LP and the first Aphex Twin releases.

What still excites you about this style of music?
I still feel that so much more can be done with Techno, there's no point in
releasing the same thing again and again. Techno can be anything you want it to be, I think too many people restrict Techno by giving it a very narrow set of rules to follow, I like impure Techno.

What used to influence and still influences your sound, where do you get inspirations from?
I get inspiration and influences from everywhere, music, films, books. I still get excited by the music of people like Coil, Throbbing Gristle, Suicide, Faust, Soft Cell etc.

How did you get into touch with Tresor Records?
It was when I first played at Tresor Club (1996 I think?) After that we stayed in contact, I liked the way they worked so I released some records on their label.

Listening to your three LPs on Tresor, it seems that you are departing from the "classic" harder Techno style more and more. Do you find that´s true? I just wanted to bend to boundaries of what you "can" and "can't" do with a Techno LP. I was also trying to make a record that would work both at home and in a club.

What´s happening on your labels "Dynamic Tension" & "Counterbalance" at the moment?
Dynamic Tension is “sleeping” at the moment. Counterbalance is up to it's 6th release. The first release on, it's by Gennaro Le Fosse (he's from Brooklyn, NYC and has been producing Techno since the early '90s) The 7th Counterbalance release will be by DJ Pete from Hardwax, Berlin. I've just finished the 8th release which is called 'Screw the Roses'. It's a very dark record.

What´s are the main differences between your solo stuff and your project “Certain Beyond All Reasonable Doubt” with Mick Harris or your project with Regis and Female? My solo work can take on many forms. “Certain Beyond All Reasonable Doubt” was a live project with Mick Harris, it was very heavy, dense soundpressures. My work with Regis and Female was constructing track using their samples and loops.

Tell us about your remixes for Coil!
I'd say Coil have been my favourite 'band' since about 1987, they have always been one of my main influences (in an indirect way). There was talk of me doing a remix for them a few years ago, but it never came to anything. It was just a case of waiting for the right project at the right time.

Do you take a special approach when you´re remixing acts that are situated outside of the "clubby" Techno scene?
Those are my favourite kind of remixes because I really feel that I can let my remix go in whatever direction it “wants” to go, there's just a lot more creative freedom. I've also done remixes for Matmos and Scorn (Mick Harris) which I really enjoyed.

What are the most important aspects for you when you´re producing a track?
Creating something that has a life of it's own and then nurturing it until it can stand on it's own (metaphorically).

What kind of equipment are you using?
Mainly -
Macintosh G3 with Audiowerk 8 soundcard
Tascam M-2600 desk
Ensoniq ASR 10
Nord Lead
Yamaha TX81Z
Eventide H3000 D/SE
Lexicon PCM 91
TC electronic finalizer

 

Does software play an important role in your setup?
Yes, but I really like the hardware / software combination the best. The amount that I use hardware vs. software varies from track to track.

For which types of sounds or arrangements do you use Reaktor?
I find the sample/sequencer ones the most useful, great for manipulating my own samples and loops.

Which are your favourite Reaktor ensembles?
Homemade ones!

Has your style changed in certain ways after you´ve begun to use Reaktor?
I think it's just opened up more possibilities and made certain tasks a lot quicker and easier than they were before.

Do you use Reaktor for playing live?
No, but I did use it running the 6-Pack ensemble on a G3 Powerbook in Japan a few times. I just mixed it in and out of a Dj set, it was fun.

Interview: Joachim Landesvatter/ NI


 

The Berlin-based DJ and artist Manuela Krause was one of the first to exclusively mix in clubs with nothing more than a laptop and TRAKTOR. Besides her activities in clubs she's a singer in the band Electrazz from Kopenhagen/Denmark, in another project she has also worked with Pole. Manuela Krause releases her music on Multicolor and Monika Records.
 
Recently at the WMF in Berlin, you were spinning for more than 4 hours with just a laptop. Who are you and how did you come up with the idea of spinning on a laptop?
Manuela: Oh- That is a long story; it was actually a total coincidence. I had previously spun completely normally, I mean records and CDs. Then, at the expo, we made an exhibition based in the WMF. There there was a bar, video-installations and so on, and we also set up a juke-box. For this event I had digitalized a really insane amount of music and then the thing ran practically non-stop. This way I had put the entire specifications, my entire music, contained on a hard-drive and I thought – super! – I don’t need to carry around the CDs and records anymore. At that point I had just an iMac of all things, and had always carried it from the 7th story into the club. The only program for Mac that was halfway okay, was TACTILE. I worked with it for quite a while. In the beginning I always mixed it up, which meant that I had to drag everything all over, including the iMac. Then I left out the CDs and at some point kept only a backup-record on hand. You can see I already liked this system quite well.

In the same year I had so many gigs in foreign countries – that started with a thing in Tel Aviv, where I obviously would need to drag my Mac with me. I needed some kind of a emergency solution. I had heard about TRAKTOR and so we called NI and got a test-version. Club Radio then was kind enough to loan me a laptop PC, which I didn‘t even own, so that I could try it out.
It was so much fun and so exciting, that after that I never touched TACTILE again. I borrowed some money, bought a PC-notebook and changed systems immediately. Since then I have been an enthusiastic TRAKTOR user.

Now please say something about yourself.
Manuela: Oh yeah – My name is Manuela Krause and that’s also what I call myself as a DJ. Nothing ever occurred to me that sounded cooler than Manuela Krause (laughs). I am 30 years old and come from Hamm. I make music myself and am a singer. I just finished an album with my band from Copenhagen, named ELEKTRAZZ. It’s a mix of Elektro and jazz, difficult to explain, somewhat experimental. The album will appear from Multicolor, sometime in the fall. It’s called Robobrain – logically enough.

A band from Copenhagen?
Manuela: Yeah, I’m always going over there, and they sometimes come here. Together with me there are four members: A scratcher, who also does drums, the bassist and jazz bassist also did all of the arrangements for the Senior Coconut Band and went with them on their tour. He also did a couple of things together with Cheap. And then there‘s another one with us who does the sounds and visuals.
I also did another thing with Pole, which has just been released under the title “Manuela Krause and Pole,” on POP 2001. There we actually do a dub version of “Mein Freund der Baum” (My Friend the Tree). (laughs) That will come out as a single in September, from Monika Records. Musically it’s really a very good time for me, there’s actually one more thing that‘s coming out: Under the name “Olimpia” I have finished off a project on Superstar – that will be called “Mechanisches Mädchen” (Mechanical Girl).

Harddisc instead of wheels of steel

Harddisc instead of wheels of steel

 
What do your DJ-colleagues have to say, when they see you spinning with a Notebook?
Manuela: That depends. Sometimes it can be quite contagious. I just infected one of our dance-floor DJs in the WMF. He played around on my machine, jammed out for a while and finally bought himself a PC. He has already set the thing up on the dance-floor and thinks it’s really cool.
Then there are some who say, “Yeah okay, but you don’t have to do anything for yourself anymore. You can just install everything.” Those are just the technicians, but it doesn’t matter to me.

I have noticed that you are always surrounded by curious party-guests. What do they say about it?
Manuela: The first thing that is striking is that it’s always only men who try to come up and chatter at me. At one of the last parties here, all of the boys who were spinning on the main floor had all of the girls dancing in front of them. I also had quite a few dancing people around me, but then a whole pack of boys gathered around me, and just stared at the machine. They wanted to know exactly what software it is, if I am doing anything there myself or if the software does everything. But on the whole, the feedback tends to be on the positive side and sometimes there are even very precise questions about the particulars of what one can do with the equipment.
Many DJs say that everything stands or falls, depending on the sound, and they have a problem with MP3, because it is compressed and therefore of course not 100 percent like the original. What’s your view on this and what kind of experiences have you had in clubs with “MP3-Sound”
Manuela: I think it’s right, that it’s partly something you have to get used to. A lot of people think it’s actually cool, because it sounds somehow funny; others find it a bit too shrill. I personally simply favor the sounds that come out of the computer, for example the C64 stuff. There are a lot things which just sound a hell of a lot better as MP3, because it somehow really gets to the point that way. I like this computer sound – I find it satisfying.

I was also pretty impressed by the basses which you were able to produce.
Manuela: Ya – they’re okay. You can, on the one hand, go through the external mixing-station, as one usually does, which allows one to readjust a bit, but with the TRAKTOR one can above all still regulate things. That is really something. We naturally have a great system with big subwoofers; one has to add this here. If you try to spin on a shit-system, then of course it will immediately sound completely different.

 
What is it about TRAKTOR which you like the best, compared to traditional spinning?
Completely apart from the program, it‘s really nice not to have to cart records around with me anymore. You have your Notebook and you can just pop it open at any party and make music. You don‘t even need a mixer, because it’s also included as a part of the program.
I find the program to be amazingly transparent and I also love to be able to have an orderly archive and not a box anymore, where you have to dig around in it the entire time with your hands, without being able to find precisely the record which you need. I simply am able to locate things much more quickly in the index-folders, and it is somehow completely intuitive, but really differently intuitive – one allows one’s self to be lead by different things.
And I have to admit that I was never an especially good beat-mixer (oh God) – but one can admit one’s weaknesses, right? (laughs) I am simply completely lazy and never had the interest to work really hard in that area, because it never interested me. Records are so flat, they don’t feel good. On a keyboard, on the other hand, it’s much better. That’s really fun. Then you have to press the keys in rhythm. I think it’s simply great, the tactile way in which one is able to handle the thing rhythmically.
If you were to express a few wishes to the software-developer, how would you imagine a TRAKTOR of the future, which would make you completely happy?
Manuela: I would wish for a few extra effects, for example a delay-control. The current spectral delay is very extensive, but it would be a great thing if there were just a little spectral delay, with the complete filtering possibilities, installed as a rack. But also other effects, like distortion and reverb – above all because I would wish for another rack, where I could plug in my microphone externally, so that I could then also sing at the same time. Then of course I’d like to be able to record it, and then play it back again, and then sing over it again, and so on. Also in general I would wish that I was able to work with the thing in a way that’s more like a studio.
Oh yes! I have one more: what would really be the hammer would be if there were another little synthesizer inside, with a few sounds that one could play across the whole keyboard. You can play things in bits, alter them, and at the same time play along on the synth and sing! The modern one-person show (laughs).

Fantastic! I can really see it now. Thanks so much for the interview.

Interview with kindly permission of the German music magazine Mushroom
 

 

Jan Werner and Andi Toma

Jan Werner and Andi Toma

 
Electronic music has rarely been so multi-dimensional, diverse and varied as it is in Mouse On Mars tracks. In the sonic cosmos of Andi Toma and Jan St. Werner (from Cologne and Düsseldorf respectively), perspectives are constantly shifting. Tracks that are mounted out of hundreds of fragments of beats and sounds can’t fit conveniently in any style of music. Including almost everything from Ambient, Elektronika, Drum&Bass, Post Rock, Dub and Ska, each new album explores worlds of sounds and delivers rhythms never heard before. Despite the multifaceted elements, the unique MOM style is unmistakeably present on every single record. Seven longplayers have been released so far ("Vulvaland" 1994, "Iaora Tahiti" 1995, „Instrumentals“ 1997, "Autoditacker" 1997, „Glam“ 1998, "Niun Niggung" 1999 and "Idiology" 2001). Since “Niun Niggung,” acoustic and even classical instruments have made their way into the MOM world of sound. On their most recent album, “Idiology”, the song seems to return into the abstract electronics.

Mouse On Mars completed a World Tour in July. Bass guitar, drums (played by Dodo Nkiishi), laptop (running REAKTOR), and lots of electronics helped them to generate an exceptionally tight synthesis of acoustic and electronic instruments.

NI talked to Mouse On Mars about their recent tour, the new album and how NI software influences their sound.
 
Your new album “Idiology” has been recently released. Did you have a certain goal you wanted to achieve or a defined aesthetic concept? Or was the album more a continuous work in progress?
Andi: The latter.
Jan: The imagination for a new album arises from the stuff you’ve already made. It´s not that we wanted to go somewhere in particular. You know where you´ve been and think about where there’s room to go. For the new album we wanted a more compact sound, something aggressive.
There are many breaks and contrasts on the new album. Besides heavily processed tracks and sounds, there’s also a fair amount of classical instrumentation. Where is the common denominator for you?
Andi: That´s not oppositional to us. Acoustic instruments are equitable to processed sounds for us.

Cut and paste

Cut and paste

 
Do you work with live recorded instruments in the same way that you deal with synthetic sounds? Are the live sounds edited as frequently?
Jan: Yes. But on the track “ilking” we didn’t alter the recordings. The strings were recorded on a 24 track tape recorder, so we preserved the arrangement. Otherwise we dissect everything and also process parts from that.
Andi: That happens more often to vocals, which have been recorded to totally different rhythms and enviroments and have been cut afterwards. That was the case with “actionist respoke” for example. The calm track was a house tune first. In most of the cases the tracks change completely.
What are your production strategies, do you take a special approach?
Jan: We don´t have a special approach. We work in our studio and have endless technical possibilties there. Sometimes we start a track with with an acoustic instrument or a sample. Or while opening the NI-Spektral Delay a whoosh turns up. It´ll be recorded when it´s interesting. Often we work on tracks separately but are together in the studio. One of us deals with the vocals and the other one works on the arrangement or samples certain parts out the acoustic recordings. We frequently send the parts to each other.
 
Do you generate new sounds for every new album or do you also use your own sample pool?
Jan: We always remake all the sounds, because that´s the part of the work which interests us the most. It would be more effective if we had a pool where we could take our samples from. But there wouldn’t be much point. If we could say: there´s going to be a 12” released and we´d knew for which club it is meant, the we´d exactly know which sounds to choose. For an album we proceed little by little and we have to develop a certain attitude, which only emerges if you do the production spontaneously. It´d be no problem to put something together and to produce a track in really short time, if we would always reuse the same samples. But chances are, nothing exciting would happen. Quite often tracks develop naturally in unintentional directions. We always want to have new sounds, which we can observe or be forced to understand. A certain tension emerges out of this situation, because we never exactly know what it is that we have and how we have to deal with it. There´s always a certain cautiousness to it and that´s what makes it interesting. There´re so many possibilities to generate sounds and in the end it´s always obvious that you made them. You don´t have to worry about leaving your path.
 
How do your tracks come into being? Do you prefer sound synthesis or sample editing?
Jan: We´re more the sample types. We process a lot and then we cut the samples. We always do the cutting last. Most of the modular interfaces are quite lethargic. We´re more interested in having direct access. Therefore acoustic instruments and the comprehension of how to work with interfaces like that are more interesting for us. Most of the modulation matrixes which are available for synthesizers are not intuitive enough to me. It´s not so simple to construct something yourself. Many of the newer software solutions are much better for that. You can do interesting things with those software synthesizers. That´s what I like about REAKTOR, which I use live— I have fast access and can work intuitively. At the same time, I can concentrate on listening, because I know excactly what each knob is doing.

Hot stuff: MOM with BATTERY and NI-SPEKTRAL DELAY

Hot stuff: MOM with BATTERY and NI-SPEKTRAL DELAY

 
Did you change your ways of producing over the years and for the new album?
Andi: On the whole nothing has changed much.
Jan: The principle remained the same: To work with fragments. Then we can receive all those pieces, put them together again and see what kinds of combinations are possible. The number of parts always grows. When you factor in the software, the possibilities multiply. We mostly like it when a lot of pieces are in it. But still enough air has to remain. Quite often we think about how much we can put into a track, without losing the airyness.

What do you use predominantly in the studio?
Andi: We don´t have that many pure sound generators. Our studio has an old 24 track tape recorder und lots of outboard effects, mixing desks. Most stuff happens through two synthesizers, samplers and software. Their sounds are still edited analog. We record lots of stuff over amps, guitar and bass are on board as well.
Which products by Native Instruments do you use?
Jan: Actually everyone we can get. Pretty soon it´s obvious if we can get ahead with a software or not. Native Instruments makes software that can be used easily. There’s so much software that sounds the same.
Andi: When this software thing started, I was disappointed, because the early software still sounded like DSP sounds. That changed when we received the Native software. It started with Native, I think their stuff possess its own personality. We soon get used to using Native software, because that still remains a principle.
Jan: I also liked Hyperprism. My first thing was Alchemy, you can´t do a lot with it, it´s more sound editing. Concerning granular synthesis, Metasynth is pretty much ahead. And of course REAKTOR, which is pretty opulent and very good. We think it´s very important that sounds come out of many different machines and are united in the mixing desk. That constitutes quality of sound and a richness of colours. Several software applications and 8bit, 16bit, 24bit sounds and incredibly expensive stuff, but also bad stuff inbetween. Grain sounds and then again a stupid synthesizer that only plays a sequence. I think that constitutes an interesting sound. The pure, clean, digital desktop sound doesn´t appeal to me. I like tracks by Randomiz though.

inside the sound transformer

inside the sound transformer

 
How did you use REAKTOR whilst producing “Idiology”?
REAKTOR appears here and there on the new album. The electronic drums from “doit” were mostly made with Impaktor. That´s rather an exception because we avoid presets. The usage of “doit” resulted from nothing special. The computer voice from “doit” and the harmonies were made in part with the REAKTOR ring modulator, a few resonance distortions. The organ in “actionist” that carries the refrain was edited with REAKTOR filters. Here and there small details appear, granular gimmicks, filter and mutilations of sounds.

Can you imagine that the production of music will completely come out of the laptop computer one day?
Andi: I think that the development will go in that direction.
Jan: But that´s not our aim, we want to retain the old stuff and don´t want to get rid of it. If you combine the old and the new, when it´s not important if something sounds “new” and the other one sounds “old” or everything has become very simple and sounds very clean. I like the trouble in combining the mechanical with the digital stuff.

What do you think about the current state of software synthesizers?
Andi: Most of the software synths only try to bring the same idea to the desktop, to me that´s boring and uninteresting, that´s the weak point. Maybe it´s got to be like that at the beginning, you have to go through that to develop something new. Or it only serves the selling, instruments that are already popular are easy to sell. There are probably economic constraints.
Jan: This culture of emulations is quite strange as well. That´s a kind of cultural delay.
Something I also don´t like: In the studio, you have a system of plugs to connect and software is pretty complicated to connect. You have to store a sample, the open it again. Sometimes it´s not even possible to open it simultaneous on different systems. It annoys me that there´s no additional level where you can connect everything. Always a copy of a copy of a copy arises and that´s a stupid form of culture. And it´s not even fun to go through the mountains of files. It should be easier to cable all the elements.
 
Other musicians participated in the new album. How did the collaborations work out?
Jan: F.X. Randomiz has been involved time and again and mostly helps us out concerning software. Vert (Adam Butler) contributed to the second part of “Presence,” to this “Rimskij-Korskakow” part. He also contributed sounds in a session. At this time, he was mastering his album “Nine Types” in Düsseldorf. We made a track with Matthew Herbert for “DJ Collapse” on the b-side of the 12” and he played piano for another track. That was recorded and advanced without him. The string players came to our place for every recording. There were outlines for the tracks, which they accompanied. We worked out the arrangements and they changed them to the necessary keys. We put a lot of work into how it can be played.
Harald Sack Ziegler came a few times and we explained to him what we wanted. He is very free, develops his arrangements himself and offers lots of detailed propositions. He contributes a lot of own stuff. We worked on three tracks with a bass clarinet, with exact specifications. We even had a skiffle band, that had quite a different perception of timing. Therefore we had to cut the recording merciless to put them where we wanted. Dodo was there mostly for the vocal parts.
 

Mouse On Mars live with "rock setup"

Mouse On Mars live with "rock setup"

 
Do you have a certain procedure for the shows during the current tour or do you improvise a lot?
Jan: Before every concert we think about which tracks we want to perform, but sometimes things get a little confused and then we change some stuff. A lot of arrangement parts are fixed and we stick to that, but then we also have many free parts as well.

What´s the proportion between your live gigs and the work in the studio? Is there a big difference between your live setup and your studio setup?
Andi: Yes, partly. This time we use live a “rock” setup with drums, guitar, bass guitar and electronics. The tour happens normally after the production is finished. A tour is a further development, or modification, of the record and we have lots of fun rehandling the material.
Jan: That´s a kind of interpretation of the tracks on the album. You can´t repeat it live, because a lot of the stuff is calculated and arranged very precisely. Therefore we came up with different ideas that translate the album more or less and try to explain the album on a different level again. Just like we quasi-make up different bands in the studio, there´s also a live band.
Andi: It´s much more accessible with a band live.
Jan: The band energy comes across, but there´s a totally different richness of sounds. All three are working and the electronics are able to make more. You´re almost doing something with your feet, your hands and then you also give your ears something to do.
Jan Werner on keys

Jan Werner on keys

 
Is there a spreading of jobs, so that one of you is responsible for the beats, for instance?
Andi: In the studio nothing is determined, but live it depends on the equipment. We all make beats, though.

How does your live setup look like and do you use laptops live?
Andi: Yeah, on a laptop you always have such a concentrated face expression.....
Jan: On the powerbook for example REAKTOR, Metasynth, Hyperprism – and Eudora (laughing) is running. Of course we only use stuff that works in real-time. On the G4 we have Logic Audio, where the sequences are running, all of the MIDI tracks and the samples. There are also accents, for example bass accents, not whole bass tracks but additional moments. We also have a Unisono and “Emerson, Lake and Palmer” passages or polyrhythmic parts – and accents from the computer, e.g. brass samples. All the MIDI dumps for the clavia units, modular and nord lead, come from the G4. I use the laptop with the MIDI faderbox Phatt Boy, plus the MIDI interface MT4 by Emagic. The MIDI keyboard connects together the controller, the MT4 and the laptop.
Andi: Everything is connected over MIDI in an old-fashioned way. The drum-kit also has additional MIDI pads and a sound module, it´s therefore acoustic and electronic. I use two sequencers, a TB 303, a smal Korg sampler and the Modular. That´s pretty ideal live.
Jan: You can use the Modular as a filter bank and then Andi can play bass guitar or guitar through it. The bass sound changes form track to track immediatly, because through sysex you can access different sounds or filter settings. The bass often sounds pretty hybrid and a little synthetic. We add a ringmodulation filter and an envelope, but it´s still played live and therefore very vivid with much better sounds. In a live situation you can´t exactly differ anymore, but we like the mixture of acoustic and electronic instruments.
Jan, what are you doing live with REAKTOR?
Jan: I use a REAKTOR sample ensemble that I created with F.X. Randomiz. He´s my private hotline, he exactly knows how to cable modules together....I pretty much like that you can build instruments for your own needs. In a live situation I use it for simple applications, like formant changes, granular synthesis, processing with ring modulator and filter, for sounds like guitar, sequences, voices, scratches, noise, harmonies and melodies. I play the ensembles over the amp. Often that sounds guitar-like, very fat.
Andi: Better than a guitar! The funny thing is that Jan is our guitar player. Not the one who has it around his neck, but rather as a live sequencer.



Do you already have ideas for future projects?
Jan: First of all we´ll finish the tour.
Andi: We might do something with Matthew Herbert, but that´s pretty much a time problem.
 
Interview: Andreas Gloggengießer/ NI
Translated into English by Native Instruments

More information on Mouse On Mars you can found at sonig and on the Mouse On Mars website
 

For over ten years now, Sun Electric from Berlin have been well-known in the field of modern electronic music.
 

The two musicians Max Loderbauer and Tom Thiel managed to release their first SE album O1Locco on "WAU! Mr.Modo", the then very popular label of "The Orb" mastermind Alex Patterson. Every new release since then got them new fans, more attention, sympathy, and respect.

 

From the beginning, SE had and realized their very own idea of contemporary music and didn't care for current trends. At the time when techno music became very popular, SE long since had a different approach to electronic music and its production: they favored a soft, dense, subtle and atmospheric sound over those hard-quantized, monotonous, and minimalistic dance music patterns. They always preferred music that was not meant to have a specific function - apart from just being music with all its inherent dimensions and functions.


SE recently outed themselves as Reaktor users and for this reason we invited them to some tech talk.

NI: How did you come across Reaktor?

SE: When you're really interested in audio software, you just can't overlook such an interesting and comprehensive product like Reaktor. We work with MAX/MSP (www.cycling74.com) for some years now. MAX is a programming environment for MIDI in which you can combine objects in a modular way to create your own patches. It ist somewhat similar to Reaktor. MSP is an audio extension for MAX. When we heard of Reaktor it seemed to be an ideal complement. We tried it and bought it.

NI: What exactly makes Reaktor the ideal complement to your setup?

SE: The possibilities, the synthesis functions, and the sound. And the included basic modules, of course, for example the filters. We weren't really satisfied with that in MAX/MSP. Besides that, Reaktor has the great advantage that the whole handling is very inspiring. The setup with the three components MAX, MSP, and Reaktor is the basis of our work now. Additionally, we use Logic Audio, for example to put together audio tracks or to edit Reaktor sessions.

NI: Does this mean you use Reaktor mainly as an improvisation and sound design tool?

SE: Yes, we still stick to the idea of classical sequencing; at this time, it's still the fastest and most covenient way. By improvising and experimenting with Reaktor and other Software we create a pool of raw elements which are then brought to their final form with the sequencer.

NI: Are your demands too complex in order to be realized by Reaktor in realtime?

SE: Yes, also, but that's not the point. Having two people in the group does not necessarily mean that you always sit together in the studio. Sometimes, each of us prefers to work alone - and it doesn't matter where. Later on, we meet in the studio and try to put the results of this work together. In this context, Logic is a very good tool. But we also work with different composition techniques, besides normal sequencing. They allow us to work with more complex structures where the sound generation is only a part of a self-contained system - a system from which audio tracks can be mastered directly.

NI: How should we imagine the way you work in production? Do you use two networked computers? Does each of you sit in front of his own sceen?

SE: Well, it depends. When me meet in the studio, it looks similar to that. But thanks to the power of modern computers we don't really need a "real" studio and can both work alone at home as well. But sometimes we still meet and listen to what we have produced at home (laughs).

NI: Do you concentrate on the oscillator based synthesis when working with Reaktor?

SE: No, we use all the possibilities. We really like the sampling and resynthesis modules with which we have a lot of fun. Often, samples are bringing us new ideas and motivate us to work in a certain direction. But samples for us are just the starting point, they're not samples, but the source of something new.

NI: How did your equipment change over the years?

SE: Our first instrument was a Fairlight, and later we bought many synths and lots of hardware in addition. From early on we used a Powerbook for MIDI control but also had additional things like step sequencers and so on. The "classical" sampler was our main instrument during most of the time in the 90s. We worked with several models: the classic Akai, Kurzweil's flagship and also the MPC. But this huge setup someday got on our nerves, especially when playing live beacuse we had to travel with all that stuff. It was just not up-to-date any longer. Today, we use two Powerbooks and are quite happy with that.

NI: Isn't there a great risk of crashes with Powerbooks, especially live?

SE: We didn't have any bad experiences yet, on the contrary! We once had a gig in Denmark, in a gravel pit, when a hefty sandstorm came up. As a result, the electricity broke down four times and we had to make a reset and load everything again for four times. The only instrument that wasn't affected by this was our Powerbook - because of its internal battery. A very special experience.

NI: How important ist the Internet for you and your work?

SE: Well, we are software freaks, and the net holds a lot of nice and interesting shareware tools for all purposes - also for audio processing. We wouldn't want to miss that. Besides, we are thinking of putting some tracks on mp3.com. So, we are very open-minded concerning the Internet, but we are keeping cool and don't get hysterical about it like some other people.

NI: What do you think about the possibility to sell music over the Internet?

SE: Regarding that, two things are very important for us: first, it has to sound great. Second, there has to be a way for accounting. Both isn't really given with portals like mp3.com and others yet. Nevertheless, we think that this way of dealing with music will become more and more important. Releases like we know them now, on vinyl or CD, will become obsolete. In our opinion, all those complaints about "faceless" products are nonsense. We heard them all back then already, when the CD was introduced. Time has told us, however, that there are plenty ways to design a CD pleasently and attractively. The same will be true for the Internet; we will have "real" products there also. You can make a lot of things, just think of the sceensaver as a complement to your new single. And with flatrates and constant connection to the net over dedicated lines there will be no difference between 'online' and 'offline'.

NI: Does the daily confrontation with the Internet have any impact on your music?

SE: Yes, definitely. Our sound has changed due to the work with all those audio programs.

NI: How do you deal with that huge amount of software tools from the net? Do you really manage to get to know them? Do you have some kind of system for dealing with that kind of "overload"?

SE:Just sort it out! Some tools are explored very quickly, so you don't have to waste much time. Either you like it, or you dump it. With comprehensive tools like Reaktor on the contrary, you work for years. The granular synthesis in Reaktor alone already guarantees constant renewal of variety in sound - and this on a very covenient level.

NI: Compared to the early days of computer music, native sound generation nowadays offers a much more intuitive and musical way to work. The borders between improvisation and production fade away - if you want. Is this also an aspect for you?

SE: Definitely! We already had a time when improvisation and production went hand in hand - working with analog syntesizers often wasn't possible any other way. These were very essential experiences. In those days, our studio setup was very similar to our live setup. With the extensive use of samplers however, it turned out to become more and more of a programming job. And still, making music today is too "academic". There has to be more improvisation again. We think that working with computers must become even easier and more intuitive. And native sound generation in conjunction with the right controllers will be of great help here.

NI: What albums of other artist did you like lately?

SE: We liked Plaid (www.warprecords.com) very much, for example. Also Carl Craig's last album, Innerzone Orchestra. It it quite jazzy and has a strong crossover touch, but it is great.

NI: How about a crossover with the mainstream? Could you imagine making some music like that?

SE: We're not trying to catch a hit. We always preferred to realize our own ideas and to deliver our own interpretation of current trends and sounds we liked - and to ignore the mainsteam. We could not fit or subordinate to a certain music style because we are not good at imitating.

NI: When can we expect new music from you?

SE: We completed several new tracks which we like very much - audibly a new chapter in the history of SE. There is no release date yet. Those who want to stay in touch should regularly visit our homepage.

 

„I remember I always could not get the music I needed, which was in my head. So I started experimenting with synthesizers myself."

You're from Russia, live in England, study physics and work with NI. How did this all start?
I was born in Moscow in 1971. My father is a mathematician and theoretical physicist. In fact I finished the same department of Moscow State Uni as he did. My mother is a very cheerful woman, she was scientist as well, but she liked all sorts of arts like drawing and singing and music, and I suspect I inherited this artistic part from her and more mathematical thinking from my father. My parents were always into music so I knew and heard a lot of good music because they had a huge collection of tapes. I did martial arts since I was 8, and later I got onto the national team. I became a champion of USSR several times and won some international competitions. My sport career was interupted in 1992 by a car accident where I almost lost my life. It took me 2 years to recover. The doctors somehow assembled me back using some weird constructions, some of which are still on my bones. So, I always produce funny sounds in airports. I did some competitions in 1995 and 1996, but it was more to fulfill my dream to be back in sport, rather than to get results. At the moment I live in England as I am trying to do PhD in computer science here, but I feel I get distructed more and more by playing live either here or abroad. I cannot complain as I quite enjoy it.

When and how did you start making music?

When I was 3 I heard ‘Popcorn’ and this was when I liked electronic music first. Later i listened to Jean Michel Jarre's ‘Oxygen’ and Giorgio Moroder's ‘From here to eternity’, which is still one of my favorites. I like writing music, but it is a small, although significant, part of me. I used to do a lot of things and I was always a bit obcessed with what I was doing. I like to write music because then I can listen to what I want. I remember I always could not get the music I needed, which was in my head. I liked Kraftwerk and Cabaret Voltaire, but they were a bit too slow. F242 were too dark, etc, etc... So I started experimenting with synthesizers myself.

Around mid 80ies, when I was in school, I got into break dancing with my friends and we had problems with music. Our favorite was ‘Reckless’ by Ice T (i think). But there was not enough such music and at that time I tried some noises from a Russian synthesizer called ‘Maestro’. Later I got a very simple FM synthesizer from Yamaha. Around that time I wrote my first tracks. I did not have a sequencer, so I had to play everything by hands and record in several layers onto tapes. It was horrible quality, but it was the only way. I could not play all by hands (i never took any music lessons), so I had to keep most of the ideas in my head till I got a computer.

When I was recovering between '92 and '94 I had much more time to spend with my computer and this is when I wrote most of my music. I also got into the internet and I hooked up with some interesting guys discussing analog synthesizers. I had no books about synthesis or electronic music, so the internet was a good source. I think the fact that I studied physics and maths helped me a lot.

I played my music to my friends and they were asking me to record it on tapes for them. This is how my first album appeared. At that time Dan Nigrin from America asked me on the internet to send him a tape. When he received it, I think he got very excited and wanted to release it on vinyl on his label called Defective Records. I have to say I did not know anything about most of the techno labels as you could not buy any records here. I only could read about them and imagine what kind of music they produced. So, I liked the name ‘Defective’ and thought that would suit my music as I used to distort my drums putting them through the Altair (russian analogue synthesizer, its picture is on my first record). When they released these records in the United States in 95 and 96 it produced some buzz in Russia, because no-one expected this. You have to be born behind the iron curtains to understand that. There was no independant labels, no scene, no radio stations, no MTV, nothing. Everything was coming from the West and Russian musicians releasing in the West sounded like fiction. So, it was a bit of a surprise for local DJs to find records pressed in Detroit, but written and recorded in Moscow by somebody who lived just next door.

So, after the university I spent few years teaching martial arts and being a techno star in Moscow (ha-ha). I even managed to play live in London and Vienna, which was also a bit tricky bearing in mind all the hassle with visas and work permits. I also discovered a lot of new and interesting music for me and got new friends abroad. I met the Rephlex guys in 1997 at the Glastonbury festival and it was fun experience as I really enjoy what they are doing. Grant told me later that they liked my tape I gave them, but I did not know about that. Later I signed with Worm Interface who were very kind to come over to Moscow for it. I knew about Worm Interface because of their Tom Jenkinson's early records, which I liked. I also bought a lot of good music in their Ambient Soho shop. I was never looking for lablels and it all happened a bit by chance. Actually, I try not to care too much about where my music is released and whether it is released at all. I don't want my life to depend on my music, because I am afraid it would be a really scary life.
 

What about your own label ‘ArT-Tek’?
I started ‘ArT-TeK’ to release my own music, but then I did not have to spend my own money on it as I could get released somewhere else. So, later I thought I had to help other musicians. I had some friends who started as electronic music fans and then began writing their own music. I thought of ArT-Tek as a sort of center for many musicians to exchange music and sound ideas. I met J-Toons on my concert in Moscow and I liked the tape they gave me. We used to spend a lot of time together, doing some small and private parties. I also got to know DJ Compass Vrubell, we used to do a lot of gigs together. He is one of the most incredible persons I have ever met. I like everything he is doing - either music, paintings or verses. So, we released some tapes by these guys and we started receiving a lot of demos. Now we run the label together with my friend Youry Moorush, who is also a part of Tandem Project. Last year we released Artefacts compilation on CD and this year the album ‘Vortex’ by LazyFish. We have to sort out a lot of organisational things now as we have lot of interest in Europe and America, so we have to be more like a proper label and not like a bunch of disorganised computer freaks.

Is there a lively computer music scene in Moscow?

I think there is now. The problem with it is that it is very isolated from the west and it is never released. I don't want to say that everything should be released, not at all. Actually, I think there is too much music being released all around so that the whole value of a record has diminished and you can't follow it all. But in Russia everything is quite opposite - almost nothing is released. I can only think of a couple of labels including our own that dared to release some electronic music. But it is almost impossible to sell as distributors there work only with pop music and there is no culture for selling independant music. It is like an investment in the future, we hope it will get there some day. I think these musicians here in the UK and in America, they do not realise how lucky they were when they could cut their tracks in the beginning of the 90-ies and that they had shops and media at their disposal. Another difference is that there is much less information on music. There are few shops there now who import records quite regularly from Europe and America, but they did not exists in the 80ies and 90ies. So, I always surprise my new friends here in England when I say that I have never heard of Juan Atkins or the like. But today Internet changes everyting.
 

"I always laugh when some snobs say that you cannot become a proper electronic musician and release music with these "gameblasters" and computers. I did exactly that!"

 

How and with what kind of setup do you work?
Writing music for me is a way of releasing some energy and I always had a lot of it (according to my friends). For me writing music is very similar to martial arts: you accumulate and release some energy, and then you get it back transformed and multiplied. The only difference with martial arts is that in music you can express all spectra of human emotions. When you are starting a new track it is in your head in a form of some emotional energy, which needs to be released. You first record beats and tunes and then the computer starts reproducing them. The computer transforms electric current into sounds you have just heard in your head. I think this feedback is the crucial point of the music creation process. The faster you can realize your ideas the better. That is why I used analogue synthesizers a lot before computers became realtime. I could program Csound and then wait for hours to hear the results. That was very annoying. I remember dreaming of being able to manipulate the sound in realtime in the computer. It always took so many steps with the computer before you could hear the result. And the main thing is that you have to be able to adjust the sound and music simultaneously.

Being just a student in Moscow I never had enough money to get all the synthesizers I would want. So I just tried to go by some other way, using computers, software and cheap soundcards. My first soundcard was a Gravis UltraSound, which let you use your own samples. This was a great achievemnet in 1992 for just 200$. I sampled sounds I created on my old soviet analogue synths and put the tracks together in the computer. I had a friend who wrote some software synthesizer and we were thinking of a progam emulating analogue synthesis in realtime. Later I got the AWE32 soundcard, which had filters and a digital output, so you could record directly to DAT. I always laugh when some snobs say that you cannot become a proper electronic musician and release music with these "gameblasters" and computers. I did exactly that! My first record was done completely using just UltraSound on a 386 computer.

 

How did you come across NI’s software?
I found out about Generator a long time ago, I think in 1996 or 1997. Actually, it was Dan Nigrin from Defective Records who gave me the URL and I downloaded the demo. At that time some first realtime applications began to appear for PC, but I was a bit skeptical about them as most of them were either very slow or sounded really crap. Or they were not realtime. When I tried Generator I immediately liked the interface, its elegance and power. But what surprised me most was the sound. I opened one example with a Minimoog replica and compared it with my Altair synthesizer (russian"Mini"). It sounded reasonably good. I liked the range of modules Generator offered and honestly I could not belive it worked in realtime on my machine. My last album on Worm Interface was recorded between 1996 and 1998 using just Pentium, AWE32 and Generator software. Well, for clarity I have to say that I used the real Korg MS-20 and some of my russian analogue synths, but now I am not using them at all because I modelled them in my computer.

 

I don't think I have any favorite ways of creating sounds, and I rarely use the same setup and the same sounds and effetcs on more than one track. In fact I like to write music and create sounds simultaneously and Generator allowed me to do this very easiliy. Also, soundcards like the AWE32 or SBlive have good control over samples. You can control all the paramters of LFOs, envelopes and filters in realtime. I made special tools for that, and I have a soundfont where the samples contain only one cycle of all imgainable waveforms and their combinations. So, I usually use these for simple substractive synthesis leaving my processor's for something more interesting, like phase vocoder or physical modelling. Also, I used the Pro-Five a little bit and I think it is good and fast (which is important). You can run several Pro-Fives without a problem.

What other software do you use?
I worked with CSound a long time ago. There exist a lot of different programs and languages for sound and music manipulation and I think I tried most of them out of curiousity. I did not work with MSP/MAX and SuperCollider as I am not a Mac user. But there is a lot of intereting stuff for Unix and I use jMax sometimes, which is the latest thing from IRCAM. I tried it on a Silicon Graphics computer and even was on the jMax beta-testers list. Last summer jMax was released for Linux. I run it on my PC and it is quite fast. It is more academic thing and not as handy and user friendly as Reaktor, but it is a very powerful language and allows you to do anything if you know how to use it. But I have to say I use Reaktor more as you can realize your ideas and build the interface very quickly without programming.

There is always a compromise between possibilities and usability and I think at the moment Reaktor achieves a very good compromise. Of course I have my personal wishlist what else should be done there. But being Generator/Reaktor user for a long time already, I am still sometimes amazed how powerful and easy at the same time it is.

Also I am interested in algorythmic composition, although I cannot say I am a great fan of it. There are some interesting tools for algorythmic music using Lisp language. Lisp is my favorite programming language, I use it for my research in AI. I used some chaos programmers in some of my tracks (like ‘Shoot my heart’ from the last album), but in many cases I prefer to achieve what I need by programming notes myself. For example, ‘Russian Roulette’ was written (in 1996) without any such tools. It took a lot of concentration to put every little sound to its position, but as a result the track is very unpredictable, but there is a lot of order in it as well.
   
I have to say that I was thinking a lot about the nature of music and emotion and it is related to my research a bit. People are always trying to predict when things happen and to find some structure in time. I think this is what happens when we listen to music: our brain unconsciously solves this problem trying to find the structure and predict how it developes. Some music is more predictable, some is less. If it is too easy, we may get bored too quickly. If it is too complex it may sound as noise and not recognised as music. Different people prefer different levels of complexity, but in any case there still should be some order. This is what makes music different from chaos.
 

For years England has been the mother country of drum&bass everybody was looking up to, adapting sounds from and booking expensive DJs from. In the meanwhile an independent scene has been established in a lot of German cities. This development began with the ragga jungle wave 1993/1994 and was still orientated at the British idols back then. Producers like LTJ Bukem made the sound more abstract. Detroit techno influences became more obvious. So even in countries without a reggae related sound-system culture, like Germany, drum&bass became really big.
After the big drum&bass hype has been ebbed away, there’re still booming clubs, labels and DJs, that push the breakbeat sound even further. One of the most important in Germany’s drum&bass culture is DJ and Producer Kabuki from Hanau. In 1997, he founded the label “Precision Breakbeat Research” together with Mainframe, MC Glacius and MC Ronin. Since then, over 20 singles and albums have been released so far.
Sufficient reason for Native Instruments to interview the precision mastermind. The more so, as he makes use of our Pro-52 in the studio and presented our DJ software TRAKTOR at Musikmesse Frankfurt in March.

Did you play, produce or spin other styles of music before you were hit by drum&bass?
I started playing the guitar when I was six years old and took it more serious at the age of 14. I studied classical guitar at Dr. Hoch's conservatory in Frankfurt, I started giving guitar lessons when I was 16. After I’d learned everything I wanted to learn and realised that there wasn’t a great future for classically trained guitar players, I moved to Vienna to go to the AIM institute (American Institute Of Music), which was an offset of the MI (Musicians Institute, Hollywood). I attended lessons by Les Wise, a real star in the field of Bebop. I learned a lot of stuff that wasn’t necessarily related to instruments, for example in lessons called “ear training”, “harmony & theory” and “Indian rhythms”. I even attended lectures of the drummers that were important to gain a certain spectrum.

Is this musical background and knowledge helpful for your drum&bass activities?
When I like something, it’s easy for me to say what it is exactly. For example a parallel modulation of two minor7 chords. That’s really important to me, because I can directly use a lot of those influences. I prefer to comprehend structures: Ok, the chord change was made from this level to that one. I take this and go to a different key.
Even knowledge which is not related to instruments I got out of rhythm lessons by an Indian in Vienna, who explained the tabla teachings to me, is very important.
Thereby I hear a lot more: Allright, the beat works like that. I had to notate lots of scores and that’s something that has approved itself with the effect that I understand music better and more easily.

What are the most important influences for you? How did you come to drum&bass?
Through my enthusiasm for Jazz I started dealing with HipHop. The used samples made the Jazz influence evident. That was the first time that I was confronted with sampled music. The concept of taking parts from records and then combining them was a pretty revolutionary idea for me. I was used to pieces of music with different chord sequences, which had to be composed. The most exciting part of Hip-Hop for me was the used break-beats. Drum&Bass first hit my ears when I listened to a pirate radio station. I went to records store and looked what they had to offer. There were the first white labels, which were privately imported form Great Britain. The sound was totally new for me and very radical. The bassline was so deep, I’ve only known that from Reggae. The beats were pitched and I didn’t know how that was done. I liked Hip-Hop but never really identified with the whole scene. Drum&Bass made me wanting to be a part of it and concentrating on it intensively. Drum&Bass doesn’t refer to certain contents and is free of values. It was possible to come from different influences and still regard it as your own music.

How would you characterize the sound of “Precision Breakbeat Research”? The fundamental idea of the productions is that each sound stands for itself and takes its position in the spectrum. It’s important for us not to simply stratify loops upon loops. Each element has to have the right to be there. It has to be cuffed and tuned to find its place in the spectrum of sound, concerning the frequencies and the rhythm. That’s a lot of microscopic work to do.

Would you say that drum&bass beats nowadays are built from different samples rather than just sampling one loop?
Quite often you have one loop and extract as much sounds as possible from there. You might get several kicks, hihats and snares and that’s the basic material you have. Then there are situations when you think: I have some cool synthetic sounds, let’s programme a loop out of them! You might take an example like “Cold Sweat” by James Brown and have a look at the structure. Then you try to rebuild it with your sounds.
Simply sampling whole beats is a little outdated and the whole drum&bass scene is following that trend. You have to live up to a certain standard to be able to exist next to the ruling tunes. There’s so much know-how: You have to know where to put the bassline, how beats are working and you have always to be careful to keep pace. There are many producers following different ideals of sound these days.

How was “Precision Breakbeat Research” founded in 1997?
Back then it was important for us to be independent from the English scene and to make our own thing. There weren’t any German drum&bass labels in those days. Ok, there was Bassface Sascha´s “Smoking Drum”, but if you’d already released something there, you had to come up with something new. It was logical was for us to say: We wanted to be the first German drum&bass label to release a to-date-sound. The label basis still consists of us four guys from Hanau, two MCs, Mainframe and me. I cooperate with Mainframe for every track. Artists on Precision are also people like Miguel Ayala, who is as important as the rest of us and Monophase, who sent us the classic demo tape. We signed Tsuneari Fujii over the Internet. He posted some tracks on his website which we liked a lot.
Right now we have finished a big LP project for Megashira that will be released on Infracom in August. At the moment we have to work off different releases which we’ve promised to several friends. There’ll be a 12inch by me on Precision, the next one will be by two friends of ours from Japan, two well-known sound designers for playstation who made the soundtrack for “Gran Tourismo”.

Can you imagine having your complete studio in a computer?
My hardware power is the only thing that prevents me from doing that. One year ago we still worked 100% sampler- and synth-based. Then we had a project that was 100% audio which was my first contact with doing everything in the computer. First I completely had to change my way of working. Then I realized how much more comfortable and functional this way of producing can be.
Unfortunately we don’t have a fast computer in our studio, we have a G3 at 230 MHz. When you have an idea, you have to bounce between the different systems, that also works. We still have an EMU in the studio and an Akai 5000, that’s our sampler range. We like to use our JD800 for bassline, because the editing is hands-on. We have also different Roland effects: SRV, SDX and SSV. Right now 60% of our elements are already native-based.
We work with Logic. In my opinion that’s the more personal platform, you can adjust it the way you want it and are able to define keyboard macros. For me that’s a practical solution. We do our mixing externally and have a Mackie 8dB mixer for that.

Which NI products do you use in the studio?
We like to use the Pro-52, because it’s simple to edit. You can create very unique sounds really fast. The hardware Prophet still stands next door. You’re able to run several Pro-52s simultaneously. We often use up to four pro-52 tracks in one piece of music, each one is only playing small accents, but you’re much more flexible. Everything is easier concerning saving and editing. In my opinion that only brings advantages. It’s always in tune as well. We ran a Super Jupiter and a Pro-52 at the same time and noticed the considerable volume and tone pitch fluctuations. How can you still work with an instrument like that?
We just received BATTERY, which seems perfect for our way of producing. Because for the first time a drum sampler has been reasonably realised. I look forward to work with this tool, because we used to archive decentralised. You always knew: There was a cool snare or a cool break somewhere. Now we want to reorganise our archive with BATTERY to get one central access.

Musikmesse Frankfurt, Kabuki and Miguel Ayala rock Traktor

Musikmesse Frankfurt, Kabuki and Miguel Ayala rock Traktor

You presented TRAKTOR at the NI booth at Musikmesse Frankfurt. What are the advantages of this software in comparison to a normal DJ setup?

You can’t listen to an old recording and say: There’s crackling. You’ve got to see what’s special about everything.DJing in a club with vinyl is a different situation. It’s simply hands-on. You got the music under your hands and can exactly decide, where to drop the needle. That’s a minimal source of error, especially in a situation like that: It’s dark and so hot, that sweat is dripping from the walls and the fog machine is running non-stop. In such a situation I’m glad, that there’s is rudimentary equipment like the Technics1210 and a simple mixing desk with triple EQ and gain. When the turntable falls off, I’ll notice that pretty quickly.
Using TRAKTOR you got to be more alert. You have to be careful not to activate the wrong deck and load a track, whilst it is running. You have to concentrate much more, especially, when you’re used to work like a DJ and have to deal with something new like that.
On the other hand I must confess: TRAKTOR really is a very functional tool. I never imagined it could work like that and best of all it was produced with the necessary know-how. As a quintessence of it, you can say: When you can DJ, you can also work with TRAKTOR very well. We were surprised, how good the beat-matching was working. You use that, but still correct manually, as I do it when I’m spinning. Ultimately TRAKTOR is making it much easier for me, I don’t have to cue the record, just adjust a little bit supplementary. If you know how to spin, then this is a super tool.
The loop function is also working very well, the more you get into it. We even managed to put a one bar loop a record in the mix and the second record, that was running was looped on a half note. You can do stuff, that wouldn’t be possible with normal records. All those additional elements wouldn’t normally be possible.
 

Can you imagine spinning in a club with TRAKTOR?
I’d be afraid of an abnormal system end or that someone spills beer over my computer. That would be my biggest worries in a situation like that. I’d prefer that to a live act situation, because you’re only playing your own stuff there. You’re not limited with TRAKTOR. If those technical worries would be removed and a good interface would be at hand, I can’t imagine an argument against TRAKTOR.

Where is Drum&Bass going?
The worst trainspotters have vanished out of the clubs. Those who weren’t real fans have switched to other styles of music. Now the music is the most important thing again and not only hardcore partying.
I think the musical influences will get stronger again and we’re also trying to work in that direction. You’ve got to be sensible for what’s working in the clubs, but with the demand to deliver harmonic content. We don’t want tracks that are based on one sample hooks and when you don’t hear that you don’t now what you’re listening to at all. For me it means to work more musically, every track gets its own identity, apart from samples, due to the harmonies. Still tracky for the clubs, but nevertheless song-orientated, that even normal listeners can get into it.

Interview: Joachim Landesvatter/ NI

Nocturn - Compact Intelligent Plug-in Controller (Features SOS NAMM Movie)

 
NAMM 2008 played host to the worldwide launch of Nocturn, the latest controller from Novation, innovators in music software control.

Sound On Sound previewed Nocturn during the show.
 


Novation’s most affordable hardware controller to date, Nocturn promises to unleash the full potential of all your favourite instrument and effect plug-ins.

Featuring the latest Automap Universal 2.0 software, exclusive to Novation controllers, Nocturn provides automatic, instant and intelligent control of all automatable plug-ins within every major sequencer, including Pro Tools*.

Nocturn features eight touch-sensitive rotary encoders, each equipped with a bright eleven-LED ring (ideal for laptop DJ’ing in a dark club environment). These are accompanied by eight user-assignable illuminated buttons and a smooth, professional 45mm cross-fader. The finishing touch is Novation’s unique ‘speed dial’; a touch-sensitive rotary encoder that instantly takes control of whatever your mouse is focused on!

Featuring a revolutionary new 'heads-up transparent control GUI', Automap Universal 2.0 places a transparent control map across your computer screen, to be recalled or hidden at will. Little or no user setup is required and plug-in control can be exactly the way you want it, no matter what music software you use. Just boot up the plug-in and you’ll see at a glance how the parameters are automatically assigned to each of Nocturn’s controls. An instant click and control ‘learn’ function is also available for quick re-assigning of controls, or for creating your own controller map in seconds. Multiple page options mean that you can assign a potentially infinite number of parameters for each plug-in.

Automap Universal 2.0 also categorises all your control maps. A simple browsing facility lets you review all open plug-ins, then quickly switch to control and one of them. Automap Universal 2.0 also supports standard MIDI protocol, providing the same heads-up display for quick and simple assigning of MIDI parameters. This ensures Nocturn can also turn its hand to controlling a hardware MIDI device, any non-automatable plug-ins, or mixer control in your sequencer. Once a ‘MIDI map’ is created, it can be saved and recalled via the same map browsing facility. A growing number of maps will be available to download from www.novationmusic.com

Nocturn’s spacious and tactile control layout, side mounted USB socket and ultra-low profile allow it to sit neatly in front of your QWERTY keyboard. Large, rugged rubber grips hold it steady whilst you let rip with your favourite music software.

Combined, Automap Universal 2.0’s heads up transparent control GUI and Nocturn’s touch sensitive dials remove the pain inherent in controlling multiple instruments and effects, allowing you to flow intuitively from one plug-in to the next, leaving you free to focus on what matter most – your music.

Nocturn is due to ship worldwide in February 2008. For pricing details, contact your local Novation distributor. A list of international distributors is available online at www.novationmusic.com.


* Mac only with Pro Tools at present, PC Pro Tools compatibility to follow soon


More famous artists join Novation’s blog party – and now you can join the fun too!

 

Two more high profile Novation users offer their unique insights into the lives of pro musicians on the road and in the studio, and now you have the chance to interact with them!

Novation’s on-line blogs offer a revealing insight into how some of the biggest musicians in the world get to grips with their studio gear. The artists write about their experiences via Novation’s website and, along the way, offer us all some valuable tips and tricks into getting the best out of their gear in a variety of situations. Now more artists have joined the party and you too can comment on what they do and offer words of advice or encouragement!

Bloc Party’s Gordon Moakes was the first famous user to kick off Novation’s on-line blogs, and he has just been joined by another couple of high profile players. Zac Baird, Korn’s keyboard player, is currently on a world tour with the band and has recently added this comment to his blog…

“I wanted to take something small along so I could write if the mood struck,” he says. “I’ve tried a lot of different controllers on the market but the ReMOTE SL has to be the best combination of synth feel and piano reality. It’s very easy for me to play hip-hop leads or get the real touch for soft synth pianos. The keys are just super-smooth and very expressive.”

Robbie Bronnimann has produced and written for artists including The Sugababes, Howard Jones and Andy Hunter and remixed for the likes of Chicane, Ferry Corsten, Art Of Trance, Mogwai and Young Punx not to mention his own artist albums and 12"s under the names dba & tektonik.
He notes in his blog: “I find myself between the comfy surroundings of my studio producing two albums simultaneously & flitting all over the world playing as an electronic duo with Howard Jones. I’ve been using the Novation ReMOTE range which has been the backbone of my touring work for a few years. And it’s with this particular aspect of my current work that I will now be giving the Nocturn a full workout alongside my trusty ReMOTE 37 SL.”

So why not see how Robbie and Zac get on and head on over to the BLOGS PAGE now and comment! More artists will also be offering their experiences very soon!


Chris Vrenna, Marilyn Manson’s keyboard player, chooses Novation

 

Grammy-winner Chris Vrenna has played with Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails and is currently on tour with Marilyn Manson playing a Novation ReMOTE SL37. “Thank you Novation – you make my life easy!” he says.

Chris Vrenna has a remarkable history as a musician. He has played drums with Nine Inch Nails and KMFDM, produced music for video games like Doom 3 and Quake 4 and, as a producer and remixer, has worked with the likes of The Smashing Pumpkins, U2 and Hole. He is currently on tour with Marilyn Manson playing keyboards and has chosen a Novation ReMOTE SL37 to do ‘battle’ with…

“We were after a very sleek look on stage,” he says of his SL buying decision. Since using the keyboard intensely, though, Chris has fallen in love with many of its other features, not least the fact that it is buss powered. “When you are in the throws of battle up there you never know what’s going to happen. It’s been doused with water a couple of times so with no AC power up there it’s totally awesome!”

“The second really important thing about the keyboard is the backlit LCD which I cannot speak highly enough of,” Vrenna continues. “With the projections and smoke on stage it’s hard enough to see anything but I can always tell what’s up on the keyboard. That’s vital for a live thing – most other keyboards don’t tell you as much information.”

Chris’ set-up is totally software based including soft synths, samplers and Reason, so the SL’s Automapping feature certainly comes into its own.

“Between the Automapping and the templates [the SL] comes with, it is the easiest set-up ever. The knobs are assigned and you know exactly which one you are going to be grabbing. It kind of programmed itself actually!”

Chris uses the keyboard’s many controllers for several live effects, which enhance his own performance.

“I like to map the X-Y pad to do different effects and I can just grab different things right on the fly,” he says. “I do some live filter stuff and I like to throw things into delays. The trigger pads have been really cool. There’s the eight across the bottom which you can fire off different sounds with so I’ve been doing that and since I’m also a drummer it feels a little more natural to do it that way! It gives more of an angle to your performance so it’s not just the same thing night after night.”

“The keys just feel great,” Chris concludes. “They have enough weight on them that you get it, but they are not weighted. To me it’s the perfect mix. I hate it when keys are flimsy – a keyboard should take a pounding. It’s been great, just a solid piece of gear. It’s the only piece of gear I haven’t had a problem with, let’s put it that way!”

“Thank you Novation. You make my life easy!”

Vrenna will be touring with Manson until the end of the year and will be producing more of his own music (under the name Tweaker) next year.


May 08, 2008

Breakbeat pioneer, Rennie Pilgrem, uses Novation X-Station

Long time Novation user Rennie Pilgrem is one of the leading figures in electronic music and a pioneer of the international Breakbeat scene. His latest album, ‘Skin’, is breaking the mould by being the first release you can buy with your mobile for less than the price of a drink.
Owner of the increasingly popular ‘Thursday Club Recordings’ label, Rennie has barely had a moment’s rest since the release of his last album ‘Pilgremage’ in 2004. Since then, he has gone around the World three times DJ’ing and written multiple pieces of music for the video game market and advertising, all whilst producing his own weekly radio show on Galaxy as well as co-running the Breaksday Tent at The Glade Festival and its spin-off little brother STIR!

The Novation X-Station has been the centre piece of Rennie’s performing and producing rig for some years now, with its audio interfacing capabilities streaming out beats from Ableton Live, whilst the synth is used for fat basslines and jazzy melodies. His Breaks band ‘The TCR Allstars’ have caused a massive stir with their successful fusion of live musicians (Rennie on X-Station/laptop, Rich Thair on drums, William South on bass, Imogen Brown on violin, and MC Chickaboo and Bella Saer on vocals) and sequenced beats. The band has achieved worldwide recognition now, having toured in the UK, including playing at Glastonbury Festival, and across Europe.

Rennie’s third artist album, ‘Skin’, will be sold in nightclubs via an SMS code that enables gig goers to download the album for a mere £3. The price is then added to their phone bill, with no need for a creditcard!

Twelve tracks of mainly ‘dance floor heaven’ lean heavily towards the live sound he has been perfecting with ‘The TCR Allstars’. After only 2 years and only a handful of gigs, they have joined the ranks of such luminaries as ‘The Chemical Brothers’, ‘The Bays’ and ‘Pendulum’ as one of the ‘20 best live electronic acts to see’ (iDJ magazine).

‘Skin’ will be officially launched on Friday 9th May 2008 at STIR, a psychadelic, breaks-fuelled night for the Glade festival community, taking place at Heaven in Charing Cross. The secondary launch is then happening 8 days later on the 17th May at Bumper in Liverpool.


Moldover

 

Brooklyn based artist Moldover is redefining the art of live sample manipulation and bringing the concept of controllerism to the world at large. For those not familiar with controllerism Moldover explains, "it's just like turntablism, but instead of using turntables and a mixer to make music, I use software and a controller". A simple concept indeed, but to see it realized with Moldover's carefully honed techniques on a piece of hardware resembling Frankenstein's Monster, is a remarkable experience. Electronic music performance may never be the same.

 

Moldover is frequently billed as a "live mashup DJ" or "sound collage and cutup artist", but to use these common terms is something of an understatement. In the first few minutes of a typical set, Moldover sets out to destroy your whole concept of what recorded music is. Grabbing chunks of sound from hundreds of songs in countless styles, he transforms triggered samples into complex and expressive musical gestures. In Moldover's own words, "I've been meticulously sampling my favorite bits of pop culture for years now. Every sound bite I play comes from some piece of music or film that I feel truly passionate about. Everything is played in it's original, unedited form. I'll let you hear a few bars of a classic tune and then rip it apart, twist it around, layer it with a bunch of other elements and slap it back together before I move on to the next thing. Absolutely all the blending, chopping and tweaking I do is happening live". Download one of the free mixes posted at moldover.com and hear for yourself.

For someone who invests so much time into digital audio manipulation, the choice of controller is crucial. For several years now Moldover has been performing with the Novation Remote-25SL. Following his ethos of leaving no tool unmodified, Moldover attacked his Remote with soldering iron, epoxy resin and rotary-grinder to create a one-of-a-kind performance instrument. It seems that bending hardware to his own designs was the next logical step in Moldover's approach to controllerism. He explains, "I've gotten deep enough into music software that I can create pretty much any virtual instrument (mixer, whatever) I dream up. But after the virtual side of things gets to a certain level, you realize it's time to start tweaking the hardware to match. The Remote is a great piece of gear for modifying. I don't think there is any other controller on the market with the sheer number and variety of sensors that it has. I added a little here, took a little away there, and wound up with a totally unique controller that seamlessly integrates into my software setup". Like something out of a post-apocalyptic cyber-punk future, Moldover's Remote25-SL is hot-rodded for extra ruggedness, expressive control and intuitive layout. Check out the videos and forum on controllerism.com for details on how to make your own customized Novation Remote-25SL.

So what's next for the self-proclaimed Musical Supervillain? Previews of Moldover's unreleased debut album are online now. Imagine Jimi Hendrix mud wrestling with Squarepusher on Soul Train and you'll have some idea of what the sound is like. Moldover elaborates, "This album is inspired by all the music I've been chopping up in my live sets for the last three years, but everything is composed from scratch and performed entirely by me. I played every instrument I could and programming everything I couldn't. It's about the most personal way to create an album I can imagine". As Moldover's strangle hold on the multiverse grows ever tighter, beware the wrath of his debut solo album: coming out this fall.
"Novation does not endorse modifications of any kind on any of our products. Any modifications will of course result in the invalidation of the warranty."

 


Kaiser Chiefs on Novation

 

Nick Baines, aka Peanut, is Kaiser Chiefs’ keyboard player and previous wearer of pork pie hats. When you’re playing with one of the best bands in the world, you need the best gear, so it’s no surprise to find him using Novation keyboards.

The Kaiser Chiefs story is an incredible one even for the world of pop. Seemingly the band were nowhere one day and then, one chant-along anthem (I Predict A Riot) and one blinding US Live 8 performance later, they were everywhere! Now the band are global superstars and to their keyboard player, Nick ‘Peanut’ Baines, it must feel incredible, especially when he looks back at the band’s past. But despite appearances to the contrary, success didn’t come overnight after all.

“We all had a history of being in bands around Leeds for many years – Nick [Hodgson], Simon [Rix] and I since school,” he says. “The five of us have now been playing under one guise or another since summer 2000.”

The band recorded some demos in 2003, which the label Drowned In Sound picked up on and put out the single Oh My God. They then embarked on the 2005 NME tour, which was the kick-start they needed. Now they can count huge sales, Brit Awards, sell-out gigs and top 10 hits in their lists of achievements. Oh yes, and owning some
pretty good keyboards too…

To compliment their unique sound, on the Kaiser Chiefs most recent tour, Peanut has been playing a custom-built ReMOTE 25 SL: The standard black casing having been replaced with a new white shell.

“I have the Novation ReMOTE 25 SL and the new XioSynth,” says Peanut. “When I need a combination of organ, piano and Wurlitzer, but not all spanning 73 keys then the ReMOTE 25 SL comes in handy. The semi-weighted keys feel sturdy and not like they'll be knackered after one tour.”

“And the added bonus of the many controller knobs, buttons and faders on it is that I can send program changes and control effects from it too, hopefully meaning less fumbling around in the rack between songs! The fantastic Automap feature really speeds things up as well.”

“As for the XioSynth, well, I'm in the middle of creating some patches to be included on it (if they're good enough!) so I am having fun with that. It seems a very powerful synth for such a small size. Again, there's not too much scrolling through menus to edit things. It's instant and hands-on – I like that.”

Peanut and the rest of the Kaiser Chiefs look set to get even busier over the coming months and there’s even some new material…

“We are currently on tour in Europe, testing out the songs for our new album, which is released in February,” Peanut explains and then adds: “The ReMOTE 25 SL is going to become part of my live set-up for triggering the sounds I've used on the new record. And before Christmas we'll be making a video for the first single and finalising mixes and artwork. Then next year we travel the world, playing people the new record!”


Roots Manuva - Inspired to make Xio patches

When MOBO winner and Mercury Music Prize nominee Rodney Smith, aka Roots Manuva, got his new Novation Xio, he was completely blown away and even decided to program a new bank of sounds for it…

“That keyboard is so powerful, I’m not allowed to use it because it keeps disturbing everyone!”, says Rodney Smith, the man behind Roots Manuva, about his beloved Novation Xio. “I’ve made some weird music on it. It’s seriously powerful stuff man. I don’t think I’ll be allowed to use it in concert because it’s so damn powerful!”

We’re pretty sure he likes it then, and if anyone knows about good sounds, it’s Rodney. He’s been making music as Roots Manuva for over a decade, and in that time he’s put British hip hop on the map. In 1998 he won a MOBO award for best hip hop act after releasing his mesmerising debut album Brand New Second Hand. His profile then went through the roof and he featured on Leftfield’s Rhythm & Stealth album before producing Run Come Save Me, his second album, which has sold well in excess of 100,000 copies. From that came the track Witness, which was voted best hip hop track of all time by Hip Hop Connection magazine.

Throughout his career, Rodney has pushed the boundaries in music. He freely admits to spending too much time experimenting and picking up useful pieces of gear to help him in his search for the perfect sound. So when his new Novation Xio arrived, he decided to push it to its limits and soon became so attuned to it that he decided to program his own sounds…

“I’ve had it for about three or four months,” he says. “I’ve never had this amount of time to muck around and get to know a machine. I programmed a few bass sounds, a few strings and a few synthy sounds. How would you describe them?… kind of novelty, quirky sounds. I didn’t try to do much like a real violin or a real guitar or anything, apart from some strings. I mainly programmed nice little synth sounds, dubby synth sounds.”

“Every frequency on that machine is absolutely killer. It’s like, Jesus, man! I am using it at Alaska Studios in Waterloo and when I’m doing bass or top end I can shake the whole building. It’s louder than anything else there! It’s got a lovely sound. I didn’t realise how different one keyboard could be from other keyboards, but whoever put it together really knew what they were doing. It doesn’t need to be mixed at all – you just need to level it and that’s it. You don’t need to put loads of compression on it or anything, it’s just a nice sound on it right way.”

Despite all of his success and once stating that Awfully Deep, his third Roots album, would be his last, Rodney still has as much ambition as ever both in and out of music…

“It’s nice to be recognised as a pioneer for UK hip hop but there’s a massive world out there that hasn’t heard of me and I’ve got to make more records, I’ve got to do more touring – and other things besides music like set up my own production company – to make an impact worldwide.”

So we can expect a lot more from Rodney, Roots and his Novation Xio

Rodney’s sounds feature on the latest Xio release and the latest Roots Manuva album, Alternately Deep, which is out now.


Mylo - Scotland’s answer to Royksopp

 
Electronic music guru Myles MacInnes (aka Mylo) has been one of the busiest men in the music business for the last 3 years, playing with his band at numerous sell-out headline tours and all the major festivals, as well as DJing across the globe. Now, Myles has decided to settle back into his studio for a while to work on his new album, armed with Novation controllers and soft synths.
Described as "Scotland’s answer to Royksopp" (The Face), Myles has had a diverse upbringing, including a childhood on the Isle of Skye, low life in London and Paris and academia in Oxford and Los Angeles. In 2001, he returned to Scotland with one purpose – to submerge himself in music. Now, 5 years later, with his debut album unleashed on the world and numerous hit singles and massively successful tours under his belt, he has been hailed “the saviour of dance music” (NME).

Mylo’s first album ‘Destroy Rock & Roll’ is a refreshing and startling debut; a long-player that rivals the likes of Air’s ‘Moon Safari’, Daft Punk’s ‘Homework’ and Royksopp’s ‘Melody AM’. Now almost platinum in the UK and spawning several massive radio and club hits (4 top 20 singles), it has been cited by many, including Sir Elton John, as the ‘album of the year’. And Mylo’s remixes for the likes of The Scissor Sisters, The Killers, Kylie Minogue, and The Knife have defined clubland, confirming Mylo as one of the hottest remixers around.

Unlike performing with his band, in which he plays with a quartet of sonic pioneers, in the studio Myles works alone. In the centre of his rig sits a ReMOTE 25 SL, which he uses to navigate his way round Propellerheads Reason and Ableton Live. Myles was blown away by the simplicity of Automap and the amount of time he saved not having to assign parameters on his MIDI controller;

“I'm not very technical so I'm always full of wonder when things just work. It's magical! I couldn't believe how easily the ReMOTE SL connected up with both Reason 3 and Live 6. Tweaking parameters was always such a hassle with the mouse - not any longer. I think I'm going to make an acid-house album…”

Amongst his arsenal of software plug-ins lives a Novation Bass Station and V-Station, which now form much of the primary ingredients in his new album material. About the Bass Station, Myles comments;

“I wish I'd had this when I was making the first album! It’s fantastic! Hundreds of fat, squelchy bass sounds and a simple and intuitive interface. What more could you want?”

Mylo’s eagerly awaited new album should hit stores early in 2007, packed full of Novation sounds. To find out more about Myles and his label Breastfed Music, visit his website.


Muse Live

When it comes to touring there is probably no one out there with Des Broadbery’s range and depth of experience. With 23 years in the business – 16 of those as U2’s keyboard tech – this man has probably come across every type of on-stage technical issue that you can imagine. He is currently facing some of his biggest challenges on a mammoth world tour with Muse, but is overcoming all hurdles with a system based around Novation’s SL range of controllers.

“I was working for Clannad and their management liked what I was doing. They were taking care of U2 and asked me to come and work with them,” recalls Des Broadbery of his appointment with arguably the biggest band in the world. “I worked for U2 for 16 years programming keyboards, doing MIDI sequencing and so on.”

After that Des established himself as one of the best keyboard techs in the UK and for the last three years has been working with the mighty Muse, most recently on their sell out world tour.

“I am their MIDI programmer and I take care of all of the electronics and keyboards on stage,” Des explains. “It’s fantastic. In the last two years they’ve won awards for best live band and other awards right across the board.”

“On stage we’ve got a ZeRO SL and a 61SL. This particular tour we’ve taken another keyboard player with us, Morgan Nicholls. He is the bass player from The Streets – a very accomplished musician – and came out to do some replacement bass playing for Chris [Wolstenholme] when he broke his wrist. He plays keyboards as well and is now keyboard player for this tour.”

“I’ve built and designed the system that he is using that consists of Logic, software instruments and playing these instruments live. We needed something to control that in our particular crazy way, and the controller we decided to get was the Novation SL.”

“It’s the way that we can control an entire system as opposed to just instruments. It’s using the Automap function but we’ve taken one template and altered it dramatically so that it works with what we do.”

“It really is fantastic. The way that we’re running all of this stuff just makes it very, very streamlined and very fast. We’re running another piece of software with it called \'On Stage\' written by Paul Eastman [programmer] from Snow Patrol. It’s a little program that allows you to load a Logic song via a program change. What we’ve done is designed the Novation to spit a program change number at it so it listens to it and pulls up individual songs.”

But it’s not just the controlling side of the SL range that Des and Morgan find appealing – the actual keyboard itself is very playable too…

“The 61 SL is fantastic and what I use most and Morgan loves it too. It’s a cross between a waterfall keyboard and a normal ‘keyboard’ keyboard. For what he uses it for Morgan said, ‘right this is the one and it is the one that actually feels right’.”

“We set the keyboard up and then Logic in a the way that we wanted it to respond to the keyboard. It’s the only keyboard that I have come across that can do that and so far it’s the most flexible. Matt [Bellamy, Muse singer, pianist] is one of the most challenging people that I have ever worked for technology wise. But there hasn’t been a situation yet where he has come to me and said ‘can it do this?’ where I have had to say ‘no’.”

Which is just as well, really, as the band still have a long way to go on their tour and many countries to visit.

“We’re doing our full production tour between the end of October and December 19th. That’ll be in Europe and the UK. We have some time off until January 10th and then set off to Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. It’s terrific, absolutely full on. I’ve probably had just five days off since January as we’ve been so busy with it all. It’s been full on and very successful so far and hopefully will continue to be.”


Stephen Bennett, a.k.a. Electroknight

Stephen Bennett, a.k.a. Electroknight, has written and produced various forms of music and sound since the late 1980's. Unsigned and determined, his objectives are simple – to understand what we consider normal everyday audio and, from it, produce something distinct and different!

“I am interested in both composition and form! My introduction to the world of composition started in the late 1980’s, creating audiovisual demos on an Amiga 500 computer with an 8-bit sampler attached running ProTracker, something I found to be a simple yet a very addictive environment to work in. I really loved the mix of audio you could achieve with ProTracker, which was a multi-track sample based public domain piece of software.”

Much of Stephen’s work today is sample-based, with audio derived from a whole host of diverse sources. His overriding principles are to maintain simplicity throughout his compositions, and this extends to his user-friendly hardware, the most favoured of which is his classic Novation Bass Station.

Stephen comments;

“I consider it an evolutionary sample based process! Different samples or entire Bass Station tracks are typically pushed through a number of different types of audio processing tools (hardware and software) at different points in their composition cycle. This is a part of the process that has no real set formula and provides track deltas (differences), which can be stacked allowing the composition to achieve a somewhat random and varied feel. This method of composition can demand a lot of effort and time, as results are unpredictable and many times prove to be unusable, but it is a great way to move away from normal composition techniques and arrive at something new!”

“Modulator 26 is a good example of this process. My goal was to see how far a sound could be deltoid, with the idea of trying to virtually bend the sound around a listener.”

The end result of such compositions has lead Electroknight onto his next challenge - the use of multi-channel surround sound systems to further immerse the listener into sonic heaven!

Anodize

Anodize are a US band from the South Beach area and are proud owners of a K-Station. They incorporate the synth into their own blend of electronic-tinged rock, as you can hear in their powerful track, “Chase Your Traces”.

Deryl Leon, the band’s drummer comments;

“I find the large amount of user presets to be an important aid in our live setup. Since we prefer not to use any type of sequencer or playback device on stage, we need an easy way to switch between sounds on the fly. With 200 user slots at our disposal we can program the sounds we need, in the order we need them, and just simply scroll through during the gig.”

“The factory presets have been an essential tool in both inspiring and creating the melodic hooks comprised in our songs. The built-in effects have saved us tons of money in additional outboard gear. Plus, there's less stuff to lug around. The K-Station fits just about anywhere and weighs next to nothing.”
“Another major selling point for us (and this applies to all Novation products) was the ‘tweak-ability factor’. There's nothing you can't do within a specific program and I am sure we have not even begun to scratch the surface.”

Recently, Anodize have begun remixing their straight-ahead rock songs into trance, drum-n-bass, or pure industrial versions. The K-Station again has been an integral part of the process since these versions are even more synth-heavy than the originals. Their aim is to occasionally switch up live shows by playing remixes instead of original versions, thus lending themselves to more clubs in the trendy South Beach area.

Subsource

Subsource are an exciting live dance act, just breaking in the UK. Reminiscent of The Prodigy, their hard-edged sound is currently rocking venues across the south. In addition to 3 laptops, Subsource are armed with a MIDI drum kit, guitar and electric double bass on stage; enough to scare the wits out of most front of house engineers they encounter!

To help steer though their sets, Novation X-Stations have been employed, for both MIDI controlling and synthesizing. Subsource comment;

“As trained musicians, the controllers we choose to use are as important as buying just the right piano, guitar or any other instrument. We’ve gone through a variety of different equipment and the Novation controllers that we’re currently using are by far and away the best products on the market at the moment. I first bought a ReMOTE 25, which is great in terms of playability, functionality and durability… but Novation just keep pushing things forward and making life easier for us. The X-Station is an absolute godsend and has drastically reduced the amount of gear we have to carry around with us… and not only are they brilliant on tour, but just as well suited for when we get back to the studio.”

With their debut digital-download single, “Making Voodoo” just released on squaremusic.com (and soon to be released through iTunes), Subsource tracks are also to be featured on the upcoming video games, “Moto GP 06” (Xbox 360) and “Juiced” (PSP). In addition, they have had airplay on Radio One, XFM and Ministry of Sound Radio.

Use the links below to check out Subsource’s upfront breakbeat sounds, or for more info visit the band website.

Bovaflux

After beginning his Bovaflux project in 2000, Eddie Symons has worked his way up from sending out demos and running his own labels (Struktur, [d]-tached) to now working with some of the finest (though perhaps smallest) electronica imprints in the UK. A regular live performer, he has appeared on line-ups alongside the likes of Isan, Leafcutter John, Posthuman, and Tunng.

In 2005, he released his debut album for Highpoint Lowlife records, presenting a beautiful hybrid sound, influenced by intricate melody and structure as much as it is based on complex beat programming. His sound retains a simple elegance on the surface, easily allowing you to become deeply entrenched in the music, discovering more and more detail upon each subsequent listen. Aquatic and fluid dub bass lines underpin lurching slow hip-hop inspired beats, rising surges of digital atmospherics and subtle flowing melodies.

Eddie comments;

Now I’ve finished my EP, and I'm just waiting to confirm a release date, I'm starting to work on the new album. I don't try to set a theme too much, I'm just seeing what comes really, and letting it flow naturally. This is where the Novation SL has really smoothed things out it my studio. Not having to memorise what every knob does for every virtual synth is a god send, and makes every other control keyboard seem… well, just broken really.

Even ignoring these unique aspects of the SL, just the overall quality of the unit leaves the others standing. Having a wide variety of controller types, from the two different styles of knobs, the sliders, the touchpad, and so on, means that whatever VST instrument you're using it with, every parameter will find a good place. It's the vital link in my studio, perfectly bridging the gap between hardware and software. Apart from using it to control VSTs, I also have a configuration set up for manipulating many aspects of my tracker-based set up, letting me get into all the details of a sound with no messing about. Overall, it's hard to see how a controller could be done better!”

2006 saw a spate of exclusive tracks released to more high praise, with his contribution to Highpoint Lowlife’s Analog for Architecture described as “as beautiful as the genre gets” (Textura) and his debut tracks for AI sister label SRL labelled “his best works to date” (The Milk Factory), plus the completion of a 7 track EP due for release early 2007.

Winter NAMM report

contributed by: Christopher Steller
Manufacturer:

Winter NAMM 2008 Report

A paradise for the A/V technology lovers of the world: thousands of new products from manufacturers all over the globe, conveniently collected in one location, Anaheim, California.

The Overview

This year’s show had its usual presentation of musical instruments and audio products of all types, with a mind-bending complement of artists and personalities presenting and checking out the goodies on show, plus the ever-popular scantily clad stand bimbos.

The most common new trend in technology products at the show was for hand-held portable recorders, with current products from Zoom & Sony receiving competition this year from TASCAM DR-1, Yamaha Pocketrak 2G, and even Olympus??? (WHAT THE?) LS-10.


OK, now some picks of the products that I thought were exciting…

Korg were showing Special Edition versions of the MicroKorg (with reversed colour keys) and X50 (in camo colour). These look great and will obviously help all those wanting to create music while taking part in skirmish parties!!!


Alesis presented the new 16 channel version of the iMultiMix, as well as MultiPort, a stereo iPod recorder for mixer owners who want to get in on the iPod act. Also showing their replacement for the SR-16 drum machine, the SR-18. Keeping up the e-percussion theme, they also announced the Surge cymbal range – real metal cymbals for electronic kits, with multiple zone triggers and choke function – compatible with their own e-kits, as well as Roland and Yamaha. The cymbal surfaces have been specially laminated to dull their sound (nice technology).

From Novation, a new desktop controller, Nocturn features 8 touch-sensitive rotary encoders, each equipped with a bright eleven-LED ring plus 8 user-assignable illuminated buttons and a smooth, professional 45mm cross-fader.

The finishing touch is the unique 'speed dial'; a touch-sensitive rotary encoder that instantly takes control of whatever your mouse is focused on!

Vestax showed a range of new decks, controllers and mixers, including the VCM-600 (as seen in this picture to the right!), which is designed to work with Ableton. Vestax are always bringing out beautifully looking pieces of metal and this year was certainly no different. Their VCM-100 also looks great with a matching MacBook Pro ☺ and even better if you choose the similarly sized 15" model for your mobile studio.

For the more dedicated synth heads out there, Dave Smith presented his Prophet 08 synth module and LinnDrum II (formerly the BoomChik, designed in conjunction with Roger Linn).

Arturia were showing a model of the Origin keyboard (as seen left), one of the more stylish-looking products presented this year, plus their Analog Factory software/hardware package.


PreSonus announced the FireStudio Tube - a complete 24-bit/96k 16 input,10 output firewire recording system for Windows and Mac computers. The FireStudio Tube is packed with sixteen analog inputs - two tube-based super channels on the front panel, eight XMAX preamps on the rear chassis and six balanced TRS inputs. All outputs are Neutrik balanced TRS.


Akai presented…….wait for it……the MPC-5000. What’s different? A 20-voice VA synthesiser engine with awesome filters and smooth waveforms, plus some fantastic new effects, mute features and direct to HD recording.

When I pressed the synth button the Q-Link section was already mapped for editing – knobs for waveforms and filters, sliders for the ADSR, and away we go. They also showed the XR-20 drum machine and the MPD-32 pad controller.

Numark announced the NS-7, a dedicated Serato controller (bundled with Serato), with a prototype under glass to get the turntablist juices flowing.


The Presonus AudioBox USB is a USB bus-powered interface with 2 mic/instrument preamps with 48V phantom power, 2 balanced TRS outputs, MIDI in/out, and a playback mixer knob on the front panel allowing you to adjust the volume level between your recording and existing tracks.

Synthesiser legends, Moog, introduced the Minimoog Voyager OS - Old School...with the analog sound engine of the Voyager, but without the digital controls. Sounds great and looks…..old school, I guess.



ToonTracks showed a new version of their drum software, EZ Player Pro, which sounded fantastic, and looked great on screen.

Radikal Technologies had a prototype of their Hybrid Elements on show. No sound but the explanation of its capabilities was good.

A very unexpected release from high-end mixer specialists, Euphonix, was the MC range of affordable controllers (their last DAW controller was around $50K). The MC Mix ($1,000 USD) and MC Control ($1,500 USD), as well as looking amazing, feature Euphonix unique EuCon connection protocol, which uses Ethernet to control Logic, Nuendo or Pyramix software.


Yamaha introduced the KX Series USB MIDI Studio (re-using the KX prefix which hasn’t been seen on their products for over a decade), featuring a high-quality Yamaha keyboard, numerous creative control features, and advanced integration with Steinberg DAW products.


Another interesting synthesiser product was the Plugiator, from Use Audio. Based on the Pulsar series from Creamware, the Plugiator is a hardware module that hosts up to 10 instrument plug-ins (4 come with the module).

Soft synth specialists, Spectrasonics, previewed their brand new flagship virtual instrument, Omnisphere. The revolutionary 'Power Synth' breaks completely new sonic ground by combining a wide variety of hybrid realtime synthesis techniques, an epic library of remarkable 'Psychoacoustic' sounds, and many innovative features that have never been seen before in any hardware or software synthesizer. The new instrument is the first to be based on Spectrasonics' STEAM Engine, the company's newly developed core technology.


Weird & Wonderful

Drumagog were showing their drum replacement software being triggered by a miked up kit of kitchen utensils – the opportunity to play a wok/frypan/saucepan kit with whisks for drumsticks was too much to pass up.


The guitar shaped toilet seat was a real winner and really lets you pluck your G-string while whiling away the hours on the throne! ☺

The Conclusion

A very exciting NAMM show with some amazing new technology. My 12am ‘Metal that gives you wood’ Awards go to the MPC-5000 with built-in VA synthesiser, Euphonix MC Mix and MC Control, and surprise of the show, Numark’s NS7 Serato controller.
 


Novation win prestigious Queen’s Award

Every year a select group of British companies are recognised by the Queen for their outstanding contribution to industry, and this year Novation, a division of Focusrite Audio Engineering Ltd., is one of them. Chosen for their ReMOTE SL musical keyboard controllers with Automap Universal technology – an innovation that has radically enhanced the creative experience of electronic music creators – Novation are proud to be recipients of the prestigious Queen’s Award for Innovation.

Novation has a history of innovation in electronic musical instruments and this prestigious award acknowledges an outstanding achievement by the company, placing it as the leading brand of keyboard controllers. The Queen’s Award will be presented to key members of the Novation team at Buckingham Palace by the Queen in July.

Phil Dudderidge, Focusrite & Novation’s Chairman, said: “We’re delighted to be winning this award for Remote SL with Automap Universal software. The Remote SL is the first in a family of keyboards and controllers to benefit from Automap Universal, our proprietary software that enables users of modern music software to control parameters of that software from their controller without having to manually assign controls to functions and have to remember what does what.”

“We are very pleased that the Queen's Award Office judges recognise the innovative nature of the products and appreciate the importance of innovation in the musical instrument (MI) industry.”

About ReMOTE SL and Automap: Used in conjunction with Novation’s ReMOTE SL controller keyboards, Automap technology has revolutionised the way we interface with software in the modern studio and on stage, allowing for automatic mapping of sequencer and instrument parameters. As soon as supported applications are selected, all mixer parameters, transport controls and instruments appear instantly on the faders, knobs, buttons and pads, with all parameters and track names being displayed clearly.

Automap Universal allows users to instantly control absolutely any automatable plug-in, in any sequencer, automatically, and without ever having to refer to a manual or worry about complex MIDI data and assigning. Parameters can be 'learned' and saved at the touch of a button.

Automap Universal renders old school MIDI control obsolete, bringing an end to MIDI control nightmares.

About Novation: Whether putting classic synth and drum sounds into the hands of the masses, combining synthesisers, controllers and interfaces into compact and forward-thinking keyboards and interfaces, or making life easier for musicians the world over with their acclaimed ReMOTE SL controllers and Automap Universal technology, Novation have always pushed the boundaries of music technology.

About The Queen’s Award: The Queen's Awards for Enterprise are the UK's most prestigious awards for business performance. The Awards are made each year by The Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister, who is assisted by an Advisory Committee that includes representatives of Government, industry and commerce, and the trade unions.

The awards are given to businesses that demonstrate “substantial improvement in business performance and commercial success, to levels that are outstanding for the size of the applicant's operations.

The Crystal Method

The Crystal Method
M-Audio Gear at the Heart of a New Studio, New Album and New Tour

 
 

When it comes to electronic dance music, The Crystal Method is nothing short of iconic. In the fifteen years since crafting their first beat together, Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland have been featured in countless films, TV shows and video games—and scored a Grammy nomination along the way. The duo recently replaced their legendary Bomb Shelter studio with their sparkling new Crystalwerks facility and emerged with a new album, Divided by Night, plus new world tour to match. As you might expect, M-Audio gear is at the heart of it all. M-Pulse caught up with The Crystal Method at the Los Angeles warehouse where the legendary electronica artists were putting the final touches on their live stage show.

Performing Live with Axiom Pro

The Crystal Method are known for high-energy, dynamic live sets that often incorporate live remixes and mashups of their most popular tracks. Instead of playing a simplified DJ set like some electronic groups do, Ken and Scott actually perform their songs live—triggering samples and playing key synth lines over dense sequenced backgrounds. "The live show has always been a mainstay of The Crystal Method," explains Ken. "When we first started, we wanted to be taken seriously as a band and make sure we weren’t misrepresented as a DJ team. So of course for the first new album in five years we had to bring out some new gear, a new stage and put on a great show."

In preparation for the upcoming Divided By Night tour, the duo acquired two new M-Audio Axiom Pro 49 MIDI controllers to serve as the centerpiece of their stage rig. "Every control is mapped to something different," reveals Ken. "We use the faders to control filter resonance, delay feedback, and volume levels for each instrument—allowing us to adjust the mix from stage. The trigger pads are used to fire samples from our computers. The Axiom Pro really simplifies everything so we can concentrate on our performance."

Over the years, The Crystal Method’s live rig has continually evolved to the point where now, nearly every musical aspect of their performance can be controlled from stage. As Scott jokingly puts it, the group has "come a long way from using hollowed-out DX7s and tossing them around the stage." Thanks to the Axiom Pro controllers, the duo has been able to reduce their onstage rig and get closer to the crowd. "With the Axiom Pro keyboards set up at the front of the stage, the audience can see everything that we are doing," relates Ken. "Being able to visually connect with the audience makes our shows a lot more enjoyable both for us and our fans."

Getting Ready for the Road

Preparing for the Divided by Night tour involved a lot of pre-production studio work for Ken and Scott. "We basically remixed and reproduced all of our tracks," states Ken. "We stripped out the live parts and sequenced the background elements so we could play everything back from our system on stage. We try to breathe new life into our songs when performing live, while still keeping the basic elements in place. That helps convey the excitement of the original tracks." Scott continues, "In the past, recreating our tracks was always difficult. Now we’re a lot better about archiving patches and documenting our sessions. Thanks to Pro Tools|HD, we now have unlimited tracks to play with and total recall of our settings. It makes pre-production a whole lot easier."

Evacuating the Bomb Shelter

For years, The Crystal Method made music out of the "Bomb Shelter"—a recording studio built into the garage of their Glendale, CA house. From there, the team produced some of their most successful releases, including Vegas, Tweekend and Legion of Boom. Before getting started on Divided By Night, however, Ken and Scott decided to make the move to a new facility. "Our old studio was very ‘cozy,’" laughs Scott. "Over time we started to feel more and more claustrophobic. Plus we accumulated a huge mess of cords. It got to the point where, instead of crawling back into the spider pit to re-patch a faulty cable we would just, well, run another one!"

Moving into a new location and building a new studio gave Ken and Scott the opportunity to switch over to the latest Pro Tools system. "Once we learned all the new plug-ins and workflow tricks it didn’t take long to make progress on the new record," relates Scott. One of the first songs that started to come together was the title track, "Divided by Night." Ironically, it was the last one we ended up finishing. We knew the track had potential, but we struggled trying to find the right direction. Our good friend Jon Brion came by with his little Casio keyboard and sang the vocoder line, which really helped that song take off."

More to Come
With a new studio and new M-Audio gear firmly in hand, fans don’t have to worry about there being an end in sight for The Crystal Method. After the Divided by Night tour, they plan to return to Crystalwerks to do remixes of some material that’s been calling them for awhile, hit the road again for a few more tours and then start working on their next album. For Ken and Scott, the future is crystal clear.

For more info on The Crystal Method, including tour dates, visit  thecrystalmethod.com.

DARREN PRICE - (UNDERWORLD)

Five minute Tech Talk

 


Having existed in one form or another for nearly three decades, Underworld first rose to prominence in the UK's post acid house scene of the 1990s, with a string of hit records that successfully straddled the twin disciplines of dance music and rock culture. Darren Price, the band's keyboard player, studio mixer and live assistant since 2005, spares a few minutes to discuss the latest innovation in Underworld's studio- MASCHINE.

What has been happening in the “Underworld"?

We have been building a new live set up which involves new equipment, computers, and swapping our main sequencer software, which takes a lot longer than it sounds. We managed to get fifteen of our songs ready to play last weekend as we had a show in Malta on Friday and another in Spain on Saturday but now we are back at it doing the remaining 45 songs.

How does Maschine fit into your setup?

We love Maschine, there is no other piece of gear out there that does what Maschine does. It is very easy to work with and I love the way you can program a whole song without even touching a mouse. For the first month we ran it in stand-alone mode which is great and I got to learn most of its features while playing around and making some grooves for the live shows.


How do you plan to integrate Maschine into the Underworld live setup?

After reading more of the manual, I’m now running it in controller mode with Ableton Live which takes it onto another level. I can write a whole track using Maschine and Ableton without even looking at my computer screen or using the mouse. You can still use Maschine as normal, but by the click of a button you’re in Ableton control mode, launching and muting clips, scenes, effects, activate recording… well everything! Then click again and you’re back in Maschine mode writing new parts. It’s going to be great for live use and we already know it’s an excellent writing tool in the studio.

What are your top five Maschine features?

It’s very hard to pick just five features, as there are so many features that are great depending on the way you use them. But if I’d have to come up with a list, I’d include first of all the grooves and the way it quantizes - like old classic drum machines. Then the effects - a great bank that’s perfect for live jamming and recording. The step sequencer is also a favorite; easy to get to and fast and fun writing. Another feature that’s important for us is the ability to categorize our own sample library. We have several gigabytes of samples on various drives at the studio. Since we’ve added them to Maschine it’s easier than ever to find a sound.
And one of the main features for us is that it’s fun and easy to use and we don’t have to use the mouse! Maschine is definitely the best piece of studio gear we have played with for a long time. I could go on and on about it but I have songs to program so I must go.

Thanks so much for your time, Darren!

ON FIRE WITH TRAKTOR SCRATCH

Tech Talk with Dubfire

 

Dubfire is one half of the Grammy Award winning and four-time nominated Deep Dish. The Washington based electronic duo achieved considerable mainstream success with a string of high profile remixes for artists such as Madonna, Michael Jackson and Tina Turner, yet balanced this with strong street credibility through genre-bending productions and collaborations with underground dons such as Carl Craig. Currently criss-crossing the globe on his own, Dubfire talks to Native Instruments about DJing, the Berlin minimal sound, his conversion to TRAKTOR SCRATCH, and what the future holds for him and Deep Dish.

The Interview

by Pablo La Rosa

For years you've been one half of the US underground house duo Deep Dish. Now you're both taking some time to do your own things. What brought about this decision and what kind of new freedoms has this granted you with respect to your creativity in production and DJing?

Well, Deep Dish has always been a shared vision with many compromises made over the years on both sides. Having gone solo after 15 years together has given me the freedom to explore a musical direction or idea that was not necessarily appropriate for Deep Dish. The same holds true for my solo gigs. I am able to really put my focus into expressing my own vision and agenda and that has been very liberating after all these years. But I think that it will ultimately make Deep Dish a stronger unit when we are able to come to the table again in the near future with a fresh perspective on how to up the ante with our music and gigs.

Clearly the Berlin minimal scene has had a profound impact on you lately. When and how did you discover this sound and what about it drew you in so much?

This music is nothing new to me and it has always been a part of my influences and DJ sets ever since I can remember. But within the musical boundaries of Deep Dish, i had to keep my personal preferences in check to a great degree. German electronic music from the likes of Kraftwerk, Manuel Gottsching, Klaus Shultz, Basic Channel, etc. have always been the foundation of my evolutionary career path. But I think that within the larger techno genre of today, the music has appealed to me more and more as it has gotten deeper, slower, funkier and generally sexier.
 


Your latest release, "Emissions," was signed to Richie Hawtin's Minus label and reached the #1 spot on Beatport's minimal chart, in addition to being played all over Germany. Did this quick success in the minimal scene surprise you?

Was I pleasantly surprised? Yes of course! But I never set out to make a particular genre of music. Richie and I have been friends for years and i've always supported and respected his music and vision and just wanted to do something special for his label in my newfound solo landscape. I never expected it to come out the way it did and was really overwhelmed at the reaction; not only to this particular track, but really the overall body of solo work I've done this year. It's just a great feeling for a producer to see that this very 'underground' style of music appeals to so many people out there.

When you did "Emissions," were you inspired by any particular record? What were you aiming to achieve with this track and how did you use sounds and FX to get this across?

Well, "Emissions" was written and recorded in the span of a day which really surprised me and my engneer, Matt Nordstrom, who's my partner in crime in all of the solo work I've done and the majority of Deep Dish's output over the last seven years. The groove is very loop-based and pretty sparse and it's sort of centered around my wanting to recreate those thunderous cryogen blasts you sometimes get in certain clubs. There are only a handful of clubs with those and I wanted to be able to take that experience everywhere I went by putting it into a track. The three "emissions" are the glue that hold the track together.

As a DJ, you played CDs for many years and started using a laptop-based DJ system a year or so ago. What made you decide this was the way to go and what would you say to other DJs who have yet to embrace this technology?

In a nutshell, I just got tired of burning CDs (or getting read/write errors when trying to burn them!), making labels, maintaining my CD book and lugging it around from gig to gig. Not to mention the fact that I always had to carry a good supply of blank CDs. It just seemed so much more practical to just maintain my iTunes library. I have personally steered many of my fellow DJ friends towards this technology and continue to do so as all are extremely glad they made the switch!

 



How has technology changed or improved what you can do in the DJ booth versus when you started just playing records? Do you think having a laptop in the DJ booth takes away from the art form and would you ever see yourself going to a completely software/controller-based system when the right technology comes out?

I had always been a vinyl junkie and to this day, really miss that period of my life when I would spend hours wading through the week's newest releases. But I miss the cover art the most; with laptop DJing, I now have to try and remember all of the names of the hundreds of new music I accumulate every week. But as an artist, I believe that you must constantly evolve and with electronic music, it's important to my career that I embrace new technologies which allow me to be more creative with my performance in the studio as well as on the road. Laptop DJing has been a major turning point for me and has created an entirely new set of parameters to work within. Having said that, I still enjoy the marriage of hardware and software so I still like using the Pioneer CDJs with Traktor.

You recently switched to Traktor Scratch. How did you hear about it and what was the transition from your previous system like?

Pablo La Rosa (Native Instruments International Director of Marketing) literally dragged me to the NI booth directly after my Beatport pool party set during the 2007 Winter Music Conference in Miami and gave me a five-minute demo and I was hooked from then onwards. Although learning all about the Trakor at first seemed very daunting it only took me a couple of weeks of gigs to really feel comfortable with the program.

What are the main reasons you switched to Traktor Scratch?

Pretty simple really: the easy looping feature, the multiple screen views, the ability to set up "hot keys" for virtually every function as well as the ability to use external controllers for greater effect. I LOVE the FX as well, especially the reverb and its intensity - it really helps to create dramatic peaks during breakdowns and even better is using it to CREATE your own breakdowns! I also love its simple hookup.

How did you like the sound quality of the software and the Audio 8 DJ?

It was quite obvious from the first gig I used Traktor that the sound quality was literally the difference between night and day compared to Serato! I had always had problems following a DJ who was playing vinyl or CDs as the sound of Serato's box was just so digital and harsh and I could never quite match levels. Trakor really made my 320kbps MP3s sounds more like AIF or WAV files.

 


You've been touring with Traktor Scratch for the past month or so. What are some of the bigger gigs you've played and what do you think of the system's reliability and performance?

Well, the biggest event I've done had to have been Creamfields Buenes Aires where I payed to about 10-12,000 people. Traktor performed beautifully and really elevated the kinds of sets that I'd been doing prior to making the switch.

You recently got into the MIDI assignment part of Traktor Scratch and have a custom-configured setup for your FaderFox controller. Tell us how you've got it set up and how this has changed the way you are able to interact with the software and your crowd.

Having the Faderfox DX2 controller has made a huge difference not only in the way I use all of Traktor's FX, but also the way I perform and interact with my crowd. I love its simple setup, color-coded buttons as well as its easy layout. Laptop DJs get criticized all the time for focusing their attention onto their computer screens for the majority of their sets which can interrupt that connection or chemistry with the crowd. But the Faderfox liberates you from all of that. And even though it comes with a few presets, it was a lot more fun and useful to create my own.
 

Have you started using Traktor 3.3 software with Traktor Scratch yet?

Well, up until about two months ago, I had been a Serato user for nearly two years. And towards the end, I started to get really bored with its limitations; it seemed that the company never really took into account the needs of the more electronic-based DJ, predominantly favoring hip-hop or scratch DJs. And so once I began using Traktor Scratch I was completely blown away, not only by its interface, but by its incorporation of internal FX, looping, true waveform display, and the list goes on and on. The other thing I noticed was how vastly improved the sound quality was over my Serato box. And now that i've gotten very comfortable with Traktor Scratch, I'm actually slowly testing out Traktor Studio, especially for its ability to use four decks and its customizable interface.

You recently started a new label"SCI+TEC. Where can we find your releases?

Well, initially the releases were exclusive to Beatport and iTunes but we've recently inked a deal with German-based digital distributor Zebralution so they will be available on virtually every download site in the coming weeks.

What's your favorite club/city to play in and why?

Probably Womb in Japan although I have had the pleasure of playing at some amazing venues this year. But the Japanese crowds are just on another level; you can really feel the love in the room and you know that they're there for the music first and foremost and that ultimately ups my game and makes me play better.

What's in your studio these days equipment-wise? What NI plug-ins do you use regularly and why?

I'm going to let Matt answer this one.
Matt: The heart of the studio is an Apple G5 running Logic and Ableton. Working primarily in the box, I rely on the NI plug-ins like Massive and FM8 a lot. The sound is amazing and the interfaces make them very easy to manipulate. Battery has always been a mainstay for me as well, especially with its incredible sound library. My hardware setup is very minimal but that said, i couldn't live with out my Fatso.

The minimal sound is difficult to achieve because it's all about making the track sound big but with just a few basic elements. What's the secret to doing this?

I wish I knew! LOL! It really boils down to picking the right elements to fill up that space. So while the production may be sparse, you've got just a few key elements playing off one another and creating an atmosphere. It can be just as complicated to produce a so-called "minimal" track as doing something with layers upon layers of parts.

Any new mix compilations coming out to follow up your recent Global Underground release?

There are no specific plans as of yet but I have been in talks with both Global Underground and a certain German label about doing something in the fall of 2008.
 

 

Right. Who wants a pint?

Tech Talk with Bill Lloyd

Brian Molko - eccentric front man from Placebo, © Ingo Kniest
 

Glamorous alternative stars Placebo have achieved longstanding success with a distinctive signature sound that combines elements of electronic styles with the power and straightforward attitude of a rock band. Topped off by the extraordinary voice of singer Brian Molko, the band delivers thrusting rock songs as well as epic, neo-romantic compositions. Placebo have been on tour almost constantly, taking breaks only to produce new material. GUITAR RIG and KONTAKT are both used heavily in the band's setups for songwriting, studio production, and playing live.

Bill Lloyd, the band's sound designer and additional live musician, took the time to give us an interview and share some inside knowledge from his creative work. As an expert sound designer and analytically-minded musician, Bill has been a part of the success story around Placebo for almost a decade by now. Analog synths got him started as a keyboard player and his sounds and snappy synth lines have helped shape the sound of the band's albums "Without You I'm nothing", "Black Market Music", "Sleeping With Ghosts", and the 2006 release "Meds". He is working closely with the three core band members in songwriting sessions and sound design. During Placebo's extensive world tours of the past couple of years, Bill has stepped into the spotlight and contributed as additional instrumentalist, playing bass, guitar, and keyboards.

The Interview

Text: Florian Grote, Images: Ingo Kniest

Bill, you've been a part of the Placebo live show for quite some time, and rumor has it that you play an important role in the studio as well. Could you elaborate a little on your function within Placebo?

I was with Placebo since the beginning, like ten years ago. I saw Brian, Steve and Stefan in a pub and started to go around with them. I worked for a record company at that time, so I passed their tapes around and that's how their management got a hold of their music. I had a van, so I drove them around a lot. Then they started doing bigger gigs and they wanted someone to do sound, so I did that and the backline as well.

 

    Bill Lloyd

Things got bigger, and they asked me to play about six years ago. That was the first time I was in the studio with them, at the beginning and the end of the second album. On that tour, I played bass and keyboards, using an old analog synth.

Then, on the next album, I was in the studio with them the whole time. Actually, I did the writing session as well, it was the first thing I did for that album. We held up in an old basement studio in London called Matrix, which doesn't exist anymore. We just set up a small multitrack, mainly playing live to DAT but multitracking a few things on an old 8-track machine. I did the mixing on that setup and helped them get the right sounds. I also played some bass parts, sampled sounds, cut loops, and did some equalizing. Essentially, my part has always been that of the band's own sound designer.

And you mainly used analog gear at that time?

It was analog gear for the most part, but some hardware samplers as well. We had a lot of old synths like the Korg Poly 800 and Mini 700, and a sampling keyboard which we distorted the hell out of to make it sound cool. We also used a lot of delay on these sounds.

Are you active in any other projects right now, or are you with Placebo full-time?

It's a full-time job, yes, I am constantly on the road with the band. So, I don't have much time to do anything else. When I'm not on tour I'm helping the others with home-recording and doing stuff in the studio.
 

Which are your responsibilities in the live show?

I used to play guitar, but we've got a second guitarist now, so he is backing up with the guitar. I just play keyboards and bass.

 

From your point of view as long-time sound designer of the band, how has Placebo's sound evolved over the years?

It certainly has more electronics involved, which happened gradually from the second album ["Without You I'm Nothing"] on. It already had a few keyboard and synth lines on it, then on the third album ["Black Market Music"] there was more and on the fourth ["Sleeping with Ghosts"] even more than that. It became really electronic then. The last album ["Meds"] was quite simple, but there are a few loops and synth lines, and a few old keyboards on it as well. I think this album is certainly more raw, but the one before this one had definitely a lot more electronics involved. But I don't think anybody would say that Placebo is an electronic band or even an electronic rock band for that matter, it's still just a rock band that incorporates electronics and synths.

Nevertheless, I always felt that your sound was very much influenced by electronic music as compared to bands with, for example, a strict punk attitude. Even on a more raw album like "Meds", Placebo is still an electronic-sounding band in my opinion.

Interesting that you think that.

Well, I think you can clearly hear that Placebo's recent productions were conducted with profound background knowledge of electronic music.

Yes, that is definitely the case. But the electronic elements are not too prominent, they're more like textures and other things that electronics are quite good at.

So, how did you come across Native Instruments software?

Well, I've used quite a few things from very early on, like the Pro-5 and other early NI products. I liked them a lot, especially the emulations.

After the production of "Meds", which has a lot of strings on it, we were looking for a live solution. The hardware sampler technology was getting a bit old, though it was very good and very roadworthy and didn't fail us very often. But, basically, the memory just wasn't up to scratch anymore for our purposes. Also, the load times were quite long, even on the newer models. If something went down, it would be a nightmare. And I wanted the versatility that a computer can have, basically having a lot of stuff going on at the same time.

So I did some research as to what would be the best solution. What I wanted was just a sampler, without having to work within a sequencer program. Flood and Dimitri, the producers of the album, both recommended Kontakt, because they both used it. They told me that you could load up samples in multi mode, so that was a good start. I found it quite easy to use, too. I bought one copy to get started and get my head around it. I liked what it did, liked the user interface as well, so I stuck with it and gradually learned as I went along.

Do you use Kontakt mainly to reproduce the string sounds from the album?

No, I use it for synthesis as well! Actually, I don't have anything but Kontakt on my side, and on a couple of songs I play synth lines. I've got a little MIDI-controller with 49 keys and I have assigned its sliders to synth parameters like delay, cutoff, resonance, distortion etc. It works great as a synthesizer for me as well.

 

 

How do you organize your sounds for a live show?

Each song has got its own sound within a multi. I assign a sample to each key and then just have to remember which key plays which sample in the song. There are a few rather electronic songs where I hit a lot of loops in realtime, and I just have to remember where they are. The others are all one-shot samples. I also have pedals running the loops as well as clicks for the drummer. I can just toggle the loops with on/off pedal information. Additionally, I have assigned a volume pedal to the loops, so I can bring them in and out of the song when I need.

 


Have you also experimented with more complex modulation assignments in Kontakt, like envelopes on filters and the like?

Yes, definitely. I've got envelopes on nearly all the samples, to control timbre and release times, for example. Works quite well for me. The drummer actually has got drum triggers as well that are assigned to sounds in my program. Just one Kontakt runs all this, the loops, the synthesis, the drums, and I've got a piano in there as well.

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And you also use Guitar Rig with Placebo?

Yes, absolutely. I have used it in the writing sessions for "Meds" with Brian. We just put it on bass and guitar, and it worked great in that environment. We had a little setup on a barge in France. It was just a couple of guitars, one controller keyboard and a laptop. We used Kontakt quite a bit for samples and Guitar Rig on all the guitars. It was fantastic! I especially like the Plexi and the Tweed, they are very good. And the Bass PRO is pretty good on bass.

Do you usually start from scratch with your own presets?

Absolutely, yes, I love tweaking! I've got some templates that I use to start from, like clean, distortion, spacy sounds and such, and then I just go from there. It's fun, as it's so easy to add and subtract the modules.

Alex, the guy on the other side of the stage and the band's second guitarist, uses Guitar Rig live as well. It's his main system, actually. And it works really well! It's nice because Brian and Stefan have very hard, punky sounds, and it's good to be able to get different textures. I think the computer generated sounds add a nice texture. They have their own sound, it's just a bit different, probably more controlled.

What implications do you see using computers on stage or in the songwriting process?

It's for ease, really. You can do things in one application that used to take a few synths and samplers. And the laptops finally came up to speed as well. You couldn't have done it two years ago, but now you can.


What other Native Instruments software are you using?

I use Battery as well, mostly on demo productions. I love it, it's great! It's the best drum machine I've tried.


After all this extensive touring, will you have some time off later this year for songwriting and sound design and things like that?

Yes, we finish touring in September. There will be quite a big break hopefully. And then Brian wants to do some writing and studio work at the end of the year, so hopefully I will get a couple of months off. Also, I will set up Steve at his house electronics-wise. Stefan is pretty crewed up electronically, he doesn't really need my help. But I got him a Guitar Rig from you guys to use at home, so I'm sure he will have fun with that.
 

Sounds great! Thank you so very much for the interview and all the best for the tour and the break later this year.

Cool, no problem!

 
 

More artist interviews...

 

LOCO DICE

Five minute tech talk

 

Do you remember the first time that you saw Traktor? What were your initial thoughts?

It was 2007, and after many gigs with Richie Hawtin and Ali Dubfire I saw the spectrum, quality and stability of Traktor. Finally in 2008, I made the switch.

Tell me why you like working with Traktor Scratch so much today. What feature do you like best?

Traktor allows me to experiment live with different moods, loops, a cappellas, tools and effects. Traktor is freedom and allows me to do what I want to do while mixing. You save time and have the chance to experiment live. Also, the snap mode allows me to skip right to the moment I want in the track, so I don't have to spend my time editing the tracks in advance!

NIC FANCIULLI

Five minute tech talk

 

Do you remember the first time that you saw Traktor? What were your initial thoughts?

I'd always been a bit nervous about taking the laptop back on the road with DJ sets. I was using Ableton 4 with a MIDI concept mixer about four years ago and there were always problems. The mixer was getting knocked in transit and the laptop always going nuts on me before I started the show. So I decided to go back to CDs. But, after a while, you find yourself spending more of your time burning CDs than actually listening to the music. I remember seeing Richie using it at Cocoon in Ibiza a few years ago, doing things that just weren't possible before and thinking, "How is he doing that? I have to make the switch."


When did you make the transfer over to it? What caused you to make that shift?

I made the transfer just over a year ago. I remember getting it for Christmas in 2007, and I was just using it at home for the first few months. I finally had the guts to use it on my US tour a few months after that and I haven't burned another CD since!

I think the main reason that I made the switch was that I wanted to spend more time being creative with my music, and a lot of my time was being wasted on burning CDs. Not only that, but it was hard to read ten tracks on one CD.

Traktor allowed me to DJ in the style I was used to before, but added great sound quality, built in EFX's and a way of utilizing four decks—allowing for further creative expression.

Tell me why you like working with Traktor Scratch so much today. What feature do you like best?

I treat the laptop as a digital CD wallet basically. I only look at it to search for tracks, then I jump back to focusing on the crowd. Features like the effects, looping and hot cues are all custom assigned to a MIDI controller, so it's like having a piece of hardware customized to my needs and allows me to be more creative, whilst still allowing me to DJ using CDJs in the same way I've been doing for years.


Some say something essential is lost when you use DJ software. What's your take?

I can understand that comment, but I don't think its valid for 2009. You can use turntables or CDs or even just the laptop. I still use CDJs and a Pioneer DJM-800 in the same way I always have. The hardware provides the perfect interface for controlling whilst the software gives you additional depth and features. Together, it's the perfect marriage.

So, really, you haven't lost any of the essentials: It means you bring your whole music collection to the party and don't have to stress about it being lost in transit. You can take your set exactly where you'd like it to go and aren't limited in your track selection. It's also way easier and quicker to find tracks!

People want to hear good music and be entertained, and using your laptop to control your music doesn't mean you lose that. This is becoming the future of DJ culture and I can only see it getting stronger and stronger.

 

ON FIRE WITH TRAKTOR SCRATCH

Tech Talk with Dubfire

 

Dubfire is one half of the Grammy Award winning and four-time nominated Deep Dish. The Washington based electronic duo achieved considerable mainstream success with a string of high profile remixes for artists such as Madonna, Michael Jackson and Tina Turner, yet balanced this with strong street credibility through genre-bending productions and collaborations with underground dons such as Carl Craig. Currently criss-crossing the globe on his own, Dubfire talks to Native Instruments about DJing, the Berlin minimal sound, his conversion to TRAKTOR SCRATCH, and what the future holds for him and Deep Dish.

The Interview

by Pablo La Rosa

For years you've been one half of the US underground house duo Deep Dish. Now you're both taking some time to do your own things. What brought about this decision and what kind of new freedoms has this granted you with respect to your creativity in production and DJing?

Well, Deep Dish has always been a shared vision with many compromises made over the years on both sides. Having gone solo after 15 years together has given me the freedom to explore a musical direction or idea that was not necessarily appropriate for Deep Dish. The same holds true for my solo gigs. I am able to really put my focus into expressing my own vision and agenda and that has been very liberating after all these years. But I think that it will ultimately make Deep Dish a stronger unit when we are able to come to the table again in the near future with a fresh perspective on how to up the ante with our music and gigs.

Clearly the Berlin minimal scene has had a profound impact on you lately. When and how did you discover this sound and what about it drew you in so much?

This music is nothing new to me and it has always been a part of my influences and DJ sets ever since I can remember. But within the musical boundaries of Deep Dish, i had to keep my personal preferences in check to a great degree. German electronic music from the likes of Kraftwerk, Manuel Gottsching, Klaus Shultz, Basic Channel, etc. have always been the foundation of my evolutionary career path. But I think that within the larger techno genre of today, the music has appealed to me more and more as it has gotten deeper, slower, funkier and generally sexier.
 


Your latest release, "Emissions," was signed to Richie Hawtin's Minus label and reached the #1 spot on Beatport's minimal chart, in addition to being played all over Germany. Did this quick success in the minimal scene surprise you?

Was I pleasantly surprised? Yes of course! But I never set out to make a particular genre of music. Richie and I have been friends for years and i've always supported and respected his music and vision and just wanted to do something special for his label in my newfound solo landscape. I never expected it to come out the way it did and was really overwhelmed at the reaction; not only to this particular track, but really the overall body of solo work I've done this year. It's just a great feeling for a producer to see that this very 'underground' style of music appeals to so many people out there.


When you did "Emissions," were you inspired by any particular record? What were you aiming to achieve with this track and how did you use sounds and FX to get this across?

Well, "Emissions" was written and recorded in the span of a day which really surprised me and my engneer, Matt Nordstrom, who's my partner in crime in all of the solo work I've done and the majority of Deep Dish's output over the last seven years. The groove is very loop-based and pretty sparse and it's sort of centered around my wanting to recreate those thunderous cryogen blasts you sometimes get in certain clubs. There are only a handful of clubs with those and I wanted to be able to take that experience everywhere I went by putting it into a track. The three "emissions" are the glue that hold the track together.

As a DJ, you played CDs for many years and started using a laptop-based DJ system a year or so ago. What made you decide this was the way to go and what would you say to other DJs who have yet to embrace this technology?

In a nutshell, I just got tired of burning CDs (or getting read/write errors when trying to burn them!), making labels, maintaining my CD book and lugging it around from gig to gig. Not to mention the fact that I always had to carry a good supply of blank CDs. It just seemed so much more practical to just maintain my iTunes library. I have personally steered many of my fellow DJ friends towards this technology and continue to do so as all are extremely glad they made the switch!

 



How has technology changed or improved what you can do in the DJ booth versus when you started just playing records? Do you think having a laptop in the DJ booth takes away from the art form and would you ever see yourself going to a completely software/controller-based system when the right technology comes out?

I had always been a vinyl junkie and to this day, really miss that period of my life when I would spend hours wading through the week's newest releases. But I miss the cover art the most; with laptop DJing, I now have to try and remember all of the names of the hundreds of new music I accumulate every week. But as an artist, I believe that you must constantly evolve and with electronic music, it's important to my career that I embrace new technologies which allow me to be more creative with my performance in the studio as well as on the road. Laptop DJing has been a major turning point for me and has created an entirely new set of parameters to work within. Having said that, I still enjoy the marriage of hardware and software so I still like using the Pioneer CDJs with Traktor.

You recently switched to Traktor Scratch. How did you hear about it and what was the transition from your previous system like?

Pablo La Rosa (Native Instruments International Director of Marketing) literally dragged me to the NI booth directly after my Beatport pool party set during the 2007 Winter Music Conference in Miami and gave me a five-minute demo and I was hooked from then onwards. Although learning all about the Trakor at first seemed very daunting it only took me a couple of weeks of gigs to really feel comfortable with the program.

What are the main reasons you switched to Traktor Scratch?

Pretty simple really: the easy looping feature, the multiple screen views, the ability to set up "hot keys" for virtually every function as well as the ability to use external controllers for greater effect. I LOVE the FX as well, especially the reverb and its intensity - it really helps to create dramatic peaks during breakdowns and even better is using it to CREATE your own breakdowns! I also love its simple hookup.

 

How did you like the sound quality of the software and the Audio 8 DJ?

It was quite obvious from the first gig I used Traktor that the sound quality was literally the difference between night and day compared to Serato! I had always had problems following a DJ who was playing vinyl or CDs as the sound of Serato's box was just so digital and harsh and I could never quite match levels. Trakor really made my 320kbps MP3s sounds more like AIF or WAV files.
 

 


You've been touring with Traktor Scratch for the past month or so. What are some of the bigger gigs you've played and what do you think of the system's reliability and performance?

Well, the biggest event I've done had to have been Creamfields Buenes Aires where I payed to about 10-12,000 people. Traktor performed beautifully and really elevated the kinds of sets that I'd been doing prior to making the switch.

You recently got into the MIDI assignment part of Traktor Scratch and have a custom-configured setup for your FaderFox controller. Tell us how you've got it set up and how this has changed the way you are able to interact with the software and your crowd.

Having the Faderfox DX2 controller has made a huge difference not only in the way I use all of Traktor's FX, but also the way I perform and interact with my crowd. I love its simple setup, color-coded buttons as well as its easy layout. Laptop DJs get criticized all the time for focusing their attention onto their computer screens for the majority of their sets which can interrupt that connection or chemistry with the crowd. But the Faderfox liberates you from all of that. And even though it comes with a few presets, it was a lot more fun and useful to create my own.

Have you started using Traktor 3.3 software with Traktor Scratch yet?

Well, up until about two months ago, I had been a Serato user for nearly two years. And towards the end, I started to get really bored with its limitations; it seemed that the company never really took into account the needs of the more electronic-based DJ, predominantly favoring hip-hop or scratch DJs. And so once I began using Traktor Scratch I was completely blown away, not only by its interface, but by its incorporation of internal FX, looping, true waveform display, and the list goes on and on. The other thing I noticed was how vastly improved the sound quality was over my Serato box. And now that i've gotten very comfortable with Traktor Scratch, I'm actually slowly testing out Traktor Studio, especially for its ability to use four decks and its customizable interface.

You recently started a new label"SCI+TEC. Where can we find your releases?

Well, initially the releases were exclusive to Beatport and iTunes but we've recently inked a deal with German-based digital distributor Zebralution so they will be available on virtually every download site in the coming weeks.

What's your favorite club/city to play in and why?

Probably Womb in Japan although I have had the pleasure of playing at some amazing venues this year. But the Japanese crowds are just on another level; you can really feel the love in the room and you know that they're there for the music first and foremost and that ultimately ups my game and makes me play better.

 

What's in your studio these days equipment-wise? What NI plug-ins do you use regularly and why?

I'm going to let Matt answer this one.
Matt: The heart of the studio is an Apple G5 running Logic and Ableton. Working primarily in the box, I rely on the NI plug-ins like Massive and FM8 a lot. The sound is amazing and the interfaces make them very easy to manipulate. Battery has always been a mainstay for me as well, especially with its incredible sound library. My hardware setup is very minimal but that said, i couldn't live with out my Fatso.
 

The minimal sound is difficult to achieve because it's all about making the track sound big but with just a few basic elements. What's the secret to doing this?

I wish I knew! LOL! It really boils down to picking the right elements to fill up that space. So while the production may be sparse, you've got just a few key elements playing off one another and creating an atmosphere. It can be just as complicated to produce a so-called "minimal" track as doing something with layers upon layers of parts.

Any new mix compilations coming out to follow up your recent Global Underground release?

There are no specific plans as of yet but I have been in talks with both Global Underground and a certain German label about doing something in the fall of 2008.
 

 

Right. Who wants a pint?

BUGGING OUT

Tech Talk with Daz-I-Kue (Bugz In The Attic)

 

Bugz In The Attic have been an integral part of the UK's music scene for more than a decade now. The Bugz In the Attic collective (and their numerous solo and side projects) are often cited as the leading exponents of the West London broken beat sound- a distinct sub-genre mashing up influences of soul, funk, house and drum'n'bass. Besides producing and remixing, Bugz In The Attic are also active live musicians and party promoters. They have taken their shows all around Europe, the US, Australia, and Asia. Daz-I-Kue is a founding member of the group and one of its musical masterminds alongside Orin "Afronaught" Walters and Kaidi Tatham. In this interview, Daz gives us an insight into how his love for music evolved from collecting records to starting his own soundsystem and getting into computer-based music production with a busy schedule of remix assignments.

The Interview

by Florian Grote

Daz, you told me that you have been working on remixes over the last weekend. How did that go?

We actually just finished two remixes and tested them at the club this weekend. On tune was for Fania records, the salsa label that is being run by V2. It is called "Plastico" by Rubén Blades, and it came out really nice. We got all the original parts from when they did the tune. I had to chop them up and make sure they all run in time to match one constant beat. This was a live recording and the tempo just varies by a few bpm. That was the hard work, and once I had done that and everything was perfect bar by bar, we just started working away on the tune. The next tune we remixed was by SK Radicals. That tune turned out really nice as well. We used a lot of Native Instruments programs on both tunes, and they have been working great for us.

 

      Daz-I-Kue

How do you approach a remix? Do you usually know a lot about the background of the original piece?

No, usually not. I don't like having to hear the original tune they did before, because it influences you a lot in what you do with it. With the "Plastico" remix it was different, because I had been playing the original for a long time, actually played it at every gig for a while. I was so excited to do that one, because it was one of my favourite Fania tunes. The harmonic changes in that tune are just incredible.

The way Bugz In The Attic approach a remix is that we all take the parts away and work on them separately. We then vote on whoever got the best out of each element, and we continue to work with that one. I did the beats for the last few tunes, except for the "Plastico" project. Orin did those. Usually Kaidi plays the keyboard parts, all of us are doing some programming or play some extra keys on top of what Kaidi has done. Then we start arranging everything. Orin is really, really good at creating dope arrangements.

One of the things that we do make sure is that the remixes are danceable, so that people can really get into it. In that respect, we try to make it better than the original piece itself. Then, hopefully, the focus will come on us rather than on the original tune, and people will recognize it as a tune by Bugz In The Attic. So that's what we do, put everything under our own quality control, making sure that all the elements are perfect.

Do you have one collective studio for Bugz In The Attic where you assemble everything?

Yes, we have our own studio. However, of late we have been working in our own environments and been communicating through the internet. Back in the days, everything used to be in one room and we all would be working on one tune. That was great for the time, but sometimes it would get a bit claustrophobic for me. But it was one of the best times. Nowadays, people are living in different areas of London and they are busy with their lives. So we all got our own little setups and communicate via iChat. For example, I would be working with Kaidi, have the iChat on and send files back and forth and talk about how we should do things. Especially for me living partly in Atlanta, this is the only way I can be working with Bugz In The Attic. And it has been working out really well. I don't have to go anywhere and spend money travelling, it just saves the planet!


How did you get involved with music technology in the first place?

From my early days, I have always been into music. Even before I was born, when my mother was pregnant with me, she used to go to all these parties with the American GIs and they would be DJing really good American music. When I was about five years old, my mother took me to the parties and sit me next to the DJ. And I'd be happy as larry sitting there and watching! That's when my love for music started.

I got my first record at that age, the Jackson Five's "The Love You Save". From then on, I have been slowly collecting all my records. I've got a small but nice collection, definitely not the biggest in the world, but very nice. Then, when I was sixteen years old, I started a soundsystem with some friends from school. We skipped classes and had our first gig at a girls school in Central London. We started to promote our own parties and managed to get all the big KissFM DJs before they were famous and got invited to the big parties.

One of my partners in the soundsystem went to the School of Audio Engineering, and so I wanted to learn more about my soundsystem as well. He recommended for me to go to this audio engineering course, which I did. This was in 1990/91. And from the time I first saw the Akai S950 sampler, I was hooked. Around that time, I was made redundant from my job and got a nice compensation, which I used to buy my first set of equipment. I teamed up with a guy I met at the SAE and we started making music and building our own studio. Eventually, we put our first release together. It was called "Sinclair Project Daz Jaz", and we were quite excited to get our own vinyl and go through this whole process we didn't know anything about. We struggled on end, but got it all worked out, and that was very enjoyable. I have not turned my back on music ever since. One day, a guy called Noodles took me down to Kickin' Records, and that's where I met all the guys, Orin and the whole crew. I started working with them as an engineer and that's how I got around meeting everybody.

Did you start out with a computer when you bought your first set of equipment?

Yes, I bought an Atari with Cubase and the Akai S950, a Technics SL1200 turntable with a mixer for sampling purposes, and a cheap Mackie mixer. We basically just plugged everything into our HiFi system and used its speakers as monitors. That was my first set of equipment.

The computer obviously still is the mainstay of my work today. I am really comfortable working on the digital domain. I have worked with analog gear, and I can handle it, but I really know my stuff when I am working on the computer. There, I can get the sound I need. Native Instruments plays a big role in that. I am a long-time user of Battery, for example. In the last remix for SK Radicals I used Bandstand, and I think the sounds are incredible. I have virtually used all the Native Instruments software at some point in time. Other than that, I use Waves plugins. Those are the two things that are essential in my life in terms of my remixes. As audio interface, I use the AUDIO KONTROL 1. It's really good for vocals! People can just come up to my house and we'll do the vocals right there. Plus it has a MIDI-interface, so I can do my thing with a MIDI keyboard I am using to play my beats. That is such a neat box!

Do you use the controller features of the AUDIO KONTROL 1 as well?

I have not properly investigated that yet, but I will be using it more. Because of time, I have been using the basic setups on the AUDIO KONTROL 1. But I will be looking at that. It seems to be a phenomenal way of doing automation. I am going to check it out over the next few weeks, do some experimentation and see how it all rolls.

Do you have a different live setup than what you work with at home?

The setup at home is very reduced, as I wanted to keep it really, really small. I've got a big, powerful Mac computer, the AUDIO KONTROL 1 and my keyboard, and that's it. I'm rolling everything from the computer. When we play live, we have loads of keyboards, two to three laptop computers, a hardware sampler, and triggers for Matt Lord's drums. We actually have sampled drums in addition to the live drums, both being triggered at the same time. It's all about recreating the sound of the Bugz In The Attic records, and this has been working out really well. It's a revolution how you can create a great studio sound with today's software, and also play it live as well.

Is the typical Bugz In The Attic synthesizer-sound mostly achieved using hardware synthesizers, or does software play a role in that as well?

It's a mixture of oldschool analog equipment and software instruments. But the software synthesizers have to sound authentic as well, since we are using them to recreate what oldschool synthesizers were sounding like. When we produced the last album, we made a conscious effort not to use anything like the Rhodes or similar vintage keyboards. That way, you automatically create a more electronic sound. However, we tried to keep it very soulful. This was an experiment to see what we could do without the Rhodes, because we usually use it in every tune. The music that came out of this was totally different compared to a lot of the stuff that was going on in the scene at that time, but we kept the soulfulness of it right on.
 

Have you tried any of the Reaktor ensembles with more advanced synthesis methods?

I am getting into that. On the next few tunes I am doing, I will be using all that Reaktor stuff, and Massive as well. I really want to start using those more modern sounds. So far, I have been using the Pro-53 a lot. That thing is really, really good! It's a phenomenon, it really gets you all these oldschool sounds. It's all there, I don't need to go anywhere else. But now, I'd like to start using other sounds as well.

I have not touched FM8 and Massive yet, they are very scary to me as they are new instruments, and I don't yet know how to use them. That changes, of course, as I get into them. The only way I can do this is by producing a tune with them. That's exactly what I will be doing in the next months. What you will probably hear is one tune done entirely with Massive and one that is all FM8. So watch out for that, Massive and FM8 are going to be used a lot! I'm having fun exploring these things, learning what my abilities are with them. And Native Instruments has already changed my sound, putting new elements into it and essentially widening it a great amount.
 

Daz, thanks for these answers, and we are really looking forward to hear you new songs!

You are absolutely welcome, and you'll be the first to hear them!

 

THE UMFELD REAKTOR

Tech Talk with Speedy J

 

Speedy J (front) and Scott Pagano

 

Jochem Paap, otherwise know as Speedy J, has a long and impressive heritage in techno circles. The Dutch producer released his breakthrough minimal techno track, "Pullover", in 1992, with a follow up album released on Richie Hawtin's Plus 8 label the following year. Since then Jochem, a long time NI user, has explored more experimental areas of electronic music, not least his new project, Umfeld TV, which provides a platform for an audio visual surround sound concept with visual artist Scott Pagano. A free version of the DVD can be downloaded from the Umfeld TV website. Native Instruments recently caught up with Jochem to find out more….
 

The Interview

What was the initial idea behind creating your new DVD as a surround composition?

I felt that the surround domain was very suitable for electronic music, yet there were and still are very few artists who actually make use of it. Surround sound has been around for several decades, and in the last decade the 5.1 format has become a very accessible consumer format.

However, it is only widely used in Hollywood, on one end of the spectrum, and in the academic world on the other side of the spectrum, but not much is happening in the area of modern electronic music.

I think especially this genre is perfectly suited for surround, as it is all about the experience, and less about song structures. Before I started I felt there was enormous unexplored territory, as not many people have tried to find out what possibilities surround sound has for electronic music.

Did you work out your own compositional rules for the surround domain?

My rules were basically defined as the project developed. I had some ideas what I wanted to do; things I had missed in the surround productions I heard so far. So I tried to incorporate these ideas into the project. I quickly found out that many things were simply impossible with the available tools.

Therefore,