YouTube People Who Use Hardware..that I like

So I have been a bit out of the loop the last couple of years as the onset of fatherhood (which I love) has taken up most of my time. I recently came back to making music (I hope to start posting tunes again at some point) and my mindset is pretty much as I left it in so much as  I am still finding a computer to be a sterlile and uninspiring way to make music. Don’t get me wrong most of the music I have ever made has been Ableton and plugins but in my old age I just can’t do it anymore. 

I bought a Push 2 and Ableton 10 recently to try and get back into it, made a few loops I liked and then when it came to arranging it I just felt so bored. I then bought an Octatrack MK 1 (third one I’ve bought) and loved it all over again.  

I have looked around on YouTube for smiliarly minded folk and have found the following kindred spirits: 

 

How my life has changed....

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So the other day I got one of those “on this day” messages from Facebook and the above photo came up. I think it’s 4 or 5 years ago that this photo was taken. In that time I have moved back to London from Dublin, ended up with a way more labour intensive job and had a kid. It is four to say my life has changed. 

The above photo put that more starkly into context than most things. Firstly I had a a whole fucking room for my music hobby, these days I just about have one side of the bed to myself and that’s it. I knew at the time of this photo that my life would change in the future and I should do stupid stuff whilst I still could, mostly that manifested itself as buying stupid music stuff I didn’t need. Above you will see many cool things: an MPC 1000, a Mac Pro, an Octatrack (still have it and use it) and last but not least a MIDI guitar. Yes, a fucking MIDI guitar.  

If memory recalls I bought it for my 30th birthday as a real treat to myself. I have always struggled with keyboards as a midi input device as I never learnt how to play the piano I was a guitar player by training so thought that a midi guitar would be the answer. It was pretty coll in fairness but it was insanely sensitive and it had a certain knack to it so it wasn’t stricktly like playing a guitar but pretty close. There is actually a video on YouTube of me playing it at a Fuzzy Empire (band I was in) gig at the Royal Opera House in Dublin, you can find it below:

 

The Computer in Electronic Music

Every time I see someone perform on stage with their laptop a little piece of me dies.

Don't get me wrong, I played many gigs using a computer, but I did try and make sure that I played all the parts i..e that things could go wrong if I messed up and it would be audible to the audience. It has gotten better over the last few years but I played gigs with loads of people that were up there launching clips in Ableton. The most irritating thing was how they postured around making movements that suggested all of this music was under the control of their fingertips to the most granular level. The reality being of course that they're just launching a bunch of loops and short of a computer crash, very little can go wrong.

Computers are embedded into our daily lives, we use them to work, so socialise, to book holidays, to order food, to manager our bank affairs etc. Do we really need to go go to a gig for some escapism and watch some dude up there behind a laptop?

I get that many pieces of music hardware are essentially scaled down computers with one specific function but they at least remove the visual aids and immediate sync that DAW's offer, and to my point above visually it is more liberating for an audience to look at versus someone who might be checking his email whilst he performs.

Music used to be about skill and riding through the chaos, now it appears to be about managing those risks.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

"Live" Electronic Music

My first musical love was the guitar which I took up when I was 13, I started playing in bands not long after and this was how I spent much of my spare time until I was 18 and went to university. I went to uni in 1999 when electronic music (mostly trance sadly) was dominating club culture and moving into the mainstream slowly but surely. I developed a mild obsession with drum and bass and started mucking about with a cracked (sorry) copy of Fruity Loops, this led me to where I am today using Ableton live and various pieces of hardware. As much as I have enjoyed my electronic music making adventurers the one thing I really miss is that ability as a guitar player to get together with a band and just jam. 

Electronic music has made big strides in trying to get to a point of improvisation but the problem really lies in that generally speaking electronic music production is a solo exercise. You as the producer are essentially the composer with a virtual orchestra at your fingertips, this means that if you are to perform on your own you cannot recreate in a live environment what you have made as their are multiple instruments and one of you. Using things like Ableton live you can jam around with loops but there is a lot of preparation work to get there which kind of kills the "lets just do it off the cuff" vibe.

Things have got better if you consider that goons like David Guetta and DeadMuau5 have previously admitted to getting up on stage and just pressing play whilst dancing around in front of an expensive light show whilst charging £40 a ticket. I also used to really object to when the idea of seeing an artist play "live" was them Djing. The practice of djing kind of leaves me cold and in many ways I believe is unmusical but putting that aside I could never make my peace with liking an artist enough to want to hear them recreate their music live and then turning up to hear them play a bunch of other people's tunes.

Artists like Karenn have taken some ballsy steps by not only playing live but by improvising too, there is a great resident advisor article on them and their live setup here. Equally there is a fantastic panel type piece canvassing several artists by Attack Magazine here. On a slightly different end of the spectrum you have artists like Hot Chip who by their own words have a "hard line on sequencing" as this performance demonstrates. 

I think I have kind of introduced my subject and I will elaborate more over a couple more blog posts over the next week or so.......