Looking forward...I'm doing an acid collaboration with an unsigned artist in Amsterdam who is perhaps the best acid artist I've ever known... and no-one even knows his name yet... And then we're going to let my friends at Dreamlabs remix the acid stems into a Trance track that will put acid back in trance where it belongs, who are going to fly to Amsterdam and hand deliver the track to the biggest trance label in the world. Then next summer we're going to throw daytime parties, brew beer and jam some sidewalk acid with ColdFuture and friends. And I'll continue to collaborate with the community at elektron-users.com too… one of the most supportive and knowledge-sharing EDM communities I've ever been apart of.
A prized project is what we make of what we are doing in the moment…best to keep it intimate and real, and build each other up along the way.
Dream come true? Richie drops this remix in a Plastikman set and I get to be there and jack a bass bin as a dancer instead of the remix artist.
Q10 @highsage: What did remixing Plastikman's 'Ask Yourself' mean to you?
I wanted to do a remix that I envisioned Richie Hawtin dropping at DEMF in 2011 at peak hour that was NOT safe...that was RAW...that respected the original concept, that really DID move a dancefloor to 'ask themselves' and be liberated in each person's own journey. Naturally, DEMF was the vision and the right place...that's where techno as art is still valued and where experimentation is not just encouraged, but mandatory. More than anything, it's where emotional techno that floors you, has a home.
I put everything I had into this remix, and then I removed all of who I was if it got in the way of the track. I wanted the 303's to be a guide to help someone actually ARRIVE at the place where they are helping themselves (the track's lyrics). I wanted my little silver boxes to be able to push them over the edge. That's why the resolve of the tension and tuning of the 303s does not happen until after the 303 break. Basically, the remix is saying... "you CAN help yourself in your art, with your machines...with your music...and the time is NOW...and the 303 has your back and isn't going to let you down...ever." Basically man...it's like when you tell a best friend that it's gonna be OK.
When I performed that acid take on the remix, something super-natural happened, and the 303 just took over. What you hear in the remix is that unedited first run, and all the cv/gate driving all the other acid boxes at the same time, all phasing naturally from the overlapping harmonics of each. There is no 'phaser' in the signal chain, but wait until you hear them go off! I've owned all four boxes for awhile, and yet I never had the courage to tune and sync them all together at the same time. In effect, the remix ended up hitting me personally as hard as I hope it hits the dancefloor.
Richie is the artist that can bring that whole story together and drop this track. He not only 'gets it'....he defined it. He brought Plastikman back to life... and that gave me the artistic freedom to start making the real techno again.
Q11 @highsage: So why do you prefer doing live performances instead of DJing?
Great question! Wow, I was just reading the RA results for the Live Performer voter polls, and was happy to see Plastikman at #1! That's what used to get me off when I was raving (we didn't even call it raving yet?) in San Francisco and Oakland in 89-90, and the the midwest in the early 90's. We'd all bring our parents' speakers and amps and someone would bring a cassette deck and a drum machine or a sampler or a synth, and we'd literally crash old brick buildings with big ass windows and party until the sun came up.
I was always right up front, watching whoever was DJ'ing, playing the sampler or drum machine and used to get off on that interaction and the energy you would get when someone would drop a kick drum underneath a sample...that was what we called "tech music"…when there was no record playing and there was just the drum machine and the sampler or cassette playing some other dumb song on top of a kick and high hat. I didn't even understand what was going on… but it always felt LIVE...and that is what still gets me going… submitting to the machines. If the kick was all wrong, and out of time, guess what...the kick was RIGHT, and reality just got bent, and you better keep up with WTF is going on if you want to keep dancing!
It was music that made you *listen*, because you felt like you were in it together with everyone else and the person up front, and we were all on the same team and we all set up and broke down together. The "DJ" was dancing as much as everyone else.
I think in 2011 the entire scene is going to move towards live performances, if only because of the elektron octatrack. It is the quintessential live performance machine, and in 30 years, it will be the new 303.
Q12 @highsage: If you had advice to give to producers that are starting out, what would it be?
I'm just going to free-flow this. I'm going to lay down some of what works for me in real time and let it flow like acid. Start with that: acid. learn it... I don't care what genre you produce in... learn acid. Keep it on the 8's. Slow modulations. Drop the kick on the last beat of the 8th bar once in awhile. Put in the rides for 8 bars. Take them out. Keep it simple. Give it to them, and take it away just as fast.
Tension...99% of the track is tension. Acid is power...be careful. Respect them. The 303 will want to take control...sometimes let it. But then ask it to settle down again. Acid.. Learn it. There is no techno without acid. Turn off the monitor when you track. Turn off the lights. Even if you are using MIDI controllers on a DAW, learn your gear by feel, not by sight. LISTEN to what the machines are saying, their oscillators are their only pure voice, their envelope is their diction, their filter is their emotion, their LFO's are their insanity, and their VCA is the anger and hurt rolled into one.
Drums: Less is more. hold the fort, lock the groove, and don't fuck with it when it is right. Always either BE recording or READY to record ...hit record and jam for 20 minutes without worrying about the track. LEARN the knob's ranges...the sweet spots, the resistance under your fingertips. Close your eyes. Just do it. Try it. Be afraid, go out of control, and then move past that stage.
As in life, LISTEN, do not speak. Don't make the instrument try to say what you are saying...that will happen on it's own...instead, listen for what the instrument is saying to you....it takes BOTH voices to make a sound, not just yours. Submit. Don't think, just do it. Think later when you are at your day job.
Tracking: Leave the noise in the signal chain...use cheap Hosa snakes and turn on the fluorescent lights. Use your ears...if it sounds right, it IS right... Modulate... make everything talk to each other...machines are like us, they like to connect. Buy some drawmer DS-201's...sidechain trigger your pad with your hats. Run your reverb through the noise gate and duck it with your 303 split out to a pre and the side chain input of the noise gate. Do EVERYTHING wrong...but only after you first learn to do it right so that you know when you are breaking the rules. Get a mackie. overdrive the pre's. use scales that are wrong wrong wrong... you want Detroit? Detune everything from each other except for the low end…wrong is right. You don't even have to resolve… just hold it steady long enough until they've submitted to what you are putting down.
MAKE them come to you, don't chase your listener or imagine what they want to hear...there are too many of them, you can only please your own ear, you can only make your OWN ass shake in the studio, you can only trust ONE gut. You are a unique creation, and so is your techno. Work at different times of the day. Try waking up early one morning on a Sunday at 5 am and going into the studio in your underwear and turn on those machines…notice how your ears work when they are not fatigued from the day.
Only marry a fellow artist! Work at different volume levels from a whisper to banging'…keep switching that up, all the time. Crank some white noise in your ears every hour or so on long sessions...go outside, take breaks, BREATH...don't forget to breath man, that computer screen will KILL YOU! Modulate and process everything...run everything through everything else, and then leave one sound pure, dry, up front, no verb... play with that depth WHILE you are tracking...if you are going to put yourself in a physical space with reverb, then you better be JAMMING in that space already to begin with otherwise your track will sound like wasabi on pickles and that just ain't right.
Get the mix to sound in your studio how you want it to sound on vinyl... hear something wrong? Fix it. Now. Buy a ZED R16 and stop worrying about cabling and your front end...and jam that mixer like an instrument… drive those pre's, use those sends, ride those faders, and let yourself PLAY with your routing… get messy and get over it!
Protect your hearing from extended/loud sessions. Wear plugs to the clubs. Your ears are all you have, they are all that matter. Period.
Back to acid… that's where we started… always take the track back to where it began, but then leave it so that you know it's going somewhere else too… just don't let them know where.
Lastly, don't do any of this stuff… do your OWN THING, know what that is, and own it. Some of the best techno in the world right now is being made on computer screens and over the Internet with others. There's only one right way to make techno: honesty with yourself. Don't ask me. Ask yourself…
ºº..HUMBLED Highsage. THANK-YOU.