Photosynthesis 6.0

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Yep, that time again, the yearly summer festivals start up, which means I get a chance to rock the Elektrons in front of a crowd again!  Very excited this year, as I’ve put quite a bit of time earlier this year into refining the live sets I play out.  I’ll be playing a downtempo set again this year, keeping with the chill vibe they like so much in Neah Bay, WA.  Lots of new songs in the set this year, and and even more tweaks to the older songs to keep it fresh sounding (for you, AND me).

MD-OT

This year I’ll be playing Friday night July 19th, at 2:00 AM in the Dream Dome tent.  Should be fun as I believe there are only two stages this year, and the downtempo oriented Dream Dome is the only one going on this late in the morning.

If you haven’t been to Photosynthesis yet, I highly recommend it.  Beautiful location, amazing local people, and a really well put on festival.  Definitely one of the highlights of the summer for me.  For more details, or to buy tickets, just visit:

http://photosynthesisfestival.com

facebook.com/PhotosynthesisFestival

Hope to meet some of you there, be sure to say hi after my set if you come out!

The Live PA Interview

– What is your name and what Live PA acts are you involved in?

Tarekith and….. Tarekith, that’s it 🙂
– How long has each act been around, what type of music do you play under that name?

I’ve been using the name Tarekith for the last 8-9 years I think, not sure the exact date I started using it exactly. Before that I used to go by the name “rEalm”, but then I started realizing how many other electronic acts and musicians had some form of that in their name already.

I produce and perform all different genres of music under the Tarekith moniker, I don’t really get into having a different name for each genre. One month I might be doing a downtempo live set, the next DJing tech-house or some kind of ambient combo of the two.

– Where are you geographically located?

Seattle, WA.
– Where have you had the opportunity to play live? Feel free to highlight your main gigs, all countries, and a link to your gig resume (if you have one).

Whew, that’s a tall order remember some of these! Here’s a few highlights that stick out I guess:

Chicago: RedNo5, Crobar, all the 619 Productions events, Sandbar, Hunans, Arena, too many small bars and clubs to remember (clearly).
Wisconsin: Rave’em & Bailey, Even Further, Structure
Washington: Chop Suey, Chillography, Photosynthesis, Washington Brewers Festival,
Vancouver: Sequential Circus 11

There’s a lot more I can’t remember off the top of my head.
– What are a few releases you can highlight for us that are live recordings (either audio or video)?

I have a whole page on my site dedicated to my live recordings here:

http://tarekith.com/live-sets/

Also there’s quite a lot of videos on YouTube as well, here’s a couple of the better ones:

http://tarekith.com/wired-roots-downtempo-live-pa/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTHRojYPzJg
– What do you call yourself? Live PA Artist, Live Remixer, Controllerist, etc.

I guess in general I’m just a musician, but if you mean for playing out, then I like old “live pa” name myself. When I used to go see guys doing the same thing I’m doing now, they called it that and I’m fine to keep on using it too.
– What is your definition of Live PA / live Electronic music?

It’s pretty vague for me, so I guess just music being performed where there’s at least some chance of making mistakes if you don’t do things right. How each artist interprets that is of course going to vary, and what one person thinks is live might be totally different from someone else.

Honestly, the very last thing I worry about when it comes to making and performing music is what people will call it. People get hung up one names and labels too much in this scene sometimes 🙂
– Why do you Live PA? Is it your profession? Do you aspire to do it full time? Is it a hobby? Somewhere in between? Or some other reason?

It’s fun, plain and simple. When I first got into making music at all, it was to play live. I had a Roland MC505 and would just create all these songs I could perform at parties where my friends were DJing. So right the beginning I’ve sort of equated playing live to making music.

I like seeing people’s reactions when I’m able to present an idea I had to them in a really direct manner, and playing live is that for me. It’s strangely addicting being able to control the mood or energy of a room full of people who have their full attention on you. At least, it’s fun when ti goes well! 🙂
– What musical genres do you play when you Live PA?

Right now I have two main sets ready at any time, a more chill but still grooving downtempo set, and a more upbeat club type set. I’m always adding new sounds to them or tweaking what I already have though, so they evolve constantly. I’m about 70% through writing a new club set too, all new material in this one.
– What is it about the musical genres that you produce and play that keep you interested?

Honestly again it comes down to the whole label and genre thing which I don’t really pay attention to. For me there’s basically two kinds of electronic music, the chill lounge downtempo style of tracks, and more danceable stuff, things that make you want to move around. I just make different versions of those as my mood strikes me when I sit down to record a new song.

A lot of times I might sit down with the intention of creating something really sparse and banging, but within 5 minutes I can feel myself being drawn more to the lush pads and dreamy sounds of the downtempo thing. So I’ll switch gears and write something like that instead, or maybe even flip back and forth on a few different tracks at once. I don’t have very many set ways of working.
– What was your first exposure to Live PA from the perspective of someone being in the audience?

Good question! I think that might be at my very first rave, and I believe it was Sven Vath that was playing live. It was billed as a live pa, and my friend was having the hardest time trying to explain to me what a live pa was. LOL I kept expecting to see this whole band up there, but it was just one guy. I didn’t get it at all, I was a guitar player at the time and it just was unlike anything I had seen before. From then on I was always attracted to parties that had live acts I wanted to see, more so than DJs.
– What was your first inspiration for doing Live PA?

A lot of my friends were starting to DJ, and while it looked like fun making music for everyone, I didn’t want to play other people’s music. I was a guitar player already like I said, it just seemed natural that I would learn how to use the tools to make this new style of music I was hearing.

Nothing against DJing mind you, I do that as well now and enjoy it immensely. Back then it just didn’t hold much interest for me though. I think eventually enough parties I was playing at got busted that I started to see the appeal of DJing more. You could just just grab your record bag and go, while here I was stuck with a car full of gear to pack up with the police kicking everyone out. That happened a lot in the early days….
– Tell us about your first gig. Give us the goods, we want to know what you were thinking the days / weeks before, how you came up with your methodology, how the gig itself went, and what the aftermath was.

I think my first gig other than at my house (we had a huge place where we lived and threw parties) was for a friend at a college town 6 hours away. We drove there during the morning, I set up my mc505 and a Yamaha CS2x and then I played live and my room mate DJ’d all night for a packed college house party.

I’ve never really gotten super scared or nervous before gigs, even then. Sure I get butterflies and start hoping it all goes well, but I’ve always WANTED to play live whenever I could. So for that gig it was no different to me than just playing for my friends at home.

Well except we ended up with no place to sleep. We’d been promised a place to crash at this house, but there was so much spilled beer everywhere there wasn’t a dry spot anywhere to lay down. So we packed up and drove 6 hours home with no sleep. I think that was my first introduction to what kinds of things I’d have to deal with to play live sometimes.
– Who do you primarily make music for, yourself or the audience?

Myself, definitely. Music is a selfish outlet for me to be as creative as I want to be doing whatever I want. I couldn’t wait to leave the concept of having to get together with a band to make music. Although maybe my first one was a bad experience too.

But at the same time, there’s definitely times I have to force myself to step back and think about the music I’m preparing to perform from an outsiders point of view too. I mean, it’s great to stand there and make weird noises for an hour, but if no one likes it then that’s the last time you’re going to get asked to do it.

So while you ultimately want to create something that expresses you views and ideas, you have to do it in a way that’s at least somewhat accessible for people too.
– What one to four word phrase should I use to title your chapter in the book?

This Chapter Starts Now.

– Can you list out your Live PA kit list and what you use each piece for?

At the moment I use an Elektron Machinedrum and Octatrack for everything, it’s a nice and compact set up that’s very powerful. The Machinedrum handles the drums, all of which are written specifically for the live set. The Octatrack handles all the instrument loops and stems I’ve prepped from my studio tracks, as well as new stuff just for the live show.

I have another live set prepped using the laptop and an Akai APC40 too, but at the moment I’m having more fun using the hardware again so that’s what I’ve been focusing on.
– How do you prepare music for a Live PA? What tools do you use to produce the contents of your set and how much is done before hand vs. on the fly?

If I used the Machinedrum when I wrote the original studio version, I’ll go back to my archives and grab the sysex and just send that to the Machinedrum (MD). Otherwise I’ll need to write new drum parts based loosely on the studio version of the song. I use a combination of the synthesis engines in the MD, and some of my own drum samples in the UW aspect of the MD.

For the instrument sounds, things like basslines, leads, pads, etc I’ll go back to the original DAW project files of the studio versions of my songs. Then I just basically edit and buss things down so that I get 6-7 stems that I think will work best for a live setting. Usually it’s the peak of the song, because I know I can build that up again live by playing all the parts at once.

Once I have these stems ready and working as 4 bar loops, I’ll export them as separate audio files, then load them into the Octatrack (OT). Then I’ll spend a few weeks more or less remixing all the stems into something new with the OT. I want the songs to have some of the same flavor as the studio versions but often I’m making them more dance friendly, or just remixing them into something almost completely new.

I spend a lot of time writing my songs, I don’t want to get sick of hearing them the same way either!
– Do you have a set way of playing every gig or do you change it up occasionally?

My gigs are usually spaced far enough apart that I can spend a little bit of time customizing the set for that particular event or venue. I’ll have an idea of what the crowd will be expecting, or maybe what my set time is so I can plan accordingly. I don’t follow a particular set list each time I play, and the performance of bringing all these parts together in a way that people will enjoy changes all the time.

If nothing else I get bored very easily, so I don’t stick with a particular working method for very long. I’m really happy with the current MD and OT set up, but I change how I interact with them all the time when creating new live sets. I like to mix it up some 🙂
– What are some of the challenges that you set for yourself in playing live?

I think the biggest challenge for any live electronic act is figuring out what level of control you want over the sounds you play. How much of it do you want hands on and how much of it do you want sequenced or pre-looped. There’s no way to really do it all live on the fly and make it super interesting for everyone, at least not for the kind of music I make.

So for my live sets I tend to think of myself almost more of a conductor or orchestrator than a musician. I’m not up there playing keyboards or guitar live (yet), but I’m still responsible for building and weaving all these different musical ideas into something that sounds cohesive, evolving, fun, and without making any mistakes.

Really the biggest struggle for me revolves around that, trying to decide how hands on I want to be. It’s got to be enough to let people know you’re in control and it’s happening right there in front of them. But at the same time, some of the really cool sounding parts of my music just can’t be recreated live, it’s impossible. So some of that stuff has to be prerecorded then triggered at the right time when playing live. Dozens, and dozens of times for each song.
– Do you have a set of rules that you follow that ensures you are doing a Live PA in your mind?

Not really to be honest, I’m only going to bill myself as a live pa if I know it’s music that I wrote to perform live.
– Do you worry about innovation in your Live PA? That is, are you always seeking new ways to play live or to tweak your setup? Can you discuss any processes you use to get better? Any examples?

Sure, sort of what I was just hinting at before. I get bored with working a certain way after awhile, so I switch it up a lot. A lot of times that might be just the gear I use, it’s changed a lot over the years. The MC505 gained a Sp808 brother for while, then an Akai S3000XL. Sold those, and eventually started playing live again using Ableton Live on a laptop with a Korg microKontrol keyboard. I spent a few years basically buying a new MIDI controller every few months then selling it and buying something else a couple months later. Nothing felt right.

Eventually the APC40 came out and that was a perfect fit for awhile. But over time I started missing working just with hardware, everyone was using laptops by this time so it no longer stood out. So I’ve been on the Elektron wagon lately, and that’s been loads of fun.
– How do you plan the music for a gig? Do you have a set list, is it fully improv, a bit of both?

I typically have about 20-24 songs (roughly two hours) ready to be played out at any time for both the downtempo and uptempo sets. They’re organized from the most chill to the most energy at the other end in both cases. So while I might not know exactly what songs I’ll play before the gig, I can plan the mood and progression I want the set to have. With most gigs being an hour, it gives me the option of making the set mostly chill, mostly upbeat, or a combo of the two as I see fit based on the crowd’s reaction.
– What types of things do you do on the fly vs. have laid out in advance while at a gig?

The loops are all pre-recorded, both the drums as MIDI in the MD and the instruments as audio files in the OT. I control when each plays, the volume, all the real time effect and synthesis tweaking, as well as controlling transitioning from one song to the next. A lot of time in my sets is actually spent working my way from one song to another, and there’s hundreds of different ways I can do that.
– Do you worry about making mistakes when playing live or do you go with the flow?

Yes. Of course you want the set to go good and not have any issues, but of course some will always happen. I’ve just learned to roll with it and hope I prepared for the worst. Usually performance mistakes no one really cares about as long as they are rare. So most of my stress pre-gig is hoping my gear works the right way.

Not that it’s been unreliable, but there’s nothing worse than showing up to a gig and having a memory card not read, or power issues making your gear freak out for no reason! The first time I sort of unstress strangely is when I first get on stage right before I play. I can see everything is still set up up and working right, so then it’s just up to me to use it right.
– How much do happy accidents work into your Live PA?

If they sound good, I go with it. That’s part of the appeal of playing live in the first place, you CAN make mistakes, but how you recover from them can be more important. You learn to think fast and really know your gear inside and out. Then you can just roll with any accidents and turn it into something unexpected.

Always tweak a knob in time to the music first time you grab it! LOL.
– Do you separate the concept of performance from the music you are playing when you do a live PA? For example, you may be doing some seriously complex and intense things to get the music out of the speakers, but how do you make it a “show” for your audience? Or is that something that you don’t really worry about?

I know it’s to my detriment, but I could care less for the most part. What I do takes concentration if you want me to do it the best I can, so I focus on making good sounds come out of the speakers, not dancing around on stage. I get into my music and have fun, and I try to keep eye contact with the crowd, but I’m not there to wear a costume just to get attention.

Other people are obviously successful doing it though, so don’t listen to me 🙂
– What tools and techniques do you use to purposefully increase the performance value of your Live PA? That is, are there things that you do on purpose just so the audience knows you are doing things live?

I think one of the benefits of using hardware is that you don’t have to worry too much about that. I don’t have a laptop in front of me that I need to worry about NOT looking at, or blocking my view of the crowd. If I’m not moving around busy with the MD and OT, nothing happens, there is no music. So just the act of me playing my music shows them I’m doing it all live on the fly.

They might not understand what each knob does, but they correlate the movement to the changes in the sound they hear.
– Do you incorporate visuals into your Live PA? What level of involvement do you think visuals have in a Live PA?

I don’t, but I’ve been thinking about it lately. I think for me it would be less about giving people a visual representation of the music I’m making, and more about a tool helping me set the mood to go with the music.

But at the same time, it’s one more set of bags to bring, and more gear to worry about. Maybe I just need to find an up and coming visual guy looking for some gigs, hmmmm….
– Do you have some future ideas youíd like to implement to enhance the performance side of your Live PA?

I’ve only had the Octatrack for a little over a year now, so it’s still pretty new to me. I’m pretty happy with the OT and MD pair to be honest, it lets me bring together a lot of different sides of my music into something with a true performance side to it.
– What do you say to the idea Live PA is only about pushing buttons and not live a true performance?

Who cares? The whole concept about what “playing live” is changes person to person. I think people are smart enough to see through bullshit if someone is up there faking it. And if not, well…

People aren’t dumb in general, they know when someone is really involved with the music they are presenting as live. You don’t make it long as a live pa otherwise. The only people that argue about it are other live acts online, most people could care less because that stuff sorts itself out naturally.
– What makes you feel satisfied at the end of a gig that youíve done what you came for?

Great gigs are THE best feeling in the world. Standing on stage, hearing your own music played LOUD, and having a ton of people get off to it? Yes please, sign me up!

There’s no surprise when a gig goes well, you know it the whole time usually. Being able to tap into that crowd energy and interact with people via music you’re making right then and there, that’s a very powerful feeling when it comes together better than you expected it would.
– Take us on an in-depth review of your Live PA setup. We want the nasty details. Don’t hold back.

Well, pretty simple in terms of gear, just the Machinedrum and the Octatrack at the moment. Umm… CF Cards by Lexar and custom cabling by Zenproaudio.com (highly recommended). I have roughly 12-14 tracks of drums in the Machinedrum, and typically 5-7 tracks of instrument sounds in the Octatrack.

The Machinedrum outputs go into the Octatrack, which lets me record and loop the MD, the OT, or both together on the fly. Useful for transitions between tracks. The OT is the MIDI Clock master, the MD is slave and sync is never an issue for me. Never even thought about it really, dead locked all the time.

I send a single stereo feed to the FOH guys, all the track EQing and whatnot I handle on stage.
– How do the various genres (if applicable) differ in setup and performance when you are doing a Live PA?

Not at all for me personally, at least not in terms of set up. I suppose in my uptempo sets I’m less likely to use a lot of really long ambient transitions, but other than that the set up and performance aspects are the same from my point of view.
– What are a few things that you are really proud of your setup that took you some time / innovation to get to be usable?

Bending the Octatrack my will so quickly! LOL. A lot of people seem to really struggle with learning how to use it, but for me it just clicked right from the start. I knew exactly what I was getting it for and it only took me a couple of days to learn how to do that and start building a bunch of new live sets.
– What is the craziest idea you have for a Live PA that you havenít implemented yet either due to cost, time, or know how?

I have some pretty specific ideas for some visuals I’d eventually love to have made for my downtempo sets. But to do it the way I want would be very costly I’m sure. For now I’ll keep the specifics to myself, still too far away to discuss yet 😉
– Can you reveal any of your secret rig tips and tricks that are a key to your success?

Nothing in my rig is a secret or special enough on it’s own to be something that most people would find useful I bet. It just comes down to really loving what I do, I want to do this in some facet or another all the time. It’s lots of hard work and long hours studying and practicing, but it doesn’t feel like work most of the time because I can’t think of anything I’d rather be usually.

I guess the best single bit of advice I can give is be in it for the long haul. Have fun now and along the way, because it often takes a long time to get to the achievements we set for ourselves.
– How is your gear prepared for a live set? Talk about things like packing, road cases, how you travel with your gear to a show.

I have two of the Elektron ECC-2 carry cases for the OT and MD. Those comes with the decksaver style lids that I use to prevent accidental spills on stage when I’m not using the gear. Each bag holds all the power, MIDI, and audio cables that I need, as well as backups of each just in case. I also carry a small battery powered reading light with a flexible neck. Useful for trying to see what you’re doing in super dark clubs and parties! If I need to use my own table, I have a dual-X braced keyboard stand and a piece of wood I can bring with fairly easily.

All in all a fairly compact set up, which I’ve found just makes my life easier. In this case I don’t think I’m losing anything in terms of playability of flexibility in how I perform, so it works out very well. I had built this really awesome wooden case last year for the OT and MD, everything was wired internally so I just had to take off the lid and plug in an audio and power cable. Done, easy.

It looked really nice too, but I used this super heavy maple for everything, and with the lid on, the darn thing just weighed too much to be practical. Oh well, the ECC-2 bags work well instead I guess. 🙂
– What’s in your gig survival kit? Any unusual items youíve discovered along the way that help you out?

I almost always carry a leatherman and small flashlight to gigs, as well as a roll of that blue painters masking tape. It’s useful for keeping cables out of the way and plugged in, and it doesn’t leave a residue when you pull it off. Much cheaper than actual gaffer tape!

If I have any doubts about the venue or the sound system, I have a bag full of extra cables and all sorts of adaptors I can throw in the car just in case. I used to bring it everywhere with me for my gigs, but lately I’ve been doing more parties and festivals out in the middle of nowhere, and it’s just one more thing to carry so I’ve been crossing my fingers I don’t need it.
– What things do you bring backups of to a gig in case of catastrophe?

Doubles of all audio, MIDI, and power adaptors. The ability to connect my audio outs to a stage or DJ mixer, so 1/4″ and RCA. All my data for the Elektrons backed up on separate CF cards, well for the OT at least. At the moment if the MD dies while I don’t have my laptop it’s going to be an issue! But I hope to get a +Drive installed in it soon to at least give me a small form of back up when I travel without the computer.
– What do you discuss with the promoter in advance about your setup and the venue?

Mainly the stage layout and type of mixer I’ll be plugging into. I really prefer to have a real soundcheck when possible, so I try and set that up at the same time as load in and set up. I can be fully set up and ready to go in 5 minutes, so that’s the easy part.

Other than that, set times and what the performers before and after me are playing if it’s a new venue. Just trying to get a feel for if they’ve don any sort of pacing musically in terms of the line up, so I know what style to play. It’s not an issue so much for the uptempo gigs, clubs and what not, they just expect you to bring it every time. But for some of the more chill events I do, they really want the whole night to flow a certain way usually.
– How do you go about tear down? Any tips for the setup that make this easier for you?

I have pretty unique cables, so it’s usually very easy for me to quickly grab mine and get them coiled and in the bags with the OT and MD. I use little velcro cord wraps to help keep everything neat, and if I have the time, I really try and coil everything nicely when packing up. Makes for less work next time, and often means you slow down and don’t forget anything.

Sometimes that’s not an option though. At Sequential Circus in Vancouver for instance, I was sharing the stage with 6 other live pa’s. So I had to get my stuff down and out of the way asap when I’m done playing. In that case it’s usually a bit more chaotic affair scrambling to toss all my cables and PSU’s in the bags as quick as possible!
– What’s your biggest at the gig/venue pet peeve?

Not being given enough space or time to set up even my modest set up. Also having to go into a DJ mixer before going to the house mixer. I’m a mastering engineer for a living, so I’m kind of a stickler for good sound quality. Having to go into a DJ mixer first always seems like a unnecessary step due to lazy sound engineers. It’s a minor thing admittedly, but I guess that’s why we call them pet peeves.
– Tell us about your funniest / most memorable gig.

Hmmm, there’s a few that stand out really. This past summer I was playing at the Photosynthesis Festival, and it poured for a few hours before I went on. The whole time it’s just dripping in the dome tent I’m supposed to play in, everything is getting completely soaked. Because I was playing in the chill out tent everyone, including the performers, were supposed to be barefoot and seated the whole time.

So here I am at 3:00 in the morning, sitting in a 5 inch puddle huddled over my gear trying to keep the drops off it, wondering if this is worth bringing $3000 worth of gear out in the woods! But honestly it was also one of my best gigs as well, by that point everyone just stopped trying to stay dry and everyone was just having a good time regardless.
– What ís your favorite venue? Why?

I haven’t played there yet, but it’s on my bucket list to one day perform at the Metro in Chicago. I’ve been there SOOOO many times to see other bands and DJs, it’s such a cool, but intimate venue. I really hope to play there some day!
– What is your ultimate gig? And have you had it?

I don’t think I’ll ever have some ‘ultimate’ gig. Every time I get off stage after a good show I think it was the best one yet, so it’s hard to answer that. It’s a sliding scale.
– What ís the strangest venue youíve played?

An art exhibit for a lady who made lamps out of repurposed materials. Nice people, so weird though. It wasn’t at all what I thought it was going to be when I accepted, but that happens, you just roll with it.

I remember being asked to play at a house party early on, for this college girl’s birthday party, real frat house kind of stuff. When we showed up and started unloading the car with my gear, she came out with a shotgun screaming that she was going to shoot the next person that tried throwing a party in her house.

That was pretty strange.

No idea what the story was, we just quickly packed up and left real quiet like.
– Whatís the main way you network to find new gigs?

I’m too busy and tired to go clubbing every night these days like I used to. I think that’s definitely the best way if you’re young and just getting into this. Go out, meet the promoters, get to know them, help out, then ask for a gig.

In my case a lot of my promotion is done online, posting my sets to my website, soundcloud, Facebook, the usual. I’ve been lucky that I’ve gotten a few gigs randomly from that, people just running into my music.
– How much work do you put into finding gigs?

Not enough! I like playing out and wish I could do it all the time, but the mastering business has been my real passion lately. That’s been taking up a of my time, both in the studio and out.

But usually I try and get a completely new live set together every couple of years, and that gets me motivated to start shopping it around to different local promoters. That reminds me, I need to start doing this for 2013 tomorrow….
– What types of gigs do you mostly look for? One offs, residencies, festivals? Any differences in playing these?

As long as there’s not a lot of drama, just about anything. I’ve had fun playing to VIP a room full of people who knew nothing about electronic music at a beer festival, and I’ve had fun playing some of the biggest clubs in Chicago and Seattle. With the right people, it’s always fun.

– What does having an audience to play for mean to you and how do they impact your set?

It makes the experience about more than just you. It adds a layer of responsibility you don’t have when you’re just having fun at home by yourself. Now it’s your job to entertain these people. If you’re not going to put on some super visual show, then the music better be on point.

Being there in FRONT of people adds to the experience as well, you can feel the vibe in the room when things are going good or going poorly. You learn to tap into that and read it, and how to go back in the studio later and shape your new music based on what you saw people reacted to the last time you performed.

You can be an incredible musician by yourself, but at some point you need to show that to other people. I think a lot of people struggle with this part of the equation.
– Whatís the largest audience youíve played for?

A few hundred I’d guess? At some of the festivals it’s hard to tell to be honest.
– What’s the smallest audience youíve played for?

My dog Link is my number one fan.
– What’s the largest misconception you deal with when speaking with those in audience?

People think I’m a DJ playing other people’s songs. Or they don’t understand how all those sounds could come from two small boxes.
– Have you ever lost an audience during a set and had to do something drastic to get them back?

Sure, I think we all have times where for whatever reason things just aren’t working well. I remember showing up once for what I thought was going to me an ambient set at a small club. When I get there, I find out now I’m not going on first, I’m going on at 2:00 AM. All the DJs and live acts before me were playing dark and hard techno and DnB, I would have been killed playing ambient after that.

So I basically had to crank the tempo up and add some drums on the fly. Stressful, not my best gig by any means, but considering the material I had and what the room wanted….
– What is the most memorable audience interaction you have ever had?

That’s a tough one. I think Sequential Circus was a really unique night in recent memory. That whole series of events is based on live acts, no DJs at all. So the crowd comes knowing what to expect and willing to pay good money to hear it twice a year. They hear a lot of up and coming (and established) live acts before other parts of the world, so the expectation is high.

They were a fun crowd to play for, lots of people afterward were coming up to talk to me about my set. Heck, even before hand people knew who I was and wanted to talk about gear and what not. Really fun night, good music, great crowd.
– What things have the audience done / said that have made you tweak your Live PA / performance for the long run?

I think in my case because my first forays into making music were for live pa’s, that a lot of my early feedback was just production related in general. My roommate once told me me liked my songs, but I needed to work on my drums. I think that was a game changer for me, it really made me focus on the percussive side of things more than I had.
– Are you affiliated with any Promoters?

No, though I’ve been doing a lot of the H’art events here in Seattle lately.
– What’s the largest misconception you deal with when working with Promoters?

That all live acts are 4 feet 2 inches tall and enjoy working on rickety folding card tables. Ummm…. no.
– What’s your favorite promoter story, good or bad?

Back in my clubbing days in Chicago, I was getting to know Chad Summer who was one of the main guys in the Pure group (huge Chicago club promoters at the time). We were at Karma at a sold out night for Dave Ralph’s birthday, and Chad pulled me and my girlfriend at the time out of the crowd to dance and do shots on stage with him and Dave.

That night and the after party was just pure debauchery, still brings a smile to my face. I had a lot of fun hanging out with those promoters.
– How do you determine fee for a gig or is that something that just settles itself?

Usually it just settles itself. Some of the festivals you’re lucky to get paid at all, but you get in for free and it’s so much fun you’d be there anyway. Other times you just have to weigh what it’s worth to you versus realistically how much they can afford to pay you. I used to work with a lot of promotion groups putting on parties and club nights, even some larger raves. So I’m used to dealing with the money issue and it’s not something I’m afraid to be upfront and honest about if need be.

As long as you’re being realistic about what you’re bringing to the picture, I think it’s pretty easy to be honest with yourself about what you should charge.
– Do you feel that there should be one definition of Live Electronic music or can the artist define their own methodology for what “Live”means for them, in context of their performance?

I really don’t care about definitions at all. If some guy is on stage flapping his ass cheeks making dubstep bass sounds and people are getting off on it, fair play to him.
– What’s the future of Live PA for you? How far ahead do you think about your purpose and what youíll be doing?

It’s always changing for me, but for the moment I’m right at the start of my journey doing live sets with the MD and OT. I’ve really been enjoying the challenge of writing and hours worth of music lately, compared to just writing a song here and there. So for the immediate future I see myself writing more live sets and trying to get more diverse gigs with those.
– Have you ever taught / thought about teaching Live PA to others?

I’ve presented at some of the Chicago and Seattle Ableton Live User group meetings, and some of that covered live performance. These days I really tend to focus on mastering when it comes to making a living though, so I haven’t really had the time for one on one training like that.
– Do you jam with other Live PA folks?

Not lately, though there were some guys back in Chicago I was having fun jamming with. I definitely want to get more into that, but I also know that a lot of it is just finding the right people to jam with too.
– What’s your favorite way to jam?

Just find someone way to get everyone clocked to a common tempo source and then brap away. I really am only interested in doing it with people who know when it’s time to move on to a new idea when jamming. A lot of people hang on to bad ideas too long 🙂
– Do you one day plan on passing the Live PA torch to family / friends?

Not really. My wife knows how to DJ and has had a few clubs gigs, but no kids for us to pass it on to.

—————

Quick reminder that my next live gig is at Photosynthesis 6 in Neah Bay, WA, July 19-22.

 

 

Boss Tera Echo TE-2 Review

TeraEcho

At Winter NAMM this year, one of the things that really caught my eye was a brand new effect pedal from Boss, called the Tera Echo TE-2.  Aside from being the 100th pedal that Boss has created, it was also one of 3 new designs Boss made to alter the effects based on how dynamically you’re playing.  Billed as neither a reverb or delay pedal, it sounded perfect for the trippy sort of music I like to make.

It’s no surprise I’m a huge delay fan, I use it readily in pretty much all of my songs.  But what might surprise some people is that this is the first dedicated hardware delay unit I’ve ever owned.  Heck, it’s the first single use guitar pedal I’ve ever bought, and I’ve been playing over 23 years (my past pedals were all multi-effect units like the Pod).  So I was pretty excited a couple days ago when I learned they were finally arriving in stores, and I went to get one ASAP.

Physically it’s incredibly sturdy, like any Boss pedal it feels like it could be dropped a few times without really damaging it.  The colors look better in person than the online pictures I had seen before buying it, sort of a pearl white with metallic teal letters.  The top 4 knobs and the backplate below them are gold, which looks better with the other colors than you might think.  Heavy duty rubber is on the top of the foot switch, and on the bottom of the entire unit to make sure it stays in place.

Controls and IO are simple, aside from the foot switch and the 4 knobs, there’s a small indicator LED, and you have stereo ins and outs for 1/4″ jacks.  The IO is not balanced (the indicator light blinks and no sound is passed if you try using a balanced cable), but at least there’s a stereo input unlike a lot of guitar pedals.

The 4 controls you have to adjust are:

Level – Functions as both a wet dry knob and volume boost, at 12 o’clock the wet to dry split is 50/50 like you’d expect.  Past halfway though, the overall volume increases with the wet mix increasing.  Can take some finessing to get a clean signal to the rest of your device chain depending on how much of the effect you want.

Tone – Controls the brightness of the effected signal.  Turn it way up and you get just a sparkling shimmer that fades away into the distance.  Turn it down to the minimum setting and you get a deep cavernous tone that still presents a lot of spaciousness.

Feedback – Basically gives you control over how long the effect tail is.  At shorter feedback settings, you can hear the individual delays cascading around each other.  With longer feedback, you can create whole new atmospheres and sustained textures.

S-Time – I think this means spread time.  With really low settings, the effect sounds more like a reverb, with high settings you get more and more time between delays and repeats.  There’s no way to dial in precise tempos, nor is there a tap tempo function.  This is one of my few complaints about it.

So, how does it sound in use?   At first I went right for the most over the top effects I could, almost no dry signal just all sorts of delayed weirdness. It was fun for a bit, but quickly I started noticing how ‘samey’ the tone was, almost a sort of dull wooden sound.  Also, with really short Feedback settings, you get this weird filtered modulation happening with each note.  It wasn’t bad sounding, but it is so distinct that it started making me think this pedal was a one trick pony

After a bit of a break however, I decided to see how it sounded when used a little more subtly.  Here’s where my perceptions about things totally changed too!  When used to accent and compliment my guitar’s real tone, all sorts of new sounds seemed to come from the TE-2.  The dynamic changes are subtle at times, but there’s definitely a change in how everything responds depending on how hard you play.

What really surprised me though was how well it worked when I ran an already heavily effected or delayed signal into it.  I figured it would wash everything out and just turn it all into mush, but the previous effects could still be heard and the new delays interacted with them in interesting ways.

It’s not a magic pedal mind you, there’s still a similarity to the types of effects it produces.  But when you factor in the different input signals you can feed it, I think there’s still a lot of variety you can get out of the effects.  Being able to morph from short reverbs to long delay washes is pretty cool sounding, and the feedback goes up high enough that it can get out of control if you’re not careful.

Another neat trick is that you can step and pedal switch and hold it down to freeze the current effect trails into a repeating loop.  So you could, for instance, strum a chord and let the delays build, then press and hold the toe switch down to freeze those echoes while you play over them.  The echoes are typically a little on the quiet side, but it does give you plenty of room to play over without everything fighting for space too.

Overall I’m really happy with the Tera Echo though.  It’s by no means the perfect or most flexible delay pedal out there, it does one thing and one thing very well.  There’s a lot of room for fine-tuning exactly the type of ambience you want to create though, so I think it will still get a lot of use here.  Definitely not the kind of thing I’d want to use in every song though.

Here’s a quick video I made of it processing a song I’m working on in my Elektron Octatrack.

Mainly just tweaking the parameters in real-time to give you a feel for the range of sounds it can make.  There’s already a few videos on YouTube showing people using it on guitar, so I thought I would do something a little different.  If you have any questions, post them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them asap.  Thanks!

Post Album Odds and Ends

Whew, it’s been a busy couple of weeks getting my new “Fractured Time” E.P. wrapped up and ready to sell.  Seems like that’s always the case the though, the very end of the process is where things get complicated.  It’s not even just finishing up the act of actually writing the music either, though that’s certainly the most important.

There’s quite a few things that need to happen before I can release a larger project like this:

– Am I happy with the artwork, and do I have it in all the sizes and resolutions I need for the various online outlets?
– Do I know which stores I want to sell it in, and can I coordinate the release for a specific day among all of them?
– What formats do all of the stores want the audio files in (some like Addictech are particular about the file-naming)?
– How much do I want to sell it for?
– Have I added all the images and info for the album on my website, both the Tracks page and the Blog?
– How am I going to handle giving away the Live 9 Project files for the album (free for people who buy it)?
– Is all the correct artwork and album info embedded in the AAC (or MP3) files?
– Who am I going to give free copies too, and do I need to worry about it getting pirated that way?
– How do I want to announce it on the social media sites, with different wording for each, or the same for all?
– Did I upload the album to Soundcloud, YouTube (working on this today), or Vimeo?

Those are just a few of the things I’m trying to coordinate and plan for in the last couple of weeks that I’m writing an album, I’m sure there’s more I’m forgetting.  But it goes even farther than that for me, because I also like to play live and DJ in addition to writing tracks in the studio.  So I’ve also got to make sure I have copies of all the new songs tagged and ‘gridded’ in my DJ software ready for my next gig.

There’s also the live set to think about.

Do I want to play any of these songs in my downtempo or uptempo live sets?  If so, then I need to go through the process of getting the right loops from all the songs to use in the Octatrack.  Those have to be set up properly, and all new drum parts have to be written for the Machinedrum.  Then I’ll remix it all to give it a fresh take for the live set (I hate live acts that sound EXACTLY like their studio songs).  Right when I am soooo sick of hearing the same songs over and over again, I have a lot more work doing just that while I get them ready to perform on stage.  🙂

Oh well, it’s all part of the process I guess, and at least most of it is fun.  just thought some people might be curious about what goes into a Tarekith album launch.  If you have any specific questions though, just put them in the comments below and I’ll answer them ASAP.

Thanks, and I hope many of you out there are enjoying the new music!

“Fractured Time” – New E.P.

While there are 4 ‘songs’ on this EP, it was written and intended to be played as a single piece of music.  It’s only 14 minutes long, don’t worry.  The start times of the different songs that make up this EP are:

00:00 – The Way In
04:00 – Involved
07:52 – The Endless Muse
10:38 – No Further

Here is the link to the complete album, as a single continuous 320kbps AAC:

http://tarekith.com/mp3s/Tarekith-FracturedTime.m4a 

Higher resolution and lossless versions, as well as the individual tracks, are available from Bandcamp:

http://tarekith.bandcamp.com

If you purchase the album, email a copy of your order to me and I’ll send you the Ableton Live 9 Project of the entire album for you to explore and mangle as you will.  Normal Creative Commons Licensing applies, see the bottom of this page for details before you release anything: http://tarekith.com/tracks/

Project requires Live 9 to open, sorry to those with earlier versions!   220MB.

For the producers (and the curious) out there, you can read the full story of how this EP came to be further below:

 

The Story

This has been one of those projects that you love and hate at the same time.  It took me way longer than I expected, and by the end I was a millions miles away from where I thought I would be.  The early stages of this EP actually began with me wanting to create a new hard techno live set using just the Elektron Machinedrum.  It had been awhile since I had used just the Machinedrum for a live set, and I was feeling drawn to the simplicity of just working with one piece of gear for awhile.

Why a hard techno live set instead of my usual downtempo?  No idea, other than I had been going to a few festivals last summer, and that was the music I kept getting drawn to.

For the new live set I wanted to use the UW aspect of the Machinedrum as much as possible, so most of the sounds I prepared for it came from this techno DJ set I had been listening to for a few weeks in my car.  I didn’t so much sample individual sounds and specific noises as I did just short little micro bursts of sound to mess with later.  I was looking for textures and sounds with lots of harmonics I could filter later on.  With all 48 memory slots on the MD-UW filled, I was only using 700kb of memory, so tiny samples indeed.

Over the next few weeks I basically wrote 16 ‘songs’ on the Machinedrum, with the intention that this would be a live set I performed on the fly.  Working with so much focus on one piece of gear for so long is a very intense experience, and after a month or so I needed a break away from all things Elektron 🙂  So I packed up the Machinedrum and focused on DJing for awhile.

In a few weeks when I felt I was ready to dive back into the techno set, I sat down to give everything a listen with fresh ears.  Of course more than half of what I had written sounded like garbage now, so I began the process of trying to save as many of the songs as I could.  After a few days, I could tell that trying to do the whole set with only the Machinedrum was just not giving me the range of sounds I was looking for.  Not so much a fault of the MD, as it was due to me having a pool of very specific (and honestly too similar) samples for my core sounds.

Having spent weeks of very long days writing material, and now realizing only about half of it was worth saving, I once again decided to take a break and work on other projects while I thought about how to save all those hours of work.  When things just aren’t working for me, I’m notorious for deleting everything and starting over.  But in this case I really liked the material that WAS good, so I didn’t want to go that far yet.

Around this time, I ran into the plug-in “MIDI Guitar” from Jam Origin and things started to change.  The plug-in is basically a real-time audio to midi converter for guitar, which you can use standalone or in your DAW.  I was really enjoying using my guitar to play something like Omnisphere, so I thought it might be cool to create new loops to go over the Machinedrum material. I could use the Octatrack to play them back, so I’d still be using all hardware to perform the set.  It might not be a strictly techno set on just the Machinedrum anymore, but at least I was still using all this material I had written.  Good enough for me!

First I went back to the MD songs and deleted all but the 8 that I liked the best.  It was tough, but it just wasn’t worth the time or the effort at this point to try and save the others.  I’d tried that once and they still weren’t doing it for me, so away they went, problem solved.

Syncing the MD to Ableton Live is easy enough, so I was able to record 5-6 new loops for each of the remaining Machinedrum songs.  As I mentioned, I did all of this using my guitar to play Omnisphere, so all of the non-drum sounds were recorded that way.  Probably the most fun making music I’ve had in years, this MIDI Guitar software has changed the way I write music for the better I think.

I dove in and in just a few days managed to record all of the new audio material I needed for the Octatrack, roughly 48 new 4-bar audio loops.  I loaded these into the OT and did a rough mix with the Machinedrum sounds.  I also reordered all of the songs so that they flowed from start to finish better.  By this time, I was once again getting a little burned out on hearing the same sounds so much, so I took yet another multi-week break from the Elektrons to give my brain a break.  On bigger projects like this, I find it critical to take time away now and then to make sure I can come back to it now and then with a fresh perspective.  It keeps me from wasting weeks of time taking things too far, and helps me really edit out all the material that’s just not working in the larger context.

By this point I should have been expecting it, but once I listened to the material again a few weeks later I was left still feeling like some of it was just not that strong.  Once again I was forced to make the tough (but necessary) decision to get rid of the stuff that wasn’t working so I could focus on what was sounding like it had potential.  In this case, that meant deciding to go from an 8 song mini live set, to a 4 song studio EP.  Oh well, these things happen.

I spent a couple of weeks tweaking and remixing my new loops in the Octatrack, and then recorded everything back into Ableton Live to arrange.  My plan was to create the songs as 4 parts of one larger piece of music, which meant doing all 4 songs in the same project.  The Live 9 beta was just getting going, so I figured I would use this as a chance to put the new version through it’s paces.  Don’t try this at home.

It took me about 2-3 more weeks to arrange all the songs for the album, and finish all the fills and edits.  I had planned to add more parts with MIDI Guitar, but once I did my last pass of edits and fills, I realized it was fine the way it was.  I took another week to fine-tune the arrangement, and then did some last minute tweaking to the mixdown of all the songs.  I used only the built in effects from Live 9 for the mix, and they did the job perfectly, no complaints.

So there you have it, from an hour long techno live set to a 4 track E.P.

Vancouver Live Set now on Bandcamp!

SequentialCircus-25

Since I released this live set a few months ago, I’ve had quite a few people ask me if they could get a lossless version of it.  Since this is one of my favorite live sets anyway, I thought it would be nice put it up on Bandcamp so people could get it in any format they wanted.

This set was recreated from a performance I gave in Vancouver on August 8th, 2012 at Sequential Circus 11.  100% Elektron Machinedrum and Octatrack, recorded live in one pass with no additional post processing, enjoy!

http://tarekith.bandcamp.com/album/live-at-sequential-circus-11

One of Twelve

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 10.55.11 AM

Well, the first month of 2013 is almost over, so I wanted to give a quick update on some of my current projects.  Sorry, no deep-thinking posts or handy production tips this time, though certainly more are on their way soon (next Production Q&A is almost done for instance).  I just wanted to take some time to talk about some of the things I’ve been exploring and trying out lately for my own productions.

One of the more recent things I’ve been spending my time doing, as I mentioned in a few earlier posts, is DJing with Traktor and the S4 controller again.  I have to admit with all the work I’ve been doing preparing material to play live the last couple of years, I really haven’t had much chance to focus on DJing for awhile.  It’s been nice going back to that way of working, it’s a real good chance to play with music on a much more relaxing level.

ChromaCaps01

Of course, it’s not all roses though.  I’ve been amazed at how long it’s been taking me to go and find new tracks to DJ with these days.  Not for lack of choices mind you, there’s basically too much choice!  I can spend all day quickly flipping through songs on Beatport, and I’m lucky to find 4-5 that I really like.  I mean, I know I’m picky, but wow!  It’s great having so many options on one hand, but on the other hand it can be a bit soul-sucking listening to so many ummm….. not-so-good tracks during the process too!  Oh well, I guess it could be worse.  🙂

If you’re interested in catching one of my DJ sets, the next time will be at the next Liquid Beats night I run at Beer Authority in Seattle on February 6th.  This is the grand opening of their new larger location, so it should be quite a party.  I’ll be playing mostly catchy downtempo, but if things get crazy later in the night, who knows where it could go.

Beer Authority
12720 Lake City Way NE, Seattle, WA 98125.
7-10PM

In other news, I’ve taken a bit of a break from the Elektron based techno set I was almost done with.  Well, I thought I was almost done, but as will often happen when you write music, after a bit of time away from the set I listened to it again and realized that I wasn’t happy with how things were going.

LiveSet

The intention had been to do the set entirely in the Machinedrum, but it was starting to sound a little samey, so I figured it was time to press the Octatrack into duty as well.  So, I edited down my 16 songs in the MD into my favorite 8, and set about recording new samples in Live that I could use in the Octatrack.

After a few weeks doing this and getting everything set up to perform and record, once again reality snuck in and I found that I was still really not happy with the direction the set was going.  Hard to describe what exactly was wrong, but it wasn’t sitting well with me and I was on the verge of just taking the best song of the set and making a studio track out of it.

But while I’m a huge fan of editing out things that aren’t working and only keeping things that are, going from 16 songs for an hour long live set down to just one for a studio song seemed a bit drastic.  So instead I decided to just shelve the project for a bit and focus on other stuff.  I even went so far as to pack up the MD and OT (after backing them up of course) for now, out of sight and out of mind as it were.

Hopefully in a couple months I can come back to this project a little more excited about it and see if I can give it one more go!

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So, for now I’m just going to focus on working on a couple of single tracks for awhile.  I’ve had a lot of really large projects I’ve been working on over the last couple of years, from writing complete live sets to releasing full on albums.  I think for at least a couple months it’s time to just ratchet it back a notch and just have fun writing on some smaller projects.

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time working in Presonus Studio One, and I’ve been really impressed by it.  So much so that I haven’t even opened Logic once on the new laptop, and I’m only barely finding a need to use the Live 9 beta now and then.  It’s not perfect, there have been some crashes and other bits of weirdness, but no more so than with other DAWs I have access to lately I guess.

I’ve been a bit bored with the DAW offerings lately (let’s admit it, the Live 9 update is kind of…. underwhelming once you’ve used it) and while Studio One isn’t the breath of fresh air I had hoped Live 9 would be, it’s at least something different to work with for now.  Really hoping that the beta of Bitwig goes live soon, as that’s my last hope for something truly revolutionary when it comes to DAWs!  Then again, I have been known to have high expectations too, so I suppose I should temper my expectations again 🙂

That reminds me, I want to mention the MIDI Guitar software from Jam Origin.  This is the first pitch to MIDI tracking software I’ve used that I felt let me play my guitar the way I want while still sending predictable MIDI to my synths.  It’s a bit rough around the edges, but well worth the $60 they are asking while it’s in the beta-stage.  Free to try, so I definitely recommend trying it if you’re a guitar player.

I’ll try and get some reviews written for both MIDI Guitar and Live 9 once they get out of beta, just to make sure the features are set in stone before I talk about them in depth.  Stay tuned!

Finally, man is it nice to have a guitar to turn to now and then, I have to say.  As you can tell from the above, I’ve been a little frustrated with my usual music making tools.  So it’s been really nice having another outlet to turn to for making music.  Over the years my guitar playing has gotten regulated to being something I only used a couple times a year when I needed a part in a specific song.

Parker SetUp

But lately I’ve been making a real effort to try and pick up the guitar at least once a day and play for a couple of minutes.  Sometimes that turns into a couple of hours, and I can honestly say those have been the more enjoyable days in the studio lately.  I think it’s time I start focusing some more on getting my chops back, and seeing how I can integrate the guitar more into my own productions.  Either on it’s own, or as a MIDI Controller via MIDI Guitar instead of using a keyboard controller.   Regardless, this is the direction that is giving me the most to look forward to in 2013, so I plan to roll with it as long as possible.

Hmmm, maybe it’s time to go down the rabbit hole of boutique guitar pedals as well…..

“The Focused Mist”

The Focused Mist

This track was written using a combination of the Elektron Octatrack, and an iPad3 running the following apps:

– Figure
– iKaossillator
– Sunrizer
– Animoo
– Samplr

All of the original source audio for the song came from these apps, which was then arranged and mixed with the Octatrack.  The output of the Octatrack was recorded via a Lynx Hilo at 24bit/96kHz, no additional post-processing was applied except for normalizing to -0.3dBFS and converting to a 16bit/44.1kHz file format.

High quality FLAC and wav file versions of this song are available at Addictech.com

Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/tarekith/the-focused-mist

YouTube: http://youtu.be/-fKFHpjScgM

Octatrack Slicing Tutorial

A quick tutorial on how to use audio slicing in the Octatrack, and how you can remix your own loops with it.  Plus some other handy shortcuts along the way.  Enjoy the video, and if you find it useful, consider a small donation via the link to the right of the screen.  Thanks!

http://youtu.be/mWGn7RI3vOc

—————-

In other news, been spending a lot of time in the studio mastering EP’s for people.  Must be that time of year for short albums! 🙂

For my own music making, I’ve been exploring an idea I had awhile back to do a techno live set using only the Machinedrum.  Finally decided to give it a go last week, and I’ve already got a ton of material written for the set.   If all goes well, I’m hoping that I’ll have it far enough along to play out in 3-4 weeks.