What professional accomplishments are you most proud of and why?
The professional accomplishments I’d have to say I’m most proud of would have to be working and performing alongside some of my favourite artists and DJs, including; Richie Hawtin, Josh Wink, Murk, Depeche Mode, John Beltran, and others. I’m also really proud of my work with NARAS (The Grammys), as a board governor, helping to ensure creative arts education in public schools and our work for Music Cares, a branch of NARAS which helps music industry professionals in time of need.
Describe your songwriting and production processes and philosophies. What part does technology play?
Being an electronic dance music producer and DJ, technology plays a MAJOR role in everything I do. I’m a classically trained pianist and vocalist, so my songwriting process starts off fairly simple. It usually starts with me banging out some ideas on my keyboard, either a hook or some chords. This usually starts the creative process going for me. But, it’s not always the same. Sometimes, ideas come from sound design sessions. I may be working on some new synthesis ideas, and a sound will spark a song idea. Or, it could be just banging out some drum patterns on a MIDI controller. There’s no real formula for me. But, with all of it, technology is at the core. Whether I’m just playing some keys, my MIDI controller is the heart of it all. Whether if it’s a MIDI keyboard controller, MIDI drum pad controller, virtual instrument, digital audio interface, DAW…it’s the heart and brains of what I do.
Are there any M-Audio products that have allowed you to replace any older or vintage pieces? Any highlights or positive experiences you’d like to discuss?
On the road I’ve been using Torq with Connectiv, and it’s been fun. It’s great not having to lug around 3 or 4 record boxes on flights anymore. That’s part of the beauty of Digital DJing. Using the onboard f/x and my favourite VST f/x plugins in a live DJ situation has allowed me to not travel with my hardware based DJ effect units. I can control everything from the laptop and my Trigger Finger. In the studio, having the Axiom 61 to control all o my Vis has pretty much eliminated all of my hardware synths and drum machines (including my Roland babies, the TB303, MC202, SH101, TR909, TR808, TR727, etc…). I still love them. But for me, it’s such a great way to save space and really hone my workstation to a balanced work environment. It’s very efficient. My hardware machines have all been retired to my spare room, where they are still cared for, cleaned, and tuned when they need to. They’ll always have a special place in my heart. And who knows? I will probably pull them out again one day to do something special. I don’t consider them “replaced” but “retired with honour.” It’s great to have access to an entire arsenal of sounds and options just from the Axiom. The learnable and customizable faders and rotary encoders gives me a real “hands on” feel, which I rely on to tweak my Vis, as I would with their real world counterparts.
On tour, when and how do you use your gear to keep up on current or on-going projects?
On the road I use my rig(s) both for music creation/editing/mixing, DJing, and performing live. On the plane, the bus, or in the hotel room, I’m finishing or starting new sessions in Pro Tools. This allows me to get take projects from the studio at home, and keep working on them, and meet deadline! When I’m DJing, I’m using Torq with Connectiv. If I’m performing live, I’m using Ableton Live. So, on the road, I’m always busy with work.
How has using software like Pro Tools M-Powered, virtual instruments and effects plug-ins changed the way you make music? Which do you use? Have they helped you to better collaborate with other musicians and producers?
Switching to Pro Tools about 2 and a half years ago was a real milestone for me. It’s allowed me to work with most remix material pretty easily, especially when the material is coming from a major label. Now, I can just say “send me the Pro Tools session.” I don’t have to waste anytime deciphering audio debris. I just open the session (even if it originates in HD), and pull out what I need. Or, I can just drag and drop stuff directly into my own session’s edit/arrange window. The amount of time this saves is priceless. Also, the enhanced MIDI features, such as Real Time Properties (the feature that got me interested in Pro Tools in the first place) is a great way to enhance workflow and save time. Having all my instruments and effects as plug-ins is obviously extremely convenient. And now, with the addition of elastic time in 7.4, audio is now so extremely malleable. Sometimes I forget that I’m working with audio. I love being able to quantize audio as I would MIDI. It’s also great to be able to collaborate with other musicians without having to travel great distances. Working with my recording partner, Santos in Puerto Rico, is a great example. We are setting up a Pro Tools M-Powered rig for him down there. So, we’re working on our next couple of singles with him at home and me here, in Miami. We’ll just digideliver sessions back and forth and use AIM or the phone to discuss changes.
What comments do you have about the aforementioned hardware and software you use? What usage tips can you share with other musicians?
Real Time Properties (RTP) in Pro Tools is a real timesaver. When you’ve recorded a MIDI part, instead of stopping the transport and going to the events window to quantize, just make sure you have RTP already available in your track view. While you have your new MIDI part looping (using loop play and/or dynamic transport), just press the quantize button and choose your value. You can even enter a swing percentage, or choose from other swing algorithms (MPC, Logic, Cubase, or even save your own!). Sweet!
How would you describe M-Audio’s role and accomplishments in the music industry?
M-Audio’s mantra of providing professional gear for musicians and artists from all walks of life is something really important to me. When I was younger (translated…broke), M-Audio (then Midiman) MIDI timepieces and interfaces allowed me to really begin my career. My first record was actually done using a Midiman Midisport to handle all the MIDI. It’s great to see that they have continued this tradition. It’s great to see the playing field leveled. It gives everyone to showcase what they can do. In this way, you could say that M-Audio helps the world discover talent by enabling and empowering musicians to achieve what they want to on a budget that suits them. They provide solutions for everyone.
What projects are next on the horizon for you? How do you see M-Audio products playing a role in them?
My current album The Narrowest of Paths is out now on Plastic City. At the time of this writing, the Japanese version will be out. I’ve also completed some remixes for Skylark (Nic Fanciulli & Andy Chatterley), Oscar G., Danny Howells, Nikola Gala, Kos, and Alex Flatner, to name a few. I’m also working on some new original material, as well as a new mixed CD series for Plastic City. I’m also hoping to launch a new label later this year, focusing on new, up and coming talent. I’m also touring constantly. Of course, M-Audio is there, every step of the way, whether in the studio, or on the road.